At GenCon, I met a gentleman who told me he was learning Pathfinder to help him host games at his friend’s new castle in Ohio. After a few follow-up questions to make sure this wasn’t slang or a metaphor, I needed to know more about Ravenwood. In giving their website an eye over, I found out about RavenCon. Ravenwood officially became a fascination. So I contacted Ravenwood president Jim Reed, who was more than kind enough to answer all my questions
Unconventional is a monthly series on the Private Companion blog in which we speak with the gamers who run gaming conventions.
Private Companion: Who buys a castle?
Jim Reed: A crazy person. My wife and I had been looking for a business to buy for a few years, but never found the right one. We’d pretty much decided to call the search off when we noticed that Ravenwood was for sale in March of last year. We’d been guests at the castle on and off since it was built in 1995, and had always loved the place. So we decided we’d buy it. We thought we were crazy at the time. Now we know we are.
PC: What is a castle even doing in Ohio?
JR: Defending against an invasion from Michigan.
PC: From my conversation with your Castle Steward, Steve Waldron, gaming was always part of your plan for Ravenwood castle. What makes Ravenwood such a perfect venue for gaming?
JR: From a practical standpoint, Ravenwood is removed from the demands of every day life. It’s quiet, there isn’t a television blaring in every room and your cell phone won’t be constantly ringing and beeping. It’s the perfect environment to sit back and enjoy a board game or a role playing session, undisturbed by the usual every day interruptions.
From a more basic standpoint, it’s a freaking castle. With a pub. Who wouldn’t want to sit down and game in the real life counterpart to that mythical tavern where so many Dungeons and Dragons adventures start? I know that sounds like a commercial, and in fact we’ve used it as one. But it’s also what pretty much every gaming buddy of mine said when I told them I’d bought a castle.
PC: You may win the trophy for most dedication to the hobby. What does gaming mean to you?
JR: I’ve been gaming in one form or another for over 30 years, starting with the original red box, Dungeons & Dragons Basic. After college my gaming group (AD&D 2e) broke up, and I switched primarily to computer games. In the last few years I’ve made an effort to get back into role playing, and have jumped into board gaming quite heavily, thanks in large part to my Castle Steward, Steve.
Whatever the medium though, gaming has always been an important part of my life. I have no doubt that the hours spent reading stacks of rule books or engaged in creative problem solving helped me out academically. I’m such a believer in the developmental power of games that I have been actively introducing (corrupting, if you listen to my wife) my daughters to gaming for most of their young lives. These days, gaming is also a great means to relax and divert the brain from the problems of the office. It’s also a wonderful way to spend some quality time with family and friends.
PC: Are you the same Jim Reed who works on The Dice Tower? http://www.dicetower.com/index.php/about_us/jim_reed If not, could you take Jim in a fight?
JR: Alas, I am not. Nor could I take him in a fight. Such a fight would be a stalemate, as it’s a scientific fact that all Jim Reeds are identical in all respects. We’re effectively interchangeable. True story.
PC: What can RavenCon attendees look forward to March 1st weekend?
JR: We’ve got a real smorgasbord of gaming set up for the convention. On the board gaming side, we’ve got Colby Dauch coming in to demo some Plaid Hat games and run a Summoner Wars tournament. We’ll be running an event long “World Tour” of Ticket To Ride. We have a library of 40 or so games that will be available for the open game room. We’ll also have a table of “In It To Win It” games, where if you win the game, you get to keep it.
On the role playing front, we’re planning several sessions throughout the weekend. We’ve been working with Michael McNerney, the Columbus area Pathfinder Venture Captain, and he’ll be providing some GMs for Society play. We may also run some 4e D&D, or perhaps D&D Next sessions. Details on that are still pending. Finally, there are going to be a number of kids (my own included), and we intend to run a session or two made up exclusively of children. I’m leaning towards We Be Goblins for that, though that’s not set in stone.
Aside from all the gaming, we’ll have a silent auction, a giant turkey leg dinner, lots of good beverages in the pub, and just about anything else you can think of doing in a castle. Oh, and if I’m able to scrounge up an Apple computer of some sort between now and then, we hope to be running the alpha version of Johann Sebastian Joust from the recent Sportsfriends Kickstarter.
PC: How often do you foresee holding events like RavenCon?
JR: As often as we can. We had a big weekend long gaming convention at the end of October with nearly 60 people in attendance. On the upcoming events list, we’re running a small Pathfinder event next weekend (February 1st), RavenCon the beginning of March, another full castle private gaming event later in March, and although it’s not specifically gaming oriented, we have the Ice and Fire Convention at the end of April.
Going forward, we expect to run RavenCon at least once a year, and as many smaller group events as we can. And of course, we encourage guests to game every day. In fact, Steve spends quite a few of his evenings teaching guests new games or running them through a short Pathfinder session. What a job!
PC: Suppose the Picts catch wind of Ravenwood. How would you defend the castle from marauders?
JR: Nice try, but you’re not getting the secrets of our defense out of me that easily!
PC: If someone books a room at Ravenwood but can’t make RavenCon or any special gaming event, how can they maximize their gaming experience?
JR: We offer what we call Ravenwood Raids, where you and a group of friends rent a few rooms and get the exclusive use of the library game room as well. This has been very popular, and basically lets you have your own mini-convention on your own schedule. If you’re coming by yourself, just bring a willingness to try something new. Let Steve know you’re interested in gaming and he’ll be more than happy to show you our library of games. He’ll be glad to teach you any of them you’d like, and will probably sit down to play a few with you too if you’d like.
PC: What would someone who doesn’t game do at Ravenwood?
JR: We have quite a few non-gaming events as well. From the family friendly Alice in Ravenland last weekend, to our popular weekend long murder mysteries. But as much fun as the events are, the majority of guests come to Ravenwood just to relax and get away from it all. We’re situated in the Hocking Hills area of Ohio, and are surrounded by state and national forests. There’s amazing hiking, canoeing, caving and tree top adventures within minutes of the property.
PC: Ravenwood is a 4 hour drive from GenCon, which is like a leisurely stroll by GenCon road trip standards. How will Ravenwood’s proximity to GenCon affect the best four days in gaming?
JR: Steve and I both attended GenCon 2012, and our proximity certainly means that we’ll be attending GenCon for the foreseeable future. We’re actually considering having an official presence at the convention, as in a booth, but I don’t think that will happen this year. We’ll also likely be offering a pre/post GenCon package of some sort this year, so we can act as a waypoint for those coming from further away.
PC: Ravenwood is already progressing on its mission to be the best gaming castle in Ohio. What is the next in the Ravenwood plan for gaming domination?
JR: We’ve redesigned the library to be a gaming room. We’ve built a respectable library of games, although we’ll keep increasing that because let’s be honest, buying games is a bit of an addiction. And we have plans to redesign the Raven’s Roost Pub to accommodate gaming even better than it does now, and that’s probably our next big project.
But most importantly, right now we’re just focusing on letting people know we’re here. The gamers who have visited us so far have raved about their experience. But we’ve only been doing this for six months, and in the grand scheme of things only a small percentage of the gaming universe knows we exist. We’re working on that. We’re also developing relationships with people and companies in the industry. We’ve started working with Paizo, WotC, Plaid Hat and Days of Wonder, and they’ve all been incredibly helpful with RavenCon. In the coming months I’m looking forward solidifying those relationships and making new ones, and jointly making Ravenwood Castle a center for all of the coolest things in the gaming world.
Find out more at ravenwoodcastle.com
If you run a gaming convention and would like to be considered for a future instalment of Unconventional, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Unconventional [your con name].