FINAL WEEK!

As we head into the final stretch, a calm grips the high seas. The crew busies themselves with the tasks at hand, making final preparations for the weekend of the con, whilst our lookout keeps a steady eye on the horizon. TsunamiCon is nigh! As we prepare ourselves for the final leg of our voyage, I want to thank a few of our distinguished sponsors and encourage you to follow suit. Without these fine folks, TsunamiCon just isn’t the same great experience we’ve come to love.

The Burrow: Gifts For Geeks. Even before we ran our very first convention here in Wichita, the Burrow was our home away from home. Derrek’s family welcomed our gaming community with open arms, and when we started pushing his little store to capacity, he expanded and gave us even more room to play. The Burrow has hosted our quarterly Game Day events and generously sponsored each and every TsunamiCon with a single-minded devotion to our local community and the hobby that brings us together. He has even eschewed the opportunity to set up shop in our dealer hall each year in favor of spending his own time enjoying the convention as a regular at the gaming tables! I cannot overemphasize how much The Burrow’s patronage has meant to TsunamiCon… a factor you’ve likely noted yourself if you’ve been collecting TsunamiCon T-shirts, as they’ve decorated each and every year’s edition as one of our beloved corporate sponsors.

Be sure to visit the store this week and thank them personally for everything they do. And pick up a TsunamiCon ticket while you’re there. Already have one? Fantastic! Buy one for a friend. You can a discount if you spend a little money at the store.

Venue 332 at Wichita Scottish Rite. Long-time attendees know that we floundered for a bit the first few years, trying to find the venue that perfectly complimented the style and substance of our event. After finally venturing away from the hotel circuit, we found just the right partner in the Wichita Scottish Rite. Kelly and her staff have shown a wonderful enthusiasm for everything we do and opened their hearts and their doors to our local gaming community. Partners in more than just the name, the Scottish Rite works with TsunamiCon to help make the event successful, investing in our event as a sponsor and helping us spread the good word. We’re excited at the opportunity to grow into the massive space available at their facility, a building with enough old world charm and immersion to please everyone’s inner child as they step into the room. And we have events all over the place… an enormous gaming room in the Great Hall, with our Marketplace nestled in an adjacent annex, an auditorium upstairs for our panels and live events, and designated rooms for special features like our Paint and Take, the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator, the Puzzle Plex escape room, VIG Lounge, and more! Not to mention the fantastic concessions they make available throughout the hours of the con!

If you get a chance, I would definitely recommend you thank them for their hospitality, their support of our local gaming community, and for bringing us back year after year!

Puzzle Plex, About a year and a half ago, one of my friends in the podcasting community regaled me with tales of his family vacation and a visit to an escape room facility in one of the bigger cities he traveled through. At the time, escape rooms were a new phenomenon in the US and few and far between. In the months following that conversation, one or two such businesses popped their heads up here in Wichita, but they still weren’t common knowledge. Fortunately, a lot can change in a year… Wichita now has a handful of escape room facilities, and a growing number of Wichitans have had the pleasure of sampling their unique challenges. After taking some time to peruse some of the excellent facilities discussed online by our local community, I ultimately reached out to Puzzle Plex with a proposition. Eric and Curtis not only loved the idea, but we spent about an hour together one afternoon just touring the Scottish Rite and discussing all the possibilities. We picked a room, and they got to work. They’ll be tucked away in a lounge upstairs, and you absolutely must take this opportunity to see what they’ve come up with… not to mention get your name posted on the leaderboard!

Historical Board Gaming. Every year, I reach out to vendors and potential sponsors throughout the Midwest in the months leading up to the con, and I am always surprised at the kind and supportive words I received from most anyone I connect with during this time. This year, one of those surprises was from Doug at Historical Board Gaming. Doug runs his website out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and specializes in games and accessories for one of the oldest and proudest traditions of our hobby, historical board gaming. As a special thank you for his sponsorship of this year’s convention, I encourage you to visit his website and send link to anyone you know who enjoys the time-honored tradition represented in his store.

I also want to recognize contributions from: Greg and the team at Cardboard Carnage; Hobbytown USA, the Village Geek and Warehouse 34 for contributing games and prizes; Brad Kelly from Midwest GameFest, who has been a fantastic source of advice and encouragement and helps run and organize Shadowrun Missions at TsunamiCon; Badash Cosplay for running our cosplay events; and all our other sponsors, contributors, exhibitors, and the hard-working staff and volunteers who help us make everything happen.

 

Here’s to another amazing con! I’ll see you all next weekend! Huzzah!!

 

TWO WEEKS to GO!

With only 14 days on the clock, the pressure is on. Our crew is working hard to steer the ship in the right direction and not get distracted by the marine life, and the Captain is bent leaning over his charts to see how far he stretch a metaphor. TsunamiCon… is coming.

We’re down the detail work here at TsunamiCon HQ. I did a final walkthrough at the site yesterday, working out details on how we’re using each room and what we need from the staff at the venue. The kitchens are finalizing the menus, the printers are working on programs and badges as we speak, and I’m stuffing mailers for prizes and Kickstarter rewards, sorting out shirts and dice for our VIGs, and running down a HUGE checklist of everything from signs to table numbers to badge ribbons, and more.

I thought I’d share a few pictures, just for the fun of it:

If you’ve even thought about signing up for games ahead of time, be sure to check out the huge variety of offerings available on our schedule. Buy your tickets now to register in advance, then tell your friends and family all about it and drag everyone you know to TsunamiCon 2017!

And of course, getting up to take a few pictures has it’s own challenges…;

 

The Captain’s Corner: June Update from HQ

The month or so since the Kickstarter ended has, predictably, been busy here at TsunamiCon HQ. The first priority was collecting info from backers and working up a strategy for Kickstarter fulfillment based on our needs. There’s a lot of back-and-forth going on as we sort out details, but I think everyone involved is pretty happy with the experience and excited about the convention. The money always takes a couple weeks to show up, as well, and then there’s merch to order, flights and hotels to sort out, products and services to plan, supply caches that need to be built, and so on and so forth. To be fair, the details would get a touch boring. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot to do.

While the busy work may not be all fun and games, however, the convention is exactly that! Game masters have begun submitting their initial offerings, and you can expect to see the gaming and event schedule take shape over the next several weeks. Once we reach an arbitrarily determined point of saturation on said schedule, we’ll open event registration – starting with VIGs and, soon thereafter, all registered attendees – and let you reserve seats. You’ll need to buy your badge to get “tickets” for any given game, but you’ll also save a few bucks on the badge by purchasing it in advance, so it’s a win-win.

We are still actively on the hunt for exhibitors and event sponsors, so if you know anyone who might enjoy peddling their wares or purchasing sponsorships or advertising at the con, please let them know where to find us.

So, two things we still need more of: Game Masters and Volunteers. Both opportunities include significant discounts on your badge. Notably, for every four hours you sign up for either duty (or combination, for that matter), you get $10 off the badge. For 12+ hours of GMing and/or volunteering at the con, your weekend pass is free. If you want to take advantage of this option, simple purchase your badge and select the appropriate discount code for your volunteer hours. You’ll see the codes listed on the screen where you add the badge to your cart. Then you’ll need to either register your games on the site before August 31st or fill out the volunteer application so that we know when you’ll be available and how you can best assist us.

Please continue to spread the word and let folks know about the con. Thanks!

Game Mastery and the Art of the Con

Ken runs a table of D&D Adventurers League at TsunamiCon 2014!

Over the past few years, one of our most frequently revisited topics on the Metagamers Anonymous podcast is the art of running “con” games.  In contrast to the sprawling campaigns we enjoy in our everyday gaming or even the limited series arcs we like to run for four of five sessions at a shot, con games are designed to be completely encapsulated in a specific period of play, typically four hours.  Needless to say, the strategy for running effective convention games is only marginally related to the art of the campaign, as it serves an entirely different need and requires an alternative form of investment from the participants.

Many GMs approach this practice with a sense of apprehension, whereas other game masters find the format infinitely more rewarding.  Either way, there is definitely an art to running an effective con game.

In the strictest sense, a con game is a singular scenario or streamlined adventure.  It can often be winnowed down to three or four scenes or story points, with a strict observance of the time required to move from one sequence to the next.  Fluid games are popular at cons, as they provide players a sense of agency while giving the GM a largely reactive role.  Alternatively, many con games are on rails, driving the story from scene to scene in order to derive the greatest story potential from the limited scope of the game.  Most fall somewhere in between, with players bashing through the GM’s hooks and obstacles as willing accomplices in the developing scenario.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn.For some games, numerous examples of suitable con games are available for GMs to explore, and they are no less challenging to manage.  Take any two dungeon masters with a copy of the very same D&D Adventurers League scenario and you may still end up with radically different experiences at the table.  This is because every adage invoked in campaign design regarding the chaos of player engagement is magnified in a four-hour game, wherein players are expected to have a more casual commitment to their characters.  Gamers can play it fast and loose, plot holes are virtually irrelevant, and character death is often celebrated.

With TsunamiCon approaching fast, it’s time to accept the challenge.  As a game master, you play an essential role in our community, and a game con is the perfect environment to celebrate it.  Players are ready to sign up for this year’s events, so get your games listed now.  It only takes two scheduled games to earn the GMs badge discount, and running at least one game each day of the convention will net you a free weekend pass.

Secrets of the Tsunami

About four years ago, shortly after running our second local Tsunami GameDay event, I floated the term “TsunamiCon” onto the world stage via the auspices of our RPG podcast Metagamers Anonymous.  It was kind of intended to get a rise out of my co-hosts, who were already reeling from the high-energy output necessary to make a GameDay happen… and my insistence on treating a day of tabletop gaming for 20 or 30 people like a major event.  Everyone laughed nervously and rolled their eyes a bit, certain that ol’ Erik was just reaching well outside the bounds of reality.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn at TsunamiCon 2014.

Even if you’ve never run a major event, or even contemplated it, there are a few things which you can reasonably assume:

  • It’s complicated.  There are obviously a organizational details and planning exercises involved, and you have to know where to start.
  • It’s questionable.  Just because 30 people show up to a free GameDay, what makes you think you can get a couple hundred gamers to pay for the privilege?  And doesn’t advertising cost money?
  • And it’s expensive.  Clearly, it takes a solid wad of cash to put something significant together.

The first point is inevitably true, and this is where my radio background has served me well.  I’ve helped organize – and often spearheaded – numerous events over the years, from concerts to cooking shows to variety shows at the local park.  I’ve also been firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to marketing, so I’m no stranger to the art of promoting an event.  And as for the cash… well, I wasn’t the first to use Kickstarter to fund a convention, but I definitely felt like a pioneer.

The real secret of my success is in that first paragraph, however.  I figured it out a long time ago, when I was touring the Midwestern bar scene as part of a blues band.  You see, real blues fans are kind of an exclusive crowd.  Sometimes, you’d land somewhere and pack a tiny club with enthusiastic locals; at other times, you’d be lucky to have half a dozen folks in the audience.  But both kinds of gigs had something in common… the audience was full of people who loved the blues.  So whether you played for six or sixty, you got up there and jammed out like it was the freakin’ Hippodrome.

ShaunVIG

Shaun runs a private game for VIGs.

In short, any event worth doing is worth doing to the best of your ability.  Last year our attendance ran at about 220 people, not counting volunteers, guests, and staff.  Not particularly large by convention standards, though given that a gaming con is about hanging out all day long playing games, it sure feels busy.  And I’ve had a chance to visit with other small convention organizers, and you guys’ll be happy to know that our numbers for the first two years compare very well indeed.  But my point is this… even if you’re game con has only 200 people, it’s your job to treat it like there are 2000.

Details are important to me.  Impressing people with a world-class experience is important to me.  Not just because I want them to come back next year, but because I want the folks in our gaming community to feel like they’ve had a chance to do something awesome.  To have an experience that’s both fulfilling and memorable.  To be fair, we struggle to raise enough capital to have a convention at all… but I could easily sink another $10,000 into our con just to make it shine.  Just to make the experience that much better for everyone involved.

So the secret is this…  If you want to do something BIG, do it right.  If you find yourself looking at the details and going, “that’s just too much work”… buckle up and do it anyway.  Don’t cut corners, don’t over-promise and under-deliver, and don’t shy away from a cool idea just because it sounds complicated.  Take risks, and understand that the reward is the undertaking itself.  The rest will come in time.

Oh… and back my Kickstarter, would ya?  Thanks.