Warning: this a big one.
You may hear a lot of terrible things about this con (if you hear of it all). Yes, a lot of things went very wrong in the running of it, but before I continue, I would like to say that Joe (my very close friend and stall volunteer) and I managed to have a good time, regardless, and we managed to spread interest in I Love the Corps, despite the otherwise infamous rep the event will now have forever. So it was at least a minor success on a personal level.
Originally, we were told the event would be Thursday-Sunday. The impression was also given that it was going to have a massive turnout. I was sceptical of how big a first time con could be, when Expo is the only real big one to start with, and has taken a long time to get to its size, but with the MCM name behind the con, it seemed sensible to think that they had decent contacts and publicity. I wasn’t expecting a massive con, but I was at least expecting a decent chance to promote and a professional event.
I was directly asked to come a few months back, and was flattered by that… and well, any publicity, right? So I came along with great enthusiasm. I had originally asked to just run games to get the game out there, and was pleased to have been booked in for a ton of four hour game slots, though did think the 9 games I was down for may kill me. But plenty of chance for exposure, so this was good. Joe offered to come with me and help me attract people to the game by running a stall with promo materials, so I paid for a stall. I was kindly offered a discount for being new to the industry, which was another gratifying sign.
I started to get very worried when I still didn’t know when the trade floor opened, when we were expected to set up on Thursday etc on the week of the event, and I had e-mailed a lot of questions with little answers, and still didn’t know a whole lot till the week of the event. The original pack I was sent mentioned being able to camp, so I was set on that, and yet no details appeared. I e-mailed if and how that was happening… there was nothing. (When I got there, there was also nowhere you could camp AT ALL, so who knows where that nation came from.) So I had to book a very last minute hotel (two weeks before is last minute, by my terms) for the Thursday-Sunday. And then on the week itself, after I had asked for times, they THEN sent an event pack, apologising for reducing the event time to Friday afternoon to Sunday. Now, we didn’t have a huge stall to set-up, but we had to turn up on Thursday anyway, cos I had already booked everything. On the plus side, my game slots went down to a slightly more sane 7, and it seemed weird to start a con on Thursday anyway, so wasn’t too bothered.
We turned up on Thursday at the Telford International Centre. Security were friendly, volunteers were friendly, and the organiser personally showed us around and took us to our stall spot. He then said he’d sort our wristbands, but disappeared with being very busy. We got our wristbands sorted quickly by asking security, so no problem there. Admittedly, nobody wanted to see my ID or sheets for stall ownership I had signed and was told to bring, which was weird (and they were never asked for). We noticed that the trade floor seemed very bare, but assumed more would be setting up in the morning, so we didn’t worry. We headed to the local Spoons, had some food and stayed there till midnight, chatting and drinking, so the forced early arrival was not really a problem, though it obviously cost me more for the extra hotel night. But we made a good time of it.
Since the con didn’t start till the afternoon on Friday, this was actually better for us, giving us a pleasant morning to lie in, get a massive breakfast and acquire lunch materials, breakfast, water and snacks to power us for the next few days. We’d also had plenty of time to wander about the weirdly laid out but easy enough to navigate centre of Telford. So we started the day in a good mood. This lowered a little bit, when there was absolutely no-one queuing a half hour before opening.
On the trade floor, more space was filled… mostly by empty tables, rather than stalls, though a few more had arrived. It still didn’t look exactly enticing. 1’0 clock came… and a depressingly small amount of people slowly trickled in. You could feel the tension from the traders. They were open till 5.3o, and everyone made horrible losses cos there was barely anyone to sell anything too. Fortunately, we weren’t there to sell so we were not going to make a profit anyway. Though there wasn’t exactly a lot of visitors, we still had a fair amount of role-players come over, and they were very interested in the game. Joe being in costume, and having some of the phenomenal art I paid for on display did wonders in bringing people over. Joe and I both basically spent the first hour in excited conversation, since there weren’t many things for people to do, so it was at least a positive for us. After an hour I went for my FIRST GAME SLOT!
… there was no game slot. There were four GMs, myself included in the GM room most of the time, and there was never enough people for more than two games at once (which were mostly about 3-4 players, usually bulked out by at least one GM). The GMs were all wonderful people, however, and when I had nothing to do, Simon Burley (aka Uncle Simon), a veteran solo game designer called me over to play a small supers game whilst we were waiting for people. It was a fun game with three of us playing… two of us were GMs. Still, I had an awesome time playing with fellow GM, ‘Uncle Steve’, trading super hero one-liners and being well meaning, but utterly catastrophic super heroes. The game was designed to be a short intro, so we waited for other players. People came in ones and twos and didn’t play, but we did have plenty of chats with people. Uncle Simon was particularly ace at designating himself as meet and greet for the room, and introduced people to all the GMs and the games, and was very gracious in encouraging people to try games other than his own. Robin, the other GM, was also a lovely guy, and we had a great camaraderie in the room. He was at least locked down running an intense game for most of the afternoon.
Joe came to the room after the trade floor closed, and told me had only seen about a dozen new people to talk to in the three and a half hours since I had last seen him. Still, he had made friends and contacts with nearly all the traders nearby, and has got me some new contacts and found many potential backers. We went to grab some quick food before my next potential game slot, and very much struggled to find anywhere, as the food stall in the centre was in the closed trade area. The centre of Telford had a complete lack of open fast food shops (being in the closing shopping centre) and chip shops so we ended up back at Wetherspoons. When we returned, no people turned up for a game bar a guy waiting to play D&D, so we and the other GMs jumped in on that. A few more people turned up, so two of the GMs split off to game with them, whilst four of us had an AMAZING D&D game run by Uncle Steve. We played till 2.00.am and had a storm.
As Joe and I approached the centre, just before nine, we were glad to see a giant crowd. In the hour I was in the trade hall to start with, it was still near dead. Apparently, most of the giant crowd never got further than the tournaments they had come for, leaving straight after (and apparently some weren’t let into the rest of the event when they tried!) Still, though the trade floor was pretty quiet, when I went to GM, there was actually a fair amount of people in the open gaming area. I went to the Role Play Room and almost immediately had a lovely guy who had come to my table and had booked to play. Admittedly, he was the only person I ever saw who had booked to play, but he had looked up the Kickstarter, and his enthusiasm was clear. We sat nattering for half an hour as he dove into mechanical questions. Very few people came into the room again, but when they did, Simon showed them all the games, and encouraged two other people to play ILTC with me. All three of them really enjoyed it, and the two who joined in apparently went back to the floor to grab fliers later (and one of them is on the Facebook group). So that was a success. I learned that the game slot times were not going to work, but did my best to encourage people who wandered in to come back, and eventually got a second game with four mates Joe had sent my way, and another guy who had checked in a few times to see if there was enough for a game group. Game 2 went down a STORM (I will go into these games more in a second blog). I found out from Joe that the initial four had never role-played, which astounded me, cos they really got into it, so another success there. My third game didn’t happen; the group I had expecting played in another game when Ed of ‘Shades of Vengeance’ turned up to showcase his own games- he ended up pledging to my Kickstarter just from a brief 30 second chat, so thumbs up to him for doing it. One of those players, a lovely guy called Andre came back to play, even when his friends were too knackered. I only had him and Joe, so decided it wasn’t enough for ILTC, so instead I decided to invent a nonsensical role-playing game off of the top of my head. Hilarity ensued as they played ‘Bionic Superhuman Caterers Division.’ Andre’s friends turned up just as we were finishing, but it was approaching midnight, and I wasn’t up for running another game. But still, it was a pretty successful day.
It seemed even more dead than the Friday, but Joe still managed to find the odd interested party. Meanwhile, I killed the morning following Uncle Simon’s advice, and wrote down the core ideas for the game I had invented the previous night (now dubbed ‘ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF…’), so it can be referred to later. A kid (probably about 12) and his Dad that Joe had sent my way came around about midday. The Dad didn’t get RP at all or really want to learn, but his son was an RPer, and Dad was very gracious in sitting in with him to play. Simon joined in at the start so we could play. And then Andre returned with one of the friends who had wanted to play, so Simon pulled out to entertain some other people, and we had a phenomenally fun game. (Kids play AMAZING Sergeants.) I might have gone slightly over the 1 hour game Simon promised the Dad… but he didn’t seem bothered, since his son had a storm. I finished that game at 3. My last 3-7 slot was clearly not going to happen, so after I gave Joe a late break, I stayed in the room for an hour before I decided to pack up and we went home early, but on a high.
So, hardly the perfect con, but I ran three games which seemed universally enjoyed, and got to introduce a majority of them to the hobby, and for that, though the convention seems to have been a big failure, it was for me, a personal success, and all the role-play GMs also had a good time in a similar way. Got to make many new friends and contacts. (I will go more into the games for those that care in another blog.)