Amongst my friends, I’ll hear them talk about various events: AnimeNext, MAGFest, DerpyCon, etc. Most of them I have little to no interest in, for that matter, because I’m super picky about the sort of things I enjoy. But then they utter an event: DexCon.
Described on the website as “where America comes to play!” (Exclamation point and all), DexCon is a four and a half day event revolving around tabletop RPG’s, card games, indie developers, LARP and the gaming community in general. I have never been to the event mostly due to shedules in the past but decided that, hey, its close enough to me where I don’t need to get a hotel in the room. I might as well pony up 70 dollars for the entire weekend.
The Hyatt Regency in Morristown, New Jersey is absolutely massive. Even with over 100 games, there was still plenty of space that could have been used better. I felt like half of the convention area was like walking through a relatively abandoned parking garage, though it was attatched to an AMC theater which explained the scent of popcorn by the vendors room.
Speaking of parking garages: the parking area at the Hyatt was complicated and confusing. There are no clear signs of where ramps to the other levels are, some areas have little to no lights on them (which read as very unsafe to me), and many times at night there was no one by the gates to get in and out. At least you didn’t need to drive many places to get food: Morristown is packed with great, relatively inexpensive places for grub.
In regard to that, I suggest Saigon for Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches and Tito’s Burritos. Can’t go wrong with those.
But on to the convention itself.
Having one hundred plus events was daunting to hear, and looking at the registration wall (yes, you heard me right) displayed that in full force. By the time I arrived on Thursday morning, half of the games were already filled, though you could still arrive and hope you got in as an alternate in case everyone didn’t show up. The same format occurred for roleplaying games. Apparently you could have signed up in advanced on the DexCon website to guarantee you got into an event: this was not made clear on either the website or emails.
The vendors room was also relatively small. I’m used to major conventions who have twenty plus vendors. DexCon had twenty in a ballroom which threw me for a loop. There was even less artists there. I counted perhaps fifteen over all three days I attended. This saddened me, due to how I was looking for costume stuff (there was plenty of LARP there so you would expect that sort of thing). There was only one small costume vendor there.
Note as well, that you will probably only get to play two or three things in a day: not because you are locked out of events butthe length of some of the games. A breakup of time is listed for each day.
Thursday was day one for myself. The first game which ran between two and six P.M. was titled Witch, and it revolves around escorting a confessed witch to be burned at Lindisfarne. Choosing from a selection of six characters, the players tell the story along the way to the pyre. It is a narrative storytelling game, requiring no dice at all. A word to the wise: the game can have very dark themes and is for mature players.
Second of the night was a significantly different game. Titled Aurora: What Do You Believe?, this was the creator’s first time showcasing it at any convention. Thursday’s game was packed completely, and that session was largely focused on character creation. Due to this, we were only able to get two or so hours of play in. The session ran for four hours.
In Aurora, players are in control of a being known as Chosen. Humans are not the dominant species in this game: that title goes to supernatural entities known as Spirits. Spirits pass on their knowledge and magical abilities to a select few humans: they are therefore known as Chosen and are exiled from their respected communities. But Chosen have a decision to make at some point: do they pledge themselves to a particular Spirit type (Sun, Moon, Tree, Wind, Star, Earth, Metal) and give up their humanity to become all-powerful?
From midnight to two in the morning, I then played Mystic Vale: a deck building game where you play as a Druid trying to restore the land. Players take turns building up their cards, purchasing Vales (which act as if-then cards where certain prerequisites must be met). Whoever has the most points at the end of deck building wins. I enjoyed this game so much, that I purchased it from the vendors room along with the Vale of Magic expansion (there are two expansions total, but the vendor only had the core game and VoM).
Friday I managed to convince some of my friends and fellow podcasters to come join me: FlumpCast crew Brian (or Doctor Necrotic, as you guys may know him as on WordPress), Brennan and Jeremy). Arriving just after lunchtime, we set out for the convention.
People found at least several things in the dealer’s room. The day before I picked up an expansion for Red Dragon’s Inn which included two new characters Keet and Nitrel. I also snagged some Egyptian themed miniatures and set of blue lapis lazuli-esque dice. I have affectionately named them my Scarab dice.
The four of us mostly went off in separate directions for the convention. Me and Brian went to play a writing game called WritersBloxx. Think of it like Mad Libs, but harder. Each player has to write a story in six minutes which utilizes six randomly generated prompts using a d20. You must then use those somewhere in the story. Halfway through through, a Plot Twist card is drawn and you must also use what is listed on that card as well in your story. You can either give out points in the game or not: we decided not to, because we just wanted to hear everyone’s stories they wrote.
Afterwards, it was time for another game of Aurora (do you think I like the game?). Having a squad of older gamers rather then two kids at the last session let us delve into harder themes which we were not able to do the prior evening. It was also sped up significantly with how we had pregenerated characters for this running of the game.
The last day I would attend, Saturday very much played out like the other two days. I had
purchased my copy of Mystic Vale and its expansion after requesting Vale of Magic from the dealer. Luckily they had it in stock in their store!
Unlike Thursday and Friday though, this time I participated in a LARP. Called Knights Vale, it was a one-off to test their revised rule system and also to get people interested in the game itself. Playing the role of a druid in this, I and a group of other adventurers were tasked to take down a vile necromancer who was bent on sapping the life out of the world. We were successful: solving puzzles to bring down arcane wards that were protecting the cultists of this god-like being. Magic was dealt with in the form of pouches of sand: when you wanted to cast a spell, you declared what spell it was and threw the bean bag (if it was offensive). If it was a spell meant to cure, you needed to roleplay it out and it would take effect after.
And of course, I round out the day with yet another Aurora game. However, this game was probably my most enjoyable. With two twenty-something year olds (myself and one other) and an older gentleman, we were really able to tackle hard subjects. For this game, it was ‘is deception ever justified’, which in-game was aligned with aspects of Moon. We found out that a Chosen who used both Sun and Moon magics was behind a plot to kill a Council leader in the settlement of Grange, under threat by a Sun Spirit named Ruby. We eventually saw through his plot, a child not much younger then ourselves, and adopted him into our group. Celeste, our resident rabbit Moon Spirit, did not exactly like how he had been affiliated with Ruby but accepted how we established a longer line of peace then she had intended.
It has been going on for twenty years come this weekend, which should say something in itself. In an area which does not have much gaming related events, DexCon definitely brings out new talent and even more fans for a four day event of play time.
There also was the Con Suite, which had free drinks and snacks to attendees. Saturday was the Candy Bar, which was just tables of (you guessed it) candy. SweetTarts, Pixie Sticks, Dum-Dums, you name it, they had it. Of course the Cupcake Lady was over there too: she would push a cart around all the game rooms and ask people if they wanted to purchase some. Spoiler: the cherry limeade and double dark chocolate ones were the best.
Pros: a wide variety of new things to learn. Small-time creators always willing to talk about their projects. Good food in the area (because who likes eating overpriced chicken tenders at the con itself?). Able to jump into just about any game provided there were still slots available. Knowledgeable staff members (such as where certain events were, where the nearest bathroom was, etc.).
Cons: horrendous parking system (I spend nearly an hour fixing a parking issue on Friday night). Not enough artists and dealers who weren’t game stores in the area. Confusing layout, even with maps on the back of programs (they weren’t very concise and often I would find myself referring back to the main map in the lobby of the hotel to figure out where things were).
I would give DexCon a solid 6.5/7 out of 10. While not perfect (and let’s face it, its nearly impossible to get to perfection), it was still a damned fun event. I came away learning games I did not know even existed and met some pretty cool people .
Have you ever been to DexCon? What are some of your favorite tabletop card and board games/RPGs/ LARPS?
‘Aurora: What Do You Believe?’ belongs to Sam Hotchkiss ( https://about.me/hotch)
‘WritersBloxx’ belongs to Gary Zenker (http://www.writersbloxx.com/)
The misadventures of the Flumph Cast crew can be found on the official FlumphCast channel. FlumphCast is also the Instagram handle.