Dragonfire 2019 in Review

Dragonfire logo: Dragonfire 2019, 9-11 August, Dragon Solstice

Dragonfire is done! I’m really happy with how everything went. I have lots of ideas and plans for next year (like starting to prep WAY in advance). Fortunately, I’ll be sharing some of that right here on the blog, so stay tuned. Until then, here’s a rundown of what happened.

Three whole days of RPGs 

What could be better than three days of gaming? I had so much fun that I spent my last day’s leave editing for the Roleplayer’s Guide to Heists. (I had to work off all that energy somehow, right?)

Originally when I was planning for the convention, I put in for a day’s leave before and after the convention. Just in case I had to do any last-minute preparation, and so I could recover from what I knew would be a busy weekend. As it happened, I managed to get everything sorted out on the Wednesday, so I had a day to relax before and after. Either way, I need to do that again next time. It was great.

In the end, I spent the first half of the convention running games; at least I got some gaming in during the second half, though. There were a bunch of games that I would have liked to join, but unfortunately we haven’t figured out the whole “being in two places at once” malarkey.

The first day was reasonably quiet, since it was a public holiday and it seems a lot of people had other plans. Day Two was a lot busier. Day Two was also by far the longest, since I left home at 09:00 and got back after midnight.

Either way, I attended all three days and all my game sessions were fully booked. Also, I realised afterwards that people were running a whole bunch of games on a different floor of the building. So I may just have missed a bunch of other games because they weren’t happening on the main floor. 

Playtime for Mr GM

Among other things, I played in my first LARP, or Live Action Role-play, which was immense fun. The scenario, called Envy, uses the Deadlands/Savage World setting as inspiration. I played Mr Moneybags, essentially; a corporate stooge attempting to swindle miners out of some money. It took me a while to figure out how things worked, but ended up having a great time.

I borrowed the jacket, the shirt, and the belt from my boyfriend. The hat and the pocket watch were both a hit, and I borrowed them from a friend. The only things that were mine are the jeans, the waistcoat, the boots, and the goofy smile. (The last one stayed on my face pretty much permanently.)

Mr Moneybags

(I entirely blame the Wildcards crew over at SavingThrowShow. Not only did they play a whole campaign in the Deadlands setting, they also had a really fun LARP episode in their recent East Texas University campaign. You should find them on Twitch sometime. They’re cool.)

In fact, I had so much fun at the LARP I now want to write one. I may end up writing a LARP hack for one of the scenarios in The Roleplayer’s Guide toHeists… Watch this space.

On the last day of the convention, CLAWs ran a multitable event co-written and co-GMed by a number of people, titled Dragon Solstice. I ended up playing a level 6 half-elf rogue. I enjoyed not having to be the one in charge of all the maths, and all the groups worked together well. I really liked the way they structured the adventures, so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for what they do next.

But I did run three TTRPG sessions, so let me tell you a little about those.

Session One, Day One: Maschine Zeit

The first session I ran was Maschine Zeit. It was a great way to start my weekend, because it let me focus on storytelling and setting the mood, making sure everyone understood how the game works, and introducing the X-Card system to people who had never used it.

No one at the table had ever played a Maschine Zeit game, and out of the three TTRPG systems I ran, it was the one I had the least experience with.

Having said that, I had such a good time running this. As a GM, this was by far the easiest to prepare. I took a summary of the rules to give the players, a bunch of partial or completed pregens, as well as a few blank character sheets. At the table, it took about 15-20 minutes for everyone to either create or select a pregen.

This is easily my new gold standard for RPG systems. I don’t want to go on too long about it in this post – especially since this post is already a few days late. But look for my review, which I’ll post next week.

Session Two, Day Two: Steal That Shuttle! (Star Trek Adventures)

Miscellaneous items for a Star Trek Adventures game: Coins used as tokens, official dice, rules summaries, character sheets for Uhura and the Enterprise, the map, and the mission briefing for the GM.

The first of two sessions I ran on Day Two. As soon as I read the Shuttle Game heist in the Kickstarter preview, I knew I wanted to run this as a Star Trek module. To make it work, I had to make quite a few changes and do some extra preparation. Most of this amounts to: how do you justify Starfleet stealing a ship?

Once I decided to include Romulans, I did a bunch of research on Memory Alpha, which is the most amazing Star Trek fansite, with all kinds of lore and information about the franchise. I also used the Beta Quadrant Sourcebook from Modiphius, which was a marvellous resource.

For the map, I adapted a Dyson Logos map. Aside from adapting it to use Trek-friendly lingo, I added a Mission Briefing that summarised the “parameters” or conditions for successful heist. Both of these strategies worked quite well, especially with the added time pressure.

When I run Star Trek Adventures, I usually give players the pregens that came with the living campaign. This time, I decided to get character sheets for the crew of the Original Series and Next Generation, so at the start of the game the players had to choose to play with Kirk or Picard. (They chose Kirk.) I let them keep their character sheets once the game was finished, so that they could have something to remember their experience.

Finally, I wrote up a few story notes that gave more information about what was actually going on, who the main players were, and what everyone on the base actually wanted.

Sadly, we ran out of time pretty quickly, since planning the heist took an hour and we only had two hours left. But the players were pretty happy about the pacing of information, and everything they found out once they engaged with the NPCs in the game.

I am definitely running this again. In fact, the San Jenaro Co-Op may even end up publishing a version of it as a preview. Watch this, as they say, space.

Session Three, Day Two: The Haunting (Call of Cthulhu)

Finally, the obligatory Cthulhu session. (That’s a Smash Up reference.) I run so many Call of Cthulhu sessions at Dragonfire, one of the organisers said it was becoming “my brand”. Ha. Little do they know.

At the end of the session, the players said they really liked the investigation aspect of the system. I had specifically created pregenerated characters with ties to the scenario, and it worked really well because each character had some idea of what to do.

All of them ended up doing some amount of research, and exploration once they reached the house. I would have liked to have ended with the final confrontation against the villain, but I had to leave it on a cliffhanger.

Overall impressions (and lessons learned)

As I said, overall I’m super happy with how it went – although I did manage to lose my SJC hoodie somewhere. Hopefully it turns up somewhere.

I had to carry a whole bunch of stuff with me, especially on the second day. Again, by far the biggest issue was timing the games, because sessions were often closer to 3 1/2 hours rather than four. The other main issue to contend with was the noise levels in the main venue. It was loud. However, the players were generally quite understanding about needing to skip through things a little, particularly towards the end.

My big takeaway from this experience is that I need a whole library of one-shots ready to go including pregens, handouts, rule summaries, and the like. But that’s part of what I want to organise this year.

For the convention itself, I would have loved to have been able to run multiple tables or sessions for each game. Maybe in a year or so I’ll be able to get my shit together so that there are a bunch of GMs running sessions simultaneously.

So, basically, it was great! I had fun, it seemed like most of the players enjoyed themselves, and people got to try TTRPG systems they’ve never tried before.

Only 358 days till the next Dragonfire. I can’t wait.

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