This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending KantCon in Kansas City, KS. I went last year, and this year, I expanded my role in the convention from regular attender to Event Coordinator. We had a fantastic convention. We nearly doubled our attendance from the first year, and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. I know I did.
I spent most of my time at the convention running games, as I stated in my preview post about KantCon. The games were a lot of fun, but I learned some very important things about how I need to go about running the games that I run. Before I go into those thoughts, I’ll give some highlights of the convention.
Last year, the food selection was decent, free and that was great. This year, we stepped things up. Our Food Czar, the lovely Bethany Mullenax, baked up a storm and offered a ton of tasty snacks for convention-goers. In an especially clever and awesome move, the healthy stuff (veggies, fruits, etc) were free, while the pop, chips and baked goods were sold to help support the convention. So either you eat healthily for free, or get good snacks and support the convention… or both. It was a win-win-win.
KantCon is still a fairly small convention, with just under 200 people having attended across all three days of the convention. That means that there were ample opportunities to get to know a bunch of people and to game with those people. We had a very small incidence of douchebags during the con and, no matter where I looked, I saw people gaming and having a good time.
I have learned that it is the people you game with that make a convention. On that scale, KantCon was one of the best conventions I have ever been to. It’s fantastic to meet people at Origins and GenCon and talk industry stuff and make friends. If I were forced to make a choice, I would choose to attend KantCon, though. I’m too close to the people who run it. They mean that much to me.
Aside from the games I ran (which I got very good feedback from), I saw a metric crap-ton of games being run, covering all genres of RPG, Card/Board and Minis games. I had a particularly great time playing in The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb in 1e. I played a Wizard who saw his best course of action in combat to be personal Invisibility and inactivity. After all, Wizards are squishy and the rest of the party was doing a bang-up job. Many of the games were recorded (audio only), and I’ll be sure to link you all to them once they post on the Gamer’s Haven.
Now, the Introspection
As I said, I ran six game sessions, the last of which had ten players in it. I made the huge, huge, unforgivable mistake of not planning out enough for the sessions. As well, the planning I did do was not well thought-out enough. I did the majority of the sessions on the fly, using my notes as a framework and working with what my players gave me. As I said above, the sessions went really well, and I got good feedback on them. The problem was, by Sunday, I was near mental collapse. During the final session (the big one), I had a moment when I had to stop thinking entirely, or do something else. I chose to crouch beside the table, running the game the whole time. I had to let my mind stop worrying about keeping me standing so I could continue to run the game. One of the players told me later that they thought the game had broken my mind. They were joking, but they weren’t far off.
Since the convention ended, I’ve been thinking about how it went. I know that I put waaaaaay too much stress on myself, what with the way I planned the games, being the Event Coordinator and all. I am in the middle of reevaluating how I prep for games and how much of myself I give during the game session. That’s not to say that I’m planning on dialing back the energy level when I run a session, or that I won’t devote as much passion during the game. What it does mean is that I won’t have to scramble as much mentally to give the players the experience they deserve at the game table. It also means that I will be more careful about what I choose to run. For all of the fun the players had during the last, massive 10-player session, I will never, ever run a session that big at a convention again. It takes far too much out of me and that’s not good for me or the players.
Wrapping It Up
I’ve learned a lot about who I am as a gamer and (now) game designer at Pax East, Origins and KantCon this year. I hope to continue that process at GenCon and Con on the Cob. I don’t know exactly what I will learn, but I as sure of this: gaming and thinking about gaming is making me a better person.