I am perched behind the registration table at Egypt Wars 3, our local gaming convention with the evening of the second day winding down. I hear the chatter of the Yu Gi Oh players in the room behind me, the phrase “I can’t stop 6000” suddenly sounds loud and clear, followed by a laugh. From other parts of the building the murmur of voices sounds, punctuated by the sporadic giggles of children and the guffaw of other players as something happens, either to them or another gamer. There’s a mom standing at the far end of the registration hall, waiting on her son to drag himself away from casual Magic play. Aside from that, it’s quiet for the first time today, giving me a chance to muse upon this con and small regional gaming conventions in general.
1. OP puts “butts in seats”. At the university I where I teach, a factor considered when deciding whether to offer a class is “Does it put butts in seats?” Less bluntly, does the offering attract enough people to justify making it available to the group to which we target it. A course needs to attract a certain number of students in order to justify offering it. If not enough students sign up, the university cannot justify devoting space and faculty time to it.
Likewise, Organized Play appears the driving force behind filling RPG tables at smaller cons. At Egypt Wars, Pazio’s Pathfinder Society has taken the place of WOTC’s RPGA events. While every table of Pathfinder Society filled to capacity, with a waiting list, non-OP RPG events, for the most part languished. Similarly at another small regional con, Cogcon in Rolla MO (now seemingly defunct), Heroes of Rokugon OP filled tables, while tables of non-OP RPGs sat empty. Based on our experience at this, and the past couple of cons held here, we will work to ensure that Egypt Wars offered numerous tables of Pathfinder Society.
2. Opinion leaders matter. Conversely from what I just said in #1, there were two table of non-OP at Egypt Wars that consistently filled, both run by long-time GMs with a reputation for running a quality game within the gaming community. One has run RPGs since the dawn of D&D, the other not so long but well thought of by those in the area that love Whit Wolf’s product lines. Both are known to love their games, to love running them and to put extensive time and care into prepping for any games they run. People within their gaming community know this and flock to their tables when they sign up to run a game, while other GMs, without the same reputation, sit idle.