I think I started volunteering at the Jack of Dice booth in 2016, and somewhere in 2017 I dared to ask: can I please give D&D demo's? To introduce people to the hobby, was my excuse. The real reason: to play more D&D with as many people as possible. The folks at Jack fell for my trap (I did roll a nat20) and since then I have been hosting 1-hour D&Demo games at various festivals and the occasional games convention.
After a very long break (due to the global working from home exercise) I had a chance to dive back into it; last week was Castlefest 2022. Since I had plenty of time to prepare I had a bunch of new characters to choose from for the players, both level 1 and level 5 this time. I had a nice little adventure. And of course I had plenty of 3d printed terrain.
I was very, very ready for this, and I had been looking forward to this for ... well... years!
I had taken the whole week of, so I could assist with building up the booth. This time we had a whopping 3-tent wide area we could fill with dice, books, more dice, D&D plush toys, some extra dice, mini’s, paint-stuff and extra special dice. Fortunately we had a large group of very motivated dice-stackers, and even with the weather trying to melt us we had everything set up well in time for dinner. I also had plenty of time to get my D&Demo table ready, carefully prepare all my things and bore everyone to bits with my painted mini-collection.
And then the waiting begun...
The night before I start doing demos at any event I get nervous, what if people will not want to play? What if they hate my little adventure? Will they like the way I run the game? I also get very sure people will just get up and leave halfway because they get bored. These are my brain-weasles and they manage to get on my nerves, even though I have plenty of demo-experience and no-one has ever walked away or told me I suck as a gamemaster.;
On thursday morning the sheet with the little time-cards was taped near the cash-register. Ever since I had 10 to 15 people show up for demo's (we have place for 4 to 5) we use timeslot-cards. The demo is free, but people need to get a card and when the cards for a timeslot are gone, they have to pick another time. having a need for this system eases my nerves a bit: people want to play the demo.
Then at 10:00 sharp Castlefest opened its gates to visitors, and my Big Waiting Game begun. So far, the first timeslot of 11:00 on the first event-day has never had any players as people are still entering the event and getting their first walk-around done. This time, I had 4 players ready for the demo at 11:00 sharp. At around 14:00, all the timeslot cards were gone and people were sad they could not play. Plenty of people told me they would come back another day, bright and early, to get a ticket. On friday the tickets were gone at lunchtime, and on saturday they were gone after I finished the 11 o'clock demo. Even on sunday all the timeslot were fully booked before lunch.
I felt so honored, this was such a great compliment. There were also a number of demo-players who had been looking forward to playing at my table at Castlefest!
All in all I ran the demo 18 times, entertaining 73 players of various ages and levels of experience. Several people whom I had the honor to introduce to the hobby left with the starterset or the PHB, determined to start their own game. I think that is the finest compliment I can get because it feels like I did something right: showing this hobby can be so much fun for anyone. There was a lot of laughter at the table and everyone left the demo with a smile.
I also got a lot of attention and compliments for my terrain. It does feel a bit like gatekeeping the hobby and I keep telling people that this 3d printed stuff it not required to play D&D, not at all. But for a demo, where I only have 10 minutes at most to get the players into the game, this is a lifesaver. Even people who never played D&D know what is going on, because they can see it and touch it.
All in all, I had a great weekend and I am looking forward to my next chance to run D&Demos.
This time I have made a pretty document (thanks to the Homebrewery from Natural Crit) for the adventure. Because I made notes of all the sessions I now have a chance to thank all the adventurers for their (mostly failed) attempts to help the village of Yawnstein.
The adventure can be downloaded:
Jack of Dice D&Demo: Of Trees and Potions