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Journey, quest, crusade—these words permeate the vocabulary of most fantasy writers.

I’ll admit I’ve thrown around such metaphors with abandon in the past. Yet I don’t believe it to be hyperbolic when I call my recent experiences at Midwinter Gaming Convention a bona fide adventure.

For those not in the know, Midwinter Gaming Convention is an annual gathering of board game and tabletop roleplaying game (TTRGP) enthusiasts formerly held in Milwaukee but, as of this year, in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The con was held from Jan. 11 to 14.

While I’ve visited gaming conventions as an attendee over the years, including Gen Con (aka The Big One), I never ran games, let alone my own games, at them before. Neither had I tried to sell my books at any. Up until Midwinter Gaming Convention 2024, gaming events were always “just for fun.”

So this was a big step for me, but something new, in itself, didn’t earn the title of Adventure. Let’s take it definition by definition:

An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks

“Danger” might be an overstatement, though the blizzardy weather in the forecast certainly cemented our decision to arrive at the venue as early as possible. As for “unknown risks,” well, there was a fair measure of those.

Prior to this past weekend, I had never run a TTRPG for people I didn’t know—or, at least, players who were family members of folks I knew. Simply put, Midwinter Gaming Convention was the first time I ran my game, The Curse of Er’Mah’Gerd, for strangers.

I’d be lying if I said the idea didn’t induce some anxiety. What if I flopped? What if I forgot something important? What if the game simply wasn’t fun? Insecurities can plague a protagonist as brutally as a battalion of minotaurs.

But I knew exposing players to my game was a crucial tactic to drum up interest and to convey credibility to the booth carrying it. Time to banish the nerves and welcome a wider audience into the pun-populated world of Mezzo-Earth.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

An exciting or remarkable experience

Of all the definitions of the word “adventure,” this one takes the prize. I’m delighted to report that everyone who played in the four sessions I ran had a good time. Heck, some had a great time, giggling into their character sheets before the game even started. One guy played twice!

Better yet, I had a wonderful time watching how each player interpreted Sir/Lady Larpsalot, Elvish Presley, Tom Foolery and the rest of Good Company. Seeing how disparate groups tackle the same trials in such different ways never ceases to amaze me.

Here are a few other highlights of my exciting, remarkable time at Midwinter Gaming Convention—from the table to the booth:

  • Meeting so many interesting people who share a passion for imagination and play.
  • Getting to know my neighbors in the Exhibit Hall, fellow game makers Void Gate Games and Point of Insanity Game Studio.
  • Receiving compliments on my maps, miniatures, and the other accoutrements I brought to my gaming sessions.
  • Chatting with a “foxy” representative of Goodman Games, for which I’ve freelanced as a writer and editor over the years.
  • Connecting with the owner of my local hobby shop—the one I’ve frequented as far back as when I was a teenager—and getting a few copies into his hands and, soon enough, into the store.
  • Coming together with the rest of the conventiongoers when the wintry weather caused the venue to lose all but emergency power for 17 hours.
  • Spending four unforgettable days with my booth babe/business partner of a wife.

But wait. There’s a third and final definition to explore…

An enterprise involving financial risk

Ah, yes, money. Sometimes the heroes in fantasy stories have patrons funding their forays—or perhaps the promise of treasure propels them forward in their quests.

Making the leap from being a novelist at a book event to a game writer at a con required considerable investments of both time and money, including the design and purchase of QR-coded cards, two pullup banners, and boxes of extra inventory.

And that was just for the booth.

Not wanting to skimp on the player experience, I ordered custom miniatures for the PCs, printed out my maps on durable formats, and bought extra dice, pencils, and notepads in case people showed up empty-handed. I even had to buy some ink cartridges to print out player handouts, which we all know costs a dragon’s hoard.

Sales were decent. Sure, they might have been better without the blizzard and the blackout caused by that same force of nature. Yet traditional commerce is just one form of value. As mentioned above, I made great gains in the realm of networking and real-world experience points. After all, the journey is just as important as the destination—maybe more so.

I suspect my future cons won’t be as memorable as my first. Then again, whenever one ventures outside the proverbial comfort zone, the door to unexpected possibilities swings wide open.