Knoxville, TN


Prepping TTRPG sessions for cons and gaming events

May 28, 2024

I’ve written before about my theory of running game sessions at conventions in the context of my experience running Hamacon, but I’ve refined that process in the past year in hopes of building up a library of one-shots I can run on-demand.

When I prep a one-shot for friends, I try to give Future Dylan notes for stuff that’s hard for me to improvise in the moment (it’s much easier to imagine yourself in a scene when you’re not wrangling a group of people). That’s only a few steps removed from creating reusable adventures–so I started asking, why not take the extra step? (And that’s only a few steps removed from writing published adventures, which is an entirely different topic.)

My goals are:

  • The module should be repeatable. It should only take minimal work to “refresh” it the next time it’s run.
  • The module should be complete. Everything that’s needed should be in the folder (except for larger physical bits like dice, tokens, etc., which are usually common anyway).
  • Above all else, the module preparation should respect players’ time. A four-hour gaming session carries a huge opportunity cost at a con. You should make good use of the time they’ve given you (and give them as much of it back as you can without sacrificing the experience).

Everything gets stored in a pocket folder

It’s smaller and more convenient than a binder, but can collect everything you need.

Each folder is a discrete packet of information–everything you need to run an adventure (aside from more physical stuff like books, GM screens, dice, battlemats, etc.) is in there, at your fingertips.

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Being a Better TTRPG Player part 4: Take People Problems Out-of-Game

December 28, 2023

RPGs are traditionally a game enjoyed by the socially awkward. For many of us, that means we don’t like interpersonal conflict.

I suspect my experience is common: in college, I thought mastering the rules of D&D 3.5 would give me the ability to make peace between killer DMs, power gamers, and other ne’er-do-wells by holding them accountable legalistically.

As a 40-something, that sure looks like conflict avoidance.

Don’t underestimate the power of pulling someone aside and diplomatically telling them they’re being a jerk. (And you don’t even have to be the gamemaster to do it!)

Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of refusing to play with people who continue to be jerks after that.

For a lot of us, this seems unconscionable. Usually, you’re playing long-running games with your friends, after all. (And here the Five Geek Social Fallacies come into play, distorting how we think about those concepts.)

But life’s too short to play games with people you don’t or can’t trust. You can’t build strong enough mechanical guardrails to fix a lack of trust.

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Being a Better TTRPG Player part 3: Read Between the Lines

December 21, 2023

(Read part 2 here)

This is going to sound like metagaming, but if done in good faith, it isn’t.

When you get engrossed in a game world, it’s easy to forget that it’s not a real place–it only exists in the game master’s head. You don’t get information from that world like you would from the real world, or even a video game world.

The GM has their own incentives for how they present information to you.

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Being a Better TTRPG Player part 2: Actively Share the Spotlight

December 14, 2023

(Read part 1 here)

A good gaming experience is one where every player gets to do something interesting. (And not every player will define “interesting” the same way.)

As a player, you can have as much control over the spotlight as the gamemaster does, for good or ill. It’s important to use it wisely, and not just expect the GM to manage it.

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Being a Better TTRPG Player part 1: Read the Table

December 10, 2023

Over the last several years, I feel like I’ve hit a second wind with tabletop gaming. An obvious factor is the trend towards lighter, more storytelling-focused systems that remove friction–which has even shown up in newer editions of popular games like D&D 5th Edition.

But so much of it is simply being more emotionally intelligent than I was in my teens, 20’s, or early 30’s.

There are a lot of tips on being a better Dungeon/Game Master out there, but I’ve also really enjoyed moments that have taught me how to be a better player. This is a series covering a collection of those observations.

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Running a Board Gaming Event: Games You Might Not Have Tried

August 11, 2019

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Running a Board Gaming Event: Running RPGs

August 2, 2019

Successfully running an RPG at a convention is an art form (one I haven’t mastered). It’s loud and everyone’s under tight time constraints. (Dire Bear Adventuring Co. did an excellent job running D&D at the last few Hamacon events, if you want a good example.)

Here’s a few quick rules I use when running games at cons:

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Running a Board Gaming Event: Scheduled Games

One of my main goals for Hamacon analog gaming was running events. This is typical when you’re talking about CCGs (tournaments) or RPGs (one-shot adventures), but I wanted to extend this to board games. Specifically, I wanted to introduce games that were fun or interesting, weren’t necessarily popular (i.e., you wouldn’t find on Tabletop or similar shows), and weren’t necessarily easy to learn (i.e., not Cards Against Humanity or Love Letter).

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