RPG Diversity at Conventions, is it Really that Difficult?

RPG diversity at conventions, is it really that hard to put together a diverse schedule? Why do certain games/system dominate the game schedules at nearby conventions. Here Pathfinder Society (PFS) is ever present in my region (Southeast), which in and of itself is not wholly a bad thing. In fact PFS and other organized play schemes are good for the gaming community. My issue is with those that organize PFS and work with the state Venture Captain (VC). He, the VC, treats PFS as his personal crusade to bring it to the masses. This is good in theory, but the implementation and application of this theory is horrible. PFS sessions tend to dominate some of the regional conventions and in doing so it’s choking out other RPGs.

It would seem that some conventions and their organizers see PFS as a potential cash cow and it can be, but at what cost? To get enough authorized GMs to run a slew of PFS games will cost the organizers something in addition to the free badges (which is normal). Is it worth the expense of possibly providing some hotel rooms or other compensation like per diem and travel costs? While I don’t know the inner workings of most conventions in my area, I do have insight into some of them and I know organized play comes with costs. Therefore, I ask, do the costs outweigh the benefits?

Let’s face it, the benefits are numerous- Increased registrations, wider selection of organized games scenarios and even attracting attention from the publishers. At the same time there must be a balance to what conventions offer in terms of game diversity. Take for example; an attendee whom we’ll call Steve. Steve attends a convention looking for diverse RPGs to play. Games he’s read about online. He wants a dynamic experience, but at the convention all he finds is organized play RPGs (namely PFS and soon the new D&D) with just a smattering of others games almost as an afterthought. Now his options are limited and he could decide that next year he will not be coming back. I know this example and the possible outcome is pretty severe, but I have heard this several times from other gamers when they speak about other conventions that they attended. A lack of RPG diversity ruined their experience. One gamer said that if he wanted to play PFS (which he despises) he would go to Paizo-Con, he wanted lots of different games at the convention.

Convention organizers will never be able to please or cater to every person that walks through their doors or who is considering attending, but they need to make every effort to at least offer a diverse schedule that will appeal to a wider audience. Think of it as a broad brushstroke of RPGs. That is where the future of conventions is, diversity. On the other hand, having an event that focuses on a particular game, like a PFS-centric (or even a D&D Adventure League) event, that’s cool too, but in a more traditional convention setting it should not be the norm when it comes to building a schedule.

I fully appreciate that organizers (yes, I am one them) are limited to those that offer their time and skills to run games at the event. All I am advocating is that organizers make more of a concerted effort to reach out to some of those outlying GMs and pull them in to run different games to increase the diversity in their schedules. Creating diversity should be parmount over kowtowing to PFS or other dominating organized play programs. Bottom line — I believe in the long term that diversity will pay higher dividends than packing the majority of schedule with organized play sessions!

~ Modoc

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