Furnace Findings


This year I attended my first Furnace, a smallish con held in Sheffield, now in it’s 4th year. The Smart Party were four strong for this outing, and between us we had 8 games to run that covered the gamut of gaming.

The location was really cool, a converted gaolhouse including the original cells to play in. There was a cosy bar that served excellent food. I’d have liked it to stay open a little later but they had beer in vending machines for the desperate, so not so bad after all. The rooms were ‘motel’ like, which means they were fine for getting your head down, but not for much else.  That’s all I need from a Con though, and at £25 a night I can’t complain. Breakfast was perfunctory, but appreciated after a long night of game talk.

I arrived at about 6pm the night before the Con opened properly and I could see a few obvious delegates at the bar. I had to guess though as there was nothing else on site to let anyone know it was hosting the Con.  I had an hour to kill before the rest of the Smart Party showed up, so I had a beer. I wish I’d made myself known, but you know how shy and retiring I am. In a perfect world I’d have wanted a greeter to say hi and introduce me, but maybe that’s asking too much. When my group arrived we got stuck into our beers and caught up on putting the hobby to rights.    

The next morning dawned and my poor old body hasn’t been used to late nights and Guinness for a while. I’d been fighting off a cold all week so decided to blame that instead of my drinking, grab some painkillers and see what the day had in store.

The venue took a little getting used too. It’s got a maze-like interior that takes you up and down stairs to get anywhere. Eventually I found the main room, where I met Tom Zunder, a man I’d only known online before, who gave me a free Con book and a raffle ticket. Shiny. Soon the room filled with faces and names I half recognised from various fora. I had a badge with my real name on (which no-one really uses to be honest), might be an idea in future to include online nom de plumes?  

The sign ups go live 15 mins before the games commence. I like it. I know every Con has it’s own special system, and the all have their merits, but this one was fine for me. What really works is that you get to prebook a players spot for every game you run. So I had my games all planned out, which took away a lot of potential heartache on the day.  I was running 2 which gave me 2 games to play in, the first being later that day. I’d already decided to sit out the morning session, and my hangover was happy to go along with that plan. Morning slots at Furnace are 3 hours long, rather than the standard four, so I wasn’t missing much. Instaed I got to browse the stands, which didn’t take long! Patroit games were there with a decent selection of old and new. There was also plenty of dice, and Collective Endeavour had a table full of indie small press to flog. It was plenty. I’m not in the market for extensive shopping at Cons, as I’ve got great access at home to 3 LGS and Amazon covers the rest.

Caught up with a few old friends and we went through the standard “What are you running? what are you playing? ” converstaions. Good to see AK and Spearing again, and nice to bump into a few of my blog commentators too.  Coffee was a God send, as was a hot lunch a little later. There’s a good vibe at Furnace which I really like. It feels, grown up in some ways. There’s a distinct lack of catpissmen, neckbeards and faded Red Dwarf t-shirts. Instead it looks like a cross between a Facebooked university reunion and a ramblers club, in the nicest possible way.

That afternoon I played in 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars (Carnage from now on). I’m going to write that up as a seperate post as the game intrigued me enough to want to give it a full play review. In the evening I was down to play my D&D 4e game, The Fey Team. I was nervous that 4e might get a poor reception, or none at all. Those fears were unfounded as my table filled up in no time. 5 out of the 6 players were 4e vets, which took me a little by surprise actually. Most Cons see me rapidly having to turn my scenario into a demo, and I’d pre-empted that with my set up for this one. No matter though, it meant we could get stuck in straightaway.

That afternoon I was approached by one of the organisers. Apparently, if you run 2 or more games you get a £20 game voucher! Awesome, and I genuinely hadn’t known in advance. That enabled me to pick up Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies for £3, a bargain in any money.

I was lucky enough to get a table with a bench seat running along the back of it which was superb for all my kit. 4e is a geeks dream, I had tiles, minis, counters, screen, notes, initiative cards, the whole shebang. For once I had enough space too. It’s for others to judge the game but I think it went really well. I got some nice feedback from the guys afterwards which really made my day. So thanks to Richard, Robert, Pete, AK, Oli and the inimitable G2 for a great session, you’re all welcome at my table anytime.

One downside of 6 players and sharing a room with two other games is that I had to speak at battlefield volume for 4 hours. The consequences of which meant that I awoke Sunday with no voice at all. Nothing. Not even a whisper. I’ll play through most injuries and ailments, but being mute is one of those things you just can’t power through. Reluctantly I had to step aside from my booked slot for Hot War (which G2 gleefully snapped up). I was hoping to feel better by the afternoon. Even winning Mouse Guard in the raffle and some sandwiches and chips didn’t work enough magic. I had to admit defeat and cancel my remaining session.

At least I’d be home in time to see the wife and kids. Game over.

I loved this Con. It’s not too small, it’s not too big, it’s just right. A good spread of games in a unique venue, full of like minded people, I’ll be coming back for more next year.


3 thoughts on “Furnace Findings

  1. zackspacks

    Hi Baz
    As one of your occasional ‘commentators’ glad to have had a few quick chats with you at the con. Although I wasn’t in your evening game, I saw it from time to time, passing by to have a break, and the floorplans looked gorgeous. I couldn’t see the minis close up, but they certainly looked the part. I am a big fan of both, as IMHO it can cut down on describing fiddly locations, and it stops amazing on the spot teleportations from happening.

    With regards to con noise though, my group must have contributed to that, as I was running 28 Decisions Later – Rage Against the Machine, at the top end. I think in future I am going to speak with both GMs in the room before starting and try to get in a pre-emptive agreement to be open to one of the other GMs asking for a bit of quiet. I would like to think my group were not too noisy, but they must have contributed to the noise level even if that were the case, for which I can only apologise mate. Not much use being after the fact, but hopefully the thought counts.

    Anyway good to see you have posted something, as this site was almost turning into Gaz’s Blog. I guess it doesn’t give you much incentive as a group if nobody is posting anything in reply to your own posts, so I will try to troll…..ahem…comment on some of the posts in future. Cheers

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the kind words, really good to put a face to a name etc. One of the cooler things about WotC games is the sheer level of geek equipment you can get. The hoarder in me loves being able to get cool stuff, and the perfectionist in me needs it to be exactly right!

    The Con noise was fine, it was the 8 pints of Guinness and the cold that didi my throat in mate, don’t worry about it.

    As for posting, I tend to concentrate on my own blog (http://rpgtreehouse.wordpress.com fact fans) as it concentrates on my weekly gaming group. Smart Party is for Cons and one shots which, obviously, I play less of overall. Also, and this may shock folk, the Smart Party posse don’t actually agree on particular systems and settings all that much! We all agree on approach and style, but largely that’s about it. So, I don’t want to turn this into a 4e blog, so, I post when I’ve got something of substance to add. Check the archives mate, there’s a couple of 3000 word essays in there!

    Anyhoo, lovely to meet you, and thanks for your comments.



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