If you’ve spent any time on TC in the last few weeks, then you are probably aware that I spent some time in Kansas City this past weekend. The reason for this trip was KantCon. KantCon is a convention by gamers, for gamers.
If you missed Ben’s interview with KantCon founder, Ethan Parker of The Gamer’s Haven, then you can find it here. That interview cover’s Ethan’s reasons for starting a convention, as well as what gamers could expect at the event. The gist is this: a group of gamers who had attended GenCon near-religiously for years could not attend last year. So, they decided to hold a convention for those who “can’t con.” Last year, KantCon was held at one of their houses. This year, it opened to the public and something awesome was created.
Now, I guess as a bit of disclosure, I am an avid fan of The Gamer’s Haven and their podcasts. I am also a member of The Gamer’s Haven Social Club, a group started for the purpose of doing awesome things like making KantCon public. As well, when I attended KantCon, I got more than I bargained for in a whole passel of new friends. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I occasionally set aside my journalist hat and gush.
KantCon was held in the Johnson County Community College Regnier Center. Now, before your mind conjures up images of peeling pastel-colored paint that wouldn;t pass muster at a “We Love the 70s” convention, or layers of grime in basement hallways, let me tell you this: the venue was awesome. And now awesome-for-a-gaming-convention awesome, but awesome-gee-I-wish-that-many-hotels-had-conference-rooms-this-nice awesome. I don’t have the square footage on the room, but there were 4 table for board games, 6 tables for RPGs, 4 tables for card games and 4 big tables for miniatures gaming. The tables for the card/board/rpg games were the big, round tables that can easily seat 8 people, 10 if there’s no gaming gear around.
It was air-conditioned, open, and nice. A++, would want to use that space again.
On this count, I am going to be more than a little biased. You see, I didn’t attend KantCon to just play games. No, I went there to run games, as well. In addition to those games, I also ran the premiere of Ben’s Aruneus setting in the form of The Haunted Mine. And, if I do say so myself, my games went pretty darn well.
Besides what I get to toot my own horn about, there were a ton of other events, both planned and impromptu. At my last count, there were almost 40 events run across the three days. And, not only was a prize given out to the winner (or the person voted best role-player) of each event, but nearly every single one of the RPG events had its audio recorded. With a guesstimated average of 3 hours per RPG session, that’s approaching 100 hours of RPG audio.
There was also a great selection of systems in which to play, ranging from AD&D to Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu to Dread, and Savage Worlds to Dragon Age.
If you want to hear all of this awesomeness for yourself, then check out the Actual Play section of The Gamer’s Have Podcast. Ethan should have the audio up within the next few days so you can begin feating your ears.
At any convention (as I am learning), there are always extra things that you get for attending, or have made available to you while you’re there. KantCon was no exception.
Firstly, let me talk about the Swag given away. Holy. Crap. One of the members of The Gamer’s Haven worked this cell phone and email inbox nearly to death, securing over $3000 in books, games and other goodness from a bunch of different geek-related companies. For pre-registering, you got some tickets to their Swag raffle. As well, you got a nifty Swag Bag at the door containing a bunch of random gaming goodness, including a pair of Official KantCon 2010 Dice.
Additionally, you could buy more Swag raffle tickets for $1 a pop. I was lucky enough to have my number pulled for the raffle a few times, and I came away with some cool RPG books and a gift card to one of the vendors that came. All of that was in addition to the prizes for game winners and Best Roleplayers that I mentioned above. It was very cool.
The next extra that I want to bring up is the Snack Table. Now, most conventions, especially the larger ones, take place in big Convention Centers that have their own, often-overpriced food establishments. KantCon had restaurants nearby, but no food places inside the venue.
Except for the Snack Table they provided for anyone who attended.
At any time during the convention, you could walk over and load up a plate with chips, pretzels, carrots, broccoli, celery and maybe some cookies. Now, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but given that gamers (myself included) usually eat a lot of junk, and that conventions usually don’t have food available for the price of admission, the Snack Table was a gods-send. At least twice during the convention I missed my chance to go grab food from off-premises, and the Snack Table made sure that I didn’t crash from lack of food.
The last thing that was really special about KantCon that has to be mentioned was the Board Game Library. There was an absolutely massive collection of board games, spanning 3 8-foot tables with games stacked 2 1/1 feet high. Any gamer could check out a copy of a given game and play with whomever was willing. That alone led to more impromptu games than you would care to shake a stick at. And super-mad-crazy-double-secret-probation props go out to Nick who ran the whole thing, all weekend (P.S. he’s also the guy who secured the amazing amount of Swag).
They say that you can take the measure of a man by the company he keeps. Well, I think it’s as true that you can judge a convention by the quality of its attendees. Without reservation, I can say that this was, by far, the best group of gamers that I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with.
And, not only were they good people to hang with, but they were good gamers as well. I’ll admit, when it came time for me to step out from behind the GM’s screen, I was hoping to play my characters effectively enough to garner a Best Roleplayer award or two. I didn’t win a single one, and I didn’t deserve to. I don’t think I did poorly (if you played in a game with me, feel free to correct me on that point), but the people at the table with me consistently did better. I do not at all begrudge the winners their accolades, because the deserve them.
Granted, this was a small convention. The final numbers from The Gamer’s Haven put the total number of attendees somewhere just north of 100 across all three days. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when 58 of those 100 were there for each of the three days, and with 40+ events to manage, with audio recorders at every RPG table, snacks to refresh, three vendor tables and, very likely, a partridge in a pear tree, this convention seemed to run flawlessly. I heard that there were a few complaints (mostly about there not being enough junk food… *sigh*), but I didn’t see anything worth complaining about, at all.
This was, as I said, the first year that KantCon was made open to the public, and it seemed to me to be a resounding success. It was the longest drive that I will have to make for a convention this summer, but it was more than worth it.
The theme of the convention was “Just Game,” which I was able to do, and then some. The theme for next year’s should be “Come to Kansas City and Play with the Coolest Gamers You’ve Ever Met,” because that’s what I ended up doing. If you’ve been looking for a convention to attend or a reason to take a drive next summer, then come to KantCon 2011.
I’ll see you there.
[tags]conventions, rpg, rpg, role playing games, KantCon, card games, board games[/tags]