Frankfurt, Germany. Local time is 7:59am...which means I've been up for nearly two hours. Which means I got nearly four hours of sleep.
My bio-rhythms have been off for days now; partly due to the time zone change, partly due to the excitement of the trip, and more than partly (I'm sure) due to the reintroduction of caffeine into my system after being off the stuff for the last couple months. However, I won't blame that on my inability to sleep in my (rather comfortable) hotel room. Instead, it's fear/paranoia that kept me awake till the wee hours of the morning: fear that (once asleep) I would oversleep, somehow miss my flight home as I slept in a coma-like state, immune to alarms and the pounding on the door of room service.
Solid sleep. I am hoping for some of that on the long flight back (Icelandair lifts off at 13:05pm).
For now, though, I am in my hotel room. Showered, exercised (some light stretching, as is now my habit) and breakfasted. Everything packed, save my trusty laptop. I have a couple hours before I leave to the airport...I thought I might doze for a bit, but the fear is still lurking and blogging feels a tad safer.
Where to start?
CAULDRON, AKA "The OSR Euro Con" was wonderful. It is no exaggeration for me to say it was the best convention I've attended, and the most fun I've had at any convention. I know that many people attend conventions for many reasons: for the social aspect of it, for networking, for business, or simply to swim in a sea of likeminded humanity that shares the same passion and/or interests. That is not why I attend gaming conventions: my main objective is the gaming. That may seem rather snobbish (and perhaps it is), but the fact is that my regular gaming group is anything but "regular," and my time at home (and the time and availability of the people with whom I enjoy gaming) is quite limited. Removing myself from the distractions of my everyday world and indulging in my passion...with focus and attention...is THE reason that I choose to spend money on a con of this type. The gaming takes precedence over all the other considerations.
And the gaming was very good at Cauldron.
However, those "other considerations" mentioned were excellent as well, and not just icing on the cake. The venue was lovely, the accommodations far better than I expected or hoped. The con was extremely well run, and well-organized by Nexus (the German gaming club whose brainchild it was)...there was none of the chaos or hiccups that so often occur with larger cons, and none of the "amateur hour" lack-of-planning and forethought you see in smaller ones. The food was very good. The drink was abundant (and free!)...I'd estimate I drank more Euros in free beer than my ticket price to attend the con. A lot more.
But it was the people...the attendees, the organizers, the gamers...that were the biggest highlight outside the gaming. Every person I met was lovely: joyful, positive, friendly, helpful. The energy of the place was amazing. People from all over Europe (Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the UK) were in attendance. And all there to play the Great Game.
[I wasn't the only American present, just BTW, but the others were all ex-pats living on the continent]
No acrimony, no fisticuffs, none of the silly dramas that play out over the internet. Just people sitting down with each other, connecting with each...face-to-face...and being appreciative of each other. There were geezers like me (some even older), and there were younger gamers in their teens and twenties and thirties...all mingling, sharing meals at the dining hall, discussing their perspectives on gaming (Dungeons & Dragons foremost), sharing their thoughts on the gameplay experience. And then...when the time slots commenced...taking their focus to the tables and applying their attention in a practical fashion.
It was delightful.
And I am extremely content at the moment. Very satisfied. Despite the sleep deprivation and general stress that comes with making a solo trip halfway across the world to a country in which you don't speak the language(!)...more than anything I've been buoyed by the energy (I have no better word for it. "Spirit?" Perhaps) of the people I've met and with whom I've interacted. My games went well (and I intend to detail them in future posts) but then the players were all fantastic. Prizes were awarded for various game-play categories, and all the winners sat in on at least a couple of my game sessions. I can honestly say that each was well-deserving.
8:58 local time. I am looking forward to being home and hugging my wife and children. They are all very excited to hear about the trip, see the photos I took, listen to me recount the war stories from the gaming tables (keep in mind that both my kids helped playtest the scenarios I ran...). It is going to be a long flight back, and the anticipation of seeing my family will certainly make it longer.
But I am very glad I came...very glad I made the trip out. The experience far exceeded my expectations. I can only hope that the inestimable Settembrini ("Andi"), the real mastermind behind Cauldron, will continue to put it on so that others will have the same opportunity I had. I would certainly like to attend Cauldron again...though probably not more than every other year.
It was a very long journey, after all.
All right, folks. Expect more thoughts (especially as relates to game play) after I get back to Seattle; now that I'm not busy prepping for the con, I should have (a little) extra time to blog. If people have specific questions for me regarding the convention, please leave them in the comments section; I will be more than happy to answer them (and provide long-winded commentary, I'm sure).