Table Design in Eclipse Phase Second Edition

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I posted some table graphics to various social media over the last couple weeks:

 

38 39
Here’s a consolidation of them with some better explanations.

EP2 has two types of tables; inline tables and floating tables. Roughly, the inline tables are “stuff characters have” and the floating tables are “stuff characters or players do.” I may talk about the inline tables later, but for now I’m going to talk about the floating tables—that’s the Random Career table you see above.

EP2 has a roughly six-column-wide grid. Floating tables can be 2 columns, 3 columns, 4 columns, or 6 columns, depending on the need of the tables and the need of the spread they’re on. I have yet to need to Break The Rules on these tables, but the book isn’t finished!

EP2 has four major types of floating tables, as seen in Tables 1 (note that this graphic has a bunch of ugly bits because it’s for my own internal reference):

  • Header with no subheader
  • Header with subheader
  • Header with  prefix line and subheader
  • Header with dual prefix lines and subheader

Then there are some variants of those four:

  • any of the above + two sets of subheaders inside the table
  • any of the above + a footer/suffix line
  • Sub-strain headers, which currently have a little extra graphical divider because they’re kind of a an-extra-special-case table.

Tables 1

Tables 1

If you take a closer look at Tables 1, you’ll see that on the right of each table  I have the point height of each cell listed. Most of the cells are 14pt high, but a few of them — the prefix line and the dual prefix line — are slightly smaller, to help keep text in proper proximity to related text.

The main difference for these tables, for the purposes of graphics, are the height of the graphics and the placement of the small shadow effect. Originally the shadow was a distinct graphic placed inside a row in the table, but that didn’t quite create the effect I wanted; I need the shadow to help normalize the contract on the subheader text.

Tables 2

Tables 2

 

So, Tables 2 shows the list of graphics I’m working with. “Table texture base – derezzed.psd” is my main work file. It’s placed as a smart object with a mask inside the other listed graphics, and each of those graphics has a distinct layer for the shadow, aligned according to the numbers in the Tables 1 graphic.

The filnames have the number of points from the top of the graphic to the bottom of the shadow, and a single digit (1 through 5 skipping 2 because I didn’t need it … yet?) indicating which one is tallest, so I can sort them by name and not lose track of which one is which.

Tables 3

Tables 3

Each of the graphics is 9″ wide, which means that if for some reason I have to run them the full width of a page, I can. Also, since most tables are only a few inches wide, I can drag the graphic back and forth inside the frame, giving slightly unique looks to each table without relying on multiple graphics. You can see this in Tables 1

Truth be told: I don’t know if these are 100% the final graphics … but with this system, I can update all of the table graphics across the book with just a few Photoshop edits, and I know the math will work out.

Tabletop Games Piracy in 2018

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It felt for a few years like few people cared about piracy in tabletop games. Everyone had their feelings about it, and nothing was changing. But in the last few months, I’ve felt a rising tide of people caring about it again: new RPG publishers asking if piracy was a problem and how to stop it, and more notably, a rising number of card and board games being counterfeited and sold.

Counterfeited Board & Card Games

I stand against the counterfeiting and sale of creative projects: whether they be games, artwork turned into print on demand merchandise, etc. Counterfeiting not only defrauds the original creator of profit, but the buyer may get a substandard product and they feel that they have supported the creator by buying it—they too have been defrauded. This includes not only the end customer, but any distributor or store who may unintentionally buy a counterfeit and not be able to sell it, or who may sell it and then face a reputation hit if the counterfeit is then discovered.

Drop-shipping and Amazon’s byzantine store have made distribution of counterfeit board and card games more common, and unfortunately, it is largely up to the customer to be aware of counterfeits and stores that are known to traffic in them. ICv2 conducted an interview with Asmodee about this topic in early 2018:

Christian Petersen: There are, I think, four or five extremely difficult problems caused by counterfeiting.

One is the lost sales themselves. A customer is interested in buying one of our products, but buys a counterfeit copy instead, a lost sale. That sucks, that’s a problem, it deprives companies, designers and legit retailers of that money.

Number two is the effect that it has on the brands. These counterfeit products are being sold at impossible prices; the legit market simply can’t replicate the price of Chinese-made counterfeit goods selling directly from, for example, an FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) store in the U.S. It just doesn’t work, and it devalues…

From an enlightened self interest perspective, a customer should buy originals not counterfeits because it encourages publishers to release expansions and sequels, and of course, money that publishers have to spend investigating counterfeits and developing techniques to fight them is money not spent making games.

Pirated Roleplaying Games

Over the years, I have spent a fair amount of time and effort talking about the piracy of RPGs. I’ve said before that piracy “doesn’t matter” and publishers should spend their time and attention on doing things to support their games and make new games instead of chasing after pirates.

I believe that creators and publishers should know and understand the varied reasons that people pirate—even if they don’t believe those reasons are valid—and work towards giving people less reason to pirate within their field. The goal isn’t to eliminate piracy completely (unobtainable, corporations with much greater budgets than any RPG publisher keep trying and failing), but to encourage people who aren’t habitual pirates to purchase instead of pirate.

Why do People Pirate?

The main reasons for piracy are: Price, Evaluation, Format Availability, Regional Availability. Some secondary reasons are Habit/Hobby and Grudges. I’ve followed explanations of each reason with how Posthuman Studios, the publisher I co-own and co-operate, deals with each issue.

Price: Roleplaying Games are Well-Priced

This argument is as old as the roleplaying game itself: people want everything to cost less, but the roleplaying game offers a lot of value as long as it is played.

It is difficult to generalize about the price of RPGs, especially in digital form, because there is such a breadth to the market: everything from labor-of-love titles produced entirely by an individual to those created by dozens of contributors and published by companies like Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop. Prices are also influenced by the age of the title: many released in the 80s or 90s have digital prices based on a percentage their original print price, so they can be extreme bargains. Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions wrote a few years ago that the market value of the content in a RPG product is roughly 1/3rd of the print MSRP, assuming the MSRP is of a print product sold through distribution and not Print on Demand. (Disclaimer: I’ve done work with Fred and Evil Hat, like the Designers & Dragons series and the Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game!)

Atomic Robo RPG

Prices for newly-released RPG PDFs have been on the rise in the last few years. After we released Eclipse Phase for only $15 in 2009, that helped prove that lower prices can help titles can sell enough units to make up for the reduced price, and other publishers followed, lowering their prices or releasing new titles at lower prices. A few years later the price for a new roleplaying game in PDF seemed to stabilize at $20, but from 2016 on $25 and $30 became more common price points for core rulebooks. A notable example of a $30 PDF is Exalted Third Edition, which after a Kickstarter that grossed almost $700,000, stayed in the DriveThruRPG Top 10 list for roughly a year after digital release, even though the Kickstarter campaign delivered over 3,500 copies of the PDF that are not counted as part of the Top 10 list!

In some ways, that pricing brings PDF publishing full circle to the era when DriveThruRPG opened, when publishers routinely priced their PDFs at 50% of the print cover price, as typical new RPG core books are hitting $60 in 2017 and I expect to see them priced up to $75 by 2019.

Looking at the percentages, though, PDF titles have risen in price more rapidly than print books in the last five years, and there is bound to be some price resistance. Expect to see more publishers release cut-down “Player’s Guide” books at lower price points (such as the Numenera Player’s Guide from Monte Cook Games) to entice price conscious customers.

Posthuman’s Take: We started out with extremely low prices in 2009 and re-adjusted our prices upwards in 2014. We continue to offer free introductory books and will offer a low cost Player’s Guide for Eclipse Phase Second Edition. All of our Eclipse Phase books are licensed under a Creative Commons license so people can freely share them if they wish. We have participated in the Bundle of Holding and do other sales and promotions.

Evaluation: What’s a Good Sample?

Some people say that they pirate things before buying them to determine if they want to buy them. I think this is one of the more compelling reasons for piracy, especially when dealing with expensive software: Does this software do what it says? Does it work well on my computer? Does it actually make my workflow better? Most software developers combat this with demo versions of their software, using various schemes (time-limited trials, watermarked output files, etc) to give people a full taste of the software without compromising their ability to get paid. Subscription software also fights piracy, partially by locking customers in, and partially by offering lower monthly payments instead of large lump sums to make it more palatable.

That reason falls apart when dealing with more consumable items, though: some of us will read a novel once (borrow from a friend, take it out from the library) and then buy a copy down the road for ourselves, or as a gift. The same can be true for music or movies. But in general, I don’t think that piracy of fiction/music/movies leads to short-term sales. In the long term: someone may pirate a TV show and then buy the Blu-ray version a few years down the road, or someone who pirates an album may then attend concerts and buy merchandise—paying for the items that they cannot easily pirate.

Again, this is a situation that roleplaying games can compete with introductory books, ranging from free Quick-Start Rules to cut-down Player’s Guides, and of course copious free previews of core titles. Publishers, don’t just include the first 5 pages of your book—include important skeleton pages (credits, table of contents) and then include sample pages that show the breadth of a book. Preview each section, each type of unique content in a book. If your book has Adventure Hooks, Maps, and Non-Player Characters as the core three elements, a preview should include all of them!

Posthuman’s Take: All of our Eclipse Phase books are licensed under a Creative Commons license so people can reading entire book if they wish, and we offer generous (typically 20 page) previews for other books. (Re-)building better previews for backstock is something we could improve on—we often release short previews on our blog that aren’t linked to from DriveThruRPG, and we could add custom previews on DriveThruRPG instead of the automagically generated ones.

Format Availability: Roleplaying Games are (mostly) Published in Open Formats

The majority of tabletop RPGs are published in portable document format (PDF), with ePub/Mobi comprising a slim portion of the market. Many games that have System Reference Documents or other open source components are widely disseminated via wikis, as well.

Few major publishers use onerous DRM. Many still watermark their digital files, which I personally consider unfriendly towards the customer and ineffective against fighting piracy. Fewer still lock down their files in any way—preventing printing or copying and pasting, for example.

I would encourage people not to buy digital files from sellers that lock them down in ways that lower the utility of the file: for example, not being able to copy text from it, or not being able to extract pages or images. Publishers that do this sort of things: why? Don’t stop your paying customers for doing things with their book that can make their game-playing easier and more fun!

A few publishers still don’t sell in open electronic formats, the most notable of those being Wizards of the Coast who has not released Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition in PDF, even though they have robust offerings of their back catalog in both PDF and print on demand. Their digital tools for Fifth Edition, D&D Beyond, tie your purchases to a specific account. Also notable is Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG series, none of which are published digitally as their license doesn’t allow it. Both D&D Fifth Edition and Star Wars are available via pirates with scanners—not releasing digital versions does not insulate popular titles from piracy.

Posthuman’s Take: All our PDF releases are fully-open—no watermarks, no restrictions, and taking proper advantage of PDFs features with cross-references, hyperlinks, and Acrobat layers. We’ve released some fiction and setting content in ePub/Kindle format (ePub obviously being more open than Kindle!) and will release Eclipse Phase Second Edition on a free wiki. We also release Hack Packs that contain CC-licensed artwork and other goodies for dedicated players, virtual tabletop players, etc.

ATimeofEclipse

Regional Availability: Roleplaying Games are (mostly) Published Without (intentional) Region Restrictions

More than any other type or format of entertainment, Roleplaying Games have few to any region restrictions: while fiction ebooks are sometimes still at the mercy of international publishers and thus locked out of purchase in some regions, the roleplaying biz simply doesn’t work that way.

While theoretically some foreign-language contracts don’t allow licensees to sell translated works outside of a particular geographic region, I have never seen or heard of them being enforced with regards to digital gaming books.

So that means that worldwide, you can buy gaming ebooks unrestricted by the publisher. However, a frequent critique is that ebook sites—and Kickstarter!—don’t make it easy for international buyers who don’t have access to a credit card. This stumbling block may promote international piracy.

Posthuman’s Take: We don’t restrict availability of any digital products based on region.

Secondary Reasons: Habits/Hobby

“He who dies with the most toys wins”—some just like to pirate to have a huge collection of books/movies/software/whatever. I don’t think these pirates are to be concerned about as in many cases they don’t actually consume many of the things they pirate—they just enjoy having large (and probably meticulously organized!) hard drives full of stuff.
These pirates may or may not also buy electronic things. They may buy them but like the convenience of downloading, for example, a torrent file that contains an entire game line.

Posthuman’s Take: Anyone archiving and distributing archives of all Eclipse Phase books is legally in the clear as long as they adhere to the Creative Commons license. During our Kickstarter campaigns we sell USB collections of all our electronic items, and we also offer bundle discounts for people acquiring or completing a whole collection on DriveThruRPG.

Secondary Reason: Grudges

Some people pirate because they like a product but they dislike the creator(s) or publisher. Some of these grudges may be well-founded and some may not, but it really doesn’t matter—these people probably won’t ever turn into a customer (or turn back into a customer) and it’s not productive to spend your time dealing with them.

Posthuman’s Take: You can’t do anything about this. We’d rather not take money from someone who doesn’t like us, but we can’t stop them from getting and playing our games.

Conclusion

Looking at the above, at this point in time, I feel there are few justifiable reasons to pirate roleplaying games in 2018. I would encourage players of roleplaying games to purchase them, and furthermore, if you think that a company publishes in a way that justifies piracy to you: don’t support them at all. Don’t pirate their game. Don’t play their game. Don’t grow their player network. Buy and play something else, so your money and time goes towards a publisher that you can fully support, those publishers can grow, and you can feel good about who you’re supporting!

5ive on Friday: Essential macOS Software

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.

Essential macOS Software

I just got a new iMac; my 2009 Mac Pro was very long in the tooth and although it was still great in some respects, it wasn’t keeping up with the latest Creative Cloud releases. I’d done a few hardware upgrades this year, but nothing really brought it to the point where I needed it.

So, enter the new iMac.

Usually after reinstalling my OS or getting a new computer, I try to not install much new software on it, installing only things I really need right away, and going without “kinda nice to have” stuff for as long as possible. Here’s five things I installed right away that may not be totally obvious:

  1. Default Folder X extends the functionality of Open and Save windows, giving you access to recently used folders, favorite folders, and a lot more.
  2. Divvy is a simple app that lets you quickly resize windows with keyboard shortcuts. You can set up shortcuts to easily make a window a vertical half of your screen, a horizontal half, etc. I use most of my apps full screen, but I like having precise control when using multiple Finder windows, web browsers, etc.
  3. TextWrangler or BBEdit are by the same company, with BBEdint being the traditional powerhouse text editor and TextWrangler a cut down but still mighty text editor. For years I’ve used TextWrangler, but it’s been sunsetted (and BBEdit dropped in price + made available free with the same feature set as TextWrangler) so I’ve been trying to transition. I use a text editor throughout the day to take notes, write drafts, make TODO lists, and other such things. Both TextWrangler and BBEdit have a very nice interface that lets you easily keep dozen of files open and navigable.
  4. HoudahSpot gives you much better control over Spotlight searches: letting you save searches, easily exclude folders, include only certain folders, search more easily based on file type or content.
  5. Dropbox as the best solution for file syncing and backups.

5ive on Friday: Just My Type Excerpts

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.

Just My Type Excerpts

There’s an independent bookstore about a block from my new office space. Danger danger! I’ve managed to only buy one book there so far, and I think I had good justification: I needed something small to read on the bus. I grabbed Just My Type by Simon Garfield, which is a relatively breezy journey through the history of typefaces and fonts, with digressions about specific faces, designers, and events. There’s some very interesting stuff about the design of typefaces for road signs, and the competitions between them!

Here’s five little fun excerpts:

  1. “In Manhattan, we can stroll into the reassuring chaos of the Strand Bookstore on Twelfth Street and Broadway, and find that their popular T-shirts and mugs (
    ’18 Miles of Books’) are in Helvetica. But you will find no better example of the diversity of type than by touring the tables and stacks. The text choices favour the digitized traditionals, the Bembos and Baskervilles and Times New Romas, but the jackets display the full roster, the fluid scripts for those intimate heartrending memoirs, the all-lower-case for the comic novels, the no-nonsense bold capitals for the business books, the wimpy scrawls for the kids stuff. Of course you can judge a book by its cover; moreover, we are obligated to.” (Hell yes. If you don’t judge a book by the cover, why the hell do you think a publisher puts a cover on a book? To attract people! To be judged! To indicate what it contains and the style of the book! To be judged! A cover shows a publisher’s priorities and intentions! Judge it!)
  2. [Vincent] Connare can sometimes be elliptical about his fame. ‘If you love Comic Sans, you don’t know much about typography. If you hate it, you really don’t much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby.”
  3. “This is one difference between legibility and readability: at small sizes, Cooper Black is legible but not very readable. But some type is meant to be seen rather than read (a type designer once compared this attribute to a dress designed to look great on the catwalk but provide no protection against the elements). Font-as-couture is a common analogy. Adrian Frutiger, designer of one of the most popular modern fonts, Univers, had another: ‘The work of a type designer is just like that of a dressmaker,’ he noted. ‘Clothing the constant, human form.’ Or as the graphic designer Alan Fletcher put it. ‘a typeface is an alphabet in a straitjacket.'”
  4. “Much of what one needs to know about the history and beauty of a font may be found in its ampersand. Done well, an & is not so much a character as a creature, an animal from the deep. Or it is a character in the other sense of the word, usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many magic tricks.”
  5. “The alphabet as a free-for-all is an appealing concept, not least for lawmakers who fear the restriction of free speech (and the complex possibilities of distinguishing one lowercase ‘g’ from another). Zapf argued his case at a time when he believed there were 7,000 to 8,000 different typefaces, and he claimed, ‘I hold the world record for the most type designs copied without permission.’ In 2010, with the number of faces rather greater, and Zapf into his nineties and no longer designing, the title may still be his.” (Hermann Zapf has since passed, in 2015.)

Just My Type is worth checking out as a light summary of the history of type, or just a fun read that will give you a bunch of jumping-off points to research in depth later, such as a the delicious Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc. lawsuit.

5ive on Friday: Hair Products

I get stopped multiple times a week to ask what I use to turn my hair bright blue/purple. This is the list of stuff we use!

  • Radical Bleach Kit — we’ve tried a few different bleach kits, but we keep going back to this one, which always does a great job on my hair. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s the best we’ve used.
  • Toner: Manic Panic Amplified Virgin Snow — my hair ends up a little yellow/brassy after bleaching, so some Toner helps strip it right out.
  • Pravana Chromasilk Vivids Blue and Violet — sometimes I use one, sometimes I mix them up a bit. A full head of blue with some wisps of violet combed through a couple days later turns out very well! (Pravana, of course, has a billion other colors.
  • Hats and gloves — high fashion, multiple uses.
  • Joico Shampoo and Conditioner — truth is, with much less hair than I used to have, and dyed hair, I don’t wash my hair more than a couple times a week now. A bottle of each of these lasts for about a year.

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5ive on Friday: Things I Did This Week

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations.

Things I Did This Week

It’s been a busy week!

  1. Moved into my new office space: This has been a weeklong process, a few things each day, culminating with my new monitor arriving on Friday, so I can finally boot up my Mac Pro for the first time in three months, which leads to …
  2. … currently downloading 7,000+ dropbox files from the last three months to my Mac Pro.
  3. Posthuman Studios released Infinite & Indivisible, the Scott Fox ambient soundtrack for Eclipse Phase. It’s so fucking great, I’ve been listening to it a ton since Scott turned the files over to us and I’m more in love with it than ever.
  4. Worked on the schedule and other resources for the Posthuman Summit, our yearly gathering to go over our schedule, brainstorm new ideas, reflect on the last year, and eat some good food. I leave next Thursday for it, and I’m excited to see the gang and the autumn Chicago weather.
  5. Kickstarter/BackerKit tech/customer support. It never ends!

What did you do?

5ive on Friday: Kickstarter Warning Signs

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.

Kickstarter Warning Signs

None of these warning signs may be a dealbreaker by themselves, but if a project ticks off more than a couple, I’d consider not pledging even if I was otherwise interested. Some of these are a little specific to publishing, but could easily be transferred to other types of projects.

In no particular order:

  1. The creator is an individual and has not backed other Kickstarters. There are exceptions to this—perhaps they created a new account to simplify running the campaign—but in general, I think actively backing other Kickstarter campaigns is one of the best ways to research how other Kickstarter projects work, and I think creators should be active consumers within the ecosystem they want to work in. If you’ve created a new profile for some reason, you may want to link to your older profile to show the projects you’ve backed.
  2. The creator is an individual, has never published anything before, and is trying to publish a large or “dream” project. I always recommend that someone new to publishing create a few small books, non-crowdfunded, to learn the publishing ropes with a little less pressure. Even if it’s as simple as having released a couple of $0.99 3-page supplements.
  3. Project details are sketchy: they do not include estimated page counts, binding type, paper/trim size, or whether the book is in color or not. The second half of the “elevator” pitch for a Kickstarter should include this information.
  4. Backer level prices are too low, especially for printed projects. This shows that there’s usually some misunderstanding about how much it costs to produce and ship a book. I saw a recent project that claimed that DriveThruRPG doesn’t charge upfront money to print books, but that they take it out of royalties. This is true in the sense that you can pay for printing projects with royalties you accrued from previous sales, but DriveThruRPG won’t front you the money. In a similar vein, if the backer levels and add-ons are weighed down by tons of options—t-shirts, buttons, pins, and other tchotchke—that can indicate a campaign that will sag under the weight of many minor fulfillment items.
  5. The sell text / back cover copy / project updates indicates that the creator is not in touch with the current marketplace. They may not be aware of other similar products, believe that their project fills a niche that has already been filled, engage in awkward smack-talk about other products or creators, or make grandiose claims. A little bit of bravado is expected in sales text, and there is room for a Kickstarter project to approach the market differently—but usually, for such an approach to work, you have to know “the rules” and how the market works in order to successfully subvert it.

InDesign PDF Export Preset for Digital Publishing

A million years ago, I cooked up an InDesign PDF Export Preset to handle exporting PDFs that worked well on the then-brand-new iPad while maintaining relatively small file sizes.

I still use that preset basically every day, having published dozens of books with it. You can download it here.

Adobe has instructions for loading PDF presets.

A few notes:

  • This preset turns all the Layers in your InDesign document into Acrobat layers; so users can hide backgrounds, art boxes, etc. (depending on how you use Layers in InDesign, of course.) You can untick this if you don’t want layered documents.
  • “Embed Page Thumbnails” is disabled because the thumbnails that InDesign creates are lower quality than the ones than Acrobat creates on the fly the first time it loads a PDF.
  • You can safely change the PPI and Image Quality in the Compression tab.
  • If your document includes spot colors, you probably should go to Output -> Ink Manager and tick “All Spots to Process.” (I almost never use spots, so this advice may be inadequate for your needs.)
  • There are no security settings set, because I want my customers to be able to hack the documents they buy, and PDF security is trivially cracked.

If you have any comments or questions, drop me a line!

Richard Jury: 1945-2016

Richard Jury

Our dearly loved husband and beloved father, Richard Frederick Jury, died in Taber on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at the age of 71 years.

At Richard’s request, there will be no public service.

Besides Helen, his loving wife of fifty one years, he is survived by their children Lesley Whalen (Rob) of Innisfail, Pauline Meisinger (Frank) of Edmonton and Adam Jury (Nora) of Lethbridge; grandchildren Dustin, Joel, McKenzie, Patrick, Noah and great grandson Bentley, He is also survived by his sisters Elizabeth (John) Shannon and Susan (Len) Whalley and their families in England.

Richard was born in Huddersfield, England on May 10, 1945. He met his future wife Helen in 1957, before he first visited Canada in 1960. After his return to England, they married in 1966, raising Lesley and Pauline in Huddersfield until 1977 when the family of four moved to Canada, where he farmed near Taber. In 1980, they welcomed Adam and in 1984 they moved into town.

Richard’s pride and joy were his family, home and garden, which he tended to after retirement. He enjoyed vintage farm machinery, playing cards, a wide range of music and collecting metal sculptures.

In lieu of gifts of any type, if friends so desire, memorial tributes in Richard’s name may be made directly to the Canadian Cancer Society, 200, 325 Manning Road NE, Calgary, Alberta T2E 2P5 www.cancer.ca. Condolences can be left at Southland Funeral Chapel.

Executing at Gen Con and Other Conventions

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As we are only a week away from Gen Con as I write this, I want to touch on one aspect of convention planning that made a big difference in stress levels and accuracy: the Execution Document.

“Damn Adam, what happened to calling something a ‘Plan’? That’s harsh!”

And that’s the point. The execution document is blunt, because it’s vital stuff that needs to get done, and it needs to get done in a timely manner. Forgetting or delaying items on it may inconvenience other people (your staff, your volunteers, etc.) and they may have adverse effects on your business (having to spend more money because you missed an early re-booking deadline, for example.)

In brief, I’m going to cover the important parts of the Execution Document, and then provide you a sample one, which is a mishmash of our Execution Document from 2014 and 2015 Gen Con.

Start Early and End Late

The document must include necessary items that occur before the convention “” such as taking money out of the bank and depositing it afterwards. By including those items, you create logical starting and stopping steps, and each item should prompt further questions that are answered in the document (such a question might be “At the end of each day, who takes the money?” By knowing who deposits it in the bank at the end of the convention, we can work backwards to the answers and make sure they are included in the document.

However, I do not include things like ordering convention displays, business cards, etc “” you can choose to do this if you like, but as I’m the only person at our business that does that kind of thing currently, it would just bog down the document for everyone else.

Location, Time, and Person

Every event in the Execution Document must have a specific location tagged to it, a specific time for it to happen, and have a person assigned to it. It’s possible to do this by creating a list of things that must happen in a certain location, but that list also must be broken down by time frames.

I am less strict about locations/times that pre-convention activities must be carried out (it doesn’t matter where we print the booth schedule, for example), but even those items should have two out of three fulfilled.

One person is The Show Manager: the boss.

Names and Numbers

The phone numbers or other contact info for anyone mentioned in the document should be included in it.

The Binder

The binder contains all sorts of documentation you may need at the show: receipts, booth maps, planograms, as well as sheets to record books that are given out as comp copies, inventory reports, all that sort of stuff.

Explicitness

The more people that will be referring to the document and the less familiar they are with your inner workings, the more explicit your instructions need to be. Remember that some things aren’t always obvious (for example, it’s usually the convention center that handles electricity-related requests, but a different outlet often deals with furniture rentals!).

Include contact numbers and the location of vendors you may need to deal with in the document.

Explicit instructions and information also help prevent mistakes: if the booth guide says that you’re expecting three packages to be shipped to your hotel, it means that someone probably won’t walk away with only two packages after being assigned “collect all our shipments from the hotel.”

Bonus true story: We had a pallet of books shipped to our hotel one year. In their haste to pick up their books, another publisher managed to snag our pallet and the hotel let them sign off with it! Thankfully it was a publisher who knew us and recognized the problem as soon as they got to their booth and started inventory. So they delivered the boxes to our booth, even before we arrived! But if they had known exactly how many pallets to pick up this would have not happened.

Include Travel Plans

Including travel plans keeps you aware of how many people you have around to do specific tasks, and how to organize those tasks.

Print the Document and Mark It Up

The show manager should have a printed copy of the document with them at all times, and they should physically mark off each item as it is completed. People assigned tasks on-the-fly should report back to the show manager when they have done so, and get another task.

Sample Execution Document

Here is a sample execution document: Sample Execution Document

Good luck with your convention setups, and I’ll see you at Gen Con!

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