Heh. Hadn't really thought about just GM socializing or a brunch, per se, but I have been wanting to set up a GM boot camp of sorts, as I've mentioned before. The trick is finding folks to run events for it and putting together a structure to make it a must-attend event. I'm stil stewing on that.
Gen Con LLC
For a while now I've been running seminar events for GMs. Everything from newbie GMing to more advanced topics about story development, keeping people interested in the game, and improvisation. I skipped last year because I brought my daughters, and I dont think they wanted to listed to Dad blab in front of a crowd, but I'm in the process now of writing up my seminar abstracts for this year.
It seems like a 1 hour seminar on GMing at conventions might be helpful. I'd be happy to do it, and I think it fits nicely with the theme of the types of seminars I like to do. Of course its all based on my opinions and experiences, so its nothing like an official "How to Gencon, for GMs" but its something.
What do you think, Derek?
Were your events general presentations, or hands-on? What specific topics did you cover?
I think it would be great to discuss the various topics for GM training and discussion, maybe work out some possible ways to divide up topics.
Most of the "GM Advice" panels I've attended ended up devolving into "My players are terrible how do I fix them", so I'd love to hear about more successful events folks have run (or attended), specifically those that might tie directly to running games in a con environment.
I do like the idea of "workshops" ,but would approach them with some hesitation. First of all -it has to be recognized that any workshop/seminar (that is geared to new GM's)that is held is not for this year ,but for the following year(s). And then what is the drop off rate of prospective GM's ? and the retention rate of the info?
In my experience ,there are 3 time periods where people are making the decision about becoming a Gencon GM.
1) Immediately after the con itself -when the Euphoria of gaming is there ."I can do that "
2) in the last month or so before event submission: they see the e-mail(s) and think "Yeah,I might be able to run a couple of games"
3) when the event listing comes out "Oh yeah I was going to run a game "
So the object is get to them when they are interested .
There a few ways to do this:
a) Have the HQ's actively pursue and get contact info from the prospective GM's at Gencon. Maintain contact through out the year .
b) Hold regional workshops . Generally this can be done at the many small regional conventions that take place each year ( top of my head I can think of about 60 + , midwest and east coast ). This would keep things and interest fresh .
c) Have a regional contact -that will hold the workshops.training sessions,etc.. and also maintain contact.
One of the things that our group(19 & One) does with any new Gm -that wants to -(and experienced GM's) is to take them to a small convention and help them run a game or 2 there . Smaller , more relaxed ,gives them a chance to see what works and what doesn't . Also helps build a sense of team.
As most of you know it is very different running a game for your friends than it is for a mixed group of strangers.
Overall I think Derek is correct when he said that confidence is one of the biggest issues a new GM faces ,not so much the "can I do this " but the " how do I deal with the range of players and player experience " and " it seems overwhelming to run a game /I just want to run 1 game "
I would agree with much of that. Gen Con isn't in a posiition to do much of that, unfortunately, but my secret long-term hope would be that if a workshop program were started at Gen Con, someone (hopefully many someones: companies, gaming groups, etc.) would just pick up the idea and transplant it at other conventions and they would all feed off of each other throughout the year.
On the topic of helping folks become better GMs: http://rovingbandofmisfits.com/becoming-a-great-dm-talent-vs-experience/
Example - players are acting out or not paying attention. Lets talk about what might be causing that. Is it because they arent interested in the stories we are telling? Lets talk about how we tell RPG stories, and look at the process of pre-writing, sketching, and improvisation during play.
For the intro GM sessions, one of the questions I always ask is "why aren't you GMing? You're here in this session, which I assume means you are interested, but aren't you already?"
I've found it really cuts straight to what people are worried or afraid of and where they think their weaknesses are. Its a great starting point to build on.
I was a first time GM last year and am looking forward to expanding the number of events I host in 2016. I agree with what previous posts have identified, confidence is a considerable factor when taking that first step in becoming a GM. Once you cross that line, having or developing the skill set to engage the players (effectively explain rules, entertain, encourage, etc.) and address any inter-player dynamics that evolve during the event become important.
As mentioned above, gaming groups can help quite a bit with both. It certainly is not an easy item to address.
I definitely think it would be very helpful to distinguish between types of GMs, as there is a fair amount of difference between running an RPG event and a board game for example.
I also like the idea mentioned of having mini practice sessions: perhaps this could be implemented with a simple game (or a few) that virtually everyone would be familiar with. It could also include a short game which people may NOT already be familiar with -- to cover the concept of how to assimilate a new game enough to be able to turn around and teach it (useful for pre-releases, prototypes, etc.).
I [Cosmic Wombat Games] would certainly be willing to step up and host (or actively participate in) a seminar, workshop, or panel for training GMs how to run games in a con environment -- at least for the board game side.
Derek, as you know, we run a large number of games (and have for several years), in addition to customer engagement and demos at our booth. And that doesn't include other events such as Origins, several small conventions, and local game groups as well as numerous pitches at Trade Shows.
Before the show, I ensure my volunteers know the game, then teach them how to teach. I also have a rough (yet fairly thorough) outline I go over with them about their convention related responsibilities as well as how to handle various scenarios which may arise.
And for what it's worth, I was an IT Instructor to adult learners for 2.5 years (and am a Microsoft Certified Trainer). I know it's not quite the same, but definitely some more experience to pull from. :)
With that being said, let me know if (and how) you'd like me to help out.
Great - as a first step, just submit a couple sessions about running games.
If you're not sure about the exact format you would like, email me at [email protected] or give me a call and we can talk through it, but my initial thought for companies to get invovled was for them to run seminars (or possibly workshops, but since those have a fee that might be a hurdle for prospective GMs if it's not paired with some promo) specifically on how you want your games run at convention environments.
The idea would be for you to help train people on how to play and teach your games, but to also build a base of potential volunteers that you've had a chance to interact with and get a sense of before you need to rely on them as GMs for your events.
I'd love to have a couple companies run initial pilot programs for that so we can get some solid idea on how well the idea might work before we try to scale it out for anyone else.
Or some sort of a mash-up of a seminar with the game designer where you get to learn about the development of the game and how to teach it to others followed by a Games-On -Demand like group of players who que up every 3-4 hours to get in with a generic knowing there will be a variable number of GM's and that they are first timers?
Do you want to go into more detail on that idea? Specifically, I'm always hesitant for any kind of "players queue up and don't get to register ahead of time" event formats. There needs to be a really strong reason for that kind of limitation.
To me the best finish for a GM training would be to give people the opportunity to then run the game. You could have the newly trained GM's practice on each other but a group of actual players would be better. But you won't know until the training/seminar starts how many newly trained GM's you will have right? Its not exactly the same as G.o.D but I think its similar- they don't always know exactly how many GMs they will have and how many players each of those GMs will be running at each time slot, but players seem willing to bring their generics and give it a shot. Doesn't the First Look playtest hall also run on generics? Granted both of these examples have dedicated space and I doubt there is a room to dedicate to a new GM training/playing space. If there was, a catchy name and a sign in the hall saying Cosmic Wombat Thursday AM, FFG Thursday PM, or whoever could potentially generate the group of players you'd like to have.
If the program wouldn't have a rough idea of how many GMs would be on hand, I don't think it would be particularly successful. You would want to know at least some minimum.
The First Exposure Playtest Hall works like any other event, really. Attendees "buy" a $0 to a given time slot and show up on time. Then they're briefed on what games are available, and some might be specifically pulled aside for certain games, depending on a presenter's playtest focus.
Fundamentally, lines aren't really a part of Gen Con and, further, getting attendees to line up specificlaly for first-time GMs would likely be a pretty tough sell.
Lines aren't part of GenCon....funniest thing I've heard in a month . :-)