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Author Topic: How I organize the Indie RPG Explosions  (Read 1877 times)
Michael S. Miller
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« on: January 29, 2006, 05:18:45 AM »

This is less a list of steps to follow, than a declaration of why you need to do the various little tasks. Maybe you’ll find a better way of meeting these needs than I have.

For any successful convention presence, there are 3 groups of people to satisfy. They have needs in 5 areas that need to be met. The three groups:

A) GMs / game designers who will run games – I do most of my communicating with them.

B) the convention staff – I generally ask them for permission for various things

C) convention attendees who will play games – I do as much of my organizing in public as I can, plus I urge group A to tell their friends & post in their blogs to reach these people.

Everybody who goes to a convention has the following needs. The more of these needs you can meet through organization, the more people are likely to come. The more of these needs you leave up each individual to fend for himself, the less people are likely to come (but the more likely you are to stay sane, so be warned).

1) Transportation—Everyone’s gotta get to the convetion. This need is almost always left to each individual, but sometimes folks find it helpful to share rides & such.

2) Lodging—Unless it’s a local 1-day event, everyone’s gotta sleep sometime. Double Exposure is rare in that they provide us lodging at no charge. Organizing multiple folks to share rooms is another option, but more work. Luckily, it’s also work that’s pretty easy to delegate.

3) Food—Everybody’s gotta eat. Again, Double Exposure is exceptional in their hospitality with food. Normally everyone is left to fend for themselves and that works just fine. Providing food can range from everyone chipping in for takeout, to Ben’s healthy snack room at GenCon, to a With Great Chili… party. Each of them has their own level of logistical requirements.

4) Product Sales—Designers want to sell their games, attendees want to buy the games, convention organizers want their fair share for putting the entire event together. Once more, Double Exposure stands out as breaking all the rules of convention standard operating procedure by offering us free booth space. Usually, a convention will charge up-front fees for a dealer’s table. Some small conventions will offer a discount if you don’t want a table in the dealer’s room itself and are willing to pack up your stuff each night. If there aren’t enough of you to afford a booth, a low-cost option is to approach one of the retalers in the dealer room and offer to leave some product with them on a consignment basis.

The booth has many, many logistical issues to handle: Who’s paying the booth fee? Who’s bringing the stock? How is the stock going to be displayed? Who’s responsible for the money (cash boxes and receipt books with carbon paper are inexpensive and extremely handy)? Who’s manning the booth at any given time (never leave your booth unattended)? Who can run quick demoes of the games available?

5) Events—Everybody’s there to play games! In my experience, East Coast and Midwestern conventions tend to favor scheduled events more heavily than open gaming. I’ve heard that West Coast conventions devote a lot of space to open gaming, with fewer scheduled events. I’m fond of schedules myself because they focus people’s attention: “We’re doing X at time Y.”

When designing a schedule, there are several rules-of-thumb that I’ve developed over years of convention-going: If you schedule too many games in a single timeslot, some of them will fold for lack of players. Generally the afternoon and evening timeslots are better attended than morning ones. Sunday morning games will never start on time and will often fold entirely. Scheduling games in each and every timeslot can be billed as a “track” and can be seen as a declaration that you’re serious about being a significant presence at the convention. Try not to schedule games that appeal to similar audiences in the same timeslot. If you’ve got multiple designers wanting to run their games, try to give them approximately equal access to the more popular afternoon and evening timeslots.

Here’s the biggest way in which I personally need to improve the way I run these things: You need to make sure that your GMs and designers running games know what they need to do at the convention insofar as navigating the convention’s badge registration system, sign-up sheets and/or event tickets, as well as how to contact you at the con. I’ve dropped the ball on this repeatedly and strive to do better in the future.


There’s  probably stuff I missed. Please feel free to ask about anything. My online time will be extremely limited in the near future, meaning that I doubt I’ll be able to get to this thread more often than once per day, so please be patient.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2006, 02:27:28 PM »

That's a great resource, Michael.

Will you be coordinating the IGE for DexCon 9? Or is this a subtle way of saying you're looking for someone else to take up the task?
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2006, 07:08:30 AM »

Judd had asked how I do it, so I wrote this up. Kat & I will be doing an Explosion at I-CON (I'll be soliciting interested parties later this week) and at DexCon 2006, and likely Southern Exposure 2006. Kat & I & Mike Holmes will be running an Explosion at GenCon 2006. If anyone wants to pitch in, just shoot me a PM. I'd love to share the work, er, wealth.
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Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
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