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Campaigning at the Con

Conclusion

by Mike DeSanto
May 29,2003

 

Conclusion

This month we will take a look at the Davenford campaign, and see how well it achieved its goals. Specifically, Davenford had three goals:

1) Draw new players to the GURPS games.
2) Create a deeper setting without doing too much more work.
3) Create a campaign that would last.

To see how Davenford measures up, I will rate it in several of the areas suggested by previous columns. Each item will get from one to four stars.

1) Campaign Constitution - **

We did all the setup necessary to create a Campaign Constitution, and the web page did have some of the information. However, much of the discussion on genre and setting was done by e-mail. Eventually, all the e-mails were lost. When new GMs came on board we had none of the previous discussion to show them and very little non-player information written down.

2) Guidelines for Players - ****

We had rules for character creation, a setting overview, rules for joining guilds or professional societies, and plenty of other material for players. We had handouts at the convention and everything was available on the web site.

3) Guidelines for GMs - ***

Many of the GM guidelines were lost with the e-mails of the original discussions. We did have an ethics statement and some simple rules for adventures, but not as much as we should have.

4) Character Creation Procedure - ***

We used the Player and Rules procedure of character creation. The character creation rules were a single piece of paper and had all the necessary information. However, if the player did not know GURPS, creating a character was a daunting task. We did not have suficient guidelines for getting help from GMs for beginning players.

5) Marketing - *

We basically did not market Davenford. We handed out schedule cards to players, but that did not get the word out to new people. The web site, also, was only accessible if you knew the address, and that was not widely publicized.

6) Working with Convention Staff - *

We did not make enough effort to communicate with the convention staff. This is surprising, since several of the Davenford GMs played in weekly games with staff members. We never thought to ask them if they had concerns about Davenford, and they assumed the people complaining to them were also complaining to us. We were caught by surprise several times, and the misunderstandings could have been avoided.

7) Working with other GMs - **

We did not pay more attention to other GMs than we did to convention staff, but other GMs tended to complain loudly and in public, where we were more likely to hear them.

8) Event Balancing - ***

We put great effort into event balancing, but there were still a few problems. Event balancing is more art than science in any case, so we were bound to suffer some setbacks. At least we were thinking about it, and that was the most important thing.

9) Adding new GMs - **

Until people started asking to run Davenford games, we put exactly zero thought into adding new GMs. When new GMs did start, we had no Campaign Constitution to get them started. We did a fair job with the resources we had, but better planning up front would have saved time and effort.


Analysis

Now we can use these ratings to analyze Davenford's performance in reaching the three goals.

Did Davenford draw new players to the GURPS games? It drew some new players, but not many. There was not enough marketing and not enough instruction to new players. GURPS is a rather complicated system, so a player moving from another system needs all the help they can get.

Did Davenford create a deeper setting without doing too much more work? Yes. By the time Davenford ended we had the nobility of the area defined, several criminal organizations, guilds, maps of the city, legends of surrounding areas, and all sorts of other setting information. The city had suffered through two wars, one from northern barbarians and one from extra dimensional creatures. The setting eventually took on a life of its own, with legends created as background and legends created in games intertwined.

Much of the expanding setting must be attributed to information distributed to players, especially the newsletter we produced after each convention. Keeping an overview of each event really builds the setting into a living, breathing world.

Did Davenford create a campaign that would last? Sadly, Davenford ended when I moved away from the Los Angeles area. I have spoken with several of the other GMs about why Davenford ended. The general consensus is that there was a lack of leadership. I tried to organize the GMs as a democratic group where everyone had an equal say. Everyone else considered Davenford my creation and looked to me for leadership. I must have provided a minimum amount of direction just through my enthusiasm for the project, but when I left nobody took my place.

All in all, Davenford was a guarded success. While we did not achieve two of the three main goals, many people had fun in Davenford games, and that is really the measure of success in gaming.

I hope these eight months have inspired some new groups to start convention campaigns like Davenford. Running a convention campaign is not significantly more work than regular convention games, but they require much more planning and much better communication between GMs, players, and convention staff. With a little thought and a group of good GMs you can build a campaign that will bring players back to the convention year after year. I hope these columns will help.

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