Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff 2022

Was up in Leamington Spa this weekend for Owlbear and Wizard’s Staff convention, run by Matthew Broome.

Arrived on Friday evening for drinks then curry at the excellent Kayal Keralan restaurant. It was good to meet some old friends and meet some online people for the first time in real life.

Convention day one on Saturday saw a new venue, the very well-appointed and welcoming St Patrick’s Irish Club. Matthew’s excellent organisation saw everything run smoothly.

My first game was one of a parallel pair, tying the convention’s name (a play on the bear-and-staff county arms of Warwickshire, by the way) in with a story using the characters from the Blackadder TV series. I found myself playing Baldrick, downtrodden as ever – until he proved the only one able to control the ferocious owlbear we had to steal. I think the experience gave me renewed affection for Baldrick – a good-hearted, unassuming, innocent soul surrounded in the series by selfishness and cruelty.

In the afternoon, I was in the GM’s seat for Arashi – Shakespeare’s Tempest translated to feudal Japan. I had had fun adapting my source material and building a plot to actively engage the players. Aside from some issues with the game – the notoriously dry and dense Bushido from 1981 – it went well; some great players picked up the essence of their characters and collectively told a story that at times felt quite Kurosawa-like, even if I do say so myself. I put in a couple of group challenges – I re-used the starting point of my lockdown OSE campaign and had them decide from a list what items they saved from the wreck. Ever since doing that exercise at a work training on communication and teams. I’ve felt it belongs in an RPG. I also gave them a set of Kanji to draw to open a portal, and watched for ten minutes as they picked up Sharpie markers and tried their hands at Japanese calligraphy.

Matthew had arranged evening drinks, and further good conversations were had at the White Horse. I found myself getting more and more tired though, and headed back to my hotel before closing time. I’m becoming a lightweight in my old age.

Sunday saw the final games. I fortified myself with coffee, and later in the morning Pepsi, and played a really fun game of Deus Vult run by Carl Clare who had played in my game the previous day. Special forces medieval monks, fighting the forces of darkness. My character had tricked out automatic crossbows, and I played him somewhere between Hawkeye and the sniper from Saving Private Ryan (quoting Bible verses and all). The action-movie heroics were tempered by a strong moral imperative, as Carl presented us with a monstrous enemy to defeat.

Another great weekend of games and conversation. It’s true of RPGs, and of cons that it really is the people who make them – and a smashing group of people made this another weekend to remember.

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