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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

So You Want to Run a Game at a Convention?

So You Want to Run a Game at a Convention?
So you're thinking about running a game at your local convention?

1st off, I know you probably aren't, but you're reading this anyway because it's here at the Tavern.

2nd, even if you aren't interested maybe this post will make you think about it......either way do or don't, just play along and pretend you're wanting to run a game at a local con anyway. Besides if you play along you might come to the realization it is a worthwhile endeavor.....

Congratulations are in order! You've decided to step up your game (pun intended) and stop huddling around that dining room table of yours and sling dice with new players. Seriously though, convention games can be fun, and if it's a local con you might meet some great new people to share this hobby with. Conventions can't really function without content and you running a game adds content, and value, to your local convention.

The 1st thing you really need to think about is the convention itself. Most cons are pretty lenient when it comes to games, but if you want to have a successful go at it you might want to make sure your desired game system meshes with the con. Trying to run an obscure fantasy game system from the early 80's at a Sci-Fi Convention might not be worth your effort.

For years I played in and ran a bunch of games at this one convention that was more a literary convention that happened to have a few RPGs and board games. Eventually we basically had our own room and we realized that everybody was paying the convention $50+ so we could sit in a room all by ourselves and otherwise visit the free areas of the convention. A quick check-in with the staff at the hotel I preferred staying at as we could game all weekend in their breakfast room that went unused for 90% of the day.... 

So you have a game system that'll work with the convention....but will it? In addition to any theme issues you have to seriously consider how popular your system is and if there is enough draw for it. If you're just going to be running for your home group, but at a convention, is that a worthwhile expenditure of your resources? Even if your preferred system isn't popular, it really might be worthwhile to run at a con anyway because this could be a way to increase support for your system or to find new players. You'll just have to factor this in when you work on what you're going to run for that setting, which I'll cover in a moment.

You'll need to figure out how the convention timeline works, as well as how to submit/run events. These day's it usually a website data-entry thing, but you really need to know your timelines for submission because later submissions, while might be allowed, can often make it so interested players cannot find you in the registration book. Now it might be a bit of putting the cart before the horse, but when you go to register your game you'll pretty much need to know what your're running: game system and adventure, as well as the number of players you can seat, the experience level requirement of the players. Are pre-generated PCs going to be available? What level do the PCs need to be? Is there time to teach new players if they are complete newbs? Do you have a good description of the game and the adventure? No, really....a description that would want someone to sign up to play? Your convention might not ask for everything mentioned in this paragraph, but it's a good idea to assemble it anyway. Sometimes they'll ask for a little bit for pre-approval, and then want more, and sometimes timelines/deadlines creep up on you......

OK, so now you have the big picture stuff figured out, or should providing you already selected the adventure. Are you running a published adventure or something home-brew? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. If you are running a published adventure for the system make sure that was noted in the registration 'cause it sucks for a player to show up and find out they've already run this adventure before. If you aren't keen on a homebrew adventure you can split the difference by adapting an adventure written for a different game system. Convert it a bit and tweak it. Even if your players have played the other system and that adventure, they'll not know about your tweaks....and you can always change/twist a crucial point that would be detrimental if a player used insider knowledge!

While on the subject of tweaks......published adventures generally aren't made to fit into the time constraints of a convention game time block, which can be two to four hours in length. You'll want to tweak the adventure to account for the length of time you need to fill. I suggest cutting out sections that could be bypassed and hold back some encounters that could be added to pad your time if the players are moving faster than anticipated. Remember that only the GM has access to the adventure and maps, so use that to your advantage.

It sounds like at this point everything should be good, but once you have the adventure planned out, start to think about anything else you'll need for your game. Pre-gens, player aids, etc. Maps? Do you want to use a mat or print out maps before hand? I've done both and some of the best luck I've had was the laborious printing of the maps, mounting them to cheap dollar-store foam core, and then cutting them out. No real drawing or artistry needed on my part and I don't spend so much time describing each room. Really a to-each-their-own kind of thing.

You might want to prep the game by running it for your home group with the same constraints as you'll have at the con, but be aware you're players will most likely run through faster than a group of strangers would.

If you've managed all these things you should be able to pull off a successful convention game. Should, being the operative word here. Even with all the prep in the world, you cannot always account for one of the biggest  potential pitfalls of all: the GM is at a convention!

Seriously though, dude you're at a convention! You don't need to run a game in every fricken time slot, or even in every other slot. Sure you might get some serious perks for running a lot of games, but even one game a day can be taxing if you're playing in other games or wanting to go to room parties, the dealer's hall, etc. The idea of paying to attend a con (driving/flying/rooms/meals.....even if the entry is free for GMing) and then doing nothing but run games is ludicrous. Don't be that guy. You won't have fun, and your games will inevitably suffer.

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