Memoirs of a First Time Con Organiser

This week’s guest post is from my close personal friend and virgin con organiser Mark Collins from Grim Tree Games. Shortly after expo Mark contacted me to tell me about Grim Con and I figured he was just excited coming off the back of the UK’s biggest convention, I didn’t think he’d actually do it… boy was I wrong!


Grim Con – When Can We Do It Again?

It all started about 6 months ago. I was sat in my mother-in-laws bed and breakfast waiting for the family to gather their belongings so we could head out to the sea front. The advantage of having close family with a bed and breakfast in Blackpool is that it’s a good base of operations for a day out. Other advantages were about to surface. As usual thoughts turned to games as I waited, looking at all the breakfast tables I thought, “They would make good gaming tables”. Thinking on it further, “Loads of bedrooms, people could stop over, have a few beers, play games. Could make a weekend of it. A mini games convention”. When my mother-in-law walked into the room I innocently asked “Margie, could we borrow your B and B for the weekend?”.

Deep thought.

And here we are. GrimCon has been and gone, and everything I could have hoped for came about. We had a really good turn out, we filled the B and B, we played a whole mess of games and everybody had a good time.

I had a bit of a false start as the van we were using to take stock along broke down. Didn’t take too long to sort, but we landed about 9pm on the Friday. It was awesome to see that when we arrived things were in full swing and games were already being played.

Friday night there was a game of SLA Industries RPG being run, along side plenty of board games. We all kept playing till the small hours, finishing off with a game of Cards Against Humanity at 3am. With it being a smaller venue and not a huge gaming hall, it gave everyone a chance to get to know each other, which was great.

Saturday we set more tables up for extra people and got cracking. The B and B put on a full menu of food, you couldn’t roll a dice without hitting a full English Breakfast or a bacon butty. Just as well, as I needed something to soak up last nights beer.

Space Marines do it in power armour.

The day went well, board and card games ran all through the day. There was never a shortage of anyone to grab and sit down to a table with. 3 Role Play sessions were played, a DeathWatch game, where Oliver (a noobie RPGer, who took to it like a duck to water) sacrificed himself for the good of the mission. Every one seemed to enjoy that very much. A Call of Cthulhu scenario run by James (founder of the North of England Gaming Group) which was cleverly set in Blackpool in the Victorian Era. I see what you did there James, clever. In a twist we were the Cultists trying to raise Dagon. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were the bad guys and we could do unpleasant things to get the job done, it was good to be evil for a change. Needless to say when it sunk in we did carry out several nasty deeds in the name of Dagon.

Map of the land.

In the evening Tony, my brother and Grim Tree sympathizer, ran an epic sandbox style fantasy RPG using the Savage Worlds rule set. Our characters sat down and got to know each other, and we were told of impending Orc doom that would march on us in a week. We had that long to search the land (shown via an awesome prop map) for elements to help in the war effort. Each location had a table top set piece crammed with painted terrain and miniatures. He went to a lot of effort with it and it showed. Many locations we didn’t see so he will be running it at the next GrimCon for sure.

Kicking a Necromancers ass.

The games went on into the night, people shuffling off to bed and Cards Against Humanity moving the 2am bed time to 3am for a few of us again. The next morning some people left at around dinner, but there was no rush to get people out so some stayed on to play games for the rest of the day.

The feedback from everyone was great, everyone had a good time and took from it what they wanted. We managed to cater a bit for everyone game wise, and the venue was brilliant. I could be called out for being biased, but Margie and Brian (who run the Marston House Bed and Breakfast) went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and kept checking in to see if we needed anything.

Looking ahead, we are definitely doing it again. I did learn some lessons however.

The venue is great, but with more people gaming we will have to spread out to the bedrooms when the table area hits capacity. If (or hopefully when) it is that successful the next step would be to hold a day time event in a nearby hall, then in the evening people disperse back to Marston House and nearby B and B’s. This allows for the people that just want to come for the day and those wanting to make a weekend of it, and it allows us to scale the event.

Being Evil.

The second lesson learned was the pacing of the RPG sessions. I had initially planned to sort out slots the night before and plan the day, but I wasn’t entirely sure who was running what, and what people would want to play. As it wasn’t a massive convention I thought we could sort it on the day. We did, and it went well, however if planned a bit better we could have fit more RPGs in. The board games had no such issue, just arrive with lots of games and get stuck in.

Also next time we need to make sure that each RPG game is designed to run to a time slot and keep to that, again so we can fit more games in.

As people left I wasn’t asked if we were having another GrimCon, but if we could have another in 6 months instead of waiting a year. Everyone gave great feedback and had a great time, so yeah, in 6 months it is :) Hopefully see you there!

Thanks Mark and sorry I missed it… Curse this move to the South!! Grrr…