I promised ~dozens to write this, so here we are 😊️
A week or so ago I wrapped up the 40th instalment of a small Old School RPG convention I've run four times a year since 2012. A disclaimer here is that I didn't actually run the first one, though I was present.
But what do I mean when I say I've been running this convention? Basically I mean that I've done the administration and economy. How did I do it? By cheating, of course. The typical expenses for a convention is 1) rent, and 2) other stuff that I don't really know or care about. Maybe marketing?
As with pretty much everything in life living in Sweden is a major perk. You see the Swedish government pays some generous subsidies to a number of large organisations that in turn help bankroll smaller cultural events and community run educations within pretty much any subject imaginable. Do you want to learn how to fix broken clothes? If you can convince 5-6 other people to join you there is an organisation that can lend you a room and possibly equipment and literature needed to study it. In the same manner you can run a study group for driver license theory, Esperanto, edible plants, or even get access to a studio and maybe instruments to practice with your goth operatic death thrash folk music band.
In this manner I've been able to get access to 5+ conference rooms for free. All I had to do was send an email to someone and ask "which Saturdays next quarter are rooms available?" and pick and choose from the alternatives.
The first convention wasn't really a convention. Someone had booked a room for anyone who wanted to show off recent Old School Renaissance games and other products and discuss them. I think there was about 5-7 of us.
At the end of it someone said "could we do this again, and maybe get a couple of local game producers here and even play a session?" So I booked the room and talked to those game writers and suddenly it started to snowball. There were enough of us to fill a pretty big group and everyone agreed that it would be fun to do again but maybe we should split into two groups.
I asked the organisation for another room for next time, and they booked me three rooms and added the event to their Facebook page. Suddenly there was about 15 of us. It was sometime after that we decided to name the convention and make it a recurring thing. At this point it wasn't just me organising, though over the years I've been the only one in the organiser group to consistently be in it and for the past three or four years it's just been me.
We started to market more by just printing a few poster and setting up in nearby residential areas and the local uni. However we stopped that after that one time there were more than 50 of us and we realised that if we start growing we need to spend a lot more time and effort into the organising part.
We've kept a welcoming atmosphere and gained a reputation for being the go-to place for people who want to try out tabletop RPGs or find a group. Over the years we've had participants from the age of 7 to 50+. We've also been very open to players who can only join for a few hours during the day. If you miss the introductions you'll have to join a group that has room for you. Usually there are a few henchmen characters in the group and you get to run one of them. If you have to leave early you're character can often become a henchman for the remainder of the session. It's all very relaxed.
Again, I've cheated. The general thing we've done is that we all assemble in the lobby before each session and ask around to see who has prepped an adventure to run. Then we've distributed players into somewhat even groups, and it usually works out so that most get to play the thing that interested them the most.
Since the whole thing started with devoted veterans there's seldom been a lack of game masters. Over the years some returning participants have created their own games within the genre and used the convention as a test bed for game testing and later to just play the game.
Returning younger participants have also grown (quite literally; many of those who were in their early teens the first time are now in uni) and some have come to run their own games.
As you may have noticed the administration has pretty much been to book rooms. We've also created a Facebook event most of the time, and since the pandemic started I've run a discord server on which we've run the con far too many times. And I've had a blog where I've published the schedule ahead of time.
Since it's only been for the one day each time we've never had to deal with sleeping arrangements. Participants who've come a long way to join (we've had a few travelling literally half the country to play with us sometimes) they've fixed stuff like that themselves.
There's also been the issue of tidying up the rooms and taking the trash out after the last session of the day. For this part I've even had less and less to do because returning participants have learned the drill and organised it themselves.
No expenses. At least no mandatory ones. The standing tradition for the past eight or so years has been that I bring cake for everyone in for the break between sessions, but when that started to feel like too much work I switched to ice cream.
That's a bit of an expense but it's never been a problem. For two years I ran a fanzine where I put the profits on an account for the convention. 30 copies for each con, 20 A5 pages each printed on an office printer. I sold them for about €2.50 each and made enough profit to last some time. Later I collected all that material and added a lot more to a 200 page book that I printed about 30 or 50 copies of (I think) on a print on demand service and made quite a bit of profit on.
Twice I also ordered 50 sets of dice from Aliexpress and put in the lobby with a sign that said "If you don't own a set pick one for free, otherwise €3.50 each" which is about half the price of the local stores.
These initiatives were some 5 or 6 years ago, but ice cream is cheap. The money has lasted all this time.
I think that's pretty much it. I've definitely had fun these ten years, even though I now feel that it's time for someone else to take the reins.
-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal