GTM #210 - Tricks of the Game Trade - Tip #16
by Jon Leitheusser

It’s convention season again, so here are some tips (taken from last summer’s Tricks of the Game Trade all about attending conventions). This recap is much shorter than the original article, but the tips are still good and should help you have a better convention-going experience!

#1. Plan, But Stay Flexible: Plan a few events, seminars, and games you want to attend ahead of time, but leave yourself plenty of room to do other things, such as play demos, eat, shop, or whatever else sounds like fun.

#2. Be Prepared to Move Around ... A Lot: Whether you’re talking about running out to get some food, heading to another game or seminar, or getting to and from wherever you’re staying, there’s a lot of distance to cover, so either give yourself extra time or try to get in shape before the show!

#3. Take Care of Yourself: Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, keep clean, try not to touch more people than you absolutely need to (fist bumps are good!), and, if you’re of age, don’t drink (too much). 

#4. Be On Your Best Behavior: Understand that everyone is dealing with the massive crowds and no one enjoys it. There’s no need to scream and yell. It’s not appropriate to touch people without their permission. And if you want a picture of someone who’s cosplaying, ask them if you can take their picture and do it outside high traffic areas.

#5. Things to Bring with You: A backpack or bag that’s filled with dice, paper, pencils, and a game or three. Water or a water bottle. Some cash. Hand sanitizer. Gum or mints. Snacks.

#6. Play Some New Games: Publishers are there to sell games after all, so take advantage of that by setting aside some time to check out some things you’ve been curious about, but didn’t want to buy without playing them. Or, find the convention’s gaming library and dig in!

#7. Shop on Thursday... or Sunday: The best day to browse is Thursday, because not everyone has shown up yet, and it’s as easy to get around as it’s going to get. The worst day is Saturday. If you prefer to wait to make your purchases, that’s fine, but some of the things you want may be sold out later in the weekend. If you really want something, buy it when you find it, because it may not be there later.

#8. Don’t Carry All the Things All the Time: It’s no fun to carry around a 30-pound backpack all day, so give yourself a break and offload everything you’re not using. Bonus Tip: Don’t buy anything at the convention that you can pick up at home from your FLGS.

#9. Remember to Eat: Leave some time to get food, particularly outside the venue; it will be less expensive and better quality.

#10. Confused or Lost? Ask for Help: If you’re lost, confused about where something is, or just need help, go to any volunteer or even someone working at one of the booths in the dealers’ room and ask for assistance.

Fantasy & Science-Fiction & Roleplaying

Looking at every edition of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s easy to see how fantasy and science-fiction writing affected its creators and influenced their design of the game. The inclusion of elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and much more was absolutely drawn from Tolkien’s work and the magic of D&D has often been described as “Vancian” because of its similarities to the sort of magic used in the stories of Jack Vance. Barbarians with their lack of armor, martial skill, and overall toughness is clearly a call back to Conan and similar characters created by Robert E. Howard.

So, it should come as no surprise to see that there’s a new supplement coming from Modiphius for their Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of roleplaying game— Conan the Thief. Rather than concentrating on the barbaric aspects of the setting, this sourcebook gives GMs and players the chance to learn more about thievery and the underworld of the Hyborian Age, in which Conan spent a good portion of his (fictional) life.

If you’re looking for a good resource to make the dark, dangerous streets of your game more interesting, then Conan the Thief is an excellent choice. It offers advice on heists, traps, watchmen, and monsters, as well as spells and treasures to tempt and tantalize players.

Certainly, Conan the Thief will be most useful to someone running Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of roleplaying game, but it should also prove useful to gamers looking to emulate the sword & sorcery feel of the Conan stories, especially those centered around larceny. In addition, if you’re a fan of Conan, the book also offers information about a number of locations frequented by thieves, from Shadizar to Zamora.

Another Classic Revisited

Those of you interested in exploring or re-exploring one of the most infamous dungeons of all time should definitely take a look at the Tomb of Annihilation for the 5th Edition of D&D. Inspired by the Tomb of Horrors, this adventure takes players from the streets, where a plague is afflicting people from all walks of life; a wasting disease that slowly weakens the victim and, most importantly, prevents them from being raised from the dead!

In a world in which magic is “normal”, the fact that one of the most powerful spells no longer works is a major concern, so the player characters need to find out what’s going on. This adventure takes the heroes far to the south of the Forgotten Realms to Chult, a peninsula surrounded by mountains and rainforests where they need to find out what’s going on and return the Realms to how it ought to be.

Unlike the Tomb of Horrors, this adventure hasn’t been designed to kill the player characters, outright. Instead, it’s designed to take the players from 1st to 11th level. It contains an entire campaign’s worth of adventure in the jungles of Chult. Plus, it includes classic (and formerly very cheezy) monsters such as the zorbo, the froghemoth, su monsters, and even zombie dinosaurs that vomit zombies!

If you’re interested in playing in “hard mode,” there are rules options for making the game even deadlier. This adventure should live up to expectations, while still making your campaign fun, challenging, and interesting. Plus, there’s tons of information on Chult in general, so if you want to use it as part of your sandbox-style campaign, there’s plenty of details to make that possible.

Among the Aliens

One of the biggest releases in the world of roleplaying games this year is Paizo’s Starfinder. The last couple of columns included some information about the core rules and its first Adventure Path. This month sees the release of the Starfinder Alien Archive, which is packed with more than 80 new races GMs can use as NPCs or adversaries and players can use as character options.

Given that Starfinder is set in space, it only makes sense that there are myriad aliens to encounter, and the Alien Archive provides a stable of space-faring races to choose from. In addition, the book includes rules for creating your own creatures and races, so you can come up with exactly the sort of creature you’d like to play—whether it’s an original creation or an homage to an alien race from your favorite science-fiction book, movie, or television program.

Unlike the multiple Bestiary volumes that have been released for Pathfinder, the Alien Archive should be popular among players and GMs alike. That’s a real boon, because, typically, the books that are useful to GMs don’t usually contain much that the players will find beneficial. Here, however, is a soucebook that allows everyone at the table to come up with exciting and interesting new aliens. The freedom to customize your play experience at the table is a great thing, and if you’re playing Starfinder, you should definitely take advantage of it!

Take It To the Tabletop

If you’re hitting up some conventions this summer, have a great time and take care of yourself. While you’re there, check out some of the great, new roleplaying games being released and, if you can, play through a demo. Any of the books discussed above would be a blast, so have fun and go game!

Jon Leitheusser is a writer, editor, and game developer. He published the Dork Tower comic book, was the HeroClix game designer for years, was a content designer for Champions Online and Neverwinter, was the Mutants & Masterminds game developer for Green Ronin from 2008 to 2016, and freelances for a number of different companies. He cut his gaming teeth on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and still games twice a week with his friends online or in person.