Earlier this month, the 14th-16th April to be exact, was the gaming Nationals, a yearly event bringing together teams from universities across the UK for a weekend of gaming, socialising and (for most) drinking. 2012 saw the honour of hosting fall to Cardiff RAWSOC for the first time, a remarkable feat given they had won the 2011 event on only their second year of attending. This year also marked a change for me personally as I attended not as a player but as an event GM, the first time I had done so at a large convention.
Overall, and personally, I feel like the weekend was a big success. Most of those I spoke to seemed to have enjoyed their weekend, the opening and closing ceremonies ran to time (a rarity at Nationals) and over £6000 was raised for the chosen charity (PDSA). Closer to home I was extremely pleased with the game and adventure I ran (a specially written Corporation scenario) and all of the players in my group seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.
While overall the weekend was a success I was disappointed to hear that, once again the Nationals had the same major let down, poor / bad GMs, with the problem amplified by conditions unique to Cardiff*. Mostly this appeared to consider to GMs who had done little to no preparation or playtesting prior to the Nationals, at worst I heard of GMs who were still filling in the character sheets as the players arrived. Some GMs can get away with this most, however, cannot. It is especially aggravating to hear of this occuring when you consider the fact that most players have travelled long distances in order to attend and all were paying for the pleasure of doing so. The issue of bad GMs at Cardiff wasn’t, unfortunately, a one off, as I heard similar stories at Sheffield in 2011 and the reason I volunteered to GM this year was because of a bad GM almost ruining Sheffield for me (that and drum & bass but that’s another story).
Next year we’re back off to Sheffield, if they need GMs again I’ll volunteer once again, I much prefer being on that side of the table while I also know that my game, as it was this year, will be heavily playtested in advance.
*RAWSOC are a small society and for months prior to the Nationals had been advertising for GMs to fill the slots. Unfortunately it appears a number of those who had signed up to GM pulled out a week or two prior to the event, leaving RAWSOC scrambling to find people willing to GM at short notice. Some of the GMs didn’t know whether they would be needed until the weekend of the actual event.