GoPlay/Minicon, how?

How do these things general go?

My idea:
Agenda: One day of games with time for socializing.
Scheduled game blocks on Sat. morning, afternoon, evening, night.
Food:Dinner provided.
Cost: Attendees pay to cover the cost of food.
Location: Community Center meeting rooms. Fairly inexpensive, bathrooms and kitchen available.
Visibility: Website with a forum, notices at all the usual rpg websites, signage in FLGS and comic shops.

What kind of lessons-learned can you offer?

Comments

  • Four gaming blocks in a day? That's a lot. What times are they? Did you allow for people arriving late? And for gaps in between games?

    How do you collect money for food? Do the attendees pay for the community centre, too?

    How many people are coming? If it's, like, 10 to 15, then you don't really need sign-up sheets. When people arrive, just ask what people want to play and construct groups. If it's more, do sign-up sheets, I'd say.

    There you go. Lots of questions.

    Graham
  • Size of the event is an important consideration. If you've got a dozen or less, just go out to eat and split the cost of the venue. If you've got more than that, schedule around meals and ... split the cost of the venue. Unless you've got a compelling reason to provide food, like your venue is in the middle of a state park or something.

    Three 3-4 hour blocks is probably better than four of any length, in terms of quality. The recent event Rafael Chandler organized was two sessions bracketing a meal break and that worked well for a one-day thing.
  • I run an annual house con and invite friends. A lot of them spend the night, so it's a bit different than what you're doing, which is more public, so caveat emptor. Here are some ideas and concerns.

    Schedule games in reasonable blocks and leave ample time between for lunch and dinner. Realize that people don't like to get up early. Try noon to 5PM, 5PM-9PM, and 9PM-1AM (if you have night owls, 1 AM isn't bad, especially if your next game on the following day isn't till noon). That's three blocks a day, with one 5-hour block and two 4-hour blocks.

    Schedule as much in advance as possible. For example, insist on advance registration. Determine GMs in advance, and slot them immediately. Make players sign up for games before the con. Really. Don't create new slots for GMs until you fill up existing games (people can always shift around). I've had a lot of heartache at my house con over this. Look at the threads here for Ice Station Nerdly, JHosmer's annual house con. He does scheduling right, and I'm going to follow his lead from now on. If you just let people sign up when you get there, you'll have GMs canceling on you at the last minute because they want to play in someone else's game, and games getting canceled because they don't have enough players, and a host of other scheduling problems. You'll be strong-arming people to run games, or running games yourself, and you'll be stressed out instead of having fun.

    So before the day of the con, you know 1) who is running what and when, 2) who is playing in those games, 3) how many tables and chairs you need for each slot. This lets you make arrangements with the community center in advance. No reason to rent rooms or equipment you don't need.

    Is anyone selling anything there? Be sure to understand business licensing requirements. Make sure the community center doesn't have any prohibitions against commerce (or anything else, really).

    Separate the social space from the gaming space, if possible. Even if it's "just chat on the other side of the room." Keeps the noise down. Separate gaming tables from one another as much as possible for the same reason. Put the food in the social area. People like to chat and eat. Make sure you have ample garbage cans and trash bags. ;)

    Start an email list or something to manage this. The easier it is for people to use, the better, but you'll want an open communication channel between you and your attendees. Ice Station Nerdly used a thread here to organize the con and it worked great because we're all Story Game folks. I've used a wiki and email to organize mine, but few people bothered to update their own stuff. I had to collect info and do the updates.
  • edited January 2009
    Please tell us more about what you had in mind, maybe answer Graham's questions, and we can give more focused advice.

    Let's start a minicon HOWTO over in the Story Games Codex, too.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarPlease tell us more about what you had in mind, maybe answer Graham's questions, and we can give more focused advice.
    Will Do.
    Posted By: Graham
    There you go. Lots of questions.

    Graham
    Great start.
    I'm just tossing out ideas, looking into the viability of this idea, but here goes:
    Gaming blocks:
    9am-Noon
    2pm-6pm
    8pm to Midnight.
    (Ah I see what you mean about 4 blocks being too many)

    Attendance

    ~20 would be a great start, but might be too ambitious. Let's see. My group plus a few others I know personally would get us to ten. So maybe 20+ is doable.

    Money and Food

    I believe that a core group of interested folks could fund the space rental.
    As for food and drinks, I don't know.
    • Charge a few bucks, using paypal - money up-front is good.
    • Take money at the door - someone will have to lay-out the cash to buy food and drinks in the hopes of getting reimbursed.
    • BYOB and order delivery of go get take out during meal breaks?

    Selling Stuff

    Hadn't really planned on it.
  • A 3-hour RPG block is probably too short for most games. 4 hours feels cramped sometimes. I can't imagine finishing anything in 3.

    So, where is this thing, citywise?

    BYOB -- alcohol? I don't recommend it. Who assumes liability for this, anyway? You or the community center?
  • edited January 2009
    So, without trying to start an argument, I'll briefly note that I disagree with Adam on a few things: I wouldn't get people to book in advance, I think your three-hour slot in the morning is fine and I like alcohol.

    Here's how Concrete Cow does it. It's a smallish convention, about 50 people, in a community centre. Sessions are: 10am to 1pm, 2pm to 6pm, 7pm to 10pm.

    1. Arrive at 9am-ish.
    2. Pay five pounds on the door and get a namebadge (note the price: charging five pounds means you don't need to worry about change).
    3. If you want to run a game, put out a sign-up sheet.
    4. People sign up for games.
    5. Some games sign up, some don't, some are half-full and need to be combined with others.
    6. You go out to buy lunch and dinner. This is good. Gets you out of the hall.
    7. Repeat steps 3-5 one hour before the other slots start.

    Here's how SteveCon does it. It's an even smaller convention, in a room above a pub, with 20 people. Sessions are 1pm to about 5pm, then maybe another one in the evening.

    1. Arrive. Get a pint.
    2. When everyone's there, we sit in a big circle. Steve asks the person who's travelled the furthest what they'd like to play. From there, there's a process of working out what people want to run and what people want to play. Groups are formed.
    3. At some point, you ask Steve whether he'd like any money. He says yes, in which case you give him money, or no, in which case you buy him a Coke.
    4. Repeat step 2 for the second session of the day.

    Graham
  • Pre-registration is a headache and also means that the more hardcore folks take all the good spots and/or only sign up for games with each other. Having a sign up sheet to fill out only once you got there is the way to go, JiffyCon style. Graham is totally right, you can have games proposed beforehand, by all means, but make people decide what they want to play when they get there.
  • edited January 2009
    I hope you are seeing that there are lots of ways to do this. Everybody who has weighed in so far is right.

    I've organized a few events of this type and here's my take:

    1. Minimize your own work by simplifying and delegating.
    2. Maximize everyone's fun by carefully planning things that reward planning and leaving everything else alone.
    3. Anticipate chaos and delegate someone to deal with it.

    For 20 person gatherings, assuming everybody is there for more or less the same sort of experience, hashing out what to play on the spot isn't a problem. I tell everyone to come prepared to run a game and that helps. Having hard and fast schedule times is helpful to everybody, so you can set those in stone and enforce them to a point.

    If you have a three hour session, that's a good length for lots of things - board and card games always, prepped sessions of some games, demos, that sort of thing. Four is pretty standard.
  • Posted By: Adam DrayA 3-hour RPG block is probably too short for most games. 4 hours feels cramped sometimes. I can't imagine finishing anything in 3.

    So, where is this thing, citywise?
    Knoxville TN area. The location I have in mind is actually a little north of Knoxville and is not set in stone. It is a great place, two big conference rooms, a kitchen, a gym, but might be a little out of the way for some. If I do this, I hope to get some others involved in the planning to get other location ideas.
    Posted By: Adam Dray
    BYOB -- alcohol? I don't recommend it. Who assumes liability for this, anyway? You or the community center?
    No, I just meant B=Beverage. But I am not going to be inspecting beverages and please don't inspect mine.

    I like the Concrete Cow and JiffyCon way. I'm thinking order pizza delivered or go buy food is the way to go. If it totally flops were aren't left with a table full of sandwich fixings.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI hope you are seeing that there are lots of ways to do this. Everybody who has weighed in so far is right.
    Absolutely. This is exactly what I was hoping for.

    Anyone want to help with a Knoxville Area event?
  • If you make it sufficiently awesome there's a whole bunch of people in NC who might make a road trip. Could happen.
  • edited January 2009
    Ryan, on the question of buying in food, you've said:
    ...someone will have to lay-out the cash to buy food and drinks in the hopes of getting reimbursed.
    That'll be a serious layout of cash for 20 people, followed by wrangling over who owes what. I'd suggest you either leave people to make their own arrangements (saves worrying about dietary requirements) or get people to pay up front: if you want to eat, give us 10 bucks, and we'll order a load of stuff.

    Also, get someone to do this who isn't you. Like Jason says, simplify and delegate.

    Graham
  • Damn, Knoxville is out of my "reasonable drive" range.

    My house con gets about 15 people over two days and two nights. They're not all indie gamer twunts like me; some are casual "I have played D&D once" types. They're not going to show up prepared to run a game, so that's where my bias lies. I had a tough time making sure that there were enough GMs for the three groups of 4-5 players, and I know that Jeffrey Hosmer doesn't have that problem because he pre-schedules everyone in a forum thread.

    With a larger group and with more of those folks prepared to run something, flying by the seat of your pants might work fine. It seems an unnecessary risk to take though, especially if people are driving a few hours to get there. That's all.
  • With Camp Nerdly, bringing something you can run is an entry requirement, even for kids. But that something can be whatever - a card game, a rusty knife for Kevin Allen Jr. style mumblety peg, or an RPG session. In reality probably half the people come prepped and dying to run a roleplaying game. One side benefit of this rule is that it reinforces the "make your own fun" aesthetic.
  • And that is awesome.
  • I think I'd prefer to go with the games proposed before hand and sign-ups posted 1 hour before the block starts
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarIf you make it sufficiently awesome there's a whole bunch of people in NC who might make a road trip. Could happen.
    Define sufficiently awesome. Seriously. What would it take to get a NC crew?
  • Root beer will probably do it.

    Graham
  • edited January 2009
    We are fiends for root beer, it is true. It's sort of drifting your thread, but we got a car-load to Go Play Southeast in Gatlinburg through a combination of plenty of notice, a critical mass of games we were excited about and gamers we wanted to meet, Filipino home cooking, and cheap gasoline.

    Note that for a long haul like that you'd probably want to have stuff on Friday night, too, or Sunday morning. Plus places to crash.
  • See, if there was a Go Play Southeast, I wouldn't have to do this. Low gas prices are beyond my control, Filipino home cooking is beyond my capability. Places to crash and stuff on Friday night could be arranged. Friday night could be beer (root or otherwise) and pretzel night or somesuch.

    You've all given me some great stuff to consider. No reason to stop now.

    I'll start making contacts with locals and see what can be done. Rest assured that a notice will appear on Story-Games if/when something starts to simmer.
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