Mini-Cons: Care and Crafting

Jan 13, 2015

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.


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.


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.


  • Still got the salami tray – eh. I think that was my idea…….
    Ah, Heck, I go ahead and attack Randy….
    20!!!!! Bye Bye Head

    • I ate most of it… Eventually. Crackers got tossed due to living in various refrigerators for a few too many days. The rest of it added to my preservatives load.