Mini-Cons: Care and Crafting

Jan 13, 2015
Mark

I’ve been running mini-conventions for my old gamer crew for over six years. The reality is that it is very simple and overly complicated all at the same time. These are my experiences and suggestions. Your experience may vary widely from mine.

Constrain Expectations

People expect different things from gatherings of any sort. A mini-convention can take on many fronts and may vary from year to year. Constraints can come from both the location and from the people who are going to participate.

Participants are quite often flexible on what they want to do. However that is a double-edged sword. Pick what you are going to do/play/experience for the weekend.

Open-ended situations can be awesome or burn friendships. The plan doesn’t have to be specific games at specific times. However, it should indicate some idea of what will be played and how often. Pick a general thematic element that fits for what you want and communicate that frequently.

Money Up Front

If you are booking a location, know the cost, then get the money up front from every participant. Either they can afford it, or not. It’s a given from the start; not something that is discussed at the end.

I’ve done this badly over the last 6 years. I’ve always known that I could deal with the costs if a non-payment occurs. It is the worst decision I could have made. Get the payment up front, if it costs $150 or $20 for the weekend, people need to pay before they attend. No exceptions. Monetary disputes can be completely avoided.

Location

My particular situation started out as hotel based and evolved to a location with the ability to support 10x the number of participants. This will vary by each approach but make sure you have sufficient space for everyone. Then add in some additional space if it is a physical building. Keep in mind that every particular game requires specific infrastructure. E.g., playing Magic takes a lot of table top space in comparison to an early edition of D&D.

Also, depending on your approach, every location has limitations. While my current one would house 30 people, there are 2 bathrooms Even with 5-7 people that can confront a challenge. It’s never been an issue for us but is something to consider.

That brings up personal space. Normal conventions allow you to retreat to a hotel room to rewind, recoup, and recover. The more confined spaces do not allow that. Sickness, health issues, and even just a break from people require a bit of space. Likewise, disagreements and arguments. Occasionally we all should just walk away from a discussion and vent elsewhere rather than allowing it to escalate.

Games

Along the thematic lines, pick what you are going to do early. Have a backup plan for when the primary game doesn’t happen. Then have a backup for the backup. Given the small size of what I do, this is difficult. Interests may take everything planned off the table or leave you with no running games if game masters bail out at the last moment. As the organizer, be prepared to step in and run stuff at the last minute or work with the attendees to pick something and a game master. Organic flow can allow someone to dominate the situation at the expense of other participants.

Food & Cooking

If you are in a city, food is not much of a consideration. If you are not, you need a menu or a at least a plan. My group does it via shared chaos — hit a grocery store and buy stuff. That means I get a lot of food leftover when it ends and those bits are never what I’d normally eat. Trying to figure out what do with an 8 person cheese, salami and cracker plate solo is a strange challenge.

Pick a menu. Adjust to the participants. Communicate, adjust and readjust. It should not be complicated but if you have to mix vegans, omnivores, and junk food addicts… Snacks and drinks should be provided by the individual participants. Core meals you can deal with.

On the cooking front, my mantra is simple: if you didn’t cook, you clean. That means you wash and dry everything involved. There are the lazy people who will attempt to do neither. Never invite them back. You’ll never know who they are until they show the selfishness that defines them.

Final Thoughts

Talk to everyone who has a run something similar. Every situation is different. You are going to have to adapt on the fly. Not just the first time, but each time.

The experience is a whole lot of chaos but well worth the effort.


5E Deck of Many Things Generator

Jan 3, 2015
Mark
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Yep, rolled out another variant of the classically chaotic Deck of Many Things. This time supporting the 5E system.

Interestingly, 5E allows for players to state the number of cards they wish to draw and then draw them sequentially rather than simultaneously. Most cards return to the deck after being drawn so this change allows duplicate cards to be drawn unless a card effect stops the drawing process.

Also, no limit is placed on the number of cards the character chooses to draw. Prior variants capped the number of drawn cards at up to 4. I previously discussed the Origins of the Deck, which I may update in the future with the new 5E details.


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Bug Fix: Labyrinth Lord Spell Book

Jan 2, 2015
Mark
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I fixed a minor issue in the Labyrinth Lord treasure generation system. Specifically, the issue was not capping level for druids (from AEC) to a maximum of 14. The other spell casting classes have spell progressions to level 20. Due to the lack of a cap, occasionally the spell book creation process failed for druids.

The Spell Book / Known Spells and Treasure Generator were affected by the bug.


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5E Treasure Book on Demand

Jan 2, 2015
Mark
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Now available is the 5E Treasure Book. Similar to the ones for 1E and Labyrinth Lord, this utility presents a number of treasure results for each treasure type in PDF format.

Given the limited nature of 5E’s random treasure table, the book is far shorter than the other systems. Quite a few people like these on-demand PDF’s to avoid rolling a pile of dice during ad-hoc sessions so I rolled on out just for them.

Enjoy and Happy 2015.

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More Modern Businesses

Dec 31, 2014
Mark
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I’ve expanded the original generator into an index page, Modern Business Names, over the last few days. Over the last 72 hours, I’ve added 23 specialized generators to the index and re-factored 3 existing utilities to include additional data.

Today, the additions were Professional, Scientific and Engineering services. The 9 new generators cover a variety of engineering, information technology, and other professional services that include over three hundred thousand unique names.

I have 20-30 more specialized entries to add. My goal is to have those done by the end of 2014 but I also started two new RPG specific projects I’d like to complete. One is an entirely new treasure generation system for general fantasy systems. The other is too nascent to discuss.

I hope you all have a great start to 2015.


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Modern Business Names (take 2)

Dec 28, 2014
Mark
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My initial approach to business names for the modern age was a flop. I’ll call it a complete failure. Honestly, it is the unholy culmination of personal knowledge and deciphering a cryptic note written in hieroglyphs. I exchanged expediency for usability — not a good trade.

I’ve embarked on a series of generators to simplify the businesses they cover and to present the information in a far more usable format. The process is going to take time. Several thousand business types are available, which lead to my initial presentation. I’m slowly transitioning the original into category specific generators.

Users generally only need one or two categories of business names. Confounding them with hundreds is obviously not a good design. Additionally, some categories are either dull or do not have sufficient interesting results to make the grade.

Similarly to the City Name process, if the number of entries are sparse, the category is going to be skipped. You can always use a yellow pages entry if you can find one or browse them online. My interests are large numbers of interesting results to produce quick results for writers or gamers.

I’ve long wanted this for a post-modern game. Quick results based on the business name and type allows simple decisions for scavenging. I’m not quite there yet. The end-goal is within sight.

Others have indicated they just need a few names of specific businesses by category. When you populate a small region, choosing a dozen or so small business names can be a challenge. Especially when a small town environment rules out all the major corporations. The current approach is far better. One need not decipher archaic labels to drill down to the category they desire.

Fun stuff.


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5E Treasure Generator + Commentary

Dec 24, 2014
Mark
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While I tend to not write generators for recent systems without publisher support, I decided to take a whirl at the 5E system. Mostly, I just wanted to see what the “modern” take on a classic system included or avoided.

My normal process was used for the Random 5E Treasure Generator. It’s simple, straight forward and does not yet contain anything beyond the simple charts.

5E vs 1E/2E Random Treasure

I’ve seen a few comments that suggest the fifth edition is low on magic. I disagree to a point. For individual treasure, there is no chance of finding a magical item. Absolutely zero. Why? I’d wager they intend for such treasure to be found via hoards rather than a wandering orc or two. You can always choose to use a hoard (aka lair treasure from elder editions) over the individual metric if monsters are migrating from one locale to another. For hoards (the 5E equivalent of lairs), you almost always get magic items.

The tables themselves are repetitious. Probably to the point of algorithmically generated. The same set of art/gems values repeat in patterns of 4 along with use of a particular magic table at a proscribed rate. Rinse, tweak occurrences, and toss it back out into a table. Very systematic. The variability works out but it sure looks dull in comparison to the 1E hand-crafted, best guess treasure charts of old.

Gone are the percent chances for a particular item type. The 5th edition tables give you magic as proscribed by a specific table at least 64% of the time when rolling a treasure hoard. For higher challenge ratings, the odds get better in increments (0-4:64%/5-10:72/11-16:84/17+:98). Automatic magic above a certain percentage certainly doesn’t appear to be magic sparse. Thousands of rolls later, I’d say its close to the originals with far fewer die rolls.

It is a far simpler system. No need to look up odd treasure types and roll die. It’s quite simply just a new, arbitrary choice based on Challenge. Same as the old arbitrary choice of treasure type, spun down to use less brain cells. Except the classic treasure types allowed a far better, albeit confusing, fidelity of treasure by creature.

Gems/Art confuse me in the 5E system. If someone wants to detail the exact nature of those items, would it not be likely they would also want to vary the value? When I didn’t have automated tools, I ignored both. Now that I have them, I’m more prone to use them for value variability over type variability. The specific values seem far more useful based on something special rather than generic labels. That’s a failure in 1E, 2E and 5E across the board. At least 1E has random variability. I may add that into the 5E Generator, just because I can.

5E doesn’t have a chance for special items — sentient or artifacts. Logically they claim those should always be planned. I understand that sentiment. On the flip side, sometimes I just roll dice against sentient/artifact tables to spur my imagination. Likewise, if I happen upon an artifact roll, I can just as easily replace that with a map / note / book on the artifact to key interest rather than the item itself.

Oh yeah, maps, totally eliminated. Apparently no one uses them anymore. (I jest). As treasure, they just don’t exist magical or not. They may have been phased out in earlier editions. I used them sparingly; far less than they occurred as random treasure. To see them gone entirely is odd.

What really annoys me is spell scrolls: 1 spell / scroll. Talk about dull. When I played mages in prior editions, I loved scrolls to up my spell knowledge. That and opponents spell books. Those were beyond gold. Perhaps now I just need to poke the elevator button of my level to obtain knowledge.


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