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 a recent convention, held in the coronavirus era.

Most conventions have canceled physical events this year (see, for example, "Coronavirus Convention Cancellation Round-Up"), or moved online, with Gen Con opting to host a free online event this past weekend (see "Gen Con Officially Cancelled for 2020 Over COVID-19 Concerns"), and San Diego Comic Con the week before (with a 95% drop in mentions on social media from 2019, see "Confessions of a Comic-Book Guy – The Year I ‘Went’ to Comic-Con"), so I decided to reach out to Ken Murphy, the coordinator of one of the few regional cons that have taken place, Cape Comic Con, and ask what changes he made in order to successfully host the convention this past July as localities started to relax restrictions.

What is Cape Comic Con?
Cape Comic Con is an annual celebration of fandom.  Everything from comic books, to literature, to pro wrestling.  Its focus is on community.  Bringing people together in the spirit of sharing common interests and being introduced to new genres.

A number of conventions opted to host a virtual event.  Why did you not choose to go that route?
Cape Con was postponed from April, when the state and county health officials deemed it unsafe, to July when the restrictions were lifted.  I didn’t have the knowledge to deliver a virtual event, so letting the community decide if they wanted to attend an event such as Cape Con was my intention.

What changes did you make in response to the epidemic?
We were asked to create awareness around social distancing and offered numerous hand sanitizing stations, as well as checking the temperatures of attendees.

We also placed directional arrows on the floor to create one way traffic.

We reduced the number of vendor tables from 139 to 105 and capacity for the showroom was reduced from 1200 to 800.

How was attendance?
Attendance was down and that was to be expected.  We did have a dozen vendors ask for their payment to roll over to 2021.

What sort of feedback have you received?
The feedback we have received has been positive.  Vendors, guests, and attendee all enjoyed themselves.

Did the convention meet your expectations?
The convention did meet my overall expectations and we look forward to another fun filled weekend in April 2021.

What about masks?  Mask requirements changed significantly the week before the convention.
Yes, the city of Cape Girardeau went from masks being "strongly encouraged" to masks mandatory two days before the event.  I believe it made more people feel comfortable about coming out and I only had two people say that having to wear a mask kept them from attending.

What steps did you take to maintain the safety of the featured guests?  Did they have any concerns about attending?
We had two guests cancel.  The other six guests did not have special requests other than simple "no touch policy for pics."

I would be interested in hearing what you think about the future of conventions, gaming, science fiction and comic.  I know that several we normally attend, including Quincon, Archon and Chambanacon have already announced they will cancel this year’s events, bypassing any virtual programing and either refund or roll over memberships until 2021, which will prove a huge financial hit for those businesses that rely heavily on the convention circuit, as I know a large number of crafters and musicians do.  Contact me at with your thoughts.

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