I recently volunteered to run a couple of sessions for the new con in town this upcoming weekend on Saturday and Sunday. I already know the organizers from their previous efforts, where they coordinated game days at local library. In many ways this is just a bigger version of their library game days- though much more ambitious, including an attendance fee, five time slots with six games apiece [running from 8 am to 10 pm on Saturday, and 8 to 5 on Sunday] and a larger dedicated venue at a local college campus instead of using the library’s free facilities.
I have a couple of local groups and almost as much gaming as one man (or two thirds of a gnome) can handle. When the call for GMs went out, I was initially reluctant to sign up, (I have plenty of gaming) but quickly decided to pitch in. There are many reasons, though the largest orbit the idea of community.
Six years ago my gaming was settling back to an even keel after a dry spell of a couple of months. A new player came to town and contacted me from an old “seeking games/players” post I’d put up on a roleplaying finder site months back. I met Phoenix and enjoyed his company, but he didn’t fit when I introduced him to my group. A few months later he headed out of town, lured by a tenure track teaching job… and later that month I found a local gaming community website, where his willingness to GM would have netted him a group in no time. Over the years I have met a lot of people like Phoenix– people away from their home groups and looking for games in a new place.
A year prior to meeting Phoenix, I joined a game store D&D campaign during a lull in my other gaming. It was nice to show up and find some instant common ground, pick up swords (and spell books) and defend Nesme together. It wasn’t as rewarding as a home game with custom crafted plots– but it was good fun and easy to slip into.
Cons can fill a similar gap between home games-or even provide an opportunity to meet people, enjoy a common game together, and provide the kernel of a new gaming group. I met a group of great people at a local store’s game day– we enjoyed each other’s company around the table so much that we formed a new group to save driving to the game store all the time.
Life gets hectic; as players mature and their friends move away, it is often difficult to find enough players and time for a regular game. While there are alternatives like Walt’s short sessions , a con fits schedules that can’t squeeze in even monthly games. Cons are a great way to visit the land of gaming even after you leave– and you never know when you will find yourself lured back and blocking out Thursday evenings for a little hack-and-slash.
The organizer set up the con as a mix of scheduled events and open gaming. For this event, the scheduled games are all RPGA or Pathfinder Society– basically, organized D&D play. As an extension of the already popular library game days it makes sense, though I have to admit that I selfishly wish there was a better balance– something more like Endgame’s Minicon  schedule. If I feel ambitious, I might try to run an open game of Penny for my Thoughts during the Sunday morning slot…
Community also means spreading the word. I want the con to be successful and popular, so there’s a clamor for it to return. If there’s enough of a clamor and enough volunteers, I could even enjoy the con as mostly a player next time– which is a pretty motivating incentive!
I have read through the scenarios for the two sessions I’ll be running. I plan on reading through them again, with a careful eye to the stat blocks, maps, and tactics, so I won’t have to flip back and forth wildly during the session. I plan on taking a lot of Walt’s con prep advice , though I won’t have a chance to run the scenario before the con. (That’s because at least one of my normal players intends to play in my Saturday night game– and because I was given the scenarios only a little more than a week ahead of run time.)
The scenarios use pre-printed tiles, but I’ve spoken with the organizer and those won’t be available. So I’ll draw out the map and see how complex it is to do; if it takes more than a minute or two, I’ll pre-draw the maps or bring printouts of the map sheets if they’re available. [I might use Newbie DM’s approach , which looks great.] Similarly, I will look through the critter lists and either bring the appropriate monster minis or tokens for the beasties they’ll be facing.
Another part of the prep is getting a handle on the sequence of events and identifying the transitions between scenes. In both scenarios, I was pleasantly surprised to find that talking only and skill challenge scenes are included. Part of my review is to make ensure that the players are properly motivated when the scene rolls around– it doesn’t make sense to have a PC instigated skill challenge if the players don’t see a reason to engage in the challenge. I’ll see what I can do to telegraph the assumptions ahead of time and patch any obvious plot holes that develop.
Then I turn to you…
That’s my prep plan for the upcoming con, and why I want to contribute to my local community. How do you give back to your local gaming community? Do you enjoy being part of a larger community? Is there anything obvious I am missing in my game prep? Please share your thoughts in comments. Thanks!