Shortly after DunDraCon 2020, the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19. Now, in 2022, the convention has made its return, bringing back a weekend full of tabletop gaming.
This was also its first year in a new location, as DunDraCon has left San Ramon and made its way to the Santa Clara Marriott. The new location served the convention well, providing it with plenty of rooms for games, the dealer’s hall, and panels. It was also within walking distance of several small restaurants, where attendees could grab food between games (or they could eat at the hotel restaurants, if they wanted to pay more to walk less).
Now, the pandemic isn’t quite over yet, which meant DunDraCon had to take some safety precautions. Masks and vaccines were required, no exceptions. While there were still the occasional attendees who found moments to take their masks off or didn’t wear them properly to begin with (the masks go over the nose, people. Over the nose. Thank you.) it still felt safe overall. And while no social event can ever be 100% safe these days, the convention still did all it could to keep people as safe as possible.
So, with that being as it is, how was the convention itself?
Of course, DunDraCon’s biggest draw is the amount of games to be played. There were several rooms set aside for gaming, including:
- Scheduled games
- Assorted roleplaying game sessions
- Open play rooms, where anyone can sit down at a table and grab a game
Throughout the con, the rooms were packed with gamers, although usually the tables were spaced well enough apart to let them play safely. There were outdoors tables as well, so anyone looking for some fresh air could grab a table there and break out a game with friends.
For the scheduled games and RPGs, getting in to the one you wanted could be a matter of luck and timing, as many required pre-registration. But even if you couldn’t sign up for the game you wanted in time, there were still plenty of other options.
And for those looking to try a game before it even hits the stores, the Protospiel Room was the place to go. New and aspiring game designers had times scheduled to show off their games, where they could get valuable feedback and introduce their games to a new audience well in advance.
There was even a room for massive tabletop war games, where huge tables were covered in boards and miniatures. In short, there was no shortage of games.
Normally, DunDraCon attendees have three options for their organized play TTRPG games: D&D Adventurers League, Pathfinder Society, and Starfinder Society. This year, though, Adventurers League was not available, so Pathfinder and Starfinder had the room to themselves.
Attendees could sign up for games for a range of levels, so new and experienced players had options. While the turnout was still reduced compared to previous years, they still had full tables throughout the weekend, and large multi-table sessions to wrap up the night.
It’s a convention, of course there’s going to be plenty of shopping, and DunDraCon continued to deliver.
The dealer’s hall had selections from game stores and vendors around the Bay Area, including independent game designers (do yourself a favor and check out “Gosh Darn Bubbles” for a good casual game with friends), 3D printed goods, dice makers, and even an artist taking commissions. Prices would vary significantly from table to table, so it was a good idea to shop around and compare for the best deal.
However, there were other ways to find older games as well. The game auction provided attendees with a chance to bid on rare games, while the swap meet held on Monday let attendees sell their old games and goods while others could buy them for their own collections.
In short: there was no shortage of things to buy.
A trip to DunDraCon would be woefully lacking without a trip to the miniature painting room. Throughout the weekend, attendees could sit down, grab a brush, and paint any of the free minis the con volunteers provided. They brought paint, brushes, lights, and even the minis (or you could go to the dealer’s hall and buy one), and were happy to provide advice and praise for painters of all skill levels.
They also held contests, where attendees could submit the minis they painted during the day for the competition. It was divided into two categories: one for new painters who hadn’t painted more than 20 minis, and one for more experienced painters. The contest was decided based on audience votes, with plenty of winners to go around.
Look, if you’re going to attend DunDraCon and you have any interest in tabletop RPGs, take a minute to grab and paint a miniature. You won’t regret it.
How about panels? There were plenty of panels and seminars throughout the weekend, including tips for game masters, world building, and even studies of historical warfare for the war gamers in the audience.
Do you prefer hitting your friends with foam swords? Amtgard also had a presence there. So did the Society for Creative Anachronism, and the Lux Saber Corps. They shared a room to tell attendees about the fun and excitement they had to offer, but also offered fighting demonstrations.
Overall, DunDraCon adapted to the new location nicely. Attendance felt a bit smaller than previous years, but considering the pandemic isn’t over yet, that’s to be expected. The convention still took every precaution to make sure attendees would remain safe, and while nothing is foolproof (there are currently reports of at least one attendee contracting COVID, but there are no signs of it being a super spreader), the safety measures seemed to do a good job at keeping risk and exposure low.
While it will still be some time until events can return to full swing, it was good to have DunDraCon back. Hopefully 2023 will be even bigger and attendees will be able to game without worry.