DragonMeet_logo_920px[1]By Paco Garcia-Jaen

For those of you reading this article from outside the United Kingdom, I’ll tell you about Dragonmeet.

Imagine you’re REALLY passionate about gaming (if you’re reading this magazine, that part should be easy). Now imagine you manage to get together with your friends and organise a convention to play games you normally don’t play and just get together for fun. Now imagine that it goes very well. Then that the convention grows…. a lot.

Now imagine that you are a bunch REALLY nice guys who know your mustard about gaming. In fact you are SO nice that publishers, writers, players, clubs and in general the planet, loves you. In fact you are SO nice that some of the biggest names in the industry actually want to be there with you.

Right… what you get out of all that, is Dragonmeet.

Dragonmeet is not big in size. In fact, as conventions that gather this much prestige and attention, it is surprisingly small, but boy the quality is amazing.

Dragonmeet has three types of activities going on. Lots and lots of games (both established and beta gaming), the trade floor where a few varied companies sell their wares, and last but not least the seminars, where leading people in the industry spend an hour each showing you what a nice bunch they are (no…. seriously… they’re amazing).

So let’s go once bit at a time and start with the games.

Various clubs and organisations run tons of games. The Phoenix Games Club, Pathfinder Society, Doctor Who On Demand, Shadow Warriors, Esdevium Games.. they bring some 40 games to try. From AD&D (yes, the old version of the game) to 4th Edition D&D, ICONS, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, Hollow Earth Expedition, Mutants and Masterminds, Carcassonne, Descent, Settlers of Catan, Infinite City, StoneHenge and many more…

Basically, a great deal more games you could possibly play in a day, even it if it is a long day.

The seminars

The Green Room (it’s the real name, I am not making it up) hosts the seminars. 7 in total, each one lasts one hour and it is a great chance to get close and personal to the people who bring you your favourite games.

Moon Design brought news and previews on their forthcoming work. Cubicle 7 gave us a great insight in what it is to work for big names like Doctor Who. Jeff Combos, from Exile Game Studio, took us behind the scene of creating Hollow Earth Expedition. Chris Pramas’ insight on bringing a massive license to the market and succeed was quite enlightening. Pelgrane Press brought two heavy weights of the industry with them, Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite, and I can tell you, when they get together, they’re a force of nature in the best possible way! Last, but by  no means least, Ian Livingstone OBE spoke of his life in games since 1975 until today and his massive array of achievements.

The seminars ended with a Q&A session where people were invited to interact with this eminent people and find answers to all sort of questions.

I am being vague about this seminars as I will be publishing longer articles about the seminars in the forthcoming days. Some of them will also come with the audio files I recorded during the sessions.

The traders floor.

“Only” 25 traders. From the big boys like Pelgrane Press, Cubicle 7, Mongoose Publishing and Leisure Games, to independent game publishers eager to get their games out like Arion Games, Box Ninja, Burley Games and many others.

Again this is the perfect time to get close and personal with authors, artists and publishers, who are always eager to talk with people, sign books and take ideas on board.

You won’t have to spend there long to finish your budget. It is incredibly enticing to get new games when you can actually talk to the authors and get to understand the games. It is pretty amazing how their passion is truly infectious!

So what do I think?

Well… I love it. It is not perfect, and there are quite a few things that should be improved, but it is a fantastic day.

I’ll do what I always do and tell what I don’t like first. There is way too much to do for a single day convention. Basically the games are non stop and there are lots of them, so you have to be very careful what you choose. If you join a game and then happen not to like it, you‘re unlikely to be able to join another afterwards as they’ll all be booked. The seminars run non stop. No lunch break, no breather… they start at 10:30 and it’s one after the other. The Green Room is tiny and after 5 hours of seminars with the constant buzzing of the air conditioning system and the fluorescent lights I had a raging headache that I feared could turn into a migraine. Not to mention the fact that, by the time I got out of there, most of the limited editions and exclusive products sold for the convention had been sold out. Also in main gaming floor, the temperature was very, very high. And one minor point, there is no cloakroom. For a convention you must wear a coat to get to (way too cold outdoors) to have to carry your purchases, your bag and then a heavy coat all day is a pain.

The thing is that the show is not bad at all. It is actually extremely well organised. Everything is clearly marked, everything has a big enough banner so you don’t get lost, there is a bar in the premises so you can get a snack and a drink, the tables are big and well lit, with plenty of space between them so you don’t fall over anyone…. In a nutshell, the attention to detail is pretty decent and it is impossible to get to Dragonmeet and not find something you’ll want to do.

The selection of traders is as close to perfect as you would want it to be. Again, it is pretty impossible to leave without having seen something you actually wanted. It is also extremely likely you’ll see some new and small companies to feel excited about. That mix of very well established companies and really small ones that are there out of a labour of love, is really refreshing and very charming. It is charming because it is a joy and a pleasure to see how the big boys are friendly and have no reservations in chatting with potentially competitive companies. A true testament to how genuinely pleasant the industry is. It is also charming because talking to the authors and artists responsible for those new products no one has ever seen before, you realise how infectious their passion and belief in their products are. Also you realise what a bunch of truly great ideas there are out there!

Last but by no means least was the charity auction. Each trader gives away something for auction. It can be a signed book, a collection of adventures, some PDFs or anything else that’s truly difficult to find. I got away with a limited edition Dungeons & Dragons Chess Set that’s still keeping me dribbling all over it! With the very Ian Livingstone performing as auctioneer for a while giving away truly unique items and one of the organisers running the rest of the auction with an absolutely hilarious sense of humour, it became one of the, if not THE, highlight of the day. Over two thousand pounds were collected for two charities in just over an hour. A truly impressive result that deserves recognition, so my raise my hat to you guys!

I truly wish the show were a lot bigger and one day longer. I would love to have played some of the games, but, partly because of gathering material for the magazine, and partly because the speakers I was truly interested in, I wasn’t able to. Dragonmeet has the prestige to be what GenCon UK should have been, it has the experience to last and this country needs a professionally organised convention of this calibre.

If you’re a keen gamer, Dragonmeet should already be in your convention calendar for next year!

What was your experience like at Dragonmeet?