(The first part of this series is Part 1: The Convention-Store Relationship.)
Part of the challenge in organizing a convention is to provide a different experience than players can get at their local stores. The following activities can help make your convention a fun and unique event.
Put Up Banners or Posters
Wizards of the Coast provides free high quality artwork on its Digital Marketing Assets page. Even some simple 8 1/2″ X 11″ or 11″ X 17″ color posters can help create an atmosphere that says, “We have fun playing D&D here!” Larger posters or banners are not as expensive as you might expect and will make for great photos on social media where everyone can see what a great time players are having at your con.
Make sure, however, that you have the right to use any artwork that you’re displaying — don’t use artwork (from Wizards, or anyone else) without permission. If you want to use Wizards’ art other than as given in their digital marketing assets, there is a way to request permission. You’ll need a Wizards account to do so, and it may take several weeks. So plan your artwork early.
Ask for a Premier, Regional Preview, or D&D Epic
Premiers are the very first time a D&D Expedition is run anywhere in the world. Premiers can be requested by filling out a Request for Premier Adventure.
Regional previews are the first time a D&D Expedition is run in each region – the adventure will have premiered slightly earlier in a different region. Regional previews are awarded by each regional coordinator (RC) directly.
D&D Epics are special adventures for larger conventions. In order to run a D&D Epic, a convention generally has to be well-established, must have successfully run a premier before, and must expect to run a large number of tables simultaneously. If you believe your convention qualifies, ask your RC to recommend that your convention be considered for a D&D Epic.
These special adventures help draw players that might not otherwise attend your convention. Normally, they are scheduled many months in advance, so be sure to get your request in early!
Invite a Special Guest to Run Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire
Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire (also known as the Magic Item Trading Post) is great for building connections between your convention and your local stores. Players who received magic item certificates by playing in stores can come to the convention to trade their certs at the Trading Post and return to their stores with their new loot.
Even if there isn’t a lot of store play in your area currently, offering the Faire can be a way to help jump-start things. It’s a very tangible demonstration of the type of fun that’s possible with the character portability and continuity found in organized play. People will wander by and ask what it’s for and will learn, “This is what the D&D Adventurers League is doing.”
An Admin, RC, or Wizards staff member must be present to offer this event, though local coordinators can help administer it as long as one of the former is present. The convention will have to provide travel, room, and possibly other incidental expenses for the special guest to attend. But it doesn’t take all that many additional badges or tickets sold for this event to pay for itself. Special guests may be able to offer additional perks to conventions they attend. This link details how to formally request a special guest from Wizards. To ask an Admin or RC to attend, contact your RC.
Announcing in social media that the Trading Post is coming to your convention will likely help attract more players from nearby (and possibly not-so-nearby) stores. Players love certs and the opportunity to trade or purchase them. More information about Fai Chen’s can be found in this article.
Have the Current State of the Campaign Interact with Your Players
Conventions can be a fun way to help bring the campaign world to life. For example, we held a convention shortly after the State of Mulmaster campaign article was released. That article discusses the Brotherhood of the Cloaks and how arcane spellcasters in Mulmaster are asked to either swear allegiance to the High Blade of Mulmaster or take an oath not to cast arcane magic in the city. Since the article was newly released, many players were not yet familiar with it.
At the event, I dressed up as a wizard, went to all the tables running adventures set in Mulmaster, and asked all the arcane casters if they wished to join the Cloaks. Those who joined were administered an oath to serve the High Blade of Mulmaster, while those who refused were warned of the consequences if they were caught spellcasting. In addition to being hilarious fun and getting photos plastered all over Instagram and Facebook, it helped players understand the campaign setting of Mulmaster and highlighted the moral dilemma facing arcane casters there in a unique and memorable way.
Organize a Raffle or a Scavenger Hunt
An event like a raffle or a scavenger hunt requires some stuff to award, which may be donated by sponsoring stores, DMs, or organizers. Raffles are pretty straightforward to organize. Many conventions hand out one ticket to each player per session and two tickets per DM per session. You can also let people buy tickets, which may help offset any cost of the prizes. Then you draw tickets and award prizes periodically or at some point toward the end of the convention.
Alternatively, you can run a scavenger hunt. There are several ways to do this — we’ve had success creating a list of tasks that players are encouraged to do. Often the tasks are some combination of fun and educational activities. Players get a small card listing the tasks. The staff at your League headquarters (HQ) can initial the tasks or use a stamp (these are pretty inexpensive) to mark off each one as it’s completed. Players who complete a minimum number of tasks win a prize. If you have a variety of prizes, you may have players roll a die to determine what they’ve won, awarding a bonus on the roll for additional tasks completed. For example, you could have players roll 1d20, awarding more mundane prizes for low results and reserving the best prizes for players whose modified roll is 21 or higher.
Here are some examples of scavenger hunt tasks:
- Play a premier or regional preview adventure that’s running at the con.
- Provide adventure results at http://dndadventurersleague.org/results. Many players aren’t aware that the site exists and that they can influence the direction of the campaign by reporting adventure results there during the first months each adventure is in play. The scavenger hunt helps to raise awareness of results reporting and increases participation.
- During Season 2 we created an “Elemental Evil Quiz” based on the Season 2 campaign documents. We kept hard copies of these materials at HQ for players to review, as well as links to where the materials could be found online. Again, doing so helped raise awareness that the materials existed. It also educated players on common misconceptions about the campaign rules.
- Make a trade at Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire.
- Post a selfie in front of a D&D poster or banner on social media.
- Submit a feedback report regarding a Dungeon Master.
- Earn at least 3 points of renown during the convention.
Most of the prizes were fairly minor, but a lucky roll by someone who completed a large number of items could get them a dice tower, some miniatures, or a D&D book.
Highlight Any Elaborate Setups by Veteran Dungeon Masters
Maybe you have a Dungeon Master who likes to print out full color poster maps, one that uses dungeon tiles, or one who, when running an adventure set in a castle, brings a model castle where the characters will fight their foes upon the battlements. You get the idea. Whoever you’ve got that runs a visually impressive table, put that table front and center where everyone can see it and where passersby will stop to find out what’s happening. In addition to creating a fun gaming atmosphere, positioning tables this way can also be a simple but effective way to draw additional attention to your games and, thus, to bring new players into the campaign.
Your main convention activity, of course, is running D&D Adventurers League games. Part 3 of this series will cover things to consider in setting up your gaming schedule.
In addition to playing D&D, Fred can often be found playing high-level tournament bridge and/or folding some seriously wicked origami.
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- The D&D Adventurers League Convention Organizer’s Survival Guide Part 2:Convention Activities - November 12, 2015