A Letter from the Storyteller – MidSouthCon 2019

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that Riverside Opera will not be a part of MidSouthCon this year.  This decision is not one we make lightly, and I’d like to share with you why we have made it.

Getting ready for a Con game is a lot of work.  I once wrote an article for the website talking about what goes into writing one of these games.  While our process has matured quite a bit since then, it has also gotten more complex—and, unfortunately, has been decentralized from just one person doing all of the work.

Back when I wrote that article, just after putting together Refuge for MSC 2016, I was doing most everything myself when it came to the writing of Character Packets.  I concepted characters (with input from the staff), set up the Cast and Ties spreadsheet, mapped out character ties, wrote backstories, assigned exemplars, wrote Faction Bios, etc.  It was a great deal of labor, but I loved it, and I had the time to commit to it.  At the time, I was working in academia, being paid to be available instead of for doing a set of tasks daily, so I had to find things to occupy my time.  That’s where RO started, really.

Back then, it would take me around 140 hours to put together my part of the game.  The rest of the staff would put together character sheets, Caitlin would input them into Grapevine and make badges for every single character, PC and NPC alike.  Then there was the packet stuffing party, decorating, set up, tear down, and the game itself.  All in all, it was a 200-hour commitment.

Ever since I started working in advertising, my time has been much more limited, and I’ve had to divvy up the work.  It sounds like that might take less time for a bunch of people to put things together, but it really doesn’t.  There’s far more editing, proofing, formatting, follow-ups, art direction, and other management time that gets added on top of the whole shebang, and what once took one person 140 hours took six people nearly 300 hours to complete.

Con games are also expensive.  We go through two reams of paper, a 100-pack of manila envelopes, a package of business card paper, and around 150 badges.  That’s not to mention the cost of the events themselves, the hotel rooms, the special décor, toner, printer maintenance, or the cost of printing promotional materials professionally.  Overall, each Con game winds up costing the staff around $1,000.

That being said, for the majority of our run in this LARP, Con games were worth it.  Some of our keystone players started playing in RO when they discovered us by chance at Con games.  They were amazing productions with incredible moments, fantastic character development, and breathtaking drama.  And they were one of the primary reasons RO was so successful from its earliest days.  We had the passion and the time to create, and create we did.  Part of our game plan was to anchor at two or three Cons a year (and in our first year, we anchored at four).  This practice, we believed, would grow our game and sustain it with new blood.

However, over the last few Cons, the number of players we have gained and retained has been dwindling, until finally, we added zero players who found us at MCFC 2018.  Still, our game has been growing—because our players love it and want to share it with everyone they know.  Since December, we have added so many new players, I can’t even count that high (I am not a number scientist, you see).  Usually, December games are the time of the year when LARPs die, yet we grew.  The players we did manage to retain for whom MCFC 2018 was their first game were word of mouth players who would have come regardless of whether we ran at a Con or not.

So we’ve had to take a good, hard look at whether or not these events that we loved so much were really necessary to the success of our game.  Con games are a ton of work, and they’re also a not-insignificant financial burden on many of our players.  We started a raffle to help some of them out, but even then, we get far more people who need the help than we have tickets to go around.

So in light of all of those things, we have decided to skip MidSouthCon this year.  We are still discussing whether or not we want to run again at MCFC (we have a special place in our heart for the event, since we are heavily involved in running the gaming department), but we will keep you updated as things progress.

Thank you for being understanding of our decision.  We promise we will reinvest this effort into the production values of the monthly games themselves.

As for the March game, we will be rescheduling it for March 23, 2019 at LARP House 2.  We hope to see you there.

With Love,

Dave