Despite my current position as a big supporter of game conventions as part of a healthy local gaming scene, I’ve had a rough history with them. When I first got seriously interested in roleplaying games in 2002, I was a sophomore attending college in Syracuse, NY. I had no idea where to find people with whom to roleplay.
Being a staunch Vermonter and not really into the central New York scene, my web searches eventually turned up Carnage, which then was Carnage on the Mountain at Mount Ascutney. The bummer there was I had no way to get there, since it happened mid-fall semester. But lo, I found a consolation prize: my hometown, Burlington, had its own game — and anime convention — Bakuretsucon.
Spring of 2003, I happened to be in the Burlington area at the right time, so I registered. Having time on my hands, I also elected to run some games, which was a hugely ridiculous decision on my part because I had yet to run a roleplaying adventure and only played in a handful at the time. The absurdity of it still makes me smile and to this day I feel relief only one person showed any interest in either the Adventure! or WitchCraft games I had lamely prepared. It was a real cart before the horse situation and, in retrospect, presaged the whole weekend.
At first glance, Bakuretsucon 2002 was not a strong roleplaying experience for me. I only got to play in two RPGs the whole weekend, neither of which I was particularly interested in. One, although I didn’t know it at the time, was my first fantasy heartbreaker, Forge: Out of Chaos, while the other was Call of Cthulhu, which confused me because in the four hours of play, we didn’t encounter anything vaguely horrific or unnatural — I remember the GM saying if the characters had only dug a little deeper at one point, something would have popped up. In all honesty, I went away from Bakuretsucon feeling very disappointed by the whole affair in terms of actually getting to play the games I wanted. The rest of it consisted of some board games and a lot of milling around the game rooms, feeling lost.
However, that weekend held a lot of benefits I wouldn’t recognize until later:
- It laid the foundation for a number of friendships that would later bloom. I met some of my oldest gaming friends that weekend.
- I would go on to help run the spin-off convention, Lorecon, when the organizers decided to separate the gaming from the anime. The year I served as chair was an overwrought struggle I’ll write about some other day — another benefit of the weekend, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was I met several members of the regional convention scene who I would get to know later and occasionally tap for support and advice going through my own con-running tribulations.
- The dealer’s room is where I found Mutants & Masterminds, which helped shape my perceptions of what RPG rules are intended to do.
- I learned about people who play games and their motivations. Some of them want to try out new games, other people just have a few specialties with which they like to stick. At the time, I had difficulty reconciling this second point with a bit of RPG.net groupthink I had picked up “If you run it, they will come.” In truth, not every game is a fit for every player.
So, in all, my first game convention was not, on the surface, a wildly positive experience. In fact, a less stubborn person might have given the whole concept up as a bad job. This was one of those circumstances where perseverance turned out to be a virtue.