Sunday, 29 September 2019

WynterCon - Eastbourne 28th/29th September 2019

WynterCon - Eastbourne 28th/29th September 2019

TLDR: Two days of non-stop one hour demonstration games at an eclectic and friendly event. With Wolves.

I can’t tell you what WynterCon is... exactly. It’s a two day event in Eastbourne - one of those wonderful out of season holiday resorts which this country is still blessed with.

It isn’t a games convention or a ComiCon, a Science Fiction Convention or a steampunk convivial. It has elements of all of these but no overall USP. There’s stands selling fudge and biltong, MCU Memorabilia and artwork.  There’s full size X-wings, Captain Jack’s ship, CGI photo booths, Daleks, light sabre training and stuff I didn’t get time to see. And Wolves. A pack of wolves.

It’s the flagship of a successful local charity. “Whatever world you’re from you’re welcome in ours!” It boasts.

Over the years its “RPG Zone” has become well established. Half a dozen tables (2x 5th Ed, One Dice, Fate(?), my stuff and one of the co-ordinators ready to fill in with odd games) all prepared to do what I usually do on my own - offer one off one hour introductory TTRPGs to newbies. Two days where, basically, all that’s offered is Games on Demand - and the public lap it up.

For personal reasons I was slow getting ready for it this year. I hoped to produce some new pregens - faux Harry Potter (there are a lot of Potterheads at the event) and SheRa and the Princesses of Power but I never got around to it. I basically threw all the usual stuff into my new suitcase (my old reliable one having finally died) the night before I set out. I decided to travel light and not take my banner or display stands.

Though Eastbourne is a long way from Birmingham, it makes economic sense for me to travel down at stupid o’clock Saturday morning. Even though you can get some great deals on good guest houses and hotels in Eastbourne, it doesn’t make sense to pay for that extra night’s accommodation.

I have to say that, with all my travels, I’ve seen the worst of this country’s railway system - especially passing through London - but this journey was a breeze. Even the onboard WiFi worked!

The taxi driver taking me to the convention knew all about it. This is almost unheard of. In most of the events I go to, the local taxi drivers know nothing about the event happening right under their noses.

 I got to the event just it was opening. Last year it had been under a massive circus tent which was.... interesting. This year it had moved to a sports centre which was a perfect setting with a really nice ambience.  The RPG zone was near the entrance, just past the Light Sabre arena, and was one of the first things punters would see coming in. 

The organisers had set up two tables in an L shape - the way I like it - one for display, one for playing. Even without my stands I was able to put an impressive set of games on offer. 

As always, things started slowly. Punters were flooding in but there’s so much to see and do before they feel the need to sit down. And when they did, it was the 5th Ed tables that filled first. However, it didn’t take too long for me to get my first table. Two pairs of young - teenage - people, new to TTRPGs, who - after much vacillation -    asked for a Steampunk game. Then they couldn’t pick a title from the ones I offered them. Eventually we agreed on “Murder on the Occidental Express”. This was a mistake.

You often get a quiet player in a game who takes a while to get going. All four of these players were quiet and seemed to find it hard to make a decision. “The Captain shows you the murdered body of Lord Carnaby. What do you do?”

The set-up was also a bit “big” to get their heads around. Five giant (Titanic-sized) steam liners linked together to create a gigantic cross-Atlantic steam “train”. Eventually the Confederate gun-runner was foiled and only one liner had a hole blown in its side. Fun was had but - it was not an easy start to the convention.

Then things took off. I ran my standard introduction to “D&D” - The Delian Tomb using The Black Hack.  Following recent debates, I switched it up a bit. Instead of the farmers couple begging to have their children rescued, I had the kids beg for their parents to be saved. And I had the party check with the Priest PC about the morality  of ambushing  or killing captured goblins. Made very little difference.

I ran it three times - in rapid succession - normally for family groups, which is always a rewarding. But....three times!? I swore to swap out the scenario if asked to do it again.

In between I grabbed a quick Hog Roast for lunch (“outside, through the tent, past the wolves, past the pirate ship”).

Emerging from my fantasy marathon, I was asked if i could run a Dr Who scenario in half an hour. COULD I!?

Canon characters. It ended up (somehow) with Ryan playing bridge with Soloman (and his two red robots) for the fate of The Tardis Team.

The day was rounded out with a game of Fireball XL5. I found myself with a player who’d been born to play Zonney the Lazoon - overacted all the aliens and tore my throat raw with their accent. I refereed standing up - just trying to keep up with the enthusiasm of the 5th Ed referee who was running games with far more players than I was.

The convention wrapped up at 5:00pm. There is an additional after party with music, drink etc. But I chose not to go. Instead I headed into town to run my standard Dr Who scenario (the one I’ve run dozens of times over 5 years) at a local gaming cafe. 

I’d arranged this via Facebook ahead of time. Four young men - late teens to early twenties. Oddly they hadn’t attended WynterCon during the day and no-one came from WynterCon for the evening event.

They were enthusiastic and gonzo. The biscuit craving Ice Warrior. Grey-ham - Graham’s dark counterpart from another dimension. Grey-ham failing to land the Ice Warrior ship on the moon and pulling his “I packed something for that” special effect.

“Superglue!” “How does Superglue help you land a spaceship?” Cue the most side splitting mime I’ve seen. Four limbs flailing above and below the table accompanied by a description of the buttons being pushed. I had to give it to him.

And, my favourite bit, when the penny dropped and a player realised what they were up against (the worst Dr Who fan-fic opponent concept ever) he just said “That’s it! I’m getting out of here!” Instead of heading off to fight it like most groups do.

It was a great evening in a lovely venue. It’d tried this last year and got no players. I’ll try it again every year from now. The players were begging me to come back to Eastbourne earlier.

I rose to pouring rain. When I got to the WynterCon venue we found to marquee set up beside the sports hall - the one containing the X-Wing and Pirate ship - was flooded and shut.

After only the shortest of pauses, I got my first game. Intro “D&D”. So ran my alternative scenario - the Goblins adventure I’d designed for my live on stage role-play at Fantasticon. This group decided to pull down the rocks the goblins human captives had been stacking in from of the giant cave and release the monster within. TPK. Half the party were crushed in the avalanche, the rest were killed by the escaping dragon. Some of captured villagers were released though and the goblin threat was much reduced by Dragonfire.

Then the same again. This time I started with two players and the table slowly grew to a full five. This party went the more sensible route of fomenting rebellion amongst the goblins whilst they sneaked in to tackle/behead the chieftain.

Then AGAIN! Again the “big red button” of the blocked up cave attracted their attention. But this time through a lucky Charisma roll they did a deal with the dragon and defended its egg from goblin attack whilst it went all Game of Thrones on the goblin town.

I grabbed a quick burger. The Marquee had opened up again with wood chips scattered all over it’s floor.

When I got back the organiser asked me if I could run Star Wars game for SEVEN players! Could I!? Luckily it turned out to be only six players and two - Newt Scamander and his friend - left early to attend the final of the Cosplay competition.

My day ended with a quick “One of our dinosaurs is missing” Steampunk game which started with two people and ended with four.

I had been so busy over the weekend that I hadn’t had time to explore the convention. Despite my busy day, I was still beaten by the 5th Ed referee who at one point, apparently, ran a game for EIGHT pikachu’s.

I was exhausted but happy. This is what I love doing. 12 games over two days. Overall the RPG zone had run 49 games for a total of 216 customers with many being turned away because all the referees were busy. We need at least one more referee.

If you’re into Cosplay and/or Nerd/Geek culture (or Wolves) WynterCon is well worth a visit. If you only want to play TTRPGs you might find it a bit limited. If you want to Referee, get in touch.

A strange, eclectic, lovely event.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

The Owlbear and the Wizard’s Staff - 21st September - Royal Leamington Spa

The Owlbear and the Wizard’s Staff - 21st September 2019 - Leamington Spa

TLDR: A large, well organised and superior two slot games day organised by a Magician with a “Create Food and Drink” spell.

There seems to be a resurgence in conventions at the moment. Presumably this is part of the general resurgence in the hobby and the availability of more gaming-suitable spaces coupled with the ubiquity of Social Media to advertise them.

I was aware of OB&WS in its first year, last year, but it didn’t fit my schedule at the time. I’m still not sure of its USP but it seemed to be part of the nostalgia for UK TTRPGs of the 1980’s - the heyday of White Dwarf.

Anyway, it did fit with my schedule for 2019 so I contacted the organiser MONTHS in advance offering my services as a Referee - as usual. I was politely informed that all the refereeing spaces were filled. I can’t remember exactly how far ahead this was but I feel it was about 6 months ahead of the event. I was invited to attend as a player.

I am not proud to admit that some of my baser instincts crept in. I’m not used to being rebuffed as a referee and - with my particular addiction to running games - don’t travel to conventions merely to be a player. 6 months out and all refereeing slots taken? It felt like an in-house stitch-up. Didn’t they know who I was?

So I began pestering the organiser to let me know if any referees dropped out. I’m not proud.

Despite the fact that this is just a typical one-day two slot event the organiser hypes it on-line - especially through Twitter - as if it’s the one, the only, the best RPG convention there’s ever been. So when he started asking referees to confirm their games and some didn’t seem to respond, I was in there - pestering. Eventually I was granted as slot. However, it turned out he DID know who I was and specifically asked me to offer a game of Golden Heroes - not my first choice for con games these days.

As the event drew nearer people began tweeting excitedly about their refereeing preparations, booking hotels etc. They seemed happy to travel from all over the country for this convention and pay the requisite travel and accommodation costs. I couldn’t see the particular appeal.

Personally, having given GH an outing at “Mug and Dice” earlier in the year, I didn’t prep, knowing I could just pull that game out of the box.

Along with relentless up front promotion the organiser also allocated all players to games in advance of the event. He seemed keen to micromanage the numbers up front.

When date drew near, I pulled out my GH box only to find my pregen characters missing. So I checked online and found a print shop in Leamington Spa I could dash to upon my arrival to get character sheets printed and do character generation at the table. (Amateur!) Luckily the character generation system is fun.

Leamington Spa is only half an hour from Birmingham. It’s a delightful town. Very English middle class. I arrived early and camped out in a twee coffee shop waiting for the print shop to open. By use of a taxi I got my sheets printed and arrived at the event venue in good time. If I hadn’t had the last minute glitch it would have been easy to walk.

The event venue is a musical rehearsal building. Entrance was through a medium sized  room contained a gaming table, kitchen area, several comfy sofas and all the paper work - a single sheet listing tables, games and players. The adjacent room - which is where my game was -  was clearly and orchestra rehearsal room. It was was big and bright. The entrance area was clearly a break-out room for orchestra players.

Both rooms were full of people catching up. This seems to be an event for Twitterati to meet up face to face. Many had arrived Friday night and had already been out for a curry and/or beer together. This is a very social event. (If you like that sort of thing.)

I found my table easily. It had been labelled with a printed A4 sheet giving game title, system, Referee and scenario description along with full colour convention logo. VERY professional. I was also given a Referee’s “goodie bag” as thanks. (As of writing I still haven’t opened it. I’ll do that at the end.)

A player wandered over and we began making his character as i began setting up. (Dear God I’d forgotten what its like to have to get all the miniatures out and lined up ready for the scenario). Soon we had FRACTAL the laser Hero. Other players drifted over and made ALBATROSS, a flying mass of muscle, GAMMA and his sidekick RAY and SHELL SUIT, an armoured alien who, unfortunately, had first landed in Liverpool. The two last players to arrive were given my only part-gen (an archer he named THE GOLDEN SHOT) and pregen - POLYMER - Growth and stretchiness. A great quote at the table - about one of the newly rolled characters - was “I want to draw him.” GH character generation still delivers.

The scenario - my standard time stop scenario “The Long Minute” - went well though with 6 characters and my intent of telling a whole story in a 3.5 hour convention slot meant combat were short and (for the bad guys) brutal affairs. I made a note to myself that if I run GH again at a con, I’ll just run a large “Battle of New York” style event.

During a comfort break I popped to the break-out room. I asked the organiser how much the bottles of Diet Coke were. Nothing, I was told, they were a donation. The room contained bottles of coke and water, coffee and tea, cake and biscuits. All free. All donations. Amazing!

When I got back to my table I heard one player saying to another “I can imagine your character’s comic.” Joy! 

The scenario ended with a very experienced player coming up with a wonderful “reverse the polarity” trick - turning against the bad guys the exact ploy the Mega-villains was going to employ against them. I had difficulty keeping a poker face when he suggested it.

At lunchtime, boxes of samosas we delivered. As I packed away all my stuff (so MANY bloody figures!) I saw people bringing plates through and worried they might all be gone before I could get there. I shouldn’t have worried. They didn’t run out all afternoon, no matter how many I ate.

Lunchtime was more smiling faces catching up. This is such a joyful event.

In the afternoon I played in a “Forbidden Lands” adventure run by a charming Mexican referee. Started in the desert (where my Orc Druid grabbed the one waterskin and doled it out a swallow at a time - I’m incorrigible - an awful player) before getting to an oasis which was basically the “two witches” scene from the the classic D&D module “Horror on the Hill” on steroids. Great fun with charming scenery chewing players. Imagine Queenie from Blackadder 2 playing a (powerful) goblin warrior. So it was enjoyable despite a quirky and un-intuitive system.

When the event wrapped up, it was a 10-minute walk to a superior (not cheap but worth it) pub - where the organiser had prebooked some space for us all.

Attendance was 90 people. About a dozen games in each slot. Mostly eclectic but with 5th Ed deliberately sprinkled in. The organiser is charming and puts in loads of work. He is paranoid about everything working and was pleased the last minute drop outs and last minute arrivals balanced out. It is an excellent event the result of one man’s vision and hard work.

I still can’t work out what makes it so popular that people are willing to travel so far to come and look forward to it with such joy. The constant relentless promotion on Twitter is one thing. But having thought about it - I think the pre-allocation to games is a big factor. It creates the (correct) impression that its a well organised event and nothing is being left to chance. And you know before you arrive exactly what games you’re playing in - there’s no risk of last minute disappointments.

And so much - endless - free food and drink!

What about my Referee Goodie Bag, you ask? Hang on.....

..... sweeties (swizzles, black jacks, a liquorice pipe), three branded Owl Bear and Wizard’s staff dice and a very impressive Owlbear Figure with a wizard’s staff - some assembly required.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Concrete Cow 19b - Wolverton Milton Keynes - Saturday 14th September 2019

Concrete Cow 19b - Wolverton Milton Keynes - Saturday 14th September 2019

TLDR: Even with understated promotion and reduced numbers, still one of the best events on the UK calendar.

I’ve written about Concrete Cow more than any other convention. It is a long running, well organised Games Day held twice per year in Wolverton, near Milton Keynes. The venue is a bright community centre with good facilities on the main high street right by a large supermarket and a short walk from the railway station. It is easy to get to and a great location for this kind of event.

There are three game slots in the day - morning, afternoon and evening. However, it isn’t cost effective for most people to stay for the evening slot. (I would miss my last train back to Birmingham, for example, so that last game would cost me the price of a hotel room.)

Classically, there is pre-promotion of the games people INTEND to offer, but there is no prebooking and everything is decided on the day. You can just turn up and offer a game at the event at the last minute if you want.

This was the second Concrete Cow of 2019. Compared to some of the newer conventions around - who had been all over social media, jumping up and down promoting themselves (I’m looking at you BurritoCon, Grogmeet and The Owlbear and the Wizard’s Staff) - promotion for this Concrete Cow seemed rather subdued. There were only as handful of games listed on their web-site in advance. (To my shame I’d been slow submitting mine.)

When I arrived (easy journey as usual) there were about 40-50 people present. Lower numbers than the convention’s hey-day. (I’ve see 90 people there at times.) There were a great selection of 9 games offered in the morning, including my Star Trek original series game. 

Sign ups were by the copyright Concrete Cow lottery ticket method and went smoothly as always. Most games filled. I got 6 players. This event attracts a lovely, friendly clientele who just want to have FUN. We had a great game with much scenery chewing. Scotty saved the day despite The Enterprise being destroyed by those pesky Klingons.

Lunch was sandwich deal from the supermarket next door - though there are numerous food outlets on the Main Street if you prefer chips or similar.

Two traders - the ubiquitous and wonderful Leisure Games and one other who I didn’t check out - had arrived during the morning to ply their wares.

Afternoon signups are in reverse order to the morning, which is fair. There were a similar number of games to the morning but some people seemed to have gone home. My afternoon game (Year of the Rabbit) got no signups, probably because I’d stupidly missed my name off the sheet. So I signed on to a Firefly game using the new “Scum and Villainy” rules. This went well because it’s seems that if you run this game straight out of the book, you’d can’t help but get an authentic Firefly adventure. Great fun. I lost count of the number of callbacks to the original TV series we made. As typical for Concrete Cow we had a superior Referee. The Convention does attract a high class of hobbyist.

I cut out before the charity raffle and travelled home early.

Many people present noted the lower numbers than usual but the event ran perfectly at this size. It remains one of the best Games Days on the circuit and certainly sets a standard all the new conventions should aspire to live up to. It’s cheap, easy to get to, attracts great, friendly, people and ran perfectly for the number of people that came. There’s just a sneaking suspicion that if they don’t heavily promote the 2020 events, numbers might continue to dwindle as people are attracted away to the newer, shinier events. Which would be a shame.

10/10. The perfect day out. Everyone should come. Use it or lose it folks.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Asylum - Lincoln 2019 - General Report

The Asylum Steampunk convention - 23rd-26th 2019 - Lincoln

Last year I came across “The Asylum - the biggest Steampunk convention in their world” online. I dropped them a note to ask if they wanted me to run games. When they said yes, I booked a cheap B&B in Lincoln for one night and attended Saturday and Sunday, just to dip my toe in the water and see how it went.

I was impressed by the little I saw of the event. It is a feature of many multi-day Steampunk events that they run evening events that are separately ticketed. Though these are - I assume - BRILLIANT balls, concerts and soirées, they don’t float my boat so I cheekily asked if I could run a long game in the evening. I didn’t expect to be allowed to as this would be a free event. But I was allocated a table in the student union bar and gained enough players for a great game.

So, it was a success. 

This year I vowed to come for the whole extended weekend - it was a Bank Holiday Monday. And found myself really looking forward to it.

I asked if I could bring a second referee - agreed.
I asked if we could run a game in the student Union at nights - they gave use a massive room on the top floor.
I asked if I could run a Live Role-Play - AGREED!

I spent an unconscionable amount of money in the run-up (for me). I bought a top hat. I bought a set of special googles with “gamesmaster” lens inserts. Instead of booking as cheap B&B in town - I booked accommodation on the University Campus - which was a bit more expensive, especially given that it was student accommodation with shared bathrooms etc. By the time I got around to booking all single accommodation was gone so I had to book a double room. I bought an extra Banner to advertise the event. I had new character sheets and table notices printed and laminated.

(Note: if after reading this report you decide to visit The Asylum, book your accommodation early. Cheap stuff books out very early.)

Last year I’d noticed that many Steampunks didn’t just dress up. They created characters and then dressed up as those characters. So, through the event’s Facebook Page, I offered to prepare bespoke character sheets for anyone who sent me a photo of themselves and a character description, so they could actually play their Steampunk alter-egos in an adventure. I was only contacted by three people to make six character sheets (always couples). The reason, I reckon, was that people are working on “this year’s outfits” right up until last minute. But I enjoyed statting up the characters whose descriptions I DID receive. 

For my second Referee the first person I contacted was Dave Winterbottom. Dave organises the TTRPGs at many of the country’s Anime cons. He is an Expo stalwart and also does stand-up where he and audience design TTRPGs live on stage. (Nope - I don’t get how he’d do this either - but he DOES.) Luckily he agreed. And I was able to offer him free accommodation because I’d booked the double room. 

Finally I realised that I probably needed to design so new scenarios as people might have played my standard ones the previous year. So I asked for title suggestions on line and received many excellent ones.

To be honest, I would have liked to travel up on Thursday night but I couldn’t justify the additional room cost to myself. Instead I chose to travel up Friday morning. I got up and travelled at stupid o’clock. I didn’t need to. As a four day event, it doesn’t start until mid-day. But I was just too excited.

Aside 1 - The train routes recommended by two different ticket sites varied immensely. When I studied closely I found that one web-site’s suggestion - via Nottingham - was faster on the way up whereas the other - via Sheffield - was massively quicker on the way back. Go figure? So rather than advance book or split tickets I chose to spend a bit more and buy a flexible return.

Aside 2 - I’d debated whether to buy a new suitcase for the event. For some reason the one I’ve been using for convention visits was wearing out. With all the other expenses, I decided to give it one last outing. The wheels fell off the instant I left my house!

Aside 3 - I lost my old banner on the way to Fantasticon the weekend before The Asylum and my new, second banner, didn’t arrive until the morning I left - ie after I’d set out - so I was without banners and feeling a bit unprofessional. 

The journey was fine and I got a taxi to the University where we were based. I was met by the organiser in charge of that site - who I’m getting to know quite well from various events. He let me into the room where the gaming would take place and I set myself up - one table for a display and one table for playing. (Table covers, natch.) Like last year, the outside of the room housed the smaller items in The Great Steampunk Exhibition and the tables soon started to fill up with artwork and artefacts of all kinds. Some fascinating - some inexplicable. All showing hours of loving work.

It was a short - 2min - walk from the building with the games in to the student union. There I was able to check in and collect our armbands and keys to the room - though it was too early for get in. I was also able to check out “our” room upstairs for the evening play. It was massive - easily able accommodate a whole convention by itself. 

The convention started. I remained in the  gaming room and didn’t attend the opening ceremony. Slowly people began to drift in. As usual, at first, they were just getting their bearings and few had time to start and play a game. As well as the University site - which used multiple buildings and had masses to see and do in and of itself - the festival (it isn’t really just a convention) spread out across the City of Lincoln to many other sites. The Castle, Markets in the Town Centre, The “Engine House” (live music) etc. There were free vintage double decker buses ferrying loads of steampunks between these many venues non-stop. No wonder few people had time to stop and play a game.

Soon, however, people began to stop and play. Especially as - on a baking hot bank holiday weekend - the room we were in had excellent air conditioning and some people came in just to get respite.

Despite my offering a full range of genres, every game I ran on Friday was Steampunk. I had an eclectic collection of players. The exact details of the games I remember are on a separate post.

The thing about Steampunks is - especially at The Asylum - they pride themselves on being “splendid”. They are universally happy and polite. They never criticise or comment on other people’s outfits, for example, except to say how wonderful they are. They are just looking to enjoy themselves and the games were universally a delight to referee.

The day event closes at 5:00pm, by which time I had run several games.

I dropped my case off in our room - which was in the same building as the one we were running games in - and went over to the Student Union Bar for an evening meal and the evening game.

Initially I was disappointed to find that the Union no longer sold the pies it had specialised in in 2018. This was replaced by an outdoors barbecue. £8.50 but its USP was that along with your choice of burger or hotdog, every plate received several ribs and chicken wings. All well cooked. Value for money, and probably easier to supply the large clientele than cooking individual pies.

The student bar was also good value - £3.50 a pint for bog standard lager and cider. £4.00 for better lager etc.

At 7pm I went up to our evening game room. It was an OVEN! I opened all the windows and doors and it began to cool down. Several people turned up asking for a game and Dave arrived just in time to join in.

The game ran until some time between 10:30 and 11:00pm. As I went to turn in, Dave announced “No! We’re going to promote the games.” He went down to the bar and proceeded to consume copious amount of alcohol and talk to people about TTRPGs. (Dave was fresh back from appearing in and promoting events at the Edinburgh Fringe.) Steampunks are so splendid that you can walk up to anyone and they’ll talk to you about what they’ve been up to and listening to what you’ve been up to.

The bar closed at 11:30 but we sat drinking at a table outside, talking to some great people. We went to our room where the drink enabled Dave to give me some forthright feedback on my refereeing and how I should promote TTRPGs events. Blunt, maybe, but nice for someone NOT to beat around the bush. I loved it.

We didn’t get up too late and went over to “The Refectory” - again only 2min walk from our rooms - for the breakfast included with them. As you’d expect for a Steampunk event this was a stolid full English affair. The room was full of people in various forms of clothing - most too early for full regalia. Again every was polite and engaging in conversations about what everyone was doing.

Saturday and Sunday were both full days of gaming followed by longer games in the Students’ Union at night. Food was from the Refectory during the day (“Meal deal” less than £6) and the (unvarying) barbecue at night. (We could have eaten in the Refectory had we wished).

Saturday night we even had enough players to run two full tables.

All of this was on the University site and everything was within 3min walk of everything else. Even though our focus was so tight, and we stayed within a tiny percentage of the festivals total site, we still got to see loads of fascinating sights. The constant parade of costumes was stunning. The props and vehicles were amazing. (My favourite was the - in progress - full size Steampunk version of ED-209). And everyone and everything was simply splendid. We drank until after midnight and had many interesting chats - including with the luminaries of “The Ministry of Steampunk” themselves. Whilst I’m sure the many tit-bits I learnt about how the festival has developed over the years and the nuts and bolts behind it weren’t meant to be confidential, I’m not going to go into them here. Let’s just say they were fascinating and enlightening.

On Monday a lovely couple arrived in the gaming room and set up to offer Board Games and TTRPGs. They have been cataloging every Board game and TTRPG produced that they can find that has any reference to Steampunk - and collecting as many of them as they can. Their file of games is a very impressive piece of work.

Dave and I ran a few more games. I offered my Live Role Play to a very small audience, wrapped up and made my way home. And slept for most of Tuesday.

The Asylum is, quite simply, Heaven on Earth. We saw only the smallest, smallest portion of it and everyone was simply delightful. I was struck by Facebook posts after the event from people who said they were nervous about coming because of the difficulty they have in social situations who said just how easy it was to talk to everyone.  And that was my experience as well. I normally need TTRPGs to help me interact with people. Not so at The Asylum. Everyone great everyone else as old friends.

Tickets for the event are £40 (I think). This gets you access to almost all the sites for the various events on show that I didn’t get to see. I was quoted that 4,000 tickets were sold. However, the market and other events in the centre of Lincoln are free and the organisers estimate the festival brings 30,000 Steampunks and “steam-curious” people onto the streets of the city reach day for four days. 120,000 footfall.

It’s on those streets in the free part of the event that the only friction seems to occur. Steampunks revel in looking splendid and love having their photos taken. All they request is that you ask permission politely first. Apparently anyone with an SLR camera feels they can turn up in Lincoln over the weekend and behave like amateur paparazzi, yelling at people and snapping pics freely and without manners.

I highly recommend The Asylum as an event in and of itself that everyone should treat themselves to. Dave is an absolute convert and, before leaving, made sure next years dates didn’t conflict with The Fringe. He’s going to be back.

If you’re interested in TTRPGs, there’s just me and Dave at the moment. Other more dedicated events might suit you. But there’s potential for growth. We could probably  run a TTRPG convention nestled within the larger event but I’m not sure that’s the best way forward. Next year Dave and I will be back and I’m thinking of asking a third Referee along. However, I will order each of us (me included) to take a day off from the gaming to climb on a free vintage bus and head out to explore all the wonders The Asylum has to offer. Jet Pack Racing, Dinosaur Racing, Teapot Racing, Tea Duelling, Low Altitude Display, Steampunk Choirs, Talks, Seminars, Display, Exhibitions, Markets etc. etc. And to promote the evening games to see if we can’t fill that upstairs room at the Students’ Union each and every night.

As you’ll see, I’m a convert. I may just be a Steampunk myself.