I’ve just arrived back home after two days at Dragon Con 2022 at the time of writing this, and while I’m exhausted, I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Before this weekend, my experience with Comic Cons has been exclusive to SDCC, which, in its grandeur and popularity, has always had me feeling like a mere spectator standing in awe of the many wonders of such a huge convention. I’m just a dude who talks about Dungeons & Dragons and other nerdy stuff here on The Convention Collective, (as well as TikTok and Twitter). At Dragon Con, though, the smaller panels really drew me in. You’re not seeing nearly as many Hollywood names – these are people in the industry, and they had me feeling like I can be more than just a fan. Maybe here I can reach out and touch the parts of the pop culture communities I love so much.
But the panels I went to started a little later in the day.
First on the agenda was the DragonCon Parade on Saturday.
It cannot be overstated how huge cosplay is at Dragon Con. Not only in the portion of people in cosplay (I could have sworn it was at least 1 in 4 attendees or more), but also the diversity of characters, unique monsters, and even pun costumes (see: Randy Savage, the Macho Man-dalorian). Honestly, I felt like I was the one out of place by not bringing out a cosplay – I have a Finn the Human outfit that I will definitely be digging out of the costume box for next year.
Next up was the Artist Alley located in the Hyatt, which had some absolutely gorgeous art on display. A lot of incredible artists working with a lot of different mediums, and I decided to snag a pic of one particular piece because it is perfect inspiration for my upcoming Spelljammer D&D campaign.
After that was the ‘Best Dungeon Ever’ panel with Mike Capps and Brian Duckwitz. It seems so simple in retrospect, but it blew my mind at the time to hear industry professionals look at huge and convoluted mega dungeons and call them what I’ve always thought about almost every single one I’ve encountered: they are not good dungeon design. They spoke about designing with purpose and a focused theme, and how many of the mega dungeon designs left half or more of the dozens of rooms completely undetailed – a headache and an unnecessary challenge for DMs, to say the least.
I did a little bit of wandering after that panel, and found out just how much (possibly pent up) ENERGY that a lot of fans were bringing to Dragon Con this year. There was music everywhere, dance parties everywhere, and the enthusiasm of people getting excited about each other’s cosplay was just so nice to see. I can only guess that, for many, Dragon Con 2022 was a long overdue celebration.
Next up was ‘Blizzard Lore with Sean Copeland’. As someone who applied to work at Blizzard in the past, it was fascinating to hear Sean, the Principal Historian at Blizzard, talk about the business side of his role as a historian. While it was compelling to hear about how the Lore team is involved in creative decisions for new projects, it was equally fascinating to hear how the same team keeps the pitchforks at bay by catching consistency errors when new stories are told with Blizzard’s many properties. And the way Sean talked with such passion about what he does…he made me think I might want to make a career change!
My last panel for the day was ‘Games in Spaaaace’ with Mike Capps (again) and Amanda Hamon. I could tell that there was an eagerness from the audience to talk about Dungeons and Dragons’ new Spelljammer books for 5th edition based on the number of people in the Q&A asking Spelljammer-specific questions. While it was a little disappointing that none of the panelists had dove into that new material, I came to find that Amanda was the co-creator of the wildly popular Starfinder system, so we were in good company! Both her and Mike had great insight on space-based TTRPG play, and I even got a couple questions in myself.
If I had to put a finger on it, this last one was really the panel that made me feel that closeness in these small and intimate settings. Mike and Amanda were incredibly approachable and I could see a clear path to connecting with them, and maybe one day, sitting in those same seats. Comic Cons always get me motivated to create again, but Dragon Con did that in a really special way for me this year.
I thought Day 2 of Dragon Con 2022 was going to start with a long, sleepy wait in line, sipping coffee and waiting with the hundreds of other people trying to get into the Vendor’s Halls. The line went more than halfway around the Americas Mart building AND looped through part of the parking garage to keep the line shorter on the sidewalk. Alas, it was no more than a 10-15 minute wait! All deserved praise to the Dragon Con staff who seem to have adequately prepared for the reported 50% increase in attendance from 2021.
So, I was in! There were a thousand and one cool things to see, but there were certainly some highlights for me in the Vendor’s Halls.
My haul from the vendor’s halls was modest – just a set of rainbow dice and a cute little Tiamat sticker to go with the official Dragon Con 2022 shirt I picked up the previous day.
Shortly after that, I was invited onto the Talkin’ Con Sunday live stream! We talked about cosplay at the con, answered the question of how many days does our ideal Comic Con would last, and explored whether Dragon Con is more for adults than your average con.
After the excitement of the live stream and running around all day, I decided to round out my day sitting in on a couple more panels.
The first was ‘Pokemon vs Reality’, run by the Pokescience podcast hosts. If you’ve ever read some of the wackier Pokemon descriptions, like how Magcargo has an internal temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, you know the Pokemon universe is terrifying and laughs in the face of physics. A lot of the panel, though, was looking at how real world animals and plants are often just as surprisingly terrifying and interesting! Definitely a fun one, and the room was PACKED.
My last panel of the con was with Keith Baker talking about all things ‘Eberron in 5E’. I had heard of Keith Baker a few times before in relation to the Eberron setting, since he did create it after all, and I came to find through this panel that he’s one of those rare individuals that can suspend an entire fictional world’s worth of lore in his own head. The panel was a pretty open Q&A, with a lot of the questions focusing on how the unique features, particularly the Dragonmarked houses, of Eberron came into being and why. He also talked about how he was currently running a game where, rather naturally for such a high tech setting, Eberron discovers spelljamming, and Keith sounded excited to bring those ideas into future Eberron content (if WOTC decides they want to expand on the Eberron setting anytime soon).
So that was my Dragon Con 2022 experience! I want to thank The Convention Collective for sending me to the con. It was a real treat getting to see so many cool people from my new city, and I can’t wait to dig in and explore the parts I missed at next year’s con.
I was only able to go for two days this year, Saturday and Sunday, but I will be clearing my schedule next year so I can really take advantage of the full 5-day experience (or as many days I have the endurance for, because 5 is a lot!).