Campaigning at the Con
Relationshipsby Mike DeSanto
Campaigning at the Con
Relationshipsby Mike DeSanto
Campaigning at the Con: Relationships
This installment of Campaigning at the Con concerns maintaining a good relationship with the rest of the convention, specifically convention organizers and other GMs. A convention is a gigantic group effort, so it is important to work with the rest of the group. I will cover three aspects of the necessary teamwork: feedback, event balancing and diversification.
Feedback: In my experience, if someone does not like how you run your campaign they will complain to everyone they meet, except you. They may want to avoid confrontation, or avoid hurting your feelings. Whatever the reason, you will not get useful feedback unless you ask for it.
With that in mind, you should get together with convention organizers before and after each convention. Nothing formal, just ask if they have any concerns, or if there is anything you should do differently. You do not have to do everything they ask, but you had better have a pretty good reason when you say no. After all, they are trying to keep the whole con running smoothly. If your campaign disrupts the con they can and will cancel your campaign. So work with the organizers and find compromise where you disagree.
You should also listen to other GMs, at least those who your campaign directly affects (meaning those who use the same game system). The people who play in your games probably play in theirs. Discussing how much your campaign sucks in front of players is a childish but effective way to drive players away from your games. So listen to what other GMs are saying, and if you hear someone bad-mouthing your campaign, ask why they have a problem. Once you get talking, you may convince them that things are not so bad, or they may convince you that there is a problem. In either case, you should care enough to ask.
In general, try to stay friendly with everyone around you. If there is a conflict, try to resolve it. Put some effort into pleasing the people you work with, without compromising the spirit of your campaign. It sounds easy, but it takes some effort.
After a few conventions, Davenford became popular enough that the games started getting overbooked. A game for six players may have up to 10 players wanting to squeeze in. We tried to be accommodating, allowing as many as the GM felt they could handle.
Several conventions later a GURPS GM not involved in Davenford was overheard complaining that they had to cancel their game because only two players signed up. They blamed Davenford for overbooking and sucking players from other games. We contacted the convention staff, who said that they had been getting similar complaints for some time.
To alleviate this problem we disallowed overbooking Davenford games if any other GURPS games were short on players. The sign up sheets showed six slots and two alternates. Alternates were asked to go to games that needed more players to run.
Event Balancing means matching the number of campaign events to the number of players. The perfectly balanced campaign will have a seat for every player and a player for every seat. Of course, you have no idea how many players will want to play your games, so event balancing is more art than science. All you can really do is keep track of how many players play your games, and adjust at the next convention. There are two ways to be out of balance - too many players and too many seats.
If you have too many players, the solution is to add more events or consolidate the events so you have several in each time slot. If you have too many seats, you need to decrease the number of events, or spread them out over several time slots. In general, you should add events if all events are filled or overfilled, and remove events if they are half filled or you have cancellations.
When we first started Davenford we had trouble filling events if we had more than one in each time slot. We spread the events out, with no more than one per slot, and attendance improved. Eventually attendance increased to the point that we had to schedule at least two events in any slot with Davenford games to support the demand. We also scheduled at least one non-Davenford time slot each day, to take the pressure off the other GURPS GMs.
While a campaign must use a single system, not all events using that system need to be part of the campaign. This is particularly true for generic systems and systems that have an existing following at the con. Make sure your campaign does not take over an existing system. Run non-campaign events and work with GMs that are not part of the campaign.
Another option is to use a system that does not currently have a following at the con. Using an unknown system can be a tough sell, both to fellow GMs and to players. People want to play the game that they already know. Still, if you can generate a following with a new system, there will be no GMs angry because you drew away the small pool of players that followed their system.
In the last few conventions where Davenford was run, both convention staff and the local MIB representative expressed concern that Davenford was taking over the GURPS games. We examined the schedule, and Davenford was making up about 50% of the GURPS games. We had increased the number of events, but the number of GURPS players had not increased as we had hoped. As a compromise, we asked anyone that ran a Davenford event to run at least one non-Davenford event, preferably in GURPS or In Nomine to keep SJGames happy. Unfortunately, the campaign ended before we could see the effect of this change.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with others at the con is to make sure that you DO deal with them, and think carefully about how you do it. Wring their opinions out of the convention staff and GMs, and take those opinions into account.
Finally, remember that most people are not jerks intentionally. They just do not realize what they are doing. They will not change until you tell them that they are annoying you. Communication is the key to getting along.
Come back next month as we discuss expanding your campaign without changing its flavor.