“What fools we are,” I said to my wrinkled reflection as it stared at me disapprovingly at five thirty AM yesterday. I was off to Spaghetti ConJunction 2a, the twice yearly convention hosted by Pookie, Simon Burley and James Mullen, at the Geek Retreat cafe/ game store in city centre Birmingham.
The early start was brought on by the interminable rail-replacement between Adlington and Manchester. Don’t get me started. Despite getting on the bus at quarter to seven, I still had to run, that’s right, run to get on the train to meet Blythy at eight thirty. A journey that normally takes 40 minutes had taken the best part of 2 hours. Mutter. Mutter. Grumble. Grumble.
There were plenty of games available: Hot War, HeroQuest, Prime Time, Manifold, RuneQuest Mythic Britain, Blades in the Dark, Tales from the Loop and more.
Here’s my report in the usual format: 5 highlights and a fumble.
1 Geek Retreat.
Geek Retreat is in a good central location with amiable hosts who bring your food & drink orders to the table. Despite its lurid signal-yellow and purple colour scheme, it turned out to be a good, simple space for playing. The prices for food and drink reflect its central location, but the quality is good and worth it to support their provision of gaming space.
2 Morning Dredd
I was running Better Living Through Chemistry for Judge Dredd RPG: the adventure that appears in the 2018 ‘zine, written by Daily Dwarf. It’s an intriguing, witty adventure packed with layers of pop culture references, subtle jokes and Easter eggs that went over the heads of some of the younger people playing.
I was surprised that the only awareness of Dredd for three of the six players was the Karl Urban film. This was the first time that I have run the game for 35 years – we’ll go into detail about the actual game in the next part of the podcast – but it went surprisingly smoothly.
The Judges’ methods were questionable, but we’ll leave that to the SJS who are reviewing the case. A spell on Titan is on the cards.
Over in the corner, Blythy ran a game of Numenera, this is what he said:
“So you’ve never played Numenera before?
“I’ve never played an rpg before actually.”
Gulp. The hobby’s reputation rests on my shoulders… I handed him my dice and he went on to roll two ‘1’s (automatic failure) at once. Great start.
A rerun of the Judge Dredd game, this time the group was a little more experienced, with only a couple of players with no knowledge of the comic version of Mega City One. There were some exciting chases, including the Rookie Judge keeping up with an escaping perp, but no resources or skill to stop him in his tracks: bike cannons, rubber ricochet and loud, persuasive shouting all failed.
There were some additional scenes to this version. These players were more tuned into the nostalgia, so I propelled things along to get them to points of interest, rail-roady maybe, but I think there was enough opportunity for them to interact with the scenes and engage with the entertaining set up. The limitations of the mechanics were exposed with this group of more mature players, I could sense the nostalgia wearing off, the rules were found wanting.
Gaz, from the Smart Party, described the GM style as ‘Cabaret’. Not sure if it was a compliment, but it’s the last time I wear a basque and bowler hat to a convention.
I never win anything, so it was a great delight to win, not once, but twice. There were generous donations for the charity auction from a number of different publishers. I picked up Sixty Stone Press’ ‘Cathulhu – Velvet Paws on Cthulhu’s Trail’ with rules for playing a cat investigator in Call of Cthulhu, and The Midderlands, from Monkey Blood Design which is an OSR bestiary and setting (recommended by Pookie).
I’m normally a ‘theatre of the mind’ GM, but this adventure came with floor-plans, figures, counters, skull tokens, hand-outs, flash cards and all sorts of props. I was in a muddle. Within 10 minutes, I flipped a cup of tea over everything and remained in a state of flustered disarray for the rest of the day. A genuine fumble.
In the words of Travis Bickle, one of these days I’m going to get myself “organized”.
The rail replacement meant that I was home just after mid-night, but it was worth it, a throughly enjoyable day. Thanks to the three organisers, Geek Retreat and all the players for making it such fun.
Next part of the podcast out soon.