8 reasons for going to a tabletop RPG convention

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Thomas Weinberger

Hi, I'm Thomas, a tabletop RPG enthusiast since 1994. Currently I'm very much into indie and story games. My goal is to support other GMs with advice and inspiration for this great hobby.

Why tabletop roleplaying conventions are amazing

A weekend full of roleplaying game sessions is like an awesome short holiday. You get to try out new games, meet new people, and hang out with old friends while talking about one of the greatest hobbies out there. RPG conventions have been on the rise in the last few years. Sure, there have been megaevents like GenCon in Indianapolis, USA, or the Roleplay Conventions in Cologne, Germany for years. But there has been a recent rise in smaller events such as online conventions or roleplaying game areas as side events to big comic cons. So here are 8 reasons why attending a tabletop RPG convention is a great idea.

1. Try out new games

Conventions usually host many game sessions with a wide array of different systems. You can try out the hottest new indie games or any old school system you haven’t played yet. You even get a live rules explanation as well. What better way is there to check out new games and settings? Sure, you can watch actual play videos, but playing a character in a live game gives you a much richer experience. You can also talk to the GM after the session and ask them for their experience with the new game.
This also offers a welcome break for all those GMs who spend most of their time running sessions and never get to play themselves. I often go to conventions to find new one-shot scenarios and adventures I can play with my group at home. This gives me the opportunity to experience the scenarios as a player, which offers great insights on how to run them.
try out new tabletop rpg

2. Learn tricks from other GMs

Playing with new GMs is a great source of inspiration for me. Every GM has their own style and set of tricks. Some focus on amazing handouts, some do brilliant NPC acting, others are masters of improvising plots from player character backstories. It’s so refreshing to see how others do it. And experiencing GMs first-hand from a player perspective has a much bigger impact than just talking to them about what they do. I personally get a lot of ideas from playing with new GMs at RPG conventions. I’ve learned pacing from watching other GMs, and I like to copy great NPCs from others, too.
advice for tabletop rpg game masters

Looking for tips on how to GM at conventions? Check out this article: GMing at Conventions

3. Play roleplaying games with complete strangers

It’s such a thrill playing roleplaying games with people I’ve never met before. With your home group or friends you can usually tell how they’ll play their characters and act in certain situations. But at a convention, you get to sit down and play with a group of strangers. You never know how they are going to react to the threats or conflicts within a story. Regardless of whether I’m the GM or on the player side – it’s always exciting to play a tabletop RPG session with people I’m not familiar with. This is especially true for games with a strong share of narration rights for the players. This includes most indie or PBTA systems and also freeform games. Getting to know each other as part of the game is something I really enjoy.
convention rpg session

4. Get to know new people from the community

Tabletop roleplaying conventions are great for meeting new people. You can make friends with members of the community, find a new GM or additional players for your home group, or even talk to some “celebrities”. Have a chat with the author of your favorite roleplaying game, talk to publishers who have a booth at the convention, or meet YouTubers and bloggers to discuss their latest content. Years ago, I met one of the players in my regular group (hey there, Carmen :D) by accident at a convention 700 kilometers away, where she told me that she was just a 20-minute drive away from where I live. Don’t miss out on such great opportunities to meet new people like this one.

5. Hang out with old friends who live far away

Made friends with people at a faraway convention? Or did you get to know someone in an online game session who lives in another country? Chances are high that you might not see them face-to-face for a while, so this is also a good reason to go to large regional conventions. Seeing all those friends again who live too far away to casually visit for a weekend will feel amazing. It’s great to catch up with old friends over a beer or coffee and talk about the games they’ve played since you last met up.
tabletop rpg convention game

6. Play freeforms and larps with big groups

Looking for a bunch of super motivated players in one spot to do a big freeform or larp game? Then go to a roleplaying convention. It can be difficult to organize a freeform or mini-larp with 10+ players and a location on your own. But at a convention, everything you need comes together naturally. I’ve had so many extraordinary freeforms at cons, it’s amazing. A masquerade ball in 1920s Arkham, being a passenger on the Hindenburg airship, aboard the Titanic, or at a psytrance festival, just to name a few.
horror pen and paper rpg freeform

7. Enjoy a short holiday and travel

Sometimes it’s just about getting a few days off from your daily routine. A tabletop RPG convention is a great reason to travel, enjoy a road trip with good friends, see new locations, and meet new people. And don’t forget the anticipation of an upcoming con. Months before an event I enjoy being part of con Facebook groups, reading the latest news from the organizers, watching the participant list fill with familiar names, see the timeslot board fill up with all the great games, and so on.

Looking for tabletop RPG conventions in your area? Check out this convention calendar:

Fancons.com Convention Schedule

Know of any other useful convention calendar websites? Let us know in the comments.

8. Networking

Want to pitch your newest idea for a roleplaying game to a publisher? Fancy talking to a YouTuber from the scene? Want to find GMs for your own RPG event? Chances are high that you’ll meet them at one of the bigger roleplaying game conventions, because events like these are great for networking. Buy them a coffee and have a chat with them. Play it cool, don’t be too pushy, and people will open up. Or if you get the chance, play a game with them. I got to know some of the coolest people in the community by participating in one of their game sessions.
networking at tabletop rpg convention

Bonus: Do some shopping

The big conventions usually have a few shops at the venue. They’re a great opportunity to buy that new game you have just been dying to play. Or go fetch some souvenirs like a new set of dice or that shiny GM screen. Make sure to check their stands, because there are often some great deals or rare tomes to be found at conventions.

Summary: I love going to pen and paper RPG conventions

Tabletop RPG conventions are just great. Get out there, play new games, meet new people, and hang out with old friends. Talk about the greatest hobby on the planet. I just wish there were more conventions every year 🙂

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