Gameday 44 update!
We’ve seen three events fill up so far: Symbaroum in the a.m., and Savage Worlds and The Clay That Woke in the p.m. Fall of Magic and Trail of Cthulhu are getting lose with just one seat available in each.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of room! Take a look:
https://warhorn.net/…/chicago-gameday-44/schedule/2016/06/11

Also, someone of you might be wondering what happened to the D&D 5e events that were on the schedule. Unfortunately, the GM needed to cancel, but I didn’t get them off the roster until after go-live. Sorry, folks!

So… phone the kids and wake the neighbors! Get the word out, or else get thee to Warhorn and sign up to play.

Chicago Gameday 44 is happening on June 11. Mark your calendars so you don’t miss any of these cool events! https://warhorn.net/events/chicago-gameday-44

#chicagogameday44   #chicagogameday

Burning Wheel at Chicago Gameday 43

For my event at Gameday 43, I ran a Burning Wheel scenario that I titled, “Devil Take the Hindmost”; the PCs were all Great Wolves from the Monster Burner. The starting situation is that the pack has been devastated by an attack by the orcs who have been ravaging the forest all season; the dominants have been killed, and the pups have been captured, eventually to be broken and added to the orc legions. With the pack’s numbers depleted, the remaining wolves have allowed some outcasts to return in order to rebuild the pack again and, hopefully, retrieve the pups.

I had three players — Joe Beason, Tim Jensen , and Willow Palecek — who played, respectively: Thunder, a beloved uncle of the pack; Blood-of-Fire, a spirit-hunter returned home; and Greyfur, a nine(!) lifepath elder wolf and master hunter who is missing an eye. There was a fourth player signed up, but they were called away by a work emergency. I had five PCs ready, so there was a lone wolf who went unused and an orc legion defector that ended up being an NPC.

(Yes, I took Blood-of-Fire’s concept from the MonBu. Even his mom, Splay-Tooth, was in play. Hey, great artists steal.)

I had provided one belief for each PC and had the players write two more; one about the situation and one about another PC. Attention Paul Beakley: it did not take two hours! Granted, they’d all played BW before.

We played for about four hours with a mid-session break to do artha awards. I had started them each with one fate and one persona and wanted to 1) give them a chance to earn more and 2) showcase a bit of the BIT-artha cycle.

Overall, the session went well. I think this was probably the tightest, grabbiest scenario I’ve yet to produce for a BW one-shot. Everyone seemed to have a pretty clear idea of what was at stake and what they wanted to do next. Interestingly, what I thought would be the biggest conflict — Who gets to be dominant now? — was pretty much resolved with the first roll. We opted for a straight versus rather than a full-blown DoW, as neither Tim nor Willow (the players involved) wanted to start the session with a long conflict. I was a little worried about this afterwards, but as I debriefed with Joe, he mentioned that he wasn’t all that interested in that issue at all, so quick resolution of that question was a feature for him, not a bug. (Joe was all about rescuing the pups!)

So, for the most part, the session focused upon the quest to find and rescue the pups from the hands of the orcs. In the process, one of the other pregens was brought in: Worg, the defector from the orc horde (who the players renamed Rage-of-Moon, his true wolf pack name). This was nifty scene, as Joe had Thunder howl from a rise at the entire orc horde, calling for Rage-of-Moon to remember his wolf name and come return to the pack. He managed to hit Ob6, prompting Worg/Rage-of-Moon to break off right then and there and “come home”. There was also a great Enmity Clause when Willow tried to Circle up an elven hunter to help them (the pups were in a Black Metal cage, and wolves don’t have opposable thumbs). Turns out it was the elf that took Greyfur’s eye (and she his arm)! Old enemies who spat insults at each other and parted ways after an inconclusive melee (i.e., a tied Bloody Versus with light and superficial wounds).

They eventually managed to rescue the pups by infiltrating the horde as prisoners of Rage-of-Moon, intimidating an orc handler, and stunning most of the surrounding worgs with Blood-of-Fire howling the words of Grandfather (i.e., Primal Bark, which is a seriously badass skill).

The downside is that the players failed test a lot, which is kind of how things work a lot of the time in BW, and in some ways found that frustrating. Willow assured me that she felt all of the tests and Obs I called for were totally appropriate, but the simple act of failing the tests was frustrating for her. (She was also very tired, as she and Tim get up very early in order to make the drive down from Madison, and so was fading fast from about the mid-session break onward.) Still, I think that I got rules right and set good obstacles, and made sure that tests always moved the game forward.

I’d like the run the scenario again, in which case I would change a few things.

First off, I think the PCs could be tweaked a bit. Making a whole group of wolves is hard, even when including all of the Great Wolf settings, as there ends up being a lot of skill and trait overlap. I might swap some skill pints around, making sure I use General points for outside-the-box skills more often than I did, as well as perhaps specialize each wolf a bit more.

Next, having only three out of the five pregens in play narrowed the focus of the game quite a bit. I might re-think some of the relationships, as well as prioritize the PCs, e.g., “If there are only three players, offer them this subset of characters.”

I also would spend more time introducing the characters and their various components. I think since I knew this group was familiar with BW, I kind of blew through the intro so we could get paying. As a consequence, the PCs’ traits and instincts didn’t really come up all that often. I also don’t think everyone (myself included) was as up-to-speed on wolf-specific skills and traits as they should have been.

Lastly, I had wanted the issue of the orcs having largely devastated the forest, and thus consuming most of the available food, a bigger deal than it was. I think I might start the whole group with a default +1 Ob for being half-starved, and offer that as one problem they might feel compelled to address right off the bat.

Hopefully, should I make it to Forge Midwest this year, I’ll tweak this scenario and run it there once or twice. And then I can revise it once the Codex comes out…

In the attached picture, we can see Joe post-session, most likely writing angry fanfic about Splay-Tooth.

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday43

The Warren at Chicago Gameday 43

This Saturday I played The Warren for the first time. Joe Beason was the GM and my fellow players included Tim Jensen, Dain Lybarger, Sam, John, and Laurie. My rabbit was Dogwood, a one-eared buck who was not only unfraid of humans, but invented rabbit parkour by bouncing off one of their young (a little girl named Hope).

I had a really good time with this game; Joe did a great job as GM, and all the players made wonderful contributions that resulted in so much bunny drama. I haven’t had a chance to play a lot of PbtA games, but this has probably been my favorite so far. The character sheet Joe used is so wonderfully designed — clean, simple layout, beautiful typography; two of my favorite things. A quick read-over of the moves and I felt like I really got what the game was about. Plus, reference was a breeze.

I also must mention the Innovate move, which is what gave birth to the rabbit parkour. It may be my favorite move in any PbtA game I’ve experienced. 100% genius.

Admittedly, there were some slow spots, but I think that was inevitable given six players who were, for the most part, all going off in different directions. I was enthralled nonetheless.

Also, in the process of playing, I made an effort to ry and implement some of the guidelines for good conversation that were in a TED talk I posted a week ago (https://plus.google.com/+MarkDelsing/posts/TpCC1375zct).

Namely:

1. “Be present”. I made sure my phone was in my pocket, and I did not walk away from the table unless the whole group was taking a break. Normally, I might go grab a drink or snack, or hit the restroom as-needed. This time I resisted. If the game was happening, I was sitting at the table paying attention. I even tried really hard not to fiddle with my dice!

2. “It’s not about you.” Essentially, I tried to keep my mouth shut when it was not my turn. I have a tendency to do color commentary about events in which I am not involved — “Heh, that’s just like [movie reference]” — so I made sure to shut that shit down completely. I spoke when we were focused on Dogwood, and otherwise I just stayed at the ready to offer input if asked.

3. “Really listen.” Man, this is hard! It’s very easy to get distracted at Gameday, as you’re in a big room with a lot of other tables full of gamers. It’s tempting to drift off and pick up another GM’s orations or look to see how a friend is faring at another table. I did my best to be Zen and just focus on our table and our players. Thankfully, the frustration of shutting out the rest of the world is rewarded with deep investment in the game at hand. It’s amazing how much easier it is to contribute after 10-15 minutes of it not being your turn by having paid serious attention during that 10-15 minutes.

As a GM, you don’t have to worry about much of this, as you’re being engaged every moment of play, and you’re contributing a lot more than you are receiving. Ergo, this experiment cemented for me that being a “good conversationalist” is absolutely the key skill for being a “good player”.

Extra double bonus, I learned a lot by simply watching Joe work. He has this PbtA stuff nailed. I honestly think the game I ran later in the afternoon was improved by my having been in this event.

Also, totally sold on The Warren. I guess I’m a full-blown furry now.

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday43

Registration for Chicago Gameday 43 is now open!

Chicago Gameday 43 is happening February 27, 2016. Our Warhorn site is now live and accepting player and GM registrations. We’re also looking for people to run events for us; there’s more info on how to submit on the Warhorn page.

Tell your friends!

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday43  

https://warhorn.net/events/chicago-gameday-43

How to Prepare for your Gameday Event

<------- This is the second is the series of essays I'm writing for potential Gameday GMs/facilitators. I thought I would have more to say on this topic than I did, but this seems to capture the most important points. Again, feedback is welcome. ——>

Depending on the kind of game you’ll be running for Chicago Gameday, you’ll likely need to do some preparation ahead of time in order to fill a time slot with enjoyable play. Many RPGs require a great deal of rules knowledge, as well as materials that need to be created in order to facilitate a session. While you may be used to this sort of preparation in the course of running games for your regular gaming groups, the one-off, time-constrained nature of a Gameday event can pose unique challenges. The following advice aims to guide you in overcoming these obstacles.

Do Not Procrastinate
As with any long-term project, the sooner you start your preparation, the easier the overall effort will prove to be. In addition to creating a scenario or event premise, it’s likely that you may also be learning a new set of rules, creating an entire group of player characters, making handouts for the players, and gathering or building specific accessories (such as miniatures or terrain). In essence, you’ll be doing a number of jobs that, in a regular gaming group, would normally be spread across multiple people and multiple instances of play. It is thus imperative that you not put off work on your event to the last minute. All of the tasks mentioned above will most likely take more time than you expect. Finding yourself under the gun the day or night before Gameday is incredibly stressful and sucks all of the fun out of Gameday. Instead of looking forward to your event, you’ll simply be waiting for it to be over.

Pro Tip: Set yourself some deadlines. At a bare minimum, you should set an end date for your prep — a day by which you plan to be completely finished getting ready. Ideally, this is at least the Thursday before Gameday, thereby giving you Friday night to take it easy and get a good night’s sleep. If you break down your deadlines even more — rules read by this date, character sheets ready by this date, etc. — all the better.

Character Sheets Will Take the Most Time, So Do Them First
Creating pre-generated characters — if your game requires them — is one of the most time-consuming tasks involved in event prep, and it always takes longer than you think it will. If you’re formatting the character sheets yourself, even more so. If possible, create characters and prepare their sheets first, before you do any other prep. A side benefit of this is that you then have the characters in mind while you are crafting your scenario, and can adapt it to the characters, and vice-versa.

This same advice goes for handouts, such as rule or setting summary sheets, maps, visual aids, etc. While they don’t need to be the first thing you do, they should definitely not be the last.

Pro Tip: If you have character creation software available for your game, great! Use it and save yourself a lot of time. If you don’t, focus on creating the character data first; don’t worry about formatting it. Formatting-as-you-go can turn into a huge time-sink. (Nothing helps you procrastinate better than choosing just the right font.)

Make A Rules Cheat-Sheet, Even If You Know The Game Well
A smooth-running event requires a GM that knows the game well enough to facilitate play without spending a lot of time referencing rulebooks. Making a rule cheat-sheet for your game forces you through a study process that enhances your comprehension of the game. By parsing the rules into a digestible set of notes, you solidify your understanding of them. In addition, the product of your labor is a handy summary sheet that likely will be easier to use during play than the actual rulebooks. Not to mention, you can use them as a handout for your players.

Pro Tip: I find it most useful to make procedural notes, typically in an outline form. That is, I format my notes in order of application: “Step 1: Do this. Step 2: Do that. Etc.” Each step may also have subsections that note options or related rules that are relevant to that step, as well as page references, if needed. For example, if the first step is “Roll initiative”, but there are exceptions or modifiers to the basic initiative mechanic, I’ll note them under that first step. Then I can just run through the steps every time we use that set of rules, until I pretty much have them memorized.

Make Notes, But Not Too Many Notes
The notes for your event only need to be as detailed as you need them to be. Remember, you’ll be spending most of your time talking to the players, not referencing documentation. For most of us, the model for scenario notes are published adventures, but remember that those are products designed to be read first and then digested into playable knowledge. They generally include a great deal more information than is actually used at the table, like extensive background and guidelines for the person running them. You, on the other hand, already have most of the knowledge you need. Your notes only need to serve as prompts for your memory, so they can be brief and to the point. Most of the in-the-moment detail will be filled in by you during play.

Pro Tip: If you can fit all of the information you need for your event on one sheet of paper, do it. If you can’t, try to keep distinct sections of your event — such as a given encounter or everything about a specific NPC — on a single sheet so that any given moment of play, you’re only looking at one page of data.

Bonus Pro Tip: Use all of the formatting tools at your disposal to help organize your event notes: highlighters, color printing, post-it notes, colored paper, etc. If it works for you, use it.

Extra-Credit: Play-Test Your Event If You Can
This is “extra-credit” advice given that it essentially doubles your effort, but it should not go unsaid. If you have the time and players available, take your event for a test run. It’s good to do this no later than one week before Gameday so that you have time to digest feedback and make any necessary modifications to your event or player handouts. At the very least, having run through the event once will make running it at Gameday feel like a breeze. Not only will you have internalized a lot of the details in your scenario notes, but you’ll have a better idea what to expect from the players.

Pro Tip: You’ll want to debrief your players after the play-test. Ask them what worked, what didn’t, what made sense, what was confusing, and look for an honest assessment of how well you performed as a GM. Did you pace the game well? Did everyone feel involved? Were you speaking loud enough to be heard? Let them be brutally honest.

#chicagogameday

​How to Run a Great Gameday Event

<-------- I've been meaning to write up some Gameday best practices documents that codify some of what I've learned over the last decade or so in running events for it. This is the first in a series that will address various aspects of Gameday GM'ing. Others will talk about prep, scenario/event design, props, etc.  I'm also hoping that this kind of documentation might encourage more people to come forward and run games for us, and help those who do run create more enjoyable experiences for everyone. Feedback is welcome. ——>

Running or facilitating RPGs can be as much art as science. Running an RPG in the context of Chicago Gameday can be even more so. Gameday events impose challenging constraints: limited time, unfamiliar participants, and ephemerality. You are given a brief moment in the spotlight and yet expected to leave a lasting impression — and have fun doing it! How do you accomplish this, much less do it consistently?

The following are some of the lessons I’ve learned in running events, both the good ones and the bad, for Chicago Gameday.

Make It Special
Everyone who attends Gameday — including you, the GM — has taken time away from their busy lives to be there. Some have traveled for hours. As a GM, your primary goal is to reward this effort. For some attendees, this may be the only gaming they do that month, or even that year. For others, this may be their first time attending a Gameday, or even their first time playing the kind of game you’re offering. Put your best foot forward and run the best damn game you can.

Pro Tip: Bring fun or interesting props, print your character sheets on fancy paper, make colorful handouts, or heck, wear a costume if you are so inclined. This isn’t to say that you need to spend a fortune on paraphernalia. I’ve had a model human skull sitting on my bookshelf for ages, a gag gift from a friend; it made a perfect prop for a Dresden Files RPG event I ran a few years ago. The point is that if you’re going to bring accessories, bring them, in the inspiring-cheerleading-movie sense. The sensory experience of even something as basic as a character sheet or a map can add a while new dimension to the players’ enjoyment of your event. The more senses you engage, the more invested the players are likely to become.

Be Prepared
Know the rules for your game. Be thoroughly familiar with the scenario you are running. If you’re bringing pre-generated characters, know them well enough that you can help coach their players in their abilities or any other applicable rules of which they make use. Have your notes in order and organized in whatever way is easiest for you to use at the table. Have any dice you need ready, any miniatures or accessories you need at hand, and any handouts for the players printed and ready to distribute.

Pro Tip: Get a good night’s sleep before Gameday. Coming to Gameday fatigued from lack of sleep makes every aspect of being a GM harder. Even if you manage to run your game without a hitch, the effort will be double, and any enjoyment in the process will evaporate. Gameday is a special day for you, too, and spending it wishing you were home in bed is absolutely no fun.

Front-Load your Characters
If your event involves bringing pre-generated characters to the table, “front-load” them as much as possible. Namely, provide any and all necessary information that the player might need in order to run that character. Ideally, a player should be able to look at the character sheet you provide and almost instantly understand the basics of who that character is, what they want, and what abilities they can bring to bear to get it.

Pro Tip: If you want to have players choose equipment or spells, or make certain character build decisions, provide them with a limited set of choices, and make those choices easy to implement. For example: hand a player a set of index cards, with one spell on each (with all details), and have them choose a “hand” of spells to use for your event.

Focus on Playing, not Lecturing
It’s not uncommon for players in your event to be unfamiliar with the rules or setting of the game you’re running. Resist the urge to spend a lot of time explaining your game in detail at the start of your event. This can be a real mood-killer, as it asks players to process a lot of new information at once with no real idea how much of it may be relevant once play starts. At most, ask the table how familiar everyone may be with the game. Depending on the level of familiarity, offer just a sentence or two of high-level summary and then move on once the players have acknowledged that they understand.

For example: “This is a game about fighting for your character’s beliefs. These beliefs are written on your sheet, so please take a minute to look at them. When your character takes action, you’ll roll a number of dice equal to their skill rating; any dice that show a 4 or better count as successes. If you roll a number of successes equal to or higher than your target, you accomplish what you were trying to do. Make sense? Okay, so your group is arriving at the town when…”

As the game proceeds, bring up rules as you use them and explain as-needed. Let players describe what they want their PCs to do in plain language, and then help them translate that into game mechanics. You’ll find that the players will start to catch on to commonly used rules, and the game will keep moving forward.

Pro Tip: If one of your players is familiar with the RPG you’re running, deputize them! Ask them to help the other players with the rules, allowing you each to help different people at once, or for your deputy to handle one player’s rule question while you handle a scene with another.

Start with a Bang
Your time is limited, so get the action started as soon as possible. Instead of a mysterious job offer in tavern, start the adventurers at the mouth of the dungeon with a band of orcs hot on their heels! Instead of a mission briefing at HQ, start by throwing the agents out of plane, without parachutes, and the ground racing up at them! You don’t want to make players spend time figuring out your event’s “hook.” You all know you’re here to game, so start gaming!

Pro Tip: Start your event off by having everyone roll initiative (or your game’s equivalent) and play through some or all of an initial conflict, but don’t offer any more context than is needed. Get to a stopping point and then flash back to the “real” start of the adventure and have players figure out how the heck they got into that first fight. Once they get there, flash forward to the present and continue onward.

Keep an Eye on the Clock
Your event needs to fill at least four hours, but not go over five, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on the time as your event progresses. Put your watch or your phone on the table where you can see it during play and be mindful of it. The pacing of your event will greatly impact the players’ overall enjoyment. Rush too quickly and players will lack time to forge a strong connection with their characters or to the situation they’re in; plod too slowly and they’ll feel like nothing is happening and they’re just meandering.

Pro Tip: Set alarms on your smartphone or watch to mark various milestones. 30 minutes in: Are we done choosing characters and introducing everyone? Have we really started playing? If not, get moving. 2-2.5 hours in: Time for a 5-10 minute bathroom break and to assess how far we’ve gotten. Have we hit the “meat” of the session yet? 45-60 minutes before the slot ends: Time to start wrapping up. Are we close to a meaningful conclusion? If not, get there now.

Give Everyone a Voice
As the GM, you are both the de facto host of your event, and most likely have unique authority under the rules when it comes to directing the flow of the game: starting or ending scenes, choosing which player moves next, or deciding what contributions are “true” in the game world. Use this power to make sure that no one player or subset of players dominates the game. Move focus from player to player, making sure that everyone get to offer input. If a player is quiet, reach out to them and pull them into the game. If a player is steamrolling ahead, stop them with a quick, “Cool, hold that thought”, and then ask the rest of the table what their PCs are doing at that moment, and come back to the steamroller afterwards.

Pro Tip: Initiative systems aren’t just for combat. Feel free to use them to direct out-of-conflict play as well. Have everyone roll a die (any die) and then address them in descending order. Or, draw cards; high draw speaks first and then chooses who will go next (including you).

Bonus Pro Tip: In old-school dungeon-crawling games, it’s not uncommon to designate one player as the “caller,” i.e., the liaison with the GM. The players can deliberate all they want, but eventually they must decide on a course of action, and the caller conveys that final plan to the GM. So, make use of a caller. Choose a different player to be caller every turn, or every major scene, or even every fifteen minutes or so. And don’t just do it for dungeon-crawly games; it can work in lots of scenarios.

Go High or Go Home
Never forget that your event is a one-shot; a singular moment in time that will never come again. There’s no larger campaign, no “same time next week,” no regular group you’ll see again and again. Consequently, do not hold back! Let your event be a defining moment in the characters’ lives. Have them face their greatest enemies or their worst fears. Put them in situations that may change them forever; ones they may even be willing to die for! Dangle their most coveted treasures before them, and threaten those they hold most dear. Don’t think “monster of the week,” think “series finale”. Your imagination has an unlimited budget, so you might as well spend all of it!

I hope that this advice proves useful to you, be it at Gameday or elsewhere. Let me know what works and what doesn’t, or if you find other techniques that reliably make your events more enjoyable.

#chicagogameday

State of Chicago Gameday, Fall 2015

The State of the Gameday, Fall 2105 survey saw a total of 40 responses. While this is just under 20% of the existing fanbase, it’s a decent amount of respondednts compared to surveys past. I’ve analyzed the results and wanted to share some of the findings, and explain how Gameday will respond to them going forward.

CONNECTING WITH GAMEDAY

Almost 88% of repondents found the Gameday mailing list the most effective way to keep abreast of upcoming events and other Gameday news. Consequently, I’ve decided to start using MailChimp, an email marketing tool, to enhance formatting and general list-management. Expect to see fancier emails and easier methods to subscribe or unsubscribe.

Warhorn was rated a 4 or better (out of 5) by 80% of respondents, so we’ll continue to use it for registration and event management.

Respondents were largely split on the efficacy of ENWorld threads as a means of planning. Almost half of them gave ENWorld a 3 out of 5, or “meh”, rating, with the rest of the respondents falling on either side of the scale. As a result of this, we will no longer be using ENWorld as a planning tool. I’ve wanted to divorce Gameday from the site for a while now, and this was the push I needed.

But, what to use instead? A Google+ community and our Gameday Facebook page were the most popular choices, at 47.5% and 35%, respectively. I’m going to focus on using Facebook for now, however. Yes, lots of people despise it, but a) our Facebook page has 223 likes, and b) Facebook integrates into many OSes and applications. Events on Facebook are easliy shared and, depending on a user’s settings, will automatically integrate into one’s calendar and OS notifications. This is simply too useful to pass up, so I’m going to give it a try for Gameday 43.

EVENTS AT GAMEDAY

Despite concerns that Gameday may not be offering events of interest to potential attendees, 85% of respondents said that Gameday offers events that interest them more than 50% of the time, and of those 42.5% said they found interesting events 100% of the time. That’s a pretty good track record!

The most common reason for respondents not attending Gameday is simply scheduling: 72.5% listed schedule conflicts as the most common reason they cannot attend a Gameday. Only 17.5% said a lack of interesting events was the reason. Honestly, this confirms my own personal observations. I have been told constantly that Gameday needs to offer more popular or bigger-name RPGs, but I have never seen a consistent correlation between them and attendance.

(My personal opinion is that the top-selling RPGs are already well-served by the hobby community, so when we offer, say, Pathfinder, we’re competing with a lot of other gatherings. The fact that Gameday skews a little off the grid is, in my opinion, a selling point.)

When it comes to the kinds of events on offer, most respondednts were — no surprise — interested in RPGs, and the “big three” genres were of most interest: science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

As to secific types of RPGs, the most-reqeusted RPGs were “Indie” games (27.5%), “Other” (20%), and then a five-way tie all at 7.5%: Fiasco, Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, Old-School Revivial games, and Fate. RPGs conventionally accepted as popular received few if any votes at all. Granted, “other” was a pretty big catch-all. Some respondents included Dungeon Crawl Classics in this category, a game I’d consider OSR, and others used it to express “no preference”. Still, “indie” RPGs was the big winner here.

Beyond RPGs, 30% of respondents expressed interest in board games, to which I have no objection. If people want to offer them and they fill a slot, board games are more than welcome at Gameday.

When it comes to the size of an event, the largest table people seem to be comfortable with is GM + 6 players (32.5%), though more respondents prefered no more than GM + 5 players (37.5%). Results dropped off markedly for larger tables. Consequently, I am going to encourage a “soft” limit of no more than six seats in an event, meaning that while GMs are welcome to exceed it, they are not encouraged to do so.

And, somewhat related, I’m going to introduce a hard minimum of four seats per event. I know that this will disappoint a few people, but the simple fact is that events smaller than that make it too hard for Gameday to service its community. Less people get to play, and less people get to attend (and thus, spread the word about) Gameday.

Respondents were very happy overall with Games Plus as our venue. This seems a no-brainer, but it’s good to see it confirmed. 65% said that the game room is sometimes too loud, however, which I’ve noticed as well. I’m not sure exactly what I can do about this, but awareness of the issue is a first step. Le Peep also seems to be meeting everyone’s needs, which is good, becasue I love the food. 🙂

I asked whether respondents have GM’ed at Gameday, and if they hadn’t, why not. Of those who had not, 43.8% said they simply preferred playing, but another 43.8% felt they lacked confidence in their GM skills, and 31.3% said they simply didn’t have the time to prepare. The latter two answers have me wondering what it is I can do to help people feel comfortable GM’ing, as we are always looking for more people to run games. I’ve been considering hosting a “GM’ing workshop” for those interested, but any other ideas are appreciated.

Lastly, I did receive a comment about inclusivity at the game table, namely events where a player was made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. While this kind of feedback has thankfully been rare — which I hope is due to lack of incidence, not a lack of coming forward — it has come up in the past. For a while now, I have been thinking about creating a harassment and/or “safe space” policy for Gameday. I dont know how much there really is that I can do about enforcing such policies, given that I’m just one person, but having them in place feels like it may be valuable. Feedback on this topic is also welcome.

This was not the first Gameday survey, and it will not be the last, though I will likely refrain from sending out larger surveys more than once a year or so. I’d like to thank everyone who participated. See you all at Gameday 43!

#chicagogameday  https://www.facebook.com/chicagogameday

Help me find new tools for planning a Gameday (please)

For over a decade now, planning for #ChicagoGameday  has been handled by starting a thread on ENWorld and having people post event descriptions (blurbs, images, etc.) and chatter in general. I don’t know that I want to do this going forward. We’re not really associated with ENWorld as a community any more, and it seems sort of weird to use what’s essentially a disinterested third party for such a critical part of Gameday administration. I’ve also been polling the Gameday regulars, and no one seems especially attached to this methodology.

But what do I use in its place?

Two options currently topping the list are: 1) somehow use the existing Gameday Facebook page, and 2) create a G+ Community specifically for Gameday. As a big fan of G+, #2 is obviously very appealing. However, our Facebook page already has over 200 “likes”, meaning that there is a built-in group of people who are already essentially there and monitoring discussion, so #1 is also compelling.

That said, I don’t know how well FB would handle planing discussions. A FB post feels to me like a tenuous place to have a long, threaded discussion. I suppose anyone who’s liked the page can post, and so it would be a series of posts rather than one big thread, like it would be on a forum.

Anyway, the point here is that I’m still figuring out what FB is capable of, and don’t want to dismiss the 880 lb. gorilla of social networks just because I might personally prefer G+. Not to mention not wanting to scatter Gameday’s identity across multiple networks.

So, does anyone have any suggestions? Have you done something like this via Facebook or G+? Is there a feature of features on either platform that I am overlooking?

Suggestions welcome.

Take The State Of The Gameday Fall 2015 Survey

Long-time Gameday fans will be aware that I periodically send out surveys to help gauge how well Chicago Gameday is meeting the needs of its attendees and volunteer GMs. Well, it’s been a bout a year-and-a-half since the last survey, so I figured it was time once again to ask for feedback.

This is a general customer satisfaction survey for past attendees that also asks some questions about possible new ways to handle Gameday organization. It should take you no more than 10 minutes.
Your participation is very much appreciated. The more data I am able to collect, the better I’ll be able to improve the Gameday experience. Hopefully, I’ll be able to implement any suggested improvements in time for Gameday 43 on February 27th.

#chicagogameday  

http://goo.gl/forms/Jteir4Dqh9

Help me compile a list of conventions in and around Chicagoland that would be compelling for gamer types

tl;dr — If you know of a convention in Illinois or surrounding states that focuses on things a typical gamer would like (RPGs, war-games, anime, SF/fantasy, comics, etc.) and it’s not already on the list below, please post it in the comments, ideally wth a URL.

Lately I’ve had a really hard time with #ChicagoGameday  accidentally coinciding with various major conventions in the area. I do my best to seek them out, but the comprehensive convention listing sites that do exist are seriously awful, and most of the convention sites themselves seem to be doing a poor job of SEO, so even general Googling is often fruitless.

I went through one of the local Meetup group’s* back calendar and tried to identify every significant gathering I could that might draw folks away from my little Gameday. The list below was the result, but I can’t help but assume it’s incomplete.

If you know of a con that is not on this list and that would have a high likelihood of drawing out someone who lives in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, please let me know in the comments and, if it exists, provide a URL for the con’s site or FB page.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Archon — http://archonstl.org
AdeptiCon —http://www.adepticon.org
Anime Central — http://www.acen.org
Anime Midwest — http://animemidwest.com
Bristol Renaissance Fair — http://www.renfair.com/bristol/
C2E2
http://www.c2e2.com
CapriCon — http://capricon.org/capricon36/
Chi-Fi
http://chi-fi.org
Chicago TARDIS — http://chicagotardis.com
CodCon — http://www.codcon.com
Con+Alt+Delete — http://conaltdelete.com
Conception and Concentric — http://concentricgamecons.com
Corridor Games On Demand — https://www.facebook.com/CorridorGoD
Fantasticon — http://www.fantasticon.net
Forge Midwest — https://forgemidwest.wordpress.com
GameHoleCon — https://www.gameholecon.com
Gamicon — http://www.gamicon.org/
GaryCon — http://garycon.com
GenCon — http://www.gencon.com
Indiana Comic Con — http://indianacomiccon.com/
Kollision Con — http://kollisioncon.com
Midwinter Gaming Con — http://www.midwintergamingconvention.com
MuseCon — http://www.musecon.org
Origins — http://originsgamefair.com
PentaCon — http://www.pentacongames.com
Ragnarok — http://www.ragnarokconvention.com
Soy Con — http://soycon.com
Star Trek Chicago — http://www.creationent.com/cal/stchi.htm
ValorCon — http://valorcon.com
WIndyCon — http://windycon.org/
Winter War — http://www.winterwar.org
Wizard World — http://www.wizardworld.com/chicago.html
WolfCon — http://wolfcon.org

* The group I mined was the Naperville Freaks, Geeks, and Weirdos meetup — http://www.meetup.com/Naperville-Freaks-Geeks-and-Weirdos/ — I have to say, they do a phenomenal job keeping their calendar active with social geekery, more so than any most of the other meetups in my area. If you live in the western ‘burbs, definitely check them out.