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My Whinge: ReefCon, The Cairns RPG Fulcrum

Something that’s been niggling at me for a while bloomed into a full-fledged bother after the October gamers’ get-together. It was due to a comment that Bruce made; I can’t quote it verbatim, but the gist of it was that while there’s a lot of turnover in the membership of the Cairns RPG scene, ReefCon remains the one dependable fixture. On one had, that’s cool; there’s at least one event per year where gamers new to town have a chance to meet fellow gamers.

On the other hand, that presents two distinct problems.

The first is that ReefCon is an RPGA-driven con, which means that you can play any game you want, as long as it’s Dungeons & Dragons v3.5 (there used to be the odd Star Wars game, but no one – well, no one barring me – is interested any more). Immediately, you’ve thrown a barrier up before the gamer population; the only way Joe and Jane Gamer will have consistent fun is if they own or are familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook v3.5 (and, optionally, possess a handful of painted fantasy miniatures). If you’re a member of the RPG hobby or you read my web log with any degree of consistency, you know that while D&D is the most widely-recognised product in the hobby, it’s certainly not the only one.

A corollary to this problem is that Dungeon Masters can only run RPGA-sanctioned Living modules. Just try slapping an adventure for your homebrewed D&D setting together; even if you volunteer to run it, you won’t get anywhere (even if you do, you probably won’t get players). If it’s not Living Greyhawk, Mark of Heroes, Xen’Drik Expeditions, Legacy of the Green Regent or (maybe, if you’re lucky) Living Force, it’s not on. This is why you’ll hear a lot of talk at ReefCon about “writers”, people who design modules specifically for submission to the RPGA governing body. There’s a lot of kudos in writing an approved module; it could get run at RPGA-sanctioned cons anywhere across the world.

But the RPGA ain’t perfect. In the second module I played in at this year’s ReefCon, Wes Nicholson was complaining loudly at how crap the module was. The problem is that complain was all he could do; each module, crap or otherwise, is tied into the RPGA’s rewards scheme. Each RPGA character has to stack fairly in terms of play-hours and rewards against every other RPGA character so players can take their characters from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns and still play them. Dick with a module in the name of making it more interesting and you risk your players’ hard-earned bonus items and campaign cards being taken away because someone thought you gave them an unfair advantage.

The second is the particular nature of ReefCon. It’s held at Trinity Bay State High School and, as such, most of the attendees are local students, many under the age of fifteen. While I’m all for introducing young ‘uns to the hobby, I don’t want them dominating every session I attend (if you’re curious as to why, check out my posts on my ReefCon experiences this year). I'm positive I'm not the only one, and I reckon that's yet another barrier to local gamers; what the youngsters are obviously grooving on would likely annoy the living shit out of many adult players and DM/GMs.

These are the reasons why the thought of ReefCon being the only mainstay of the Cairns gaming scene bothers me – add them up, and the result is that I have pretty much bugger-all odds of broadening the number of locals who’ve had a chance to sample the hot-buttered awesomeness that is InSpectres, or of meeting people who’d love to introduce me to their Favourite Game Ever.

“Okay, Rob,” I hear you all say, “you’ve just had your bitch-fest about D&D, the RPGA and Cairns. Are you all sulk and no action?” More on that in the next post…

If you liked this post, please check out more Editorials and Musings , RPG Notes


The RPGA come behind Cat Piss Men and above filk singing in the list of "Worst Things To Ever Happen to the Hobby". I have never once heard anyone utter the phrase "gosh, I'm glad the RPGA is here".

Of course the problem is people keep turning up to play these games. It would not survive if people didn't play the games.

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