Chicago Geek Guy

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Tag: Midwinter Gaming Convention

Going Deep with Clockwork Depths

An avid board and card player her whole life, KK Blazek didn’t start role-playing until after she graduated high school. She started playing in a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP and before too long found herself running a tabletop D&D campaign out of her college dorm room. Once paired with husband David, the two combined their experience with world building and game design to create Girded Rose Games and work on their first project: the modern day, underwater, Steampunk inspired Clockwork Depths rule set for both tabletop and LARP play. Together, KK and David now fill the roles of Vice President of Operations and Head of Product Development, respectively, at the small company.

I had a chance to play a tabletop session of Clockwork Depths at the Midwinter Gaming Convention and sparked a conversation with KK about the game.

Clockwork Depths takes several Steampunk tropes and turns them sideways. It’s set in the modern era. It primarily occurs underwater. Can you speak to how you and David wanted to develop the concept in these directions? How did they occur to you?

When we were first working on the game it largely took place in the sky as opposed to beneath the waves, but we found the result a little dull. We love the thought of airships and soaring through the skies, but we wanted to include a healthy dose of fantastic creatures and a dollop of the horror genre. Both of those were easier to include by setting the game in an environment that is, even today, largely unexplored. Doing this allowed us to bring in different sentient species which gives players a greater range in character choices and sets the stage for people of vastly different cultures having to be inclusive and accepting of each other for the greater good (We’re really big on being inclusive in our house). It also opened the door for us to bring in creatures both malicious and benign, wonderous alchemical substances and magic to add flavor to the game. Besides, David loves the ocean, especially sharks as anyone reading the game will quickly see, so it was natural for him to set the game there, even if it did lead to a lot of extra work figuring out how the game mechanics were affected when the PCs are under water and not in a dometown.

The modern element was initially due to a random idea David had wherein he pictured a proper steampunk gentleman decked out in top hat, goggles, frock coat, trousers, boots and a Chicago Cubs t-shirt. Where the thought came from I have no idea, but it led us to explore the possibilities in a world where technology, culture and fashion were mostly steampunk, but continued to grow and evolve in certain areas. We quickly saw that setting the game in a world like this allowed us and our players greater freedom in some areas. Costuming for the LARP would be less expensive if players could incorporate parts of their modern clothing, for example. More importantly, while we love the civility, manners and poise of the Victorian era, the attitudes towards anything not “normal” held by most people in that time had no place in our game, or, as far as we’re concerned, gaming in general. Setting it in the modern era as we did, allowed us to move past those pitfalls by saying that while technology hadn’t changed, other aspects of culture had. Also, given his strong dislike for computers, cell phones etc, any time David can make a world where such things exist but are rare and illegal makes him do his happy dance.

What were the considerations you needed to keep in mind while designing for a LARP and table top RPG?

KK Blazek GMs a tabletop game of Clockwork Depths at Midwinter Gaming Convention.

The two main differences between LARP and tabletop are the method you use to resolve challenges and the number of players. Most tabletop games have four to six players and tend to use dice in some way. A LARP generally has anywhere from 10 to 50 players on average or more and tends to use rock, paper, scissors to resolve tasks and conflicts. In its heyday, it wasn’t unusual for me to walk into a Vampire LARP with 100+ people in attendance.

To solve this, we first started with submersibles and businesses. because the average crew of a submersible or business, at least at the beginning, is two to six. This gives you your own little group you can work within that can be its own entity in a tabletop, or one of any number of others in a LARP.

The system for resolving challenges was another brain child of David’s. Instead of dice or RPS, we have a blind draw system using colored tokens. It’s nice because it’s simple making combat and such super-fast and easy for even first-time players. Since a pouch can be worked into any costume and you don’t need to rely on a table to do a draw, the system is easily transferable between the two.

What drove the decision to design for tabletop and LARP at the same time?

Clockwork Depths supports both LARP and tabletop games with the same rules.

We’re opening with a message that says we support your personal preferences, and you’re more than welcome to come hang over here with the cool kids. 🙂 We are what we are up front, no excuses or apologies.

We wanted to give people choices when it came to playing our game. David and I love LARPing, and the costuming, make-up and gadgets that pervade steampunk in general, and in this game in specifically. That made LARP a natural choice for Clockwork Depths. However, LARPing is not for everyone so we didn’t want to exclude anyone. Plus, David had been playing and running table top RPGs for two decades before even hearing about LARPs, so his brain naturally thinks in those terms first. There also seems to be a desire to do this. There are, for example, a lot of D&D home brew LARPs running at conventions, but the d20 system does not lend itself to LARP.

The key was to make it possible for people to play either style without having to go through character conversions and such. That way if a game starts as a tabletop but, after increased interest the Gamescaper (the game specific term for GM) decides to turn it into a LARP, the existing players can just use their same character sheets with the rules they already know. Plus, there have been countless times when I was running a LARP where a few of the players wanted to do something like a dungeon crawl in downtime. Since the game is playable as both a LARP and table top, this is very easy to do.

How did you go about prepping the Kickstarter and what went into the decision to go that route?

We tossed around a few ideas for funding, but Kickstarter was the most appealing. It lets you get the word out. Being a small, family run company just starting out, the most important thing we can do is find ways to get our name and product out there. Since we have self-funded up to this point, we really needed that extra boost from the crowd funding to get things completed.

Prepping was interesting. We went through, I don’t even know how many versions of the video before we finally settled on the one we ended up with. One of our founders, Craig, did a lot of research and spends a lot of time on Kickstarter, so he and our Marketing Director, Robyn, have been our point people for that.

Do you have a backup plan?

We do, when we choose Kickstarter to get us the rest of the way, we had toyed around with three other plans for funding laid out, everything from a traditional business loan to other ways of getting backers.

How do you plan to market the game? Hitting the con circuit?

A lot of Cons, yes. We’re also working with local gaming shops to run games with their regulars. I also have some friends in various parts of the country, some of whom I introduced to gaming, who are excited to try to get some games running near them.

In addition, we’ve been talking with groups in the LGTBQ+ community. The two biggest messages in this game are inclusion and working together. We have a whole species built into the game, the Mechis, where you can pick what your Chassis looks like, male, female or neutral. Our Kumugwei are a matriarchal society, and the Merrow are ruled by their King and his husband.

That’s great to see in a game, but it’s rarely so overt. What’s behind that decision?

Initially, it wasn’t an overt decision, it’s something that happened naturally. We practice what we preach as far as being inclusive goes. Many of our friends and some family fall into LGTBQ+, as do I. We tend to gear things in such a way that it’s friendly to that lifestyle without thinking about it. It was our marketing director, Robyn, who read the book and wanted to know why we weren’t pushing that aspect harder. It was a bit of an eye opener for us that outside our little world. People won’t be aware that we’re accepting and welcoming unless we say so.

Similar, and some would say smaller, efforts have been made by RPG giants like Wizards of the Coast and faced some blowback from players. Do you have any concerns about maintaining such a vocal message of inclusivity as a small company?

I feel like, as a small group, we almost have an advantage. We aren’t trying to tell anyone how to think or play, it’s about opportunities and options. You can play a straight Merrow or be male and play a male Mechis. In our current tabletop test I’m playing a female Mechis.

Being small and starting with this message, we don’t have established fans who aren’t ok with it and might push back. We don’t have to shout because you know up front, we accept everyone. I also feel like with a larger, established company, unless the push is hard and loud, it doesn’t get to enough people.

I Get Anxious When I Run a Con (RPG Session)

As I searched for a system to run a new campaign, I ran several one-shot RPG adventures for small groups of players. The concept is not new to me and the players and I had a good time playing together. This week, I’m running a game of Tales from the Loop of a group of six at Midwinter Gaming Convention. I’ve got to say, this effort’s got my anxiety kicking into high gear. Something about trying to entertain and engage six strangers for four hours that causes me to lose a bit of sleep at night. In an attempt to figure out why, I thought I would put down a couple of my concerns and make a plan for addressing them.

I’ve boiled it down to three ideas: I am used to a comfortable gaming space. I’m not used to a low tech set up. I don’t know most of the people who plan to sit down at the table with me on Friday.

Playing somewhere else means literally playing outside of my comfort zone.

Since moving two years ago, I’ve been able to create a very comfortable space for gaming. Twelve people can sit around a custom table I built myself. Players can recharge their phones and plug in their laptops at built in outlets. Shelves of games line one wall and my collection of comics, the other. We’re in the basement, far enough to laugh and play without bothering other residents of the house. Playing somewhere else means literally playing outside of my comfort zone.

I know very little about the space I’ll use for the game this week. It’s table six in room Wright A. That room will host five other games at the same time of our session. I’ve got a few plans to help make our group more comfortable.

Hostess can save the world!

Scheduling the game for day two of the convention provides me with a chance to scout the location in advance. I’m even playing in a game in that space the day before. I’m also packing a few items that might help: a power strip, portable speaker to play some mood music (quietly), and a collection of alternate 80’s treats. (If we learned anything from Captain America in the 80’s, it’s that Hostess baked goods can save the world.)

I guess I’ve got to go back to “gasp” paper and pencil.

My game space at home allows for me to run a pretty technical game. A built-in monitor provides me a virtual tabletop where I can project maps and images for everyone to see. I keep my notes electronically in a searchable notebook. Lugging my 5′ x 5′ table from Chicago to Milwaukee is not an option. I guess I’ve got to go back to “gasp” paper and pencil. Well, maybe laminated sheets and wet erase markers.

This isn’t as bad as it may seem. Taking some time before a session allows me to find just the right images I want to use for flavor and what elements from the adventure the players really need to see. I’ve had a great time searching through old 80’s magazine covers to find images that strike the right tone. A member of the TftL Reddit community offered up these beautiful icon item cards, that I believe open up a great tactile experience for players. With laminating machines going for $20, I’ve been able to create game resources I can reuse for future adventures.

A $20 laminator makes sturdy handouts.

Going a bit lower tech may work out better for me in the long run. It offers me more time to plan out what I show to the players, instead of what I just find in an instant internet search and provides me with tangibles I can use for other sessions. I’m still going to use my tablet for reading my notes, though. It’s just way too convenient.

Overcoming this anxiety requires action on my part.

For someone usually considered an extrovert, meeting and working with new people often fills me with dread. Running a session when people expect to enjoy themselves for four hours, even more so. Teenage insecurity still haunts me and, like every time I’ve ever been on stage in my entire life, I know I will need to take that one nervous pee before we start.

Overcoming this anxiety requires action on my part. I’ve emailed the folks who will participate to provide a quick overview of the rules and setting. I’ve written down an outline of what to say when we first start the session. In my head, I’ve practiced greeting each player while extending a handshake.

A different space, using new tools, with people I don’t know. I hope to reduce my anxiety and increase the enjoyment for everyone by increasing my general level of organization; making sure I have all the information, props, and outlines I need ready, and taking advantage of what technologies and other resources I have available. I will also do my best to ensure I’m well rested and fed. I can’t GM at my best if I’m tired or hungry.

No. I can’t bring my cozy geek cave up to a convention, but I can certainly do my best to carve out a comfortable environment for myself and the players for our game.

Featured Image credit: NASCRAG

Come Get Some! Midwest Convention Schedule

Earlier this week, a friend asked me if, as the Chicago Geek Guy, I knew of local gaming conventions scheduled for the near future. I had to confess. I didn’t. Undaunted, I reached out to groups on Facebook and Reddit to compile a convention schedule of events in the Midwest.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

October

  • Dan’s Con of the Vale, Brookfield, WI – http://coldironconventions.com/
  • Mini-Hoopla, Janesville, WI – http://www.gaminghoopla.com/mini-hoopla.html

November

I consider this a work in progress. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Scythe

I will admit. The vibrant colors of the plastic miniatures first caught my eye; then, the gorgeous art of the game board. It took a second to sink in. Oh, that’s that game my friend Dan’s been raving about.

The Midwinter Gaming Convention gave me my first opportunity to block out enough time, sit down and play Scythe, a worker placement game set in an alternate 1920’s from Stonemaier Games. The game takes its tone from the works of artist Jakub Rozalski and feels a lot like the world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy.

The game looks intimidating. Plastic miniatures, cards, wooden blocks, a large map, and cardboard playmats fill the box. Laid out, the materials take up more table space than there might be table. All these parts serve a noble purpose. Once set up and briefly explained, Scythe offers a relatively easy to play experience. The blocks and plastic simplify bookkeeping, allowing the player to focus on the game itself.

The combination of two different player boards per participant and hidden objective card make the game different in each playthrough. Playing the same faction will feel different from game to game, and strategies and tactics need to reflect the current setting. This game allows for all sort of different game play. Players may explore, produce, or fight their way to victory.

I greatly enjoyed my introduction to the game. Host Kevin Jung and his crew understood the rules well and conveyed them effectively. This session’s players each approached the game differently. One tried to win through conquest. Another though production. I completely failed to utilize my faction’s special abilities and flailed through the playthrough. I don’t think I impressed anyone with my gaming acumen.

Still, the group let me flounder pleasantly, providing help, support, and a sense of humor when needed. Overall, the experience left me ordering my own copy of the game right after the session so I can practice in private. Scythe calls for ONE to five players. After a few rounds with the automation, I figure I’ll be ready to face real people again.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Vendor Room

From my perspective, one of the highlights of every con is the vendor room.  As usual, I was pulled in by the vendors’ siren song of at Midwinter.  At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed with the vendor room.  When compared to other cons I’ve attended, like Anime Boston, which has a giant hall with hundreds of tables, the smallish ballroom of 38 vendors was unimpressive. Upon further examination, I changed my mind.

The vendors were a variety of mostly smaller, individual crafters as opposed to larger retailers selling mass produced products like posters, magic cards, etc. They were selling all types of wares that would be of interest to gamers with a variety of interests including stuffed dice, weaponry and various steampunk items.  I will admit to being a girly-girl, so my own personal focus was more toward the ornamental as opposed to weaponry. 

I purchased items from a number of vendors, and sharing my favorites with you.  In my opinion, the most talented vendor was LisaSell, a 2D and 3D artist who is a magician with resin.  Lisa Sell, the owner, makes gorgeous resin masks from obviously laboriously hand-carved molds, with breathtaking results.  I had spent most of my money by the time I arrived at her table, but I happily plunked down $25 for two smaller pieces (a beautiful steampunk metal fascinator and a resin steampunk charm).  Luckily, Lisa also has an ETSY store (also called LisaSell) where I can purchase one of her lovely masks once I’ve saved up my pennies.

Another favorite vendor was Tops It Off – Custom Crochet Shop, owned by Mimi Refici, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She makes and sells wonderful, winter, geeky creations including but certainly not limited to pokeball hats, a batman hat complete with a mask to cover the wearer’s eyes, and a variety of other characters.  If she doesn’t have the exact item you want, I understand that she can make anything (based upon what I saw, I believe it).  I fell in love with an adorable hippo hat and hard warmers that I’ve worn pretty much every day.  If you can’t wait until the 2018 Midwinter Gaming Convention, you can contact her on her Facebook Page, Tops it Off – Custom Crochet. 

If I had one complaint about the vendor room, it would be the jewelry.  Practically every vendor selling jewelry carried some form of chainmail necklaces and bracelets.  There was else to choose from, other than the not necessarily geeky beaded jewelry, although I did see one vendor selling a variety of jewelry with bones (or resin looking bones).   

My final shout out goes to the Mobile Stress Relief Unit, who did a fabulous job of massaging away my aches and pains.  In general, I have to declare the vendor room a success.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Tokaido

I did not expect to play Tokaido at Midwinter. I bought a copy at my FLGS  six months ago and haven’t even had a chance to open it.  However, Saturday evening as we headed over to the board game library checkout desk, we saw a group of three geeky hipsters opening the Tokaido box. Trusting the friendly environment fostered by Midwinter, we took a risk and asked if we could join them.

The game and the company did not disappoint.

We found Tokaido remarkably chill and seriously fun. Each player takes the role of a traveler walking the “East Sea Road.” Temples, farms, picturesque panoramas, souvenir shops, and inns dot the trail, each offering a unique experience. There’s no dice rolling, fighting, or killing. The players just walk a beautifully rendered game board, soaking up as much culture as they can. At the end of the journey, the player collecting the most local knickknacks, donating the most to the temples, eating the most expensive foods, and viewing the most beautiful landscapes wins the game.

It’s a well-constructed game, easy to understand and lovely to look at. I offer only one complaint. The subtle color scheme of the game makes it difficult to tell the difference between different experiences. The color used for hot springs looks awfully close to the color used for the panoramas.

Sharing the travels with others adds a full measure of enjoyment to the game. Our group of players chose a freewheeling ronin, a geisha, an itinerant monk, and a starving artist. Together, we carved a fun story of adventure and involvement, all in less than 60 minutes.

Tokaido, from Passport Game Studios, for 2 to 5 players, age 8 and up.

Midwinter Has Come! (and Gone!) – First Impressions

2017 marked Chicago Geek Guy’s first visit to the Midwinter Gaming Convention, but not that last. The two of us enjoyed ourselves immensely across two floors of the beautiful Milwaukee Hilton City Center, playing games, shopping, and making new friends. 

Over the next few days, we plan to share our impressions of the convention, the games we played, and thoughts raised by participating. Today, we’ll focus on the Con’s organization.

“We found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit.”

Small when compared to industry power houses like Gen Con and Origins, we found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit. The con grouped registration, events, and the exhibition hall close together, with food and drink offerings just a short elevator hop away.

The size of the convention helped foster a greater sense of intimacy and friendliness. One would likely have an opportunity to game with the same folks multiple times, helping to foster a budding acquaintance or even friendship. Special guest mingled freely among participants. John Wick talked to people in character at the 7th Sea LARPS. Danielle Lauzon deftly led tabletop and live action sessions of the system. All the special guests felt approachable and took care to remember names and offer guidance based on a player’s experience and familiarity with the game.

“It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms…”

Event staff kept a watchful eye on the proceedings, doing their best to find answers when asked. It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms lurking the hallways and play area, chatting people up and listening to feedback. Anne and staff member Meredith Gerber welcomed criticism, often anticipating it, ready with suggestions for next year that would address the problems. Working the registration desk, Jonathon offered an immediate solution to a pressing problem and helped relieve a potential heap of confusion. JR Cillian Green kept things flowing smoothly in the board game library. Nearly constantly filled with happy gamers, we think the convention can count the board game room a growing success.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.”

We got to learn a new game with these friendly folks.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.” We heard this refrain constantly throughout the convention areas. People treated each other with respect and civility. Gamers of different ages blended seamlessly in a safe environment. Hotel staff greeted each participate warmly and felt ready to engage us individually about our hobby.

We believe Midwinter Gaming Convention offers something for all gamers in a healthy milieu.  We’ll dig into the specifics over the next few days.

Midwinter is Coming – Part 3: The Event Nears

With a little over a month to go until the convention, it’s clear. Midwinter is coming. I’ve spent some time over the past few months talking about Midwinter Gaming Convention’s origins and growth with the convention’s founder, Anne Holmes. As I look forward to attending for the first time, I decided to find out what makes the con worthwhile for some of the regular attendees.

“Everyone affectionately called it ‘gamer prom,…”

I’ve learned that gamers still tightly associate the con with the World of Darkness. “It was for a long time solely a Vampire event,” one gamer related to me. “Everyone affectionately called it ‘gamer prom,’ since it was kind of THE showcase for costuming and crazy national political plots.”

The commitment to One World by Night, the international organization of World of Darkness LARPs, drew storyteller Curt Goble to his first Midwinter in 2015. “I came in to play OWbN werewolf and vampire. I had great fun at the werewolf game, so much that I ended up skipping playing vampire to continue to play werewolf afterhours and at the OWbN Mage game that was running in the evening.”

Curt, a frequent storyteller at the nation’s largest gaming convention, GenCon, also appreciates the intimacy and structure of the smaller con. “At Gen Con, most events are single session games, and classically they haven’t been national-level plot – though there is the occasional fallout from a game that happens there.”

Midwinter allows for multi-day gaming sessions. “… there is more time to get into the swing, and the plots we deal with there are usually fairly large in scope and have effects on OWbN as a whole for years to come.”

However, this strong connection between Midwinter and One World by Night put off some people.

Chef Val remembers going to the con about six years ago. “I wasn’t particularly fond of the venue/hotel and I wasn’t that into the variety of games the con provided,” she told me. “I started back up 2 years ago and it had changed significantly. It has a much bigger variety of games and vendors, which always keeps me interested with stuff to discover and do.”

“It’s a beautiful Hilton that loves having us,…”

The venue also made an impression. “It’s a beautiful Hilton that loves having us, lovely spacious venue and guest rooms, and the location provides for nice dining/drinking in-house or you can venture out into the city on foot and explore all that beautiful downtown Milwaukee has to offer. It’s really a whole new con now and my personal favorite!”

The con’s diversification appeals to other, more long time attendees. Mike Surma started to attend back when it only targeted World of Darkness, specifically Vampire, players. “Over the years, it’s morphed from a targeted LARP gathering to a full blown convention. What keeps me intrigued is the continual addition of tabletop RPG games – where my heart lies – in which the creators show up and run sessions for players.”

“I’ve sat at tables with Ivan Van Norman, Eddy Webb, and this year I’ll be at a table run by John Wick.”

The closeness and intimacy of Midwinter speaks to Mike’s passion for tabletop RPG’s. “… these games are typically new releases and Midwinter is one of the few venues you might get to see them before they’re released. I’ve sat at tables with Ivan Van Norman (of Geek & Sundry), Eddy Webb (author of the Pugmire RPG), and this year I’ll be at a table run by John Wick (Author of 7th Sea, a swashbuckling RPG). It’s a fairly unique experience, and one that I look forward to each year in a less crowded (than GenCon, for instance), more personal venue where I don’t have to pay extra to play.”

As a storyteller and franchise owner of the LARP Dystopia Rising, Mike takes advantage of the format to spread love for his ongoing game. “First, it’s a medium sized venue that attracts a variety of people. With its initial posture supporting LARP, it still draws a strong crowd, many of whom like new options. Second, the events are free for the most part, and by offering a free short module, indoors, without a full weekend long commitment, people can get a ‘try before you buy’ concept of what the game (Dystopia Rising) is about.”

“Running a game, for me, is a good opportunity for exposure to something that people would potentially be hesitant about, or have never heard about before. We love what we do, and we hope others will join us and find that they love it too.”

The expansion has left some long term attendees doubting if they will go this year, however.

“Honestly, it’s kind of the variety that has decreased its appeal for me.”

“Honestly, it’s kind of the variety that has decreased its appeal for me,” a gamer said to me. “So many people have so much fun at the event now, but not much of its offerings justify the expense for me. The vendors are cool, but I have little need for their paraphernalia. I don’t dislike board games, but I don’t like them enough to need a whole event for them. And while there are options for LARP, most of them are lost among the sheer quantity.”

“The last few years I’ve gone almost exclusively for the Werewolf: the Apocalypse LARP, but the games that used to be the foundation of Midwinter have been largely sidelined to small, crowded rooms among dozens of other small, crowded room filled with other LARPs. It doesn’t really feel like an ‘event’ anymore, so much as a regular Werewolf game played where it’s OK to be in-character in public and then drink a lot and hang out with friends.”

For myself, even after all these conversations. I find myself looking forward to attending Midwinter and finding out if it’s a good fit for me.

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Midwinter Gaming Convention 2017 will be held January 12-15, 2017 at the historic Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will include more events than ever before. 

Photos by  C.Wenzel Photography

Midwinter is Coming – Part 2: The 10th Anniversary

It only just turned to fall, but Midwinter is coming; Milwaukee’s Midwinter Gaming Convention, that is. CGG’s last article on the convention talked about its origins. I had always known Midwinter as a World of Darkness LARP gathering. I hadn’t known it started as a Toreador Masquerade, but I did notice its popularity among local Vampire and Werewolf players. Growing out of that niche took, and continues to take, some serious effort. Once again, I turned to Anne Holmes, owner of Daydream Productions and the creator or Midwinter Gaming Convention to find out how it happened.

“We’re all gamers here!”

“It was a challenge to be sure,” Anne described, “as so many people were skeptical that we would never be more than a ‘LARP convention.’ Even still, as we are so LARP heavy, there are people who question if the other tracks get as much love. I want Midwinter to be a place where any gamer can come and experience the events they know and love, as well as explore new options. I want it to be the place where people don’t say “those are the LARPers, or, those are the Tabletoppers, ect… I want it to be the place where people say hey, we’re all gamers here!”

Anne seems to have met, and exceeded, her hopes of expanding Midwinter into an inclusive gaming convention. As of this writing, the

Midwinter, it's not just for LARP anymore.

Midwinter, it’s not just for LARP anymore.

2017 convention offers 38 LARPs, but more than 134 tabletop RPGs, and 30 board game sessions. It also offers a large board game library for participants to drop by and use at any point during the convention. There’s even a smattering of card game events available and more events get added daily. Anne also recognized that it takes more than a wider selection of games to attract the crowds.

“There was no way of telling what types of companies would do well at Midwinter.”

“In addition to welcoming other types of games, my convention needed to have an exhibit hall. Because there was no way of telling what types of companies would do well at Midwinter, I cast out the net and offered first year exhibitors free space. It was a gesture of good will that has definitely paid off. From that first year with exhibitors we have retained three ‘Legacy Exhibitors,’ or companies that have been with us every year since. At that first event I joked that in ten years Legacy would mean something really cool and now that’s only three years away!”

Anne readily admits to making mistakes as Midwinter grew. For example, it turned out I wasn’t the only one thinking the convention was limited to One World by Night LARPs.

“We had been around for ten years… nobody had heard of us.”

“… the show was just learning how to reach out with marketing, explaining to people that yes, we had been around for ten years at that point but we had been limited in scope which was why nobody had heard of us. We spent several hundred dollars on terrain and prizes for an event that nobody showed for. We had presenters that were awesome, but not really in our wheelhouse, because we hadn’t gotten completely comfortable with what our wheelhouse was.”

When asked to reflect on the 2010 Midwinter Convention, Anne replied:

“Was the 10th anniversary the moment? Yes and no. I don’t think there will ever be a moment where I say ‘we have made it’, because that feels like saying we’ve reached the summit. We will never reach the top, because then there will be nowhere else to go.

The10th anniversary did show me that we were ready as a show to make the leap into a full convention, and it was an amazing revelation to me that I had been doing this now for a decade. I had ‘made it’ to the point where I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do as a career.

A bigger ‘made it’ moment for me was when the Best Western could no longer host us, we were bursting at the seams with space issues and needed to make the move to a larger venue in Downtown Milwaukee.”

Midwinter Gaming Convention 2017 will be held January 12-15, 2017 at the historic Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will include more events than ever before. 

Photos by  C.Wenzel Photography

Midwinter is Coming – Part I

The conversation started with, “OK. Who are you and what is your relationship with Midwinter.”

“I’m Ann Holmes,” she replied. “I am Anne Holmes, owner of Daydream Productions and the creator or Midwinter Gaming Convention.”

It seemed that I had found the right person to talk to.

For the first time, the staff of Chicago Geek Guy (all two of us) are planning to attend the Midwinter Gaming Convention, January 12 to 15, 2017 in Milwaukee. The convention has been through a number of changes in its 16 years. Before we showed up, we thought it best to get some background. This post marks the first of a series about the convention, its creation, its development, and the event itself.

Back in 2000, Anne itched to hold an event as her character in One World by Night. OWBN provides a common story and rule set for the Vampires LARP-ers of the World of Darkness. Firm in her belief the best games are played in the dead of winter; she decided on January as the perfect month. She rented a VFW hall in West Allis. It would make a great venue, even though the players couldn’t use the basement of the hall until the standard Wisconsin Friday night fish fry had wrapped up!

Anne held the first Midwinter as a Toreador Ball, hoping to gather all the artists and actors of that fictional vampire clan as hostesses with the most-est. She expected only a handful of participants to attend during the middle of a raging, January snowstorm. Her favorite memory from that night was stepping out into the ballroom to see 150 smiling faces. Fortunately, someone had a camera handy and captured the photo above.

From the beginning, the intention was to expand into a full gaming convention. Anne has been diligently working to grow and expand Midwinter ever since. She modestly credits much of Midwinter’s success to a team of extraordinarily talented people, committed to her dream of building something lasting. Their willingness to help in this vision, humbles her.

On the 10th anniversary, in 2010, Anne incorporated as DayDream Productions. Bringing in exhibitors, special guests, tabletop RPG. The event made the leap from Midwinter Event to Midwinter Gaming Convention.

The Midwinter Gaming Convention has become an annual event for multiple international gaming organizations, including One World by Night and Mind’s Eye Society. Both organization offer four-day LARP extravaganzas throughout the weekend.

As Midwinter Gaming Convention continues to grow, Anne keeps a few goals and core tenets in mind. She desires to promote as many free or low-cost games as possible without levying additional costs on any fan produced events. She also strongly believes in growth through quality, as opposed to quantity, and strives to promote a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for all attendees.

Midwinter Gaming Convention 2017 will be held January 12-15, 2017 at the historic Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will include more events than ever before. 

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