Tips for Game Masters at Conventions
While my normal GM tips largely also apply to games run at conventions, conventions add their own complications. Here are some tips I've collected:
The event description you submit to the convention is your advertisement, you way of reaching out to players who might enjoy your game. If your description isn't good, players who may love your game may overlook it, and players who won't might show up and end up unhappy. In the worst case, players may show up, discover that the game isn't what the expected, and leave mid-game.
List the correct game system
List the most clear game system you can. Prefer whatever the publisher calls the game. For example, the current, modern era vampire game from White Wolf is "Vampire: the Requiem." It is not simply "Vampire" or "Vampire (New World of Darkness)." Similarly, the game is "Dungeons & Dragons" with a rules edition of "3.5". It is not "D&D3.5" (spell things out) or "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" (The "Advanced was dropped with third edition) or "Dungeons and Dragons" (It's an ampersand, not "and"). If you get this wrong, people may overlook your event. Given the above example, someone who wants a New World of Darkness Vampire but hates the previous World of Darkness may search for "Vampire" and "Requiem" and never find your game.
While you're at it, be sure to spell check your game system's name. I have no hope of spelling "requiem" from memory. As someone who runs a web site of Gen Con events, I can promise you that the people who create the event listings do little to no proofreading.
Summarize the premise
Too many GMs try to be clever and not tell players anything so they'll be surprised. Unfortunately without any idea of what to expect, it's hard to guess if I'll enjoy it, and I'll look for a different game. Take, for example, this real description from a Paranoia event:
"Welcome to Paranoia XP, 300% better than any previous version and 1,025,894% better than those other ""not-fun"" RPGs! Assigned to [DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS], the Troubleshooters will have to [DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS] or all of Alpha Complex will be [DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS]!
While cute, and in the style of a typical Paranoia game, it can describe pretty much any Paranoia adventure.
If mystery is a key part of the game, regrettably you're going to have to spoil it some. Be prepared to spoil about a quarter of the game session. So for a typical four hour game, spell out what you expect the players to have learned at about the one hour mark if necessary.
Provide a web site
Many conventions allow links to web sites in your description. Gen Con provides a special field for it. Use it. This is your chance to have way more description about your game than you can fit in the description box. TODO.
- Good, clear description. Don't be coy or cute!
- Gen Con allows a link. Use it. Have a site for each event. Make sure the site is up, even if it's a placeholder, before registratin opens.
- "How to GM a Good Convention Game (from a Player’s POV)" - Good baseline. (From Treasure Tables.)
- "GenCon 2007’s Lessons for Convention GMs" - Some excellent simple tips to improve the game. (Again, from Treasure Tables.)