Dec 02

AcadeCon 2017 – Fifth Edition, in review

AcadeCon 2017 – Fifth Edition

 

For some reason the first words that came to my mind when I started to think about what I would write concerning this most recent AcadeCon were the lyrics from a Bob Dylan song: For the times they are a-changin’.  It might be because I recently re-watched Watchmen (a movie I think is brilliant and under rated, but also curse b/c Zack Snyder seems to think this is the blueprint for his version of the DC movies – but I digress) or it could be that things might actually be a-changin’ with AcadeCon.

If you’ve followed me on Social Media or hung out with us on our live Twitch stream where we discussed this year’s AcadeCon then you probably already know that I had some conflicting thoughts about the future of AcadeCon.  To be blunt, if you had asked me on the Thursday before AcadeCon if there would be one in 2018 I would have said no.  If you asked me the same question on Sunday, I would have said yes!   If you ask me now – I’m saying probably.

Without going into the crazy nitty-gritty of it all, just let me say that working on AcadeCon this year was very time consuming for me.  Much more so than any of the prior years and frankly I’m unable or unwilling to do it again – but since AcadeCon there has been an outpouring of support from our community as well as the Faculty and Network members offering to help take some responsibilities off my plate.  I do not doubt for a second the sincerity of these offers, but there are some practicality issues to consider –  but, assuming we are able to get those distributions of labor worked out, there will be an AcadeCon in 2018. (and if not, there will still likely be an AcadeCon next year, but it may look very different).

While we do not have an accurate count of attendance, I think we can safely say we had 500+ people at this year’s event. Sure, that includes our Faculty members, Special Guests and Vendors, but that’s still a lot of people, especially considering our growth from our 1st public event (120 or so) and then our 2nd public event (approx. 330).  I had set a goal of 500 people for this year and even with some fuzzy math and guestimations – I’m confident we got there.  It didn’t look good for a long while, but a run on badges via Eventbrite in the final two weeks was the push we needed to get over the top.

AcadeCon 2017 had more of everything; more people, more vendors, more Special Guests and more events.  And while there were some hiccups (the table numbering system was a big fail and the scheduling system was buggy) most the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.  People love AcadeCon.

There’s a small part of me that wonders why (the same part that wonders why anyone l listens to our show or why in the world ANY ONE would donate money to us for it) but really, I get it – AcadeCon is the convention I would want to go to. And I’m not the only one.

AcadeCon is very focused on RPGs. I mean, sure I like board games and seem to be getting into them more and more all the time (partially by how much easier it is to get a board game to the table vs. an RPG and the lack

of effort/time/energy it requires of me to do so), but my first love will always be Role-Playing games.  The community we’ve built around our show and this event are world class awesome people.  Also, world class GMs and players, but people first. People seem to genuinely like the other people that are there, or are at least willing/able to fake it for the weekend!

Do you like podcasts?  Because we have the podcasts – for an event our size we have a mind-boggling number of RPG podcasters that attend. Each one brings some of their audience with them and their audience seems to be our kind of people.  It also helps show how integrated the RPG Podcast community can be.

While we do have pre-registration for events there is no per-game cost. I don’t fault other Cons for doing that, it makes good business sense, but I don’t want to ever get into a situation where we need to do that. I’d rather raise the badge price (foreshadowing) than do that.  My goal from the very start was to make AcadeCon feel like it was a gaming weekend you’d have with your own friends/gaming group.  Paying per seat (IMO) is discordant to that feel, so as long as I’m in charge (famous last words) we will not do that.

 

From top to bottom, AcadeCon was a success this year.  We had our largest ever attendance, we made more profit then before (still not nearly enough for the work we put into it sure, but it’s a nice bonus) and from an organizational standpoint it ran very smoothly.  I think a large part of that is due to us learning from our past success and mistakes. It reminds me a lot of our audio quality progress for the podcast. We’d figure out how to do it well and then change a few things and have hiccups and then figure out the best process for the new set up, rinse and repeat.

 

But enough prattling, what the about the games?!!?  Well, you may need to ask someone else.  One of the big changes we’re hoping to implement

for future years is freeing up the Faculty and myself in particular from being tied to the desks and otherwise be needed to run things.  I played in one game back at the lodge in 2015. I got to play Ultimate Scheme with Rich Baker as well as friends of the show – Erik & Rachel. But . . . I’m not sure I’ve played in a game at AcadeCon since, but I can talk about the events I ran.

Scooby Doo Dread – okay, I LOVE THIS GAME.  Scooby Dread has become a staple of my convention experience. I’ve ran it now 6-8 times with basically no changes to the premise.  I can’t say much about it without giving it all away, but I was so happy and impressed with my players this year (John as Velma, Dani as Shaggy, Gina as Daphne and Jason as Fred) and how they inhabited the characters and jumped into the scenario with both feet, and are the first group to solve the mystery before the big reveal – I’m already excited about running it again.

Introduction to DMing D&D – Network member Chris Burlew (from the Redemption podcast) and I did our Intro to DMing D&D panel on Saturday morning.  We, along with Taylor (who was supposed to be there – we missed you Taylor!!)  did a version of it at GenCon this past year for 50-60 people.  Panels have not done well attendance wise at AcadeCon (with a few exceptions) but we ended up with about 15-18 people and I thought it went very well. I had assumed we’d run short since we had lost a 1/3 of our panelist, but shocker, we actually ran long. As a panelist, it’s always great to see people nodding along as you make a point, or better yet laugh when you make a joke.  I had one guest say they entire reason they came to AcadeCon is because they saw that this panel was on the schedule.

Dragon’s Spine.  I’ve been tinkering with developing a ‘my first adventure’ adventure for D&D 5e. The idea being that the module would come with a lot of extra information to help a first-time DM run the game.  It’s a very simple adventure; little role play, a (hopefully) interesting but simple combat. More role play. A skill challenge and then a dungeon crawl with a solid set up to a part two that the fledgling DM would write themselves.  All the elements a solid first D&D adventure may have – and with ‘how to’ notes sprinkled throughout.  I’ve ran the adventure several times now and I’m very happy with it and it does what it’s supposed to do, I just need to finish the ‘how to’ parts – but the most exciting part of this for me, is one of the players at this table was a young lady (I’m terrible with ages, but I’m gonna guess she was 14). Her and her Dad had been in the panel I mentioned above and they chatted with me afterward for a bit.  He’s been out of RPGs for a while, but getting back into them with her and she’s been nominated as the GM for her friend group who want to play.  Didn’t know at the time she was in my game, but recognized her when we sat down.  From the jump, she was excited and enthusiastic; Role playing and just generally being awesome.  She had two really great moments during the game and while I don’t wanna short change any of the other players (really, they were all great. Justin, Amanda, 3rd player who’s name I don’t remember – you were all fantastic).

I got an email a couple days after AcadeCon from her Father who shared how much she enjoyed that game, how excited she was about RPGs and how happy/thankful he was to me and the show –  and that right there was one of the big reasons why I want to find a way to keep AcadCon going! (I heard: FOR THE CHILDREN! In my head, but really bringing new people into the hobby and re-igniting the old passion for it is why our podcast exists).

Okay, I lied. I did get to play a game at AcadeCon 2018.  On Saturday evening while the evening sessions were going it was really slow at the registration /game library desks so we pulled up a table and a few of us Faculty people played Dragonfire. It was nice!

As I’ve said before, the feedback, besides a few hiccups, has been effusive and uplifting.  I want AcadeCon to be a thing forever. I want it to grow as big as it can and still be AcadeCon. I want it to be a thing that people look forward to all year and wistfully remember for weeks after it ends.

Regardless of my wants for the future I need to thank the people that helped make this year a success. If this year had been a disaster or even just a bit underwhelming, then the likelihood of another one would be diminished.  I’m already close to five pages and if I took the time to properly thank everyone this would easily double the page count. So, let me group my thanks together –

To our Special Guests who gave up their weekend to come to our tiny convention in the bustling metropolis of Dayton, Ohio and lent us your gravitas – Thank you!

To all our corporate sponsors who donated money to help ensure we had the finances we needed to make everything work – Thank you!

To all our merchandise sponsors who donated a ton of prizes to keep our massive prize raffle massive – Thank you!

To our table topper sponsors who donated money in exchange for a small advertisement on our tables – Thank you!

To everyone who donated money for no other reason than to help us out – Thank you!

To our Vendors who support us with your presence, who had to bring your stuff in the front door because the DCC staff are weird about the strangest things. Thank you! (and I hope you made some money!)

To everyone who bought a GM badge because you wanted to run events and make our players laugh, or cry, or shiver with fright or agonize over the morality of their decisions, or maybe just share/teach a game you love with someone new – Thank you!

To all our players who bought badges because they had faith AcadeCon was going to be amazing (and they were right) – Thank you!

To our VIPs – what’s wrong with you people?  There is no way a badge was worth that much!! – but, still – Thank You!

To my family to allowed me to put in the time I needed to make sure AcadeCon happened and ran as smoothly as it did – Thank you!

And lastly and most importantly – to the RPG Academy Faculty:  (Michael F., Brad, Nick, Travis, Ryan, Rocky, Jared, Caleb, Tressa, Scott and Jenny as well as our Network Peeps who helped before and/or during the event – Kendall, Chris, Quinten) – THANK YOU!    All the planning and effort would have been meaningless if each of you didn’t do your parts.  AcadeCon wouldn’t have happened without you and frankly AcadeCon wouldn’t be AcadeCon without you.

If this was the last AcadeCon (it wasn’t) then it would be a fitting farewell.  If there will be more Acadecons (there will) then this year was a great step forward and I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

Thank you all again, especially for anyone who actually read all this.  If I left anyone out, please know it was a mistake of my head and not my heart.

I hope we will be able to announce definitive plans about AcadeCon 2018 soon.  As soon as I know, you’ll know.

Michael

P.S.

Here is a link to a volunteer survey form. If you’d like to volunteer some time/effort to help ensure AcadeCon 2018 happens, complete the survey and we’ll be in touch once we’ve finalized our plans.

 

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