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Author Topic: [GenCon 2004] Demo advice  (Read 4424 times)
coxcomb
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« on: February 18, 2004, 02:36:27 PM »

Hi All,
It looks like good chances of my having a product to sell at GenCon this year, and I am thinking about going in on the Forge booth ($100 or $200) level. However, I have never been to GenCon before and need some experienced advice:

1.) What kind of booth demos are generally well recevied (in terms of: demo length, number of players, tone, and whatnot)?

2.) Those who have gone to GenCon (or other BigCon) debut a product: did you schedule games using the new system in addition to booth demos? If so, was it a good thing, or did the newness keep the players away?

Thanks!
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my http://bigd12.blogspot.com">blog.
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2004, 07:22:20 AM »

Hi, Jay.

In a post organizing the 2003 GenCon Booth, Ron said:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
For people who joined the Forge since last August, the whole point of the Forge booth is something new for GenCon - actual play at the booth, in demos that are ideally a half hour or less. Pre-prepped characters are a must. The point of this play is to generate sales and also to promote the idea that role-playing is fun, accessible, and social. The whole booth area should have a "feel" that differs from GenCon as a whole - it should feel welcoming, intellectual, and actively engaged in the hobby itself.


About the 2nd question, see Matt Gwinn's thread (also about GenCon 2003, so you can ask him how it went): GENCON Registered Games

Look up old GenCon threads as well. The 20-minute power demo is the way to go!
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coxcomb
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2004, 09:39:36 AM »

OK, demos that are 30mins or less... Does any one have any practical advice about how to craft such a thing? Do you focus on one big conflict, or what? I don't think I have ever come up with a sceanrio that short.
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my http://bigd12.blogspot.com">blog.
Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2004, 09:52:47 AM »

The key to remember is this.  You are there to sell your game not play it.  So all of the normal rules and standards of scenario creation get tossed.

What you want is to identify that portion of your system that has the most whiz bang appeal and present that.  Are your mechanics pretty standard fare except for this really cool section on how to use contacts during play?  Then take a slice of an adventure that features using that mechanic.  Are you trying to sell the game on the basis of a really cool setting?  Then pick one spot that is most cool most exciting and most special about that setting and make that the feature of a quick little situation.  If its the combat system you're featuring than start in media res with pre gen characters already in the middle of a fight...not even at the begging of the fight...right in the middle and go from there.  

You don't need build up and you don't need denouement.  Alls you want is climax.

It can help to make up a sell sheet of 3 or 4 bullet points which summarize the selling features of your game.  You'll probably want to do this anyway to help the rest of the booth folks know what to say about it.

When you are designing your scenario those bullet points are what you want to feature...here's the claim...here's the proof in play.  Nothing else matters for a demo.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2004, 12:21:15 PM »

Ralph's right on the money. What worked for me last year was having a digital watch with a stopwatch feature. As soon as folks agreed to a demo, I started the timer. My goal was to get them settled, explain the characters, the situation, and the barest basics of the rules (i.e., "What are these funny dice and how do we read them?"), and get to the first (last and only) bang of the scenario by 10 minutes.

As for the scenario itself, I was demo-ing FVLMINATA, whose biggest selling point is its setting: the granduer of ancient Rome. So, the 3 characters are a victorious general, a powerful senator, and the head of the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's bodyguards). I had their background, heavy on motivation, in large type on a 3x5 card, so the players could read it over quickly. The three PCs and the young emperor are riding horses and chatting in the Imperial gardens in Rome. Suddenly, a snake spooks the emperor's horse, the emperor is thrown, and Rome is left with neither emperor nor heir. The two most powerful men in the empire are right there on the cusp of the chaos!

Anyway, my goal was always to have the emperor dead by 10 minutes in, so that we could do 10-20 minutes of actual play. If they hadn't chosen characters by 6 minutes, I knew I had to start talking faster. In a convention setting, time is always your worst enemy.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2004, 12:22:43 PM »

Oh, yeah: keep it to 4 characters at an absolute maximum, but be able to run with 3 or even 2 if necessary.[/b]
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AdAstraGames
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« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2004, 05:34:49 PM »

Having done this, here's my advice:

1) Have a visual or poster done up.  I post print job quotes from a printer in Dallas Texas that has open slots.   The poster should give the sizzle for your game at a glance.   For example, one for the Morrow Project would be:

"This man tried to save the world."

(Show picture of Dr. Thomas Morrow, looking grave.)

"He failed.  Are you ready to pick up the pieces?"

(three icons for the various branches of TMP on the bottom)

The back side of the flyer has a brief cheat sheat on the mechanics used in the demo.  It also has WHERE TO BUY THE GAME online.

2) Then, steal the middle section of a Buffy episode (generally, minutes 15-23 on a DVD), and script that.  Scene should have the characters, an obvious problem to solve, means for the players to solve it from data at hand (hint -- make it something they can either fix, or hit, or convince).  Have them solve the problem, move to the next part of the scene, see the clues for the next problem...

Then have the Looming Shadow of the Antagonist appear, and cut the scene RIGHT THERE.  Just like TV programs cut for a commercial when the Heros are in Dire Straights.

3) Give them the 5 minute pitch on what they've just done, show them the book and don't be shy about A) taking their money or B) recommending something someone else wrote at the Forge booth.  Bundle-sales are good for everyone.

4) If you're asked to compare your game to someone else's, point out something that BOTH Of them do, and do well.   Do not refer to the other game as a festering pile of rancid pig manure -- even if it is.

(I keep on getting surprised by how often I have to say that last part...)
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jdagna
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2004, 12:31:34 PM »

I run a lot of in-booth demos as well, so I'll share my experiences.  

My typical scenario is introduced extremely quickly.  "You're a security guard at the local bank.  It's mid-afternoon on a Monday, so things are really slow.  It's hot, and you're half asleep.  However, you notice three guys enter who draw your attention because they're wearing overcoats and look shifty."  The guys are there to rob the bank - instant action, with a small set of fairly obvious choices.

Obviously, I'm showing off combat elements in my game.  I think it's greatest strengths lie in the damage and action systems, so it really plays to those aspects, especially when people realize how well the action system supports hostage negotiations.

It helps to have a few variations available so that you can slightly tailor it to their interests.   For example, the demo can be run as a straight combat (by having the robbers attack the PC), as a hostage negotiation (by having the robbers take someone hostage) or as a "magic" demonstration of the savants' powers (by changing the PC character).

My time goal is 5 minutes to introduce system (and I give them a six-page Quickstart that contains enough rules to play the game at home), and 5 minutes to run the demo.  It often takes closer to 15 minutes total, but I work very hard at not going longer than that unless the con is slow and no one else is looking.  My demo guys pretty consistently do 5 or 6 an hour, so they stick pretty close to the goals.

Whatever you do, stick to your time limit.  If you say 15 minutes and it turns into 30, most people will not be rude enough to get up and leave... but they'll resent it nonetheless.  If you're obviously going to be taking longer say "it's been fifteen minutes, do you want to keep going?" or something like that.  Likewise, keeping things very short is good on the dealer floor because people don't mind spending a few minutes, but they're not really there for protracted games.

I was given some advice that you shouldn't let people "finish" the demonstration.  Resolve the immediate situation, but end the demo with people feeling jazzed and wanting to play more.  For example, most of my demos end with surviving robbers fleeing (and I don't give the PC a chance to pursue) or they end as soon as the last body hits the floor.  Always keep in mind: the people want to play, not buy, but you want to sell, not play.  In fact, I think I probably need a better ending that leaves even more of a cliffhanger, so I may be doing something different this year.

People-wise, I design my demo to work with only one person.  However, I can easily mix up the roles and get up to four people at a time.  I feel like more than three is really too many, though.  The more one on one time you can get, the more you can figure out what a person wants and play to their interests.  With two or more, you start having to shot gun, and hope you're catching their interest.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
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coxcomb
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2004, 12:51:22 PM »

Lots of good advice here, thanks everyone.

Can anyone send me examples of rules summaries / handouts that you use? I'd like to see what others are doing.

Thanks!
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my http://bigd12.blogspot.com">blog.
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