Last weekend, I attended my first KublaCon. This was only the second gaming convention I attended in the US, the first one being last year’s DunDraCon.
The mix of events was great. I mainly played RPGs, but there were tons of options for board games, elaborate war games, collectible card games, LARPs, and more. They also had a dedicated kids and teens room.
My home group mainly plays D&D, so conventions are a great way for me to try out some other systems. In this case, I had a chance to play two Fate games - a game I’m currently learning, with the goal of running a one-shot for my group at some point, but haven’t had a chance to actually play yet. It’s a really good opportunity to get a feel for new systems or settings, or just different techniques that other GMs use.
The venue (the Hyatt Regency at SFO) was pretty decent. The large convention rooms downstairs served as the vendor area (lots of fun vendors, including game developers exhibiting their new games), as well as the open gaming area, along with an enormous gaming library for pickup games. The atrium area upstairs was another nice open gaming area, while the meeting rooms and some bedrooms were used for tabletop RPGs.
One thing that stands out as you attend games or just walk around the convention areas is how inclusive our hobby is. Attendees were from all walks of life, spanning all age groups, ethnicities, genders, personalities, and body types. Everyone is welcome at the gaming table, without any discrimination whatsoever.
The event scheduling was pretty painful. KublaCon uses an online shuffler tool that allows attendees to pick several games for each slot (e.g. Saturday morning, Saturday noon, Saturday afternoon, …), with results being posted 15 minutes before the start of the slot. They use a weight system that ensures that everyone has a fair chance to get into their chosen games at some point, either towards the beginning or end of the convention.
My main gripes are with the overall system, which made it difficult to plan my convention schedule - especially because I was only able to attend on Friday and Sunday, but not Saturday. I got into a Friday evening game, but was unable to attend because I was already in a long RPG that started in the afternoon (Friday afternoon games did not go through the shuffler). I also got into a Sunday morning game, but not into any Sunday evening games. What made this particularly challenging is the fact that the slots were overlapping (understandable, due to the widely different durations of each game from 4 to 8 hours or so). As a result, many games end up with no-shows, which may or may not be filled by waitlist candidates.
Having said that, I understand this is very tricky, given the inherent complexities of the problem. Perhaps it’s worth considering a hybrid solution that allows players to register for half of each game’s spots on a first come, first serve basis, and uses a shuffling mechanism for the remaining half. This would give those players that want to plan their schedule ahead of time a chance to do so, while still allowing for spontaneous sign-ups later on.
My second gripe with the scheduling system revolves around usability. The search and scheduling mechanisms are very poorly integrated. The shuffler sign-ups revolve around selecting numeric IDs from a bunch of drop-downs. This means that you need to somehow cross-reference these IDs with the actual games. But the search UI does not allow searching by ID, only by event title and game (system). The Favorites mechanism helps somewhat (by making your list of favorites easily accessible, so you can visually scan the IDs), but it’s not great. I ended up copying the relevant data into a Google Sheet for my own reference during the event.
At the minimum, I suggest making IDs searchable, as well as showing the event titles within the shuffler, rather than just the IDs. And on the shuffler results page, the selections (currently just static ID numbers) should link to the respective game descriptions.
A minor gripe around the gaming rooms: The Friday RPG I attended was in a fancy meeting room, which was great. The GM even made good use of the provided large screen TV. The Sunday RPG was in a shared bedroom, and a second RPG was being played right next to us. This made it difficult to focus on the conversation at our table (and I’m sure vice-versa). It may not be financially feasible, but individual gaming rooms would be strongly preferable for RPGs.
Finally, the food options were very limited. In particular, the only vegetarian option was a small cheese pizza… Thankfully, there were other restaurants within easy walking distance.
KublaCon was a very fun event, and I’ll most definitely attend again next year - whether they have a chance to address some of the scheduling issues or not.
I’ll write more about some of the games I attended in one of my upcoming posts about Fate Core.