GenCon 50 Prep – How Much is Too Much

Registration for events is this Sunday. Always a big day, and finally an explanation for why your internet is slow. 60,000 gamers all trying to get into their favorite events. I hope the servers are ready (I hope the same thing every year).

This year is a little different because my two sons are coming. I have been pleasantly surprised at the choices they’ve made as they look through the event catalog. One is looking for events about maps and cartography and the other is looking for painting. Of course we have a couple of games that we want to go to as a group, but that hasn’t really been their focus.

I’m running a couple of games, along with folks from my home group Party of One.

Event registration is like the start of the end for me for game prep. I’ve run Rescue the Love Boat once for friends and found the holes I need to fill. Now the fine tuning of fixing character sheets and finalizing maps begins. The best part is also ahead – LEGOs. I need to get with the aforementioned sons and start creating LEGO props for the game. I’ll hopefully remember to take pictures at the Con so you can see what we created.

This leads me to my topic how much is too much for prep?

One of my first GenCon games – Black Friday Blues – was a total rail road of the group. I had a set of LEGOs already created, and that’s the direction the PCs were going because I had LEGOs. While folks probably had a good time, I didn’t give them much to do except interact with my story. How do you balance set pieces and props with PC choices? In last years game, I focused not on the order of the encounters, but only on the final encounter in the volcano. As soon as the PCs worked through one of a couple of encounters, they knew they were headed to the volcano. I created three different encounters that they cold go to on the way. It was possible that they would miss the huts with the ghosts of the Howells, or not encounter Mary Anne, but the clues they gathered would always lead them to the Volcano. The major prop creation stayed with the volcano, and everything else was as nice as I could make it.

In past years, I’ve started with a large set piece battle (Star Wars zombies and Jawas) so I could focus efforts on something I know would be used and move from there.

I benefit from the special circumstances of a convention game. Three to four hours for a few encounters, some exploration and a big finish. A certain amount of rail roading is OK, but you can’t just line up the encounters and shuffle the PCs through them. (OK, maybe you can, but it isn’t as much fun – trust me).

I won’t give away what I’m doing for this years event, but it has something to do with a boat – so you can probably guess my strategy.

I hope everyone gets all their first choices for games, and that the servers stay up and stable.


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