Tips for Running Convention Games
New: Read below for Mason Emerson’s “Game Master Bootcamp” presentation file!
By “Savage Mommy” Chris Fuchs and the Rocky Mountain Savages
1. Introduce yourself. Welcome the players to your game and allow them to greet each other. Remind them what adventure they’ll be playing in, explain the pre-generated characters, answer questions, and assess the experience level of your players.
2. Preparation is crucial. Plan enough material to entertain the players for up to four hours. Don’t assume players are familiar with Savage Worlds or the game setting so be ready to provide an intro with game and setting rules for your players. Review the system rules so they are fresh in your mind. Bookmark or prepare cheat sheets for special rules you’ll be using as well as NPC stats and scene notes.
3. Develop the story into scenes. You should have a beginning, middle and end in mind and be sure that you take setting into account. Does your adventure fit the game world? Be sure to emphasize the setting as part of the stage that your adventurers get to play on. Often players come to your table based off of the setting description: if they came for superhero comic hour don’t present Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with werewolves.
4. Change up pacing and style between scenes. Each scene should have its own texture and feeling. A steady diet of combat, like cake, can be great at first but gets old without variation. Look to emphasize roleplaying by presenting NPCs as something besides target dummies. Using Interludes, Chase, and other special rules during the gaming session can develop a story flow and avoid repetition.
5. Provide pre-generated characters that are interesting and useful. Level them up sufficiently and give them diverse abilities. Help your players by giving them a snapshot of the character’s history, motivation, and possibly how they see the other pre-generated characters. Design each of the pre-generated characters to have a place in the game setting as well as a role in the planned adventure but be sure to allow players to interpret the characters in their own way.
6. This does not need to be more than a paragraph or two. If you make it too long, players may not read it all. I find it hard to remember more than a few character points as the game moves forward.
7. Don’t feel bound to use the exact character creation rules when deviating from them slightly will allow you to produce interesting and balanced characters that fit your scenario. Give the characters skills that will come into play during the game and that emphasize the setting. No need to give a character Boating if they will never be near water. Strongly consider giving every character at least one point in Notice, as its absence from a character sheet can really trip up new players and slow down the action when players discover it’s not there and you have to explain unskilled rolls.
8. Give the players agency: let them play the game as they wish and reward them as suits their actions. Most players will be willing to accept a bit of a railroad in a convention game, but don’t be afraid to go off your rails if it makes for a better, more exciting game.
9. Conventions often throw strangers together around a table. One fast way to get the ball rolling is including Savage Worlds Interludes rules into an early scene. If you include an Interlude be sure to listen to player responses—all will be worth a benny from you and some will be priceless.
10. Speaking of Bennies, remember: Fast! Furious! Fun! Use situational rules to highlight the system and setting. Dramatic tasks, Chases and Social Conflicts—these rules all add focus and tension. Pick one and give it a prominent place in your adventure.
11. The most important thing to teach is a simple skill roll. Start the adventure with a Notice roll or something equally simple. Let them roll the dice and find out that they’re looking for a 4, but higher results are better.
Game Master Bootcamp
by Mason Emerson for The Offline Cafe, originally presented at the Herriman Library in Herriman, Utah
Download the 120-page presentation file for yourself here! Mason’s presentation may help you teach new Savage Worlds Game Masters, classroom style.