Dice rolling on a red background with drifting text reminiscent of the Cowboy Bebop opening credits

Con season is upon us! While con tips are a dime a dozen, my personal tips have not been written down yet. I won’t bore you with thoughts on taking breaks and (for Gen Con) carrying your own toilet paper to the ladies room, but there are some things we should all be thinking about. I am just getting back from Origins, so these are fresh in my mind. Okay, three, two, one, let’s con!

GMs

1. Make a welcoming table.

 Welcome ideas, even if they are different than what you expected.  Even if you need to take a break to figure out what it means for the rest of the game. 
A welcoming table means your words, body language, and actions make people excited to sit down with you. It means when you’re looking for players you aren’t hunched over the table hiding your face from the world. It means saying hi to people and being social. It means setting clear expectations so that everyone is on board with how you plan to run the game.

It means not judging a player based on their appearance or gender or the color of their skin. It means not judging a player by their disability or lack thereof. It means not judging the intelligence of your players based on if they’ve played this game before or not. Pretty much just…don’t judge. The one thing you shouldn’t welcome at your table is judgement or gatekeeping. Be ready to drop a “we don’t do that here,” X card a player, or otherwise maintain the safety of your table for all of your players.

Welcome ideas, even if they are different than what you expected.  Even if you need to take a break to figure out what it means for the rest of the game. Take breaks.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Yes, you are leading this table, facilitating this game, or mastering this dungeon. You are still a player at this table, and you’re all here to have fun. You are not here to use the players to play out your novel or your fantasies, and chances are they don’t know you from Eve. You are probably a great GM, but act like you’re not, and put in the work to make sure you are.

Play with a safety tool. You are not infallible. You probably don’t know all the little things that could make the players at your table miserable, so have an escape hatch. Having it there won’t hurt anything if you don’t need it, but wouldn’t you rather have a way for someone to stop you if they do? (More on safety here.)

3. Know the rules.

Flipping through rule books is never fun, but at least at your home game the timing is more flexible. Here, your time requires precision. Know the rules or be ready to make a ruling on the fly. If there is a player at your table who knows them better than you, don’t be scared to let them fill you in and move forward. Don’t waste time on the rules.

Know the rules of the convention. Know what to do if there is a problem at the table, and where to bring your tickets. If you don’t know these things — ask!

Remember: it’s temporary! Even if you have to roll with some punches to have a successful game, once it’s done, it’s done! Then get as much sleep as you can and do it all again tomorrow.

Players:

1. Play the game

 Your commitment in showing up is investing in making this game work. 
You came here to play this game. Don’t fight it by deciding your character wouldn’t do this. You knew what the description was for this game when you signed up, so come prepared to play. Don’t build a character who won’t act in this plot. Don’t turn up your nose at the plot hook. Your commitment in showing up is investing in making this game work. If a game isn’t working for you, you are not obliged to stay at the table. Apologize, be polite, and remove yourself before you ruin everyone else’s fun.

2. Share

Share the spotlight. Don’t talk over other players. Everyone paid for tickets to be here — now is not the time to use the table to push your own agenda or story line you’ve been plotting. In fact, unless the GM specifically has requested otherwise, it’s better not to walk in to a game with a preconceived notion about how play will go beyond the description you read. (More here.)

Whether you knew these people before or not, for this time at this table we are working together as a team. Be a team player.

Everyone:

1. Respect

Be on time. Listen. Be safe. Respect your fellow players as people; this includes checking your sexist and racist jokes at the door and using the correct pronouns. This means respecting their personal boundaries physically and emotionally. The more we care for one another, respect one another, and uplift one another, the better this experience can be for everyone. 

 

What are your favorite social con tips? What’s your next convention?

Black dice on a grey background reminiscent of the Cowboy Bebop opening Credits