This past weekend I was at PAX Unplugged, and I am glad I got to go. I got to play in my very first Call of Cthulhu game. I had fun with a new character in D&D. I met a gamer I had previously only interacted with online. I even met a fellow Captain Hammer. They even had a diversity lounge with some really cool people. And of course, I snagged some awesome stuff in the dealer’s hall. It was really great.
Will I be back next year? I don’t know. Why? Short answer: poor organization. I was there most of Friday (arriving around 1 pm instead of the 10am open), and I didn’t get to play in a single game. Zero. None. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. I checked in at the D&D AL desk and they were full for the next 6 hours. Other games, no open spots on the wait list. I stood in a few lines to get any game I could only to have the available games fill up before I got to the front.
Why didn’t I sign up online beforehand? There wasn’t any. No, I’m not kidding. They did not do any kind of official online preregistration before the convention started. Need proof to believe me?
That is the “queue room” 20 minutes before we we’re allowed to sign up for role playing games Saturday morning. Note, this doesn’t include minis gamers or board gamers. I got in that line 2 hours beforehand, and I was not the first. I got into three games that day. Considering the number of games available, most of the people in that room didn’t get to sign up for games in advance.
This brings me to my second complaint: there just weren’t enough games. When I asked an “enforcer” (their name for one of the super polite staffers and/or volunteers), they said they underestimated the popularity of the games. There really needed to be double the space for RPGs. I can’t speak to board gamers or minis gamers as to whether they had enough space for their games since I didn’t check them out all weekend.
At the end of the day, these are rookie mistakes, and they can certainly be forgiven even if one could have simply Googled “how to run a tabletop convention” and get solutions to these issues. The Pathfinder/Starfinder Society crew saw PAX Unplugged’s setup and decided to use Warhorn on their own to schedule their games; I did not hear of similar issues from them. The Google link above has Tabletop.Events on it’s first page. Both of these services allow for people to sign up for games beforehand and would have solved the above mentioned issues. They both do their job extremely well, and I cannot recommend them enough to anyone running a convention, no matter what size. Had they used either of these (or one of their own creation), they could have discovered how popular RPGs (and other types of games) was going to be and shift resources accordingly.
Will I be back? Not unless these have some type of online pre-registration for events. Waking up before I normally wake up for the day job to get in a 2 hour line is not exactly my definition of fun. If they do get some kind of pre-reg system in place, will I then? In a heartbeat. I got to see lots new games and familiar faces, roll dice and slay monsters, and it was 11 hours closer to me than GenCon. I just don’t want to have to wait in 2+ hour lines for a game again, not when I can just click a few buttons and have a guaranteed spot.
Final thought: I want to give a shout out to the enforcers. They we’re kind and patient and did EVERYTHING they could to help upset gamers. They made things run as smooth as they could with what they had to work with. Every last one if them deserves a round of applause. Thank you for your part in making the convention as great as it was.