Game the Game: Con Games

powermanThis year, I will be running my Secret Legal Crisis. It is a game with a somewhat ridiculous premise, Wonder Girl and Wonder Man, Power Man and Power Girl, and Carol Danvers and Billy Batson are all served to appear in court to resolve superheroic naming protocols. She-Hulk will be serving them their papers.

How much do I believe in this game?

Enough that i commissioned artwork for it, out of my own wallet.

I want it to be memorable.

And when the reveal comes, wow is it great for folks who love geeking out over comics and canon.

I have a list of Convention Games I have in various stages of development. Games that I want to run, and hope to.

  • A two-table, 16 player GI Joe game with 2 GMs, two teams of Joes, working on missions connected to each other, GMs would communicate during the scenarios.
  • A two-table Marvel+DC game, one table running Marvel, the other running DC… to begin. Secret Convergence Contest and Crisis of Champions.
  • A 13th Age game with the D&D cartoon characters as the PCs.
  • A Voltron-style game with the Wu-Tang Clan as a 1980s cartoon.
  • A dead rock-stars Scooby Doo style game, where they need to form a band, and solve a mystery, shenanigans ensue.
  • A 1980’s LXG.
  • A 1970s LXG.
  • Archie+Monsterhearts.
  • Monster High + Monsterhearts.
  • Splinter of the Mind’s Eye TV Show.

I like making my con games memorable. I think the first two will be a go, I just have to get my co-GM/ conspirator to the con.

 

Game the Game: The Con Game

Whether you will be running games, or playing games at a con, I think there are some things to look for in a convention game, assuming the game is designed for newcomers to the game and system.

  • Make the PCs competent.
  • Allow each PC to have a niche.
  • Design your game for the minimum and maximum number of players. I have some great ideas, sometimes they require X number of players to really be successful. I end up scrapping these ideas. I design games that can handle 2-X+1 number of players. I usually always welcome players to my table, even if it is “full” (assuming I have a character ready for them. I have run a superhero game with 14 players, a Monsterhearts game with 18 and about 10 spectators.
  • Design a scenario that allows the setting and system to chine, without having to rely too much on prior knowledge, or long moments of exposition.
  • Give the players a taste of the core mechanics of the game early on, so they get comfortable. In most games, this means starting out with a combat. Make this opening be consequence-free.
  • Help the players. Give them a hand with the game mechanics. they all want to kick-ass and take names. Assuming you designed characters that can do this, help them with gentle suggestions of what might be a cool thing to try.
  • Don’t kill anyone. It sucks to pay for or at least sign up for a game and be out before the game is over.
  • Manage time. This is an area I consider a strength. I keep my watch visible as a clock and work to always have the game end on time and in a satisfying fashion. You don’t need to rush things, know your system, and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t be offended if someone leaves. It sucks. Maybe the game wasn’t for them. maybe they are meeting someone. Maybe con-fatigue has set in. Thank them for coming, assure them it’s all good. Everyone at the table is there to have fun, including you. If it is not fun, it is best if we all move on. No hurt feelings.
  • Let players keep their character sheets. Not everyone wants to, but some people definitively do. If i have to hand my character sheet back, I feel ripped off.

GAME THE GAME: CONVENTION GAMES

I have run smallish conventions, I have run convention games, and I enjoy playing in convention games. I am looking forward to running 6 games in a couple weeks, and I have signed up to play in a couple games as well.

I have a belief though, that convention games need to do certain things in order to be successful:

-If you are running a demo of a game, showcase what the game is about, what the game can do; sell it. You have potential buyers of the game or folks who have already bought it and are fans.

-Handouts: have printed material ready; stuff players new and old to the game might need to look up. If you can facilitate transparency in your game, make it so it is less about the rules and more about the gameplay.

-Supplies: bring extra dice (heck, if you are promoting a game, buy some dice and hand them out), don’t be afraid of folks using your dice! Bring pencils, paper, tokens, anything the players might need.

-Nametags: given my druthers, I like having “Hello My Name Is” nametags, some folks find it dorky, so as an alternative, use a folded up index card and sharpie. This way the GM and players can all refer to each other in character. Let’s pretend it is a role-playing game, after all!

-Improvise: I put a lot of work into my scenarios (though it might not always show), but I am also willing to go in whatever direction the players want to drive the story.

-Make it a fun experience for every player: there are lots of different types of players, folks with greater mastery of these subtleties have written essays on them. All I will add is know your table, make sure to highlight every player and give them a chance to shine.

-Take as many players as you are comfortable with. I ran a game years ago that was supposed to be 6 players max, but I had prepped around twenty player-characters, so I ended up with 15 people at the table, anytime someone asked what was going on, I invited them to join.

-Make the player-characters cool. It is a con game. Let them be bada$$. Power creep be damned. Yes, there is joy in being the former farm boy turned hero saving the town from orcs, but give even that farmboy some cool stuff he can do! Personally, I want to play archetypes, I want to kick a$$ and take names, on the battlefield, at the bar, and in the boardroom!

-Help the players: you know the rules, help them out, suggest awesome combos they might not know because they might not know what the system can do. A basic attack in 4e is easy, but isn’t it much cooler to use a daily for 4d of damage? It is your job as GM to peel back the curtain and share with them all the cool stuff you put into all the characters, and even to divulge some of the awesome plot points you came up with. They will appreciate your hard work!

-And, lastly, have fun. Understand that every player or GM is there to have fun, as you are. Bring enthusiasm to the table and your fellow players and GMs will appreciate it. Be passionate, be excited, and work together.

Gaming is a communal activity, if we all work together to have fun, we will have fun!

And be sure to bring lots of cough drops, as you might lose your voice!