Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
Maybe you're lucky enough to have a regular gaming group, but you'd like to try something different. Or maybe you don't have a local gaming group, and are eager to do any role playing at all. Or maybe you're new to the idea of role playing, and want a way to try out lots of different games.
A role playing convention is just the thing.
A convention is a gathering of enthusiasts, a way to immerse yourself in the hobby and try different games and systems. It's a place where some of the people will dress up as their favorite characters, while others will spend the entire weekend in the same clothes. It's a place where you can have patient GMs teach you how to play their favorite system. A place where you can try something absolutely new at no risk. A place to stretch yourself, because you won't see most of these people again (at least not until next year).
Finding a suitable convention is usually the hard part.
There are the big names, Origins and Gen Con. I really should list those in the opposite order, since Gen Con is bigger than Origins, but Origins is the one I go to every year without fail.
Both are conventions where over ten thousand gaming enthusiasts come to meet new people, renew old friendships, play new games, and generally have the time of their lives for a few days. If you can't find it happening at one of these conventions, then it probably isn't happening.
The big name conventions can be a bit intimidating at first, due to the sheer number of people involved. They're actually very newbie-friendly, though, and many games don't require any previous experience.
Local gaming conventions are another possibility. They're generally smaller, although you may not find as many newbie-friendly activities, depending on the convention. The benefit of a local gaming convention is that you'll run into more people who live in the same area as you, so it's easier to make local contacts.
Finding local role playing conventions is sometimes difficult, though.
The web is one resource. Jenga's convention list isn't updated very much, but it does show a lot of conventions that once existed. Knowing the name of a convention is often enough to help you track it down elsewhere. You can also go to the websites of popular gaming companies and find their convention schedule. Steve Jackson Games, for example, is often at local gaming conventions.
If you're willing to do some leg work, local comic shops and gaming shops are great places to ask for help. Find a store that sells role playing books, and the chances are good that someone there will know all about the local conventions.
Whether you go to a local convention or one of the big names, do yourself a favor and try something new. Sure, it's fun to go and play your favorite games, but you can usually do that with your own gaming group.
Gaming conventions are a great place to try something brand new, and have a lot of fun!