Conpulsion 2006

August 5th, 2006 - tagged

I visited Edinburgh’s Conpulsion in March, it’s a great Con, full of fun games and fun people. It really helped me with my game in progress, Covenant. It helped me so much I had to plow lots of time into that game, rather than this report. Hopefully that’s now remedied.

There’s a group of folks who play Indie games, and they happen to live in Edinburgh. They came up with the excellent idea of running an “Indie Games Track” event at the convention. Because I love my Indie fix I agreed to go up and help out. After all, a set of hour long intro games is a great plan. Amazingly enough I’d been made a guest, which was really great, if a tad unexpected. The plan was to run my game of failing conspiracies, Covenant and one of my favourites, Inspectres.

We flew up on the Friday, at hideous O’clock in the morning. The logic was impeccable, cheap tickets at an early time allowed for quality mooching round the city pre-convention. Sadly combining this with several late nights did rather zonk me out for the rest of the weekend. Live and learn.

Fortunately caffeine is my friend.

Friday was spent largely mooching around Edinburgh doing the tourist thing. The Museum of Scotland had loads of the finds from places we’d visited in Orkney, so that was cool. The rooftop terrace in the rain was, with hindsight, a bad plan. We rounded the day off with the pre-convention party hosted by Malcolm and the excellent Contested Ground Studios folks. It was here that I was introduced to the true test of extreme RPG design: The 24-minute RPG challenge.

When you’re a bit drunk, it’s amazing how creative you can be. The world needs more games about monkey barmen.

Saturday morning, I arrived bright and early at the Teviot students’ union. There I met up with the other folks involved in running in the Indie Games Track. We had a nice place in the bar with comfy sofas and our own banner (cunningly crafted by Gregor Hutton). A last minute search for a photocopier ensued as I made sure I had enough handouts. Planning? What’s that?

As the first eager group of players turned up for Joe’s Shadow of Yesterday game, I went to mooch around the dealer section. Plenty of neat stuff (including 3 copies of Nopress, which was satisfying), I managed to finally acquire a copy of Polaris (previous attempts having been eaten by the trans-Atlantic postage demon). I chatted a bit with the guys from Contested Ground Studios and Joe Prince(who’s Swansong game of tarot-based story telling I’m still kicking myself for not picking up). Jon Hodgson was also in attendance and I chatted to him about freelancing and giving artists a fair deal. I also got to the see revised cover for Dust Devils, which is a nice double-take moment. The guy does some amazing art, check it out.

I ran my first game at 1pm, and got five very enthusiastic players. Covenantheld up quite well to the quick explain, get playing style, though one guy was a bit out on the edges. People had fun and the game was a nice mix of action and drama. It’s interesting how powerful a well constructed hour long game can be. It forces creativity and leaves people wanting more, it’s an ideal markerting approach.

After a quick lunch I wandered through to the game design and publishing seminars. Thanks should go to the Contested Ground folks for taking the time to organise and present on varied matters of design, finance and publishing approaches. What was nice is it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, just re-enforced it and provided alternate angles. Good stuff, shame it wasn’t better attended.

I had a pleasant meal of Moroccan food in the evening.

I returned to the Con to watch the charity auction. Well done to all those folks who paid far over the odds for pieces of gaming-related tat in the name of a good cause. Commiserations to Malcolm, who agreed to run Wrathea-wratheu-however it’s spelled. The true sacrifice, however, was made by the Team 8 guys, who foolishly auctioned running any game on demand, and ended up with infamously awful F.A.T.A.L. I adjourned to the bar with a group of folks from Edinburgh, and all was well again.

Sunday I was up early, but not particularly bright. Fortunately I found coffee and made my way to the convention. I managed to play the one hour demo of Polaris, which affirmed to me that it was worth the wait. It’s a wonderful game of fairy-tale tragedy and works even in an hour.

My last hours at the convention involved standing in to run The Mountain Witch. Which I was unprepared for, since I stood in for Iain McAllister who’d not run it before. People seemed to enjoy it, though I could really have done with some poker chips to manage trust.

I wrapped up the Indie Games track by running Inspectres. It always delivers in the fun department as it has a simple concept, ghost hunting in a start-up company, and plays quickly. It was over in just over 45 minutes, and included a very badly repaired fire truck, a haunted apartment and a painting possessed by the ghost of a dead mobster.

After a swift pint to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Con, I made my way via bus to the airport.

There’s nothing like a good crowd to make an event. Conpulsion has that crowd. My experiences there convinced me that it was well worth pursuing Covenant in book format. I recommend the trip to anybody, since you can always go with other folks and include the touristy thing too.

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