Many of us know the manic excitement a few days before your favorite convention. You have your travel plans, your hotel room all set, your dice packed neatly and ready to go. Maybe you have a game to run with unknown players, or you're a player in a friend's game. There's stuff to buy, old homies to see, and cheers to be made. It's thrilling stuff if you're a real hobbyist!
For me, the powerful chemicals of RPG conventions have mixed effects. I just returned from JEFFCON in Charlotte, NC. This is a small, family-run convention with no panels, seminars, or celebrities. It's just tables of folks playing games. Now that I'm home, I can't help but reflect on the experience.
On the Playing of Games
Obviously, most folks go to cons to play games. There are signups and schedules, with plenty to choose from. Oddly, this is the thing cons do worst. The lighting is terrible, the carpet dizzying, the vocal noise distracting. Snacks and drinks are scarce, and everyone is living out of their road-cases. Great games always happen, but despite these factors. For me, it's actually hard to imagine an environment less conducive to immersive role play.
Me and 'Dungeon Masterpiece' Baron de Ropp having a hard time breathing while playing MUGS
A common solution is to change the style of game to be played. Gonzo one-shots, card games and board games are far easier to execute in such conditions. I played in an Alien-inspired one-shot that was beyond awesome, but a far cry from any of my regular sessions. The con sacrifices immersion for selection. Some folks play back to back every day, going all out. I tend to lean back, oddly less interested in games than the other aspects at play.
Alex's 'Alien Cargo' one-shot was the stuff of legend
On the Seeing of Friends
Nothing beats seeing friends old and new who share your passion for the RPG hobby. We've got stories to tell, spouses to meet, arguments to resolve, and drinks to quaff. I need a few hours in the morning for coffee, but beyond that I never get tired of talking with friends. After moments like those, you'll never be strangers again, and that just rocks.
The shield wall gathered for a family photo. Lunatics all
My favorite aspect of the con experience in workshopping. I love sitting with a few trusted homies, asking hard questions about a new project, and guiding us to creative, elegant solutions. Maybe I'm more creator than player, but this kind of session is the meat and potatoes of my hobby.
Jeffcon was no exception. I had a great time workshopping with DM Scotty on our second book together. This is the kind of work you simply cannot do online. Then, on Saturday, my writing cohort Alex Alvarez and his son Xander were my creative partners. We vastly improved our new character creation flow, and out of nowhere developed a killer new monster AI dice concept. I could do this stuff all day, even in a brightly lit, freezing cold hotel conference room.
Our workshop session with WAR DECKS was simply bonkers. These guys rocked a massive 2v2 game with plenty of shouting
Inevitably, I disappear at a con. Folks wonder where I went. Well, I need quiet time! Social overload, sensory stimulus, noise, and hobby overload drive me to take a wandering walk, seek shelter in a nearby bar, or hermit up with my laptop in my room. It may be hard for some to understand, but this isn't 'bailing out' on the con at all. It's my way of processing, absorbing, and re-energizing. These are always very creative moments for me... an extension of the joy of workshopping.
My man Skyler took me to play some frisbee golf mid-con. Mmmm, trees
With all the fun of cons, there is a downside. After-burn is an acute oversaturation of a thing that, in daily life, is more leisure and treat rather than days-long marathon. I come home from cons a bit 'blown out' in the brain pan. All the cards, tokens, dice, shouting, drinking, rolling, laughing, eating, meeting... it's too much!
I'm reminded to be kind to myself at this moment. Give yourself some time to let after-burn wear off. No need to jump right back in to everything. Let your hunger for the hobby recover (along with your liver). Easy to say, not so easy to do.
There are numerous benefits to be gained from really leaning in to the con scene, especially as an RPG publisher and creator. So, why don;t you see ol' Hankerin more often on the con floor? Simply put, I have to protect my passion for the hobby. Moderation gives me longevity. I'm excited to get out there again, but not until I ride some bikes, sit by some fires, hike some trails, cook some eggs, and goof around with Chutney.
Until next time. Ha'baka.