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GenCon was a horrible showing for this game...


christophergood172
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Just as the title of this post says... I am going to be as objective with this post as I can but it appears I am not the only person who encountered issues and I will put this squarely on the shoulders of the organizers of the games for Gencon simply not preparing sufficiently to deal with the event.  I have already seen on another post where the blame was placed on Gencon itself and that is ludicrous and I will go into that as I continue this post. Let me preface this by saying that I have both run living game conventions in the past and been an active admin/organizer/DM for the RPGA. 

First, let us start with my personal experience. I had originally thought I was going to the physical convention and due to work I was not able to buy my tickets until two hours after they became available. By this time all of the slots for Episode 1 were sold out... 

Issues 
Sell outs are to be expected however a lack of tables for a major convention is not...
Multiple of tables of all nine episodes were not playing in every slot which a prepared organizer would have scheduled

I decided that given the fact that COVID simply made being in an in person venue unfeasible that I would instead sign up online. Which I did and was able to work around my other living campaign games (from Paizo... an organization that not only understands how to run and organize conventions but does it masterfully) and was able to get all four of the mainline episodes scheduled... albeit it at the strangest of hours (one table at midnight my time and then the next at 6am). Everything was fine until the morning of. I wake up two hours before I am scheduled to play the first episode at 2pm CST. I check my email because I had not received table information yet and find that two tables were cancelled with the note that the DM was not available and all backup DMs had already been assigned... please sign up for other slots. I was annoyed but I took a breath and tried to find a different slot. There was one... I signed up for it... IT HAD A CANCELLED MESSAGE AS WELL. Truly angry at this point I sent a message to the Wyvern discord stating I had a complaint... which I had to do in the off topic channel because there was no admin/hg specific channel... stating I had a complaint. Fifteen minutes later an admin told me to DM which I did. I explained in my message what my complaint was and the issues I had with the situation and asked for alternative/contingencies. This message was sent at 2:18pm CST yesterday... it is currently 6:14pm CST the next day and I still have not received even an acknowledgement to my message. Later on someone posted in the looking for game channel that they did not have players for episode 2 and was asking for them. I posted that there were twelve people looking for episode 1 given the cancellations hoping that would get admin or someone to recognize the need to shift the GM... instead of doing that the response I got was that the episodes didn't need to be played in order. 

Issues
First and foremost the lack of communication on the cancellation of the event
      - Even if the planned DMs had some issue come up that morning, contingencies were not put into place which leads me to believe that one of two assumptions were made, both of them fairly asinine to make but the second one is far worse. First, they just assumed that everyone would be perfectly fine and everything would go off without a hitch... which as I said frankly blows my mind how that could have been the working concept. Second, they just assumed that everyone who has signed would be understanding and simply shrug and move on with their lives if things happened. To expect that people who not only signed up but PAID for their slots would just shrug and not care... I have no words. 
      - The fact that the organizers did not over staff their DMs makes zero sense, especially with this being the first experience that most people have with the game. Every living game organizers knows to over staff to cover walks up, issues with DMs attendance and people not registering correctly. 
      - Even taking into consideration that this a new game and perhaps there was a lack of people who were willing to run, why was the fact that there was/is limited staff and to not expect tables to occur message not communicated upon sign up? At least it would have prepared players for the possibility that they might not get to play. It still would have been a failure on the part of the organizers but at least one we would have been prepared for. 
      - Conversely, why was the communication for the missing DMs not sent days ago? Again, even if the DM informed HQ that morning that there was an issue, an on the ball organizer would have seen the issues days earlier and made the notifications but told people to sign on and speak to HQ to see if in fact they did have a DM. However given the fact that the channels in the discord were already all set up... I do not believe that this was an issue with the DM simply having an issue but rather the fact that there was never a DM to start with. 
                 - Another post on this board stated they saw their table had been cancelled and the response was that 'Gencon had created duplicate tables'. As stated in opening of this post This is NOT the fault of Gencon. The event catalogs were released in July and August respectively, the event organizers had ample time to perform sign up QA make forecasts for tables and make adjustments accordingly... they simply failed to do so. 

Limited DM staff/lack of preparation on the part of the Event Organizers
      - As stated in the previous issue, a living campaign should be OVER STAFFED at all times. There should have been an abundance of DMs to the point where an amply staffed HQ team needed to release or find other things for idle DMs to do rather than cancel games. I understand this is a new game, however slot 0s could have still be done to ensure this was possible. If the organizers do not know what slot 0s are... they should not have been the organizers of living campaign convention. For the staff of the Wyvern publishing that are not part of the convention scene, a slot 0 is a game run by the game admin (preferably the author of the adventure) for people to volunteer to play before the convention with the understand that getting this early release means they will be running it at the event. I would have volunteered to do this in a heartbeat if it had been an option. 
                   - If by some stretch of the imagination something like had been offered someone on the forums and I didn't see it... why was it not sent out as an email to everyone signed up for the forums to create visibility... I don't read every forum post and I highly doubt many people do. 
                   - If there was some legal reason why this could not be done, then again, that goes back to communication of limited staffing and no guarantee of actually getting to play. Yes, it would have still been a failure on the part of the Event Organizers but at least one that had a mitigating circumstance. 

Lack of caring on the part of the HQ staff
        - I think this is probably my biggest issues with this whole thing. The fact that I still have not received and do not expect to receive a respond to my complaint, the fact that there was no channel or way of communicating issues directly with HQ and the fact that when I said there were people looking to play episode 1 when you had a DM with no table and instead of reassigning that DM to run the table of the event that people wanted to play the response I got was 'they don't have to be played in order'... shows me a complete lack of caring and customer service skills on the part of the staff.
                    - In addition, this also shows a lack of understand of how a Living Campaign should be run and how it should be played. Living Campaign players understand there is a narrative and want to engage that narrative in the order it was presented. Even if they are not written where they have to be run in sequence, running them in sequence is still the best way of doing them and saying to do otherwise is again, a failure to understand the audience. 

I will say that I was excited to play these games and I understand, especially given the environment that currently exists in the world that there are challenges. However there were any number of ways to mitigate or at least prepare us players for potential issues. In this case, the event staff did precisely nothing to do so. They made assumptions, failed to communicated, have shown a lack of care and service in responding to those issues and even worse, deflected responsibility back on to the convention itself rather than simply admitting to short comings and failures to plan and prepare appropriately. There has been no response, no apology and no alternative offered and frankly, as this was meant to be the unveiling of not only the living campaign but the entire game itself... it has been a terrible showing. I would still be interested in playing this in future but I certainly hope the event staff takes time to seriously review how conventions should be run, how customers should be served and how planning should be executed to ensure that what has happened at this convention NEVER happens again. 

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#1: I don't work for Wyvern - I'm just  player here. However, I have run booths and games at major cons myself. 

#2:  I hate to hear that you missed out on playing online. That said, I AM here at the Con and we had a blast playing the game in person. I would put forth that in a time of limited resources, sometimes difficult choices have to be made. At least you didn't lose whatever it would cost to get to Indy, get into the physical Con, Hotel, Food, and so on. I respectfully submit that while your concern is valid, it would be lesser than that of someone who travelled etc. only to find a cancellation. 

For that matter... Where are all these extra overstaff DMs to come from? As I understand it, every Wyvern person who could be here at the Con is in fact here. 

Did you ever offer to DM? 

Just food for thought...

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Just wanted to second that DMs are not always easy to come by.  I've been organizing and running D&D Adventurers league for more than 5 years now and even with that behemoth of a game we sometimes struggle to get enough DMs.  Overstaffing events is not as easy as you seem to claim it is.

 

I played in 2 games at Gen Con and the first one had a no show DM.  Luckily they were able to pull in another DM for us who had just finished running another slot.  Our 2nd game went off without a hitch.  While I would love it if these problems were easily avoidable they simply are not.  I can't even imagine the struggles one must have getting DMs for a new RPG.

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