Gamer Grrl Tip: Gaming Convention Etiquette

Chances are, you’ve heard the term “con” from someone (i.e. convention or in gaming terms, gaming convention), sometime, someplace.  Perhaps you watch Big Bang Theory where Sheldon Cooper talks about the Star Trek Con he had gone to, or you saw something about Comic Con or Gen Con.  Of course I’ve talked about Dragon*Con a few times before.  Some of these have to do with gaming, some of them are fan fairs and a few are niche specific.  Regardless, there’s always some sort of etiquette that goes along with them!

I’d like to touch on gaming conventions specifically because they’re a horse of a different color.  In general, people go to game.  The one I go to in the UK yearly, ConceptionUK, supports tabletop games, board games, card games, and in the past I’ve seen some war gaming going on.  Conception takes place at a holiday part where gamers can rent a holiday cottage for the week and there’s 3 time slots where 4 hour games are ran in each slot.  DMs (or referees as Conception calls them) put up sign-up sheets for their games with all pertinent information and players can sign up.  Then everyone gathers at “muster” where one of the con organizers yells out the game, the players, and everyone trots off happily for a few hours of gaming.

Of course, every gaming convention is run a different way.  Some are huge like Gen Con Indy (or Indy Con), some have some gaming but aren’t really a gaming convention (I remember a little gaming going on the few times I’ve been to Dragon*Con), some have booths with people selling things, some have panels with authors, actors, or musicians, and some only have certain types of games like Indi Con in the UK.  Regardless of the convention, I think there’s a certain etiquette guideline you can follow.

General Etiquette

– Dress appropriately for the con.  Some gaming conventions (like the little one in the city I grew up in hosts) consider themselves “family friendly” and don’t want half naked girls running around or suggestive costumes.  If you don’t know what the dress code is, identify an organizer and ask before they throw you out!

– Personal hygiene is a must.  Seriously folks, gamers have a bad enough reputation as is.  A lot of the mainstream folk think gamers are unwashed fat guys that sit in their mother’s basement all day.  Wash before you head to the con (use soap!), wear clean clothes, and avoid loads of perfume and cologne.  If you’re staying at a week long con, you’re going to get hot and sweaty from all the bodies running around.  Take 10 minutes, go to your room and shower!! Everyone will thank you!

– If people are in costume, ask before you take a picture of them.  In fact, make sure the con even allows pictures! Oh, and if they do, respect those who may have problems with the flashes!

– If people are in costume, keep your criticisms to yourself if you think it’s badly done.  People tend to put a lot of time and effort into their costumes, they don’t need someone completely tearing it apart.

– If you’re curious about a game being played, please ask the people (especially the DM) if you’re bothering anyone if you stand nearby and observe the game.

– Thank the people organizing the gaming convention.  They put in a lot of hours making sure you have fun, rarely get to do any gaming themselves, and are unsung heroes.  In fact, why not buy them a drink to say thanks?

If You’re Playing a Game

– Adhere to the rules of signing up to a game.

– Be on time for your play slot.

– If the game sucks, do your best to stay to the end.  People put a lot of work into their con scenarios and you can at least be a good sport and suck it up.  There’s times where you may not be able to stay to the end, like the one year I came down with the flu.  I felt really bad about having to ditch the game 1 hour in since I really wanted to play Dark Hearsay, but I just couldn’t hack it.  Luckily, I looked as bad as I felt and I was given a green light by the DM to go back to bed.

– Don’t hog the spotlight from the other players.

– It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert at a game system, leave the rules at home.  Every DM runs a game a different way and a lot dumb the game down to make it easy for anyone to play so certain rules may not even be an option.

– Buy the DM a drink.  A few bucks to say thanks for the game goes a long ways and not enough people do it, in my humble opinion.

– Don’t be a game snob and then turn around and complain about there being no games at said gaming convention.  You may not get to play what you had your heart set on, so try something different or new! Or better yet, run something yourself!

If You’re Running a Game

– Be on time for your own game.  I’ve actually signed up to games where the DM was a no-show.  If I knew you weren’t going to show, I’d have done something else like go out to dinner but now all my friends are tied up!

– Make sure your game can be played by the greenest player.  If people need to be versed in the rules, please note it on your sign-up sheet.

– Remember there are X amount of people sitting around the table.  Try to plan the scenario so everyone gets a little lime light.

– If you roll up a rogue as one of the characters, please make sure they have notice, perception, spot, or whatever the skill/talent/ability of the system is so that the character can SEE what’s going on.  Sorry, pet peeve of mine.  I actually got handed a rogue that had zero notice…the DM wondered why certain events weren’t happening in the game. o_O

– And speaking of rolling up characters, please try to make sure they’re balanced and fun.  Unless you’re running a game for complete newbies, we don’t want to spend 4 hours playing level 1 characters fighting gnolls.  Roll up epic level characters, or characters with nifty powers.  I can’t speak for others, but this is why I go to gaming conventions…to see what other systems are like!

– Please plan a break in the middle of the gaming block! If drinking is allowed, people will need to use the little gamer’s room and would probably love to buy another drink.

– Writing up the main rules of the system onto 1 sheet of paper is awesome! This way you don’t have to spend too much session time explaining rules to system newbies.

– Even though you have a scenario planned, try not to railroad your players.  Players will 99.9% of the time figure out how to throw a monkey wrench into your carefully laid plans.  It’s a lot more awesome if you roll with it or get us back on track without realizing you’re railroading us!

I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be covered, but I think these are the basics.  Using common sense goes a long ways and you’ll continue to be a welcomed guest for years to come! Guarantee it!