London, Days 2 and 3

Saturday was Dragonmeet. Since it’s one day show, I made sure to get up early and fortify myself with a classic English breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. This was such a calorie fest I skipped lunch, but that was fine because it let me spend all day at the con. I had two seminars to do. The first was a general Green Ronin Q+A in the early afternoon. Then at the end of the day I was on a group panel with Ken Hite, Robin Laws, and Jeff Combos. Both of them were well-attended, which was nice to see after NeonCon (which had a great slate of seminars that few attendees went to). The standing room only seminar, however, was put on by Ian Livingstone. I attended this one, as I’d never seen him speak and he was doing a sort of career overview. So he talked about the founding of GW, the early days working with TSR to sell D&D in Europe, the rise of Warhammer, the Fighting Fantasy series, and then on into Eidos, Tomb Raider, and beyond. This was accompanied by a slide show with some great old pictures he had scanned in. The best of these was Ian posing with his GW co-founder Steve Jackson, TSR’s Gary Gygax, fantasy author Fritz Leiber, and Tekumel creator M.A.R. Barker. That’s a GenCon I wish I had gone to. I really enjoyed the presentation and I’m glad I had the chance to see it. My only regret is that I didn’t get a moment to talk to Ian myself. He was swamped with people asking for autographs at the end of his seminar and I had one right after. I wanted to introduce myself and thank him for contributing to Hobby Games and Family Games: The 100 Best. Sadly, our paths did not cross the rest of the day so I missed the opportunity.

The seminars were staggered such that I didn’t have time to play any games at Dragonmeet. I basically spent the rest of the day talking to people. This was a mix of old friends, industry folks I knew by reputation but had never met in person, and con goers who wanted to chat about this or that. It met several people I only knew from online and it was nice to put faces to names. In some cases it was more putting 2 and 2 together. James Raggi was over from Finland to sell his Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG, for example. I’ve been reading about the game, but did not realize I had met James at Ropecon in 2008. Or rather, I remembered talking to him, but didn’t make the connection between that conversation and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

After the exhibit hall closed down there was the traditional charity auction. This one seemed a little more subdued than what I remember from 2002. People made some crazy bids that year and I remember the audience goading James Wallis to literally sell the shirt off his back. But hey, we’ve had a recession and a global financial crisis since then, so I can’t blame people for being a little more careful. I had forgotten about this aspect of the show and was feeling like a dumbass for not bringing anything to contribute until Angus auctioned off a bunch of upcoming Cubicle 7 titles. This gave me the idea of offering up $150 of GR PDFs, and that ended up contributing 75 pounds to the auction. The total was over 2000 pounds (more than $3,000 at current exchange rates), so it was still a fine showing for charity.

That night I went to Randa, a Lebanese restaurant Erik Mona recommended. I had falafel, foul mudammas, and lisanat. The latter is cooked lamb tongues in lemon and olive oil and it was the standout dish. Really delicious. I tried to order one of several lamb tartar dishes but the waiter told they no longer served them at this location (which raises the question why are they still on the menu then?). Anyway, good dinner and it made up for skipping lunch.

To the great surprise of no one I’m sure, I ended the night in a pub. Due some faulty directions, I walked up and down Kensington High Street for half an hour in the cold before I found the Prince of Wales pub. Met up with Angus, Alice-Amanda, and other Dragonmeet folks for more cider and conversation.

Sunday it was off to…another pub. This time it was a post-con get together with various industry folks and con organizers. I paid homage to my WFRP roots by having a meat pie. Alice-Amanda taught Jeff and I how to play a pirate card game called Antigua that came out this year. We didn’t get to finish (the food came) but it was pretty interesting and I think I’ll pick it up. After eating I had a chance to catch up with Sasha Bilton, which is always good fun. He’s one of the few game industry people who likes punk as much as I do, so we always have plenty to talk about. Also squeezed in a bit of conversation with Simon Rogers of Pelgrane Press and Ken Hite (who probably saw plenty of me the week I was at his house in October).

I could easily have spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and drinking but it was last chance to hit a museum and I had one in mind. I took the tube over the National Army Museum, which is right by the Royal Hospital. I’ve been to the Imperial War Museum a couple of times but this one was new to me. I had been drawn in by a special exhibit about Britain’s wars in Afghanistan in the 19th century but the whole museum was worthwhile. It starts in the basement with the Battle of Hastings and you work your way up through the different eras of the British armies. There are many uniforms, weapons, and other artifacts all the way to the present day. I was also delighted to discover that this was the final resting place of Captain Siborne’s famous diorama of the Battle of Waterloo. I will be writing more about that later.

For my final dinner of the trip I went to Wodka, a Polish restaurant I turned up while browsing the internet at a coffee shop. It was not on the list I researched before the trip but I thought some Eastern European food sounded good and I made a good choice. This was the best meal of the trip. I had steak tartar, blini with smoked salmon, and blood sausage served on latkes with fried onions and pears. And several kinds of vodka, of course. I think it must be all those years I spent on the Lower East Side of NYC, but I find this kind of food very comforting. It was a great way to end the trip.

Originally published on LiveJournal on December 2, 2010. 

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