'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Calgary Expo. "GMing at the Con"

Wikipedia says the Calgary Expo is the second largest convention of its kind in Canada. Hosting famous celebrities from movies and TV through to the Comics industry. Last year saw an attendance of 95,000 people. The Expo as it turns out has a bit more to it than celebrities, and this year saw significant growth in the tabletop gaming area.

I have been attending the Expo for a few years, but it wasn’t really on my radar until they brought together the cast of Aliens. The Alien films, especially the first two, are among my favorites of all time and hold a special place in my heart, so I was excited to see the event. Since then I have attended every year.

The last couple of years I have had the opportunity to do a little more than just attend and walk around. Last year the medieval group I was part of did a significant demo encampment and some rattan and rapier fighting. This year I was able to GM some games of Conan 2d20, which unsurprisingly is what this post is about.

Back in the beginning of 2018 Modiphius announced they were going to do a JCoM RPG. I was excited about this as I am a fan of the world that Edgar Rice Burroughs had created. With it announced I joined a bunch of Facebook groups. As it happened one of the members, Vic Ster on facebook, was from Calgary.

Some time passed and Vic asked me if I wanted to GM CONAN 2d20 at a local convention, “The RPG Alliance”. My initial feeling was anxiety and in no way did I want to sit down with complete strangers and play some RPGs. My second feeling was that I could do it. That I should do it. This was something outside of my comfort zone and for that reason alone I should try. So I agreed to GM a game of Conan.

I made a few contacts at this convention. Vic the main organizer, Chris, Brent, Jeff and Matt. As it turns out Matt is the Tabletop organizer for the Calgary Expo. Matt asked if we would be interested in doing some games at the Expo. Brent, Vic and Myself all decided to go for it running Conan, John Carter and Star Trek. Brent has a blog post about his experience.

John Carter
Conan
Star Trek


So with that lengthy pre-amble let’s get into my experience doing this. I wasn’t an official Expo volunteer, just an attendee who volunteered his time to bring some Conan to the world. This was mainly due to the time commitment required, as I felt it would cut too much into the Expo. The games I ran were still officially listed on the website at certain times. For an attendee it wouldn’t have been clear that a few of us were less official volunteers.

Prior to the Expo, Matt was well organized and kept us in the loop as much as he was able. I would have preferred to know what was happening earlier than I knew, but that wasn’t something he had control over. Once everything was finalized he let us know and answered any questions we had promptly. On the days of the event he was there and excited and had a great go go go attitude! It was great to see and I am pretty sure that kind of pace might have killed me.

The games all ran with same day sign ups. This wasn’t an issue on Friday, I had my 4 players and ran an excellent game with Chris, Trevor, Emily and Donny. They were an awesome crew to journey into the Hyborian Age with. They all had smiles when we were done and it warmed my heart a little to have such great feedback, it is a great reason to try out GMing at something like this.

That game was slated to start at 3 and so had several hours to pick up people. On Sunday the game was slated to run at 11am, about an hour after the show opened. We had more trouble filling in slots this time, but Vic had showed up and played as well as one of the other games volunteers, Troy. Despite almost not having any players the game was still fun, everyone had a great attitude again and the game had a completely different outcome!

Looking back at the Sunday game I wonder if it would have been better to advertise it as a short 2 hour intro session for people new to Conan and the Father of Sword and Sorcery, and start it a little later. If this was the single largest issue I needed to iron out though, I am doing well. Indeed I did come away with an overall very positive experience from running these games.



Vic & I in discussion over.....something.

Modiphius was extremely supportive of us in this whole endeavor as well. Vic reached out and they sent us 2 copies of each of the books (Conan, John Carter & Star Trek core books). One was given away to a player and the other was entered into the Expo library for future use and posterity. Troy was the lucky winner at our table!

Handing out the Conan 2d20 Core book to Troy!
Overall it was an enjoyable experience, even if I would do Sunday a little different. It is an awesome thing to be able to sit down with strangers and put smiles on their faces and have a great time. As well I love this opportunity to extol the virtues of Robert E Howard, and his characters. Too many people do not know his name, which is a damn shame.

If this is something you have considered doing in the past but have never done, I would recommend giving it a shot. It is a good way to meet some new people with similar interests. It is a great way to give back to your local community as well. So go out and have some fun!

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