RPGaDay August 21

Funniest misinterpretation of a rule in your group?

The first one that comes to mind is from my Monday Knights group, back when we first started. This was in the Before Times, when we were still playing D&D 3.5e. One of the players, let’s call him Ben, had rolled up a ranger. Every time he would be asked to track something, he seemed confused as to why he was being asked to roll. The rest of us players, along with the GM, were confused as to why he seemed to be so bad at it, but we chalked it up to bad rolling. This went on for a number of levels, I want to say three or four? Finally someone (it might have been me) asked to see his character sheet. It turns out Ben had not put any skill ranks in Survival. You know, the skill tracking is dependent on? He had just assumed that rangers could just track anything, no roll required, and hadn’t seen survival as being important otherwise. The GM took pity and allowed him to backwards engineer his character, and suddenly Ben’s ranger went from tracking less like a blind-drunk halfling, and more like Strider on meth. To this day we always check Ben’s characters to make sure he’s taken the really obvious stuff.

RPGaDay August 20

Most challenging but rewarding system you have learned?

I’ve had systems which challenged me in different ways. When I was ten-years-old and just diving in to this crazy hobby, “getting” Basic D&D was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t understand hit points for the first few sessions I played, and therefore didn’t realize why my characters were dying. Don’t even get me started on THAC0! When I finally understood how the game worked, that was also when I felt ready to be a Dungeon Master.

For the first several years of my gaming life I only played D&D, and I thought all RPGs were like that. So when I looked at stuff like GURPS or Call of Cthulhu for the first time, I was blown away. That became another learning curve, and expanded my “gamer mind”.

Most recently I’ve been challenged by pure storytelling games. Having played games where the rewards come from the story for so long, it is a big shift getting used to games where the story is the reward. But I’m enjoying the perspective change, and the ideas it gives me for integrating more immediate rewards for story into my current campaigns. I’m still not fully comfortable out there in pure story territory, I’m always going to want some crunch.

What’s you’re most rewarding system? Let me know in the comments.

RPGaDay August 19

Best way to learn a new game?

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgI don’t know if it’s the best way, but it works for me. After I’ve skimmed the rule book to get an idea of the mechanics and setting feel, I roll up a character. I don’t worry about min-maxing or making the “best” character for the game. Instead, I focus on making the character I want and I see how much the system “fights” me. If I’m getting a lot of push-back from the game, I look at why. Is the game not what I thought it was? Am I missing some aspect of the system? Is it just a clunky system? If I’m not getting any push-back, I also look at why, because maybe I’m still not getting some aspect of the game.

I’ll make a few characters of different types, just to get a feel for the different aspects of the game’s mechanics and setting. Taking D&D 5e as an example, I rolled up one character for every class and tried to keep an even spread of the races throughout. Each class’s abilities make you focus on different aspects of the rules, and gives a good basic grounding in the game.

There are also two benefits to this from a game master perspective. One, I can see what each class is going to be focused on in-game, what that class will want from the world around them at least in general terms. That can help me figure out what will entice/repulse my players, since they picked that class for a reason. Two, I now have the bones of an NPC of each class, ready to be fleshed out and dropped into my game. Why yes, that stone did ricochet off that bird and hit another bird. Fancy that.

Plus, I really enjoy making characters. I remember sitting in my room when I first got a hold of the Star Trek RPG from Fasa, making character after character. I filled a binder with my starship crews, all ready to explore new worlds. When it came time to run the game, I amazed my players by having this fully realized crew for their ship.

What do you do to learn a new game? Drop it in the comments below.

Catching Up on RPGaDay

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgYep, it’s been a heck of a week, so you all get another catch-up day. And I will hopefully begin doing these daily like I’m supposed to tomorrow. Enjoy!

August 13: What makes a successful campaign?

Player buy-in. You can develop the perfect campaign world, populate it with cunning monsters and interesting NPCs, tailor plots both flexible and complex…and none of that matters if the players aren’t interested in what you’re offering. The best way to get that buy-in, I’ve found, is to talk to your players before you begin a new campaign. Find out what they like, give them idea of what you’re offering, and see where you can meet in the middle. Remember, you may be the GM but you’re only one chair at the table. If the players aren’t having fun, then why are you GMing?

August 14: Your dream team of people you used to game with?

I have a whole roster of folks I miss gaming with, too many to comfortably seat at a table for a game. I miss gaming with Jake, Amy, Ross, Christie, Brent Secondus, and a whole slough of others from the Living Greyhawk days. I’ve GMed great tables of random players at various cons around Canada and the US that I’d love to game with again. And I miss running games with Corey, Anita, Joe, Brent Secondus (again), Jason, and Laura; they were a great group to wile away a Saturday morning with.

But my current groups are pretty swell, so I’m not really pining for past players too much. I think that’s part of what makes tabletop role-playing so special; you never really know how long a particular group of players are going to be together. You play the best game you can with the time you have, and when it’s over the table stories enter your personal RPG mythology. So I just keep playing, and keep adding to that pantheon.

August 15: Your best source of inspiration for RPGs?

Of things inspiring my gaming right now, I’d have to say the Critical Role live-stream is right up there. I never come away from an episode less than invigorated about my hobby, and filled with ideas of things I want to try in my games. I enjoy the show most because it shows off the best of what role-playing sessions can be like. We can’t all be talented voice-actors, of course. But as players and GMs we can aspire to be as generous and open with our role-playing as the crew of Vox Machina are. Whatever else they are, the DM and players on Critical Role are a group of friends who come together every week to share a game they love. It shows in everything they do, from the actual playing to how they interact with the fans of the show. I find them inspiring, and if I can bring a fraction of what they have to any table I’m at, I count myself ahead of the game.

August 16: Historical person you’d like in your group? What game?

Depending on your definition of historical, my first response is Gary Gygax. I’ve never met the man, but I’ve read his work and entered the hobby with the game he helped create. I have no illusions that he’s some larger than life figure, with no flaws except for creating the THAC0 system; I know he was just a man. But that’s why I’d want to game with him, I want to meet the man behind the myth, warts and all. I think that would be a great time, whether we got along or not. And we’d play D&D, naturally. Probably Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but maybe I’d see what he thought of 5e.

August 17: What fictional character would best fit in your group?

I have several groups, so this is tough. For my long-running pathfinder group, the Thursday (now Monday) Knights, I think we need someone hack-and-slash so I’m going to say Canadian privateer Enos Collins; arguably one of the most successful privateers in Canadian history, when he died he was the richest man in Canada. For my Council of Thieves group, I’m going to go with Julie d’Aubigny, a famous 17th century swordswoman and opera singer. Swashing buckles and singing arias, I think she’d fit right in. For my first D&D group, I’m going to say we need some leadership with a touch of scoundrel, so let’s add English pirate Mary Read to the mix. that will stir the pot nicely.

I’ll have to think further for my other groups. I’ll update as they come to me.

August 18: What innovation could RPG groups benefit most from?

Even if your group is able to meet face-to-face, I think virtual tabletops like Roll20 are a great benefit to any gaming group. If your groups are like mine, many of your players are using laptops and pads during the game anyway. If everyone is logged in to a virtual tabletop, you have the ability to tailor the play experience for each player. Instead of passing a note which draws attention from the other players, for instance, you can just IM a player inside the tabletop and pass information that way. That way, things that player notices will actually surprise the other players when they make themselves known. The tabletop can also be used to display pictures and graphics to your players all at once, and to keep a bank of those images for reference later. And if they have the funcionality, the virtual tabletop can store character information for use by the GM out of game, or when the player forgets their character sheet. GMs can also implement changes to a character in the program, making book-keeping easier for the players. All this, besides the benefit of allowing folks who might not be able to get a group together in person, the chance to take part in the hobby.

 

Okay, that’s it. I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll finish out the month with daily posts. If you have anything to add, drop it in the comments below.

RPGaDay August 12

What game is your group most likely to play next? Why?

A hard question to answer, as I’m currently GMing several groups. I’m coming up on a pretty even split between Pathfinder and D&D 5e between them, and as I’m just starting or am in the middle of campaigns, we’ll be playing them for a while. But the honest answer to this question is: if I’m willing to run it, my groups are likely to play it. Which admittedly is a good feeling as a GM, but it contributes to my current playtime versus GM time imbalance.

But I have several games I’d like to try next. I’d love to run The Laundry, because I enjoy the idea of smothering bureaucracy trying to combat Otherworldly horror (“To schedule an exorcism, please fill out Form 47-B3 and submit in triplicate.”). A Trail of Cthulhu campaign would be a lot of fun, because I love the system and it has a different flow from the games I’m currently running. Plus, Cthulhu. And I’d really love to give Feng Shui a go, because I love Hong Kong cinema and action-movies, and a game with that sensibility would be fun.

And then there’s the classic games I’d like to revisit now that I’m old enough to appreciate them. Skyrealms of Jorune is a game from 1984, and it was one of the first games I played which broke from the classic fantasy mold. Unlike other RPGs which feature adventurers seeking treasure and glory often for its own sake, players in Skyrealms were seeking to become better citizens and better themselves; a mind-blowing concept for 14-year-old me, and one I couldn’t quite figure out how to run back then. I’d love to take a shot at it now, though. I’d also love to play a rainy-day Tales from the Floating Vagabond campaign, and just run it as a ridiculous episodic-style space-opera farce. If you’re not familiar with the game, I highly recommend picking up the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. A prime example of a “beer and pretzels” RPG, its ads featured lines like, “Life is like an anole: sometimes it’s brown and sometimes it’s green, but it’s always a small Caribbean lizard.” Yep. And there is part of me that wants to run a semi-serious, Terry Gilliam inspired Paranoia game. Of course I played it for slapstick fun when I was younger, and loved it. But I think it can actually lend itself to a more dark comedy tone, even bordering on the ominous. even if I’m wrong, it’d be fun to try.

That’s me. What is your group likely to play next? Let me know in the comments.

RPGaDay Double Feature!

cropped-cropped-me-and-the-eyeball1.jpg(Because “RPGaDay Double Feature” sounds better than “I was sick yesterday and didn’t post”.)

August 10th: Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Years back I played in a Shackled City AP campaign. I was playing a Lawful Good human monk names Ceres, and we had progressed through the campaign with the usual trials and tribulations. As part of the adventure, we had traveled to one of the 666 layers of the Abyss, there to break an NPC’s hold on that layer and deprive it of power. I think the layer was called Oculus? Not important. There was only one way to do this: sacrifice a living being by pushing it into the “eye” of energy at the centre of the layer, which would cut off the flow of power to the NPC. The party spent a great deal of time discussing and then arguing the merits of which NPC baddy was going to be used as sacrifice. Ceres stayed out of the discussion, other than to point out that it would be wrong to sacrifice any unwilling creature regardless of their alignment (Lawful Good, remember?).

After the discussion went on for 20 minutes or more, I finally got bored and passed a note to the DM. Ceres was going to throw himself into the eye. Better to sacrifice himself, than force his friends to make a morally reprehensible choice. I fully expected Ceres to die; nothing the DM had said up to this point indicated any other outcome. As I was a monk and way faster than anyone else in the party, I easily flung myself into the energy stream and certain death…and the DM asked me to roll a Will save. I did, and rolled a natural 20, making for a stupid-high final result (monk, remember?). Long story short (too late!), I not only survived the energy stream, I was able to manipulate it, becoming the new master of that layer of the Abyss. Which shocked the crap out of everyone, not least of all me. And that’s how a Lawful Good monk became the ruler of a layer of the Abyss. We didn’t play much beyond the end of the campaign, but I had plans for my new domain if we did. As the only Lawful domain in the Abyss? Oh, baby did I have plans. Ah, well.

August 11th: Which gamer most affected the way you play?

This is a hard one to answer, because it is safe to say everyone I’ve ever gamed with has had an impact on how I choose to play the hobby I love. I’m sure that’s true, and I hope it’s true, of everyone in this crazy, mixed-up pastime. In my early gamer days (from age 10 to early twenties), I was influenced by the folks writing and editing Dragon magazine: Ed Greenwood, Monte Cook, Gary Gygax, Kim Mohan, Wolfgang Bauer, Dave Gross…the list goes on. But they informed a lot of how I played the games, how I treated the hobby, and how I treated the folks I shared the hobby with. As I got a little older I started to depend less on written sources for guidance, and took more stock in the players and GMs around me. I watched what they did, and either borrowed heavily the things I liked, or shied away from the habits which did not equal fun. Today, I’m still most heavily influenced by the GMs I watch, either as a player at their table or by “sitting in” on any number of RPG play-through shows. Matt Mercer from Critical Roll has had a great influence on me recently, as has Ivan van Norman, both from Geek & Sundry’s Twitch stream. They each have a distinctive style, and each deliver an excellent table experience from what I can see. Definitely someones to emulate.

I did want to make a special point about a particular type of gamer that really inspires me, and pushes me to make my gaming table welcoming and fun. If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve encountered them: the gatekeepers. The players and/or GMs who never want their gaming experience to change, and who actively resist anything which might move the hobby to be more inclusive. They’re the ones who tell off-colour sexist and sometimes racist jokes and then chant “SJW” at you if you call them on it (for the record, I’m a Social Justice Cleric, so shut your pie-hole before I give you a holy lance where the tanlines stop). They don’t make allowances for handicapped players, sometime actively shutting them out of gameplay opportunities.  You know, they are assholes. Well, they inspire me. They inspire me to be nothing like them, to make sure the welcome mat is out and clearly visible at my table, and to make sure that my players know what sort of behavior is allowed before we begin play. Eventually, with enough conscientious effort,  the assholes will either change how they play, or eventually they’ll only be able to play with other assholes and their games will collapse from the collective weight of assholery. Which I’m actually sad about. I love this hobby and I think everyone should get to partake, as long as they aren’t making it less fun for others.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow we start in on daily posts for the rest of RPGaDay month, I promise. Want to weigh in on either of the topics I touched on today? Drop me a comment.

RPGaDay Catch Up!

PFS Dice CroppedYou’d think, after doing RPGaDay for a couple of years that I’d remember it was coming up. You would be wrong. So here is my standard update post, bringing us from August 1 to today. Daily posts will begin tomorrow, as is my wont.

August 1: Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to ‘roll’?

Dice. Always and forever, dice. I can’t help it, I love them so much! I can appreciate diceless systems, and I can even enjoy playing them from time to time. And I do understand the usefulness of a dice app for convenience; Roll 20 would be a much more drawn out process without their in-app dice macros. So I’m not against either of those options.

But given the chance, I want to roll actual dice. I love the tactile feel of them in my hand. I love the tension as I rattle a handful of dice, hoping for the right numbers to come up. I love collecting the perfect sets of dice for each of my characters. Dice are too much a part of the game for me to ever give them up.

August 2: Best game session since August 2015?

I’d have to say my best overall session since last year was the first session of my 5e D&D game. It was a perfect confluence of the things I love about gaming; introducing new players to the game, bringing a new game world to life, navigating a new game, and building a new group of players. It was my first time back to the D&D game in over a decade, and I’d forgotten how much I loved the game. And 5e is a great edition to come back on.

A very close second? A recent session of Pathfinder in which the group fought a shadow-infested triceratops skeleton. It was so much fun to run, and the players were having a blast the entire time. Plus, any time you can have a triceratops skeleton smash open an enormous fish tank right in the middle of the battleground? Do it, you won’t be sorry.

August 3: Character moment you are proudest of?

This is a hard one to answer. I’m currently GMing two Pathfinder campaigns and DMing two D&D 5e campaigns, so my play time is limited to non-existent. But my buddy Scott has been in town while on holiday recently, and I got to play a swashbuckler character in a PFS scenario he wrote. Merrick has been a lot of fun, and my favourite moment with him so far was the inadvertent insulting of the aged matron of a Tian Xia family. How was I to know she wouldn’t appreciate my bawdy story? It killed down at the teahouse.

August 4: Most impressive things another’s character did?

No one thing, but it is an absolute delight to watch my friend Anita play her gnome sorcerer Twig in my Council of Thieves campaign. Anita plays a perfect gnome character, inquisitive with little regard for her own safety. The interplay between Twig and the character Kring (half-orc barbarian), her friend and self-appointed minder, is one of the best things about the each session. When two players can mesh their characters in such a way that it enhances the experience each session, it’s truly a gift as a GM. And relatively recently we’ve added in a Halfling rogue which has become Twig’s partner in crime. Fuel to an already robust fire…

August 5: What story does your group tell about your character?

As per my answer on August 3, I don’t get to play a lot. So I don’t think I’ve played a character enough recently to allow my group to develop stories about my characters. Things should change this fall, and I’ll be back to playing more. We’ll see what stories will come.

August 6: Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

For the last couple of years a group of my friends have formed a team for Extra Life. Team Knifeshoes has raised thousands of dollars for children’s hospitals, and it’s one of the best things I get to be a part of every year. I’m looking forward to it again this year, and I have some special tabletop events ready to go which I hope I’ll be able to pull off. They also have a Tabletop Appreciation Weekend running September 16-18, so see what’s shaking for that.

August 7: What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

The social aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect. I’m an introvert, so left to my own devices I will happily spend all my time alone in my room reading, or playing video games, or watching stuff on YouTube and Netflix. Having a fun excuse to get together with friends and play pretend? Yep, I’ll take it. And as a GM I get to indulge my introversion by sitting alone and dreaming up encounters and game worlds for my players. Really, it’s the best hobby I could have stumbled into (way to go, ten-year-old me!).

August 8: Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

My preference is always for the physical book, whether it’s hard or soft cover. But as a busy GM on the go, especially one who has made several trips to Gen Con and PaizoCon over the last several years, I have also embraced the digital age. Currently, most of the Pathfinder books I own are in digital format, though I’m shifting the needle on that. Most of what I own for all my other games, though, are books on shelves. I enjoy cracking open a gaming book to look things up, and I like walking in to my game room and seeing the books lined up on the shelves. My library is only going to get bigger. [insert evil laugh]

August 9: Beyond the game, what’s involved in an ideal session?

It’s hard to describe what makes a session ideal for me, outside of the actual gameplay. I can describe it best as ‘easiness’. When my friends and I are just together, and none of us is having to work terribly hard at having or creating a good time, that’s easiness. I’m lucky enough to have several groups which achieve that on a regular basis, and so I’ve managed to get to a place where I’m excited about each session because of that. Play shouldn’t be work, and if it is that might be the time to find another group.

That’s it, tune in tomorrow for regular RPGaDay updates through August.

 

Get in the Con Game!

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgGen Con started today, with tens of thousands of gaming nerds gathering in Indianapolis to celebrate the hobby they love. Sadly, I am not among them this year, though I have made the pilgrimage to gamer mardi gras in the past. If you have the means, I highly recommend attending Gen Con at least once in your lifetime. The experience is like nothing else.

But even if you can’t get to Gen Con this year, there are likely plenty of smaller gaming conventions just waiting to entertain you. There are regional and local cons held all over the world, run by nerds who love the tabletop hobby as much as you. Sites like Upcoming Cons and Game Convention Central can help you track down nearby cons. Most local cons will advertise where the gamers hang out, so check out your FLGS or game café for posters and/or flyers.

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and we have a number of local cons which feature gaming. It wasn’t always the case, of course, but with the general rise in popularity of tabletop gaming came an interest in sharing that experience with others. Even five years ago you could struggle to find something year-round. Now, I’m actually staggered a bit by choice. For those living in Edmonton (and the rest of Alberta, if you want to make the trip) here are some upcoming gaming cons happening in our fair city.

Edmonton Expo (Sept 23-25, 2016) – While not a gaming con per se, the Expo is a big convention and has a little bit of everything. In the last couple of years the tabletop gaming area has expanded and improved, and the Expo has introduced hundreds of new people to the hobby, as well as showing off new games to the veteran players. Full disclosure, I’m the Tabletop Gaming Team Lead for the event, so I might be a touch biased. But we try to make the tabletop gaming area as welcoming as possible, with an eye toward getting folks around a table and playing something. Because playing the game is the fun part, right? This year I’m excited because we have a number of local game designers and companies demoing their stuff, and folks can come try out games which are fresh on the market.

FallCon (September 30- October 2, 2016) – Not a local con, but definitely close by when compared to other cons you could travel to, FallCon happens every year in Calgary, AB. Currently in its 29th year of operation, it is currently the province’s longest-running gaming convention. And it shows; every year FallCon is a well-run weekend of fun for boardgame enthusiasts. Also a great con to help get an idea of what it’s like to travel to a con, if you haven’t done that yet. Think of it as the start of your training regimen for attending Gen Con.

IntrigueCon (October 14-16, 2016) – Locally run by Hazard Gaming, IntrigueCon is an annual role-playing convention. Its attendance is growing nicely, with a wide variety of both new and classic RPGs for local gamers to try out. The staff and volunteers are great, and the times I’ve managed to get out and run a game have been a blast. Edmonton gamers, if you’re looking for a great con experience while still being able to sleep in your own bed at night, this con’s for you.

Gamealot (October 21-23, 2016) Yes, that’s right, you can get in two back-to-back gaming conventions in the space of a week. One of the Edmonton area’s longest running gaming conventions, Gamealot used to be run out of Mission: Fun and Games’ store every September. This year they finally acknowledged that the store could no longer contain all the gaming goodness, and have moved to a much larger off-site venue. But in true Gamealot fashion, the weekend is shaping up to be just as packed with boardgames and card games as ever. And this is definitely the place to go if you want a boardgame palette cleanser after your IntrigueCon RPG experience. You’ll likely find me there running some Cheapass Games and the like.

KefCon (No Dates Yet) – An acronym for “keeping evenings fun”, KefCon is brand new boardgaming convention just entering its second year. No dates are announced for the next one, but they seem to be trying to run a single-day event every six months (the last was in mid-July). I haven’t been myself yet, but friends have told me it’s a good time, not unlike spending a day at your friend’s house playing boardgames. You know, if your friend’s house was the size of a local community hall.

GOBFest (April 8 & 9, 2017) – Organized by local group POGOB (Players of Games on Boards), GOBFest is a wonderful two-day boardgaming event. Went to KefCon and you’re ready for something a little heftier? This is for you. Not only do they feature scheduled games and tournaments, but they have an impressively large library of games you can borrow for open gaming. Not to mention a number of “life-sized” games, for when you want to be the meeple. I’ve run games and played games at GOBFest, and had a blast doing both.

Okay, that’s my list of Edmonton gaming cons available for your enjoyment and titillation. Did I miss one? Did I get something wrong? Drop a note in the comments. And for everyone not living in my city, get out there and see what’s going on near you. You’ll be surprised at what you might find with just a bit of digging.cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpg

Convention Time, Part Deux!

A longish while back I wrote a post about going to conventions, with some tips and tricks I use when conning around. Since then I’ve written a few posts on subjects touching on gaming conventions; if you search the convention tag I’m sure they’ll pop up. Since the Grand Daddy of all gaming cons, Gen Con, starts this week, I thought it was a good time to P1000011_smtalk about them some more.

I have long believed gaming conventions are one of the best parts of the hobby. They offer a way to try new things with new people, in a generally supportive and positive environment. Even playing your favourite game with new people can be eye-opening. I love discovering a new strategy for a game by getting my butt whipped, knowing I can take that strategy back to my regulars and unleash it on them.

If a regular gaming convention does this for you, Gen Con ramps that up to Eleventy-One. Let me start by reassuring you, you will never get to do everything at Gen Con at a single Gen Con. Why is that reassuring? Because you have an ongoing reason to go back, my friend. And you will want to go back. There is no other con in North America, possibly the world, which can offer as much concentrated gaming goodness in one location. Whether you’re on the hunt for shiny new thing in gaming, or an OG looking to relive the games of your youth, Gen Con has it and you can play it. I have never been disappointed.

So I wanted to offer some tips to make your experience as good as it can be. Some of these are specific to Gen Con, but most will make any con better.

Be Considerate – This covers a wide variety of situations at the con, and obviously isn’t limited to just Gen Con. But there are just so many people at Gen Con that dickish behavior can quickly spiral. However, considerate behavior can also spiral, so follow Wheaton’s Law and keep it wholly.

This includes but is not limited to: bathing and using deodorant; not blocking the aisles for too long as you look at the new shiny or take a picture of cool cosplay; asking the cosplayer if you can take a photo in the first place, and being okay if the answer is no; not arguing rules during the time-limited game event you’re playing in (yes, you’re very smart and likely right. Who cares? Shut up and let everyone play!); follow Thumper’s Law (“If you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.”); play the demos, play all the demos, but don’t hog the demos. If you want to play more of the game, sign up for one of the events or buy the game; watch your language, Gen Con is a family friendly con; say thank-you, every chance you get, to anyone who deserves it (food servers, game masters, the woman who ran your demo, game designers and authors you run into…the list is Me and the Eyeballendless).

Do the Things! – With an event catalog the thickness of the average game manual, it can be easy to be stymied by analysis paralysis as you try to figure out what to do next. You can spend hours sitting around, pouring through the events, trying to find the Best One. But you didn’t come to Gen Con to read the con guide, pretty as it is. You came to get your nerd on!

Hopefully you picked some events early and pre-registered, so you’ve already got those on your schedule. But hopefully you also left holes in your schedule for picking games/events as they appeal to you or as you find things you didn’t notice before. If that’s the case, don’t get too bogged down trying to figure out the Single Best Solution, because there isn’t one. Honestly, pick the first event that looks fun and get in there! As I said before, you won’t be able to do everything at a single Gen Con. So just do everything you can, and save the rest for next time. As long as you are having fun you are Gen Conning correctly, so don’t worry about what you might miss.

Look After Yourself – Gen Con is an endurance race, not a sprint. Trying to do all the things all day and night will burn you out. By Day Two you’ll be a wreck, and by Day Three you’ll be curled up in your hotel room trying to recover. So:

  • Get sleep, at least six hours a night.
  • Shower every day. We touched on cleanliness under the first point, but it is also a good way to look after yourself. You’ll just feel better if you’re clean every day, fact.
  • Eat actual food at least once a day. Anything served from a kiosk in the convention centre barely counts in this category, but even the con food is better than a steady diet of chocolate bars, soda, and chips. However, within five blocks of the convention centre are a variety of excellent restaurants and food trucks, all wanting to exchange currency for delicious, fresh food.
  • Drink water. How much? Hard to say, since it depends on a wide variety of physical factors. But here’s a tip: if your urine is the same colour as any of the various Mountain Dew varieties, you aren’t drinking enough (and if it’s the same colour as Code Red see a doctor immediately).
  • Try one thing you wouldn’t normally try. Could be a game, could be LARP, could be anything. Try something outside your comfort zone, at least once. You might pick up a new hobby, but at the very least you’ll gain an appreciation for something you’ve never tried before.

Thank the Volunteers – They were there before you in the morning and they’ll go home after you in the evening. They are constantly in motion, doing things you’ve never had to think about, so your convention experience goes smoothly. No convention in the world, Gen Con included, could run without volunteers. So say thank-you. Takes a second and it can make a volunteer’s day. And they deserve it.

And if you can swing it, volunteer. You’ll work your ass off, but you’ll also gain an appreciation of how much work goes in to making a convention run well.

Those are my tips. I’ve also got a a page with suggestion on what to pack in your Convention Kit, so check that out. If you’ve got a con tip please drop it in the comments below.

Do It In Public!

readrpgs-anibuttonRead an RPG Book in Public, that is! Why, what were you…naughty!

Promoted tri-annually by The Escapist, Read an RPG Book in Public week is meant to raise the profile of the role-playing hobby and show our love for what is normally a behind-closed-doors activity. You grab a favourite RPG book, find a public area to relax for a little while, and get to reading. That simple.

I’ve done it when possible in past years, and always enjoyed it. I’ve endured very little in the way of any negative response to it; the occasional strange look to be sure, but nothing like actual harassment. Most of the time, when folks approach me it’s to tell me that they play or used to play, and occasionally we end up swapping stories of games gone wrong (or right). And I’ve even had a few people ask about how one gets in to the hobby, what they need to buy, where to find players, and so on. So if I’ve managed to inspire even one person to join our geeky ranks, it’s been worth it.

So get on out there and post your pics of you reading an RPG in public. Spread the nerd love wide this week. And please feel free to share your pics in the comments below, I’d love to see what you’re reading. I’ll be posting my pics here as I take them, so stop back and see what I’ve got on the go.