Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Madicon 21: Breaking the Ice

Small geek-oriented conventions are a horrible place to try to make friends. Nerds are short on social skills to begin with, and people there with their posse or their plus-ones don’t really need more company. Then there’s the age-gap to deal with… and people have so many preferences about their own particular hobby niche. There’s so much going on, and yet people are antsy. People don’t want to commit to two hours of anything when something better might be happening right around the corner.

Normally I make sure to go with a wingman so that even if no one else wants to play, I can be sure to have some good games anyway. But a small convention isn’t a big enough deal to justify my far-away friends driving in for it. I pretty much have to go it alone with no one to watch my back for me and no guarantee of a good time. After last year, I figured I’d try to get a game on the schedule myself: the classic Keep on the Borderlands module.

I came in a little early to make sure my sign-up sheets were out. Making a quick pass through the vendor area, a guy noticed my magenta box set and stopped me. “Hey… I have that,” he said. “Is that worth something if the dice aren’t colored in?” I told him I really didn’t know, because I don’t collect– I just play it. He apologized profusely and then quickly disengaged himself from any sort of conversation with me.

Looking for a pen, I approached the main desk… and then heard an odd jumble of sounds like a couple of random words or numbers. It was like someone speaking in captchas. I looked up to see an attractive geek-girl staring at me. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I was just… processing.” That was strange enough that even I would leave it alone. Beyond that, she was easily half my age, so I grabbed a pen and started filling out my session sign-up sheets without doing much more than arching an eyebrow.

While I was filling in my game description, a guy comes up behind me. “Excuse me, are you the guy doing the Dungeons & Dragons session…? Which version are you running?” I told him it was going to be the 1980 Moldvay red-book rules. He looked sorry for a second, and said, “well… third edition is the only true edition.” Without another word, he promptly walked away.

I had a sinking feeling then that trying to set up these game sessions was a really bad idea. I had a vision of myself sitting alone in a gaming area: a laughing-stock of geekdom. A couple of hours later there still weren’t any names on my sign up sheet and I was sure I was heading for another gaming disaster.

To be continued….

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3 responses to “Madicon 21: Breaking the Ice

  1. RogerBW March 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I read about people who say things like this – or, more usually given the places I tend to read stuff, things like “I only play D&D, I have no interested in GURPS” – and find it quite strange. I’ve never been in an area so thick with gamers that one could be that religious about a preferred system and still find games to play in. (And I gamed in London/UK for thirty years…)

    • earlburt March 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      One of the over-arching problems with gamers is that they’re often the kind of people who would rather be right than be happy. Whatever petty, reptilian pleasure there is to be had from denying another’s point of view is, evidently, more important than actually enjoying a game.

  2. Brendan March 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I just got my players to try a Moldvay one shot tonight and they seemed to enjoy it.

    To be fair, a new system (GURPS, for example) is a lot of rules to absorb if you are only familiar with D&D, and the time required to learn new systems becomes more precious as you get older. But saying “X is the only one true way and I refuse to try anything else” is different than “man I wish I had time to try GURPS some time, but for now I’ll stick to what I know.”

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