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Where the Con Orgs share their experiences. - Medium
A few factors have conspired to see us upgrading our website as 2019 closes, so we’ve taken it as a sign to clean some elements up and get some improvements in place. Most of them won’t be visible until the new year, but two went live today, and one of them is visible to the public right now.
Thanks to a very helpful staffer, we were recently made aware of an online ticketing platform called Humanitix, which matches the rates of our previous provider, but directs its profits to charities. As of today, any tickets you buy for #EttinCon2020 directly help Room to Read fund girls’ education and children’s literacy in Asia and Africa. It’s really hard to choose a charity, so we’ll probably cycle through a different beneficiary for each event we host.
We’ll let you know about big changes are they are implemented, but if you have any suggestions, our ears are especially open from here until 2020. Let us know what you want from the website, and the event, while we have time to incorporate your feedback! Email ([email protected]) or any social/chat channel which suits you better is fine by us.
Speaking of next year’s event, we’re sitting at 70% funded, but the new ticket provider (for obvious reasons) requires a little more warning about withdrawals, so if you’re planning to attend, please do book your tickets as early as you can! It will give us more time to pay invoices and print flyers.
Con Org for Ettin Con
One year from today, our little convention turns five! We started planning the party early, and we’re ready to share all the details now. We’re also ready to accept suggestions for how to make it better, and any interest from sponsors, vendors, demonstrators or volunteers who’d like to support us that weekend. Mark your calendars for the 18th and 19th of July, 2020:
We’ve been a bit nostalgic lately, looking at how far we’ve come. Since 2015, we’ve facilitated 78 hours of play across 7 events, including 227 hours of role-playing games across 76 sessions! This August, those numbers will look more like 90 hours of play, RPGs reaching 278 hours (93 sessions), and next year will leap impressively from there. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved as an independent non-profit organisation with volunteers and hard-won, limited sponsorship, alongside support of a great community of shops and players spanning five states. It’s really great to build our oasis each year to enjoy games with you all.
Like we’ve mentioned before on the blog, our goal has always been to achieve a weekend event without becoming unaffordable, so let’s talk about ticket pricing! We modeled a mild price increase on sticking to a maximum of one dollar per hour of play, absorbing booking fees and providing discounts for earlybirds and families. Additionally, buying a weekend ticket had to be cheaper than individual days, as an incentive to help attendance balance out our costs on both days. So here’s what we came up with:
We hope this is well-received, as people often tell us they’d be happy to pay double our old prices, but we have no desire to hike them that much. Working at premium conventions has reinforced to me that higher prices don’t guarantee a higher-quality experience, but always lower the accessibility. This is just enough to cover costs when attendance is comfortable (or lower) and potentially improve rewards for attendees and volunteers alike.
Now we have another eight hours of playtime(10am-6pm Sunday), we need to figure out what to do with them! Games on demand for RPGs is our first notion, because there’s always high demand for pick-up games without prior registration, and it also lessens the commitment/prep work for Game-Masters and organisational staff. Vendors who haven’t been able to attend our event (or host a stall) are better able to consider it if their business is closed on Sundays, too!
The tarrasque in the room is that a weekend event — despite allowing us to get home to sleep much earlier (post-packup) — is really enough for us, and the Summer break we had this year was a real relief. From here on, there will be no full Summer event, although we are discussing the possibility of a smaller, more casual Summer event with modified branding, on the condition that someone new takes the reins for it. Suggestions/volunteers for this are also very welcome. We need ideas, and people to make them happen.
So there you have it! We’ve finally reached a weekend format in time for our half-decade party, and you’re all invited in whatever capacity you choose! If you’d like to talk to us about vendor stalls/prize donations or volunteer work, please reach out via any of our social channels, or start a traditional conversation via email to either [email protected] or [email protected], respectively.
Con Org for Ettin Con
This week, we’ve been working quite hard behind the scenes leading up to several announcements waiting impatiently in the wings. Although details are certain, timing is important, so in lieu of the announcements themselves, this post will be about the things we can tell you, the things we feel would help anyone run a convention like ours.
Between June and August, a bunch of details about next year will be published/announced/broadcast, but the two things we can talk about today are time and money. Being a clutch of volunteers with our own lives and businesses, there’s a deadline which has always been just out of reach for us — we’ve never been able to finalise/book/announce our next event by the day of the preceding one. That changes this year, because 2020 has to be ready if it’s going to be as big as we want it to be. Between June and August this year, our 2020 details will be announced, and tickets should be available from August 11th unless someone reads this and comes around to my house to beat me senseless. After four years of people asking “When is the next one?” on their way out the door, we’ll finally be able to answer that question with details and a call to action.
Another thing about that timing is that it gives us the biggest lead time we’ve ever had to sell tickets, and we’ll need it! Currently, despite ticket sales being ahead of any previous event, skipping Summer means that our costs are sailing very close to each deadline. As of today, we need to take another 5 single bookings to cover costs. Insurance is due in July, flyers are running out so we’ll need to print some more to stay visible over the next twelve weeks, therefore 2019’s promo costs are likely to go up, and that means more bookings, please! If you’re planning to attend, please grab a cheap ticket now, it really helps. If you’d rather pay full price, just chuck us the extra dollars via our donation button after you’ve booked, or buy a shirt!
As the conversation turns to money, we’re going to be extremely clear, as in transparent. Our costs are something you should know if you want to run a convention in your locality, and our aim has always been to keep ticket prices so low that most people can enjoy our events within their means, even if that means we’re giving a few away at the door or panicking about scratching together the hire fees. Let’s break it down:
Traditionally, we spend about $500 on public liability insurance & electrical safety tagging each year. Refundable council bond for each event is $300 for the venues we use, and we’re looking to roll this year’s into the next one. Venue hire for a single twelve-hour day, plus setup/packup time, adds about $1k, even at half-rates for non-profits (being a non-profit costs us some annual government fees which are small-yet-significant). Printed posters, flyers, signs, website hosting, domain renewal, library software subscribtion and wifi as well as a banner ad on Board Game Geek (dot com) adds another $300, and table hire, which we’ve mentioned in prior blogs, is increasing in cost (not quantity) every time. Incidentals like wristbands, stationery, soap, garbage bags and first aid supplies are small enough to be negligable in these estimates, but they still cut into the kitty.
All up, a single day’s event costs roughly AU$2000 at a minimum without detailing ticket provider and credit card fees. Our ticket prices have stayed low for years, despite some people saying they’d be happy to pay twice as much, we’ve never felt comfortable hiking them out of reach of others, even if it means we don’t have much of a budget for improving the library, etc. Early bird tickets of $8 and $16 (singles or families), then door prices of $10 and $20, along with raffle tickets and tourney fees, have always got us through, by the skin of our teeth or better, on the day.
It’s at this point that I absolutely MUST acknowledge we never would’ve achieved any of the library/arcade improvements or improved GM rewards without our wonderful supporters at Patreon, or the venue hire guarantee we were given by Afternoonified for the years their Katoomba shop was open.
If you look at our peak attendance of roughly 250 people, and break that down into an uneven split of families and individuals, you can probably see how only charging an average of about 83 cents per hour of gaming isn’t the safest model for us. For next year, we’re looking to change three things to make the event a safer and calmer bet to organise and run.
1 We’re investigating new pricing models which raise the average cost-per-hour by at least 17 cents, bringing it to a dollar, or slightly more, per hour. This sounds tiny because it deliberately is — the difference you would see in a single day’s ticket is about two dollars for an individual ticket, or four total for families of around five people. We’re still calculating if this is enough but it’s a really safe baseline and it’s worth talking about. It’s a small change which means surprise low attendance won’t put us into debt, and standard attendance would see funds for a bigger library, better arcade, and most importantly the possibility of better rewards for our volunteers, both floor staff and GMs alike. The people who work the hardest on the day, when they could be playing, have been doing it for very little recompense, and it would be great to see that change in the future.
Full Disclosure, with no regrets: As president of the association, I have no intention of ever paying myself a wage, and the most I’ve ever received from the event is a GM reward for running a game between floor shifts. The first few years of GM rewards were paid for by me personally, and the badge machine was also purchased by me to slowly pay for itself over the years (1/4 of each badge sale goes into machine & materials). I’m still in debt for that and have no issue with it! This event is very much my personal project and I’m cool with that costing me something. It’s been really great to be a part of it.
2 We’ll need to distance earlybird prices from the event date, because the window is too wide so our bookings always come too late for one bill of another. We’re sorry, but it stresses us out so much that it needs to become a rarer thing, to encourage earlier bookings.
3 Because of the scope and scale of next year’s event, there’s one more chance we can’t take. We’ll need to set a pre-sale threshold so that if we don’t see enough sales by a certain date we can safely cancel the venue and refund your tickets (and hopefully not go broke paying the fees). We don’t yet know the amount or the cut-off dates, but if we can plot it out, it keeps the event and attendees from risk without needing to resort to a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter conventions are cool and sustainable (some of my favourites do it every year), but it’s not a path I’m keen to go down for ours.
Anyway, that’s about all I wanted to share this week, but we are working on a poster to celebrate our fifth birthday next year…and maybe we should plan a cake?
Buy tickets: EttinCon.org#tickets
Run a game: EttinCon.org/run
Lend a game: EttinCon.org/#cta
Con Org for Ettin Con
It’s another big day, with plenty of news from us and our friends.
Blood on the Clocktower just launched their Kickstarter campaign so if you’d like your own copy of their fabled grimoire for your suspicion-drenched intrigue parlour, get over there and back it! It is, by all accounts, a giant in the genre, full of diverse flavours to keep the old deception/deduction game fresh and surprising every single time. Oh, and the final design has abandoned the much-maligned (yet practical & evocative) Papyrus font, so maybe buy two copies?
Speaking of locally-designed games of social deduction on Kickstarter, one of the people running Blood on the Clocktower at last year’s event was Blackheath local Keith Franks, whose funding campaign for Spirits of Carter Mansion is in its final days. You can even download & read the rules before you pledge!
Both of these games are being played/demonstrated all day at Ettin Con this Winter, so if you’re unable to support the campaigns for your own copies, come along and check them out for the price of a general admission ticket!
Another local Kickstarter launching in the next fortnight is the Relics RPG, by Steve Dee of Tin Star Games. Steve will be running Relics this August from 3pm if you’d like to register your seat at his table!
After all this talk of commercial games, here’s a free one: Torrey Keown’s Instant RPG (Just Add Players!) is available to download, or read on your phone, or fit in your wallet on a business card. Torrey will be demonstrating the game by playing it all day at Ettin Con on August 10th. Just walk up and join in!
Now that we’ve conveyed that important news about local projects, let’s talk about what’s going on behind the scenes of our event!
Our ticket provider changed their fees for the first time in eleven years, and after we recovered from the shock we realised that it’s a positive change for us. We already absorb all their fees in our ticket prices (by lowering our base price) but this change will see us further lowering our base price and losing less money to secondary fees. Cool!
For the second year running, table hire costs have risen, so we started looking at alternatives. For the hire+delivery price of a dozen tables in 2019, we could buy 6 tables outright from Bunnings. The problem then becomes where to store them, etc. Inspiration struck during discussions with the local school who have been running our kiosk. They’ve been lending us 5 trestles each year, but if they also lent us their 5 circular tables, we could potentially use them for RPGs instead of the ten standard trestles we arrange in pairs! That sends ten extra tables into the main hall without needing to hire or buy any at all, which means less stress about breaking even, and potentially more funding for improvements. Nice!
We have been exploring options for an escape room event in the next few years, and though we’re not ready to announce anything yet, we’ve seen some amazing local creations which we’re very eager to incorporate when feasible. Magic tourney details are being fleshed out with The Games Cube (I can at least tell you that it’s bigger than Summer 2018) and should be announced in the next month or so if the stars align.
We’ve also been looking very seriously at what we’d like to achieve in 2020, and when/where/how. Lots of really good ideas came out of our plan-and-play meeting, so we just need to maintain momentum. Our long-sought goal (of announcing future events by the latest event) is in sight, and I think we’re going to make it after all! We can start dreaming up cake flavours for our 5th birthday celebration.
Wait — I just remembered another local event we should promote.
Another interesting development has been the announcement of another Blue Mountains convention, adjacent in several respects, but broader in general scope. HubCon in Springwood (run by the Blue Mountains Theatre & Community Hub) will occupy the second weekend of the Winter school holidays, just four weeks prior to our event. Billed as a “Pop Culture Expo”, there will be gaming in their dressing room spaces, workshops/panels in their meeting rooms, vendors/artists/etc in their main spaces, and a video game museum in their foyer. It’s good to see more gaming support in the area! We had approached the Hub last year about running Ettin Con in their spaces, but the costs of table hire and mandatory security guard would’ve pushed our ticket prices way above the accessible levels we’ve been able to offer since 2015. We’re glad to see the venue used for the types of things we enjoy, including some things we haven’t been able to achieve as yet, and further strengthen the community. If you enjoy cosplay or 80’s movies/toys/arcade games alongside your D&D/MtG/board games, check it out! I’ll try to be there in some capacity, depending on what’s going on for my birthday that weekend, etc. At the very least, I’m sure you’ll see some familiar faces from our events or the Ettin Games Association in the crowd.
All in all, 2019 continues to be a busy one, it will be great to relax with some games with you all before it’s over. Until then, hope you’re having fun!
If you’d like to run a game in August, we’re still accepting submissions via EttinCon.org/run — send us your pitch and we’ll do our best to get you a table!
Con Org for Ettin Con
It’s another big day, with plenty of news from us and our friends. was originally published in EttinCon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Woke up this morning with things in my head besides potential blues lyrics. Today, I’m going to share my perspective on the Plan & Play meeting, and some of the things which will happen, are happening, and have happened. Come along with me!
The Plan and Play meeting on Jan 20th was intended to lure potential organisers & staff into three hours of convention planning & delegation, followed by three hours of games! In a small, cheap hall, hired for the same duration as Winter 2015, it would occupy the vacuum left by the lack of a Summer 2019 event. I arrived a little late, rushed, scattered, and once again prepared more for what I hoped would happen than what was likely to happen. That’s okay! It’s got us this far.
I need to say that the numbers were overwhelming. I’m all out of whelm. We had seventeen people there willing to share ideas for 2019 and 2020, and it’s inevitable in these sorts of things to spend a bit of time sharing information about what we’ve considered or explored before, and why those things may or may not be worth pursuing afresh. Sadly, due to illness and other commitments, our numbers thinned a bit by the point of playing, but PLAY WE DID.
There were several rounds of Blood on the Clocktower, including some first-timer teen storytellers, and after much coaxing, I finally relented and joined for a round. I was the Imp, and I employed the famous noob bluff of Terrifyingly Having No Idea What I Am Doing In This Game to distract people with the actual truth that I had no clue what to do. My son was the Spy, and we slaughtered the entire village. Lucky!
He and I also joined some first-timers for Illimat, and I felt really bad for winning, so please know that was lurking behind the winner’s grin. I love Illimat but usually avoid competitive games in favour of collaborative ones, so that’s probably a good thing for everyone. Rhino Hero Super Battle came out and when I tried to photograph our tall building, I accidentally captured the moment it started to topple:
I didn’t see everything which people played, but I overheard some Red Dragon Inn 2, noticed some Klask in the background, and had my first session of Instant RPG, which really helped me get my head around the approach for editing the rules. That one’s going to be released for free, probably by August, and I’m confident we’ll see some fun demonstration sessions in the main hall. The accessibility and portability of that RPG could only be beaten if it were also produced in audio/braille editions, but give us some time and I’ll look into it. Great gateway to stories with friends. More soon.
Before all that went down, we had a juggling brainstorm of stuff, and lots of it was useful/timely. Some delegation went down (posters and flyer distro, vendor relations) and we even squeezed in an AGM, followed by some new member signups! We have the 2019 skeleton staff already, plus enough interested parties to almost get that to the happy medium staff level of 30. We talked about why that really needs to go up to 40, so more recruitment is needed. Join us if you like!
Oh, and pitches have started coming in, so we can start building the timetable as those pile up and vendor activities are confirmed. Someone even asked us for an audio promo suitable for podcasts, which made me wonder “If #EttinCon were a genre of background music, what would it sound like?”
The big task, post meeting, is to stimulate online discussion and action around the topics which interested people. I’ll do my best to create discussion groups and spark things, but I’m really dreaming of seeing more initiative being taken to ask questions and suggest actions without me — it could happen!
Speaking of dreams, I had my traditional pre-event nightmare this morning, which prompted this blog post. It followed the usual theme of The Event is Here and Everything is Wrong and It’s Too Late to Fix It, but there was a fun twist at the end, for a change. Fun for an anxiety nightmare, anyway.
It goes like this:
#EttinCon #Winter2019 was in full swing, with people everywhere. Actually, way more people that possible, so I should’ve realised it was a dream, thanks for deceiving me, brain. Someone saw me tidying up a loose copy of Hero Quest and asked if I needed a drink, and then I hurried off to check on the extra hall for RPGs. It was a mess, tables scattered everywhere and not set up, one group playing and the rest of the room was empty. I noticed that I hadn’t arranged table signage, and started to freak out. People started helping with the tables, so I moved off towards the open doors to the gymnasium, which doesn’t exist in the real world, thanks, brain. People had wandered into the gym and triggered a security alarm across the whole venue. People were understandably cross. I asked the gym people to move along, and then checked the imaginary ampitheatre. It was full of people, too! I asked them to please leave and as some of them did, someone informed me that they were waiting to see a charity screening of a film, so I was messing with someone else’s event! Lunacy.
I hurried back to the main hall to deactivate the alarm, and noticed only one person staffing the front door! I realised that I hadn’t organised wristbands and apologised to them for it. They were super miffed. Suddenly, I realised that August had come too soon, because I hadn’t had a chance to confirm our usual door staff. THIS HAS TO BE A DREAM, I remarked. Mood much improved, I started singing a version of “Welcome to my Nightmare” to everyone arriving, hugged a bunch of door staff as they arrived, then woke myself up.
I grabbed my phone and set a reminder to order the stupid wristbands in July.
Con Org for Ettin Con
Announcements made, tickets on sale, planning in progress. This is a nice way to start the year!
I’ll need to send that poster off to print soon, so that we have plenty of flyers over the next thirty weeks. Oh, and before I forget, I was lucky enough to be invited on the Insert Quest Here podcast to chat with Ray (NewConOz) and Hayley (ArcanaCon) about Con Org Stuff: insertquesthere.com/2018/12/iqh-presents-convention-chats/ — many thanks to Hayley & Ray for your time, thoughts, and audiences!
This week, I’d like to talk about what I’m trying to achieve in our preliminary planning for the event, and some of the ideas in the back of my mind, whether or not they come to fruition this year, or at all.
As much as I wanted to achieve a two-day event this year, I’m feeling very lucky that we were able to choose a date which [a] didn’t directly clash with any announced conventions (although I would’ve preferred to give NewConOz more room, if I’d realised they were eyeing the weekend after us), [b] suited not only Aetherworks (who had reached out to offer various ideas of how they could contribute), but also suited [c] The Games Cube, who can see the triumphant return of a Magic tourney, which was missed at our last event. Having something to work towards, knowing something is going to happen, is uplifting.
To address our greatest challenge of staff levels, both in planning and running the event, we’re having a private Plan-and-Play event (including our games library) later this month for anyone committing to one or both of those abovementioned capacities. It will temporarily supplant our Summer event, though smaller in scale, with three hours of planning, brainstorming, and voluntary delegation, followed by three hours of gameplay and socialising. It will be so nice to dedicate some time to these ideas, have interested parties distribute the workload, contribute to the structure of the event, and get to know each other around the table. If you want in, and agree to the terms outlined in this paragraph, please visit EttinCon.org/volunteer, sending us an email before 15/01/2019 so we can give you access to the details.
Lots of people have expressed interest and I’m hoping most of them can make it to the meeting. I’m still trying to figure out the most efficient way to use our three hours for planning, but I have drafted an idealised staff plan for us to work towards in terms of recruitment. If we can get 50–75% of those spots allocated before August, we’ll be in great shape. We’ve run with less before, but I’m aiming higher this time. At the very least, it’s great to be talking to so many people about the building the event, and hearing their enthusiastic responses! I’m really interested in seeing what improvements could be made to our processes across the board, from promotional avenues to the moment-to-moment intricacies of the event on the day.
My ideal (as I babbled about in Ray’s podcast) is to have at least two staff at every station at any given moment, so that even when they are working a shift, they have company (and possibly a playmate) to chat and/or game with, especially during quiet moments. I usually push pretty hard for this, but we have more time (and more hands) to work towards it this time.
I’ve been thinking about competitions or challenges for prizes or accolades — effectively achievements in general, for attendees of all kinds. We already run the Team Player program to encourage and reward a variety of fun and supportive activities, and role-playing GMs have a ranked leaderboard alongside their tiered rewards, the latter being based on our usual biannual model, which isn’t available to us this calendar year. If GMs have half the opportunities as we usually provide, how does that affect their rank/reward? Should we just cut the thresholds in half, or invent new types of supplementary achievements for them to unlock?
Further to this, what about special events or challenges centred around certain concepts? We could have a prize-winning tournament (or maybe just some exclusive Team Player badges) designed around a marathon of three or four games which are either thematically or mechanically adjacent. A dexathlon of dexterity-based games, for example, for nimble players.
Other ideas we’ve considered including, but never formally implemented include:
Do you have any ideas to contribute to our convention? Please tweet them to us @EttinCon or email them through to [email protected] — we’d love to hear them, and if we use them we’ll ensure everyone is informed that you were the catalyst for their inclusion.
Con Org for Ettin Con
After three months of “rest”, the organisation is revving up their collective motor for our next event. We’ve had a couple of obstacles, but overall, it’s looking good, and we’ll be announcing final details early next week.
Greetings! As everything winds down for the holiday season, we’re winding ourselves up for the challenges of 2019. Our first foray, once injuries and illnesses were quelled, was to get our library over to Katoomba Library to share with the public alongside Afternoonified’s collection earlier this month, which seemed to go well. Hooray for that! We’ll be doing this again each month unless life gets in our way, but we’ll always let you know if we’ll be there.
Our library copy of Thornwatch arrived, which is also great to see! Thanks to Afternoonified, Let’s Play Games and Lone Shark for all their patient collaboration to get our delivery sorted. Our copy of Good Society is also enroute today, thanks, Storybrewers! Xmas post is fun.
The next thing was to find a date and venue for Winter 2019, which was no picnic. It seems that all the suitable venues were already booked, if not for whole weekends, at least enough parts of them to thwart most of our opportunities for a weekend-long convention. One of our principles is to work around existing events and communities, so we try to avoid asking people to vacate their spaces or reschedule their commitments. There are farmers, philosophers, musicians and religious congregations who rely on the spaces we share with them. In the end, we needed to decide between a spring weekend which would clash with SydCon, or accept that 2019 was a single-day affair, and that anything we want to achieve in 2020 needed to be booked in the next few weeks to have any chance at a two-day model in our future.
It was during this process that my other knee gave out, the punchline in an increasingly bad joke about ConOrg health.
I’ve seen illness derail other conventions, though I’ve been really lucky for most of my life, despite treating my body mercilessly for the better part of four decades. Something had to give, eventually, and it all pitched in to teach me this lesson in triplicate during 2018. It’s another reason we needed three months off our usually year-round cycle of organising events. Thankfully, it’s probably a manageable condition, but it pushed us over the edge to just get one day booked, sticking to our familiar format, for now.
The good news? We’ve got lots of interested parties on board right now, and a good buffer of time to make Winter 2019 really good. We have a bunch of plans for the event, and the Ettin Games Association community, both within and without the convention. We have a real shot at making 2020 amazing, too. We’re a teensy bit sad that a weekender has evaded us for three years, but we’re super-grateful for what we have achieved and shared with you all.
We’re also planning a private play event in January for anyone who would like to help plan and run the Winter 2019 event with us. It will be cosy, like our first event, but multiple tables and library games will be there, and we’ll spend 50% of the time just playing games and socialising. If you want in, reach our to us via EttinCon.org/volunteer.
If you’re signed up to our Patreon, our Discord server, our mailing list, or follow us on any social media, you’ll see our Winter 2019 announcement between Sunday and Monday as it works its way through that list of channels, in that order. We expect to have tickets on sale by new year’s day, if not sooner. We’re going to do our best to make another great event for you next year, and even better ones after that, and we’re excited to see you there to share them with us.
Con Org for Ettin Con
Running a convention every six months since 2015 has been a blast, and we’re not finished, but we need to take a short break over Summer 2019. In this post, we’ll talk about our reasons, our vision for Winter 2019, and our commitment to low-cost, high-value events.
Anybody who’s read this blog (or spoken to me in 2018) knows I’m tired. I love Ettin Con and am determined to keep it alive, but we have some things to address before it can continue. Before I dive into the detail, please know that if you’re one of our monthly patrons, we’re committed to giving you the rewards you expect. If you want/need to pause your pledge, we totally understand. If you would prefer a refund to Summer rewards, we‘re happy to do that. If you’re not interested in the details, but want to stay in touch, please take a moment to sign up for our email newsletter, so we can keep you posted on developments towards our Winter 2019 event. On with the post!
Firstly, we’re a skeleton crew. Each station at our event has fewer staff than it requires, and I had to put myself on every shift in Winter 2018 to run the event at all. Someone wasn’t able to make it to their shift, or even warn us, which led to me (poorly) covering two shifts at once. This isn’t the level of support we want for our attendees. Deferring the event until Winter 2019 gives us much more time to recruit committed staff across all stations, and room for surprises.
Moreover, with a small number of hands, the planning stages of each event have been increasingly difficult to bring together as sponsors change, or demonstrators aren’t available for our chosen date. Finding alternate people to run things like the Magic tourney (absent from Winter 2018) or following up on promised support for the raffle (also absent from Winter 2018) became impossible amid, well, everyday life and work. We’ve always been ambitious and for the first few years, we managed to make almost everything happen, but that quality is clearly starting to slip, and we want to do better for you.
Hanging over our heads for some time has been the oft-requested dream of running a weekend-long event. We’ve been deferring this for years, because there simply hasn’t been enough time to organise it — but we see 2019 as our opportunity to make that time. Skipping the Summer 2019 event means we can carefully choose a weekend for Winter, book the venue well in advance, recruit enough staff and THEN start accepting bookings as we bring all the other pieces together.
More of our planning tasks need to be assigned across our volunteer base. New sponsors and collaborators need to be found, consulted and secured. Extra raffle prizes need to be procured. More carefully planned & tested network management tools need to be implemented to stop rogue devices from using up all our data quota before the doors open. All the things we normally do need doing again, but bigger and better for attendees, as well as slower and easier for volunteers.
With all of this in mind, we’re starting our biggest volunteer drive over the coming month, with a two-day event in our sights. As soon as we have the dates/venue locked in, we will be offering plenty of detail on what we need help with, when, where, and for how long, as well as how we plan to compensate volunteers for their time. Our strategy has always been to offer the most value to attendees for the lowest possible cost, and our volunteers have enjoyed a ratio of double the fun to the amount of work — both aspects we’re quite keen on maintaining.
Also, to make the most of our growing games library, starting in November 2018 (if not sooner), we’ll be making best efforts to bring some or all of the library to the Katoomba Library board game events on the first Saturday of each month, run by Afternoonified.
If you have any ideas for our two-day event in Winter 2019, or would like to volunteer to help plan and/or run the event, please get in touch via EttinCon.org/volunteer. Thanks!
Con Org for Ettin Con
On the weekend, I heard about a 15yo who met someone at Ettin Con and is now part of their weekly Dungeons & Dragons group in Katoomba. This lead to a conversation with their science teacher and now they’re playtesting the teacher’s own system at lunchtimes — these stories make me very happy, & coincide with a bit of a focus for the convention next year.
Over the years, we’ve been using small amounts of event proceeds (and now Patreon proceeds) to purchase library games and resources, either through Kickstarter, distributors, or local shops. Board games are one side of this (and the majority of our table space), but our convention was originally driven by a love of role-playing games, and we are always looking at how we can support that side of the tabletop gaming hobby. Today’s post is mostly about providing physical resources, but also touches on how we’d like to help people learn, teach and organise RPG sessions both within & without our events.
Local designer Justin Halliday donated a copy of his Hero Kids RPG to us early on, both in softcover & a bundle of PDFs to round it out with adventures. You can borrow the core softcovers from our library at each event, and if you’re planning a session ahead of time, we can provide PDF access to adventures, plus a small amount of printing in conjunction with that commitment. It’s a simple system designed specifically to introduce young kids (ages 4–10) to the basics of rolling dice and being heroes in a fantasy setting. Over the course of 2019, we hope to have a few more kid-centric games available, already downloaded (both free and purchased), awaiting either printing or delivery in coming months. Amazing Tales (we picked it up on sale for $2.99) is another streamlined storytelling system headed to the library.
Two copies of No Thank You, Evil! (plus supplementary materials) are on their way to us, one for the library & one for a future raffle prize. It’s a system for players aged 5 and up, and tailors to three levels of complexity so that older kids and parents can still be interested when playing alongside younger kids learning the ropes. It also gives the younger ones something to aspire toward!
Any moment now, our library copy of Thornwatch should be arriving. This is a card-driven RPG which bridges the gap between traditional RPGs and modern board games — so it’s as good a place to dip your toe as any — mixing a comic-art-panel play area with icon dice and character cards, you won’t need a pencil or eraser to track your abilities, combat order or injuries.
Local Luminaries Hayley and Vee from Storybrewers Roleplaying completed their amazing second kickstarter, this time for Good Society, a more developed version of the first game they ever ran at Ettin Con. It’s a Jane Austen RPG with two cool expansions, and we backed a hardcover copy for the library, partly out of the reward budget we use to compensate GMs like them for their time donated to running games — we figured the best way to reward them was to help them print this lovely game, and get it into your hands.
In addition to the games mentioned above, as many free games as we can print for the self-service table, boxes of pencils, erasers & scrap paper, we have something special for anyone running fantasy RPGs for kids (or at least characters who are kids) — a full set of Wardlings miniatures you can borrow for a session (or more). There are six classes available, two variants of each (loosely gender-based but easy to gloss over) and each variant has a miniature to represent a pet or spirit companion. I used the first six of these to run a session last Winter, and am planning more for next Winter, but we’d love to see these used, either for D&D, Hero Kids, or anything else! I was using a second iteration of a custom ruleset for all ages, and the third iteration looks promising to release for others to use next year.
We’re not intending to increase the number of RPG tables or spaces at this point (noise is our biggest obstacle there) but growing the hobby as a whole (across ages, genders, and every other existential spectrum) is my personal project since before Ettin Con began. The goal of running some conventions across two days in the future should be sufficient, I hope!
In terms of getting people together, we’re still holding out hope that between social media communities, alongside Discord and GameFor, we can be a hub through which more gamers meet each other and have more fun (and friends) in their lives. If you’re interested in learning a system, or teaching it, it’s only a matter of asking in any of these spaces, or if you’re shy, send us an email and we’ll be happy to act as your proxy.
If you have any ideas about supporting RPGs at Ettin Con, please send us an email via [email protected], we’d love to hear from you!
Con Org for Ettin Con
One of my haphazard convention traditions has been acknowledging the people who take time to prepare games to run for people over the course of three hours, usually RPGs, with a personal card and gift, either at the event or shortly afterward, from my own pocket or convention funds. I know the own pocket thing was a bad habit to get into but if there was only one area for me to donate money to our fledgling convention, I was happy for that to be it.
This year, exhausted and quite literally broken by a variety of physical factors in July/August, I am typing this from a standing position on a rickety train, hurtling towards the city, because my handwritten cards would much harder to read. This post is a letter to all of our GMs, past, present and future, about how things are going, and how grateful I am to each of them for their role.
To date, we have run 227 hours of RPGs, across 76 sessions these past 7 events (within 3 years). Twenty-four different people have played the role of Game-Master, and you’re all just wonderful for doing so. We hope it’s worth the effort for you, in prep, and travel, patience and expertise. We see a lot of smiles at your tables!
Special mentions this year go to Rodger Dean for achieving Gold status (running 4 or more sessions within a calendar year), a title previously only held by masochistic-marathon-runner Jez Gordon, who still holds the crown of most sessions/hours of GM duties at our convention overall. We’d also like to acknowledge Jack Maidment, Torrey Keown and the Storybrewers (Hayley Gordon and Vee Hendro) for running concurrent sessions across the divide of years, effectively missing out on certain accolades (because being a Con Org is all about making decisions you may come to regret).
We tried a few new things this Winter, with varying degrees of success, and with your help we hope to get better at them together:
Again, the hard work of being a GM makes the day better for so many players, and not only did all the sessions sell out (making our new last-minute seating process redundant), but we had the usual bunch of unregistered players hoping for a chance at a table, and not enough seats for them all. We’re still entertaining the idea of running games on demand, especially if we manage a Sunday in the future. If you’re up for that, let us know!
Oh, and thanks to Lu Quade for running a Scum & Villainy demo for Aetherworks, scoring himself an advance copy of the rulebook in the process! I’m envious. Rewards and awards are being posted to everyone today, courtesy of our budget. We know it’s not much, but we like that we can now afford to give you something for each session you run, and a little extra for each Worldbuilder session. Door takings at this event were lower due to [a] more comfortable numbers, [b] No card tournament and [c] Raffle prizes not arriving, but thankfully we had [d] Patreon subsidy, [e] Shirt sales and [f] Noofy’s Pop-Up Fundraiser Stall, so we can still mange it and afford to keep running next year.
In summation, we love you as always, more than ever and things are only going to get better if we all work together to make Ettin Con the best places for the best GMs. If you have any suggestions, want to help, or know anyone else who’d like to help us plan or run the day, please get in touch!
Con Org for Ettin Con