Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Conventions, Festivals and Social Gatherings

Me at GeekGirlCon. Quietly not freaking out.

Geeks of all interests and preferences have their conventions. Gaming, anime, comics, cosplay, video games, and more all draw crowds of people to congregate, attend panels, spend money, and party with friends and colleagues. I’m going to GeekGirlCon later this year in Seattle and I am really excited to both table, reconnect with old buds, and make new friends and acquaintances. My daughter is looking forward to possibly getting over her fear of Storm Troopers cosplayers. My spouse will be excited to get away from work and watch me flail as I try to talk to human beings not via Twitter.

Every culture has its reasons to come together and celebrate. The days before ritual fasting; the blossoming of flowering trees; the harvest of rice, barley, and other grains; the birth of livestock; and the anniversary of a celestial event all have or have had their own social celebrations with special foods, drinks, dances, and traditions. Music, merriment, and entertainment are generally parts of these happenings. In some cultures, conflicts or even wars were set aside on these special days so people could observe the traditions, recoup, and reconnect with their fellow humans.

Sometimes, industry drives the gathering of people: inventors, innovators, and experts in their field coming together to show off the latest gadget, mode of transportation, or method of getting things done. It’s the time for people in the field to see what the competition has come up with while consumers can interact with important figures in the industry, see demonstrations, and sample wares. Sometimes, celebrities from within the industry are present, acting, dancing, singing, representing brands, or endorsing products.

Every gathering of people, from a family reunion to a massive festival honouring the deities to the annual sheep shearing, must be organized. Someone must take up the reigns and figure out when and where things will take place, who will be invited, budget the money, make sure that the events are safe, make sure any tools needed are obtained, etc. A lot of energy goes into making sure any gathering of people goes off with the fewest number of hitches possible, but there is much to be gained by hosting, funding, or organizing an event. Perhaps a church feels it is their duty to organize the event, as a tribute to their patron saint of order. Perhaps the festival moves every year, one particular guild having to run the festival and trying to outdo the last town that held the events. And if the convention goes well, someone is going to get lots of recognition for doing a great job. Maybe favour with the spirits? Or perhaps a bag of Ethereal Filcher treasure? The possibility of running bigger and more prestigious events in the future?

For GMs

  • What social gatherings take place within the country? Region?
  • What do the social gatherings revolve around? Are they religious? Agricultural? Skill-based?
  • Where are the conventions/gatherings held? Where do the people congregate? Where do all the people sleep? Eat? Bathe?
  • How long do the festivities last? What takes place on each day? Which events draw the biggest crowds and how do those running the Con/festival facilitate this?
  • How do people get to the festivals? Do people make the trips individually or meet up and arrive in droves?
  • Who organizes the gathering? How do they get the word out about the events? Make sure people move smoothly from one spectacle to the other?
  • Who foots the bill for the convention? Is it sponsored? Do people have to pay to get in? Are some parts free for the general public with other things requiring admission?
  • How is security handled at these events? How do they handle reported threats from those attending? What kinds of crimes spike or abate during the festival season? Are the punishments less or more severe? Physical punishments? Spiritual? Social?
  • If different factions/sects/organizations/guilds are involved in the planning of the festival, how do they all relate to each other? Comrades? Friendly competitors? Out for blood?
  • Are there competitions at the festivals? Games the people can take part in? Do people bring their animals, beer, crafts or other things to enter into contests? Their weapons to show off their skills on the field?
  • What would it mean if someone didn’t attend the local festival or gathering? Does it mean they will have missed out on meeting friends and family? Lost a blessing from the deities? Risk their reputation among others of their ilk?

Plot Hooks

  • The Festival of the Smith is a large celebration where metal workers come to have their tools blessed at the temple and showcase their skills in events, as well as meet with other smiths. The PCs have the first shift at the Holy Anvil, the altar upon which all metalsmiths will tap their tools to be blessed. However, when the first tool strikes the Anvil, the smith cannot pull it back; it is stuck. Every tool is now being pulled towards the Anvil. What is happening? What did the PCs see before the altar was activated?
  • An important yearly festival moves between a set amount of towns/cities, cycling through the centers of industry. However the ruler wants to move the festivities to the capitol, with the national guildhalls as the centers for the gatherings. The PCs are sent from their town to speak at a hearing to try to and get the amendment to not not pass? How do the other towns that normally host the events react? Are they upset? Relieved? Who came up with the proposal? How do religious leaders feel about this?
  • A cultural group has a ‘mobile festival’ every x amount of years where they come together from all over the continent and visit towns at random to make their merriment. The PCs are sent to try to figure out how they choose the towns they visit and to divert them from going to certain locations. How does the populace at large feel about the mobile festival? Do some try to attract the crowds? Are some towns hostile to the celebratory mob? What is the migratory gathering celebrating?
  • During a festival dedicated to heroes where people are encouraged to dress up as their favourites, the PCs all catch each others eye when they realize they have all dressed as members of an ancient team. So does the spirit of one of the team’s greatest foes who rises from the grave and seems to think they’re the real deal. The spirit demands the chance to face them again and refuses to leave until they have had their chance to face them again, threatening to destroy the town if they do not take up their weapons again. Why has the spirit rose after all these years? How do the PCs handle the altercation? What do the other festival goers expect of them? Do the rulers and organizers expect the PCs to handle the situation? Do they offer any aid?
  • The PCs are from a small village that is finally able to afford sending their prized brew to the capitol for the annual brewing festival. High costs have kept the village from being able to take part in the tasting and selling in the past. The PCs are send with the precious booze with a special keg reserved for the “Drink of the Deities’ contest, a brew that will be tasted by the highest ranking religious figure and offered to the pantheon if it is deemed the best. The PCs must get the beer there safely, protect the recipe and deal with the politics and social maneuverings of the industry. Are the PCs prepared? Is their brew good enough to win? Connected enough to win? How does the public perceive them? How do they make their beer stand out from among the rest? Who wants to see them win? Who wants to see them fail?

For PCs

  • Do you have any interests, hobbies or affiliations that have group gatherings?
  • Are there festivals or conventions that you never miss?
  • Do you go as an observer or are you involved in the organization?
  • Are there people you usually meet up with at these events?
  • Are there events that you have always wanted to attend but haven’t been able to?

Speaking of conventions, for those of you who love cavorting with geeks but can’t always leave the house, Chris Tregenza, Brent Newhall, and Vince Kingston are running Indie+, an indie game Convention on Google Plus! You read that right; you can attend a convention from the comfort of your computer. The week of July 9th to 16th will be dedicated to panels hosted on Google Hangouts where people can talk about creating indie role-playing games, what it takes to create them, the issues one encounters while trying to get off the ground, how to implement ideas and technology, participate in actual online gaming sessions and MUCH more. There is still a lot of time to become a part of this awesome Con so bring your ideas and enthusiasm to Indie+ and mark your virtual calendars!

4 thoughts on “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Conventions, Festivals and Social Gatherings

Add yours

    1. Yeah, lots of people pressing in, games, processions. When I was younger we used to go to the San Genarro’s Festival, a festival dedicated to the Saint and in remembrance of all the Italian immigrants who settled in that corner of NYC.

      A festival might be a good time to introduce some music to your game in the background, to showcase the constant noise.


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