Prices as of Summer 1998, in the DC Washington area Ė you may need to modify for inflation.
Most GMs have the silly notion that the event is "over" when they finish with the closing ceremony (or what have you). On the contrary, Iíve seen at least one event that had some trouble, but was overall well received by the players picked to pieces because of a bad closing, and Iíve seen one event which frankly sucked redeem itself with a "Dead Dog" party good enough most of the players left with an upbeat feeling. Nobody cites it as a great event, but most people donít talk about what a crappy time they had (and some of them had a pretty crappy time). Iíve also seen one event which went so badly that the GMs were advised theyíd best not show up at their own Dead DogÖand they didnít.
The Dead Dog
The "Dead Dog" party is a tradition at Theatre Style events, and it is rapidly becoming common at other types of event. It is a way to make sure that in the hours immediately after your event Ė when memories are slowly seeping down and being stored Ė the players are fairly "up" and happy. The term "Dead Dog" has been around for years, and probably came from the sci/fi convention or theatre influence on IL. A "Dead Dog" will probably form spontaneously if you donít organize one. This is often accompanied by much cutting in and out of certain people, and confusion, missed directions, and consternation. Not surprisingly, many players donít differentiate between the lousy time they had finding their friends for dinner after the event, and the time they had at your event. It probably wonít turn a peak experience into a bad experience, but it could mean a player who had a mediocre time remembers the event badly instead of fondly.
A Dead Dog isnít too hard to arrange for a forty player event. Call a local restaurant which can handle large parties, and advise them when to expect you. Since most dead-dog parties are at about 2-3pm, which is the deathly slow afternoon, most restaurants are delighted to have forty diners at that time. The Bertilucci chain has proven a good choice in Maryland, and has many national locations. The John Harvard chain proved a good choice after Intercon XIII. Various diners in New Jersey have proven slow, but otherwise decent choices. Donít descend on a restaurant unawares. Check to see if the restaurant can take a party of 30-40 a few weeks beforehand, and call in reservations on Friday. Even if the restaurant says "just come in no problem" call about two hours beforehand, and alert the manager.
Needless to say, you need to be in the $10-20 range for most events Ė preferably a place where there are burger or similar entrees in the $6.95 range. Bertucciís, a national chain with sites dozens of states, works well because they serve pizza which includes white pizza, and vegetarian pizza, as well as Italian entrees. Attempts at a Mexican restaurant for another event worked less well Ė not everybody eats Mexican. Various steakhouses which offer "cafeteria style" service have worked fairly well. Consider the same to be true of Chinese. Likewise avoid extremely cheap eats. Dennyís and Shoneyís are just too greasy for some people. Still, it's better to go lowbrow, and make sure you aren't pricing people out, than to go for class and find half your players had to order water. The last thing you need is a "counter dog" party where a group of diners decide to go elsewhere. Pick a good family restaurant, with a wide menu selection.
If possible, a "cafeteria style" restaurant, where everyone "pays as they go" is a better choice than a sit down restaurant. And having about six people on a check is better than having everyone at the table on one two or three hundred dollar check.
There's a reason for this. You will get stiffed. Here and there a person will forget to pay, and in the excitement of post-game conversation, it may well be a very legitimate "forgetting." At a six person table, its relatively easy to figure out who that person was and remind them. At a forty person table it's a hopeless case. Diners also routinely "forget" about extra drinks, or assume that the cost of an appetizer they ordered is being shared by the rest of the people who ate it, when those people assume nothing of the sort. Finally, some people will stiff on the tip, and some people simply can't calculate 15%. Add to that the fact that some restaurants add a 20% gratuity to the check for large parties, and you have a recipie for trouble. The difference between 15% and 20% on a $350 check is nearly twenty dollars. At a forty person table all these factors will routinely add up to a forty to eighty dollar shortfall. And guess who will be stuck holding the tab? The game organizers, if they don't want some really disgruntled players. Budget extra to pay for the overrun on your dead dog if you have a "single table" setup.
Plan your Dead-Dog and have maps available for players. This is your last chance to make an impression, soothe ruffled feathers, and make sure your players leave with a good impression of your event. Donít try to "run" your Dead Dog party. Just move from group to group. Say "thank you" a lot, and tell the players how good they did. If the game was at all a success, then you have a lot of very legitimate "thank youís" to say, and youíll be telling the truth when you tell the players how good they did. Call attention to players you think got missed "Ed had a great scene, but John and I were the only ones who saw it!" Theyíll appreciate it, and other players are often eager to hear from a GM what went on behind the scenes, while if Ed tried to tell his own story, they would have no interest.
If a player is being critical, try to let it roll off. If they keep going, try to head them off ó"Gee I think you have a lot of good insights into how to improve this game, but Iíve got to be honest and tell you Iím too tired to make much of them right now. Why donít we get together sometime in a week or so, and you can tell me all about it." Sometimes you can actually help your game by listening to bitching at the Dead Dog. Try saying "hmmÖthatís interestingÖcome over here and tell me about it where itís quiet." At that point, at least theyíre only bitching to you not twenty other people who are still forming impressions. Donít let yourself get defensive. There will be criticism. Most players know enough not to criticize a GM immediately after a game, but not all do, and overreacting just leaves a bad impression on everyone who sees it. Sometimes you can lead a player that wants to talk about how rotten some aspect of the event was off by trying to get them talking about some scene they had, or some action they took instead. Also, be reasonable. If well-known complainer A is bitching about the event, and being roundly ignored, donít feel the need to make everyone uncomfortable by being confrontational. Fortunately, if the event went well, you wonít need to do much spin control at the Dead Dog party.
For a four or six hour event, dinner afterwards might still be possible. Another alternative is a "Dead Dog" at the site, with some chips and dip, and some wind-down time. This isnít always possible, especially with events running late, but when it is possible, it helps create and maintain the community atmosphere.
Stay in contact with your players afterwards. A simple e-mail message the Monday or Tuesday after a run saying "thank you" can help to clench the impression you made, and make the players feel you appreciated them. This is also a good chance to thank anyone who went "above and beyond" during the run of the event.
Donít be grudging in your thanks, and donít hesitate to thank people you donít like. Heck, they probably donít like you either, so if they went the second mile for your event, you owe them double thanks. Not everybody likes everybody personally, but that shouldnít eclipse decency and professional conduct when dealing with events.
Nobody made me the arbiter of what is and is not in good taste and good manners in the live roleplaying community. But Iíve devoted a fair amount of time to producing a useful and impartial guide to the art for you, so now Iíll diverge and offer a few personal suggestions.
From time to time hard times come to the country and to the industry. In 1991-92 people lost jobs, and those who didnít often had to work longer hours to cover for hiring freezes, or layoffs. That meant less time to spend on entertainment. Trips became more problematic.
The result was a lot of hard feelings. People who had played events a year ago failed to show Ė and their friends felt angry and betrayed.
The lesson here is that you should not take it personally if someone cannot make it to your event. If youíre hurting and you need someone to show, ask them as a personal favor, and offer to help them with something in exchange. It isn't fair to make your event an "obligation" that everyone "must" attend.
The counter responsibility is that you are not a star. Do not sit back and wait for people to give you a personal invitation to events to prove that you are important. If you are interested in an event, say so. Even if you canít pay right then, let the organizers know you are excited and supportive.
There are also some obligations that go with being an event organizer that do not go with being a player. If you organize your own events, at least some of your fellow event organizers that show up will be doing so out of professional courtesy. That is to say that they are showing up to support you, not because they are particularly excited about your event. Certainly, you hope that your event will be its own reward Ė theyíll have a good time and be glad they came.
But you also incur a counter responsibility. Within reason you should attend their events. That doesnít mean skipping your anniversary, or your grandmotherís funeral to turn out at all costs. But it does mean trying to show when you can, and if you canít show, it would probably be polite to mention to the producers that you are otherwise obligated and wish you could show.
You also have a responsibility to return favors of help. This does not mean that if someone loaned you a few props you are responsible for being the primary producer for their next event. But it does mean that you should remember who has helped you, and try to return the favor.
Finally, the price of having "earned your stripes" is not to sit back and rest on your laurels. After youíve run a half dozen productions you may find it comparatively easy to get help. Other, newer, members of the community wonít. Itís your duty to try to reach out and offer them a helping hand. Advice is good, but they probably need your help in recruiting cast, rounding up props, and producing materials more than they need your advice. They may or may not want your help writing. If they do, and you feel willing, go ahead. But if they donít it is best not to take umbrage. Good drama is driven by a strong internal vision Ė let them go in the direction they want, and give them the help they need.
The Live Roleplaying community is dependent on help and volunteers for much of its success. As events become more and more dependent on "cast" this will only increase. Polite behavior and professional courtesy keep the community going around. None of us is perfect, but if we all try to act decent, the results will tell and make your local community a more enjoyable place to be.
Copyright 1998 , Gordon Olmstead-Dean. You
may reprint or cite, providing the source is attributed.
Some of this material has appeared previously in identical or substantially similar form in the LARPA Periodical
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