My Gaming Table Set Up for RPG Conventions


Rune Priest
My Gaming Table Set Up for RPG Conventions

I do quite a bit of gaming at RPG Conventions and gaming meets. I have ran games of Firefly Cortex+, Supernatural Cortex+, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Tales from the Loop, and Things from the Flood. The games that I am running require some set up, a few props and handouts, player guides, cheat sheets, character sheets, character archetype sheets, dice, pencils, and Audio Visual displays.
That is a lot to carry around, set up, then breakdown, and put away after the game too.

I don’t use a GM Screen as I do not like putting a barrier between me and my players. I like the conversation to flow and to be open with all the people at the table. As a player I am always wary and distrustful about GMs who shield themselves behind a GM Screen, conduct their dice rolls hidden from view, as it seems to set up a confrontational game; GM vs players.
Dice rolls are done in front of everyone and they fall where they fall.

Here is a table image of my game set up ready to receive the players that I took at a recent convention, UK Games Expo 2019.

As you can see the most important item is the X-Card. I have that out at every game I run to ensure that no players has to suffer a psychological trigger or even just feel uncomfortable about a subject during the game. As the content of the games I run are teenage issues, I run games from ‘Tales from the Loop’, they may potentially touch on someone’s bad experiences. The players have characters that are kids and we often have content about bullies, bullying, children interaction, teachers, school, broken families, and homework.
Any of those subjects *could* trigger any flashback or other uncomfortable feeling or sensation.
Fortunately there has been no need for an X-Card to be used during my 28 times of running it for the public.

Of course the table is laden with character sheets for the players, crucial for their interaction with the game itself.
The Character Archetypes are next, laminated for reuse, are taken out of the Tales from the Loop book but edited for the UK setting. They are a good guide for generating characters though only a few players actually come up with their own ideas.
I have the Principles of the Loop displayed in a stand as a constant reminder. It is useful to draw attention to it if the player characters are tempted to call the police during the mystery or try and avoid the adventure completely. On the back I have the basic list guide of character generation to display and reference when we do char-gen together.
The other stand has the Pushing the Roll rules on display, including the use of Luck Points and the PC’s Pride, along with the table of dice roll probabilities as percentages.
The Cheat Sheets have the details on the skills and their use during play, a good resource to check during play as some of the skills have a few neat little tricks.

I have been using my new display technique for a lot of my images and maps, reducing the number of physical handouts. I put them into a KeyNote PowerPoint presentation on my iPad and display them to my players at the table.
You can now remotely control a Keynote presentation on an iPad or MacBook via your iPhone. I don’t have to move the iPad to interact with it so it can stay in place displaying towards the group. I can not only pull up the next slide or go back but I can select any slide in the presentation to play next.
Not only can I control the slides but also interact with them too, drawing on the slides as they are displayed. So I had my iPad displaying the presentation to the players, I controlled it from my iPhone, and I also used my iPad Pro to record and keep detailed notes.

I use Notability on my iPad Pro, a nice little app that helps with note taking. It allows you to hand write you notes in quickly, drawing diagrams, table layout, relationship maps, doodles, as well as adding photos and images to the notes too. You can edit the notes, moving, changing colour, or re-sizing diagrams or the notes themselves. I can transfer the the handwritten notes to typed form as well. It also records the session as an audio recording so I can refer back and check on how I deliver the session.

My scenario notes used to be just a few scribbled ideas and six names in a list. Now I do a little bit more prep as I have notes on the weather, news, TV shows, music, cinema, and current local occurrences at different times of the year in Derby, UK in 1984. I also have each scenario location written out and plotted as well as the motivations of the major NPCs too. In some cases I have the scenario completely written up and laid out.

The only things I handed out other than the character archetype sheets and the character sheets were the NPC cards. I like to use them as they are very tactile and the players can hand them around and indicate which NPC they are talking about.

I have also made some cards for the kids’ bicycles so that they can choose which one they want to reflect their character. I have made over forty of them so there is plenty of choice and as the game is set in Derby and Nottingham they all have to be Raleigh bikes too.

I also use casino chips to represent the game resources the players have. Blue casino chips for the Luck Points and each player gets a black casino chip each to represent the use of their Pride during the game. I like using casino chips as the players get a physical indicator of how many Game resources they have and it is always a nice moment when they are handed back to me. They are also very tactile so the players can play and fiddle with them as they consider their options.

My dice tray is yellow so it matches the table cloth unfortunately but it is a cool Star Trek one.
I have a set of Tales from the Loop dice as well as a set from Things from the Flood too. They just add to the feel of the game as the have a very touchable feel, like a waxy coating. I have found that ten dice work okay with Tales from the Loop but having more dice available for the players is good especially if they don’t have their own.

I always provide pencils for the players as they often don’t have their own at the table. A pencil sharpener is also necessary.

So this is my usual table layout and it works very well for me.
All that is required are the players!

What’s yours?

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