The NEON group started a blog with different members writing about different aspects of organizing a gaming event. We published on The Grand Alliance forum with a series of short articles featuring "how to" tips for planning and running an event, covering things like making sure you have enough terrain to getting your players registered. We wanted to keep topics generalized and not just specifically for the Coalescence global narrative event, and we wanted to provide some help for new organizers that may have never run an event before.
In this series we will revisit some of those topics and consolidate the tips as a resource for new and experienced event organizers to plan better events. And these aren't just for narrative events! Many of these topics are relevant to almost any tabletop gaming event.
One of the first and perhaps most important thing to do is find and secure a venue for the date of your event, and sometimes the date may be dependent on available venues. So, here's an updated article on how to find a venue.
HOW TO FIND A VENUE
Finding a venue is the most central task of planning for your event. The location where you run the games will determine how many players you can allow to register and if you need to charge an entry fee. If you already have a club space or a friendly local gaming store, the venue may be relatively easy, and you just need to reserve the space, confirm the schedule for you event, and then move onto other planning tasks. But here are some tips for finding an event venue.
Club Space Or Local Hobby Store
- Confirm date and times with the proprietor. You may have a couple tables in a local game store where you and some regular tabletop gamers gather every Saturday, but don't assume that space will be available for your event. There can be nothing worse than showing up and expecting to play all day only to realize the store is packed with MTG players on the weekend of a big release. Be kind to your local store proprietor and just make sure you schedule the space. Also, by getting the store involved they can help with promotion and you may find a few new players attracted to the event which will, in turn, build the community and create a larger pool of opponents.
- Confirm maximum limit for attendees. You might only expect the same handful of players you know to show up for your event, but considering wider promotion, especially for a global event like Coalescence, you should prepare to have more players show up, even unregistered players dropping in the day of the event. And nobody wants to risk a fire marshal showing up the day of the event in an overcrowded hall with gaming tables blocking fire exits.
- Determine rental costs and registration fees for players. Club spaces aren't free, and your club may already charge per head count for anyone using the space. If there is going to be a cost associated with playing in your event be sure you mention that to your players. If the club or store is going to charge you a flat rental fee for the space then divide it by the number of players you expect to participate to determine an entry fee. If you end up with more players paying the day of the event, then you can use the extra cash to order some pizza! Be careful about handing out extra cash to winners as prize money: in some locations this could be against the law. If a game store is hosting for free but wants to charge a fee that will be awarded as store credit to winners then make sure you understand how their procedure works, and even better if they will handle all the cash transactions so you can focus on running the event.
- Focus on promotion, etc. If you have everything arranged with your club or game store to host your event then you can focus your attention on attracting players and running an awesome event.
- Keep your mind open and look for options. If you don't have a club or game store, not all is hopeless. Check with community organizations or public spaces which can be reserved, like a public library or even a restaurant. There are community clubs with halls they often rent out for weddings, group reunions, dances, or even gaming events. Rental costs for a space could be expensive, and you should talk with the other gamers in your community how much each of them is willing to pay as an entry fee to cover rental costs. You could also check with your public library: many libraries have meeting rooms which are used by community groups and for special events and are usually free but prohibit an organization charging entry fees. Some restaurants or food service establishments may be open to hosting an event at a nominal or no rental fee, expecting the purchase of food and beverage by gamers during a usually slow afternoon to generate revenue. Talk with the proprietor to set expectations, letting them know tables and terrain will be set up. This could be a good opportunity to establish a relationship between your gaming group and a venue where you can host future events or even a regular gaming night.
- Confirm maximum limit for attendees. Like the club or game store, every venue has a limit on space and you want to set limits for how many players will attend.
- Determine rental costs and registration fees for players. Try not to put up your own money to secure a venue, although it may be necessary to sign a contract. Make sure the number of players you expect to attend, each paying an entry fee to play, is enough to cover the costs of the rental cost. If you have cash leftover you can always order pizza for everyone! Be careful about handing out extra cash to winners as prize money: in some locations this could be against the law.
- Work on a plan for tables and terrain. The trickiest part of running an event in a library or food service establishment or even a community hall is setting up tables and terrain. All of these venues usually have tables, but they aren't likely the dimensions you need. Check with the proprietor about the feasibility of bringing in gaming tabletops to lay across the tables in the space; there may be a concern of scratching or damaging tables in the venue. Try to keep it easy: sometimes putting 2 folding tables next to each other and then spreading a tablecloth across it can make an adequate gaming space and won't require you to spend a great deal of time setting up before and taking down after the event.
Finding and scheduling a venue for your event is one of the most important parts of running a successful gaming event. Give it some thought and some planning before the date so you can focus on running and enjoying the day of the event.