Sunday, December 6, 2020

One Not-So-Quick Thought on Increasing the Value for a Convention-Working GM


One Not-So-Quick Thought on Increasing the Value for a Convention-Working GM
I'm only a couple thousand miles away from home right now, pretty much stuck in my hotel room due to quarantine restrictions, but I did have a chance to get out and enjoy some outside time yesterday.....which I did a hard pass on. Some of that was because the high temperature was a negative something Fahrenheit, but also because if I wasn't careful I might miss out on my bi-weekly online OSR game.

Missing out on a chance to freeze my balls off to make sure I don't miss a game.....pretty much a no-brainer....but don't worry as I'll be venturing out into the cold today because I can.

I'm certain I've posted, either directly or indirectly, about how important a regular game is for me....and I bet for a lot of you too. My coworker/associate/brothers don't get the importance of the "gaming thing" initially, but when matched against hanging out drinking & playing cards on a TDY, or watching a football game together instead of by oneself.....I think they understand a bit more.

Having to explain things to my coworkers, some of whom probably think I'm just goofing off on the Xbox I definitely didn't bring with me, made me think about this whole fun vs. work dichotomy.....maybe not initially, but like everyone else my mind wanders in weird ways. I was thinking of my GM being stuck in his own version of quarantine and how his involvement in this social activity that is a Role Playing Game is by essentially having to work as the GM.

Now don't get me wrong.....being a GM is, or can be, a fun job, but in many ways it is a job....it is work. There is usually a decent amount of prep work outside of the group gaming table before/after/during gaming sessions. Trying to make the game interesting and an appropriate challenge can be taxing......and that's something a GM is probably doing for/with friends.

The hapless GM working at a Game Convention? That can really crank up the "work" factor and has the potential to exponentially increase the "suck" factor. Now odds are, any given game session will go well and everybody will have fun, but there is still the wild card factor....and I've been to a LOT of game conventions and have had more than my fair share of wild cards.....but those are a story for another day and not something on my current train of thought.

No, what I'm thinking about, and hoping to plant the seed for, is an idea to make make the "work" for a convention GM a little more worthwhile, but let me bury the lead a bit further. Right now I'd say the average GM pays to attend a gaming convention and runs a session or three because they want to. Some conventions, especially the larger ones like Origins or GenCon, have the resources to "pay" GMs to run games, usually through a free badge or maybe part of a hotel room. As the organized play manager for a game company I've seen these "benefit packages" and while not insignificant, a GM usually has to run at least a game session (four hours) a day to get part of a room. Part of a room and a free badge, you're probably the con's bitch. If you don't have players show up to one of your games you could be screwed. Some GMs might be sponsored by a game company. For a few years I got a free badge from Kenzer & Company. At least once I was listed as one of the D-Team's kids, but whatever. At the end of the day, pretty much no matter how you figure it out, it ends up the GM is working/paying to attend the game convention and getting to play is difficult.

The idea I have here is far from an original one.....thanks to Kenzer & Company for the exposure: game companies, in conjunction with the game convention should organize a GM only game at the convention. I'll go so far as to filter the original idea a bit more and say that the GM has to be running at least a game session (maybe more) at the convention to qualify. Give a bit of fun reward to the GMs for paying to go work for part of a convention. Now I'd suggest that the game companies provide material support and maybe even the GMs, but also go ahead and let some of these gaming guys sit in and play as well. I will say that as a GM getting to run for, play under, or sit beside some of these game designers.....really just names on gaming products before, quickly became a highlight of the convention for me. 

My experience doing this with KenzerCo at Origins was a bit broader in that you pretty much just had to have GM credentials to qualify and it was just for the HackMaster GMs, but it got big enough I think we had six or seven tables easy at the one GM Game I wrote for. Yep, that was another year of writing, running at a con that cost me a couple grand....literally paying to work at a convention FT, but even then....that GM game was a ton of fun for me and made that con a much more positive experience, probably more so than any other thing. I didn't realize I had written in a joking insult to the all the assembled GMs that got huge laughs.......the on-going theme of this annual GM game was that it had to be a joke/parody/non-serious session....my game had a Saturday Morning Cartoon theme.

Anyway.....that was fun and I think all the GMs enjoyed it, but that is more an aside and just anecdotal to what I think could be a good addition to any gaming convention. There....I consider the bug in our collective ear planted. If you happen to be connected to a game convention (Bad Mike.....) or know of anyone who is (Erik.....) please mention this. Anything we do to make it a better value proposition for the average convention GM should, theoretically, "raise the tide" for all boats (players).  

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