Convention GM Prep

I’m a bit of a gamer. Not just the PC/console kind, but the old school dice and map kind. In college, I was the guy you could hand a rulebook to on Monday, and by Friday night I’d have the book read, an adventure designed, and characters made for my gaming group. Granted, I had a much more flexible schedule than I do now, but some of those things still stand today.

So it shouldn’t be a shock when I say I tend to be a “forever GM” (more on that on another post), and I am sometimes asked to run games at conventions.

For those of you who didn’t read my bio, I am often known as “The NPC.” I attend a select few conventions (usually based on finances and time) in my NPC costume: khaki outfit, khaki vest (loaded with pins and badges), pouches of candy, and a giant “!” over my head. Throughout the convention, I give out Quest Cards, challenging people to do things within the confines of the convention to earn candy or other rewards based on the con.

QuestCards2013First iteration of Quest Cards; I’d print about 2000 and cut them, by hand, to cut costs. Dedication!

Sometimes, I can’t do this entirely out of pocket, so I volunteer to work at conventions, especially if they have an RPG Department. Tekko, a convention in Pittsburgh, is one of my regular haunts, as I exchange 3-6 games for a badge. It’s not so bad, but it does make things crazy, especially when I’m running a large number of games.

SangawaPrepPreparing for Sangawa 2014: Four games in three days.

It takes a surprising amount of time to prepare these things. With a normal campaign, you already know the players, what they like and how they’ll play, but at a convention, you don’t know who you’ll get. Preparing a game that will run 3-5 hours for 4-10 people you don’t know is like planning a four course meal for random strangers off the street: you have to hope you did it right, didn’t accidentally kill anyone, and come off impressive enough to be allowed to do it again.

This year, for Tekko, I’m running three games:

1) A game that crosses over the Slenderman Mythos with the Fables comics from Veritgo.

2) A game that crosses over the various heroes and villains from Toonami that will take place on board the Absolution. Characters were voted on by attendees and I’ve statted the top 20.

3) A game inspired by the Power/Ranger deboot (bootleg) fan-film released this year.

So far, there has been a good bit of response, so hopefully I’ve done things right and will have full tables again.

As of this moment, I believe I have clocked in around 80 hours of prepwork between reading source material, reviewing rules, researching characters, watching videos to better understand requested characters, writing quick adventure notes, and statting. I’m about 65% done with game prep as of this moment, two weeks before the con.

That said, if you’ll be attending Tekko, please come and find me! I’m hoping to finish my costume to bring the new NPC persona to the convention outside of running games, and bringing exciting game sessions to the table otherwise.

Also remember that your staffers are putting in a lot of hours outside of the con to make this enjoyable for you. Please keep that in mind as conventions begin to pick up in frequency!

Hopefully I’ll see you all there. Fire off any questions or detail requests in the comments section!

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