Convention Season: Convolution

[This is the fourth in my series of game convention retrospectives, in an attempt to draw general conclusions about improving attendees’ and organizers’ convention experience.]

Foray into SFF Land: Convolution

(San Francisco Airport Hyatt-Regency, San Francisco Bay Area)

Convolution was its very first year, held on the first weekend in November; it’s a little off the beaten path for us because it’s a science-fiction and fantasy convention, but they were trying to get a small gaming section established and we were asked to run games.   We live minutes from the location, so we agreed.

There was a very nice space dedicated to games of all types during the day and a different one, also very aesthetically pleasing, for the evenings.  Games included live-action role-playing (LARP), card games (Steve Jackson was a guest and there was a Munchkin tournament), a few board games, and a little bit of tabletop role-playing.

To be honest, the draw of SFF conventions rather escapes me because I am not much into costuming or autographs, nor do I have aspirations to becoming a novelist, so that doesn’t leave much to do; a visit of the dealers’ room, and that’s about it.  So I will be a bit more limited in my comments because my focus was gaming and I did not attend the bulk of activities.

(Things that went well, things that went poorly: after the cut.)

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Convention Season: What Works, What Doesn’t

[This was going to be a very long post, so I’m splitting it into linked segments.]

Things were a little wild for us this year, convention-wise.  It was entirely unexpected too, because we’re so broke that we have no money at all to attend convention, so how did we attend four???  Answer: we have fantastic friends, we worked our butts off for all those conventions, and three of them were close enough that we could drive home at night and save hotel costs.  I’d like to review state-of-the-art game “conventioneering” and share some thoughts.  In addition, I’ll add some considerations of conventions we’re choosing not to attend, and why.

That means there will be criticism; if it’s your convention, your work, your friends, or your ideas I’m criticising, please know that it’s in an effort to draw general “con”clusions (haha), not to pick on you.  You probably have very good reasons you did things a certain way, reacting to crises as they arose; I’m talking about a general approach here.

The Line-Up:

Prepping for another con: Blowback

Blowback and Shadowrun covers

Update: I posted the finished playset, sans images because of copyright issues.  Enjoy!

I’m working on my games for Convolution next weekend (alas, they’re not showing up in the schedule yet, but I submitted them late).  Right now I’m writing a new Shadowrun-based play set for Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat’s Blowback game.  Blowback is a game where you play highly skilled spies who are short on resources and must rely on family and friends; excellent to play Burn Notice, Haywire, Desperado, or The Bourne Identity.  I figure that maps pretty well over to shadowrunners, who plan and execute elaborate operations on the wrong side of the law.

I set up a technique for this last time I prepped a playset, and it works pretty well for me.  Here is how it goes:

First, I decide how many players I want.  I like five: one Lifer as a well-rounded leader and four Artists as specialists in each area of expertise (in Burn Notice, Michael would be a Lifer and Fiona and Artist).  I’ve also done it with different mixes, but I like this one.

Then I line up four columns but I don’t label the columns yet; I distribute top stat values (4 for Lifers and 5 for Artists) with as many sets as I have players.  (I do this by hand in a ruled notebook, but you don’t want to see my handwriting…)

First step: distributing top stats

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