Convention Games and Demos

Some of you may already know that I’m making the convention rounds this year! So far I’m appearing at Conpulsion, UK Games Expo, Q-CON, and hopefully Dragonmeet.

As I’m a Modiphius Silvershield I’ll be running a few demo games – with the exception of a Prayer for St. Nazaire and Cliché  they are actually games recommended for first time play. I may change these later but so far there’s a nice bit of variety:

  • Mutant: Year 0: For a mouthful of water. In a post apocalyptic future, a group of mutant PCs search for fresh water in the ruins of the Ancients., vital to their survival and those within the Ark.
  • The Mutant Chronicles (3rd Ed): Straffar Gatan 39, a rundown tenement in the Nines – a particularly nasty part of the Perimeters. Dispatch has received multiple calls from residents reporting screaming on the third floor. Dispatch receives calls like this all the time and they mostly go unanswered, but after the sixth call a Patrol unit was dispatched….
  • Achtung! Cthulhu (Savage Worlds): A Prayer for St Nazaire. March 1942: A small commando force are dropped behind enemy lines to silence a Nazi listening post in the Loire valley.
  • Cliché: The Game of Making Movies. An as yet untitled adventure…

So I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about convention games in general as a result. As the games above are going to be demos, I thought I’d put some thoughts down, if only to clear my head.

Time: Convention games are usually allocated time slots. At Dragonmeet, these were one-hour slots. At Q-CON three-hour slots. If you’re running a demo make sure it’ll keep to the time slot and not overrun.

Playability: Keep it simple. Complicated rules, where both players and GMs keep having to look stuff up, isn’t going to help “sell” the game. Quick-start “lite” rules and pre-gnerated characters are a great place to start. Having a physical copy of the game rulebook(s) also helps (see below).

Setting: Try and keep the setting simple for new players – keep the background fluff for the plot. Let the game speak for itself and don’t bombard the players with a lot of information. Also relevant: consider where you are actually playing the game. If it’s going to be loud game – and players can get raucous! – consider the people nearby!

Potential Audience: Kids are often accompanying their parents to conventions these days, and often play too. Bear that in mind when you’re writing adventures – if the subject matter is potentially dark, be prepared to tone it down. Likewise any “adult” situations.

Organisation: Check the sign-up sheets beforehand. Make sure you’ve time to get food. Be prepared to keep to the time slot available – don’t be late. Don’t get stressed with the players either if they are late or don’t turn up. It happens.

Props: The more maps, play aids, flyers, handout’s and other possible swag the better. Make sure you’ve got physical product if you’re doing a demo. At the very least the players can leaf through the rulebook.

Published by Bill Heron

Wannabe game designer and would-be author. I've been playing RPGs for over 25 years and have recently started creating my own RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom. I also run a number of RPGs: Cthulhutech, Call of Cthulhu, WFRP, and D&D. I'm active in the Edinburgh RPG community at and regularly play RPGs.