Better late than never! Photos mostly by Thac0s’s own Pieter Van Hiel
Queen City Conquest is an annual gaming convention in Buffalo, New York. While the convention covers all types of gaming, including video games, boardgames and LARPs, the main draw of the convention for me is their RPG track. The track has a colourful mix of mainstream and indie RPGs to play and a stable of great local GMs.
I’ve recommended QCC to local people curious about gaming conventions. The Buffalo gaming community is lovely and welcoming. There’s a lot going on at the convention but the space isn’t too crowded. Downtown Buffalo is small enough that there’s lots of interesting places to eat and explore in walking distance. In many ways, Queen City Conquest reminds me a lot of my much missed HammerCon, a Southern Ontario gaming convention that’s currently on hiatus.
There’s one strong suggestion I would make to new attendees of Queen City Conquest: book all of your games in advance online. QCC used to have paid tickets for all games in earlier years, but the convention now includes most events in their badge price. Despite this change, there’s still no great way to sign up for games at the convention itself or to find games running that have extra space. Signing up in advance means that you just have to follow your own schedule.
If Fan Expo is my Gaming Convention Christmas, where I spend hours upon hours getting all of my events and volunteers in a row and stress out about it running smoothly, Queen City Conquest is my Gaming Convention New Years: I travel a bit, play lots of games, eat lots of junk food and get to relax.
Rob and I got into Buffalo on Thursday evening after fighting Toronto traffic. While there were some pre-convention events happening, we decided to hang out by ourselves before the convention. Mostly this involved buying American candy, getting Slurpees and talking about gaming. A typical convention vacation night, in other words.
I have this thing for the swimming pool at the Hyatt. It’s on the 11th floor of the hotel and you get an amazing view of downtown Buffalo. The pool itself is a solid piece of stainless steel, making it feel not unlike what it must feel like to swim in a kitchen sink. My nickname for it is “Skypool”, which my phone’s autocorrect kept trying to switch to “Skypoop”.
The hotel room was mostly fine and otherwise unremarkable. We got a corner room, but the view wasn’t as nice as our 2015 room, which overlooked the river. This time, we overlooked some office buildings. At least they had this green neon trim at night.
I opened my Queen City Conquest by running Apocalypse World in the Friday Afternoon shift.
The adventure, Farewell To Kings, was a cleaned up version of an adventure I ran for TAG Monthly RPG Meetup in November 2015. The setup is that players only have access to the combat-focused playbooks and have to deal with a failed assassination attempt. Most of the NPCs are based on legends and locations in Thunder Bay, ON, a city in Northern Ontario.
Overall, I feel the game went okay. I think we’re so deep into the lifecycle of Powered By The Apocalypse that the original game attracts a limited amount of attention. A lot of people in the Buffalo gaming community have played Dungeon World and the PBTA games that followed, but little of what came before. I went with Apocalypse World rather than my other PbtA choice, Urban Shadows. I regret that in hindsight because a few people talked to me about how they owned Urban Shadows but haven’t managed to play it yet.
The best moment of the game for me as a GM involved a late player who played the Gunlugger. He themed his character as a hardcore evangelical who handed out Chick Tracts. I immediately had one of my NPCs talk about the little paper books left around his compound and how his life had changed because of them. The player’s eyes lit up as he realised that I was playing around with something he tossed into the game without warning. Such a great GM moment.
Pieter arrived at the convention towards the end of the game. We went out for taco lunch and killed some time before the next game. Also, Phil from Misdirected Mark gave Rob some dice for Swords Without Master, which was super awesome of him!
The Friday evening was time for Tim’s yearly Dread game. Most of the players were from the Dread game in 2015 and it was blast to play with them again. We also got to get Piet to play Dread for what I think was his first time.
The scenario involved all of the players attending a university grad ceremony, only to be attacked by a evil school management who wanted to use the graduating class as a sacrifice. Raising cosmic horrors, the usual. I played one of the assistant professors who was totally too good for this teaching gig, Rob played the honor student who cheated all the way to the top and Piet played the former janitor who knew too much about the dark truth of school and couldn’t stay away.
Unlike the bloodbath that was 2015’s Dread game, NO ONE DIED! I think we either got lucky or got good at playing Jenga. Tim did make us recite out loud (loudly!) the magic ritual to stop the old one from crossing over, which I guess was punishment enough for not dying.
I highly, highly recommend trying to get into Tim’s QCC Dread games. They’ve always been a great way to round out the convention day.
After Dread, Rob went back to the hotel room to look over his game notes for Saturday morning and Piet and I had our traditional late night convention roaming. Our GPS took us out to the 24 hour Walmart in Williamsville. On the way back, we stopped off at the simply magical Patriots and Heroes Park down the street.
I think Patriots and Heroes Park is best experienced late at night when you’re not expecting it. I love roadside attractions and this particular attraction blew my mind. We wandered around the park for a while before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Gaming starts at 8am at QCC! Piet bowed out of this particular game because of the start time. I grabbed a coffee and stumbled over to the convention centre asking myself “Whhhhy?”
Space Wurm Vs Moonicorn
Space Wurm Vs Moonicorn is a hack for Dungeon World that sets everything in a cosmic space fantasy. I was a playtester for the game (I was the best Space Wurm!) and hadn’t played the finished product yet. Rob was using the one-shot rules and playbooks. I think they give a good taste of the game and setting, although the full game goes much deeper and weirder.
I ended up playing as Moonicorn. I guess being the magical space hippie may have seemed a little too far out for the rest of the party first thing in the morning. My goal with the session was to play a Moonicorn who wasn’t at odds with Space Wurm. They agreed that the current galactic status quo was messed up, but they had different positions on the specifics.
Overall, this may have been my favourite game of the convention on an earnest level. It did take a little bit too long to get up and running, but I suspect that may have to do with how dense the game is. Parts had to be explained a few times.
Rob and I bummed around the convention after our morning game. Eventually, we went back to the hotel for a swim before dinner. Piet joined up with us; he went exploring in the morning and his afternoon game was cancelled. We all went out to Dinosaur BBQ and Piet showed us some of the places he photographed during the morning.
I think Rob picked this game off the schedule. I have no background in Mutant Chronicles. I have been in games run by Chris, though, and feel he’s a great con game GM. He seems to tolerate outlandish suggestions from the table and rolls with them. The system felt like someone tossed together parts of the Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40k games and Star Wars game, but with more D20s.
The game was completely ridiculous in an amusing way, thanks to the great party and GM. The adventure implies that the party is one of the more questionable squads on the Luna PD. We set out to prove we were the WORST that Luna PD had to offer. Well, except for my character. I was a casual employee and had a proper job elsewhere.
Despite being incompetent, we managed to make it through the adventure alive. This was mostly due to the characters beating the big bad at the end with construction equipment rather than “properly” in combat. The monster deserved it.
After game, we ran over to Mighty Taco to get Tacos At Midnight and then promptly got soaked in a downpour. The rest of the evening was spent in our private little room party where we watched trashy TV and live streamed to Facebook with friends back home.
Our first event on Sunday started at 10am. There’s only so many early convention mornings you can do.
Swords Without Master
Time for Sunday Morning Swords! There was a glitch with the QCC ticketing system before the convention and it looked like Rob’s Swords Without Master game oversold. Mark (the con director) figured out what happened with the tickets, but it was clear that there was more interest in Swords Without Master than seats. I volunteered to run a second table.
For an event that we quickly organized, I feel that our Sunday Morning Swords event went well. Rob and I picked out an eidolon that we would both start with. We had all of the players meet at one table to discuss the basics of the game and create characters together. After the characters were done, each of us took half of the players and ran our own games.
In secret, part of our plan with this setup was that Rob and I would start with the same concept and then see how differently our games played out. The players drove each game in different directions, but some concepts came up in both games. For example: there was an evil wizard controlling dragons in both games, but the magic being used to control them was different.
I expect that Rob and I will be running Sunday Morning Swords like this next year as well if there’s enough interest!
Golden Sky Stories
I was inspired to run Golden Sky Stories in the last slot because of something that Jason Pitre said to me at Breakout 2016. He mentioned going to a convention where he played emotionally intense games all weekend until the last slot, where he played a feel-good game of GSS. I wanted to see how that would play out at QCC.
The scheduling worked out really well. Golden Sky Stories was the only sold out game I GMed over the weekend and I had players who came looking specifically for last shift GSS.
The adventure used the Fantasy Friends setting, which lets the players play cute D&D monsters. All of my players “got” the light hearted nature of the game right away and we had a silly little adventure where they helped the inn keeper’s son be a quest giver by designing a nonsensical quest. Everyone seemed to have a great time and the gentle nature of GSS was a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the convention.
One of my issues with Queen City Conquest is that it sometimes feels a bit like a boys club. All of my GMs were men. All of the players in games that I GMed were men or presented male. I played in games with other women, but they looked to be in a smaller number in the convention population.
This gender imbalance is something that we’ve struggled with in the Toronto gaming community as well. Encouraging women to come out to public gaming events can be very difficult. I’ve been pushing to promote the steps we’ve taken to encourage inclusive gaming in Toronto conventions: the use of the X-Card, establishing and promoting anti-harassment policies and trying to remove barriers to volunteering and attending.
I would really like to see QCC establish a public anti-harassment policy in the future. I should be clear that I have never felt unsafe at Queen City Conquest. I feel the point of anti-harassment policies is to show that the convention is taking steps towards making a safe con space for all attendees.