Furnace is an “All About the Games” roleplaying convention in Sheffield that caters for 80 passionate souls, all keen on their widely diverse taste in games and you can get to play all manner of things in this great little con taking place in a sandstone army barracks. All my games were run in the cells. Nice.
With Friday off work I finally got my shizzle together and got the characters done and printed off for the convention. Lemur and G2 were up in good time and we were off to pre-con Friday night drinks. More by luck than judgement Simon and Biker Dan were on the scene as we arrived and so we booked in and got to the bar. Plenty of folk for the con were in the bar and there was the usual warm reception and greeting among the people that only really see each other at conventions – and introductions to the fresh blood. Young Mister Spearing joined is for the Big Guinness Rounds and various people drifted in and out and around as the evening meandered on. I’ve often thought its a shame the bar closes so early (midnight), but on reflection it does mean we don’t get too silly and get to bed at a reasonable time. Lemur was outraged by the two piece boy band tribute act, but for different reasons than the more discerning delegate.
I was all booked up for the convention, with three slots GMing meaning I could book my other two in advance and no sign-up scrum for me. This year the committee had struck up on a cool idea for sign ups and utilise the (now glass-encased) veranda area to display A3 sign-up sheets and that gave plenty of space for shuffling around when the time came for elbows and sharp pencils. Quite a few delegates didn’t turn up on Saturday morning – a good number left Sunday afternoon – some GMs struggled to run a game. Better than players willing around in half dozens without anything to do and probably can’t be helped much if paying delegate don’t show, only come for one day, or get off early.
My first game was the perennial Tight Purse Harvey, with the captain himself suspiciously absent as the motley crew found themselves washed up on a beach. Everyone got into their characters with gusto and there was plenty of bickering and shenanigans without the need for anything so gauche as the plot to intercede. Everyone seemed in the spirit of the game and it was a reliable, rollicking adventure. Highlights included garlic crabs and siestas, an argument over who was going to Take One For The Team, collecting molten gold with a leather boot and a naked Calico Kate with armfuls of gold trying to talk her way past 30 avaricious pirates.
Had a bit of a look around the traders – there was a generous selection given the bijou size of the convention – Patriot Games, Bob the Diceman (Reapers Revenge), Collective Endeavour, a Pre-Loved Games Stall and about 101 disappearing monkeys. I think everyone got a piece of the action and there appeared to be plenty bought, sold and swapped. Anne did a tremendous job as the booth babe of the Bring & Buy stall and I even managed to make a few pennies myself thanks to Team Zunder and their silver-tongued sales techniques.
That afternoon I managed to get my first Savage game at a con for months and months. It was a Ravenloft adventure and pretty standard D&D style fantasy fayre. I nabbed the wizard and proceeded to play up the arrogant mage and destroy everything I could find with swarms of fire bolts. Good to get to play Savage for a change, although for me there could have perhaps been more meat to the adventure – but then my next offering myself was fairly linear and thin on surprising or exciting set pieces, which leads me to…
Hellfrost. Something I’ve played a few times so I thought I’d give it a go at the convention and got some tasty characters together. Full group again and once more the players engaged with the characters – well once I’d made sufficient hints that one player should put away their laptop. Seriously, should a GM need to say something or should players just know not to play games on their computer throughout a session? Maybe I was just out of tolerance due to the food debacle of Saturday evening – but more of that later. The session went well enough, but was missing some more decent plotting from me really. I’d introduced a few things to the character backgrounds I forgot to prep out properly which is naughty and other than that fell into using stock baddies without having many decent NPCs to interact with. I’ll definitely run it again, and there was nothing wrong with the players, I just needed to pack more (frozen) meat into the next con game to stop it all being a bit generic (which Hellfrost can be if you’re not careful).
We had a few beers afterwards and the swapping of war stories among the bemused locals. I observed an adolescent coming up to the bar and asking for vodka only to be chided by his (self confessed) Grandmother: “You can’t have that, its horrible, you need to ask for some coke in it”. Class. You can’t buy it.
Sunday morning, after the breakfast we got stuck into Scott’s 60’s gangster Hot War. Lemur was playing an old tart from the Eastend all too well, Jag an innocent seeming brain-damaged Bar Manager, Andrew got the vicious, but relatively nice gangster and I was left with his brother, a psychotic fncking hyena who was quite rightly locked up for life by the end of the game. An awesome session conjured from the gentle avuncular prodding of Mr Dorward and four players all Bringing It as the kids probably say these days. Hot War really sings when everyone gets stuck and pushes their agendas – there’s no need for the weird science – next up I might be trying a Lot5R scenario using it. Watch this space.
Regrettably the last session was a bit of a washout. I only got a couple of sign ups, and managed to snag a rogue GM who’d had even less. I tried to bring some life to the Earthdawn world, but unfortunately a set of abysmal rolls from the players and my usual high-end average on this side of the (imaginary) GM screen meant the characters were nearly dead after the first warm-up skirmish. Given the tired teddies we were (well, certainly I was) and reading the mood at the table, I opted to skip to the end and we had an odd-seeming denouement. I feel a bit of a let-down for not putting on a better show in the last segment, but there didn’t seem to be the need to really push for something which might draw out a long time and still be unsatisfying. I think I made the right decision in keeping it mercifully short, but need to rethink my Sunday Strategy for next year and choice of game. Apologies to the players if they feel short-changed. I’ll do better next time.
Overall another excellent convention, capably managed by the friendly committee. Full of good people and great games, its definitely worth the effort of going, but goes far, far too quickly. Many thanks to all involved and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Silky smooth organisation, happy-go-lucky committee and booth babes.
Hot War rocked like Jacque Du Ponte after his session with Black Alan Mead.
In Savage, Wizard+Bolt+d12’s = Win.
Great selection of games and traders.
Rewards for GM’s running 3+ games and general raffle where everyone can win.
Friendly atmosphere, nice people, lots of varied games.
Nearby facilities more than sufficient.
My Earthdawn game. Some reflection needed there.
Due to a mess up with food I had to show up late for one of the games I was running. Poor.
The staff at the Garrison were largely clueless and in many cases rude*. There was an attempt to sort out some Saturday evening meals by the committee, which was very laudable, but the system definitely needs refining and communicating more effectively. How that’s going to help the clusterfnck that happened with my meal (I’ll not go into it) I don’t know – but frankly some common courtesy from the staff would have gone a long way. Manners cost nothing, even if you’re spectacularly lacking in gorm.
* Although, as is always the way, some were very nice but my view is tainted more by the negative experiences.