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Thursday, June 8, 2017

There is an Article on ENWorld About the Need for More Gaming Conventions (but that's not the part I'll be talking about)

Aren't all conventions like this?
NTRPG Con 2016
Midnite Auction

I know. An ENWorld article being referenced at The Tavern. Before you bite my head off and stuff it in a NTRPG Con swag bag realize that the premise really isn't wrong. There IS a need for more RPG focused gaming conventions, especially ones that are actually focused on gaming (in other words, not Gen Con)

(you can read the article here)

Here is the part that sticks out to me:
However, that doesn't mean that a local or regional convention couldn't grow up into these facilities to be something equivalent to Origins Game Fair. According to their Wikipedia page, Origins had an attendance of 15,938 in 2015. Honestly, that isn't that high of a bar for attendance for a convention to reach, with a few years of hard work and good conventions. It surprises me that, for such a fun convention, Origins has such relatively low attendance numbers. 
This is why I think that strengthening the regional gaming convention scene is easier than people would think. Do I think that it is feasible for a gaming convention to have an attendance of 15K out of the gate? No, and I don't think that most people starting a convention can really handle those sorts of numbers right off the bat. I do think that a first year convention with an attendance of 500-1000 people is feasible to shoot for.
Actually, it is a huge bar to hit, especially for a first year con because you would need an experienced convention staff to organize and run it.  And you know what? Many folks prefer the smaller, more intimate cons like NTRPG Con and Gary Con.

So, what do you do if you are in an area that doesn't have a regional con (the NYC area has a dearth of cons, not counting two in New Jersey and they aren't Old School in nature) Barring an experienced convention management team, you grow it organically. Much like NTRPG and Gary Con. And you build the con's reputation organically. Bite off more than you can handle the first year and you might have no second year.

Of course, there is no discussion of the number of days to run that first con, because if you do more than a single day, you need a hotel to host - or have one nearby. Then there's the logistics of special guests and the cost associated with such.

Can you tell such discussions have been on my mind recently? No, I'm not organizing a local con. Even retirement has its limits ;)

24 comments:

  1. TenKon! Hosted in lovely Princeton or one of the Brunswicks. Halfway from NYC & Philly. Man, if I could come up with a way to do something like that...

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  2. Count me among the people that prefer the smaller cons. I used to be an avid attendee and staffer of things like Creation Trek cons and the big Star Wars shows in Plano. These days, if I'm going to go to a con, I want to spend the con engaged with having fun, rather than standing in lines to exchange thirty seconds worth of words (if that) with a guest and getting a $75 autograph. At cons like North Texas RPG Con, you make friends while you're gaming. To me, that's a much more entertaining use of my time than a Comic Con, etc.

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  3. Go one-day to start.
    I attend multiple cons with attendance below 500, and some are single-Saturday types.
    The result is intense and fun, with lower cost since everybody plans to sleep at home.
    Operations are cheaper; skip personalized nametags and go with wrist bracelets, etc.
    It is more local/regional, but prompts broader turnout due to the lower cost.

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  4. Uh, excuse me, article-writer? 15K+ IS a big con! And frankly, that's what keeps me away from GenCon, Origins and the like (unfortunately, I think GaryCon looks like it's heading in that direction too).

    I'll take smaller cons over those giant sardine cans.

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  5. Smaller and focused on gaming is better. Soonercon (which I love every bit of, and their staff is all pro) used to be about 50/50 gaming and Sci-fi authors and their wares, and wares that are applicable to both. Now its about 15% caming 50% sci fi authors, and its turned into a cosplay/fandom situation. Still love the con but the slippage of the gaming angle has made it harder for me to justify my own time, expenses, and time away from writing material that helps pay my bills. NTRPG just makes more sense to me and is 100% about the gaming. I really love my OKC buddies and I can't fault them going the cosplay/fandom route because they have to cover their costs.

    Erik is 100% correct however that getting a good con going requires amazing people who are very skilled at logistics, managing "people problems", and most importantly managing money over expectations. NTRPG, Gary Con, and Game Hole have all of those things in spades.

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    1. DB, honestly, Doug and I had very little background in some of those things (we both run businesses from our homes, which could say we do know how to handle situations that might stymie others). As Frank said, start out small (we started with 55) and build from there...recruit a local gaming group or your gaming buddies as the core. Plan a one or two day con to start. Get advice from people who run smaller cons. Be prepared to lose a little money. Have fun.

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  6. Agreed, DB and SJ, I would not want NTRPGCon (and this year I only have the afterglow of one day there!) to get too big. More local cons for everyone, whatever their druthers, and let people who want to have the circus have it -- it's not for me.

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    1. We are pretty much going to max out at 500, tops, at NTRPG con. Neither Doug nor I want to hire staff, we don't worry about making money (breaking even is fine), and we want to keep the "small con" feel. Thanks for your suppot!

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  7. Had a gaming con that was a three-day con with modest attendance in the college campus. Ownership changed, and the group was trying to grow the con out, but when I asked for accommodations for my RPG (which I had been running for a string of years in a loyal attempt to help expand the con's offerings) I was told "We're a card- and board-gaming convention, not a role-playing game convention." Haven't gone back since, even though I like playing card games and board games too.

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  8. A small regional con (say, 100-200 people) is not that hard to put on with just a few volunteers or management. And cons that focus on one aspect of gaming (say, RPGS, or boardgames, or miniatures) often work well because the lovers of such gaming are stymied by larger cons were their main activity is only a sideline. For example, one of the reasons NTRPG con was formed was the dearth of old school RPGs at local cons (as in, none) and the shunting aside of classic game systems at larger cons (Gencon, etc). We had our largest ever attendance this year with over 400, and that's all old school games except for a smattering of 5E and Pathfinder. Garycon has grown to 1800, while Alex's Gamehole is now pushing 3000 (although not as old school focused as NTRPG con, both cons feature old school games and guests more than similar regional cons).

    We did envision more cons like us (NTRPG con) springing up in the years following our first con, and I"m surprised there aren't more regional cons in the 100-200 range since then. The smaller hotels, community centers and schools are perfect for this. The very well-run MagCon outside of Houston is in this vein, set in a local school and with 300-400 attendees every year. Start out small and build good word of mouth from there. People are dying for good gaming without having to fight through a crowd of 50k cosplayers...

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  9. I would shed blood for a good New York area con. I don't have logistics skills, but am good at setting up folding tables and chairs.

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  10. I hope we can all agree TenKon could only be located in the rustic majesty of the Pocanos... :)

    (And though I've never attended a con, outside of the allure of GenCon to be able to see so many of my online friends in one place, it's the reports from smaller cons like NTRPG and GaryCon that actually intrigue me the most).

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    1. The Poconos would be another locale I would be totally for. They are still close enough for Philly & NYC folks to make long day trips or one night stays (assuming a one day Kon the first year). Plus, dwarves often feel right at home in the mountains. :)

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  11. We did try to co-host an Old School convention with the Dexcon convention in NJ for several years. It ended up not going anywhere, for lack of interest, unfortunately.

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    1. Although I should mention that both Dexcon and Dreamation (both in Morristown, NJ) still do have quite a bit of old-school RPGs on the schedule each year. There's just a lot more new stuff and board games and LARPs and such.

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  12. I went to a local convention in Washington that had a seminar on how to put on a con (i thought it would be cool to get an OSR con going), that seminar pretty much put me off of trying to do one.

    I have tons of respect now to all who put together a con.

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  13. I run TridentCon down here in Baltimore, we're super-small. Here are our attendance numbers so people can get an idea:

    2014 - 80 people (at a game store)
    2015 - 100 people (at a community center)
    2016 - 150 people (at a community center)
    2017 - aiming for 200 people (at a VFW)

    Two days, five slots total across an ever-increasing number of tables (we should have 24 tables this year).

    There is no staff. It's me and my wife and whoever sticks around to stack chairs.

    You can do this. Find a cheap or free space and run a gameday. Start small. Grow slowly. Don't worry about guests and panels and all that. Run games. Attract good GMs who run interesting games.

    That's it.

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    1. Thank you for posting this. I'll see if I can come.

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  14. Gamehole Con is Madison is the one to watch IMO. I can see it giving Origins a run for its money in five to ten years. It's growing in leaps and bounds and has a team/staff who can handle the growth. I'm very fortunate that we have a handful of great regional cons all within two hours drive or less.

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  15. Erik, would you be interested in spreading the word about smaller regional cons? I know of one near me (Indiana/Kentucky)that is just in its second year, and they could use help finding GM's. It was a good time last year when I attended with my wife, and I'd like to see it continue its success.

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    1. Actually, that is a good idea. I'll need to make a post but yes, I shall do so.

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    2. I can easily pm the info to you on G+ if you' d like to review the details of the con before you posed it. The organizer is on G+ and I could give you his handle if you wanted word straight from the horse's mouth. He is pretty responsive.

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