A Gaming Convention Survival Kit
by Elisa Ford
No Funyuns? No Mountain Dew?!|
So you're off to a big con. You have a ride, a room and a free badge since you'll be GMing. You know your game, you have the dice... but do you have the gear? For at least three days you'll be on a solid schedule of no sleep, junk food and partying. Fun stuff, but you'll feel like garbage come Monday if you don't try to take care of yourself a little. Having done the con thing for a few years now, there's a few things I always throw in a backpack and keep with me at all times to make my con experience a little smoother. For common sense's sake, I'm leaving out things that everyone knows to buy/ bring (caffeine) and things you'd have in your purse anyhow (cel phones, wallet). Modify as needed, but this is my bare bones list of must-brings.
Chap Stick: It's dry in convention centers thanks to those mega monkey HVAC systems most of them have. Summer ones blast you with cold, dry air, winter ones with hot, dry air and if you're lucky enough to be at oh, say, Dragoncon, it's just hot and dry most of the time anyhow. I suppose you could substitute lipstick, but honestly, who wants to screw around with makeup?
Lotion: Did I mention the dryness? I prefer subtly scented lotions, because lets face it: Cons don't need yet another smell to add to the funk symphony.
Sports Drink: You will have to drink something else besides caffeinated beverages while conning. Sure, it keeps you awake, but caffeine is dehydrating too. Besides, with its faux "red" or "lemon lime" flavoring and a Multi-Vitamin, you can pretend it's really fruit juice.
Hoodie: Think layers. Remember that HVAC system I mentioned? While it could be roasting outside, the temps in your game space are sub zero thanks to poor air circulation and just crappy luck. Shivering for four hours is no way to spend your game.
Multi-Vitamin: Because that handful of stale Doritos does not count as your daily veggie, even if they were Cool Ranch flavored. On a serious note, check to make sure you're not overdoing any vitamins if you plan on taking my advice on Meal Bars too.
Extra dice: Somebody will forget them. Somebody will accidentally pocket them. Do you really want to wait for them to "be right back" from the dealer's area?
Extra pencils: Sharp ones. With erasers. It seems like a tiny thing, but it makes a GM's life so much easier.
Sticky Notes: Your players will want to tell you thing. Things the other PCs shouldn't know about. Maybe they just want to draw you little pictures of Boba Fett. Get multiple colors to keep track of who's doing what and tack ‘em to your GM screen.
Giant Eraser: Because money, hit points and sanity will only last so long.
Notepad (small): "Ok... write down, in order, what ya'll are going to buy from that merchant/ throw in the cauldron/ assemble from all those stolen body parts."
Notepad (big): "Show me exactly where you were standing when the meteor hit on this improvised map."
GM Screen: They should never know you were that merciful when they botched.
Meal Bars: So your game ran a little late. You missed dinner. You just found out that you're at GenCon Indy, where all the food places close early. Or perhaps you've got higher standards of dining than mystery cheese goo over chips, but there's only 10 minutes between games and that's all the food vendor's got. Maybe you're a vegan. In Milwaukee. There will be some point in the con where you will be starving and food is not available. Coolers are bulky and likely to be raided if you leave them out in a public place. Meal bars are small, don't need a fridge and are much better for you than that stale, overpriced vending machine garbage.
Gum: Sometimes, the urge to scream at your players is overwhelming. Distract yourself with a nice piece of gum. Go sugar free and you'll be doing your teeth a favor.
Earplugs: Why yes, your roommate does snore.
Blindfold: Did I mention she's nocturnal too? That's right. Your roomie is a raccoon. It's time to switch away from whatever company you've been running demos for, but in the mean time, creating your own personal darkness will help.
Pain killers: You should have stopped at the 5th shot of Yaeger, but it's too late for regrets now. Spare yourself the frustration and don't get a bottle with a safety cap.
Cough drops: At larger cons, you will be yelling. A lot. Your players might be sensible, good people and you will still yell. When you pack 40 or so people into one big room these things happen no matter how much you tell the guy running Toon at the other table to SHUT UP. Anyway...by Sunday your voice will be shot if you don't take precautions. Since hot tea is a rarity, stock up on the super-medicated cough drops. Yeah, they taste gross, but the sweet, blissful numbness is well worth it. A big bonus is that when all you can smell is the menthol, the scent of unwashed gamer at its "last con day" ripeness goes unnoticed.