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Steven S. Long is a writer, game designer, and all 'round great guy. According to the secret files of the KGB, he once singlehandedly defeated the Kremlin's plot to attack America with laser-powered Godzillas.

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Monday
Apr202015

Con Of The Mountain 2015 Review

I’m just back from the inaugural Con of the Mountain, held in scenic Clifton Forge, high up in the mountainous country of western Virginia where you have to keep a close eye out for deer along the roads at night and you can’t shake the suspicion that somewhere nearby there’s a cave housing a sleeping dragon with a big pile of treasure (such as, perhaps, a stack of mint-condition Beatles albums). Clifton Forge is kind of like the anti-Dunwich: it’s not located in Massachusetts; the people are friendly, open, and helpful; and no one’s trying to summon Yog-Sothoth.

CotM got its start several months ago as a literacy promotion event involving the local public library. Jack Berberette and his wife Lisa, avid gamers, were in charge and wanted to include some gaming — both roleplaying and other — as part of the event. Thanks to their enthusiasm and hard work, what began as a small event morphed over a few short months into a literacy promotion campaign/gaming con/cosplay event/street festival that had pre-registered attendance of about 850 and a final attendance tally of 1,100. And that’s in a town with a population of approximately 3,900 that has no hotel rooms.

I should add that the Berberettes had some important help: the support of the town. Clifton Forge and many of its local businesses recognized that CotM could be a Good Thing for the town and provided major assistance in the form of facilities, giveaways for guests and attendees, and lots of other great stuff. In my experience small gaming and F&SF conventions tend to go virtually ignored by the locality, since they’re “weird” and don’t usually have much of an economic impact. But in this case the town actively embraced the convention, and I think that was a major cause of its astounding success right out of the gate.

And of course, CotM had some awesome guests! ;) Top billing went to Frank Mentzer, famous for his work on the “Red Box” version of D&D at TSR lo these many moons ago. It was a pleasure to meet Frank, and I even got to play in one of his games on Saturday night. Players who get to experience that module, “The Sword of Oxidane,” at other cons later this year are in for quite a roller coaster ride! Most of the 14 player seats at the game were raffled off earlier in the day. While the game was a lot of fun, it reinforced something I learned a long time ago: I really, really, really dislike playing alongside players who are under about 12 unless their parents are right there to ride herd on them.

Beyond that, the guest list included, among others, me. ;) I spent the better part of the day running “Introduction to Roleplaying,” an event where anyone interested in learning how to play a roleplaying game could sit down at the table, choose a character, pick up some dice, and play for as long as he liked. The dice were provided by WizDice (http://www.amazon.com/wizdice), and each player got to keep his set. (It was sort of interesting to see which players picked out a set that matched, and which just grabbed one die of each type regardless of color.) I used a set of simple RPG rules I devised for this event, and the whole thing went very well, in my opinion. I rarely had less than three people at the table, and nearly all of them were in the 10-18 age range. (In fact, kids, teens, and families were a major part of the attendance at CotM, which was great to see.) I had a little trouble at times given that I had to compete to be heard not only with the other gaming tables but also the blacksmithing demo taking place in the same enormous semi-outdoor room, but I managed. ;)

Naturally, there was plenty of other stuff going on — I barely took in a quarter of it, I expect. And from what I hear they’ve got even more stuff planned for next year’s show. They’re shifting the schedule to the autumn (a good move, IMO) — September 30-October 2, 2016. Given how much awesomeness they came up with in just a few months, I can’t wait to see what Jack and Lisa do with nearly a year and a half to plan! Keep track of what’s going on at http://www.conofthemountain.com/ — and I hope to see you there!

The other great thing about CotM, from my perspective as a guest, is that the Con treated us really well. They put us up at a delightful B&B called the Red Lantern Inn, gave us a great gift bag/soft cooler filled with all sorts of great local products and souvenirs, took us out for some great meals, and generally made us feel like big shots. Jack even made me a really cool dice storage/rolling box in his woodworking class — though as shown in the accompanying picture, right now I’m using it to store some of my fountain pen ink. ;) It’ll see gaming use eventually, though, have no fear of that!

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