Dundracon 2023 — Lessons Learned

Joe and I attended DunDraCon in Santa Clara in February. DunDraCon was the first ever gaming convention I attended, way back in …1990? I lost track of it, but attended again in 2017, where I ran my Fate “Kung Fu Wombat” game (though I called it something else back then).
As I’m interested in attending more gaming cons in retirement, I booked us a room and secured tickets to this year’s event.
I didn’t submit to run a game, mostly because I was too late to submit one. More on that later.
DunDraCon has a — being charitable — idiosyncratic system for registering for games. They break down the event into a handful of time windows, such that you will only get assigned one (or zero) sessions during each window. One chooses their top 3 choices for events they’d like to attend per each window. The drawing that determines which, if any, of your choices you can attend, only happens eight hours or so before the window opens1. So, even in the week leading up to the con, even if you registered on the first day of availability, you still don’t know what sessions you will be in.

And, spoiler, you will almost certainly have windows where, you did not get into any session. For the entirety of Saturday, the first full day of the con, I got into only one session. Joe got into zero. An entire day of the conference with no events.

To be fair, not understanding how this was likely to play out, I made two choices that contributed to this problem. First of all, I didn’t register to run any games. Had, I that would have guaranteed that I could have played, and you can be damned certain I would have made sure Joe had a seat at the table. Additionally, GMs get a “priority” registration that increases the chance that you will get into an event when you register with the priority. The dude who ran the game we got into on Friday night said he has never failed to get into a session when he used priority.

The second screw-up was I didn’t book us for events in every window. Many of the scheduled sessions are intended to run 6-8 hours, but the session windows tend to be more like fours long. I didn’t book any sessions for windows where, if we had got into our choices in the previous window, we would still be playing and therefore unable to attend whatever we chose in the previous window. They would have overlapped. Little did I know that there was no chance I would end up in overlapping sessions because we would have been lucky to get into any session at all. For the whole day.

We played eight hours of D&D Friday night, which was fine. The scenario “Bad Water” was one where all PCs were dwarves and gnomes living in the Underdark who had never seen the light of day. We were required to investigate a problem with the local water supply, an underground stream that served the community in which we all lived. It was a bit of a meandering affair that probably could have been a punchy four hour adventure, but it took us all of eight hours. It was fine.

The venue, the aging Santa Clara Marriott is a decent site, and an upgrade from the hotel that hosted the event last time I attended, in San Ramon.

Here are the key takeaways for me, for next year:

  1. Sign up to GM a game, to ensure that we get to play and to get a priority registration.
  2. Book events for every session.
  3. Maybe think about spending part of Saturday at Great America? It is literally just across the parking lot from the hotel.

Joe and I played some D&D and DDC in our hotel room. We made the best of it.

Next year will be better.


I could confirm some of this if DunDraCon’s site

  • 1) hadn’t already archived their event list for this year, so you can’t see how things were scheduled and

2) wasn’t having such performance issues right now that it’s essentially unusable.