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Author Topic: Help needed for public event  (Read 4535 times)
morgue
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« on: May 01, 2003, 01:04:04 AM »

Hi all - I've been a lurker for a while, and I'm looking for advice - as good a motivation as any to register!  Here's why:

(below is a slight edit of my post on RPGnet, where I am a regular - I'm hoping to get a different perspective here)

Background - the Edinburgh branch of chain bookstore Ottakar's has an RPG noticeboard and display.

I've been in contact with the person who runs the section.  We've agreed that in about 3 weeks I'm going to have a table in the middle of the store all day (Saturday) to promote RPGs. Cool!

If it goes well, there are lots of other things we discussed (frex, I'm particularly keen on handholding new GMs through setting up a first game), but I want to focus this on getting people into the idea of RPGs.

MY PLAN, SUCH AS IT IS

* the biggest selling item they have is the D&D Adventure Game box, with its goodies and its low low price point.  So I'm gonna use that as my starting point. It's a good product, too.   (Their other biggie is Buffy, apparently, so maybe next time I'll use that.)

* we promote the day with flyers instore and at other local branches. How else??

* during the day I'll run short demos using the core characters from the adventure game box. The demos will be very very short, starting in media res - basically I envisage saying 'you're in a dungeon, and you come upon *this tricky situation* - what do you do?', and the demo is over when they get out the other side. Ten minutes? Twenty? Something in there.

* Prepare bits of paper for people to take away - a 'the world of RPGs' sheet talking about good products e.g. Buffy (the other big seller, apparently), a 'where to from here' sheet? Ideas?

* People who go through a demo will be given the 'scenario' sheet that shows what I was working from, a souvenir and also an educational tool as they see the bits I had prepared and the bits I made up on the spot.

* I trust my DMing ability to guide/cajole/enchant people, despite using D&D with its tactical bias... if we have the numbers and dice and counters to appeal to people who like that stuff, and me dancing around doing mad description/roleplay stuff to appeal to those who are into that end of it, then we get a good few bases covered.

I'm gonna need help coming up with/streamlining the demo scenarios - I'm thinking I'll try and come up with two or three and I can pull out different ones depending on my read of the 'mood' of the people that'd be playing it...

Um. What else. It's central, there'll be lots of browsers nearby so I'm anticipating an audience...

more as and when I think of it. The core of the idea is there.

PLEASE give me some comments - is this a sound plan? What am I missing? What should I do differently?

If it was you doing this at a chain store in your area, what ideas would *you* have?

This is a real opportunity and I don't want to mess it up. So help me out and sound off. Your hobby needs you!

----

And it does, too.  Any advice, 'sounds ok' included, would be gratefully received.

~`morgue
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My given name is Morgan but everyone calls me morgue. (Well, except my beloved grandma.)
I contribute to
Gametime, a New Zealand RPG groupblog
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2003, 02:47:09 AM »

This is a cool idea and I'd love to take part in something like this sometime. (Pity I live thousands of miles and an ocean away).

Ron has some comments about Actual Play in the Stores that, while intended for a long-term thing, certainly have points applicable to a one-day promotion.
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morgue
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2003, 04:41:20 AM »

Thanks for the support and the link, Michael.  I've seen Ron's suggestions there before and they do strike a chord.  I hadn't connected them (or the ensuing discussion) to this project though, so it's been good to review that.

Has anyone out there done any demo work at all in a 'mainstream' space?

Some more specific questions:

* how do I handle the issue of spectators?  I am counting on there being some.  Is this even an issue?

* what demographic response do people expect I might get?  (I have in my head rough percentages of little-Jimmy-with-mom and teen-who-just-read-LOTR etc, but I want to check them with others, hence my not sharing them and biasing responses)

morgue
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My given name is Morgan but everyone calls me morgue. (Well, except my beloved grandma.)
I contribute to
Gametime, a New Zealand RPG groupblog
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b_bankhead
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Posts: 259


« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2003, 05:57:07 AM »

The biggest problem I have found with the 'demo' model is publicity.  How are the people who might be interested in what  you are doing even going to find out about it?  How are you to advertise?  Any in-store advertising runs into the problem of the insularity of the hobby shop environment. Put simply the same little clot of people are going to see your advertising over and over.  Cycling of new 'eyeballs' through many hobby shops can be glacial.  How many of your target audience are going to even walk into Hole-in-the Wall Gameshop within 30 days?

   Advertising outiside of the shop environment runs into the problem of expense, and  creativity ;you have to create material compelling enough to make people come to your game who may have never even HEARD of a tabletop rpg. (think they don't exist?  I meet teenagers like this all the time in the Yahoo RPG chat room........they think rpg NECESSARILY means the computer version and have ***NO**** experience of 'our' kind...and digitally scratch their heads when I try to describe them...)

The Tundra games guy noted a certain 'hostility' on the Forge to the brick and mortar game shop.  This 'hostility' is mostly learning from hard experience that the classic FLGS is in fact quite poor at doing what it says it does......
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morgue
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2003, 06:22:29 AM »

Hey b_b,
these are exactly the issues that I have been grappling with for a long time.  Publicity is one of the immediate puzzles I'm confronted with now.  However, one crucial fact correction:

*the venue is a chain book store, not a hobby store*

It's like a Waterstones or a Barnes and Noble.  And it's going to be browser-heavy Saturday afternoon that I'm there.

cheers
Morgan
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My given name is Morgan but everyone calls me morgue. (Well, except my beloved grandma.)
I contribute to
Gametime, a New Zealand RPG groupblog
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2003, 06:31:29 AM »

Morgan, please continue to post updates on this project.  One of my pet theories is that increasing RPG exposure into exactly this sort of venue represents superior distribution route for the future than relying solely on traditional game/comics/hobby stores.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2003, 07:40:54 AM »

Hi there,

I suggest that the "new people" element of a project like this is (a) iffy, (b) very powerful if it happens, and (c) long-term. So the take-home is, leave the door open for it, encourage when possible, and don't expect much to happen fast.

What's the door, then? In my view, it's word-of-mouth, based on the people who do participate at first. That word-of-mouth is an interesting animal. Usually, it functions as you might expect ("That GM is great - he mixes fighting and interaction with NPCs really well!"). However, what's reported as potentially negative by a person who participated ("That DM sucked - he kept having the goblins talk to us!" when you did this only 25% of the time) might be interpreted very positively by the listener.

I think this whole project sounds like a wonderful idea and I also suggest that, if you do establish a mini-culture based on your GM rep, you can mix up the systems you're using to include stuff beyond the "big thing" in the store.

Best,
Ron
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2003, 09:38:19 AM »

You might try ringing your local newspaper, who may well be happy to run a small piece about the event.  I've never done this for roleplaying but I've certainly got free publicity for short film auditions this way.  You might mention this to your contact at Ottaker's who'll probably be happy for the publicity, and might want to add a comment.
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Ian Charvill
Malcolm Craig
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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2003, 09:49:17 AM »

As we're probably the games company who are physically closest to Edinburgh, feel free to email me if you'd like any help or advice. Not meaning in an "Oh, promote our stuff" way (the game isn't even out yet!), but if there's anything we can do in general terms, even if it's just to wander by during the day and have a friendly word, just ask.

Thanks
Malcolm
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jdagna
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« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2003, 10:31:56 AM »

Lots of good advice from the others here.

One additional suggestion I'd offer is to avoid running demos that look like computer RPGs on paper.  Diablo does a great dungeon crawl and a book can't compete with it.  Instead, focus on situations that require moral and emotional decision-making.  Hostage situations are a great example that still focus on combat, which is easier for newbies to pick up than trying to speak and act in character.  In a D&D setting, maybe the characters come upon a goblin raid where several villagers have holed themselves up in a smoking house and are barely defending themselves while a family is being carted off as loot from the house next door.  When people realize they have meaningful choices, that's when they find out what Diablo can't give them.
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Justin Dagna
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b_bankhead
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Posts: 259


« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2003, 11:11:53 AM »

Quote from: morgue


*the venue is a chain book store, not a hobby store*

It's like a Waterstones or a Barnes and Noble.  And it's going to be browser-heavy Saturday afternoon that I'm there.



   Okay well that puts things in a different perspective!  i can't say that I have ever tried gaming in a venue like this one, however I think I can give some pertinent advice.

   In this evironments you are dealing with the mainstream.  I mean the REAL mainstream not the gaming mainstream.  Mainstream gamers already know about D&D and already like it.  But your audience isn't mainstream gamers.

 The next time you go to this place look around you. You will se a bunch of books.  You will see, Drama, and Action and spy novels  and mysteries, and science fiction and yes D&D fiction too....

 But only a small part of it is D&D fiction.  And D&D fiction is the kind of thing D&D does best.  This is how it has maintained it's stranglehold on the rpg hobby.  If you you aren't inclined to like D&D you won't stay because you aren't likely to be exposed to anything else.

But you aren't dealing with the gaming mainstream.  The REAL mainstream is very different, and you are going to need a different approach.  (and I strongly reccomend you read the thread Mainstream: a revision to get a fuller picture of what I mean...)



   First you are going to need to present more that just D&D fiction.  You should try to present something from as many mainstream genres as possible, Drama,crime,spys,SF and yes fantasy (but not just D&D fantasy)and even more.
And since you want to make as much use of the space and time available as you can.   The game you use should have the following properties:

1. It should be learnable almost instantly (15 min.) tops
2. Sessions should be short so you can run several sessions and deal with as many players as possible.
3.It should be adaptable so it can deal with various genres
4. It should require minimal pre-prep on your part

(and If you haven't read my thread Rpg Structures and Issues of Recruitments


  The game I would suggest  The game Soap.  Its ridiculously simple, very adaptable, and has an actual winner.  Plus, you can give the winner of each session a free copy of the game.  Soap can be purchased here:
http://www.crayne.nl/index.html


Whatever you do I'd really like to hear about how this project goes, I am thinking of trying something like it myself...
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morgue
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2003, 02:21:01 AM »

Thanks for all this - when I find time here at work I'll reply more - right now there's one thing I want to respond to.

Quote from: jdagna
When people realize they have meaningful choices, that's when they find out what Diablo can't give them.


Yep, agreed - but I also feel strongly that another thing Diablo can't give is a sense of communal creativity, that lovely social vibe of generating something more than the sum of its parts; and I also think that this is both easier to sell and a more effective hook.

Of course, I'm going to do my best to pull of *both*.  So everyone wins, no-one loses.

However, I do really want to put in meaningful choices, which is going to be tricky given the limitations I've set myself/had set for me by circumstances:

* D&D adventure game, so fantasy adventurers (and ideally I want them in a dungeon for aesthetic reasons, so if I can get all the goodness in that setting so much the better)

* brevity - fifteen minutes or so, and no extensive character background to draw upon

and the crucial one:

* appropriate to a "PG" audience.  I don't want to be facing a 10 year old with a hostage dilemma that could work out nastily.

This last one is by no means insoluble - just a design challenge.  I want to craft a bunch of short micro-scenarios, each featuring:
* some action-adventure element
* some social interaction with an NPC
* some meaningful decision

What kinds of meaningul decisions are truly going to be 'kid friendly'?  (I know young people can be very sophisticated decision-makers, so I'm not too worried about making the decision too 'easy' for adults - I just don't want any content that will cause a worried mummy to complain to the manager.)

Thanks all for your comments!
morgue (oh, Malcolm, hey, we met briefly at Conpulsion - me the tall Kiwi chap helping run things - might take up your offer of support, thanks)
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My given name is Morgan but everyone calls me morgue. (Well, except my beloved grandma.)
I contribute to
Gametime, a New Zealand RPG groupblog
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2003, 11:18:34 AM »

Quote from: morgue
What kinds of meaningul decisions are truly going to be 'kid friendly'?  (I know young people can be very sophisticated decision-makers, so I'm not too worried about making the decision too 'easy' for adults - I just don't want any content that will cause a worried mummy to complain to the manager.


These are pretty easy. Just lower the stakes a bit. Instead of it being life and death, it's a question of helping a friend or getting something else you want. That sort of decision. See "Sweet Valley High" and the like for low stakes stuff that can still pack that moral punch for kids.

I mean I find it ironic that parents don't object to the gore of a video or RPG, but as soon as a moral implication is put on it, look out!

So the adventure would look like, Hack your way to the end room of the dunjon, and then the character has a moment when he get's to choose one of two options. Two dohickey's fall from cages into the lava below (Batman, anyone?). One dohickey is a +12 Hackmaster. The other is the gem that the character's girlfiend sent him to get for their anniversary. Which does he choose to save!

That sort of thing. Make sure he suffers when he grabs the Hackmaster. :-)

Mike
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deadpanbob
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2003, 11:26:06 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

That sort of thing. Make sure he suffers when he grabs the Hackmaster. :-)


Hey, girlfriends are a dime a dozen my friend.  Heck in D&D I think you can even buy one as a henchman when you reach a high enough level.  But +12 Hackmasters are really hard to come by.

I say to make sure he suffers if he lamely chooses to grab the gem ;-0

Cheers,


Jason
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jdagna
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2003, 11:41:06 AM »

Actually, you'd be kind of surprised the decisions kids are asked to make in school.  I know in CA, part of the third-grade curriculum is the life raft scenario - twenty people survive a plane crash and you only have room for seven, so a bunch of ten-year-olds decide who should drown and who should live.  I'm amazed people can complain about the pledge of allegiance and let that one slide.

Anyway... you're right - it's just a little tweaking for younger folks.

Since you want a dungeon setting, I had an idea... the characters are all convicts in a medieval dungeon (which means half of them are probably guilty of nothing more than offending a noble), when an earthquake strikes.  Part of the floor collapses, revealing a dark and vile-smelling cavern under the dungeon.  The guards are surely coming - the PCs need to get moving quickly, but there's a complication.  An NPC convict is old/injured and will have to be carried, slowing everyone down.  There's another NPC, but you're not sure you trust him.  He's been brown-nosing the guards from day one and there's a big reward for turning in escapees.  You'd have to restrain him if you don't want him to come with you.

If you encourage a little in-character dialogue here, you can really get people started on their acting roles before they start making rolls.  And a little internal group conflict can spice up any plotline.
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Justin Dagna
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