Well, it’s about that time of year for many of us. Con season! Yup, it’s about that time of year again for me. As Storm-Con closes in I begin to gather all the things that I need or think I will need for the games I plan to run at the convention. So I thought it might be a good blog to share some tips for prepping for running games at a convention with you. I count myself lucky and slightly crazy that I wear two hats. Not only am I a convention goer and GM. But I Run the RPG side of a convention myself. So I might be able to help shed a bit of light on some inside tips.
Pack your con bag early and by early I am implying more than the night before. Put everything in your bag and make sure it all fits. Then leave it and walk away. Come back the night before and double-check to make sure you did not miss anything. Usually, I have, I often will be so intent on making sure I have all the maps, NPC, minis, pregens, and handouts that often something silly like pencils or DICE slip by and forget to be packed. So I pack my con game bag three or four-day before I head to a convention and check it once more the night before I head out.
If you get to the point where you are running games at more than one convention regularly. You might start keeping some things packed all the time. I have a con-box now and a folder next to my con box of Pregns and adventures I commonly run at cons. Just in case I need something on short notice. My con box has some spare pencils and dice as well as a dry erase mat that I can use as a battle mat.
Bring pre-generated characters with you to the games you are going to run. Everyone loves to try new systems at conventions. But short of Traveler where you can actually DIE in character creation. Most systems have a very boring way of handling rolling up players characters. This is also not the most effective use of the rest of your players time at the table. No one wants to sit around for 20 min while a stranger rolls up a PC. Con time is for game time and like it or not every game is on a clock. Nothing would be more frustrating to a player than to play three and a half hours of an awesome story just to have the story cut short because the group ran out of time due to PC generation earlier in the game.
Just like pre-generated characters it never hurts to be a nice guy and have a few pencils and some spare dice that you don’t love on hand for the gamer that will likely sit at your table and have nothing, not even dice. It will happen, trust me shocking as it may seem it never fails at least once a year a player sits down at my table with no dice.
Now Pencils and dice are not required or expected for you to provide at conventions. It’s just nice of you to have some of these extra things on hand. As well as it makes everyone’s experience smoother and more pleasant.
Use your time wisely. Before game during the game and after. If you already have packed your con bag this is your first step in good time management. Prep the adventure you plan to run. Read it go over it and know the story so that you can spend less of your time referencing your adventure and more of your time running your adventure. If you have the chance before the convention RUN your adventure for others. You may find out in the running of your adventure, some parts tend to run long or get looked over and shorten the game. These are all things you can do ahead of time that will make your running the game at the convention more rewarding for you and your players.
Arrive at your table early. Take this time to set up your area. This also gives you the chance to get acquainted with your players as they make their way to your table. It will make everyone’s experience better overall and during this time you can reference your adventure once last time before the game starts. Use this time to also learn if any of your players need any supplies. Maybe someone will want an extra sheet of paper to write in some notes and now is a good time to make sure your players have their dice and such as well.
Have a backup plan if part of your story is running long or short so that you can get the most out of your game! If your game runs long then you will have unhappy and annoyed gamer’s no one wants to cut game before the end. But short games can be just as bad. If your players wrap up your story a full hour before the scheduled end of the session. You run the risk of unsatisfied players. But this advice also has to be taken with a grain of salt. DO not fudge too much to keep a game going. If your players are at a high point and the enjoyment level is High and a game ends on that High. No one will be to upset about an early stop. Timing is everything on a con game even more so than your regular game nights.
This next part is more of a good suggestion con crud is a thing prepare for it. Take some multivitamins before the con and during the con if you do not already do so. Up your immune system and do yourself the favor. No one wants to have a great time a con and then come home and be sick for the next week. Stay hydrated and keep some snacks on hand.
The last and most important tip for a convention GM is having fun!