Apr 162014

First off, it seems that the Leicester university grounds has a bit of a problem with 3G connectivity, and a wifi network for students and staff only. So with that in mind, I am very sorry that there were no updates live from the event.

Although, I would have had very little with which to update you all, as I ended up doing no gaming all weekend. I played a little bit of the Firefly board game with the missus when we were relaxing on our day off together on the Monday, but that’s not really what you were expecting.

Basically, a lot of fun was had, and that comes with certain drawbacks with regard to how prepared one is to spend several hours sat in a stupidly hot room with a bunch of strangers. Let take it from the top though, so you can all get one side of the Student nationals experience.

Our gaming society met up at our local watering hole and regular meeting place late morning to enjoy a hearty breakfast to prepare ourselves for a day of fun and frivolity. This set the tone well, as a few of us enjoyed our full English with a pint of ale, rather than the traditional pot of tea. What’s important to state at this point is how crucial it is to understand your limits when drinking. Not just when going to a 3 day event, but in general.

As previously mentioned, I like a pint or two, but I doubt anyone alive would say I have a drinking a problem. I know my limits, and when I drink, it has next to no impact on my life, baring an occasional fuzzy head come the morning. A few hours later, we were on the road, sipping away on cocktails and the like, chatting about gaming. One of your newest members professed her unease at what lay ahead.

She was new to gaming in general, and had never been to an organised event, let alone one that would judge her abilities as a gamer. Luckily, HUGS came to her rescue by making sure she understood that nothing was more important than her enjoying herself. If she was having a bad time, or feeling too nervous and apprehensive, there was no reason at all for her to stick around. There would always be people around with friendly faces, and most of them were a call away.

You see, although the Nationals is a tournament, only the war/card/board gamers can go in with any idea about what it takes to win. Role playing is massively subjective, and the ‘No-bad-fun’ argument really does apply when dealing with games like this. Most people have no idea what system they’re playing in, who they will be playing with, or even the exact feel of the game that everyone around the table will be expected to help create an maintain.

This goes some way towards explaining why I missed my Saturday gaming slot, but more on that to follow. You see, there were problems to deal with all weekend, to do with organisation, and they started pretty damned early. We were told which building to head to on which road to find the reception so that everyone could pick up their room keys. This was the wrong building, and lead to a couple of people getting lost, and some low level frustration for the chap driving our minibus.

This was compounded by the of effort put into accommodating the GMs that had volunteered from other societies, who had no idea about the campus layout, or local amenities. They were given no maps, and poor instructions about what needed to be done come the morning and the start of the games.

For now though, it was on to the rooms to drop gear off, freshen up after a hot drive, and in my case, get someone to shave my head. Long story.

The afternoon/evening then passed in good humour, and fine spirits. There was drinking and dancing for those so inclined – myself included, which was how I aggravated an old neck injury, and was in no state to game on Saturday – and quite rooms for pick up games, movie showings and general relaxation for those who fancied a quieter night.

It was great fun being at the nationals that night, probably more so than almost any other nationals. I have mentioned the somewhat shonky organisation of the event, but they kept the beer flowing, and the DJ was amazing at his job. At a little after 3 in the morning, I was finally ready to call it a night. I will post some thoughts on the gaming that took place my involvement on another day.

Apr 112014

If anyone from the law is reading this, we are totally not drinking on route to the nationals. We have had some fun discussing what it takes to win in competitive role playing. The consensus seems to be that winning matters nothing when compared to having fun. There are too many criteria to be judged and no way of knowing what they will be, so just have fun.

Hell, if you’re having a bad game, don’t even feel like you have to stick around. Just be polite and do what you need to do to have fun.

Apr 112014

Well, this has been a crazy few months. I will update later the full details, but for now it is worth pointing out that I am in the early stages of registering a business as a limited company with myself as a director. I will shortly after that be opening my own comic book store – find it here, or on Facebook - and as such, I have been massively swamped. This morning though, I start a three day break away from all that by heading to the student nationals.

If you don’t know what that is, chances are you’re not a role player affiliated with a UK university society. If you do know what that is, you’re probably getting ready yourself, and I shall see you in this afternoon!

This nationals is a strange one for me, but I ma really looking forward to it. I missed last year’s event due to a total lack of funds, and since then have been squirreling away money so I wouldn’t miss it this year. It is also my first event as a blogger – yes, I know I’ve been a bit absent lately, but I’m sure you all understand why. I will be using the event to get back into the blogging habit by posting a few times over the weekend with reviews and comment pieces when I’m able to.

The other reason it’s going to be odd, is that I’ve been cutting back on my drinking. As someone soon to be self employed, sick days with a hangover are no longer an option, so cutting right back has been a sensible move. The nationals though, is a time of drunken merriment with friends, some of whom I only see at the event. I know that getting drunk is not a prerequisite to have fun, but it is very much in the spirit of our society to cut loose for the weekend and just let ourselves get merry.

Will I be able to keep my drinking limited, or will I cut back? And if so, will I find I have less fun at the weekend? Only time will tell.

Some basics other than drinking for those unfamiliar with the event then. It is a weekend tournament of gaming, with each team fielding a bunch of gamers split into categories, covering role playing, war gaming, card gaming, and board games. Most of the time, you will know what to expect when you rock up to the event, as the categories are pretty obvious. War gamers for instance will know which army to bring, and if you select the D&D category, you know what you’re in for. This means that it’s possible to prepare and practice in advance to increase your chances of winning, and thus hosting the tournament next year.

My own team – yep, I’m president again, so it is my team – doesn’t really do this. We have a small handful of war gamers, but everyone else tends to play open categories. This means that you will have an idea of genre, but none of system. I myself am in open Supers. I’ve played this about four times so far, which means two different games over the weekend, and I have yet to play the same system twice.

I have no idea what system I will be playing, or what setting, or even character type I will have. So, with no preparation at all, I will turn up tomorrow morning – maybe a nit hungover – and have to impress my GM with my role playing skills. It is bloody hard to determine just what criteria they will be using to judge who is the best, but I will be trying my best to just have a good time.

A couple of years back I ran a Victoriana game set in the Unhallowed Metropolis universe for the nationals, and gave first place from my game to the lad who jumped into character with the smallest prompting, and kept trying out new things, rather than relying on the listed skills on his sheet. I have no idea if my GM will be the same though.

As mentioned, there are two games over two days, each lasting a healthy few hours. Each category tends to have a couple of GMs who run their game for two different groups. What’s great fun is catching up with people in the bar in the Saturday evening and trying to get clues about what game you might face, but refusing to give out spoilers to anyone about your own game. It gives people a great opportunity to seek out some strangers, and have a reason to engage with them.

Our hobby has a history of being full of socially awkward types who struggle in day to day interactions. I challenge anyone to spend time in the bar with us on a Saturday evening and still think that. Sure, some are slower at opening up, but everyone in that bar will be someone you have something in common with. I have a great time just strolling around, dropping into conversations about anything that I hear that interests me, and listening to other people dropping into ours.

All in all, a great way to spend a weekend, and if the wifi gods allow, I will post an update or two as the weekend progresses. Sorry I haven’t been posting as much – and left the duelist story unfinished, I will get back to it, I promise – but I will try and make up for that over the next few days/weeks.