Tag Archives: Conventions

The Long Con

Another GenCon Indy has come and gone. In celebration of surviving the annual pilgrimage, here are some quick tips for outlasting four or more days of pure indoor living.

Strategic Food Outcomes

By stigma and stereotype gamers, comic book fans and geek aficionados are not considered the healthiest demographic. Couple that with a nerd culture that is damn near synonymous with Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew. Now consider that thousands of people enjoying accommodations in the hospitality industry with commercial vendors and restaurants as their only food source.

What you have is a perfect storm of garbage eating. You’re going to have the strong temptation to eat whatever is delicious (because hey, it is a vacation after all!) and whatever is readily available. During this last con I had Starburst for breakfast and at least one day where I ate 1500 calories worth of pasta, pizza, breadsticks and Cherry Coke at a Fazoli’s.

This isn’t a preach about eating better or losing weight. The simple fact is that the best four days of gaming is a marathon, and you need to do whatever you can to stay energized for maximum satisfaction. Half a week of chips and candy will bring anyone to a crawl and dehydrate you. It will also carve a hole in the wallet where sweet games, comics and merchandise could go instead.

Go in with a food strategy, stay hydrated and bring snacks where possible for the best results.

Pack For Bear

Aside from the snacks and water you should already be toting, you’ll need enough space for your phone charger, spare clothes, entertainment, and all the swag you are going to buy/win and any other essentials you find necessary. That means you’ll need a pretty serious bag. And you need something you can carry around for up to 18 hours of standing and walking.

My suggestion is a backpack, which we do see a lot of at conventions. Tote bags, hand bags, fanny packs, plastic cases and pretty much everything else can be spotted at a sizable con, but a backpack is, pound for pound, the best choice you can make if you’re in it for the long haul.

You Need The Me Time

Most of us only get to go to a few conventions a year. When we go, we want to go hard. During our trip we would wake up at five or six in the morning and not get back to the hotel until midnight or later. By Saturday, members of our party were hurting for some rest. Unless you’re a vendor or someone else there to promote a brand, it’s a great idea to plan out some time to decompress.

Not to mention a great way to alleviate the aches of walking all day. Almost anyone, regardless of physical fitness level or convention veteran status is going to be feeling it after a couple days, especially if you’re following our second suggestion.

Pick a morning to sleep in or take an afternoon to play some games with friends. Read a book or listen to some music. And definitely get away get out of the artificial lights and Cheetos stank of the convention center for a while. Most conventions take place in landmark cities that deserve to be explored.

Con With Purpose

During GenCon this year there was a Dance of the Dead masquerade. It was held in the ballroom of Indianapolis’ Union Station area. While 20130819-162610.jpgdancing and mixing it up with other guests, I noticed a body sprawled on the ground next to the dance floor. For a moment I thought someone had literally died, raising the irony level considerably. That was until he refreshed the screen on his Nintendo DS and I realized he was gaming.

If you’re going to make a full trip to a convention, do it with purpose. Figure out what it is you like and find it. It may very well be that our friend lying on the dance floor was taking my advice to get a little me time, but it struck me as an odd location. And it also made me think that was time he could be spending doing something not normally available at home.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Con Alone

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Nothing sounds worse than traveling to a strange city alone for a massive convention.

I look forward to next year knowing that The Con is a marathon and I need to stop sprinting.

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Tips for Running a Game at a Convention

Gabrielfe

This elf helped get people to play my game. Team work!

While I’ve been playing Roleplaying Games for a long time, it’s only been this year that I’ve started to run games at various conventions. I first got my feet wet last weekend at Ratha Con, a new convention in Athens, OH. My next experience will be running a game for Kobold Press at Gen Con.

So, with my vast wealth of experience (one game I’ve run at a convention), I thought that you might benefit from what I learned.

Before the Game

1.) Prepare

This goes without saying, but prepare for the game.  I didn’t have an already published adventure to run, so I created my own. I had a three-hour game, so I planned for three relatively short encounters battle encounters, with some investigation thrown in for good measure.

I figured that my players would consist of a lot of newbies (which is awesome! I love introducing new players to RPGs!), so I didn’t make the encounters too terribly complicated, and I made sure that there would be no character death. Since we were playing a superhero game, I wanted my players to feel mighty, so I threw some bad guys at them that were tough, but wouldn’t be overly hard so long that the players worked together.

2.) Advertise

Since I was at a small con, I should’ve gotten to the venue much earlier and talked up my game a little bit. Luckily, I had my wife with me (she was cosplaying an elf). She can really turn on the charm; so she was able to secure some players for me just by being awesome. If that isn’t what marriage is supposed to be, then I don’t know what is.

So talk the game up at the convention and on social media. Post it on forums. Be proactive in getting people to play your games.

Bring extra dice!!

Bring extra dice!!

3.) Set-up

Bring extra dice, a battle mat or maps (if you need them), tokens for tracking characters, pencils, and character sheets. I would generally recommend bringing your own pre-generated character sheets (I’m not a huge fan of power gaming), so that things are fair between players.

A note on character sheets: I knew that I would have a maximum of 6 players, so I brought 14 different characters for the players to choose from.  I really wanted everyone to be able to play the type of character they wanted, so I gave them plenty of choices.

4.) Right Before the Game Starts

Before the game started, I reviewed the rules of the game with the new players and let them look over their characters and character backgrounds. I was present if they had any questions for me. I let this go beyond the start time, because I think it is important that players get a good feel for who their character is and what they do.

During the Game:

1.) Be Nice!

I did my best to be welcoming and personable. I’m there to be the facilitator of the players having a good time. I try not to take the game too seriously, because it is, after all, a game. If you get a hardcore group of gamers at an adventure, it’s cool to go all serious, but for most convention situations, it’s probably best to smile and keep the game as light as possible. My wife, Gabrielle, suggested that I bring some candy to share; that seemed to make everyone happy (everyone likes Starbursts).

2.) Be Patient!

Sometimes your newbies just don’t know how to play the game. It’s okay to show them things on their character sheet that they might not have known, or to give them hints about the cool stuff their character could be doing. Stopping to explain a rule is fine, too. Go with your gut and remember that the goal is to have some fun.

3.) Be Ready!

Sometimes a character will throw a curve ball at you that could potentially “ruin” your game. That’s okay! I try to build games in optional modules that can be plugged in where needed. Maybe you need a little more time? Throw in a module with an extra encounter.

I also try to have a list of NPC and location names with general descriptions, that way I can easily put extra elements into a game.

In order to keep things from going off the rails too much, I started the game with an encounter: the governor was getting kidnapped! This set the tone for the mystery and immediately had the players ready for a fight.

After the Game:

1.) End the Game with a Bang

I ended my convention game with a big set piece (Brainiac had to be stopped and all the world leaders needed to be rescued!).  While I don’t know if I completely succeeded, I wanted to make the players feel like they were the heroes of the story. Defeating a bad guy and rescuing major political leaders was definitely a heroic thing to do.

2.) Thank Them for Playing

This is the time to say a big “thank you,” get some of the player’s contact information if you’d like to keep in touch with them, and get feedback on the game. If they aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere else, try to ask them what worked about the game and what didn’t. And take criticism with a smile. You’re only going to get better if you know what you need to work on.

3.) Pack Up

Just like it sounds. Get your things off the table as quickly as possible (there might be another group coming in after you), and, if you can, clean up. I generally try to leave things just as clean as I found them; it’s just common courtesy.

Running games at a convention, I found, is a really good time. You get to meet some new and interesting people, and really, any excuse to game is welcome.

(Hey, if you’re coming to Gen Con in August, I’m running this game for Kobold Press. You should come and say, hi!)

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