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Gen Con Wrap-Up I – RPGs

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On August 21, 2009 @ 2:08 am In Gaming Conventions | 5 Comments

Normally I don’t actually game much at Gen Con, aside from a rare pick-up game or an after hours card/board game with friends. I prefer to cruise the near-endless Exhibit Hall and attend seminars, but this year I decided to check in on the gaming.

Games Played

Out of the four RPGs I played in this year, two were excellent, one was just okay, and one was not-so-good. Particulars will be withheld to protect all involved, but the two excellent games had great players and solid GMs, the okay game was short some players but had a solid GM, and the not-so-good game had okay players but a weak GM. This confirms my thesis that the most important factor in a game is the quality of the GM. Despite all of this, I still managed to enjoy myself in all of the games.

Regardless, SOP for convention games should include the following:

  • Table tents with room for player and character names on one side, and pertinent stats on the other. These are a great example. (Link is a PDF.)
  • Extra dice/pencils/paper: I had to hustle to a game, thanks to Microsoft’s “Oh, you must have made that appointment in another time zone” feature, and didn’t have anything with me. I had to carve a wooden pencil to sharpen it, share dice, and write on the back of a to-go menu. Necessity is a mother.
  • Characters should be designed to work well together, or at least get along. Do not use antisocial disadvantages unless the game thrives on them.
  • More on Characters: Forcing a leadership role on a player at a convention can go horribly wrong. If the other players/characters have some way of influencing the leader, and if the leader’s player is decent, it should work out fine. If either factor is missing, then it could easily be a train wreck.
  • Experience Required: None means none, you bastard! Don’t expect me to know the rules if you haven’t explained them, and if your game is advertised as “Experience Required: None (Never Played Before)”. There are categories for None, Some, Comfortable, Extensive and Expert. Use them.

Lessons Learned

What I learned from the four convention games I played at Gen Con:

  • Don’t look to convention games for detailed rules nuance. Convention games should be one-shots for novices, full of action centered on the PCs, fast-and-loose rule interpretations, and a simple plot that can be resolved in about three hours.
  • Narrative control (as in Serenity’s Plot Points) is a great way to make the game more fun. I plan to allow narrative benefits in my next Savage Worlds game with the expense of one or more Bennies.
  • You can have fun in a bad game, as long as you can let go of the things that the rules or GM are keeping from you.

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "Gen Con Wrap-Up I – RPGs"

#1 Comment By Knight of Roses On August 21, 2009 @ 9:17 am

I was thinking of doing just this kind of article but you beat me to it.

I was thinking a sign that clearly said what game was at this table would be an excellent idea too.

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 21, 2009 @ 9:30 am

Thanks. I should add to the first of the “Lessons Learned” that detailed rules nuance can indeed be found in the more advanced games, but the vast majority of games on the list are for Experience: None or Some.

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On August 21, 2009 @ 10:41 am

I should have had this on yesterday’s list, but it works here too:

Show up on time. This didn’t happen to me, but a GM wandered in an hour late for the table next to me and seemed stunned that all the players had left.

I had a similar experience last year, when a GM walked in 20 minutes late, saw that there were only three of us, and cancelled the game.

Also, I’m not sure what the official policy is, but allowing a 10-15 minute grace period at the start of each event would cut down on “early flight” and anxiety from previous events.

#4 Comment By Noumenon On August 21, 2009 @ 11:04 am

So that’s why he let people cast Fireball on creatures with spell resistance instead of letting me look it up. It was listed as a “Some” game, and that meant he didn’t care. I feel much better about that now. Not my kind of game — I don’t want my final dragon to be killed by someone throwing down Daern’s Instant Fortress after Dimension Dooring with no Reflex save — but I can relax now.

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 21, 2009 @ 11:46 am

@Noumenon – LOL. Sounds like someone should have gone to our seminar on “Creating Common Ground”, so he could understand the need to establish common expectations before the dice hit the table.

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