It’s been nearly a month since MACE 2013 ended. I have been caught up in various things post-con related as well as real-life related, so this report is late in coming. Since it has been a month, much of the emotion and energy has died down in me but I have to say that this was definitely one of the best MACE events ever. Between the tons of gaming and connecting up with so many old and new friends, it was an amazing weekend.
My MACE planning usually starts around August but this year was a little different. Between all the official events Justus Productions was doing and the cons I chose to attend and run games, MACE is now a year round thing for me. Starting with SCARAB, Mysticon, and MACE West, and then heading into summer with StormCon and RoundCon, MACE was on my mind quite a bit. I met several good people and ran a lot of games throughout the year. Good times were had all around. Couple that with the launch of our web site, The Gamers Codex and there is no doubt that MACE’s presence is being felt in places it was not before.
We took on several new challenges this year prior to the con that we had to prepare for. I ran tests on my new on-site registration system at the various events we had opportunities to do so, and was heading into MACE with a new plan and a new system. The ticket system was modified somewhat and last minute, I chose to modify it even further. That posed a challenge on site primarily because I was not prepared to teach my volunteers the new system.
Also, Jeff and I chose to launch our Living MACE campaign contest, which turned out to be a lot of work for me. It worked out in the end but the few bumps we ran into through the months before the con distracted me some.
Matt Holmquist and Jim Ryan (from R to L)
Another aspect of this year’s MACE that built up over the year was a two-faceted gem – the Pinnacle Entertainment Group presence and the Paizo Publishing presence. Of course, the visions of both events started out much larger in scale than they turned out to be, but in the end we could not have asked for anything better. Thankfully Jeff Smith handled most of this so it did not take too big a place on my plate. Thanks to Jason Bulmahn, Clint Black, Jodi Black and Shane Lacy Hensley for making MACE 2013 even more special this year. It was great to help celebrate the 5th anniversary of Pathfinder as well as the 10th anniversary of Savage Worlds at MACE.
In all this, I also had to plan to run some games – both board games and role playing games. I am afraid I did not dedicate enough time to this, especially the RPGs, because it reflected in the games I ran at the con. The players had fun but I was not entirely pleased on how they ended. Maybe I am too self-critical. I am always over analyzing my games.
Another challenge we faced this year was the change in space. The hotel called us early in the year about a special client that needed the large ballroom on Sunday. Being the cooperative clients we are, we worked with the hotel to arrange things for this special client. Of course, as most know by now, it was the NFL football team, the New England Patriots, here in Charlotte to play the Panthers on Monday night. They had quite a bit of security requirements, some of which we found out last minute. These of course caused some challenges on Sunday. We thought we could handle it and I think we did. All I had to do was arrange for the main ball room to be empty. As we found out, that was not all they needed. We adjusted for that as well. We have a lot of thanks to go around for that too because I know we did not make certain GMs and players happy with all the shuffling around.
Going into the week of MACE was a mixed bag for me, though. Even the month before, we had our ups and downs. Various things with the hotel as well as pre-con discussions with long attendees told me this was not going to be an easy year, operationally. I still felt like it was going to be a good year for us, but life was going to throw us as many challenges as it could to make it challenging. And it did. And, thankfully, we got over them.
Opening day presented the first of life’s challenges. The hotel had several of our rooms booked right up until the last minute. This made it difficult to set up all the rooms when I needed to. This delayed pretty much everything. And so when I got hit with the unexpected crowd at 2 pm for the first slot, I was definitely not prepared. I do not think we have ever had a crowd like this at the opening hours. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I felt like it was big because I was interacting with them more than in the past (because of the new sign up system). Maybe it was big. I don’t know. Regardless, it was a challenge for me to handle alone. Thanks to Heath Medlin for helping out and I hate I could not stop and show him how to sign up people to help in that way but he helped big by showing people how to sign up, where to go to get their badge and placing stickers when games closed.
Next time, I will have volunteers for those hours.
After the first wave, things settled in really well. The volunteers I had scheduled showed up on time and really helped out a lot. Thanks to Megan Galloway and Jessica Paxton for their help. I finally got an opportunity to walk around and see how things were getting started. Across from my gaming registration was the game library room. Throughout the weekend, I stopped in a lot. This was also a source of concern for part of the year because I had no idea who was going to man it. As it turns out, I did not need to worry. Between the guys from StormCon and the Queen City Gaming Club, we had more than enough people competently handling the room. I really appreciate everyone that helped out, including Barry Lewis, Pat Daily and Todd Muldrew. They all did a phenomenal job. This room was always busy. Unfortunately, this was one of the rooms the Patriots wanted last minute so we had to close that early on Sunday. We thank everyone for cooperating when we had to do that.
Speaking of board/card games, one of my major concerns going into this year was the board and card game side of things. Last year, AEG had a major presence in the main gaming room. Well, this year, our AEG contact no longer works for them fulltime and did not have the pull he had last year. So we had to fill the space with a lot more variety of games. I wasn’t sure that was going to happen. As it turned out, we did. From various Kickstarted games, a number of well-supported tournaments as well as the support from many of my regular GMs, we had a lot going on in the main gaming room. Added in there were the guys from Rolling Dice, Taking Names running games and recording stuff for their podcast, it was a very awesome environment.
The NC Gun Bunnies once again held their finals at MACE this year. For the second year in a row, they ended a year’s worth of qualifiers with a major invitational tournament that took up one big room. But that’s not all they did. They were busy all weekend and I do not think I ever saw that room slow or quiet. They ran various other tournaments and demos, so much so that they spilled out in the hallways. Stephanie Shinn was the lead and I want to sincerely thank her for her hard work but she had a great team of Gun Bunnies helping her. Their passion for their game is unsurpassed. They did an extraordinary job and deserve a lot of thanks for it.
The Fort Mill Historical Gamers along with the Catawba Gamers worked together for us this year to present a few historical miniature and board games. This is an area I personally want to grow. I really appreciate the hard work of Jody Pleasant and Charles Cabell for bringing in some very cool games. They were well received and most had a good number of players. I was rather pleased with the result, considering it was the first year we tried it. I hope we have the space next year to do more. I really want to play more Axis & Allies minis.
The RPGs took up 3 rooms of the large ball room as well as the room called Glenwaters. I had a total of 45 tables set up in those rooms for RPGs but I think in most cases the rooms were no more than two thirds full (by design). Everything moved to Glenwaters on Sunday and that was a pretty packed room then, but overall I think I managed the room noise fairly well. The organized play room was probably the only room that had a major problem and that’s only because they were full all the time. So by that estimate, I probably had about 175 to 200 tables of RPGs. That’s about 10% to 15% increase from last year, by my estimates. That’s the kind of growth I want and can manage.
From what little I could tell (as they were on the opposite side of the building most of the weekend), the organized play games went well – perhaps the busiest RPG room we had. I heard no complaints. Thanks to Del Collins, Greg Gershowitz, and Mac MacFarland for all their hard work on their various aspects of organized play.
There was so much going on that weekend, I could not keep up with everything. I can’t congratulate all the tournament winners because there were so many, I could not keep up. So a generic congratulations goes out to all the winners. I never really found out how Savage Saturday Night went but I think it went well. The people I talked to seemed to have a good time despite the great cupcake disaster. I know that the charity game with Jason Bulmahn went well and had a full table. I took pictures of that. Jason was very kind to accommodate his game to use the gaming tables from Jim Barnes.
As usual, the panels were varied. People continue to ask for them but I don’t set my expectations high because I realize gamers just want to game. I struggled with panelists this year because of that very reason – they just wanted to game. So if the panels seemed thin this year, that’s why.
The kids program was a success from what I can tell, although at times the kids were pretty crazy in the hallways. I did get a few complaints of that and I am sure Jeff and I will have discussions about that and how to change things in the future.
As I said before, my games went fairly well but I was not happy with the way the RPGs ended. I have to work harder on the endgame plan of my con games, obviously. I thank all the players for playing and being patient with me. Running games while running a con is not always a good thing but it’s one of the few moments of true joy I get out of otherwise a hectic weekend.
The height of my weekend is always the auction and I knew this year was going to be tough. I had a ton of donations from John Reavis’s estate and I wasn’t sure we were going to get through them all in time. I had already set up an online auction (yet another thing I had to deal with prior to the con) but that only set the minimum bid on certain items. Amazingly, everything went well for the auction and we got out of there on time. It was a humbling thing to see so many people give up so much for charity and to own some of John’s cool stuff. We raised $4000 for the various charities that Justus Productions donates too and I was very proud to be a part of it.
Congratulations to Matt Holmquist for winning the Living MACE Contest. Also congratulations to Stephanie Shinn for winning the MACE Appreciation award.
In the end, we had about a 10% to 15% growth in attendance, getting us up to about 660 total individuals. We had about a 30% to 40% growth in preregistrations with a slight drop in at-the-door sales. Which means more people are preregistering and taking advantage of our online gaming registration system. If you had any problems at gaming registration, consider preregistering. Much of your wait times would be eliminated if you preregister.
Sunday was kind of a hassle but we knew it was coming. We have to deeply thank all those that helped get things moved around and closed up as the Patriots came in. We know that we rushed people out and I hope people understand that we were being pressured by others to get people out. This was a unique situation and will probably never happen again. Next year, we should have all the space we need for as long as we need.
For next year in order to handle the growth I plan to have more changes and more help. I am already modifying OGRe (our online game registration system) and the various reports that make up my posters and sign ups. I learned a lot from this year and I hope further changes will only improve your experience. For a preview of those changes, come to MACE West in Asheville.
Thanks again to everyone who volunteered, ran games and generally helped out. This was a great year for MACE despite all the new challenges we faced. Thanks to my wife, Stephanie for her patience and unyielding support through this past year. Thanks to Jeff Smith and Karen Smith for their hard work on the business end of MACE. Thanks to the Grinning Goblin crew for the hard work and service. And thanks to all the gamers that turned out and played games. I really hope you had fun. Please feel free to pass on any constructive criticisms if you have any.