So I’ve been following the “Grand Tour” of RPG convention season this year. I started off with Dragonmeet 2014 in December, a one-day con in London at Earls Court.
I took myself down to the UK Games Expo, and managed to miss being in every Modiphius Entertainment pic as detailed by Marc Langworthy at in his Post Expo Debrief over at . I was elsewhere running games in the building for about half the time, including Mutant: Year 0 when it won Best RPG. I also helped flog some stuff on the stall and ran some demo games there.
Most recently I went to Q-CON. It felt less like a RPG Convention this year. I didn’t enjoy it quite as might as I could have thanks to my insomnia, so that’s on me. The accommodation was pretty basic and I didn’t get much sleep thanks to the noise. I also lost my voice on the Saturday night!
Things I’ve learned – although I covered some of this before in my Surviving the UK Games Expo post, it works for any Convention (plus I’ve updated some of the things):
- If you’re staying in a hotel, find somewhere cheap (the Hilton was brutally expensive), and there’s often cheaper accommodation to be found nearby online. Find somewhere close though.
- At the Games Expo, get breakfast early! You’ll not be able to enter the main trade/event halls before 9am but at least you won’t be hungry.
- If you’re planning on buying stuff, make sure you’ve some ready cash – in case the cash machine(s) on site run out.
- Don’t bank on eating healthily – food trucks are popular now, but some venues will have a pub. Hotel restaurants are often pricey too. Leave yourself some time though. They get busy and are usually not prepared to deal with the numbers! Or find a place to eat nearby. Take business/contact cards with you. I gave them to nearly all my players – and all were happy to take them (bar one). See below!
- While running a game one of my players was almost constantly playing some game on his phone, and wasn’t paying attention (to me or the players). At the end of it, not only did he discard my card but he said he found the game “confusing”. The rest of the players had enjoyed themselves immensely. Bloody ignorant. He’d done it in another GMs game too. GMs should call a player out on this kind of thing if the rest of the group are becoming exasperated with it.
- By respectful of other GMs, it’s not a shouting match where the loudest group have the most fun. Unless they’re playing a WH40K Ork game called Waargh Trek.
- On the other hand, speak up as a GM. Many shared games rooms are loud.
- Be on time (players and GMs!), and be ready to move to another location if there’s an accessibility problem for players.
- Have a chillout place available if it gets crowded, and take an hour to “decompress”.
- If you’re staying in student halls, expect basic facilities and noise. They’re cheap for a reason.
- Bathe daily. You’ll need to: it gets very warm and everyone sweats.
- Get a convention T-shirt or two. Not only is it a reminder, but you can use as a standby if you’re short of shirts (see above)!
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re running a game.
- If you’re planning on collecting Kickstarter rewards or buying games, take a big case or drive (beware of parking costs). Alternatively post your games back separately from a nearby Post Office (cheaper than £20 for an extra Easyjet baggage allowance).
- Don’t schedule yourself to run games the entire con. Take some time to walk around, play, and network.
- Be enthusiastic about a demo game, but don’t be offended if someone criticizes it or isn’t interested in it.
- Venue staff, not just stewards, need to be polite and respectful – you’re still customers.
- Cosplay is not consent (I’ve never seen harassment but it does exist).
- Don’t badger gaming personalities in the bar if they’re in there for a quiet drink.
- If you’re an organiser of a convention, expect and act upon criticism.
I’m not sure how many conventions I’ll get to next year: the accommodation and travel cost does mount up. Plus I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to attend and prepare for them. Still, I may get some time away. I’ve been offered a press pass for Conpulsion, and I’ll be at Dragonmeet this year though. I think I’ve covered everything and everywhere in individual reviews and posts elsewhere under Conventions.
Feel free to make any suggestions for other “Survival Tips”in the Comments!