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How To: Survive Your First Convention

How to Survive A Convention

So you are finally getting ready to attend your first convention. It may be big or small, close to home or far away, but there are some things that will make your first trip much more enjoyable. Whether you are heading to an anime, gaming, or other convention, they are a great place to meet people who enjoy the things you do and have a lot of fun along the way. However, like most things, conventions have a reputation for bringing out some interesting quirks of people. We are going to take a look through some of the big pitfalls to avoid and ways to squeeze a little extra enjoyment from your weekend!

Con Funk

This is one of the quintessential issues with conventions. Con Funk refers to the fact that many people get so caught up in the fun that they neglect their personal hygiene. This leads to some less than desirable aromas which you will smell throughout a convention center. Don’t be one of the people who gets caught up like this. You have a couple options depending on what your lodging is like. If you are staying in the hotel or convention center please take a few minutes at some point and grab a shower. You might even want to head up and grab another one mid-day depending on the weather. If you are staying somewhere further away, take along some cologne/perfume/deodorant with you. These are easy to carry (we will cover that later) and applied within reason can keep the funk away until you get to a shower. DO NOT be the person who douses him/herself in an entire canister of Axe body-spray. Personally I chose a natural solid cologne like this one because it’s small, easy to carry, and has a subtle but attractive scent.

Another side effect of con funk is that when people neglect their hygiene they run the risk of spreading colds. This happens WAY more often at cons than anyone cares to admit, and avoiding the con plague is a task in and of itself. Wash your hands often or throw a small carry-able container of hand sanitizer in your bag. On top of that I usually take some vitamin c gummies and zinc while I am at a convention (consult your doctor). Doing this might help you avoid becoming one of the walking dead come the following weekend.

Check Your Bag Twice Before Leaving Home

When you are getting ready to leave your house check your luggage twice. The time it takes is minimal and the return on not forgetting your underwear is substantial. Cons have a weird effect on the surrounding areas. They tend to cause prices for everyday essentials to get crazy, especially within walking distance of the convention itself. If you think the businesses around Comic Con don’t realize they have 170,000 paying customers coming into town you are delusional. Businesses see cons as free traffic and they price accordingly. Imagine trying to get bread milk and eggs before a blizzard, the same applies here. So, in order to avoid paying 9 dollars for a toothbrush take 15 minutes and go over that list one more time.

Bring. A. Bag/Backpack

Two of the main attractions of a convention are the Artists Alley and the Dealers Room. These are essentially the places that will suck your entire wallet dry and then make an attempt on your credit card. They are places where you will absolutely find items you cannot afford, and a million items that you want. Depending on the size of the convention these can range from the size of a basketball court to the size of a football stadium, and they are chalk full of wonderful people who are happy to talk to you and show off what they have for sale. 

Yes, it’s mildly inconvenient to lug a bag around during the convention but the conveniences are worth it. You are going to end up buying things in the dealers room that you have to carry. Also, pin collecting is gigantic among convention goers and if you want to trade your pins you better have a place to display them. I use the ThinkGeek convention bag because it lets me put all the pins I have to trade right on the side. Anything will work though. You could carry around a 6 dollar backpack from Kmart and it will serve you just fine. Whatever you decide to do I recommend you get a bag/backpack especially if you are not staying in the convention center.

Registration/Badge

When you first get to the convention you are going to need to stop off at registration and pick up your badge. You can do early start at some conventions and have the badge mailed to you ahead of time (thank you AWA), and I highly recommend this if it’s an option. If you cannot, understand what registration is going to require of you. Depending on the convention you will need to present some form of ID, have it ready. You may also need to have props labeled with orange depending on your cosplay (covered in another section). I recommend taking a few minutes prior to arriving to read through the registration guidelines. It will save you and the staffers a bunch of headache, and get your experience off to a better start. Your badge is your end all be all to enjoy what the con has to offer. Depending on what type of convention it may also grant you entry into tournaments or VIP meet and greets. More than likely it will come on a lanyard for you to wear, but I much prefer to throw it into something a little more formidable. There are a million awesome options like the one I use ***here***. You can just use the lanyard provided or pick up a badge holder from a local office max, but if you want something a little more interesting Etsy and Amazon are wonderful places to find them.

Tournaments (Cards, Video Games, Etc.)

If you are at a gaming convention and you entered into a tournament make sure to do the following or risk the consequences.

  1. Read the rules, then take a break and read them again. The rule books for tournaments can vary wildly, and making sure you understand them is paramount. Take the time required and acquaint yourself with them before the first round. If you have questions seek out one of the staff/tournament organizers.

2. If you are required to have your own controller make sure you have it and that it’s working. Nothing is worse than stepping up, plugging in your fightstick, and having your X input not work. Take a few minutes and make sure everything works before your are called on to play.

3. Do not forget to eat and drink. No, pocky and ramune are not a good weekend diet make. Although it’s tempting to skip meals and consider fast food to be a staple food for a weekend you are best not to. Not only will you feel like crap by the end of the weekend your performance will probably suffer as well.

Cosplay

One of the coolest things about conventions is seeing the insane cosplay that is around. People spend months working tirelessly to recreate an exact replica of your favorite game or anime character. When it comes to cosplay there are a few guidelines that are good to follow.

  1. Do not take their picture without first asking them. Even though they may be dressed like a super hero, they are just everyday people who do not want to have their picture taken without permission. Pictures with cosplayer’s is commonplace and you should get as many as you want, just ask first!
  2. Do not ambush them while they are eating a subway sandwich. Again, these are people and often their costumes take time to get off so they can eat. They are not going to want to put it all back on so you can snap a picture while their sub gets cold. Wait until they are done or catch them somewhere else in the convention center.
  3. Try not to break their costumes even if they are cumbersome to avoid. This is just a common courtesy, but it’s amazing how many costumes get broken by rude con-goers. Take the extra 3 seconds to walk around that angels wings.
  4. Try it! It sounds crazy, and maybe it looks a little crazy too, but it’s fun! Cosplay is like Halloween for adults, but with a better crowd. There isn’t anything quite like ambushing a local coffee shop with a full resident evil group and seeing how people stare. It’s a lot of fun and I promise you will meet some awesome friends along the way.

Boards/Panels/Meet and Greets

One of the biggest draws of conventions is that you get to meet some of the industry stars. This can be in the form of information panels, AMA boards, or general meet and greets. All of these provide an opportunity to meet with your favorite celebrities in a different way. However, there are some things that you should be aware of.

First off, do not try to run up and grab a hold of the person. Despite the fact that you may love every show they have ever voiced they do not know you. If you try to run up and grab ahold of them it’s a one way ticket out of the convention and a short end to your trip. Second, lines are long for the big panels/celebrities. This means your choices are either show up early, or prepare to wait a long time! Either of which is fine, I have met some of my best friends waiting in line for panels. Next, ask questions. A lot of people go to panels and just listen. If you have a question you want to ask speak up, you don’t know when you will get another chance! Lastly, don’t be upset if you don’t get to meet the person. Sometimes you will get a meet and greet where the person can’t meet every person waiting in line. It’s rare, but it happens. If you happen to be one of the people that didn’t get to meet them, don’t get upset, realize that they are only one person and you have an entire convention to find something else to do!

Final Considerations

Your first convention is almost always a great experience. You are going to have 3 days fly by in what seems like an instant. You will experience new things, meet new people, and have an amount of fun that is very rare in everyday life. Take advantage of everything the convention has to offer and be sure to collect contact info from people you meet. If you take the time to understand some of the basic rules of conventions your experience will be even better and you can avoid some of the common pitfalls. In closing enjoy yourself, but understand how to do it without ruining it for people around you! Happy con-going! get upset, realize that they are only one person and you have an entire convention to find something else to do!

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Setting Up Your First D&D Game Part 2 – Dice

The core playing pieces of Dungeons and Dragons are still as simple as they were when the game was created. You will need some dice and something to write with and on. However, there are a ton of different options and you might be wondering what the optimal setup would be for your game. Well, there isn’t a one size fit all answer for that question. We are going to go over all the options and let you pick the ones that fit your play style.

Dice come in many different sizes. You may have walked through a tabletop gaming section at your local bookstore and noticed the seemingly endless array of dice. D&D takes advantage of this array in a variety of different ways. First let’s go over the staples. Most D&D dice come in a set of 7. You have a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20. So what is it that all of these dice are used for, and why do you need them?

The Meat and Potato Set:

 

D4 – Affectionately referred to by players as the “caltrop” this die always lands with the point facing up. Many experiences D&D players have stepped on a lost caltrop more than once.  There are 2 types of D4 dice, and the results of a roll are read in different ways.

The first type of D4 puts the numbers at the points and looks like this. The results of a roll is the number at the top of the die that is right side up.

The second type of D4 has the numbers clustered in the middle and looks like this and the result of a roll is the number that is right side up.

Note: Do not add the sides of a D4 dice after a roll. The number facing up is the same on all 3 showing faces.

D4 dice are used to represent a variety of different things in D&D. They can be used to calculate increments of time like number of days or hours for an effect. They are also used to calculate damage for small weapons like daggers and clubs. Additionally, it may be used to calculate magical benefits like those granted from the bless spell or crusader’s mantle’s ongoing radiant damage.

 

D6 – The ubiquitous die that every person will recognize. These dice have a long standing history in gambling and board games alike. In D&D they have a variety of different uses. One of the most common is their use for sneak attack damage for rogue characters. They are also used to calculate hit points for squishy characters. Other uses for the die include falling damage with 1D6 being rolled for every 10 feet, and damage for slightly larger weapons such as maces and scimitars. The one thing to note with D6 die is that it is the most often die rolled in multiple in D&D. It’s a good idea to keep at least 6 on hand.

 

 

D8 – One of the major workhorse dice outside of your D20. It is shaped like a diamond and you see it used at all points throughout a D&D campaign. They are used for hit points on mid-rank classes such as bards and warlocks, along with personality traits during character creation. D8s often roll for healing spells along with weapons that deal consistent, but not extraordinary damage. Often rolled in multiples, having a few D8s is usually a good idea.

 

 

D10 – The die of front liners throughout the realm, this die will be used for hit point rolls on characters such as Paladins and Fighters. The die will consistently see use when rolling high level spells, and may see use dealing with very strong weapons. Another potential use for this die type is when calculating percentiles. In this case you can either use a single, or two D10s (of different colors) to calculate your percentage roll. Usually one of the die will be used to represent the tens place, and the other represents the ones place.

Example – 2D10 one comes up 9 (tens place) and the other comes up 6 (ones place), would represent a roll of 96%.

These can represent a roll when the DM has set an effect to take place if the roll is over 50%, or it can represent the magical item received from a chest or a trinket. Another interesting use is represented extensively in the “Sneak Attack” D&D podcast. In their campaign the players control a trinket which when activated during combat gives them a random effect from 100 different options. This can add a very interesting element of RNG to a campaign and make for some great memories.

Overall the D10 is a die with a large number of uses and a few should be kept on hand.

 

D12 – An infrequently used die, it is considered essential for only Barbarians. Used for their hit points and their quintessential weapon the Great Axe. A single D12 should be sufficient for the table despite its slightly more common usage in 5e than in previous iterations of the game.

 

 

 

D20 – THE die of D&D. Look at any reference made to the game and you are likely to see this represented somewhere. This will be the most frequently rolled die in your campaigns without exception. You will be rolling it for every attack roll, have advantage, roll it twice. Trying to charm someone, persuade, climb, or do just about anything else? Roll a D20. This is where the term “critical fail” comes from, which is when you roll a 1, and no matter what your modifiers your action fails. It also is where the term “natural 20” comes from which is anytime the die lands on a 20 without modifiers. In this case whatever the action is succeeds and the player may receive an extra bonus depending on how the DM handles natural 20s. When used for combat a roll of 20 represents a critical hit and is handled accordingly. Another use of the D20 is when determining initiative prior to combat, where the order of rolls will determine the players turn order.

Since this dice is rolled so often throughout a campaign it is recommended that each player have at least 2 on hand. This will increase the overall game speed, and decrease logistics.

 

Recommendations:

Personally I recommend the following set of dice for players and DMs.

Player:                              DM:

D-4 :  3 dice                     D-4- 6 dice

D-6 –  4 dice                     D-6 – 7 dice

D-8 – 3 dice                      D8 – 5 dice

D10 – 2 dice                      D10 – 3 dice

D12 – 1 die                         D12 – 2 dice

D20 – 2-3 dice                  D20 – 4 dice

 

The DM will often need more dice than players in order to deal with boss attacks, or multiple enemies. Dice can be split among players and passed around as needed, it just makes rolling a little slower/more difficult.

 

Special Dice:

Now that we have covered the basic set of dice you are going to need, we are going to look at some of the more advanced options. These dice are by no means necessary and are purely for convenience.

Double D20: A relative newcomer to the D&D dice family the double is a transparent die outside of a standard die. The purpose of these dice is convenience. When players a rolling for advantage you roll a Double D20 and take the higher of the 2 showing faces. This is the most common use of the die. I like to have 1 of these available on the table, usually kept in the middle and shared since rolling with advantage can happen to any player in any given situation.

 

 

Percentile Die/Dice Set: These sets come with 2 dice. One of the die has number ranging from 00 – 90 representing the tens place. The other die has numbers ranging from 0-9 and represent the ones place. These work similar to using two D10s, but make it easier to tell the two places apart.

 

 

 

D100 – The legendary 100 sided die. These are cumbersome, but can be fun to throw around when the time is right. Of the 2 options this is the one that I prefer. Great for people who really do not like doing even the most basic math.

 

 

 

D60 – A very infrequently used die, I cannot see why this is worth investing in for most players.

 

 

 

 

How to Choose Your Dice:

Once you have narrowed down your choices and decided what dice you want in your basic set it’s time to buy. The question is where do you get them from and how much do you want to spend?

Dice come in an unbelievable assortment of colors and designs, and can range from a few dollars for a basic plastic 7 piece set to well over $100. If you are just getting started and are not sure you plan to stick with D&D I recommend your group pick up a cheap bag of dice like this. This will give your group all the dice you need and more at a fraction of buying them individually. If however you are looking to add a little style to your set there are a ton of options for you. The set that I use can be found here. Which I supplemented with a double d20 and a few other pieces. Below are a number of great options that either I or friends have used.

Gemini Set

Metal Set

Elven Set

Glow In the Dark

Another accessory many D&D players choose to have is a dice carrying bag/box. While you could put your dice in a Ziploc bag and be fine, most players I have met prefer something a little more…unique. The box I use can be found ***here** and again these come in an innumerable number of shapes and sizes.

Gosu Box

Treasure Chest

Viking Box

Cthulhu Box

While it may seem like a lot to take in when reading about it, overall the structure of D&D is very intuitive. Once you get into your first campaign the role of each die quickly falls into place and players and new DMs alike will catch on. A group can get away with a lot less than what is recommended in this article, however the more dice you have the simpler the game becomes. If you are anything like us, in short order you will have more dice than you know what to do with. There isn’t anything quite like waiting for a custom dice set and coming home one day to find it waiting for you on the porch.

If you haven’t already check out Part 1 of this series – Books here 

Next Article – Virtual Tabletop Options

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Setting Up Your First D&D Game Part 1 – The Books

Alright, so you want to start a D&D campaign with friends, but you don’t know where to start. This is completely normal and honestly it’s become one of the weirdest barriers to entry to D&D. We are going to base this article on 2 assumptions.

1. You plan to play D&D in person (online will be covered in another article)

2. You planning to play the 5e(newest) version of the game.

The Dungeons and Dragons books are the #1 resource for any Dungeon Master (DM) and his players. They will guide you through everything from setting up your world to level progression to monster scaling. The purchase you want to make first is the D&D Starter Set

Included:
I. Your First Adventure Book – you absolutely do not want to start off your DM career trying to create your own world.

II. A rule book for playing characters 1-5 – This is important because while D&D is a very open RPG, the rules keep things within a somewhat reasonable realm.

III. 6 Dice – A full dice set. It’s easier when everyone has their own set of dice and I recommend you get them sooner rather than later, but this will get you started.

IV: 5 Pre-build characters – Arguably the best part of playing D&D is creating your own character with it’s specific and unique backstory. However, the first time you play it is easier to use one of these until you get the hang of how everything works.

The starter set will get the ball rolling. It is designed to be used with 4-6 players, so I would recommend staying in that range for the time being. The included first adventure also means no need for self designed worlds/monsters/etc. during your first play through.

Now that you have the starter set, and your initial characters in order you can start looking at optional items.

The first of these is the 5th edition DM Screen

I recommend you pick up the DM screen for 2 reasons. The first is that hiding your notes/dice rolls from players adds to the role playing aspect of the game. The second is that the inside is populated with wonderful tools such as lists of magical items, optional game rules, and more. These tools come in handy when something unexpected happens in the game, or you decide to throw a bone to a player with an item drop. For the $15 that it costs it adds that much in value in just a few adventures.

Aside from the DM screen and the Starter Set Wizard of the Coast (D&D’s founders) offer a plethora of other books to augment your experience. Note: These books are best purchased after your initial adventure, when you plan to take a deeper dive into the D&D universe. They allow for things like character and world creation, monster design, level scaling, bosses, additional rules and guidelines, and more. The 3 additional books are as follows, in order of importance.

1. The Players Handbook

 

The players handbook is kind of like bumpers for character design. It will outline the different classes/races, it will also help you to understand character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. It provides nitty gritty information on things like traits and sub-classes, and delves into skill allotment. I would say this book stands as the hands down most important core text outside the starter set. The book should be kept at the table at all times when playing as a reference for the DM and players alike. In terms of building your own characters the PHB is essential for getting the most out of your designs.

2. Monster Manual

This is your bible when it comes to putting together encounters in your first few adventures outside of the pre-scripted modules. If you are not planning to create your own worlds and populate them, this can be pushed to #3. If you are planning to try your hand at world creation though this book is a dictionary of potential monsters. The beautiful part of this book is that it also provides lore for monsters as well. The added lore makes role playing the monsters and creating a rich story line much easier. If you are very creative and understand balance quite well you may be able to get away without this one, but I don’t recommend it.

3. Dungeon Masters Manual

The Dungeon Master’s Manual is the book you will want on your shelf when you want to nail down a new world. This book is arguably of the same importance as the MM in this regard. The book will give you access to the following:

I. Optional game rules and guidelines. – These are perfect for adding an interesting twist, or personalizing your world. They allow you to guide players into certain decisions and challenge them to figure out the secrets to the world they are in.

II. A list of magical items – These are great for giving drops based on percentage dice rolls. Maybe you want to give your players a chance to find something very valuable with a little RNG. This book will give you the ability to do those kinds of things.

III. Tips and Tricks directly from WOTC on how to build dungeons and engineer the right experience. The designers that created D&D are a great resource to learn from, and they pass along a lot of sage knowledge in this book.

Optional Books/Resources

While the above are going to be the core of every D&D adventure for the most part, there are still other books and resources that might be valuable to you.

Dungeon Masters Guild
A collection of fan inspired worlds, monsters, adventures, and more. This site is run directly by WOTC, and items range in price from free to quite expensive. This is a great resource if you get stuck trying to flesh out a certain part of your world, or just want a unique encounter. The community for this site is very strong and growing, and you can expect new content on a consistent basis.

Pre-Designed Campaigns

If you are like many DMs and simply don’t have the time to sit down and create an entire world from the ground up then these modules are your best bet. Each one comes with everything you will need to get your players immersed into a brand new adventure. They range in time and difficulty so be sure to read a little into them before purchasing.

Tales From the Yawning Portal
Storm Kings Thunder
Curse of Strahd
Out of the Abyss
Princes of the Apocalypse
The Rise of Tiamat
Hoard of the Dragon Queen
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

There are more, and we will be doing an in depth review of all of these adventures in the coming weeks. With this many adventures at your fingertips, plus all the fan created ones at Dungeon Masters Guild, you shouldn’t be running out of them anytime soon.

This info should get you off to a quick start, and provide you with all the information you need for a great introduction to D&D. In the next article we will be covering dice, their roll (pun intended) in D&D, different types, and what you want to have on hand during your adventure.

Go To Part 2