Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at how a recent convention handled gaming at the show.

After last week’s column, I heard from Cape Comic Con’s gaming coordinator, Michael Von Hasseln regarding how the gaming that took place at Cape Comic Con.  According to Michael, in order to minimize the risk of exposing attendees of the gaming events at the con, the staff decided about 2 weeks before the con took place to move all of the gaming events off-site, and provided this account.

"With just weeks away from the event, we were told we were going to have very limited space; the change in date limited how much space Ken was going to have available to use for the total event.  I consulted with others and community leaders regarding how to best approach the situation and found that most of our normal participants were concerned about how we planned to provide proper social distancing.  Knowing this was a concern, the local gaming store (Legendary Planeswalkers) offered to allow us the use of their game room, giving us much more room to spread out.

"In order to provide that space, we took three steps:  1) we expanded our normal table space from 4'x6' tables by adding an additional table… granting us a 6'x6' square table to allow for distancing; 2) we spaced the tables 8' apart to provide a minimum space of 6' between tables; and finally, 3) we limited seating to the minimum 4-player table.  In addition, the venue provided masks to all participants (especially GMs).  Unfortunately, the limited time span gave us little time to advertise our changes outside of the posting for the event on Warhorn or social media.  Likewise, we were unable to expand our scope by utilizing an online forum; there wasn't time to set up such events, and unfortunately, a large amount of my GMs (including myself) are unfamiliar with the technology required for running virtual RPGs.  This is something we are taking steps to correct before our next convention, as both a preventative measure against a potential shut-down causing a negative impact and as a way to expand our reach.

"All of the gaming events scheduled for Cape Comic Con ended up hosted at Legendary Plainswalkers for that weekend, with plenty of space provided to maintain that safe distance.  At the request of frequent attendees, we invited the GM who runs the 5E Adventurer's League games to join us, as well as the scheduled HeroClix tournament and Star Wars Miniatures Battles tournament, and the Crisis Protocol demos.  By allotting space and scheduling time for those other events, we were able to coordinate them all safely, minimizing potential hazards.

"One unexpected benefit of limiting seating to a 4-player table is that participants utilized Warhorn more, in order to ensure their spot at a table.  Because of this, we are burning through scenarios at a slower pace than before, making scheduling an "encore event" a necessity.  Previously, organized play could hit a logjam, with everyone loading into an event the first time it was scheduled and preventing the ability to reschedule that same scenario… potentially costing us the ability to entice new players.

"We had roughly 30-40 unique attendees over the course of the three-day weekend, with around 20-25 at any given time throughout the day which remained well within the guidelines set by the city health department for the allowed capacity of the gaming space.

"Our precautions and restrictions appear to have proven effective as we have not had any confirmed reports of anyone contacting the virus because of the event.  In fact, we have been running physical space games bi-monthly at Legendary Planeswalkers since Missouri opened businesses back up, using the same precautions listed above.  So far, there have been no reported cases of the virus amongst our local player base.  Our current plans are to host a similar hybrid physical space-online convention this fall, one that will reach not just our immediate region, but across Missouri state."

Have any thoughts about the future of game conventions?  Is the hybrid physical-online format the wave of the future?  Send your thoughts to:

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of