GMing At A Convention
  • GMing At A Convention


    At UK Games Expo last weekend, we ran about 15 one-hour demonstrations of our Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD RPG. There were three of us doing the demos - myself, Andy Peregrine, and Al Bell. Each of us had our own little scenario. I ran either four or five sessions in total.



    Our setup was a small round table at our booth with five chairs, a GM screen, and a bunch of pregenerated characters. You can just about see me on the left at the back of this picture of our UKGE stand, running a game.

    In a short, one-hour demo you don't have much time. You have to introduce yourself, explain the game and how it works, and (sometimes) explain what an RPG is. That can eat into your hour, so you try to keep the infodumps to a bare minimum and only give the payers the info they need as they get to it. I was pretty much "Hi, my name is Russ. This is a short one-hour demo of the Judge Dredd RPG. Now, are you all familiar with Judge Dredd?"

    I was lucky -- on all but one of my demos, the players were all familiar with Dredd and were keen roleplayers.

    The convention hall was LOUD. A lot of the time it was hard to hear what quieter players were saying, and by the end of the second day my voice was shot from having to raise it over the din. It's actually quite tiring, too -- especially when you're demoing, you put your all into that one concentrated hour, and you can be quite drained afterwards.

    My demo was short and to the point. Some sentient apes dressed like 1920s gangsters, wielding Tommy guns, had taken over a department store. The team of Judges were sent to to with them. I had each make an AGI (riding) check just to see who got there first and who got there last, and so they'd know what an attribute check looked like. They grasped that quickly.

    I ran the same little scenario for each demo, but the players did different things with each. In one they went over the roofs and took out the rocket-launcher wielding gorilla on the roof before working their way down. In another, one rode his Lawmaster motorcycle into a freight lift, ascended to the third floor. Imagine the apes' surprise when the lift doors opened and there was an enormous Lawmaster, cannons primed. Another group broke into the underground parking garage and worked their way up.

    Running a game at a convention is immense fun. It's high energy, and challenging because you have no idea who will be playing your game. If you do well, they might buy it, so the pressure is on!
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. theworstdm's Avatar
      theworstdm -
      I ran four games at Gen Con last year mainly because I wanted to challenge my fears of running for strangers. It was fun, but I definitely agree with the loudness part. They cram so many tables into each of the rooms and each group is competing to be heard over the others.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Nice! I can totally picture that as panels from the Judge Dredd comic.

      The only time I’ve run a game at a con was totally by accident. The GM no-showed for the event and since I knew the game quite well, I told the people that if they still wanted to play, I’d come up with something and run them through it while my brother walked them through character creation. The Gaming Spirits must have been with me that day, as I’ve no idea how I pulled off coming up with an adventure on the spot, running it, and everyone actually having fun.

      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      In another, one rode his Lawmaster motorcycle into a freight lift, ascended to the third floor. Imagine the apes' surprise when the lift doors opened and there was an enormous Lawmaster, cannons primed.
    1. Istbor -
      Booth is looking good!
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Istbor View Post
      Booth is looking good!
      I was really pleased with it!

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    1. David Anderson Jr's Avatar
      David Anderson Jr -
      Must've been pretty hectic if you don't know if you ran 4 or 5 games.
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Sounds like a successful weekend. I really do love running convention games, even with the sore throat and tight seating.
    1. vendolis's Avatar
      vendolis -
      I started to run games at Con's last year at GenCon. There is a game I really love and since it was finally released in English, so it brought me finally over the hup to take the step and GM at a Con.
      I ran four intro games of The Dark Eye there. Mine where longer and I scheduled them for full 4h to have time to run through the rules and give a little more interaction.

      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      I ran the same little scenario for each demo, but the players did different things with each.
      Since then I have run the same scenario about 10 more times at local RPG cons, with Games-on-Demand at Pax East and am currently scheduled to run this scenario (and others) at Origins next week and then again at GenCon. I modify the scenario depending on the selected characters and the number of players. Till now nearly every group selected a different approach, and I just int he last 3 runs I did has some iconic moves being repeated. As a GM I have lots of fun with the ability to become better to run the scenario and to see how ppl react differently and are creative.

      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Running a game at a convention is immense fun. It's high energy, and challenging because you have no idea who will be playing your game. If you do well, they might buy it, so the pressure is on!
      I felt so high after the GenCon experiences. Seeing random people enjoying the game you liked for so long is wonderful and even though I was not involved with the sales of the game, it felt great when someone came back to a later session and asked what I would advise her to get after she got the core rules. Felt very gratifying.

      My running the game very active at Cons and being engaged with the people interested in the game, as well as being very vocal to the publisher about fixing issues, has now led to me being officially involved working on the English version of the game I started this hobby with when I was 7 years old. So this worked out really great. I doubt it would have happened if I would not have taken the courage to step over my fears and started to run it at Conventions.
    1. Riley37's Avatar
      Riley37 -
      "Must've been pretty hectic if you don't know if you ran 4 or 5 games." - David Anderson Jr.


      "I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself." - Harry Callahan
    1. Retreater -
      I'm contemplating running at next year's GenCon just so I know I can get into an event, unless I'm finally willing to say goodbye to GenCon. (Every one of the events we wanted to play sold out in literal seconds, and we had to sign up for events we had no interest in just to find something/anything to do.)
    1. Lanefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Retreater View Post
      I'm contemplating running at next year's GenCon just so I know I can get into an event, unless I'm finally willing to say goodbye to GenCon. (Every one of the events we wanted to play sold out in literal seconds, and we had to sign up for events we had no interest in just to find something/anything to do.)
      Yeah, I long ago learned that having a mittful of generic tickets and flying standby can be the answer there, as so many people snap up event tickets during registration and then no-show on the day.
    1. Retreater -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
      Yeah, I long ago learned that having a mittful of generic tickets and flying standby can be the answer there, as so many people snap up event tickets during registration and then no-show on the day.
      I had one bad experience with Generic Tickets (not being able to find anything to do with them the first year I bought them), that I just never considered buying them again. Maybe it's worth looking into?
    1. Lanefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Retreater View Post
      I had one bad experience with Generic Tickets (not being able to find anything to do with them the first year I bought them), that I just never considered buying them again. Maybe it's worth looking into?
      If Sunday afternoon rolls around and you've still got some generics you can refund them at Will-Call for system credit (or at least you could the last time I was there) which works kind of like a down payment on next year's badge.
    1. vendolis's Avatar
      vendolis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
      Yeah, I long ago learned that having a mittful of generic tickets and flying standby can be the answer there, as so many people snap up event tickets during registration and then no-show on the day.
      When I ran last year I has at least one no show per game. And if you are open to try new things.. there were in the room I was at least one of the three groups with at least 1-3 open spots. And as said.. all Generics can be rolled into credit by Sunday.
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