Campaign Creation: Here Lie Monsters!

In the previous Campaign Creation posts we established the basics of the campaign’s starting point and the NPCs surrounding the party. Today I want to look at monsters the party is likely to encounter, for at least the first few levels and beyond.

The Ruin is the remains of a vast, ancient city. Little is known about the original occupants except something either caused them to abandon the city, or killed them in such a way that it left the city intact enough to crumble over time. I’m deliberately keeping this part vague in order to fill in details later on, based at least partly on player speculation. Often players brainstorm great ideas when they are discussing possible adventure directions, and a good GM will leave room to take advantage of that.

But the characters can’t fight vague speculation, they need monsters! For my purposes there will be two main encounter areas, the ruins above ground and a series of ancient caverns deep under The Ruin. Connecting the two areas are all the cellar, crypt and basement areas of The Ruin’s buildings; these will serve as a transitional region between the surface and the depths. Today’s post will focus on The Surface.

The Surface

One of the cornerstone monster races of the Pathfinder setting is goblins. I love the direction Paizo took them, transforming them from disposable cannon fodder to the psychotic, fire-obsessed maniacs I’ve come to love. So The Ruins are going to feature a tribe of goblins, infesting crumbled buildings across the city. But to add some conflict to the situation and keep the players on their toes, I want another humanoid tribe, forever in conflict with the goblins. Kobolds would be an obvious choice, but I want something the players might not be as familiar with.

Every time I picture The Ruin, I imagine it surrounded by jungle and cloaked in vines and mosses. Given that, it makes sense to me to add something reptilian or amphibious to the mix. Because of an idea I already have for subterranean foes I’m going to avoid the obvious lizard folk. Instead, I’m going to go with a little used race, the frog-like grippli. I imagine them occupying washed-out, swampy areas on the edges of the city, coming into conflict with the goblins as the grippli push into the city scavenging for treasure, and the goblins push outwards in search of food. Each tribe believes they were the original builders of the city, and will once again rise to take their rightful place as rulers over all. Whether this is true isn’t important, but it adds an interesting dimension to the conflict between the two groups. The presence of two small-sized humanoid tribes also allows for numerous trap encounters, as each tribe uses cunning to their advantage against the other, as well as the “big-folk” constantly encroaching on “their” city.

With these two main groups in place, we can easily fill in some other monster types. Now that we’ve added elements of swampy and jungle terrain, we can easily create encounters with appropriate jungle animals: apes, snakes, spiders, scorpions, and all the larger and dire versions of said creatures. A jungle setting, especially if the jungle encroaches on The Ruin, also allows for the use of all the dangerous plant creatures that rarely see time at the table: tendriculos, hangman trees, and a variety of oozes and fungal creatures. Travelling through the jungle, or overgrown sections of The Ruins, should be fraught with potential danger. Using these plant and animal creatures will allow me to drop in a challenge when I think the party least expects it, while immersing them in the setting.

I don’t think the setting would be complete without undead, especially an ancient, dead city. The obvious place to centre undead encounters would be the city’s temple district, though of course the players might not realize that without a bit of digging (sometime literally) and research. Of course undead can be encountered anywhere in The Ruins; zombies can shamble anywhere, ghouls can range widely for food, and other types of undead might inhabit the ruins of private homes and family crypts. The undead will also serve as transitional encounters between the Surface and the Depths, as they can be found in underground crypts ranging all over The Ruins.

That gives me enough to start building encounters and generate the initial adventures. Next time we’ll look at the evils lurking deep (and not so deep) beneath The Ruins, waiting to strike against the surface.

Are there any monsters I haven’t mentioned you think would fit the setting so far? Drop your ideas in the comments!

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My 3 Favourite Vlogs for Tabletop Gaming

I’m a huge fan of YouTube and the on-line video revolution. It’s no secret that audio-visual media is moving on-line, and has been for quite a while. The ease with which creators can put their work in front of an audience has meant an explosion in web-based nerd entertainment. Whatever your geeky persuasion, you’ll find hours of entertainment on YouTube.

I’m subscribed to a plethora of tabletop gaming vlogs, covering everything from game reviews to play-through demos to how-to videos about miniature painting, campaign creation and so on. Excepting play-through vlogs, most are only 5-10 minutes long which is a perfect length for me; I can watch one while I wait for breakfast to cook in the morning, another while I eat, and so on. I usually manage to watch three to eight videos a day, in times when I’d just be sitting idle anyway. And now that I have a smart phone this is actually smart, I can watch many of these videos while I’m on the move as well. With proper head-phones, of course, I’m not a jerk.

Here are three of my favourite vlogs, in no particular order:

The DM’s Craft – Though I’ve fallen out of the habit in recent years, I used to love building unique props and location models for my tabletop games. In the last year or so I decided to get back into crafting, and along the way I discovered The DM’s Craft. Whether you are just starting out as a crafter, or have been building things for your tabletop games for years, this video series is a gold-mine of tips, tricks, and ideas to spruce up your game sessions. There are projects for all skill levels, ranging from basic things like simple dungeon tiles to elaborate and unique setting locations. My personal favourite is the video on creating a gelatinous cube; it’s so simple I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. If you want to build cool things to impress your layers, this vlog is for you.

Game Geeks – If you play tabletop RPGs, you know game books can be expensive. It can be hard, without knowing anything about a particular book or game, to plunk down your hard-earned cash in blind faith that the book will be worth it. For years I’ve relied on game review sites to help steer my purchases, and Game Geeks, hosted by Kurt Wiegel, is one of the best. While I watch many review vlogs, Kurt’s is my favourite because he’s a GM just like me. Because I know he runs his own games, I feel I can trust his opinion on the usefulness of a particular book or resource. He reviews a wide range of books and game types, and while he has a self-professed bias towards certain game styles, I’ve never noticed it get in the way of a fair critique of any book. Definitely check it out before your next big RPG purchase.

Epic Level TV – Technically this is a channel, not a series, but it has a lot of tabletop goodness packed inside. The first show you’ll likely recognize from Epic Level TV is Dungeon Bastard, featuring comedic old-school gaming advice from the Dungeon Bastard himself. DB is a character played by Tom Lommel, and if you grew up through the hobby you will recognize someone just like the Dungeon Bastard. But besides this, ELTV offers really entertaining videos for tabletop nerds:  Interpuppetary Nerdgasm, a nerd culture show hosted by felt puppets; their newest series, Force Push, about a group of nerds trying to help their friend develop force powers; as well a run of comedy shorts related to tabletop gaming. My personal favourite is the Rolling High video explaining how attacks of opportunity work. I think gamers of all stripes will get a kick out of something on ELTV, and possibly many somethings.

Those are three of my favourite vlogs. Do you watch vlogs, and if so do you have a favourite? Share your recommendations in the comments!

Maps for the Weary Game Master

I love maps for role-playing games, almost as much as I love dice. I can spend hours flipping through old game maps, remembering past sessions or dreaming up new ways to use a particular location. I haven’t knowingly thrown out a gaming map in over twenty years. I keep them all neatly organized in a series of magazine boxes on my game room shelf. Good maps can serve as inspiration for an evening’s encounter if you need something on the fly, or spark an entire campaign if you are casting more broadly.

If you don’t already have a collection of your own maps from which to choose, here are three on-line resources for free table-ready gaming maps. You’ll need to print or project them yourself, of course, but the hard part of creating the maps has been done for you.

1) RPG Map Share – As the name suggests, RPG Map Share allows map creators to upload their maps to be disseminated by the site’s users. Creators mark each map they upload as available for personal use , professional use, or both. There are a wide variety of map types available, ranging in scope from single dwellings/businesses to entire continents and worlds. There is also an active forum where map-makers can exchange tips and ideas, and it may be possible to commission something specific for your mapping needs. It should be noted, after seven years of being a free service the site is contemplating a switch to a subscription model in order to keep the site running. For what the site offers, though, a subscription is well worth your coin; the seven-year backlog of maps alone makes the suggested yearly subscription rate worthwhile.

2) Paratime Designs RPG Freebies – Sometimes you just need stock dungeon maps, and the RPG Freebies on offer from Paratime Designs fit the bill. Nine volumes of dungeon maps and two volumes of cavern maps ensure you’ll have plenty of underground spaces for your party to explore. Even if you don’t need an entire dungeon level you can pick out a smaller section of 3-4 rooms and you’re all set with a smaller encounter. I particularly love the old-school look and feel of these maps. They remind me of the misspent  afternoons of my youth, pouring through geomorphs and thinking of all the ways I was going to smoosh my players (“smoosh” is an old-school and very technical GMing term. No, really.). Check these guys out, and while you’re there check out some of their other, not-as-free material. Well worth the visit.

3) Cartographer’s Guild – I love everything about this site, from the name on down. Be forewarned, it is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of beautiful maps on this site and I have lost entire afternoons days weekends to this place. Not only is it a great site to find maps, but it is also a great site to learn about creating maps of your own. The forums boast a wide array of talented cartographers, from professionals to talented amateurs. If you want to start on the road to creating your own landscapes, this is the place to come for advice and help. Just be careful of the aforementioned rabbit hole…

Those are three of my go-to map resources. In a future post I’ll talk about resources for creating your own maps, and why mapping yourself can be creative and helpful. If you have any favourite map sites, please share them in the comments.

The Internet Forum Drinking Game

I’ve been spending some time on forums and message boards lately. Some might say too much time, and some might be correct. I’m usually able to act with restraint, but every once in a while I succumb to “Someone is Wrong on the Internet!” Syndrome. When that happens, the only way out is through.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun doing it. In my younger days that meant trolling, but as I don’t do that any more (say it with me: Trolling Improves Nothing!) I have to make my own fun. And fun means games, so I came up with a little Internet Forum Drinking Game that you can play at home. As a matter of fact, I heartily recommend playing it at home; it would get quite expensive to play at a bar or pub. Also, if you do decide to play, please play within your limits; the penalty for going too far down this rabbit hole is liver disease. I suggest playing with coffee instead, taking a sip in place of a shot. Maybe not as fun, but potentially less consequences to your digestive and urinary systems.

The Rules

Take one shot (or sip) when:

– there are grammatical and/or spelling mistakes in the post (Note: please, just one sip/shot per post, not mistake. No need to kill yourself)

– a reply to the Original Post which ignores the subject of the post (ie, OP was about a sexism and the reply switches to animal cruelty); take another shot if this derails the OP

– a reply to the OP is an attack against the poster and not the argument (ad hominem)

– there is any variation of the phrasing, “I completely support [blank], but…”, which goes on to show the poster is in fact not in support of [blank]. Or perhaps doesn’t know what “support” means.

– someone mentions Hitler or Stalin (Note: does not apply to any forums or message boards discussing WWII, early Cold War Russia, Nazis etc.)

– a reply to the OP and subsequent arguments has any variation of the phrasing, “You misinterpreted what I said.”; take two shots/sips if it was misinterpreted. But mostly you’ll be taking one.

– a reply contains a heavily exaggerated or extreme example to refute the OP’s argument. (strawman)

– a reply contains a link to someone’s art; two shots/sips if the art is actually relevant to the discussion.

– someone passive-aggressively poses an offensive opinion in the guise of an innocent question, ie “Why can’t we objectively study which races are smarter than others?”

– someone “apologizes” by being sorry he/she thought you would “get” what he/she was saying.

– some variation of “What about men’s rights?” pops up in a discussion about sexism.

– a “Men’s Rights” slacktivist posts he “wears his fedora proudly”, with a picture. Take one drink if the hat is actually a Trilby, two drinks if it is, in fact, a Fedora. See the end of the post for visual aids.

That should be enough to get you started down a long and inebriated (or wired) road. The Internet Forum Drinking Game is an ever-evolving rules set so if you have a rule you’d like to add , please leave it in the comments.

THIS is a fedora. Note the wider brim.

This is a Trilby. Note the narrower brim. THIS IS NOT A FEDORA.

Campaign Creation: Beginnings and Broad Strokes, Part 2

In the first Campaign Creation post, we laid in a basic foundation for our campaign setting. Today we’ll expand that a little bit, focusing on the people around our characters.

At this stage of the game I’m not looking to build fully detailed non-player characters. In fact, I usually avoid statting out NPCs until I’m forced to do so by the needs of the session. That allows me some flexibility with my NPCs, and the ability to morph them into what I need at any particular moment. While that’s useful, beware turning your NPCs into “swiss army characters”; that is, no single NPC should be the solution to every problem. Once you’ve assigned certain abilities or details to a supporting character, those abilities should be fixed (although they can improve, just like any abilities can over time).

With that in mind, I’m going to drop in some supporting characters that will likely be the characters’ first contacts in the town. Normally I’d let the players tell me which NPCs to develop by seeing who pops up in their character back-stories. But since I’m building without a party in place, I’m going to develop the NPCs I think the characters will need right away. When I actually start the campaign I can still develop extra NPCs based on character history, or modify the ones I’ve already begun.

Last note, I’m going to use the same, “Good, Bad, Ugly” as I did for the campaign location, sketching in one NPC in each category for each of my four imaginary players. At this broad stage of creation it is still a great method for developing the basics of NPC relationships. Also, I think game masters can tend to focus only on NPCs beneficial to the characters, so this method pushes me to think a bit about conflicts that may be present before the characters even leave the village. None of these NPCs are my major villains (maybe), but they come into conflict with one or more of the characters in the course of their day to day.

The Good

Cynria is the mother of one of the characters, and also a member of the town guard. A caravan guard for many years, she married her partner (now deceased) and settled in the village to raise a family. While a supportive parent, she can tend to be over-protective and strict, even severe if she feels the situation warrants. Of late she has requested patrol routes that take her to the very border of the village and The Ruin, though she won’t say why. A good NPC for martial training, and an information contact for rumours and tidings from both the village and merchants.

Beorn, a dwarf, maintains one of the small chapels in the village (we’ll talk about those later), serving as a simple brother of the order. While fearless in the face of violence, no one has ever seen Brother Beorn raise a hand in anger himself. He can be found anywhere in the village, collecting stories from those that have braved The Ruin for a history he is compiling. An obvious NPC contact for any divine oriented characters, and could serve to provide historical information as required.

In addition to the basics carried by any general store, Vidan’s Mercantile carries an eclectic mix of odd items found in The Ruin. An energetic and friendly halfling, Vidan is happy to purchase any truly strange object adventurers bring her. She is even happier to sell these oddities, ascribing them a host of fascinating (and sometimes real) qualities. Brother Beorn and Vidan continually wage a war of words regarding the artefacts Vidan sells, Beorn maintaining they should be made available for study and Vidan agreeing…for a price, of course.

Rahjaq, a long-time ex-patriot from warmer climes, maintains both a local tavern and an apothecary.  While some find it worrisome the two share the same kitchen, there have been no serious mishaps, and most everyone come’s to the tavern to try Rahjaq’s special drink blends. And to see if there will be a repeat of the gaseous form incident.  Cynria seems to have a personal grudge against Rahjaq, and while there is speculation no one knows why. Despite this public antagonism, they have been seen talking together on several occasions, sometimes even amiably.

The Bad

Wenred serves as acolyte to one of the village’s less well attended churches. His tireless proselytizing has become tiresome, and he fails to see that he is part of the reason people worship elsewhere. If one of the characters shares Wenred’s faith, that character is never good enough in Wenred’s opinion. Any time they are together, Wenred will make his disapproval clear. If a character follows another deity, Wenred will insist on debating doctrine in an effort to show why his faith is superior.

Beomond can usually be found in the market, alternately looking for work loading and offloading various caravans or begging for alms. While many look down their nose at him as just another lazy, drunken beggar, the observant note that he never has the smell of liquor about him and never seems intoxicated. Unknown to most everyone, Beomond actually works for an organization intent on securing the best Ruin artefacts for themselves.  His somewhat innocuous presence in the market allows him to gather information on groups set to explore The Ruin (so they can be watched and targeted if necessary), or on caravans carrying artefacts away from the village (so they can be robbed as necessary). He will always be very interested in what the characters are doing, even going so far as to offer to be a bearer during one of their explorations, if his organization deems it necessary.

Too lazy to be an effective guard, but just clever enough to keep his job, Menforth uses his position with the town watch to collect “protection” fees.  These fees, of course, really only protect someone from him, and then only for a short time. Menforth has a knack for ferreting out merchants and adventurers who don’t want their business known, and extorting “reasonable” fees to keep their secrets. His twin knack of only choosing targets too weak or compromised to complain has so far kept him out of trouble, but someday that might fail him and he’ll be caught with his hand too far out.

Anrich can be found in any of the village’s taverns, swapping tall tales for cheap wine. No one believes any of his stories of a life spent adventuring, but none can deny he spins a great story; the drunker he gets, the greater they become. In truth, folks are right not to believe anything Anrich says. The drunken lush persona is just one more mask he has worn pursuing his greatest love: murder. Unknown to any in the village, many of the disappearances attributed to monsters or misfortune are the result of unfortunate meetings with Anrich on the hunt. Someday soon the village might discover his secret, or the special location where he keeps his trophies. But for now he enjoys making the rounds of the taverns and selecting his next target.

The Ugly

For this category, I’m sort of breaking my “no swiss army NPC” rule a little bit. But I’ve already thought ahead to who and what I want in the major villain of the campaign, and so I want an NPC to serve as the major foil to that villain. Because this NPC is going to be a major player, I’m just creating the one, but he/she will come in contact with each party member in a different way. Not martially powerful, this NPC will have to use cunning and guile to oppose the actions of my main villain, and will not be known to my player characters right from the beginning.

Aldmuel has resided in the village since its founding, though he was a local even before that event. One of the original mage-architects of the city (now The Ruin), Aldmuel’s power waned as the city crumbled; while still fairly powerful by mortal standards, his/her power is a fraction of what it once was. Aldmuel has remained, both to discover what laid his beloved city low millennia ago, and to oppose the darkness he has sensed beneath The Ruins. Aldmuel never appears as his/herself, instead adopting any number of guises to suit the situation. The player characters may well encounter Aldmuel early and often in their adventuring career: as the stable boy looking after their mounts, the tavern girl serving their drinks, the wealthy merchant or inquisitive sage commissioning a delve into The Ruin. In what he sees as a war fought in the shadows, Aldmuel will not hesitate to use the characters as he sees fit. Eventually, he may even resort to the truth as a tactic, and reveal him/herself to the party.

Okay, that’s it for NPCs for now. This gives a good mix to start with, and as you can see, developing NPCs leads to fleshing out more bits of the setting. For instance, we now know there is a town guard, a general store, multiple taverns, at least two chapels or shrines, a blackmarket, and at least one criminal organization. Those details will be the first to get fleshed out when we turn our attention back to the setting later. But next time we’re going to turn our focus to The Ruin, and decide what creatures make it a dangerous place to spend time.

It also occurs to me, it’s about time to give this village a name. If you have an idea of what to call our little town perched on the edge of The Ruin, drop it in the comments. I’ll go through and pick the one I like the best, and the name giver may even win a prize, because I’m swell like that.

3 Games to Kill Long Lines

Anyone who attends cons knows about the scourge of long line-ups. They can plague any convention, no matter how well organized it may be. The negative side of long lines is…well, you’re stuck in a long line for an indeterminate length of time. The positive side of long lines at cons? You’re stuck in that line with other nerds, which makes it a perfect time to play a game!

Obviously this isn’t the time to whip out an Arkham Horror or Risk. No, for “line games”, you need something with minimal to no set-up, very few (if any) moving parts, easy to teach rules, and a relatively short playing time. Here are three games I’ve found that fit the bill perfectly.

1) Zombie Dice/Cthulhu Dice –  Okay, so you’re actually getting four games, because I’ve lumped Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice, both from Steve Jackson Games, together. Both involve dice rolling as their main mechanic; Zombie Dice uses just dice, while Cthulhu Dice uses a combination of a single die with counters. In Zombie Dice, you are a voracious zombie trying to be the first to get to 15 brains. In Cthulhu Dice, you are an eldritch cultist trying to be the last to retain your sanity while you explore the eldritch horrors of The Great Old One. Both games became flash-fire hits upon release, so it’s likely your line-mates will know how to play. But if they don’t, instruction takes 2 minutes, tops, and can happen during the first round of play. Games run about 15-20 minutes, which allows you to potentially play several times depending on the line length. Best of all, each game fits in your dice bag without displacing your dice.

2) Danger Patrol, Pocket Edition – It might seem odd to recommend an RPG as a line game, but hear me out. Danger Patrol, by John Harper, is currently in Beta Test mode, and is a rollicking good time. I highly recommend it if you like some pulp sci-fi in your game night. But there is also a Pocket Edition which distils the game down to two pages. Yes, you read that correctly; two pages. While you aren’t going to get a heavily nuanced role-playing session out just two pages, that’s okay, you aren’t looking for that in a line game. You want a fun way to kill 20-30 minutes, and the high action, pulp sci-fi Danger Patrol is perfect for that. The game uses standard RPG dice (you’ll have those anyway, right?), and it’s easy enough to print extra copies of the game to hand around. You can be role-playing sci-fi action in minutes, and with the right group you can entertain not only yourselves, but everyone around you in line. Nerdy sci-fi fun!

3) Button Men – There are many Cheapass Games that would fit the “line game” bill, but Button Men is one of the few that is wearable. Well, if you have the original buttons, that is; it’s out of print. But Button Men cards are available for free download from the Cheapass Games site, so it isn’t hard to throw a set together and pull them out of your dice bag when needed. Button Men is a strategic dice capturing game, played with the usual selection of RPG dice. Game play is deceptively simple; you try and capture your opponent’s dice by rolling higher than him on opposed dice rolls. But there is a wonderful level of nuance and luck that affects strategy, and games can take interesting twists and turns.  Games run about 10-20 minutes, there is little or no instruction necessary (rolling higher is sort of second nature to gamers), and best of all…it’s free! Can’t beat free fun!

There you go, three (four+) games you can play while trapped in a line with your fellow nerds. Do you have a favourite quickie game you like to play? Share it in the comments!

The Con Game: 3 Tips for Conning on a Budget

My local fan-con, Pure Speculation, happens this weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I love going to cons. I think there is no better place to celebrate our mutual nerdiness than a convention. And while I like all types of conventions, fan-run cons are my favourite. They may not have all the bells and whistles of company-run conventions, but with very few exceptions I always feel the sense of nerd community stronger at a fancon.

Big or small, though, many people stay away from conventions because they think it will cost a ton to attend. And certainly, with that much geekery packed into an enclosed space, the temptation to “GET ALL THE THINGS!” is quite high. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As someone on a budget myself, let me pass along three tips that will make your con experience affordable, and keep you from having to eat cheap ramen to atone for your mistakes.

1) Volunteer – The one expense you know you’ll have every convention is the pass. Whether you go one day or all weekend, you have to pay to get in. But every convention I know of needs volunteers to make the con run, and I know of very few that ever have enough. And they all offer free passes if you volunteer. Usually you need to volunteer for a set amount of time to get the free pass, but so what? While you’re volunteering you’re still AT the con, so you don’t miss anything. When I volunteer, I try to use the time to look around the con as much as possible. I always try to look around the dealer room and landmark where I need to go for panels before I actually have to shop or attend panels. If I can do that while I’m volunteering, so much the better; I’m earning a pass while doing something I’d do anyway. Plus, volunteering is a great way to make sure the con keeps happening. No convention anywhere would run without its volunteers; doing your part keeps cons healthy. And you can meet new people who are also nerds, and there are usually volunteer perks and activities throughout the year…the list goes on. In short, volunteering can net you a lot more than a free pass.

2) Set a Budget Before You Go – And stick to it. Yes, there will be lots of pretty-shinys, and yes, maybe you do have enough in your account to get the gold bust of Gary Gygax you’ve had your eye on. But do you have enough to get it and pay your phone bill? It’s amazing how we forget about or minimize other necessaries when something we desire is right in front of us. To minimize the lure of the impulse buy, set a daily budget for yourself before you go to the con. Setting it before is important; chances are that budget will inflate if you set it while salivating at the dealer’s room. Nope, save yourself the grief and set it the day before. Then stick to it. Doing this will help you when you come face-to-face with that gold bust. You can remind yourself you only have x dollars to spend, and move on. But do keep that bust in mind for later; no one is saying you can’t save up for it. Pro Tip: If you are someone who has serious impulse control issues, most banks will allow you to change the daily withdrawal limit on your bank card for a few days. Just remember to change it back after the con.

3) Look for the Free (and then Cheap) – If you know where to look at a con, there is a plethora of free stuff for the having. Promotional items from companies can be anything: pens, pencils, hats, posters, buttons, water bottles. Hey, maybe the company isn’t your favourite, but…free. At gaming cons, its possible to get free or discounted gaming material, and all it will cost you is sitting down and trying out a game’s demo. That’s practically like getting paid to play a game! Regardless, the con-goer on a budget doesn’t turn down free stuff. The con-goer on a budget says thank-you, and puts the free stuff in the bag he brought for that purpose. Also, don’t ask for seconds or thirds of something, that’s just crass. Think of the other con-goers on a budget.

The next best thing to free, is cheap. There are plenty of cool things you can get at a con that won’t break the bank. If the con has an artist’s alley or similar area, head over and see if there are any artists offering inexpensive sketches. Not all artists do it, but many offer a $5 or $10 quick sketch, in addition to the more expensive detailed drawings. If comics are your thing, the 25-cent bins are your best friend (and the $1 bins are friends of a friend). Check the game dealers for lightly used or shelf-worn stock, which is usually discounted. And don’t forget to make a pass through the dealer’s room late on the Sunday; most dealers will have marked some prices down, so they can avoid hauling or shipping all that stock back home. Just try not to be obnoxious about asking for deals, nobody likes that.

I hope you find those tips useful at your next con. Do you have any tips or tricks for con-going on a budget? Drop them in the comments!