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Author Topic: Large-scale RPG club  (Read 13008 times)
Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


« on: December 05, 2002, 04:19:53 PM »

Ok, I'll start with giving an overview of the organisation of the large scale club in Germany
I'll give a basic overview of the organization, the details are, in part for legal reasons, more complicated.

For simple legal reasons, it needs a board. In this specific case, the board is composed of chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. Two members of the board can officially represent the entire club.

The board is elected annually by an assembly of members. Obviously, due to the scale of the organisation, not all members will be able to attend. Those who can't can transfer their voting right to another member of their trust, though no member is entitled to hold more than two votes on top of his own.

In areas where the club is very active, i.e. has a lot of members, local chapters are opened by decision of the board which also have chapter boards composed of chairman, secretary and treasurer. Members of the local chapter have to be members of the club (i.e. the chapter cannot accept members on its own). The board of the chapter is elected in similar fashion to the board of the entire club, scaled down. The main board of the club has a veto right to the decisions of the chapter boards and can, in case the chapter board does not fulfill its duties, dismiss negligent members of the chapter board.

The club has installed a number of task forces dealing with various issues, such as specific games, or game genres (e.g. WoD, Tabletop, D&D etc) which hold regular tournaments etc. and contribute to the conventions held by the club.

The boards of the taskforces and chapters along with the board of the club as a whole constitute a council meeting roughly at halftime between the member assemblies. With a 2/3 majority, they have a veto right to decisions of the club board (counting present votes, and at least 50% presence is required for the council to have the quorum)

Now, of course for all that to have an effect, the club has to do something, obviously.

Each regional chapter is held to stage at least one Convention anually. To do that, it acts as the full representative of the club in negotiations for  rooms, provisions, etc., and is supported by the club to prefinance deposits, leases, and other necessary investments. The regional chapter is also supposed to represent the club to the press, public etc. in its area, and acts in that semi-autonomously, negotiating and organizing rooms to RP in, etc.

The entire club publishes a fanzine, subscription to which is included in membership fees, but non-members can subscribe as well, and the fanzine is sold in select game stores.

Local chapters are encouraged, but not required, to publish their own regional fanzines, on their own budget. (Not having been a member of one, I am not sure how many do, but I think most didn't, since that would mean having to generate funding.)

The club as a whole also organizes at least one annual convention, organized either by the board or delegated to a task force or local chapter.

At public cons, non-members have to pay entry fees, while for members, entry is usually included in their membership fee, though at very large-scale events, they are occasionally asked to contribute a reduced fee, IIRC.

The effect is that a)there is a larger number of conventions at which players meet players they didn't know through their own circle of friends.
b)there are some large-scale conventions fit to rouse public attention, including media attention c)there are competent people (hopefully) who can talk with the media as official representatives of a couple of hundred people with a common interest d)an organisation is created that through sheer size and hopefully financial background can move something, launch press releases, buy advertising space etc.

Mind you, it's not a cure-all. Wherever people gather in official structures and vote on things, you will have some degree of politics going on. Whereever money goes through a bunch of hands some of it will go down the drain. I've seen such clubs in financial dire straights because the one or other treasurer wasn't precisely the old Scrooge he's supposed to be. That in part is a side-effect of the fact that on the regional level, when dealing with 10-20, or maybe 30 people, things tend to be less formal, and frequently, boards are appointed by acclamation for the simple fact that there's only a handful of dudes ready to actually do some work, while the rest is just in it for the fun.

Ok, so much as a rough overview what the theoretical (based on the charter and other legal documents) status quo is. As to how it got there after the people in the know answered my emails ;)
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2002, 01:18:43 PM »

I guess the really intriguing question is how did the funding come to be? I'm aware of the greater amount of this sort of thing that occurs in Europe, but how specifically did RPGs get funding? Was there some board to apply to?

Does anyone know of any government group in the US that would be a parallel? Could we get funds from, say, the NEA (not all that farfetched, I think)?

Mike
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Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2002, 02:45:58 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I guess the really intriguing question is how did the funding come to be? I'm aware of the greater amount of this sort of thing that occurs in Europe, but how specifically did RPGs get funding? Was there some board to apply to?

Does anyone know of any government group in the US that would be a parallel? Could we get funds from, say, the NEA (not all that farfetched, I think)?

Mike


I am not sure if there was a misunderstanding as to the acitivities. The club published no RPGs of its own, though several members, individually or for companies they worked for, published RPGs. The activities the club required funding for were a)providing room for its members to RP in, b)staging Cons and c)publishing its fanzine.

Sources of income were:
a)member contributions - there was an annual membership fee and, unless you joined on a convention, an application fee.
b)income from Cons, both through entry fees for non-members, and sale of snacks, club material, etc.
c)Sale of the fanzine to non-members. The fanzine was (and still is) designed very professionally, depending on the current income with color cover. Since it was independent of any company, its reviews of game material, both RPG and other, enjoyed high credibility. The fanzine also published advertisement (the fact that companies wanted to advertise in it alone should be testimony of the respect the fanzine enjoyed). It contained at times very well researched articles directly or indirectly related to roleplaying (e.g. "Medicine in the middle-ages" etc.)

Lastly, since the club was recognized as a non-profit public utility organization, it enjoyed numerous benefits such as lower leases on public property like convention centers etc. and all donations and contributions were tax deductible. As already mentioned, the CONVENTIONS in some cases were co-organized with municipal authorities, specifically the department taking care of issues concerning adolescents. (It also fulfills duties similar to CPS in the US, but goes far beyond that, also creating opportunities for constructive activity, installing skate parks, playgrounds, youth centers etc.) As such, they have a)funding and b)facilities that are usable at least for small to medium-scale cons, and can negotiate with the other departments of the city administration for their facilities.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2002, 03:03:37 PM »

My mistake, I thought that these were government funded operations. I've heard that some Scandanavian countries have this going, and assumed that this was the sort of thing that you were referring to.

That said, we do have the Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA), here in the US, now owned, I think, by WOTC. Which I think was, at least originally, supposed to perform some of the functions that you state. The problem is that it's never been quite that successful for some reason. They support cons, but I don't think they run them. Also, I don't think they have regional chapters (but I could be quite wrong about that). Perhaps what we need to do is to look at the reasons for it's lack of success.

Or maybe they are the answer, and we're just overlooking it.

Anyone know a lot about the RPGA?

Mike
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Irmo
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Posts: 258


« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2002, 03:25:09 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
My mistake, I thought that these were government funded operations. I've heard that some Scandanavian countries have this going, and assumed that this was the sort of thing that you were referring to.

That said, we do have the Role-Playing Game Association (RPGA), here in the US, now owned, I think, by WOTC. Which I think was, at least originally, supposed to perform some of the functions that you state. The problem is that it's never been quite that successful for some reason. They support cons, but I don't think they run them. Also, I don't think they have regional chapters (but I could be quite wrong about that). Perhaps what we need to do is to look at the reasons for it's lack of success.

Or maybe they are the answer, and we're just overlooking it.

Anyone know a lot about the RPGA?

Mike


Well, the club in Germany has been hanging in the ropes for a while as well. The reason for that is the usual problem that to lead an organisation like that, you have to have a goal and a vision, but to keep it working, you need to be able to operate systematically... For a while, they had a bunch of very creative folks at the top, who, however, didn't feel like enforcing the charter against people who weren't fulfilling their duties, which led to the effect that the club was running low on cash for no other reason that it was bogged down in regional chapters who didn't return it to the central treasury after a con. The problem with many RPG clubs is that once they reach a certain size, it becomes hard to a)administrate them while b)still RPing yourself and because people love RPing, a)sometimes suffers. But organizations of that size run only efficiently when they are consistently oiled and greased, which occasionally also involves planting a boot on the posterior of people you personally like. At the same time, stagnation is death and unless one has the feeling one is getting somewhere with the club, it is soon taken for granted and forgotten. That's why a vision is needed.
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Seth L. Blumberg
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Posts: 303


« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2002, 12:16:07 PM »

The biggest problems with the RPGA are its focus on tournaments to the exclusion of any other form of play, and its status as a TSR/WotC house organ. It completely lacks credibility.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2002, 12:45:02 PM »

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
The biggest problems with the RPGA are its focus on tournaments to the exclusion of any other form of play, and its status as a TSR/WotC house organ. It completely lacks credibility.


That's the impression I had through my second- and third-hand knowledge.

I think for an organisation to be credible, and to entice people actually giving it money, it has to be independent at the least from the industry, and it has to spend its funds visibly in a fashion the members see themselves profiting from. But as pointed out, it also needs a treasurer with some of the qualities of a loan shark ;) Those guiding it need at the same time a hefty dose of organization talent and responsibility, and vision as well, but I think that can most easily be found among people who are trying to make a business out of their hobby anyway.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2002, 12:49:29 PM »

That's the usual anti-RPGA line. And it's probably valid. Still, can we hear from anyone who might be a member, or have a good opinion of it? I'm wondering if there might not be other problems than Seth mentioned. For example, there cerainly seem to be enough D&D players to support the RPGA well.

I have to say that they do run other games, and theoretically have an open-door policy. For example, Cthulhu games have been a staple of RPGA events for eons. And if you ever get a chance to see a Cthulhu Masters game, go for it (assuming they still do that sort of thing).

Shadowrun is also pretty well represented, IIRC. So they do allow some non-WOTC activity.

The point is, why didn't this become somthing more? The organizers?

Looking into it a little myself, they do run their one convention Winter Fantasy Revel in Ft. Wayne, IN. Here's the staff:
Ian Richards, RPGA Program Manager
Stephen Radney-MacFarland, RPGA Content Developer

Not very extensive.

Weird. As I look at the site (www.rpga.com gets you to a WOTC subsite), it seems like there are fees for registering. But then it seems to be free on another page. Seems kinda schitzophrenic.


Hmmm. Maybe we should look at this from another POV.  If a well organized national RPG club did exist, would you join it? How much would you pay to join (if anything)? What benefits would you would you expect to see from membership?

Mike
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Alan
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WWW
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2002, 01:47:23 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Hmmm. Maybe we should look at this from another POV.  If a well organized national RPG club did exist, would you join it? How much would you pay to join (if anything)? What benefits would you would you expect to see from membership?


$40 a year?

Nonprofit and independant of any for profit corporation would be most important to me.

Local events would be next most important.  Especially, a venue for a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, with format and rules that encourages emotionally mature and interesting players to attend.  Democratic club decision-making.

A membership newsletter (with options to read online instead of receving a printed copy.)  No glossy printing - focus on good content - designer interviews, member reviews, event listings, player's sought, etc.  Reserve space for small press products.

A website with similar content, a player/game finder database, a local club database - and moderated forums.

10% discount at particpating dealers?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2002, 01:56:44 PM »

Thanks for the summary IRMO.

Mike, I'm not sure what you mean by more.

RPGA is pretty damn huge.  For the brief while I was a member I got a subscription to Polyhedron which was at least as good a magazine as Dragon and a bunch of modules and adventure packs and that sort of thing.  Course by the time I could afford to join on my own, I'd long since given up D&D, and despite dabbling in other things RPGA really is the DDGA.

Still the various Living City events it put together (even a Living Seattle for Shadow Run) were for a time (don't know if this is still the case) the most widely attended events at the major cons.


Anyone here a member of CABS (Columbia Area Boardgamers Society).  They always have a big showing at Origins and until Game Base 7 came around were pretty much single handedly responsible for maintaing a non German board game presence at the Con.  I wonder if they are actually organized or are more a "club" of the US variety.  I know they have officers (president and such) but don't know much about them beyond that.  Might be a good model to take a look at too.
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Seth L. Blumberg
Member

Posts: 303


« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2002, 02:01:19 PM »

Quote
The point is, why didn't [the RPGA] become somthing more?

You locked onto the "house organ" thing, and missed the point about the tournament focus. Most gamers aren't interested in tournament play, and the RPGA doesn't support anything else. Furthermore, even for those who enjoy Gamist events at cons, the generally higher event fees for RPGA events are a discouraging factor. Finally, the standardized adventure framework used to maintain the supposed integrity of the rankings leads to cookie-cutter adventures.

The RPGA has always had an exclusive focus on tournament play, analogous to chess and bridge federations.

[edit] I cross-posted with Ralph....

If Polyhedron was at least as good a magazine as Dragon when you received it, I deduce that your flirtation with it was somewhat later than mine.
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the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2002, 02:17:32 PM »

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg

If Polyhedron was at least as good a magazine as Dragon when you received it, I deduce that your flirtation with it was somewhat later than mine.


I'd have to try to dredge up an old issue to know for sure, but I'm going to guess somewhere in the vicinity of 1995...which IIRC was also when the Living City was at its peak.  At least everyone I gamed with was playing Living City.  In fact, my first 3 major cons were 90% Living City session...after 8-12 session in a Con you'd have leveled up multiple times, got a zillion magic certs and would engage in some serious horse trading in the various Living City Larps (which were mostly players trading equipment for use in their next table top game)...that was in the 94-96 era for me...even went to various regional cons like Three Rivers and Circle of Swords where Living City was the #1 attraction.

In fact at my first GenCon there was a HUGE feud between RPGA members and Magic Players.  I recall my friend and several others running up and down halls screaming "Magic:the Scattering" as they upended card tables and dumped peoples long boxes out onto the floor.  

At least back then (which IIRC was also the hieght of AD&D2e supplement fest) the RPGA was a pretty dominant force at every con I was at.  For me personally it was the discovery of Origins (1st or 2nd year it was in Columbus) which still was holding on to its war game heritage (where my gaming starting) that weaned me out of the Living City Circuit for good.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2002, 02:50:09 PM »

RPGA sanctioned events do not have to be tournament style. That said, they tend to be, and, yes, they do promote the Gamist POV. But as Ralph points out, that is actually effective at attracting players.

I'm aware the group was large. My point has been that all it seems to do is sanction events. GMs would probably still run these games at cons even if the RPGA did not exist. Which is to say that there doesn't seem to be any more D&D going on for the RPGAs existence than without it. It seems a failure in this sense because it doesn't seem to do anything to actually promote play. When I say "more" I mean more play.

And with all that membership the RPGA does one Con. One. All else is just attending other Cons, and, again, sanctioning events there, from what I've seen so far. I totally agree with Seth, that the sanctioning is worthless for the most part. What I assumed that we were looking for is monies gathered to be spent on concentions per Irmo's description of how the German organization works.

This all said, I still think we've yet to hear from anyone who's really inside and knows how it all works (or doesn't).

But the question still stands: what can we learn from the example of the RPGA? So far:

1) I think we all agree that any such club should be independant as Alan points out. I doubt it would make any sense to discuss anything else here.

2) The club should sponsor play, not just sanction it. This includes Cons.

3) If that takes actual dues, then it takes dues.

4) Do a good newsletter. Keep quality high.

OK, this is all obvous. So is there anything else that we can get from the analysis? Can anyone cite other good things they've done. If the RPGA is really hopeless, then perhaps not. In that case, we can just continue to move straight to the brainstorming part.

Alan, cool ideas for the newsletter and website concepts.

Mike
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Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


Con
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2002, 02:59:58 PM »

Ok, if you want to get an idea what the club is doing, here's a link to the English version of the Flyer for the 2003 FeenCon, which is the Con organized by the club on the top-level (as opposed to the local chapter-cons):

http://www.feencon.de/download/flyer2003_engl.pdf

Note that this far in advance, the program is still vague and preliminary. Though traditional events from the program site include raffles, an auction of used gaming material, a "bring & buy" (and sell) of used material, numerous publishers with their own stands, a boardgame lease, and some german authors and artists. (They also had good old Elmore, once, hence the use of a "logo" drawn by him)

*g* Ok, and for the menu: http://www.feencon.de/essen.html (in German, though ;) )

And if you want to know how much support they were able to rally, check the list of sponsors at:

http://www.feencon.de/dank.html

(scroll down)

Also, all guests receive a door prize bag which usually includes dice, trading cards and whatever the sponsors sponsor ;).
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Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2002, 03:10:59 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

4) Do a good newsletter. Keep quality high.



Regarding the newsletter, as already mentioned, the journal of the german club has a very high reputation for their quality. That being said, what they DON'T have is a regular printing schedule, they only promise a certain number of issues per year. Beyond that, when it's done, it's done. If the club has anything urgent to communicate in between, or just wants to bring something to the member's attention, they sometimes sent an extraordinary black&white mininewsletter out.
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