Here’s my report on Celesticon.
This was my very first Celesticon. For various reasons I have been attending Pacificon rather than Celesticon down here for the past several years, but this year was different! So off Sophie and I went.
Celesticon 2015 was held at the Freemont Marriott, a nice mid-sized hotel with comfortable amenities. We didn’t book a hotel room, but the one room I saw looked snug and comfortable. The restaurant had hotel restaurant prices, but the food I had there was of decent quality, though limited selection. I had no trouble finding parking, despite the high attendance.
My first impression upon arrival Friday morning was that everyone who was there seemed energetic, enthusiastic, and overall just plain excited to be there. This isn’t unusual for a convention of course, but there was something in the air that I couldn’t quite identify at the time that made this a bit different than some conventions I have attended. More on that at the end.
Registration was manned by some enthusiastic volunteers who were pleasant, polite, and just plain seemed glad to see me even though they had never laid eyes on me before. The registration process was quick and easy, and I got my badge and program. I eyed the shirts (and later bought one) and the design seemed on par with most convention tees – a bit nicer than some, not quite so nice as others, but overall good for a memento and use as plumage at future conventions to show off my tribal affiliations.
For various reasons that would be boring to go into, I had scheduled a game of Motobushido for Friday at noon. I knew when I did it that there would be a good chance of the game not filling, or even running – it’s a tough slot. But I dutifully lugged my gaming materials up to the room and prepared for my game. One nice thing about Celesticon is that they have big rooms assigned for their RPGs. It is more common for RPGs to get stuck in converted hotel rooms, which I sometimes find a little cramped due to the excess furniture left in the room when the bed is taken out. At Celesticon I had a very nice small conference room with a big, round table and comfy chairs. I also noted that signage was plentiful and helpful.
Alas, Motobushido did not attract any players, which was disappointing but not particularly surprising – like I said Friday noon is a tough slot. However, just as I was thinking of wrapping things up, Johnathon Wright dropped by my room. He was running his FATE Core game of Mecha vs. Kaiju a couple of doors down, and had only one player. I was feeling the usual “Aw, my game didn’t run” letdown, so my initial inclination was to decline and go off to sulk somewhere, but it dawned on me that if I did that I would be screwing up someone else’s game in addition to mine, and that I had come here to have fun and not to lurk in a corner somewhere sulking, so I agreed – and I am glad that I did.
Johnathon Wright’s Mecha vs Kaiju game was a lot of fun, and highlighted another nice amenity of the hotel. He had a large wall mounted monitor, on which he cycled art from the game throughout the session, which I thought was very cool, and could be put to great use by a GM for all sorts of things. I made a mental note to request a room with a screen for next year. We had a Kaiju-smashing good time, uncovering a sinister Kaiju cult, an unscrupulous businessman using said cult for his own nefarious ends, and eventually having a major slugfest against a giant, burrowing, seemingly invulnerable Kaiju. We even managed to contain the damage to a single major oil refinery! Mr. Wright was an enthusiastic GM, well-versed in the subject matter and his game was well-prepared and flowed well. He was also highly amenable to rolling with the zany ideas of his players, which I always count as a major plus!
I checked the schedule for other games of interest, and saw several, but in the end I decided that after a long week I wanted to be home to spend time with Sophie, so headed for home after another quick tour of the convention to see how things were shaping up. Conference rooms seemed to be filling with RPGs quite well, there was a seminar going on, and both board gaming and open gaming, while not yet full, were filling with enthusiastic gamers.
Again for various personal boring reasons, Sophie and I decided not to attend the convention on Saturday. This was a bit of a disappointment to me because Saturday is usually the day gaming conventions hit their zenith, and I felt like I was missing out on important and vital experience that I would need in writing up my review of the convention. But there is a very valid argument to be made for not spending an hour and a half in the car in order to write a paragraph in a blog entry.
Sunday morning is another tough spot for running a game – everyone is tired after all the fun on Saturday and disinclined to get up early. But, again for reasons that seemed good at the time, Sophie had scheduled her “FATE of Agaptus” game for that time. We got up early and tooled over to Freemont, and were set up in the same room that I had played Mecha vs. Kaiju. Alas once again the game didn’t go – the FATE players having been sucked into Jay Louck’s FATE – Bureau 13 game next door (which sounded like a lot of fun!). We did some socializing and hanging out with friends, met a few people, toured the Dealer’s Room (which was full of enthusiastic, though clearly somewhat groggy dealers), purchased the X-Com Board Game.
After that we spent the day with a friend of ours playing a couple of his homebrews using the Apocalypse World engine. The first was an adaptation of Sentinals of the Multiverse, and the second was an adaptation of Mass Effect. Both were a lot of fun. I got to play a Krogan. Krogans are cool. I don’t see any reason to ever play anything but a Krogan.
So what can I say about Celesticon? In part I feel that I can’t be entirely fair, because I missed large portions of the convention (Saturday, Monday). Neither Sophie’s game nor mine got enough players to run. Given both of these negatives, however, I still felt that the convention was a good one. It seemed well-organized and dynamic. Staff was enthusiastic, everyone seemed to be having a good time all weekend (at least from what I saw). Miniatures games and board games seemed always to be doing well. Roleplaying games had nice, comfortable rooms that helped keep the noise levels down.
Summing things up, Celesticon felt very much like a new convention. While it may have lacked the polish of longer running events such as Pacificon or Dragonflight, it more than made up for this with a more familiar, homey feel that longer running conventions seem to lose after awhile. It was less like a convention put on by old hands who know their jobs and have done them many times, and had more of the feel of a bunch of friends getting together and saying “Hey, lets put on a SHOW!” And to be honest I like that feel better. I think there is certainly a place for slick professionalism at conventions, but I really appreciated the atmosphere that I was surrounded by a whole bunch of friends who I just hadn’t met yet that I got at Celesticon.
I would recommend Celesticon to anyone in the Bay Area who is looking to attend a gaming convention during Labor Day weekend.