In Anticipation of GenCon: 10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 6, 2012

For some people GenCon will be their first opportunity to participate in public-play games. Although I played D&D for years, it was always with close friends at someone’s house. I’d never played in a public-play scenario before 4e was released. It wasn’t until I attended my first game convention that I played LFR and got to see what public-play was all about. Not long after that I got an opportunity to participate in one of Wizards’ Worldwide D&D Game Day events at my FLGS. There was something about public-play that really appealed to me. It presented me with a chance to meet other gamers in my community, yet it was more than that. I realized that my gaming experience could be greatly improved by seeing first-hand how other people ran their characters and how other DMs ran their table.

Today we’ve pulled another article from our archives that we think you’ll find useful if you’re heading to Indianapolis to attend GonCon or if you’re just starting out with public play (say with D&D Encounters). Of course many of these tips can just as easily be applied to your home games, so even if you aren’t attending GenCon this year you should still find something helpful in the list below. Enjoy.

Originally published on May 25, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents 10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day.

10 Things I Learned at Worldwide D&D Game Day

I learned a few things participating in Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day this past weekend. These may just seem like simple, common sense reminders, but I think they’re incredibly useful nonetheless. I encourage you to review this list and keep it in mind whether you’re playing at a convention, Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day or just at your dining room table.

1. Everyone participates

Make sure that everyone has equal face-time. It’s easy for one or two players to try and control the table. New players may find this intimidating. Everyone there has their own character, so there’s no need to let one player dominate the show. The DM should make sure that he’s not letting anyone get bullied (intentionally or otherwise).

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Gamers in general are good people (at least in my experience). The common love for the game has brought us all together to play. If you have questions, feel free to speak up. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know what a power does or how a particular rule works. I’ve had quite a few rules that I never really understood cleared right up after hearing a new take on the situation from people I just met at a convention.

3. Keep things moving

Everyone wants the game to run smoothly. If you have tips or tricks for speeding up the game that work for your gaming group, feel free to share them. The biggest complaint I’ve heard at cons and Game Day is that the modules take too long to complete. If you can offer advice for speedy game play it will be gladly received.

4. Share your experiences

Experienced gamers should help others. If someone is playing D&D for the first time then the amount of help they require will be a lot more than if they’ve just never played a particular class before. Don’t overwhelm them with everything all at once. Give them a few basic pointers and then help them as particular situations present themselves.

5. Knowing the classes

If you’ve played a particular class for the past six months in your regular game, then feel free to offer advice to the guy playing that class at the event. Share what you’ve learned about that class since playing it, but try not to be too overbearing. You want to be helpful, but you don’t want to tell someone else how to play their character. Most advice will be seen as useful. This is especially true if the player is a first-timer or is unfamiliar with the class.

6. Plan your actions

Many DMswill give the table and “on deck” warning so that you know who’s going to act next. If you know you’re on deck, think about what powers or attacks you’d like to use. Obviously if the PC going before you does something totally unexpected then you’ll need a second to rethink your plan, otherwise be ready. And when you’re finished be sure to announce clearly that you’re finished so the next PC can start his turn.

7. Experiment

It’s unlikely that you would have built the pre-generated characters provided for Worldwide Game Day the way they were presented. You may have selected different equipment, assigned points to ability scores differently or chosen different powers. But that’s not something you can change in this circumstance. So take this unique build and experiment. Try things you wouldn’t normally do. Try playing a class or race you’ve never played before. These are essentially throw-away characters that you’ll never play again. So feel free to go a little nuts and try outrageous things.

8. Don’t be critical

Experienced gamers often feel that certain character classes should be played a certain way. This is especially true if you’ve actually played that class before. So if the guy playing your favourite class doesn’t do things the way you would, don’t be critical. Let that player run the PC as they see fit. For all you know they feel the same way about how you’re running their favourite class.

9. Help the DM

The DM has his hands full. In some cases he may be reading the adventure for the first time as everyone sits down at the table. Offer to help the DM. Remind him when enemies are marked or ongoing effects require a save. Even something as simple as offering to help track initiative will free up a few minutes for the DM and let him focus more attention on running the game.

10. Have fun

At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that we’re all there to have a good time. Regardless of how a particular encounter played out or who got the magic amulet, as longs as everyone had fun then the event was a success.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’ve got some pointers that you’d like to share please add them in the comments. After all, we’re all in this to have fun and to make the gaming experience a good one.

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1 Madfox11 August 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

In regards to getting everybody equal face time, just remember that there is a group of players who simply love to hang out and observe. They don’t want to get involved too much and might actually have less fun if you enforce their involvement. Of course, there are also simply shy people who need a small push/protection by the DM or fellow players and recognizing the two might be a bit of a challenge at a public game that lasts only 4 hours. Regardless, never force face time on others 😉

2 shortymonster August 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

I don’t really hit cons, there not being an abundance of them in the North of England and money being a bit tight, so I have a question, if that’s cool?

How long are the play sessions expected to last? The closest I come to stuff like cons is the Student Nationals, and you tend to only play a couple of games, each lasting about 8 hours split with a lunch break. And they can be pretty slow going in the morning as a lot of us are still suffering from the night before.

3 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

You’re absolutely correct, not every player will want equal face time; however I’ve seen more than my share of tables where one or two players hog the spotlight making it impossible for anyone else to even get a word in edgewise. Some gamers are shy but if prompted by the DM or other players will be happy to join in the fun. My point is really just a reminder to let everyone have the opportunity to participate if they want to.

Cons themselves can last days, the individual events can be anywhere from 1 hour to marathon all-days adventures. Typically D&D adventures, like Living Forgotten Realms (LFR), or many of the others run at cones, will last about four hours. There are often shorter sessions (like introduction games) that are much shorter, sometimes as short as 2, 30-minute encounters. Remember that at a con you have to play for most events so people want to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

4 Anna Smith August 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hi, all,

For those attending GenCon and interested in the evolution of D&D, consider attending a panel discussion with film makers of Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary. It is set to provide a definitive look at the game and its place as a cultural phenomenon, covering its history, appeal and effect.
WHEN: Friday, August 17, 4 to 5PM
WHERE: The Westin Indianapolis

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