TLDR: small, friendly, relaxed “decide what you want to do on the day” event in Central Birmingham. Nice.
Spaghetti ConJunction is a sweet little games day in central Birmingham which I was lucky enough to set up with James Mullen and Matthew “Pookie” Pook. We offer two days per year at Geek Retreat in Central Birmingham – one in February and one in October. I believe that our “a” day in February is the first non-residential TTRPG con in the country each year.
This one was 3a. (In our third year already?) Prior to the event Pookie does a superb job of posting press releases and I had some fliers printed. We invite people to submit games they intend to offer but nothing is decided until the day itself. There is no prebooking.
I, myself, planned to offer a scenario from the “Role Play Relief” books – which had just become available – and a 13th Doctor adventure. However, as the day neared, I came down with quite a nasty infection in my larynx and – come the day – decided not to referee unless absolutely necessary.
The three amigos met at a bistro round the corner for breakfast and a chat. We don’t actually chat much except at SCJ and maybe Concrete Cow. Checked social media and swapped messages with a few attendees. Just before start time – 10:00am – we went to Geek Retreat. As always the proprietor was on his way and there was a crowd waiting outside – I’d say about 2/3 for SCJ and 1/3 Geek Retreat regulars. Door was opened about 10:01 and it was a mad dash upstairs – the whole top floor is ours for the day – to get started. I sat at a table and just started taking money (£3 for a ticket, £1 for raffle tickets). By the time that mad blur was over, we were ready to start. There were about 30 people present and 8 games on offer. Some people bring preprinted sign up sheets but about half were hand-written on the day using a pile we provided. I didn’t need to offer a game.
I felt able to do the intros, but it turned out to be a nice blend of the three of us chipping in.
Signups are organised. Newbies get first dibs. Then the numbers from 0-9 are drawn in order. If you have an entry ticket ending in that digit you get to sign up. The order is reversed in the afternoon to make it fair.
Most games filled with 3-6 players. One didn’t get any and one only gained one sign up – so that referee and those players swapped to other games. The Dr Who referee kindly agreed to run with two players and take in any late arrivals.
Maze and Minotaurs, Dr Who, Is it a plane? (running a Zootopia scenario), Dungeon Crawl Classics, 5th Ed and something Runequesty with Trolls.
I didn’t feel well enough to play and sat at the desk for the morning, sorting my social media, folding raffle tickets, chatting with the proprietor and people during breaks etc. There was one late arrival who I introduced to the Dr Who game.
Everything seemed to go smoothly with a steady flow of food being brought to the table by staff. With the morning slot running from 10:30 to 2:30 it’s best to eat your lunch (usually a burger or toasted ciabatta) at your table.
Games wrapped up 2:00pm-2:30pm. We put out the raffle prizes. 17 total with the total retail value probably being worth more than the entire convention. Pookie has some extremely generous contacts in the hobby.
I ran the raffle very quickly. Unfortunately I failed to time it exactly, but we all agreed it was under 3 minutes to get all 17 prizes drawn and claimed. So that’s a rate of 10 seconds per item.
(Beat that Grogmeet!)
There didn’t seem to be quite as many afternoon games offered and there had been a couple of late arrivals swelling the numbers. So the Dr Who and IIAP/Zootopia games were offered for a second time.
Both filled. As for the rest there were a LOT of games which ended up with two players. I’ve never seen that before. There was a bit of horse trading and I think we ended up with six games –
Dr Who, IIAP, Inspectres, Lovecraftesque, 5th and something OSR. I decided to join in the Lovecraftesque game, taking the table from 3 to 4 players. The game was fine – better than Fiasco, not as good as Intrepid. I’m not a huge fan of “wicker man” type pre doomed horror. But we had a fun and eclectic table. The guy offering it was doing it as his first time facilitating a game at a convention. We had another player only used to die-based TTRPGs. Another who was new to the country from Italy – at the convention to practice his English. And me.
The game wrapped up after two hours with a satisfying ending that I wouldn’t have predicted from the outset.
I felt a bit better and offered to run a short 13th Doctor adventure to fill the time. As none of them were familiar with the new Doctor, they chose to play the three companions with the Dr being mysteriously ill. They were searching for some medical tech to help her – in an edited version of that usual Dr Who scenario I’ve been running for 5 years (it won’t die!) They found a really high tech medical device which could cure all human ills, put the Doctor in and – yup – Cyber Doctor! Great fun.
Though games were due to run until 7:30 they seemed to wrap up from 6:30 onwards – though the 5th Ed game ran until the end.
SCJ is always pot luck for us. We don’t know how many people will turn up on the day and what games will be offered or will turn out to be popular. It’s a “suck it and see” event. And all the better for that.
I’m happy with the 30-40 size we had this time but am also happy we’ve got capacity to increase in size if we get a rush one day. It’s in a good location, well timed in the year. There’s a small hard core who seem to always come and always many new faces. But though the people might change, the type of people that attend are always the same. Calm, friendly, fun, relaxed. It’s just a nice way to spend the day. Thanks guys!