Taking in the Sights at Dragonmeet 2018

If there’s one moment that sums up why I set out at ungodly hours to travel to RPG conventions, it’s probably the conversation at Dragonmeet with a man selling bleeding candles. They’d just been awarded a license for Call of Cthulhu, he explained, and had made special candles you could load up with tiny wax brains to represent sanity loss. And if it wasn’t for Dragonmeet and other shows, I’d never see half of the weird, wonderful and slightly mad things that the roleplaying community manages to dream up.

Dragonmeet is the UK’s largest RPG-focused convention, and takes place in London over the first weekend of December each year. Last year apparently attracted more than 1,500 folks from across the country, and in the run-up to the 2018 show the organisers seemed confident that attendance could approach 2,000.

Considering how many folks I ran into, I’m certainly inclined to believe them. The show was packed with both gamers and merchants, and felt like a tangible example of all those statistics that tell us the hobby is booming.

At the same time, the show is still small enough that you can see absolutely everything you want to without any fear of running out of time, and while it’s busy there are enough moments of quiet that if you wanted to you could have a brief chat to iconic figures like Ian LivingstoneDominic McDowall-Thomas and John Kovalic.

However, while it’s certainly pretty nifty to speak to people at cons, at least half the reason we turn up every few months is all the loot being offered in the trade hall. This year was no different, with some choice selections coming in the form of early copies of Forbidden Lands (which you can read more about here) and physical version of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4E rulebook.

It wasn’t only the major players who were showing off their shiny new toys. Loke brought along their Giant Battle Mats for the first time, and judging by the amount of people I saw clutching one underneath their arms they seems to have had a very good show indeed. World Anvil also made waves with their worldbuilding platform, and Wisdom Save Media drew a decent crowd with their DMing accessories, including a book of pre-generated inns and taverns to drop into your games.

There were plenty of games to look at too, including the intriguing Nibiru – a sci-fi horror RPG where the players start out with almost no memory of their skills. As the game draws on they generate new memories, whether that means recalling fragments of time as an amateur boxer or suddenly realising an unexplained talent for picking locks. The team was on hand at Dragonmeet to hand out quickstart guides, so expect a preview coming soon.

The only issue with an otherwise great show comes through the system for booking onto games – a system which is showing its age rather badly. Rather than using an online system for allotting spaces at Dragonmeet’s over-subscribed gaming tables, the sign-ups are handled by pieces of paper pinned to the walls.

As you might expect, this creates a rush when the afternoons and evening sessions are being pinned up. If you aren’t comfortable forcing your way through the crush or willing to stake out a spot half an hour early, you’re probably not going to secure a space.

Fortunately, the organisers have told me that there are plans to introduce a computerised system for next year, so from this irritation shouldn’t be a problem at future shows.

Ultimately, Dragonmeet 2018 was a blast. Now I just need to remember to book a hotel room early enough for next year’s show, as that probably works out cheaper than buying all the coffee needed to keep me going after a 5AM start…

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