One thing that it rarely done regarding convention games – and even more rarely, done *well* – is criticism. First things first, its probably best to ask someone if they want to chat about their game. A GM may well have just had a bad game from their point of view and be feeling down about it anyway, and in no mood to be told by someone else that it was poor also. They might have other things going on in their lives and have struggled through to run a game anyway so they don’t let people down who’ve showed up. There could be all manner of other reasons – perhaps they just don’t like talking about games? So, the best thing to do, before we even start, is make sure your GM wants to hear what you’ve got to say.
Sometimes Con game prep is all about the scenario. However, let’s not forget that the scenario is only half the game at best. It’s the characters that really drive the game. As it’s a Con game, you have enormous power when you’re putting together your pregens. A great way of getting a coherent group is to think about the relationships they have with each other. I’ve pulled together some thoughts from other GMs who tried this, and am blatantly passing it off as my own work. See what you think.
I saw a heated debate online about who’s responsibility it was to bring the fun and what lay with the GM. As with all these discussions, that can be a thousand and one things depending on which game you’re playing and who you’ve got round the table, but lets assume we’re talking about a reasonably middle of the road (“Trad”) game like something Savage or White Wolf or Cthulhu even. Lets also assume that people are their to try and have a good game and not just hanging about like a friend of a friend on a double date who got dragged along even though convinced the whole night is going to be a waste of space. If you think something is going to be rubbish going in, there’s a good chance it’ll be a self fulfilling prophecy. Spend your time more wisely and don’t risk spoiling everyone else’s fun by filling a space in a game you don’t want. Someone else might want it for starters, and they could be really interested in what’s on offer.
“Know your setting, system and scenario in advance. Write yourself cheat sheet or post-its, whatever you like.”
I’ve been asked to expand on the many intro points I’ve brushed upon, so here goes with the first one…
The first half of the statement should be fairly self explanatory. Don’t be one of those GMs that turn up at the con and say to a bunch of players “I read this on the train on the way up”. Or similarly have an opening gambit along the lines of “I don’t know the setting or system, but we’ll have a laugh anyway”. If someone’s come along to find out what the game’s like or the setting, or is an old hand and chosen the game as a banker, they’re not going to love you for it.
Trust me on the scenario bit too. I’m pretty good at ad-lib and rolling with the punches, it comes from years of practice. But I ran a game at Conception and I’d not plotted it out properly. It showed. I was really annoyed with myself and the players had fun along the way, but didn’t get the killer blow at the end they deserved. It was an okay game, but could have been great if I’d plotted and thought about the scenario that bit more. Even if your game is a bit more hippy and freeform, think about different characters or mannerisms or whatever. You can never have too much prep, but too little really shows.