In 1982 I moved from Knoxville to Evansville (Indiana) and somehow found myself in charge of running two conventions each year, one Science Fiction convention (Contact) and one gaming convention (which was initially unnamed and used to raise money to put on the Science Fiction convention six months later … I eventually named it Glathricon).
I had played in the AD&D open at GenCon and at similar events at GenCon East and other small local gaming conventions, and had become not impressed by how they were run. Players in groups that were way too large (up to ten players) would go through a series of rounds where they played for less than four hours and had unspecified goals that resulted in points that eliminated some of the teams and let others move on to the next round.
After seeing how the Open ran, it became clear to me that the most efficient way to run it was to have one and only one player at the table talking to the GM while the rest of the party would make suggestions on what the party should do (thus eliminating the problems that could arise from splitting up the party or taking conflicting actions). This might have made for efficient rounds, but was nothing like playing at home in your own campaign.
I reached my limit with the Open when an event asked players to travel through the desert to another town or Oasis. Along the way there was a tent off to the side of the road, and following the second rule of dungeons (“Never lose sight of your objective”) a smart party would simply ignore it and keep going. And they would get no points at all and be done in ten minutes because the entire first round was waiting inside that tent.
Fortunately another type of event started to show up at GenCon. The Role Playing Gamers Association was formed in 1980, and I was an early member (number 223), but it initially didn’t do anything different with tournaments at conventions. An early attempt at building up experience points for players was to give them points for playing, for not dying, for killing monsters, and possibly a zillion other things (I’ll have to pick through boxes of stuff to find the exact rules). That was very complicated, there was no system for collecting and tracking data, and worst of all the system was based on playing in events like the AD&D Open.
Fortunately, a better idea came along. So here are the early Bee Gees singing about an Idea in a 1968 video: