I recently wrote a post about things that could make convention games less than ideal. I don’t want to imply that such games were all bad though, many of my best RPG experiences have been at Conventions. In fact, some of the games I’ve played have been downright amazing. I’ve tried to isolate some of the elements that contribute to such games.
10) That Guy
I swear it’s the only one!
There’s one version of “That Guy” that can be very useful: The non-selfish instigator. That player can spell salvation for an otherwise bland, risk-aversive group. While others may hesitate to take decisions or spend too long pixelbitching the environment, the instigator goes forward, kicks doors and pulls levers. The presence of this guy can even turn the game into pure gold when the GM learns to channel the instigator’s impatience and enthusiasm into a pacing mechanic. In such cases, if a sufficient level of trust can be established, the instigator won’t go out of his way to get everyone killed.
9) The Venue
Con games can be quite bloody noisy. So noisy that I considered putting it as one of the “sucky” elements in the previous post. However, sometimes a game will be held in an area that is both airy and comfortable. This is especially true if you can manage to sneak a game in a quiet corner of the convention. Such cozy environments remove the stress of having to filter out ambient noise and allows players to act more natural and get into the game more easily.
8) Friendly, Enthusiastic Players
The great majority of players I’ve GMed for have been nice people. Yet, once in a while you get that one (or several) gems that just makes the whole table shine. They’ll be cheery, will promote table cohesion and just irradiate fun. Such people often become what I call positive leaders, establishing a sense of camaraderie that make the experience a charm for everyone.
7) An Organised GM
You spot them from 20 feet away. The table is ready before you sit down. Every player has a full-colour character sheet, a set of pencils/markers and dice. The GM has a rad GM screen, tokens and initiative markers. She knows the adventure front and back and she’s ready to go as soon as everyone is seated.
6) Perfect Character Adventure Synergy
Dave the Game has a saying that everything on a pre-generated characters should get used during a convention adventure. Rogues need to spring traps, Investigators need to find clues and Bards that use Tribal Belly Dancing should… You get my point. This is important because players expect their characters to play a significant role in the session. You absolutely want to avoid having one or more players sit around for 4 hours and never make a significant dice roll/action.
5) An Assertive, Fair GM
They exist, and when you play with one, you remember it. They are not tyrants, but have a razor sharp focus on the game’s pacing and everyone’s fun. They don’t take crap from anyone, have no tolerance for rule lawyers and call out “Those Guys” when needed. They make sure everyone has a fair time in the spotlight and will interrupt extroverts with a polite “Hang on to that thought” and look at other players who haven’t spoken much to ask “What does your character feel like doing?” We need more of those.
4) A Phenomenal Adventure
A convention adventure is a strange beast. It needs to fit in 4 hours (or less) and it often must cover what the game is all about. That’s a tall order that’s not consistently met. Yet sometimes you hit just the right adventure for the group arranged around the table. My favorite are those that mix exploration (setting or rules), conflict resolution and difficult choices. But it goes beyond that, the very best adventures are those that bring you to the cusp of abject defeat and then lets you manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat… without obvious manipulation by the GM.
Emphasis on that last part. 🙂
3) A Celebrity Game Master
Many times I’ve had the privilege of attending a game run by people whose names appear on the cover of the game books I own. When that happen, chances are the gaming experience will be EXACTLY as the creator envisioned it. If you are given the opportunity to be in such a game, Carpe the hell of that Diem!
2) Game with Friends you Haven’t Seen in a Long Time
I used to go to conventions to network with peers and drop my card in the hands of potential patrons. While I still do this to an extent, conventions are VERY much about sitting at tables with friends I only see too rarely and GAME GAME GAME. RPG sessions with friends can attain that special space where magic happens and the game transcends itself. That’s why I so much look forward to convention season.
1) A Safe Environment
The absolute best roleplaying games I’ve played were where I had no fear of expressing myself and going where I would not usually do. Sometimes, when multiple conditions from that list are met, you can unleash your inner actor and go to town. I recall episodes where I would be crawling on the floor, acting the moves of my character to drive the point of his intent home… much to the feigned horror of my co-players. A safe environment, bereft of judging, prejudice and any of “Those Guys” can truly unlock the full potential of convention games.
Be among those who can foster such games. Strive to make the experience better for those at your table, regardless if you’re a player or a GM. It will reflect on the whole table and it WILL make for better memories.
What about your favourite convention games? What clinched it for you?