Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

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Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby simonpaulburley » 5:58pm on 07 Jan 18

I love StabCon. However, most of you won't need to read this report because I've posted and written about it so many times and it's always the same. (Which is why it's so flipping great!)

So:

TLDR: remains the cheapest residential convention by far. Friendly atmosphere. Mainly board games but RPGs are growing. I ran four Manifold games and played in one Savage Worlds. All games fully booked mostly with returning players who seek out my games StabCon after StabCon.

StabCon is twice per year, Winter and Summer, in Stockport. It's residential, in a low cost hotel and is very popular. The convention can host 300 attendees and was fully booked out for Saturday well in advance of the event.

Because of the way the dates fell this year, it was in the last weekend of my Christmas Holiday, so I had the luxury of travelling down quite early on Friday - instead of rushing to get there after work. In theory that meant I could arrive in time to fit in an extra game session Friday afternoon. However, there is relatively little pre-convention chatter prior to this event and I wasn't able to round up any players before the day.

What I did do, however, was to pop into Element Games in Stockport to have a meeting about the Convergence convention being held there in March. From their website I had the impression that I'd left it too late in the day to throw my hat into the ring as a GM. A face to face meeting disabused me of that notion and I could see how it suited my needs for early 2018. So it was well worth having the chat. I also got one of the guys to carry fliers for Spaghetti ConJunction and Manifold down to Contingency. Win, win!

So I got to StabCon mid afternoon. There was a queue for checking into the hotel. Apparently they'd been strict this year and not allowed anyone to check in before 2:00pm anyway, so if I'd arrived earlier the queue would probably have been even longer. The hotel is at the cheaper end, just over £100 for two nights including breakfast. But it has been recently refurbished so is good value for money. And there is a great synergy between the convention organisers and the Hotel with its friendly and accommodating staff.

After dropping my bags in the room, I went to sign in at the convention. As usual I received my personally hand made name badge. These must take ages to make and show real commitment on the part of the organisers. I booked tables for my RPG games and turned to pin up my sign up sheets. I noticed two things. Firstly, there were far more RPGs being offered than at the last StabCon - and the ones already pinned up were already booked out. Secondly, this year everyone seemed to be using the typed A5 "house" signing up forms. My fully colour A4 sign up sheets looked a bit out of place and seemed to take up rather too much space.

I ordered my usual StabCon evening meal (12" American Hot Pizza) and waited for my evening game to start. This is one of the rare games I play in and the only regular campaign in which I have a continuing character. Savage Worlds Pulp - Indiana Jones with minor Superpowers. (I basically play a WW1 cyborg.) Great GM, wonderful group of players. Always a great way to start the convention.

During a comfort break I noticed all the games on the RPG board - including mine - were fully signed up, and there were even more people scanning the board looking for games to sign up to. StabCon remains primarily a board game convention but the RPG games seem to be getting more and more popular.

Because the beer is reasonably priced - and the convention bar is open to midnight - I drank quite a bit and nearly got sucked into a card game. However I ducked out and got to bed just before midnight.

I got up early and ate the adequate hotel breakfast as soon as it opened at 7:00am. This gave me time to get set up for the day.

2018 is going to be the year of MANIFOLD my multi-genre RPG. I need to promote and hone it. Every RPG opportunity I get in the first half of 2018, I'll have to run Manifold. So at StabCon 2018 I offered to run three of the four example scenarios from the rulebook.

In the morning I ran the Science Fiction scenario. Pure TV space opera. Fully booked with 5 players, I think I'd run games for all of them before. Particularly pleased have a father and his two daughters at the table with me. They seem to choose to play one of my games every single StabCon. It's really gratifying.

As the pilot film of a TV series the scenario is written to bring together 5 disparate characters. This group fragmented immediately with, at one point, all 5 in different locations. In an indigenous alien native's hut, in an audience with their parliament, a prisoner of the catlike aliens in their orbiting ship, being tortured by the captain and, finally, drifting in space in an escape pod! Bringing them together for the climax took some work. But it was fun.

The afternoon was the Fantasy scenario from the rulebook. Again this was fully booked including one player who I know of old. I first came across him four decades ago. I was extremely gratified to see him signing up. Two of the other players were ones who'd played in my Dr Who scenario at a previous StabCon and were happy to regale me with stories of it. It had had a stunning climax that even I remember. A further player was one who'd played in the morning SciFi game. He told me I had refereed for him before and told me I was his favourite GM. This is all incredibly gratifying.

Another group of fun players. I'd been worried that this scenario was the weakest in the book and was considering updating or replacing it. However, it worked really well. To be honest I found myself telling the story rather than bringing it to life by fully Roleplaying every NPC, but the players seemed happy. The wise old player, however, spotted every trope and managed to cleverly short circuit the bad guy's plan (to the extent that he was probably lynched off-stage by his disgruntled followers), so the game finished a bit early after only three hours. But no-one complained.

After tea I ran the Superhero game from the rules. Most of the group were players who'd played with me in the Saturday slot at StabCon before. However, those scenarios were horror ones - including the one from the Manifold rulebook. I felt guilty about not having a new horror scenario for them but it's not a genre I have many ideas for. So of the three scenarios on offer, they'd requested the Superhero one. This is the one where you play Superheroes who have to track down their old mentors, who've come out of retirement, before they do themselves an injury. The twist worked well and we had a satisfying climax. So, effectively I've got a regular Saturday night group now. I REALLY need to sort out a horror adventure for them next time.

Sunday morning was, as always, my Star Wars campaign. I ran a refight of "The Force Awakens" two years ago at StabCon when the film came out and the players have been returning for more every convention since. Today was the 5th chapter in what was meant to be a one off game.

TBH, though the game, the characters and the players are all great I'm finding the Star Wars universe - especially the contemporary one with the "First Order" etc. a very limited setting for designing adventures. So I had a chat with them after the game. We agreed to park the campaign and start a Superhero one in the summer.

There is time for another game Sunday afternoon but as I'd got work Monday morning, I set off home early. I have stayed for afternoon games in the past, though, making it a six game weekend.

I made sure to book into StabCon Summer - as I always do - before leaving. You can't afford to leave it to chance.

Obviously I'd recommend StabCon whole heartedly. It's a family atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and I get regular players returning to my game offerings. Still the cheapest residential convention of the year by far with a bar that stays open until midnight. You have to get in early to book a place and it's a bit quirky and eclectic so you might need a guide the first time you come. (Feel free to ask if you need help.)
"People don't stop playing because they get old. They get old because they stop playing."

Been around since original D&D
Author of Golden Heroes, Squadron UK, The Comics Code,The Code of the Spacelanes, The Code of Steam and Steel, The Code of Warrirors and Wizardry and The Super Hack.

I attend lots of RPG conventions in the UK. I Attend non-RPG "geek" conventions to promote The Hobby using my "Choose Your Adventure" set up. I blog about both of these things here: https://rpgs4all.blogspot.co.uk .
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Darran » 12:40am on 08 Jan 18

StabCon is always one of those conventions that has been running for years, decades even, yet has never had a website, advertising, or any contact details.
Whenever I tried to get them for my convention listings I could never get them. It’s a shame as I would have liked to attend at some point.
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby simonpaulburley » 4:05am on 08 Jan 18

Oh it IS a closed group. Traditionally. there is a Yahoo group you can be put into, but first of all you need to be a StabCon attendee to fill in a form for to attend the next StabCon and tick the box on that form. It's a real chicken and egg situation.

It's both funny and sad but a couple of years ago one of the younger more forward thinking attendees set up a
Facebook group. Some of us started swapping messages on it. Other people found out about the group and the event Suddenly BAM the organisers - who I love to bits - were overwhelmed by people turning up on the day. They had to decide whether to seek a bigger venue or cap attendance at 300 and stay where they've been running the convention for three decades. They chose the latter. And the convention has been sold out ever since. In other words, it doesn't need to advertise. And, yes, I always feel like I'm breaking a code of some kind even writing reports on my visits. If anyone does read one and decides to come it'll mean squeezing out someone else. But there are a couple of newbies every year.
"People don't stop playing because they get old. They get old because they stop playing."

Been around since original D&D
Author of Golden Heroes, Squadron UK, The Comics Code,The Code of the Spacelanes, The Code of Steam and Steel, The Code of Warrirors and Wizardry and The Super Hack.

I attend lots of RPG conventions in the UK. I Attend non-RPG "geek" conventions to promote The Hobby using my "Choose Your Adventure" set up. I blog about both of these things here: https://rpgs4all.blogspot.co.uk .
simonpaulburley has received thanks from the following for this post:
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Phil Masters » 1:57pm on 10 Jan 18

Nitpick: It wasn't originally in the Britannica. It used to use a university site up in Manchester. Then, just as the local restaurants started getting half-decent, the university found other uses for too many of the rooms, and it had to move.
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby simonpaulburley » 5:17pm on 10 Jan 18

Phil Masters wrote:Nitpick: It wasn't originally in the Britannica. It used to use a university site up in Manchester. Then, just as the local restaurants started getting half-decent, the university found other uses for too many of the rooms, and it had to move.


Just for my personal interest, how many years/decades was that ago?
"People don't stop playing because they get old. They get old because they stop playing."

Been around since original D&D
Author of Golden Heroes, Squadron UK, The Comics Code,The Code of the Spacelanes, The Code of Steam and Steel, The Code of Warrirors and Wizardry and The Super Hack.

I attend lots of RPG conventions in the UK. I Attend non-RPG "geek" conventions to promote The Hobby using my "Choose Your Adventure" set up. I blog about both of these things here: https://rpgs4all.blogspot.co.uk .
simonpaulburley
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Phil Masters » 12:34pm on 11 Jan 18

I honestly can't remember. Some years. I believe that the very first incarnation of Stabcon goes back to the '80s, and wasn't even run by Mich & Hammy, but that's well before my time attending. I'll see if I can find any records...

(I do remember announcing the first edition of the Discworld RPG at the old venue, so that narrows it down a bit.)
Phil Masters
Author of The Discworld Roleplaying Game (Now available as a PDF!).
Creator of The Small Folk - Wainscot Urban Fantasy Rolplaying, powered by FATE; available on Warehouse 23 and on Drive Thru RPG.
Transhuman Space Line Editor.
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Stronty Girl » 6:59pm on 11 Jan 18

It was definitely still at the University the year Manchester hosted the Commonwealth games (2002). I can't remember how long after that it stayed there...
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Evilgaz » 12:37pm on 12 Jan 18

This all does make me wonder about how many groups of gamers are out there that don't really know about each other.

e.g. how many people at StabCon know about the Sheffield cons, or used to go to Conception, or attend Dragonmeet? How many from the those places even know about StabCon? What other events are happening that none of us know about and are equally blissfully unaware of us!?
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Phil Masters » 12:59pm on 12 Jan 18

I did a very little Googling, and apparently the first-ever Stabcon was in 1979. Okay, different organisers, different venue, there was a gap of a few years in there... But one can say the same thing about Dragonmeet.

And bear in mind that it's supposedly primarily a boardgames con, though the roleplaying element has always been healthy. That weakens the connection to the RPG community at large, if there is an RPG community at large. There are certainly a bunch of disparate "hobby games" communities, in fact; the boardgamers (with hardcore Diplomacy fandom as a bit of a distinct subset, I gather), the online play-by-post system-light roleplaying crew, the Pathfinder bunch who barely know about the rest of us, various flavours of LARPer, the megagamers, the figure wargamers... One tries to maintain lines of communication, but discovering a keen "gamer" living next door who doesn't share any of one's own assumptions or vocabulary is always possible.
Phil Masters
Author of The Discworld Roleplaying Game (Now available as a PDF!).
Creator of The Small Folk - Wainscot Urban Fantasy Rolplaying, powered by FATE; available on Warehouse 23 and on Drive Thru RPG.
Transhuman Space Line Editor.
My Home Page, My Blog, and My Stuff on Warehouse 23.
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Re: Winter StabCon 2018 - first convention of the year

Postby Darran » 1:19pm on 12 Jan 18

It’s the same with Beer & Pretzels in Burton-on-Trent. It’s in it’s twenty-ninth year now though it is primarily a board game and war game convention there has always been some RPG games there too.
Plus Burton beers! :D


It must have missed a few years too as I do remember attending in the late 1980’s.
Cheers,
Darran
-----------------------------
'A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an Emergency on my part'-http://darransims.livejournal.com/
Playing crappy characters on a whim for +35 years!
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