Well, here we are once again! I’ve just gotten home from my fourth Gen Con (and still the only con I’ve attended) and still coming off my “Wow, that went by fast!” buzz. The highlight for me this year was going up on stage with my fellow Gnomes to accept our Silver ENnie, while the low point was probably my revealing just how much of a bumbling idiot I can be on a frazzled Gen Con Saturday morning.
I decided to help out Cubicle 7 this year again by running some Victoriana events, this time being “the Hill Station Murder” (which draws heavily on the upcoming Jewel of the Empire supplement). I only got a chance to play in one game this year, but it was Call of Cthulhu (yay!) and completely unexpected. I’d gotten lost while wondering around in the outside heat looking for my event and not only wandered into the wrong room, but also the wrong hotel (turns out I’d read the wrong ticket). Thankfully, there was space at a table and I got to play.
Anyway, here are some of my notes and observations from this year.
1. Color-code your tickets. I’m not the only one who mixed up a ticket or brought the wrong one to an event. If you mark them with a color for each day, you’ll be less likely to mix them up.
2. If you’re using generics, 8am games are the way to go. I know it’s sacrilege to suggest getting up so early after gaming and partying all night, but guess what, a lot of gamers that paid for 8am tickets also prefer to sleep in. Of my four events, three were scheduled at 8 am. While they were all sold out, every one of my events had room for one or two generics (both “twos” were 8am games).
3. Players appreciate “quick and dirty” rules at conventions. I’ve probably said this before but it’s worth repeating. Stick with the core mechanic and just make on the spot adjudications for other stuff. Let the NPCs fall after a good lick or two. I’d much rather have quick combats that give the PCs a chance to shine and move on rather than bog down in a “nickel and dime” slogfest.
4. Rate your pregenerated PCs by necessity. Five minutes into the session is not the time to determine which 3 of your PCs should be handed out when there are only 3 players at the table (this actually did happen to me, but 2 more players thankfully wandered in soon thereafter). Also, figure out in advance what you need to change in your adventure if a PC is missing.
5. Always build backdoors if a scene relies on a dice roll or player response. In my playtest of the event, the crucial PC not only failed to spot a clue, but also kept his mouth shut and allowed two PCs to be killed in an easily avoidable situation. Not a good start to a four-hour session.
6. Playtesting is key. While this can be problematic in home games, you should at least try to get in the mindset of the players or have someone read over your adventure to find the flaws.
7. Don’t worry about gender-bending. My adventure used pre-gens that included four male and two females. It was much easier to leave the PCs as they were rather than change their genders to fit. I had a lot of female gamers at my events this year and those that played male PCs did a great job, as did a male gamer that played a female PC in my first event. I think it helped when I pointed out at the beginning of each session that, as a GM, I gender-bend for NPCs all the time.
That’s it for me; how about you? If you were at Gen Con (or any con or organized play) what did you learn from being on either side of the screen?