Running a Successful Dungeons & Dragons Convention in Your Library
I recently ran our first Dungeons & Dragons Convention in the high school library that I manage. It was aimed at students ages 11–19 and it was a huge success. I’ve written before on how Dungeons & Dragons can improve literacy, bring new users to the library, and more. I’ve even written a book for librarians on the benefits of the game for teens and how to run sessions in libraries.
Our convention was fairly low-key compared to “official” Dungeons & Dragons Cons, but it brought in a lot of new faces to the library and ended up being one of our most popular library programmes we have run this year. I had a huge amount of fun running the convention, it was a lot of work but more than worth it. We had a huge amount of students take part along with teachers who came to play. It was a unique experience where we had teachers being players with student Dungeon Masters (DMs). The library was filled with laughter, cheers, and hilarious antics, I cannot wait to run another one in the future.
If you are thinking of running a Dungeons & Dragons convention, here are some of the things I did to ensure it was successful!
Use the Same One-Shot
You may be thinking, “what’s a one-shot?” It’s simply a Dungeons & Dragons adventure that can be completed from beginning to end in two to four hours, sometimes more. This is never a guarantee, though, because games can go much longer based on the improvisational nature of the game itself. We had four groups, and each group was running the same one-shot adventure set in a dangerous series of tunnels that contained vicious monsters and amazing treasure. The benefit of everyone running the same adventure is that it makes it easier on you as an organiser as you can help your Dungeon Masters prepare without having to pour over four or five different adventures. It’s also a lot of fun to compare notes at the end because trust me, each table will have much different results.
Let Teens be DMs
This made a big difference, we had three teen DMs and one adult DM, a teacher here at the school. One of the teens even helped the teacher prepare as it was their first time being a Dungeon Master. The other teachers were players. I recommend this as it is a very interesting and unique experience for teachers to be “taught” by their students. It’s also kind of surreal to see a math teacher in a D&D group with five 11-year-olds, all strategizing together, working out the puzzles, fighting bad guys, cheering when they succeeded, and laughing hysterically together when they failed. Letting teens be in charge of this also greatly improves their confidence when they have an adult that teaches them hanging on their every word.
Food + Music For the Win
I brought some snacks for the groups, chips and pop. Amazingly, one of the teens’ parents made small cakes for everyone which was greatly appreciated! I asked at one point if anyone needed a break, but nobody wanted to stop playing, which was really fun to see. I had music playing in the background, just ambience that is related to fantasy movies as well as more ominous music as the game was set in a dark tunnel with hideous monsters. It helped set the mood and I could tell the students really liked it!
I was lucky to have some Dungeons & Dragons things to give away, so I held a raffle. Everyone who attended the event had their name entered into the raffle to win some prizes. These don’t have to be big. I also had a lot of d20s, the large dice used in many aspects of D&D. I ensured that everyone who attended received a free dice and had a chance to win some prizes. It was a big event at the end where we held the raffle. It might also act as an incentive to play, although you probably won’t need any!
Run it on a Saturday
This might not be easy for everyone involved, but it does make it much easier overall. If you are in a public library, it’s probably not an issue, but it could be if you are in a school library. You could also run it after school, but what’s important is that you set aside at least four hours for the event. Ours ran nearly five hours once it was all said and done. One teacher remarked “I’ve never seen that many hours fly by so quickly,” and that is the magic of this game: it does steal time away, mainly because you are having so much fun. Always ensure you have permissions from parents as well, as four to five hours is a big commitment on a Saturday.
There you have it, everything you need to start your own D&D convention. My goal in the future is to bring in other teachers as special guest DMs and have of course more prizes!