Gencon My first GenCon GM Experience

So the year 2020 has been terrible for traditional mass gatherings at conventions, the last successful one I attended in person was Airecon, just two weeks before lockdown.

However, the bright spot with conventions moving online since, is that I finally attended my first GenCon, albeit only virtually. I ran three games that are in the Premier League on my bookshelf, Star Trek Adventures, and also Robert E. Howard's Conan, plus my absolute best, Coriolis The Third Horizon. I was fortunate enough to have all my games sold out, though, I sent the game offerings a bit late in the cycle, with Star Trek the first to go and the demand for even more.

To make things simpler for myself, I decided against using both Roll20 and Discord, and just settled on a simple Discord play model, with bots like the DiceMaiden and Tallybot to track dice rolls and tokens like Momentum for the 2d20 games. Also to make it easier to play in character, I kindly asked the participants to change nicknames to those of the characters in play for each game, and also created different chat channels and voice channels for each game, with a special dice rolling channel to avoid clogging up the games information channels. Images of encounters and maps were shared in the game specific channels.

An often, overlooked challenge, with running virtual games is keeping tabs on the messages and tickets, and helping players connect to those channels, and even other other things like only posting connection links to the game within certain time frames, one to avoid rogues entering the Discord server, but still timely enough for the authenticated Players to peruse.

Another challenge with running GenCon, though boasting an international audience, the official timezones of game listings are done in U.S. Eastern Time, so about five hours behind the U.K. That worked well for Star Trek which I ran on Friday, since one of my regular Rogue Trader players, could join after work, 7pm U.K. time. Inspired by the free Kobayashi Maru adventure booklet from Modiphius, I redesigned the scenario to play on some tropes from The Next Generation TV Series (the one that marked my childhood). Fortunately, the players thoroughly enjoyed with my unique spin on those tropes. Hence, it was great to have a successful start to Gen Con 2020.

On Saturday, I ran the Conan game, but with me suffering some fatigue from running Star Trek after work late into the night, I did not send an early reminder to the Players who signed up, something like twelve hours before play. I just sent it about four hours before the game, and one of the Players was impatient so dropped out. The game offered some interesting themes, with me being of the minority allowed me to GM appropriately when we dabbled into the racial divide of Shumballah, with the fair skinned ruling Chaga and the darker skinned Gala servants, my Players having picked characters from The Black Kingdoms (

In terms of online booking and organisation, having learned lesson from the previous day about early communication, I sent out the Discord invites for Coriolis over twelve hours before the game, but then some of the Players did not follow that link on time and it expired. Those that did prompted me to re-send the link for those who messaged on the GM Dashboard they encountered expired links, so I sorted those out.

My personal highlight was my Sunday's Coriolis game. One of the Players was going to GM another game right after, but enjoyed the Coriolis game so much he waited till we finished all the after game montage sequences with just three minutes for him to setup his own virtual game later.

A core reasons I thoroughly enjoy running Coriolis, is that the themes of Middle-East cultures and high technology reminds me of my work back home, when I lived in a mostly northern Muslim dominant culture working in technology as the I. T. Manager of a large local airline business. The names come readily to my mind, and the whole concept of regular prayers is something that was common at the office where I worked, with even the international airport having a prayer room, something I also witnessed when I travelled to Libya.

And so, here is the snapshot of the welcome pack for the Coriolis game from Gen Con 2020 Online (with a little homage to Alien).

One thing I still notice in almost every game I run across many conventions over several years now, is that the ratio of male to female players, organically, still tilts towards more male players. Hence, I have dispensed with the silly attempt at trying to create those Starter RPG Boxsets with gender parity character sheets, and instead continue my own style of a two thirds male to female ratio, which works nicely, since many male players who join my games show little enthusiasm for playing female characters even if those have cool powers. We did not even get to play out the fun relationships that Coriolis offers, despite me modeling a bit of the Captain Rahman Bin'Hassan and Aleesha Al-Maliki crew dynamics on the Firefly TV series of Malcom Reynolds and Zoe Washburne.

Coriolis the RPG is the Fria Ligan game I enjoy most personally, in that I can bring in tropes from many favourite Sci-Fi TV shows and model them around the Persian Cultural Religious Techno Futurism of Coriolis.