Convention Talk.

I’ve never understood why literally every state around Iowa has gaming conventions up the proverbial wazoo. Iowa? Specifically Central Iowa? We have maybe two full-on conventions per year around here as far as I am aware. A lot of the larger towns on the Iowa border have conventions.

We’re back to in-person events. Yay!

The Icky Cough-Coughs have been downgraded to an Endemic now. That’s something to be excited about. The TableTop RolePlaying Game and MIniatures Wargaming communities are getting back to in-person events.

I want to applaud GenCon and other conventions who have required proof of vaccination and masks. I realize the idea may be unpopular with some folx, especially in the spiritual circles I sometimes resonate with. I’m immune compromised with Diabetes, Chronic Pain, and other health malfunctions. I appreciate it a lot when organizations and people put time and effort into keeping the community safe.

That having been said, I’m cool if conventions don’t require those things. It’s up to the convention organizers as to whether or not they want to require vaccinations and masks. It’s also up to the public whether or not they want to attend those events. Caveat Emptor, I guess.

Gaming conventions can be a lot of fun.

I’ve been all the way around the convention block. I’ve been a visitor, an attendee, a game master, a runner, a speaker, an organizer, and a vendor. I was once invited as a Guest of Honor, but had to bow out due to some personal issues. Conventions are amazeballs.

I’ve only seen a few rare cases where things didn’t go so well. One was an incident involving someone using bigoted language. He was asked to leave the premises and never return to the convention.

Another problem occurred when my co-host showed up over half an hour late and possibly drunk to a panel we were running. I was getting heckled pretty bad before that. I now understand what stand up comedians go through.

One other mistake I made many years ago was accepting a couple of Jello shots from this nice girl in elf ears on the elevator. I’m missing some time from that convention. I was told afterward that the two games I ran while completely drunk were hilarious. This is why I don’t drink alcohol. LOL!

I live in the barren convention wasteland that is Iowa.

I’ve never understood why literally every state around Iowa has gaming conventions up the proverbial wazoo. Iowa? Specifically Central Iowa? We have maybe two full-on conventions per year around here as far as I am aware. A lot of the larger towns on the Iowa border have conventions.

The downer is, if I want to go to a con, I usually have to drive three or four hours in any given direction. It’s so damned quiet around here, I’ve been tempted to find a group and help organize one myself just to get something going again. It’s a lot of work, though.

I don’t think a lot of people fully understand what goes into planning a convention.

If you step back for a moment and think about how hard it is to get a regular five or six person gaming group organized on a monthly or weekly basis, then a convention is like planning for dozens of those sessions. It usually takes six months to a year to really plan a successful convention. It takes time to get the word out, especially for a newer convention.

Let’s take a walk through some of the basics of convention organization. One needs to:

  • Have people on board to take attendance money.
  • Collect money enough to pay the venue (usually up front.)
  • Find a venue.
  • Advertise online, at every game store within 200 miles, maybe elsewhere.
  • Run events.
  • Play in events.
  • Contact various game companies for support. Some companies even send representatives to conventions to run demonstrations and vendor booths.
  • Possibly run a Magic or other TCG tournament.
  • Find vendors and invite them.
  • Possibly find speakers to conduct panels/seminars.
  • Possibly plan/set up an anime room.
  • Setting up a mailing list and/or social media for convention announcements.
  • Organize live events such as LARP or costume contests.
  • Invite Guests of Honor, get them a place to stay, transportation, etc.
  • Find money for GoH privileges. (Hotel, food, transportation, etc.)
  • Fund and print souvenirs, advertising (flyers for FLGS) and badges.
  • Wrangle adventures, tournament rules, judges for pre-advertised events.
  • Possibly organize online events.
  • Set up cameras for Actual Play events.
  • Organize and collect items for auctions, raffles, etc.
Then the day of the event arrives.

Staff will be need all throughout the convention in order to:

  • Take tickets and hand out badges.
  • Handle all of the IT and login issues for online events.
  • Make sure all of the vendors find their assigned slots and can set up.
  • Make sure all of the assigned tables have the proper groups sitting at them.
  • Make sure all unassigned tables are made available for pick-up games.
  • Make sure judges/game masters are at their assigned events on time.
  • (Possibly) work the booth in the vendor area.
  • Coordinate the staff on site. (It’s controlled chaos, trust me.)
  • Make sure cameras are rolling properly for online events.
  • Make sure food deliveries get picked up.
  • Make sure the Guest(s) of Honor are taken care-of.
  • Make sure Opening-Closing Ceremonies/panels/stage events go as scheduled.
  • Clean up areas between sessions. (*I know. It sucks.)
  • Provide a point of contact if the venue has concerns.
  • Man the con suite if there is one. (Keep the veggie trays coming.)
  • Set up the raffles, auctions, etc.
  • Supervise LARP, Assassin, other live games as not to interfere with the venue.
  • Run wargame, Magic, and boardgame tournaments if advertised.
  • Run errands for convention staff and cover breaks in various areas.
  • Make sure all of the money collected by the convention is accounted for.
  • Make sure the venue is paid for any additional rooms/services not already paid.
  • Make sure everything gets cleaned up and put away at the end.
  • Make sure charities get paid/donations are given when/where promised.
  • Get the ball rolling for the next convention.

I may have left a few things out unintentionally, but that’s a good overview.

Did I mention that all of the organizing, planning, and execution of local conventions is usually done by volunteer staff? They might be working to pay their way into the convention or just for kicks, but most local cons don’t pay their staff. Most of the ones I’ve been to (except GenCon) were lucky if they broke even financially. There was no way to pay staff for their time.

There are always a few hiccups in every convention. It helps to have one or two experienced hands on standby to handle conflicts that arise and make sure everyone is where they are assigned. Sometimes staff finds themselves plunging clogged toilets or handing out bottled water. You never know.

The next convention article will cover why in-person events are more important now than ever. They’re never easy to pull off, but some cons have been around for decades and do it pretty well. Some conventions do things differently and charge fees at the table on top of admission, too. Some conventions let game masters in for free as compensation for running games. (*That’s my jam.)

Thanks for stopping by. More to come on this subject. The more I discuss it, the more I miss it. Have a good one.

Staying Home for the Big Convention?

I know Gen Con is coming up starting Thursday. Anyone involved in #ttrpg social media probably knows it’s coming. It’s one of the biggest if not THE biggest gaming convention of the year. It’s like a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca for roleplayers, cosplayers, wargamers, and sci-fi/fantasy fans.

Things to do when everyone else is out of town.

I know Gen Con is coming up starting Thursday. Anyone involved in #ttrpg social media probably knows it’s coming. It’s one of the biggest if not THE biggest gaming convention of the year. It’s like a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca for roleplayers, cosplayers, wargamers, and sci-fi/fantasy fans.

Some of us, and guessing by the number of folx with family commitments, jobs, lack of jobs, and concerns about a certain plague; maybe some of us are staying home this year. (Gen Con is requiring Proof of Vaccination AND Masks.) Gen Con is four days of fun and frivolity all around. Most conventions for that matter. (*Gen Con is going on my vision board after this. I miss conventions.)

What gamer doesn’t want to go?

I know some of us don’t get to go.
Tis sorta sucky, but that’s reality for ya. However, there are a lot of awesome alternatives. First, you can watch a lot of events, panels, and speakers via Twitch or Gen Con Online. (That’s a lot of what I go to conventions for, anyway. Unless I’m running games nonstop.) Second, if you’re not planning to watch or participate online, there are several things you can possibly do at home that are still gaming related. Last, but not everything, there are plenty of non-gaming activities most of us can do at home.

For those staying home that still want to game.

I expect that might be more of us going than in some years prior, but who knows? This list is by no means all-inclusive, but here are some suggestions for gaming at home:

  • Find other gamers staying home and run a game. Good time to learn to be a GM or try being a player if someone else is willing.
  • Try out a card game like Magic: the Gathering.
  • Find other players online or reconnect with other gamers you might have hung out with online during COVID lockdowns.
  • Try out Solo Roleplaying. Lots of articles out there on this topic.
  • Organize your books, dice, and/or PDFs.
  • Work on character portraits if you draw.
  • Catch up on Actual Play podcasts.
  • Binge on Critical Role.
  • Try out a MMORPG or RPG related video game.
  • Find some friends and have a board game night.
  • Hang out at your local FLGS and keep others gamers or staff company. (Without being a pest, of course.)
  • Watch non-Gen Con Twitch streamers.
  • Go to other gaming events in your area. (Yes, they do exist.)
  • Teach your spouse, children, and/or pets how to play RPGs if they don’t already.
  • Write down that adventure you’ve always wanted to run.
  • Write down that campaign you’ve always wanted to run.
  • Finally organize your DM notes for your home campaign. (*I’m not the only one, right?)
  • GMs/DMs- go over your players’ backstories to see if there’s anything you can add to your campaign.
  • Players- reorganize your character sheet onto a new, cleaner copy and organize your character notes, binder, etc.
  • Generate mounds of new characters for the RPG of your choice.
  • Read up on a new RPG or an old one that you want to try.
  • Catch up on back issues of zines.
  • Catch up or start reading RPG related Blogs.
  • Lots of YouTube channels that offer everything from GM advice to Actual Play.
  • Build terrain for wargaming or miniatures combat.
  • Work on painting all of those minis that need finished.
  • Ignore old painting projects and start a new one. (Some of y’all know.)
  • Try out a facet of the hobby you haven’t tried. (RPGs if you’re a wargamer, board games if you’re a role player, etc.)
  • LitRPGs.
  • Sit in the corner and roll dice while talking to yourself and laughing maniacally for four straight days. (Mostly kidding. I mean, who’d do that? besides me…)

I’m sure there are dozens of things I probably forgot. It’s just a few suggestions. I recommend avoiding social media if it stings that you’re not going. Personally, I’m pretty indifferent, but I expect my social media to be blown up with convention news to the point where I’ll want to avoid it.

Last, here are some more mundane things you can do/catch up on while everyone’s out of town for the big convention:

  • TV? Remember TV? Maybe there’s stuff on to watch?
  • Binge on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or whatever streaming thing you prefer.
  • Sports. Either participate or watch them. Not for everyone, but it’s possible.
  • Clean your house, apartment, or other dwelling.
  • Spend time looking at art or go to a museum.
  • Volunteer for overtime at work. Yay money, I guess…
  • Invite non-gamer friends over and throw a party. Try not to get arrested.
  • Eat regularly, sleep, meditate, and do all that stuff you miss when you’re normally gaming.
  • Talk to friends and relatives you haven’t connected with in a while.
  • Go online and learn a new skill or brush up on an old one.
  • Read a book.
  • Spend time with non-gaming friends/significant others.
  • Go to a movie in a theater.
  • Go to a stage play.
  • Go camping for the weekend. No books, no technology. Just nature.
  • Paintball, Airsoft, Laser Tag, or some other shooting sport.
  • Practice archery, ax throwing, or target shooting.
  • Catch up on old YouTube podcasts and movies you may have missed.
  • Take pets for a long walk.
  • Get a house plant and nurture it.
  • Take up a new non-gaming hobby.
  • Put a fresh coat of paint on the garage, shed, or dog house.
  • Catch up on home repairs.
  • Sit on a park bench or at a bus stop and watch people go by.
  • Surf the internet.
  • Play new video games or maybe break out the old ones.
  • Take a mental health break, maybe even a spa or lazy weekend.
  • Attend a local farmer’s market.
  • Join your local CE-5 or MUFON group.
  • Pace back and forth in the yard mumbling incoherently to yourself. (I do this regardless. LOL!)

Again, this wasn’t close to being an all inclusive list. I don’t believe in being bored. There’s always something to do. Just please be safe and maybe follow the law as best as possible.

Please remember you’re never completely alone. We’re all in this together. Gen Con is cool and all, but it’s not the only thing going on.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you being here. Please be safe regardless where you end up this week/this weekend. Have fun. See you tomorrow.

Competition Dungeon Crawls?

I’ll be the first person to tell you I’m not a competitive person by nature. There’s plenty to go around in the world as far as I’m concerned. I love me. I have nothing to prove gaming or anywhere in life, really.

Is that still a thing?

Geez! It’s still a thing!

I was poking around recently under Dungeon Crawl Classics and I noticed something peculiar. I know I’m an Old Grognard and a hermit by nature, so maybe it’s just my living under a rock, but… Are people still doing competition dungeon crawls?

I’m just kinda scratching my head on this one. Maybe it’s just enough before my time that we never got into it? Or maybe because I grew up in backwater middle-of-nowhere IA where we just didn’t have the “big” conventions or fancy gaming stores. I dunno.

Brief history lesson incoming.

It’s the Internet. I’m sure there’s more to this story. Lol!

Back in the day, as I understand it, when Gygax and Arneson were first starting out, RPGs grew out of miniatures wargaming. For those who may not be familiar, miniatures wargames are known for tournament competition. Well, somewhere in those early days, someone decided that hacking, slashing, spell-throwing and in-game thievery needed to be a tournament, too.

It’s important to remember that competitive roleplaying is not the same as pvp. It’s more of our party at our table vs some other party at another table running the same dungeon. It’s kind of mind boggling if you think about it. Almost like an alternate reality. Sorry, my urge to insert plots and story gets the best of me.

I remember the glory days of the RPGA. A lot of the things we still do in RPGs today are based around some of their tournament concepts. We still run in 4 hour blocks, especially at conventions. DMs are handed premade modules. A certain degree of table etiquette and decorum is still expected at conventions. Heck, even some of the modules being reprinted now were spawned back in those old RPGA Tournament days.

Surprisingly, some of the earliest and most popular modules that still stand the test of time were tournament modules at Gen Con. In fact, entire series of BECMI modules were based on/used at tournaments. Needless to say D&D has mutated considerably since then. I’m sure someone somewhere is probably still trying to D&D competitively even though the rules and the atmosphere of the game have changed completely.

My heart literally goes out to anyone brave enough to act as a “judge” for one of these tournaments.

It honestly still kinda blows my mind. Wargaming judges have it easy when it comes to being impartial. A rule is a rule. Rulers and tape measures don’t lie. Things are either painted or they’re not… It’s straightforward.

But a dungeon crawl? Oof. I honestly don’t think you could pay me enough to referee what could go very sour at any given moment. People go bonkers over the smallest detail on a regular day running a regular adventure. If you put the time and score elements on that? Eeek! No thank you.

Surprise of surprises. It’s still a thing.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

I checked Goodman Games’ website and sure enough, people are still doing tournaments. I am stunned. I would have thought such a thing would have died out ages ago. DCC is better structured for such a thing, I guess.

There’s a neat game called X Crawl that I played years ago. We were actually in a tournament, but it was very beer-n-pretzels, tongue-in-cheek style gaming. My group had a blast with it. We got beat out by a couple of other tables because we ran a little short of finishing the module. Probably because we were all rolling on the floor laughing for half of it. I promise most of us were even sober.

X Crawl is basically competition dungeon bashing. The conditions are more controlled to keep the different parties on an even keel. The loot, traps, monsters, room positions, and riddles are the same at every table. Time, party cohesion, combat survival, loot collected, rooms discovered, etc all play into your party’s score at the end. It gets kind of intense.

It was fun to try out, but I don’t think I could run one.

I’ll be the first person to tell you I’m not a competitive person by nature. There’s plenty to go around in the world as far as I’m concerned. I love me. I have nothing to prove gaming or anywhere in life, really.

As I like to say, if it’s your jam, that’s great. Please, go out and do it. Have fun.

All I’m saying is, it’s never been a “sport” I care to participate in. I’m interested in challenging myself to write such a module to see how it goes. It’s interesting as a writing challenge. I’ll probably circle back around to that sometime. Could be fun. The biggest hurdle I see is keeping it objective.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you!

(*I made it through an Old Grognard article without poking fun at Critical Role or Matt Mercer. I’m behaving, honest.)

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