Reflections on Tabletop Scotland 2019

This weekend I made the long journey south to Tabletop Scotland.  This is the second year that the show has run, but it’s the first time I’ve attended.  A few people from our local club went along last year and loved it, so I was keen to visit this time.  All in all, from my various groups, there were 8 of us attending.

tabletop scotland

I stayed with family in Falkirk and this is where my first change for next year comes in.  I think I’ll look for accommodation in Perth for the 2020 show.  I was quite jealous when reading our northern messenger group and seeing people arranging to meet up for drinks and food and whatnot.

When it came to the show itself, I ended up spending all 5 timeslots over the two days in RPG sessions.  This left around an hour between each game to explore the convention floor.  Let’s start with that.

There were some really interesting stores, demonstrations, companies and artists on the floor.   There were a few highlights for me:

  • BadCat Games were showing off their new Gladiatores game.  Had a nice sit down with one of their staff who walked me through the game.  It’s really beautiful, too.
  • D Taylor Woodworking had some really gorgeous products with generous use of magnets!  The folk on the stall were friendly, too.  Keen to show you what they’d brought to the show, but not pushing a hard sell.
  • Dark Fantastic Mills didn’t really appeal to me when I took a look at their website.  I just wasn’t that impressed.  It turns out that their site just doesn’t do their products justice and I really liked seeing their stuff in person.  I especially liked their Skaven Warpgate!
  • The Little Shoppe of Holdalls had loads of cute bags on display, with several very cool fabrics being used.  The staff were also chatty and welcoming.
  • Warbases had a really nice dungeon set on display, along with some nice resin and wooden bases.  The £60 dungeon set they were selling looked like a fantastic offer.
  • West End Games were the friendliest of the bigger retailers.  There wasn’t a retailer that was unfriendly, of course, but I really liked chatting with the folk from West End Games

There were loads of great stalls, but these were the best of the best for me.

In addition to the various stalls, there was also the Bring and Buy.  I had intended to get in for an early look at this, but it turned out that only a certain number of people were allowed in at once.  This made sense as, even with limited numbers, it was a very busy part of the con floor.  This meant that the queue on Saturday morning was very long and I doubted I’d be able to have a rummage in there and still make it to my first game.  I did manage to get in later and pick up a couple of deals.  If anything, the queue probably helped me stay within budget!  It seemed pretty well organised and there were a lot of games up for grabs.

The highlight of my weekend was definitely the RPG room.  I spend the majority of my time there and it was conveniently close to bar to keep me supplied with cider.  This is an important factor for any room in which RPGs are played.  I think this why I have enjoyed playing at the Portland Arms hotel for the past year…

I played in 5 games over the weekend and was delighted that they were all really good.  To take them in chronological order:

  1. Traveller saw the group take on the roles of a group of researchers working on an experimental jumpdrive.  First up, Traveller is a system that I’ve been wanting to play for a while and it was a great way to start my weekend.  The GM was really good.  He got so into it and I really liked his whole demeanor and confidence with which he ran his game.  The actual story was a lot of fun as we stumbled out way across the system to intercept and explore a seemingly abandoned ship that had suddenly arrived.  Our characters were generally pretty competent, with my J-Drive expert managing to jerry-rig out sabotaged ship for long enough to get us where we had to go.  The one exception was out pilot who had some of the worst dice rolls I’ve ever seen!  Needless to say, this turned out to be a lot of fun, adding some barriers between our plucky group of researchers and the victory they sought.   I really enjoyed this group and was delighted to be reunited with some of them on later tables.
  2. FATE: Flight of the Vega was a game that I was a little worried about at the start of it.  The GM was actually very good, but I’d come off an excellent table previously.  I also didn’t feel like I immediately jelled with group as I had on the previous table.  About half an hour into the game my fears were assuaged.  The group were a little less socially confident and the GM just took a scene or so to find his feet and build up some steam.  I ended up really enjoying the game and liking my character.  The game saw us piloting a colony ship as we escaped a simultaneous apocalyptic event and devastating attack on our planet.  We made it away, dithered for a bit on the fringe of the system and eventually went back to save some fellow ships before making our final escape.  Everyone played their role well and the game was fantastic.  I love the FATE system and it was nice to try it out in a new setting.
  3. Paranoia is one of my favourite games to run but is a game I have never taken part in as a player, so this was a treat.  I was given the role of Happiness Officer and took this quite seriously.  I also fell into a few traps set by the GM and fell foul of  both Friend Computer and my fellow troubleshooters on a few occasions.  I was very impressed by the GM of this game who managed to hit all the right tones and seemed to love the game as much as I do.
  4. They Came From Beneath the Sea was a convenient discovery.  I actually joined the table because I saw the GM from the Traveller game of the previous day and assumed this was a game he was running.  It turned out that this was actually being run by Matthew Dawkins (aka the Gentleman Gamer).  This game was really good, being based around 1950s B-Movies.  It saw us investigating strange happenings in the coastal town of Denton, mostly caused by the mad scientist in the local military base and the pernicious crab people.  I enjoyed taking on the role of the rather sedentary, tired sheriff whose main goal was to move as little as possible.  I was delighted when he turned out to be quite the locksmith and an impressive pugilist!  The game also reunited me with two of the players from my earlier Traveller game, which helped put me at ease with the group.  Another Onix Path writer, Klara Herbøl, also joined in the game, playing the vain aspiring actor, Jay.
  5. Vampire: The Masquerade is and remains one of my favourite RPGs.  I’m looking forward to playing session 1 of our new campaign this week, actually.  Klara Herbøl, a writer on some of Onyx Paths recent offerings took on the role of Storyteller and Matthew Dawkins, also of Onyx Path, joined us as a player.  This was my first game of 5th edition Vampire, so I was keen to see how hunger and the like actually worked.  The game was an absolute blast and one of the highlights of the weekend.  Kara definitely wins the prize for having the best NPCs of any of the games I played in.  I liked playing a character who is quite different to what I would normally play.   I tend to avoid leader characters, but I chose a Ventrue.  This was good for me, trying new thing.   I suppose that’s what convention games are for.  I liked how the Storyteller played up the humanity angle and challenged us on some of our choices.  I had a lot of fun with this.  Vampire is another game I tend to run rather than play, so this was an absolute treat.

Should the show run next year I will be there, and I’ll be staying in Perth this time.  My only question is whether I register to run some games.  I considered it this year and was encouraged to do so by friends who were running their own games, but having never played RPGs at a convention, I thought it better to go and get a feel for it this year.  My biggest concern is that by running games, I’ll miss out on running playing in new games and trying out different systems.  I will think about it.

I loved this show.


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