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 and talk about one of the greatest hobbies out there. RPG conventions have been on the rise in the last few years. Sure, there have been mega events 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 conventions 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. 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 all 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.
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 learnt pacing from watching other GMs, and I like to copy great NPCs from others, too.
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 threats or conflicts in a story. No matter whether I’m the GM or on the player side – it’s always exciting playing 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.
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 favourite 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 kilometres away, where she told me that she’s living 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 got 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 at the weekend. 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.
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 organise a freeform or mini-larp with 10+ players including a location on your own. But at a convention, everything you need comes together naturally. I had so many great and 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.
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 to a con. Months before an event I enjoy being part of Facebook groups for a con, reading the latest news from the organizers, watching the participant list fill with familiar names, see the timeslot board fill with all the great games and so on.
8. A bit of networking
Want to pitch your newest idea for a roleplaying game to a publisher? Fancy talking to a podcaster or 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 a bit of networking. Buy them a beer or coffee and have 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.
Bonus: Do some shopping
The big conventions usually have one or more shops at the venue. They’re a great opportunity to buy that new game you just had a chance 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 at cons there are often some great deals or rare tomes to be found.
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 🙂