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Con Review: DunDraCon 2020

From Valentine’s Day to President’s Day, the San Ramon Marriott was filled with attendees at DunDraCon. The convention’s 44th year kicked off on Friday, February 14th, and ran through Monday for four full days of tabletop games.

As DunDraCon is a tabletop gaming convention, there was no small amount of games to play. The gaming rooms were filled with players enjoying everything from small card games to massive tabletop war games and everything in-between. Players could sign up for games online in advance, particularly for LARP and tabletop RPGs, but there were also plenty of free play areas for those looking for a pickup game.

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Speaking of LARPS, there were several games held in rooms the convention held throughout the weekend. It gave a space for the players and organizers to run their games properly, and there was no small amount of options for any theme or genre. The convention also posted several signs telling players about their check-in system, where a simple hand gesture can indicate if a player is comfortable or needs to step back.

Attendees could also see plenty of people in costumes and swinging foam swords, thanks to Amtgard and the Society for Creative Anachronism. From weapon demonstrations to whip lessons to fully armored melees, attendees could stop outside and see something new and fun.

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On another roleplaying game note, there were plenty of players for Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Pathfinder and Starfinder. Pathfinder’s 2nd edition came out recently, so Pathfinder Society has been updating accordingly, with new adventures for the new edition. Meanwhile, Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition continued to draw tables full of players, with dungeon masters and players creating epic adventures.

In fact, the D&D Adventurers League room had not one, but two Epics – large-scale games where every table contributed to the overall success or failure of the groups. Players battled devilish forces in Avernus, the first layer of Hell, and protected the sunken Elven city of Myth Nantar.

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With organized play, there’s always an uncertain element with random tables. More often than not, the dungeon masters were fantastic at narrating, building tension, and running the games smoothly. There are, unfortunately, still circumstances where the DM would speed-read the entire adventure and discourage roleplaying in favor of getting through the adventure quickly. Since there were still a few tables that didn’t have DMs signed up until the last minute, the games needed every dungeon master they could get, but not every player got the full experience when stuck with a speed-reading DM. Fortunately, those were the exception to the rule, as the vast majority were excellent.

Much credit must be given to the Adventurers League and Pathfinder/Starfinder Society organizers as well. It’s no easy task to sort out large waitlists, tables lacking DMs, and over a dozen tables of players, but they managed to pull it off splendidly.

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Aside from the main gaming rooms, there was a Protospiel room where game designers could show off their works in progress. It’s always an exciting chance to get to try out new games before they hit the market and provide valuable feedback for making it a success.

One major draw of the convention is the miniatures painting table. The seats were filled nearly all weekend long, with tabletop miniatures primed and ready for attendees to paint and take home, all for free. The staff working the table was experienced, polite, and very helpful, keeping everything going smoothly. Anyone with time to spare for painting is highly encouraged to do so.

As for the dealer’s hall, there was a fine selection of games and gaming accessories. From a lengthy table covered with dice to custom fantasy notebooks to tabletop games of all price ranges, there was plenty to find there. Anything not available in the hall might be for sale at the swap meet on Monday, where attendees could sell their used games and accessories.

The San Ramon Marriott hosted DunDraCon for several years, but it was clear that the convention had outgrown the location. Parking was nearly impossible to find for anyone showing up past nine, and leaving many parked along the curbs in the parking lot or risking parking at the nearby shopping center for several hours. The convention also encountered some last-minute difficulty with a conference held shortly before DunDraCon extending many room reservations, which forced several attendees to an offsite location.

That may make it for the best that this was the convention’s last year at the Marriott. It will be moving to Santa Clara in 2021 and beyond, into a larger location with more plentiful parking. Yet the San Ramon Marriott still held many fond memories for attendees, so they left the convention with large cards thanking the hotel for its hospitality.

All in all, DunDraCon continues to provide attendees with a full weekend of games. Whether you love tabletop RPGs, card games, board games or anything else, there was plenty to do and enjoy at DunDraCon.

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About rpleasant

A would-be writer, who enjoys living the geek life and indulging in comics, cosplay, anime, and more. He hopes to one day have something created that other people can enjoy and review, but until then continues to work on various projects such as parodies and short stories.

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