The convention scene

So this is another rambling post where I string together anecdotes, this time about conventions.

The first con I ever went to was sometime around 1981-1983, in New Jersey, at, I think, Glassboro State College or maybe Gloucester County Community College? I’m thinking we found out about via a Dragon magazine and it was called “EastCon” or something like that. My memories of it are pretty vague. I was only 9, 10, or 11 years old, and I went with my older brother and two friends who were twins, and probably 12 or 13 at the time. My Dad drove us and dropped us off and came back to pick us up that afternoon, so it must have been pretty close to Turnersville, where we lived. Being so young, we were unable to get into any of the scheduled games. I recall sitting in one of the classrooms, while the various DMs chose players (maybe we were on “standby”? I am sure we didn’t pre-register for anything), and we were passed over, again and again. It was because we were going to the con that Tm & I decided to write our names inside the covers of our AD&D books (I only had the PHB, he owned all the rest). I don’t remember seeing a dealers’ or exhibitors’ hall of any kind except for a gallery of fantasy prints and art, not necessarily game-related. My brother bought a poster-sized print of a Dragonriders of Pern novel cover art, and I bought a smaller print of a wizard. I wonder what happened to it.

The whole thing was really a big disappointment in hindsight, although with no real expectations I guess we didn’t realize it!

I never attended a convention in while we lived in Kansas, but we knew a lot of gamers and there were several great game stores in the area. I began reading White Dwarf which exposed me to the idea of gaming cons again, and presented a picture of a much more interesting scene: war games, huge exhibits, etc.

When we moved to Ohio a few years later, I found another gaming group and while I was still in high school I went to two NeoVentions at the University of Akron. It was a forty minute or so drive so a bunch of us piled into my brother’s car and both times, we spent two solid days gaming. We crashed on couches in the Student Union, probably sleeping in shifts, and ran amok through the graffiti-filled stairwells and even brought our padded weapons to spar outside at night. We ate nothing but pizza and drank nothing but pop and had a great time, although I don’t recall that any of us really participated in scheduled games; we played our own campaign there and roamed the vendors area and watched the freakshow. We ultimately met a few gamers of similar age from the next town over and they joined our regular group.

NeoVention was the first con I went to that had a real vendors’ area, and I could not believe what they had. I spent most of my money on a bunch of chairs, tables, and miscellaneous dungeon dressing (probably Minifigs or Asgard?) that I’ve only gotten around to painting this year. I also picked up a few Asgard minis, and other stuff I’d never seen in a store before. I always spend more time at the vendor’s areas than I do playing games at cons.

no, I have not taken a decent photo of mine. Maybe some day.

I entered the minis painting competition at one NeoVention and even won a certificate for “best fantasy diorama.” One of judges gave me the certificate and said, in a snotty tone, that he’d better not see the model I entered at another competition (it was the huge and impressive Grenadier Goblin War Giant which had been released the year before; I assume a similar model was entered last year or something. I actually finished painting and assembling it at the con! Another con-goer wondered if it was the giant from Time Bandits). Although I thought it was incredibly shitty to treat me like an ass for entering the piece in the contest, I was happy to win something. The prize was a box of Ral Partha ninja, which I never really cared for. Later on one of my friends at the con wanted a closer look at the thing and picked it up by grabbing it about the waist, snapping off half a dozen goblins. I could have killed him. That would have been about 1988-1989, maybe 1990. There are still a few goblins for that thing which I never painted and attached.

I went back to a NeoVention (or possibly NovoCon?) that was held a good ten years later, and the con was really a shadow of its former glory. I was living in Akron and only heard about it at the last minute, but I wanted to see the vendors area and look around. It was sad. NeoVention continued for almost another decade. I believe the last one was in 2009 or so.

“Neovention.org” is currently registered to Curtis Kaylor, who I think I must have met back in the late 1980s as I have a signed set of rules he wrote (“Quick & Easy Ancients” or “Cheap and Easy Ancients”?). I also had his “Frog Wars” rules from the same era but can’t find them anymore. They were just instructions on making origami frogs that could “jump” and making them battle. So it looks like NeoVention is dead and gone. Who knows? Maybe it will be back some day.

Bookended by the NeoVentions I’ve attended were BASHcons at Toledo. While I was a student at the University of Toledo, I got pretty deeply involved in the gaming club (“UT-BASH“). I didn’t know about the first year I was there, but in 1992-1994 I attended pretty much every minute of the cons, volunteering and running a few games. I helped judge a minis contest one year, which was a lot of fun, and entered the contests other years, and so on. Much later I’d even bring my future wife to a BASHcon (1999 or 2000?) which I’m afraid is the last BASHcon I’ve managed to go to. (Bringing a non-gamer to hang with my old college buddies and see gamers up close for a day was interesting and her forbearance and sweetness at that con was probably one of many things that made me marry her.)

Since that last BASHcon, I made it to Origins, I think, three times. The last was several years ago and while it is a great event, it is very expensive to make that haul, get a room, etc. The second time I went I talked my brother and one of my friends into signing up for a DBA tournament, which lasted only about four hours but it was a blast — everyone got to play out four battles. Even though my brother did better than I did in the thing –and he has probably never even read the rules. Still, good times. The vendors area in Origins was generally huge and had everything you could want. The minis area is always awesome too. Here are some pics I took one year — I think 2006 — but it’s been long enough I’m kind of foggy about what they all are:

A Hellenistic temple

A large battle

An ambushing flank march

A very rocky battlefield

The ark of the covenant!

A nice set of buildings

Duke Siegfried's Battle of five armies set up!

The mountain in its full glory

I think “Duke” Siegfried, who has been in the miniatures industry forever, cast and paint all the minis in this game.  He had poster-sized rules summaries sheets at another game; I think he was running his own homebrew system for this fantasy game and several historical games of different periods.  I regret being too shy to talk to him then, although he was obviously busy running his games anyway.

A Middle Eastern city for a colonials game

A seige tower or belfry for a Warhammer game (Chaos)

A war mammoth from the same Warhammer game

A Wonderland themed battlefield for a tournament; one of several themed set ups

Origins has a lot going for it, if you can take all that time and can get a room in the convention center.

Maybe I’ll go again some time but right now I’m much more stoked about the two local cons that are coming up this year — AnCon and Con on the Cob. They seem very different from each other; certainly their respective web sites are night & day.

Reading Chgowiz’s post about Garycon also gives me the idea that running a game set in my Telengard setting could be fun. I will be bound by honor to incorporate whatever happens into the real campaign. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a new player or two since the con is about 15 minutes from my house.

Now it’s mostly a matter of getting someone at AnCon to return my emails…

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Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Great post. Those pics are incredible.


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