By Paco Garcia Jaen
Well friends, as you know, Dragonmeet has come to pass and, since I am writing this two days after the event, it is positively ancient news.
But this is my blog and I talk about whatever I like, old as it might be. So there.
Dragonmeet also happened to be pretty awesome for many reasons.
Firstly because Ken Hite came to me and gave me a hug. That is not just unprecedented, but totally unexpected and one of those life events that I shall forever remember fondly.
OK, that was a bit hyperbolic. But it was very nice of him and I really appreciate that sort of small gestures. Thank you Ken.
Unlike previous years, this time Dragonmeet for me started a long time ago, when Chris Birch had the temerity to ask me if I’d organise the panels and I had the nerve to say yes. Since a lot of things have happened and those things have given me a much greater sense of anticipation for Dragonmeet. Knowing that I had a small role to play in the biggest RPG convention in London and maybe the whole of the UK, feels me with pride.
And I think they went well. They were well attended, though admittedly that didn’t take much because the room was small with just 60 chairs, which means by the time everyone had used all the space, came all close and cozy near each other and really crumbed the space, there were about 100 people there (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. But not much). Yet the air-con worked and we didn’t feel like we were going to suffocate in each others oxygen-depleted breath. It was very pleasant!
Anyway, forgive me. I am jumping ahead of myself. Before the Saturday, there was a Friday. And that particular Friday I was feeling rather pally. Throat was hurting a fair bit and I hadn’t slept very well the night before. Or the one before that. But we packed the equipment and we commenced our pilgrimage.
We setup and thanks to both the excellent staff at the hotel and the help of Carlone we managed to get the audio setup and ready to rumble the following day. Everything went very, very smoothly. Smoothly enough to make us feel suspicious…
No matter. We went for dinner to the pub at the hotel, bracing ourselves for overpriced microwave reheated burgers and frozen pizzas that would no doubt accompany our pints. Oh joy when Martin took a piece of pizza to his mouth and said “this is nice!”. “Are you sure?” I asked, incredulous. “Yes!” he said “The dough is thin, the pizza is warm throughout, the edges are crispy and the topping is lovely!”. Well, that settled the matter.
My burger was actually blue. Just like I like it. And that doesn’t happen very often. Too many times people over cook burgers for no reason. So I was happy too.
But not as happy as I was when I managed to catch up with Chris Birth and his gang and took a look at Cultos Innombrables, Pequenos Detectives de Monstruos (remember those two titles. You’ll want to buy them soon) and Dreamraiders (you’ll also want to buy that one) and we discussed the mathematical prowess of FATE vs. Hitos (a new system you’ll hear about when it comes out. For now, trust me, it has more mathematics finesse than FATE).
The other joy of the evening was to talk Dr. Who with the always wonderful Lynne Hardy and her husband, Richard. Seriously. She can talk about anything, but her enthusiasm about the good old Doc is just a joy to behold. And they’re wonderful. I mean… who else can look at a photo of Thanatotagua and say “Ohhh… he looks so good in that picture!” That takes some love!
Then I went to bed because my throat was giving up on me. I’ve already had me knees giving up on me once, I didn’t want another body part – specially one I had to use a lot the following day – to go on strike too, so it was time to retire.
The morning started in the hectic way that convention preparations have us accustomed to. Cameras setting, equipment loading, white balancing, sound tests, people coming early, batteries, memory cards, panellists arriving…
And above all that, a surprise that nearly made me cry with joy. For real. This guy taps me in the shoulder and says “I really enjoy your podcasts. Please keep making them because they are very good”. If giving total strangers a big smooch without asking permissions, I would have embraced that man like a bear a pot of honey. Instead I said “Oh my goodness! Thank you very much! I’ll make sure we keep at it!”. I believe it was the right thing to do, but it certainly left me wanting to fully express how much I appreciated his words and “Thank you” doesn’t come anywhere near. So next time I see him (and make no mistake I will see him. You’ll know why in a bit) I will buy him a beer and have a good chat. I will also invite him to come to the podcast as a guest sometime.
The panels started and I was a bit anxious. Someone told me not long ago that panels are “a waste of valuable time at conventions”. I thought he was a bit of an idiot (though I am sure his mum doesn’t agree with me) but the doubt always lingers and I feared people wouldn’t be interested, specially when the trade floor and the gaming tables were *heaving* with people by the time the first panel started. It was for a good reason they had to open the doors early to let the crowds in!
But people came. Jon Hogson started his panel on art direction and a few artists and non-artists alike asked questions and Jon showed a hole lot of things that were really cool, like early prototypes of Dr Who card game cards and some other cool stuff I can’t tell you about because… because Dragonmeet was a long, long time ago now.
Anyway. Then started the second panel. That one was very important to me because it was about a subject I am very passionate about and I was going to host it with two people I am very fond of, Lynne Hardy (yes, her again) and Sarah Newton (who is a genius and wonderful and all things nice including Mindjammer). The subject was “Diversity in games”. We discussed why diversity is important and why companies should make more of an effort to get diversity on board. Not just in their games, but also in their staff.
Kat Tobin, Ken Hite, Simon Rogers, Robin Laws and Rob Heinsoo took on the stage for the next one but for that one I didn’t stay because I needed a break and, quite frankly, there was no space for me to stand on. Any panel with Ken and Robin will do well and this one did *very* well indeed.
The rest of the panels seemed to go just as well and something fun happened. The Kickstarter panel we had planned was looking like a no go area as we couldn’t secure enough people, but, somehow, Gerry Lively, the director of the two last D&D movies was around and he was kind enough to agree to a short QA session and that was quite interesting. It did give a very interesting insight on the shooting of the movies and the outcome (you have to watch them… I’m not going to tell you what I think of them here).
Soon after the seminars were over. The rather amazing Joe Dever gave a very good presentation of what his professional career had been like. It was quite something to hear him say “For legal reasons I can’t berate them” when talking about a former publishing partner. Feelings seemed to be still very much there… in the open!
More things happened that I didn’t get to see, like the recording of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast, or Cat Tobin’s talk on Disobedient Games. I also missed Modiphius and Cubible 7 panels, which is annoying because it’s always good to know what products I have to save money for in the following year.
The trading floor was properly packed and it wasn’t easy to move around, something that can be improved for the future, but the selection of traders was amazing and much better than I expected.
I know there were some issues with the volunteers not turning up or not being enough of them at any given time, so I am told some things weren’t as smooth as they could have been, so something else that next year will make the event even better.
Maybe see you there?