DunDraCon as managed to keep going strong for 43 years, with the latest one taking the San Ramon Marriott by storm over President’s Day weekend. With a plethora of tabletop games old and new alike, what did the convention hold for attendees?
Although the convention may be named for Dungeons & Dragons, there was far more than that. Nearly every room in the hall – including several hotel rooms converted into game rooms – were filled with attendees playing games. Some were enjoying classics like Catan, while others set up massive tables filled with large and highly-detailed painted miniatures to play lengthy war games.
For those who wanted to get more physically engaged, there were several LARP sessions in various rooms throughout the weekend. While they did typically require signing up in advance, they were handled and ran by volunteers looking to provide everyone with the best experience possible.
Taking that one step further, the Society for Creative Anachronisms was present, and the courtyard nearly always had an armored fight to watch. The cold winter air was filled with the sounds of foam weapons, metal armor, and whip demonstrations as they battled on for laughs and glory.
But of course, Dungeons & Dragons had a great presence, with multiple tables running Adventurers League games throughout the weekend. The organized play was made possible thanks to the work of volunteer organizers and dungeon masters, resulting in nonstop games of every level of play. It cumulated in an Epic game on Saturday night, where multiple tables worked together or against each other to compete for their faction’s victory in the city of Waterdeep.
Similarly, Pathfinder Society and Starfinder Society had their own games. Paizo plays a close role in its organized play systems, so attendees could receive special gift certificates just for playing as they explored the lost dungeons of Golarion or the depths of space.
Although with that said, as the dungeon masters were all volunteers, there was no way of knowing if one would get a quality DM that could bring the story to life or someone who was just doing it for the free admission. More often than not, the Dungeon Masters were fantastic – they cam prepared with maps and miniatures, provided thrilling narration, and added touches to the roleplaying such as voices or music. There were the occasional DMs that speed-read through the adventures and “yadda yadda’d” half the narrative, but that was a rare occurrence, and a localized side-effect of organized play.
With all the games going on, attendees could still take some time to enjoy painting miniatures. The free painting table had a wide selection of minis that sponsors had donated, so kids and adults alike could sit down, grab a mini and paint it into a souvenir to take home.
For new and upcoming games, the Protospiel room was filled with game designers looking for playtesters and opportunities to reach a new audience. Attendees could sit down and try out a new game with the designer, providing valuable feedback as they did.
While previous years held a room for attendees to sell their old gaming books, sets, and figures, that was replaced with a swap meet on Monday morning. While it did incentivize attendees to arrive early on the last day of the convention, it wasn’t quite enough for those who had games scheduled that morning or could only be there for one day. Still, there were treasures to be found in the swap meet, and the convention was better off for it.
Of course, the Dealer’s Hall was open the entire weekend. This is a familiar sight to any convention attendee, but there was a fine selection of goods for sale. Everything from dice to t-shirts to old RPG books were available there, at varying prices; while one vendor might have offered a great deal on a Pathfinder rulebook, another might charge a 150% markup on a miniature – attendees knew to shop around to find the best price before buying.
The hotel worked well as a convention center, with plenty of room for everything. While the restaurant had the typical hotel prices (AKA expensive), there was a special row of convention staples (burgers, pizza, and nachos) that were available at a slightly more reasonable price. For those looking for something else, there was a shopping center not even a block away with more food options, and many of the restaurants had discounts for DunDraCon attendees.
The only drawback to the location was the lack of parking; the parking lot filled up quickly, so anyone driving in for the day would have to arrive early to find a spot. Still, the convention can scarcely be blamed for that – it just means it’s a popular event.
Throughout the weekend, great games were enjoyed, memories were made, and lots of games were bought and sold. For tabletop gamers in the Northern California area, it was a great way to spend the lengthy weekend.