Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Advice from a Grey Beard on Attending a Convention

Attending a Convention 
                                  Running Games at a Convention  
                                                                         Volunteering at a convention

Over the years I have been to numerous conventions and gatherings... I have always managed to make the most from being at Conventions...

I am going to break this up into a few different parts because the experience of Attending a Convention is vastly different than running games or organizing conventions

The Following rules apply to every situation

  1. SHOWER EVERYDAY of the CON, more than once if needed
  3. Carry Spare T-Shirt, Deodorant and a travel Towel... Do a quick wipe and dry as needed and change the shirt
  4. Do not use any cologne, chances are you do not know how to apply it and someone next to you will get  NAUSEOUS 
  5. HAND SANITIZER - become very familiar with this, do not trust that others will be diligent 
  6. AVOID ANY KIND OF BODY SPRAY, including Body Washes and Soaps with Scent

      7.   IF YOU ARE SICK, STAY HOME... 
             Even a mild cold or illness can become severe with many people
               If you think you may be getting sick, wear a Surgical mask...

               THINK of the people around you,
               we all put out money to attend, and sometimes things just do not work out

Attending a Convention 

Attending is probably the most stress free way to go. All you have to do is:

Buy Tickets:  Check
Clear the date:  Check
Show Up: Check

Now if it is a gaming (RPG, Tabletop or Console) convention, you will need to register for games before you go, and you have to know your logistics as to where the games are so that you can try to avoid running from one end of the con to another to make your games

1.     Try to avoid back to back games that are not within 5 minutes of each other
2.     Try to avoid carrying too many things with you
3.     As player, I try to have: 
a.      Dice 
b.     A Rule book if needed
c.      Spare Character sheets or premade ones 

4.     Some General items to have should be       
a.      Tissues or napkins    
b.     Gum, cough drops, or candy
c.      Hand Sanitize
d.     Drink

Traveling to and From a Convention, (staying on Site)
This takes a little planning.. but I have found the following to be invaluable

A: Bring a case of water with you per person
B: Twice as many shirts as you think you will need
C: Protein bars, carry with you, this will fill you and keep you going
D: Learn what the stores are in the area you are going to be at
         Bakery, Liquor Store, Walmart, Target... Just in case
E: plan on what you bring home (I always bring a case for Posters)

Merchant Room - 

When you attend, it is best to have an idea of what you are spending and stay within a budget.
I try to think of what I might spend money on and then bring extra.
What I do look for at a con is something a bit different, so I look at the vendors and if I do not have it in my budget, I get their card and find out where I can see them next or order from them.

Be prepared for an unexpected purchase when you go. For Example, I had planned on playing in one game, talked my way into another game, enjoyed that game so much that I bought the rule book immediately after the game... shown below

Also bring items for Signatures if their are VIP at the con, Most RPG VIPs will sign anything for FREE, others such as at Comic cons, charge fees for Signatures and Pictures.

Signed By Margaret Weis, who produced the game system and played in the game I was in. 

Comic Cons are a world by themselves, Utterly overpriced, over attended and very crowded.

For some of the bigger Comic Cons, you must get tickets in advance because the sell out (Hence the price gauging)  I attend very few of these simply because once you pay the $100 person, then you have to buy Autographs and Autograph packages.  Many of them have become just MONEY GRABS, sign and move on, no chat, no pics unless you have a Pic ticket...

If you can find a smaller one, with a one day ticket available for under $50, then go if you can...

You can find value at Comic Shows and Cons and sometimes, your favorite actor is just a few miles away

Running Games at a Convention

Running game adds a whole new level to the con experience:  People are signing up to play in your games and want a really cool experience.  Plus you are giving back to the CON...

I started running games at cons because I only trust a few people to run games for me as a player.
it was my way to attend and have fun. Almost all CONS will waive the registration fee for the con. and when I first started attending, CONS sold games for 3 dollars and bought back the ticket from the Dungeon Master for 1 dollar.. I ran Lots of games at those CONS and spent a majority of my dollars in the dealer room.. mostly on dice and figures

Typical times for playing are: 
  • 2 Hours (Mini Slot)
  • 4 Hours (the typical amount of time)
  • 8 Hours (Double Slot)
I prefer 4 hour slots because I can run more games, typically, I do 2-4 games a day - 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM and 8 PM... sometimes a 12 AM.. .

Your Responsibilities as a DM / GM / Storyteller / Animator / Ombudsman
  • Be on time
  • Be organized
  • Bring Extra Pencils
  • Bring Extra Dice
  • Bring Additional Characters
  • Bring Character Sheets
  • Bring note pads
I try to plan as if someone is walking by and at the last moment decides to play. I do not lend dice easily but I keep 3 sets with me that are expendable and losing them is no issue (You will lose dice and gain dice at conventions if you run games, it just happens)

In Addition, I always try to do the following:
  • Have water and Ice Tea available at the table
  • Napkins, always needed
  • Gum or mints or packets of skittles
I find that if the players are on your side from the beginning, they will accept anything you throw at them or do to them. If I am running a Role Playing intense game, then I usually reserve killing for a bone headed move... 

I have no qualms about killing players, I prefer providing a tough challenge where they may be killed...

During the Game
  • Know the Material !!!
  • Be Organized
  • Be Energized
  • Dig deep, be unique
  • Don't be afraid to try it
  • Don't Dream It, BE IT !!!!!
The more you bring the game to life, the better your players will respond. I use lots of different vocals and hand gestures... many people can attest to my horrible Jamaican accent and my equally well done other accents... 

I have all my notes ready to go and it is a simple tear of a centimeter to hand it over...

Game flow is important, anything that stops the action or pauses for too long is not helping the players to enjoy the game

My goal has always been to have the most talked about game at the convention, if they are talking about it and people are standing around watching the show.. then I have done it.

Volunteering at a convention

This is another way to enjoy the show without having to pay... I am horrible at this option.. Somehow most cons do not like the large glass of Jack and Coke I like to have while volunteering.. (hey, it's my playtime also) 

My favorite was working the Registration table Friday afternoon, first day of the con, we arrived early and unpacked the booze.. made a large stiff drink and went to the table, we checked people in and sold game tickets... 80% of the crowd knew me and I entertained them as we went about everything... 

Nowadays, you just cannot do things like that... but I implore you to use this option to save a few bucks for the Dealer room

These are Cons I run games at, or attend with the exception of GenCon.. I only included that by default of my own doing

A lot of Cons register themselves using this tool making it easier to find all the information you need

Con that I will be running games at, it raises money for a good cause and this should be a great event

Con for Old school gaming and new games, inspired to Celebrate the life well played - Gary E. Gygay, Co-Creator of Dungeons and Dragons

This is the link to Dexcon in Morristown, NJ, I attended in 2016 and will attend again in 2018
It is a fun con that tries to do alot of things.. Most likely I will be running the Cortex Prime System

Occurs Every August, massive RPG Gaming convention, the largest in the world, 2018 will be the 51st year