TotalCon 2018 Thoughts, and a Love Letter to Future Me

As always, TotalCon was a blast. My games ran great, the people I met were awesome and every table I was at yielded a memorable story. As a note point for this post, I am an analyst and work in process improvement. So, I will be talking a lot about things I want to different. These observations don’t have anything to do with the Con itself; they are just personal point for me. The Con staff, and the hotel were amazing. No complaints there.

A HISTORY OF ME AND THE CON

Before I get into what I want to do differently next year, let’s talk about how I got here. This is the 5th year in a row I’ve gone to the Con. The first year, I played exclusively Dungeons and Dragons 4E, with maybe a few Deadlands games mixed in. That year, I also signed up to play Arkham Horror, but the GM was a no-show. Fortunately, I brought my copy with me and we were able to play. This also showed me that you don’t need any special skills to run games at the con, other than an aptitude for teaching it, and helped shape what I did next year.

I’m fuzzy on the next year, but I started running some board games and playing some D&D. Wizards was getting ready to release 5E so the usual organized play was coming to an end. In 2014, I am pretty sure I signed up to run a ton of board games that year. It was fortuitous that I did, because there weren’t a lot of games offered I was interested in and might have skipped the Con entirely. The next year, I did the same thing: ran about 8 sessions of four-hour games. But, I knew I’d be playing games I liked. I was in control of my own destiny. It worked out well.

In 2017, organized D&D came back very strong. I forget if there were Adventure’s League games offered in 2016, but last year they had the big multi-table Interactive I’ve always enjoyed playing. But, alas, I had signed up to run games and couldn’t make it.

This year, when I signed up to run games, I was hesitant and waited until almost the last minute. For the most part, my rule of thumb is if a game I really enjoy is also one my regular gaming group hates, I will run it at the Con. There are a few games like Blood Rage that are quick games where the more players the better that I might run, but more on that later. I almost kept my Saturday open to play the Interactive, but wanted to see how two years in the new hotel went. Naturally, they did run it.

For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t as mentally prepared for the Con leading up to it and realized that Ambitious Me wrote checks that Present Me would have trouble cashing. Each year, I forget that running 32 hours of games in 2.5 days1 is tiring. This year I had the added challenge of a crazy work schedule the weeks before and grad school kicking my ass. When I got there, I realized the corner I had painted myself into and I had no free time to grab a pick up game or get into a different game. That said, all the games went well. It turned out my Saturday night Arkham Horror game was comprised of people who all knew how to play the game and I was able to sit back, play the game, and enjoy it. It was a good ending to the Con.

WHAT I WANT TO DO DIFFERENT NEXT YEAR, GAMES EDITION

This year throughout the Con I kept a running note in Notes2 on my iPhone for things to do different and I hope to hell I refer to it when I go to submit games at the end of the year. The immediate one is to run less games3. I need more flexibility when it comes to my schedule and not to get worn out. By Friday I was getting tired. I ran the same game twice a lot. Next year, the two big games that fall into the camp of “regular group hates it” are Fury of Dracula and Arkham Horror. Both games I can get onto the table fast. Fury of Dracula I will likely run twice, but definitely the 8am Saturday slot. That one had a few repeat customers from previous years. It is also the game the regular gaming group really hates so the only time I get to play it as the Con. I am also adding another qualifier of can I get the game, with no outside the con prep time, on the table in 15 minutes or less. Arkham Horror, believe it or not, with the inserts and organizers I have, I can get on the table in around 15 minutes.

Firefly, a game I truly enjoy, does not meet that criteria. It has a lot of components and takes up too much space on the round tables. I have the Meeple Realty insert which helps with setup and running the game, but it just isn’t working as a formal game at the Con. If it is all experienced players, I can kinda get the game on the board in roughly 15 min. I think if I could use one of the big tables the miniatures people use I could pull it off. This year, I did a little more prep time and prebuilt crew packets that had all the items players need. Next year I am not running Firefly as a scheduled game.

Arkham Horror I usually get a few people who know how to play it. Next year, I am not running it as a teaching game. I will run it for experienced players only. That should help with teaching exhaustion.Blood Rage, maybe. I might do an experienced players only with the Gods expansion.

So, instead of running 8 games officially, I will probably drop that number to 3-4: Fury of Dracula twice, Arkham once, and maybe a Blood Rage. No matter what I do, though, I will stop running games at noon Saturday. The 8am Saturday Fury is a good slot. I will still bring games I like, like Firefly and Star Wars Rebellion.

As you can tell, the theme for next year is flexibility. Someone wanted to get a pick up game going of a game I love, and I just couldn’t get schedules to line up.

WHAT I WANT TO DO DIFFERENT NEXT YEAR, NON-GAMES EDITION

There are a few minor non-game related things I want to play attention to next year. The first is bag choice. I usually bring my Tom Bihn Ristretto. It’s a great bag, but it’s only good for when I go to the coffee shop or into Boston for the day. I ran out of room fast and didn’t have room for my drinks, protein bars, and dice thing. I have a larger L.L. Bean messenger bag I will bring next year.

Food is another one. I want to stop at the super market and grab some deli meat and use the fridge in the room and be able to make fresh sandwiches. The grab and go at the hotel isn’t bad, but it’s not great. The one deficit — other than sleep — was getting decent food into me. I brought a large bottle of my favorite juice, but next year I will just bring some smaller bottles. Eating at the con is a tough one. Even the regular food options at the restaurant are pub food.

I averaged about 4 hours of sleep at the con. I want to try and get more, but it’s hard to get a lot. I’m usually a little ramped up so it’s hard to get back to sleep. That is why my 8am game (if I’m running it) is Fury of Dracula, a game that is super-stupid easy to set up. This was good because Friday I woke up at 7:56 for the game. I don’t want to take a sleep aid because I’m afraid of oversleeping.

Usually, I take a half day the Wednesday before the Con and am off through the following Monday. Because it is after President’s Day every year, I’m seriously considering taking the whole week off next year. It will help a little more with prep and getting mentally ready. I’ll just head up to the hotel around 1-2, check in, and get settled in.

That leads to the last point, which is my laptop. For two years in a row, I’ve brought my MacBook with me and barely used it. Unless there is a clear need for it, it can stay home. My 12” iPad Pro at this point does everything I need.

  1. I run games from 1pm Thursday to 11pm Saturday. I keep Sunday open.
  2. The note is pinned, to make sure I don’t forget.
  3. Spartacus at this point has become a private game. It’s a full table of friends and will not be run as an official game next year. It will instead be a pick-up game.
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