Saturday, August 1, 2015

RPG Blog Carnival: Convention Gaming, Part I - Getting Started

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being shepherded here on the CMG Blog Triad and the topic is "Convention Gaming."  Folks can keep track this month by following this post.  I'll even add links for subsequent parts in the comments section below where readers will also find links to the many blogs participating this month.  To follow the RPG Blog Carnival each and every month, visit the new topics page and archives for the RPG Blog Carnival on

This month on the RPG Blog Carnival, the focus is on "Convention Gaming."  This seems appropriate since Gen Con Indy is currently in full swing and is the biggest RPG convention in North America (perhaps the world?).  I've been attending Gen Con off and on since the mid-1970s and the gaming at these events can be awesome.  I'm not there this year, unfortunately, but I am sure everyone is doing their utmost to have the best four days in gaming, as the slogan suggests.  There is always a ton to do and see and if you cannot find games to play at Gen Con, you're simply not trying.  Or, more likely, trying your best to avoid them.

The number of topics a blogger could find to write in regard to Convention Gaming is broad and diverse.  One might choose to write about running games at conventions, or playing in them.  Finding a game or working out a good schedule might be worthy of words.  Game prep for conventions is every bit as important as running or playing, for both GMs and players.  There are even many tips one could give on the best comforts and amenities to secure to maximize your enjoyment during convention play.  I'm going to focus on GMing, since that is what I tend to do most often and what I love doing most of all.

One of the things to get used to when running a convention game (or even games at smaller events like gamedays) is playing with strangers.  It may even be that none of the folks at the table know one another.  It helps a great deal to have pre-generated characters in these situations.  Ask the players to sift through them and for each to choose one.  While it might seem efficient to have only enough characters for the number of players, I find having a few extras allows all of the players a chance to be sure they have something with which they can play comfortably.  If one or two of the characters are integral to the scenario, be sure to mention that up front.  There are always players ready to grab the indispensable personalities.  If any character is desired by more than one player, have them roll off and perhaps throw a little something extra to the player who doesn't win their first choice.

Once characters are selected, go around the table and ask the players to introduce themselves and their character.  Some GMs even provide placards for the players that includes the character name and a place to write their own name as well.  These can also be made ad hoc with cardstock or folded paper.  Keep this process moving quickly so that you don't cut into too much of the adventuring time.  With experienced convention players, they'll be ready to jump right in so be sure to swiftly answer any questions new players might have.

Some players will want to make changes to their characters or their gear.  I'd advise against it.  Allowing even minor changes for one player can cascade around the table.  Before you know it, you're a half hour into your time slot and haven't even begun in earnest.  An experienced convention Game Master will have things up and running in ten minutes or less but don't worry if it takes a little longer when you're new to the process.  Now that the characters are sorted and the players introduced, you can start.

Flashing back to when you were prepping, there is always the danger that you've not prepared enough or have so much material lined up that the time slot will not accommodate it all.  Not having enough material can be very problematic unless you are a GM who can stretch without it being obvious.  This is a rare GM, indeed.  If the players feel you are throwing up road blocks to impede their progress or adding in last minute red herrings to keep them from completing their mission, they will find the session unsatisfying.  You're better off ending with the prepared material a little early with happy players than beefing up the hit points of every creature or adding lots more of the same old monsters just to fluff up what you have.

Once, I had a group of players who worked so well together they greatly exceeded my expectations and the final planned encounter was overcome with a half hour left in the time slot.  Rather than try to fake my way through, I fessed up to the group and they were actually pleased that they had surprised me by doing so well.  A couple of the players were happy to have a bit of a  break before their next game to grab a bite to eat and the others rehashed the game and enjoyed that almost as much as playing through the adventure.

So, too, having more material than can reasonably be tackled in your allotted time can be a curse or a blessing.  While it is true that forcing players along a path so that everything is encountered or winding up the game with an encounter that clearly doesn't inspire players to feel they've reached a finale is going to leave them unsatisfied, at least with an abundance of material you can find ways to trim it on the fly.  Not long after the session that ended early, I began setting up convention games that were ready to be trimmed by design.

The formula is simple.  For a start, you know you want an opener that gives the players their mission for the adventure.  While I run campaigns at home as a sandbox, and prefer it that way, convention games require more focus.  There's no time for the players to be foundering just to get their marching orders.  Even those who run a sandboxy type of convention game make sure to get the players into the action quickly.  If you've spent ten minutes of a four hour time slot getting the characters in the hands of the players and you spend more than twenty minutes getting them to dive in to the meat of the adventure, you're going to find it difficult to fully crescendo and hit some true high points.

Once I've sorted out the pregens with my players, I like to begin a convention game in media res.  I put the player's characters right into the action and then throw in some extra information during the narrative descriptions.  This information will help the players understand where the characters are, what they are doing there, and what it is likely they will be planning to do if they want to achieve the goals of the adventure.  Just a year and a half ago at Gary Con, I ran an adventure where the players began the game working their way through a mountain pass in the early morning only to discover that an army of pig-faced orcs was coming in the opposite direction with two mammoths tramping along in their lead.

As they began to make their plans I was able to slip in information about the lay of the land beyond and how they'd have to make sure to deal with the orcs quickly if they hoped to cross the icy plain on the far side and arrive at an outpost before nightfall.  I made sure too mention that camping on the plain was fraught with perils best avoided like frost giants and winter wolves.  Without any assurance the army would simply march on through if they hid and waited it out, they decided fighting was their only option.  While they were hunkering down and taking up positions to fight off the army, I was able to "remind" them of what their characters hoped to find at the outpost.  Although the orcs were many, and there was a danger of being overrun, they discovered their characters had plenty of fight in them and more than enough wits to drive the host back out onto the plains, fleeing in all directions.

I'll be sharing Part II of this Convention Gaming series next week
with more of my formula for successful Convention Gaming as a GM,
so please be sure to watch for it.

Saturday Crowdfunding Roundup - Gygax, Conan, & Watch It Played

Over on Kickstarter, check out "Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter" by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr, Benoist Poire, and their team here.  It's taking off like a rocket and has tons of great stretch goals for backers!

Also, on Kickstarter, have a look at "Conan: Rise of Monsters" by Pulposaurus Entertainment here.  It's just beginning but looks like it might get really big.

Finally, on IndieGoGo, the funding drive continues for Watch It Played here.  Take a look at all the nifty stuff they've included and how far they've come in four years!

Keeping an eye on those Kickstarter & IndieGoGo
projects plus other crowdfunding efforts.
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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Friday Grab Bag - Ed Greenwood, Road Trips, & Games Workshop

Over on, we learn "Fantasy Writer Greenwood Launching Publishing Group" here.  "This fall, he is launching an unconventional publishing group of his own, called The Ed Greenwood Group (TEGG), where he will focus on titles—as well as games and art—involving newly created fantasy worlds."

Also, on, check out "The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips" here.

Finally, on, they claim to have some dirt from Gen Con regarding Games Workshop here.

The Friday Grab Bag on 
Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics not covered
elsewhere or needing a particular focus.
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Throw Switch, Bazooka Vespa, & the Great Moon Hoax

Over on, 3DPrintingEgg is selling a "Frankenstein style light switch plate! Turn your room in a horror movie mad scientist lab! Perfect for Halloween Haunted House!"  Check out all the pictures and maybe grab one here.

Also, on, they explain "The Great Moon Hoax Was Simply a Sign of Its Time" here.

Finally, on, they "Go to War in Style with a 1950s Bazooka Vespa" here.

A look back at early tabletop hobby gaming
 or gaming-adjacent topics of the past.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Events & Play Wednesday - Cons & Gamedays for August

This Saturday, August 1st, there is a gameday at the Lake Geneva Games store.  They are located at 918 S Wells St, Lake Geneva, WI 53147 and their phone number is (262) 885-1515.  The event starts at 10 am and goes through the evening.

As always, the third Saturday and Sunday this month feature the Burlington Gameday on Saturday, August 15th, which sets up events through the Burlington UCC Game Day group on Facebook here and A Gathering of Gamers on Sunday, August 16th, set up by the South Lakes Area Gamers here.  The former is in Burlington, WI at the Plymouth UCC space and is free taking place from approximately 11 am to 5 pm.  The latter takes place at the Pizza Ranch in Elkhorn, WI, and requires a $12 fee for the all you can eat pizza and fried chicken buffet (salad bar, soft-serve ice cream machine, etc.) plus unlimited soft drinks and coffee from 11 am to 8 pm.  The Burlington gang also has a second gameday set up for Saturday, August 1st, this month, so check that out too!

Further from my locale . . .

Of course, the big news is Gen Con Indy.  If you aren't already there, there's still time to hop in the car or grab a plane to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN, to check out Indie Publishers and more established ones, indeed.  Check out their website for more details here.

And don't forget that Friday at Gen Con, Mike Selinker will be hosting the ENnies awards for RPG products of the last year.  Get some details on that even here.

You can also find a whole list of gaming events all around the country and beyond on here.

Some of the events include:

Aug 1 D&D Expeditions at Game Vault Ogden, UT
Aug 1 Red Raccoon Games Catan Bloomington, IL
Aug 1-2 Gamefest 2015 Wollongong, NSW, AU
Aug 1-2 Unicon 2015 Riga, RIX, LV
Aug 6-8 Salt lake City Game CON Sandy, UT
Aug 7-23 SummerFest 2015 Spokane Valley, WA
Aug 8-9 Fireball Crusade @ Stocktoncon Stockton, CA
Aug 8-9 Rocky Mountain Cup Calgary, AB, CA
Aug 8-9 StocktonCon 2015 Stockton, CA
Aug 13-16 GardenCon 2015 Geneva, GE, CH
Aug 14-16 Geekfest 2015 Killeen, TX
Aug 14-16 LI-CON 2 Pathfinder Society Ronkonkoma, NY
Aug 14-16 Myths and Legends Con 2015 Denver, CO
Aug 14-16 NONCON Grayslake, IL
Aug 15-16 Go Play Aug 15 Brisbane, QLD, AU
Aug 15-16 Tri-Cities Pathfinder Special Tri-Cities, WA
Aug 28-30 OmegaCon Charlottesville, VA
Aug 29-30 Shadowcon 15 Northfields, London W3, LND, GB

Some of this information (and more can be had) is from the excellent lists on (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society), and  as well as many, many gamers on Facebook and Google Plus, to whom I am grateful for the help in this compilation.  Thanks so much and have a great game!

News of Conventions and Gamedays as well as pictures
from those I have attended and games I have played.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tech Tuesday - EM Drive, Pendulum Clocks, & Tricorders

Over on, an "Independent expert confirms that the "impossible" EM Drive actually works."  Learn more here.

Also, on, find out "Why Pendulum Clocks Mysteriously Sync Up" here.

Finally, on, they share "A List of All the Times People Have Tried to Build a Working Tricorder" here.

News focused on Technology
as it might interest gamers.
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Media News Monday - King Arthur, Lone Gunmen, & Warcraft

Over on, they discuss Guy Ritchie’s ‘Knights Of The Round Table’ here.

Also, on, "Actor Dean Haglund Confirms via Twitter That The Lone Gunmen Will Be Returning to ‘The X-Files’" here.

Finally, on, they boast "We've Just Seen The First Amazing Footage From The Warcraft Movie" here.

News for Movies, Television, and more
of gamer-relevant Media.
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