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.