Worlds of Design: Single RPG Conventions

It’s hard out there for new RPGs. Specialized conventions can help.


Not D&D​

People who play the most widespread RPGs such as the latest editions of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder don’t need a specialized convention, they should be able to play a part in conventions with broader topics. Most big conventions usually have D&D or Pathfinder events. Some tabletop game cons (e.g. World Boardgaming Championships, PrezCon, World Series of Boardgaming) won’t have any RPG component at all.

Let’s say you’re a fan of an RPG other than D&D (5e) or Pathfinder. And you want to attend a game convention that focuses on your game. But there probably aren’t enough fans nearby for a convention, and while you’re willing to do some work to organize a convention, you don’t want to take on the whole body of work—a lot of work—associated with a big, day-long meeting. You can’t expect any convention to make money, but there are examples (such as PrezCon in Charlottesville VA) of smallish game cons that have made money for many years.

Here's an example of what you can do. Grogtalk is a well-known podcast for AD&D. Several years ago the podcast principals decided to try running an Old School D&D convention, James Garoutsos taking charge. When James was involved in early advertising for his convention he was contacted by Craig Russell and Tim Wright, who run a mid-size miniatures convention called “Crucible.” Miniatures in this case meaning fantastical games like Warhammer 40K and War Machine much more than historical miniatures. The only RPG at Crucible was the D&D 5e. It was a natural fit to add Old School/AD&D, and piggybacking on Crucible reduces James’ organizational and financial burden as Crucible takes care of things like finding a venue and registering players.

GrogCon is a long weekend (three day) “Old School” convention where the principal activity is playing one-shot (the British would say one-off) adventures. Other than games, an episode of GrogTalk was recorded at the con, with me talking at some length about what characterizes “Old School” and “New School” RPGs.


The 2022 Convention​

I attended the 2022 edition, which had the misfortune of running just after Hurricane Ian crossed Florida. Though GrogCon has only run for a few years, and is near the east coast of Florida, it has had people attend from as far away as the west coast, Mexico, and Minnesota. Although Orlando didn’t suffer much from the hurricane (mostly power outages), air travel did. Many people could not make it, though one fellow drove 19 hours from New Jersey right through the hurricane to attend! Altogether, the con was no more than half as large as the pre-registration of 48 indicated.

Crucible included the official D&D (5e) Adventurers League, at least eight tables with eight people per table, probably two to three times as many players as Grogcon. The few 5e sessions I focused on did not actually use any miniatures, preferring Theater of the Mind. (Some of the GrogCon 1e sessions used miniatures, though not all, but few used an actual board.) Whether the 5e games were played as storytelling or as actual game I don’t know, though the 5e rules facilitate the storytelling style via mechanics such as skill checks and lots of healing.

There was a big difference in clientele. As is usually the case with 1e players, we were young 40 years ago but not anymore! On the other hand, most of Crucible’s 5e players appeared to be 20/30-somethings. Another difference, many college/university players have laptops at the table, and in some cases their character sheets are on smartphones. This was rare with the GrogCon players, not because the Old Schoolers cannot use computers (e.g. I taught college and graduate school computer networking classes), they just don’t feel a need for them.



Discoverability is always a problem in gaming. That is, if people don’t know your RPG/campaign/convention/book exists, they cannot buy/participate. Grogcon has the advantage of growing out of the popular Grogtalk podcast and “Flipping & Turning” magazine, so people hear of it in those ways. And hear of Crucible as well, of course. On the other hand James doesn’t want a really large convention, under a hundred people seems to be comfortable. They’re on track.

So this is an example of a specialized convention that has found its niche by working with a larger convention.

GrogCon 2023 (the fourth edition) will be Sep 29—Oct 1 at the Doubletree Orlando, 5780 Major Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, piggybacked on Crucible Miniatures Con. Weather and other “acts of god” willing, I expect to be there again.

Your Turn: Have you been involved in any small specialized RPG conventions? How did they go?

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Lewis Pulsipher

Lewis Pulsipher

Dragon, White Dwarf, Fiend Folio

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
There used to be fnordcon, which was all about Steve Jackson Games, and lots of GURPS I think could be had. However in the pandemic it went virtual, and this year no plans sadly

Other single RPG cons I can recall, but google fails me now: a DCC con, a Pathfinder/Paizo Con, and I have a vague memory of a Savage Worlds Con

@lewpuls Is GrogCon for the single RPG AD&D? It wasn't clear to me which single RPG (per the title) was the focus of GrogCon...


I wish I could say I have been to some, but I wasn't even aware there were any. Though to be honest, I've lost interest in Fantasy RPGs, which are by far the most dominant genre now.

When the OGL fiasco happened, I remember watching a video where the creator was mentioning alternative RPG's that people could try during the "boycott". Reading the comments was an eye-opener. Quite a few people commented that they didn't even know other RPG's existed. The only way I can even imagine that happening is that those players never went to a FLGS and either played at someone's house, or perhaps online through dndbeyond. I would suspect if they used something like roll20, they would have seen that it supported other games.

The absolute dominance of D&D (and fantasy in general) somewhat confounds me. Back in the mid to late 80s, I went to several Suncoast Skirmish conventions in Florida. My dad was into historical miniatures (and I used to be as well), but I was there for RPG's.

While there were quite a few AD&D game sessions, I'd guesstimate only about 1/4 to 1/3rd were. The remainder were a plethora of games of the time. Traveller, Twilight 2000, Champions, Chill, Call of Cthulhu, etc. At the time, my best friend's father owned a hobby store that sold RC cars, model trains, plastic models, rockets, and games of all sorts, including RPG games. My friend's father didn't just stock TSR stuff, and the other games sold fairly well, especially Twillight 2000 (nothing like a Cold War at the time to drive sales of a post-Apocalyptic game I guess). Compare that to today, where several of my (younger late 20 to early 30s) coworkers play D&D 5e, but have never tried playing anything other RPG, and seem to have no desire to.

So I feel bad for alt-RPGs (anything non-D&D nowadays). It must be a very tough hill to climb to gain any kind of mind share nowadays.


I only just heard about GrogCon a few weeks ago. I didn't even realize that there had been a con so close to me these last few years. I'm definitely going to make a plan to be there in 2024

I used to attend GenCon a lot in before covid, but the hotel cost really dampers my plans to go back. Origins and DragonCon are at the end of the school year, or the beginning, which is a no go for me.

Besides those 3, what's the biggest rpg convention in the USA/Canada?

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I used to attend GenCon a lot in before covid, but the hotel cost really dampers my plans to go back. Origins and DragonCon are at the end of the school year, or the beginning, which is a no go for me.

Besides those 3, what's the biggest rpg convention in the USA/Canada?
GameholeCon (Madison WI)
DundraCon (SF Bay)
OrcCon (Los Angeles)

Here's a nice list List of gaming conventions - Wikipedia

Does it have to be gaming only? San Diego ComicCon usually has a fat game track; as does PAX


Canada -- BreakoutCon (Toronto), Terminal City Con (Vancouver), CanGames (Ottawa - since 1974), Phantasm (Peterborough - smaller but at 30+ years and very RPG centric)
Ragnarok XP is pretty new in Waterloo area. I'm going to TabletopYYC in Calgary this November it's new. I haven't been to GameItoba in Winnipeg yet, but plan too.
Impossible Realities is in New Brunswick, haven't been able to make that one yet.

Halcon in Halifax is more of a general "fan" con, but it does have some good gaming representation.

Here's a list of where Compose Dream Games went/is going this year: 2023 Events for the Compose Dream Games RPG Marketplace


I thought AmberCons would get mentioned somewhere by the OP. These are the only "one game" specific cons I have heard about repeatedly. Haven't been to one though.


Thanks for the reply, but what I'm looking for is the size of the convention. CanGames, at least on their event list, is a small convention.
CanGames has sort of made the choice to stay small. It's more important to them that they run each year in the same place and provide some of the same experiences (i.e. a tournament of the Britannia board game each year) than they grow.
It's my home con and I love it.

CanGames, Terminal City and Phantasm are all around the "running a dozen RPG sessions in each slot" size. Of the three, Terminal City is newest, and may be the most likely to grow that.
Breakout is the only one that is larger. They attract more indie-designers too. Breakout's RPG size is a little harder to tell though because they don't run fixed time slots for RPGs. (CanGames and Phantasm both use a 4 slot, all games start at the same time approach, with 3 slots on the Saturday.)

I think you are pretty hard pressed to find a convention in Canada that runs more RPGs than these, but I'd love to have someone tell me otherwise.

Conqueror Worm

Back in the day, I used to attend Gloranthacon which was centered around Runequest. There was also Arcanicon (centered around the campaign setting of Arcanis by Paradigm Concepts) and a convention centered around Legends of the Five Ring RPG.


I suppose as designer of Britannia I ought to "approve this message"!

Well . . . isn't that a small world that I would respond to your thread with this specific fact? I've participated in the tourney twice I believe. It's a great game. Been attending CanGames almost every year since 2010. It was a tradition there well before that.

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