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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

NukemCon 2012: Lessons from a homegrown convention

by Ken Newquist / March 18, 2012

The Blackrazor Guild held its semi-annual homegrown convention in late February 2012. About 18 people attended NukemCon 2012, some long-time members of the gaming group, others friends who join us from time to time.

NukemCons have become a standard part of our gaming group; we first started holding them because we missed our annual pilgrimages to GenCon. We missed being able to hangout, talk, and have a few beers while throwing dice. NukemCon solved that problem.

One person usually hosts, with the group taking over his house for the weekend. At NukemCon 2012 I hosted and we had two main gaming areas – my dining room on the 1st floor, and the regular Game Room on the 3rd floor. We also networked three Xboxes together, and set them up in the first floor library and living room as Video Game Central.

Our goal this time was a much more laidback convention. In 2010, I created a traditional convention schedule, with three 4-hour slots on Friday, three 4-hour slots on Saturday, and two on Sunday. That schedule lets you pack in a lot of games … but it’s exhausting and inflexible. There’s no time for open gaming in that sort of schedule (downtime between slots that people can use to play whatever they like) and it forced us to start at 8 or 9 a.m. As a result, while we had Video Game Central setup in 2010, we only got to use it for about 15 minutes.

In 2012, we dropped down to two sessions on each day, with at least a two-hour block between each session. To figure out what we wanted to play, I put together a pre-registration form in Google Docs. The form included a list of possible dates and times (e.g. Friday night, Saturday morning, etc.) so people could tell us when they could attend. I also included three lists: one for board games, one for role-playing games, and one for video games. Folks could vote for whatever games they wanted to play, and we used that to put together a rough schedule.

The format worked well. Games didn’t start until 10 a.m., which gave everyone a chance to grab some breakfast and coffee and stroll into the con relaxed. The con was far more relaxed than in 2010, and it pretty much ran itself. The rough schedule stayed rough: we knew our big Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green event was going to run Friday night, Star Wars was on Saturday night, and Savage Worlds: Freedom City was Sunday, but the rest of the time we made it up as we went along. We introduced a half-dozen people to the frantic fun that is Pandemic, we got in two games of Illuminati, and fought a Noble Armada fleet action. We kicked off a Pathfinder adventure as well, entering a medusa necropolis, but failing to finish our quest.

I missed the games that the extra slots represented, but I didn’t miss the exhaustion that went with them. Our Halo: Reach games during the open slot on Saturday were a great way of burning off stress. It’s a format I think we’ll use again.

For my part, I had a lot of fun running my events. I finally got to run McCallister Falls, a Call of Cthulhu: Delta Green event that I started writing in 2004, but abandoned in favor of other games. Our pre-polling for NukemCon showed surprisingly strong support for a CoC event, and when I saw that, I knew the time had come to dust off the scenario.

I ran it with a co-DM, Lance, with the players split into two teams: one a group of high school buddies looking for their friend, a Sheriff’s Deputy who went missing and a DELTA GREEN team sent to investigate the self-same disappearance. Everyone had a lot of fun with it, even if the adventure didn’t prove to be nearly as lethal as most Cthulhu adventures. I also ran Forcequake, a huge Star Wars: Saga Edition adventure that pitted a Dark side knowledge cult known as the Sith Ascendency against the Mandalorian Empire in the time of the Knights of the Old Republic. The heroes needed to determine what the two factions were fighting over … and how to prevent the Sith from destroying the heroes' adopted homeworld of Zebulon Beta.

It was a continuation of our Star Wars campaign, and I really enjoyed getting back behind the screen to run the game. That said, I over-wrote the adventure, and I ended up cutting out much of the final combat in order to tie things up in the allotted time. The session ended on a cliffhanger: Lord Draconis, the Sith Lord leading the attack, turned out to be the heroes’ former Jedi instructor. One of the Jedi, Quest Fios, stated he was giving into his anger and rage at his fallen master, and struck down the Sith. That in turned caused one of the other players, a Jedi sentinel, to confront Quest. The game ended on a tense note with the two Jedis locked in a lightsaber duel.

Looking back on it, I’m glad I ran both events … but next time I’d like to keep it to one adventure. The run up to NukemCon was a mad scramble, and while it was fun to be back knocking out Star Wars statblocks, trying to do that and re-learned the Call of Cthulhu rules was a bit much.