Overwhelmingly, you asked to hear about con prep, so here we go. Remember this is how I prepare for conventions. Exactly how you do it may vary. This way ensures some sanity. This topic came to the fore when I was talking about this very subject with Kurt Weigel (of Game Geeks Fame).
First off, decide what you’re going to run at the con. While this may seem easy, remember you’re thinking about something you’re not going to be running for some time, so while you may be wholly invested in Radar Bugs from Mars at the moment, it may seem stupid when con season rolls around. You gotta have passion. Now, if you’re a designer, like myself, you’ll want to give yourself some space. You may be the lead designer for Radar Bugs from Mars, but you’re unsure exactly what game you’ll be running. Will you want to move towards the grimmer aspects or the lighter when con season comes around or do you not know exactly what you’re going to run? In that case, spotlight the fact you’ll be running the game. I’ve done this since I started out. [1. My main reason for doing this now is I’ll most likely run the freshest material I have on hand. And, I may alternate the game depending upon getting a read for the people.] We all want to see the official line on how things are done. Heck, I sought out a session of Fiasco with Jason Morningstar last Origins for that very reason. Like I said, we all do this.
Next, have your pregens ready. This is, in my opinion, of ultimate importance. Give them some flavor, some flair. Make them wacky. Most of all make them fun to play. While some folks will snag any pregens, and that’s all well and good, make certain you know them. If you make them yourself, after the adventure, you can ensure they’ll all have roles to play. Don’t have them half done when you bring them to the table. People are there to game. They have chosen your event out of all the others. Make it an EVENT. I consider this phase the most critical. You want each character to have spotlight moments, so intentional gaps in skill sets–something rarely seen in most groups–is something to do when designing characters. Also note which characters are critical if less than a full compliment of players show. This happens.
As a GMing tip to this: Burn off nervous energy. While not always necessary, people are often excited and anxious to get to dice rolling. This is concentrated roleplaying after all and it function very differently at a convention than it does at your home table for a multitude of reasons best left to another discussion. Suffice to say, get their attention with a bit of dice rolling or immediate roleplaying as soon as your session begins.
Back to the prep. Ahem. Prepare your adventure with an immediate thrust into the action. Minimize any dramatic overtures. You’ll have plenty of time and space in which to talk.
Prep out a flexible flowchart and know your adventure. At a con, less is often more. If you want more detail, by all means go crazy.
I know some of you are into miniatures and they present quite a spectacle when properly displayed and on the table. I’m not that sort of guy. I focus on the story and many of my adventures move radically from place to place. If you have set scenes and have the proper miniatures. Go crazy. Never beat yourself up if that’s not your style. There is more than one flavor of ice cream for a reason. Present an engrossing, memorable adventure to delight and entertain. That’s all we ask.
Have cheat sheets ready, if necessary. It’s okay. You have a lot to keep track of.
Get your dice together. Double check your print outs. Put them in separate folders. Make sure you have files you can access in Dropbox if push comes to shove. Use paper clips. Bring plenty of pens. Throw a few snacks in your bag, just in case. Running games is hungry work. Pack away a few simple games just in case you have an idle moment. If you’re like me, you probably won’t.
Check your schedule and make notes of when and where you’re supposed to be and be ready to have a good time. This comprises most of my prep revolving around gaming, excluding my normal preflight packing check of shoes, shirts, and such.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!
Regardless of what game I run, I’m a story forward guy, so