What Did I Just Get Myself Into?

Hey all. I’m back. Hopefully it will stick this time. There’s still a lot going on in my world outside of gaming, and I haven’t played D&D since September, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it’s not coming from a Will O’ The Wisp.

To get my gaming life jump-started. I just submitted a last-minute RPG event for Total Con in February. If it’s accepted, I’ll be running a Leverage game on Sunday of the con. I am going to make the adventure setting a gaming convention. It’s the cool meta-con/meta-game you can only do with a modern-setting RPG.

What’s scary for me is that I’ve never written a convention game before. I got to run Dark Sun at Pax East this past Spring, but that was written by someone else, and I got to play in it the day before. But this is a new experience for me, so I thought I would crowd-source a little advice on the matter.

Any hints for writing a con game? Not just what to do at the table (that can be a second post), but how to structure the adventure and what sorts of things I should take into consideration. I don’t know the players ahead of time, so I won’t know what sorts of things they want to get out of the adventure; although since they are self-selected, I am going to assume they want an experience that captures the essences of the TV show.

The other big concern I have is about timing. Unlike with a regular group, I won’t have the ability to run the rest of the adventure next week or allow for long breaks. I signed up for a single 4-hour slot because there are other events I want to go to (in particular, board gaming) and I assume my players would be in the same boat.

So, what do you guys think? Any words of advice (or condolence) ?

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3 thoughts on “What Did I Just Get Myself Into?

  1. Ok, I had to look this up, as I don’t watch much TV: Leverage follows a five-person team of professional thieves, computer experts and con artists, headed up by former insurance investigator, Nathan Ford, who use their skills to right corporate and governmental injustices inflicted on common citizens. http://www.margaretweis.com/mwp-online-store/leverage/29-leverage-the-quickstart-job

    Cool, that tells me the genre/setting, though I don’t know the mechanics. Given what I know, I would look at Spycraft for inspiration. You can see tons of free adventures here: http://spymaster.org/x/scenario-list A good one is Shadow. (Another is Tripple Play, which has a TV-show feel).

    What I really like about Spycraft (all of these adventures ran at conventions), is that they are very open. Rather than define every scene and encounter strictly and in linear fashion (as with D&D), the adventure is open and the players can use their own solutions. For example, in Shadow there is an NPC, Marcus, who is in Spain for a soccer match. It is completely open how the PCs gain the info they need. They could break into the room, steal it while he takes a shower, challenge him to a sports car race, double-cross him, fight him, seduce him… it plays very differently because it is left open. The key to that open play is to write that way and provide many hooks and options, as well as a few different pieces the players can use for direction (he is in room 714, he collects and races sports cars, he is a lady’s man but currently single, he will attend the soccer match).

    Encounter-wise, I like no more than two fights for a modern adventure. I find players of modern games usually want a cool opening scene (including in the thick of battle, see the awesome in media-res start to the adventure Nest on the download page or the thematic one in Shadow). They then want to do some legwork and investigation, choosing approaches. There might be an optional battle, then a final battle when the truth is uncovered and the events come to an exciting head.

    Keep your timing flexible and run a playtest with friends so you can see what the players miss and what you missed. A big bit to watch for is anything that is a red herring in a bad way, wasting time or creating frustration during investigation. A good red herring is enjoyable and you can then get back on track. The overall story ideally has a strong central theme that the players understand (such as a stolen military item a corporation plans to mass-produce, the need to grab a scientist a corporation has taken, infiltrate and stop a mad plan, etc.).

  2. I’d say, just know the adventure really well, be able/willing to adapt, and make sure you’re excited about the adventure. The best con adventures I’ve played were the ones run by the authors (not a common occurence in the living campaigns) and the ones where the DM knew the adventure REALLY well (i.e. had run it several times already)
    Also, in such a short time frame, it’s probably ok to railroad. Generally 3 encounters fit into the 4 hour slot.

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