DarkCon 2012: A Report   43 comments

DarkCon, a Steampunk science fiction convention for Arizona.

The fannish new year of 2012 started off very well for me with DarkCon in Mesa, Arizona.  I live in west Phoenix, and it was a long drive back and forth, but still less expensive than getting a hotel room.  The Con Committee invited me to the show as a guest and were extremely nice to me.  Look at the great gifts they gave me, and the other Guests just for showing up.

This bag was packed with food, drinks, jewelry, the pocket watch you see, a treasure chest, a calendar, a special Dark Ones shot glass, and other goodies. The name tag isn't paper in a holder--it's a golden plaque. Wow! I have never been treated so nicely in my life, and other guests also got great stuff.

DarkCon ran from Thursday afternoon at about 2 p.m. until Sunday night.  They had 7 notable professional guests this year.  First was Jacqueline Carey, the Author Guest of Honor.  She has several fantasy epics to her credit, and I have to tell you all I consider her writing to be a little kinky–I like it.

Jacqueline Carey graciously took this picture with me on Sunday.  The lady in the blue sweater in the background is actress Meg Foster, and we are at the Wrigley Mansion in Biltmore.  You can see Camelback Mountain in the background.

There were 2 media guests: Ernie Hudson and Meg Foster, an actor and an actress, and they shared their experiences making such video entertainment as Stargate and Masters of the Universe.  These three people were the true stars of the convention.

Gaming guests were John Wick and Ken St. Andre.  Tod VanHooser, the master of the Laughing Moon system, was also there.  All three of us ran games for fans who wanted to play.  We also collaborated on a panel about Game Design on Friday afternoon.  The panel was well attended.  Many thoughtful questions were asked and answered.  John Wick and I wore our hats, and we advised Tod to get himself a signature hat if he wanted to make it big as  a FRP game designer.

John Wick and I are trying to look dynamic. We are good friends, and admire each other's work--at least I admire his.

Tod VanHooser in the Superman shirt is running a Laughing Moon adventure for some of his devotees. In addition to the game, there is Laughing Moon fantasy fiction available from him as well.

Artist guests were Madame M, and Mark Greenawalt.  Madame M was promoting her new book: CREEPY LITTLE BEDTIME STORIES.  Mark Greenawalt did a body painting exhibition that was most entertaining.  Alas, I had very little to do with the artists as I spent all my time gaming.

DarkCon is the brainchild of the Dark Ones, a Phoenix fan group with Steampunk and media connections.  Jeff Jennings and Nola Yergen are two of the ringleaders in that group–they are the two that I know best, although I really don’t know any of them very well.  The Dark Ones are an intensely social group, well known in Arizona for the great parties they throw.  Although there were parties every day, I really only attended the opening party on Thursday night and the Sunday Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion.  The food, drink, and conversation at both parties were truly excellent–I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of gourmand, and I don’t want you to be jealous.  (grin–but I will say I was treated to champagne with orange juice at the Wrigley Mansion–first time I’ve ever had champagne for breakfast.  Yum!).

Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion--living the good life! The empty chair in the foreground is mine. The two ladies on the extreme right are Jacqueline Carey and Nola Yergen. The man in the orange shirt is Chris Colbath, a friend of mine who helped make the con a lot of fun.

I really can’t tell you too much about the Con.  We held it in the magnificent facilities at the Marriott Hotel at 200 N. Centennial Avenue in Mesa, Arizona.  There was a huge space allotted for gaming, and we filled it up with every kind of tabletop game you can imagine.  There was computer gaming in a separate room, but I never found it, and frankly, I didn’t miss it at all.  In addition to the two games of Tunnels and Trolls that I ran,  I also got to play Ticket to Ride (Europe), Settlers of Catan, Thunderstone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me as the evil Master, Last Night on Earth (Zombies and Martians and Monsters, oh my!), Apples to Apples, and an ancients naval miniatures game with quinquiremes (for which Jay Nash and I made up a whole set of alternate rules–game designers tinker with everything–especially if we can see a way of doing the same thing that makes more sense.)

Jay Nash taught me how to play this game, and then I made him rewrite all the rules for it. I'm the guy in the hat.

Jay and I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon together, first playing his game, and then just hanging out during a meal at the hotel restaurant.  I showed him where the free Con goodies were at the DarkCon suite and the Green Room, but he preferred to buy something, and he bought me lunch too. Thanks, Jay.  The reason I mention this is because Jay is one of the chief organizers of Vul Con, a pure gaming convention which will be held Feb. 25-26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, and I will be a gaming Guest of Honor at that convention also.  (If you live in the Phoenix area, come say hi, and maybe game with me.)

Let me just rave about my enthusiasm for DarkCon for a moment.  Gaming!  That is what I like, and Gaming was well represented and attended at this Con.  The Arizona Men in Black (who promote Steve Jackson Games) were there, and running excellent games continuously.  I got to play The Stars Are Right, and had victory assured on my next turn when Jason Youngdale (who took most of the really good photos in this blog, and who is also setting up a gaming convention here for June called Con-Flagration) beat me to the punch.

Just one of the tables maintained by the Men in Black. This group, under the leadership of Jesse Foster, consistently runs high quality gaming events at Arizona Sci-fi and gaming conventions. Not only do they provide the games, teach people how to play, but they offer free prize support for them all. I love these guys! (in a purely platonic way)

The Arizona Guise Knights were also running games at the convention, and I played with their members more than once.  This is an indenpendent Arizona group not associated with a gaming manufacturer in the same way that the Men in Black are.  Excellent and friendly gamers however, and a credit to the gaming community.

Tiffany Branum ran the Game Room and did an excellent job of it.  Signing up for games was extremely easy.  She and her staff smoothed all obstacles.  Phoenix area gamers owe Tiffany and her husband Chris a lot for all the work they do in creating great gaming environments.

I gamed with the Guise Knights more than once, but Jason never got my photo with them.

If you look carefully at the pictures, you will see that many of us, including me are dressed oddly for a science-fiction convention where the usual attire is jeans and sf t-shirt.  The Dark Ones have an affinity for Steampunk–Nola Yergen is an expert costumer,

A beautiful young lady who I met at the Thursday night party in one of Nola's many amazing costumes.

and her work is often in the Steampunk genre.  I put together a modest steampunk outfit–vest, pocket watch, hat with goggles on it, and if you look carefully a demon-head pin that identifies me as a member of a secret magician’s society.  There were many better costumes than mine–in fact, most of the true costumes were better than mine–look at the Guise Knights picture again for an example of true elegance.  Such fannish conventions often feature costumes, and always have a masquerade in which the best of the costumes are displayed for admiration and prizes.  I’m sorry, but I missed the masquerade.  I missed the Memorial Barry Bard movie previews and free goodies dispersal also (and I really like to go to those just to keep my t-shirt collection fresh.)  I missed a ton of great stuff at DarkCon, and I was still as busy as I could be with the stuff I did.

Chris and I model the magnificent lanyard badgeholders provided by the Con Commitee for VIPs (him) and Guests (me). I am steampunk. He isn’t.

Much more happened at the Con than I am able to convey in this blog.  I spent part of my time hanging out in the Green Room–a hospitality room for volunteers and guests.  The food and friendliness in that room kept me going even when I was tired, and especially when I was hungry.  I played Texas Hold’em on Friday night with a great bunch of riverboat gamblers.  I never won a single hand, but it was fun while I lasted.  I took some weapons training from the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship–those guys really know how to use all kinds of swords, and thanks to their training, I know a bit, too.

I had a lot of fun.  I saw and talked to a lot of friends.  If you were there, you probably had a great time also.  If you weren’t, then you missed a really good time.  You can look up the Dark Ones, the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, the Men in Black, the Arizona Guise Knights, and just about everyone else that I mentioned on Facebook, so I’m not providing any links.  This is going to be a great year for conventions in Phoenix.  I recommend that you try to attend some of them.  I will be there–you can count on that!

I like to spend time by water. It's so symbolic. (grin)

(a note about the photos and pictures used in this blog:  some of them are my own photos, others were taken by the stalwart Jason Youngdale, and a couple were lifted from Nola Yergen’s DarkCon page on Facebook–copyright and ownership of all the photos and pictures belong to the original creators.  I recommend searching DarkCon on Facebook.com to find many more pictures of the convention–it was a fantastic place and time for us.)

If you were at DarkCon this year, or wish you had gone, why not add your own comments below?


43 responses to “DarkCon 2012: A Report

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  1. Wonderful write-up, I’m glad you had such a great time! I got to meet and game with Todd and his Laughing Moon crew over the weekend…they were a welcoming bunch of folks.

    Just a very minor correction, that photo isn’t actually of Nola (though it probably is a costume of her design…she is one incredibly talented lady!)

    Barnabas (darkcon badge name Ivanhoe)
    • Thanks for telling me that. I thought it looked a little wrong. I have fixed the comment on the photo to be more accurate. However, it fooled me, because when I see her in costume, she is simply amazing.

  2. The convention was amazing, whether I was spending time swapping trade secrets with Jacqueline Carey or laughing with Meg Foster. This was definitely my favorite convention to date. I had a blast meeting you at the VIP party and look forward to seeing our photo that Wilgar took.

  3. Well written sir! Very cool…..we are spoiled to have you living in AZ with us desert dogs….

  4. very nice. looks like it was an awesome con 🙂

  5. Excellent story Khenn! I appreciate hearing about your adventures.

  6. Looks like it was a great time. I’m glad they treated you like the Trollgod you are! I have to get to a gaming con soon.

  7. Man, I wish I lived closer to AZ… ya’all really seem to know how to roll 🙂 I love the fact that you had such a fantastic time at this con, Ken, too often you hear horror stories of people just being exhausted by the whole experience… (not in a good way,) but it sounds like everyone there was able to keep you up & running 🙂 That goodie bag? One of the nicest con perks I’ve seen, truly a credit to those who were running Dark Con. I’ll have to check out Ms. Carey’s work, I like that sort of thing 🙂 Thanks for posting this, the pics are beautiful & I like living vicariously through your con-going experiences!

  8. UGH! I am green with envy (or maybe it was that bologna from the sofa cushion). That looks like an incredible time was had by all!

  9. I am glad so many still attend and have a good time. I would love to meet Ken St Andre at one of these cons someday. His creation has made a lot of fun memories for me as a youngster.

    steve m (aka Gribnitz)
  10. Looked like a great time – Arizona is fortunate

  11. Now that looks like it was a fun con. I guess you not headed out on road trip to North Texas RPG Con in June, eh?

    btw, love the steampunk look on you, Ken, More like a working adventurer than some of the ones which look all “dressy.” 🙂

    Kjerrrakk the Troll. 🙂

  12. Sounds like a great time. Steampunk is something I’m not at all up to speed on and maybe that’s something I should fix.

  13. An excellent recap! Wish I could have been there. And That is a fantastic looking pock watch!
    I’m predicting 132 visitors.


  14. And I mistyped my troll name. 😦


  15. Oh, and what was the name of the ancient naval game? that looks interesting!

  16. Dark Con looks like a very good time. It’s clear across the country for me, but, who knows? Maybe someday…

  17. love the octopus hat. –Kcaff

  18. Looks like an amazingly good time to me. Wish I could have been there, if only to see if any of my suggestions made it into the Trollgod’s games! (-:
    Mad Roy Cram

  19. Wow! Very nice gift bag. I’m glad you had a good time as I wish I was there.

  20. Excellent write-up and pictures. I’m glad you had a great time!

  21. Great write-up Ken! It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a con and you reminded me what’s great about them.

  22. Looks like a fun time. The trollwife reads Carey’s books so she was interested to see that.

  23. It looks like Arizona is the place to be for gaming. Any plans to write up details on the games you ran?

    Dan (Dannnherrrrm)
  24. Nice write up, Ken. I read all your posts, but I don’t know if my reading of your posts is included in your site stats, because I have a subscription to your blog, and receive your posts via email. If you want to force people to visit your site to read the full posts, you should be able to configure that in your blog settings – to only send partial posts to subscribers. The email subscribers receive will then include a link to continue reading, on the site.

  25. Looks like a blast! I’ve got to get out to more of these things. Fight on!

  26. Looks like it was a wonderful time. I just wish there were more such gatherings up here in Portland, but they seem a little thin on the ground. Unfortunately, I’m rather restricted by work and family life, so the con circuit is a little out of my current reach – maybe once The Boy is a bit older and (hopefully) starting to get interested in gaming…

  27. Thank you for such a comprehensive report. You obviously had a great time.

  28. Wow, looks like tons of fun were had by all. I’m more than a bit jealous! 🙂

  29. It sounds like a great con. It has started me thinking of planning a holiday across the pond to coincide with a con, this looks like a good one. Best wishes

  30. Ugh! (Try #2!)

  31. So I guess that Envy will be my Deadly Sin for today. And here I thought it was going to be Sloth. (Sloth is tricky. I tried to commit all seven Sins in one day once, but you really can’t take credit for Sloth when you start the day with an agenda, and fulfill it, can you?) Great write up.


  32. Hob-nobin with Meg Foster! Nice Ken! Looked like a great time.

  33. I thoroughly enjoyed being a guest at a mini-DarkCon several years ago, and I echo the comment about suffering Envy because I had to miss this one. It really looks like you had a fabulous time! The Dark Ones truly do know how to throw an amazing and fun event. Hopefully I’ll get back another time — meanwhile, it was good to read your writeup.

  34. A very nice write-up of the con, Ken. It looks like you had a grand time. 😀

  35. It looks like Arizona is the place to be for gamers. DarkCon looked like a blast. Are you planning on writing up any reports on the games you ran?

  36. Wow, looks like fun, Khenn!

    I bet 28 Trollhallans will post comments here today.

    Kris (aka Starrtrroll)
  37. Standard Comment:

    The Elephant says, “Tusk, tusk!”.


    –Glarrrn. 🙂

  38. One of these days I will make to a Con. Hopefully a Tunnels & Trolls one in Arizona. Time & money, time & money…

  39. Loved reading your take on Dark Con, and I had a blast playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer with you. You were an amazing Dark Lord who did not back down 😉

    Jonni Badge Name FAIRYGURL
  40. The convention sounds awesome Trollgod. UGH!!

  41. I loved Darkcon, it was a good time. (I played Settlers of Catan with you)

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