The RPGA was trying to encourage play at conventions by giving players experience points for their performance at events the RPGA sponsored, but the initial idea for tracking experience points did not fare well – there were too many variables to keep up with, available points would vary significantly from tournament to tournament (especially when the tournaments were not designed to promote or track these points), and tracking the myriad points was truly a nightmare. At GenCon in 1984 a new system was tried, and it was much more successful.
Players who participated in an event would get experience points for playing, and with any luck extra points for doing well (placing first, second, or third). To figure out how players placed, the players and the judge (gm) would fill out forms where they answered questions about which players showed admirable qualities and then ranked the players from first to last. The players votes were counted up (4, 3, 2, and 1 for first, second, third, and fourth respectively) and judge’s votes counted double (8, 6, 4, and 2). Scores were added up and winners were identified. If the event had multiple rounds, the top two or three players would advance while the next player in line became an alternate. The players and the judge also had places for feedback about the module, giving the powers that be at RPGA headquarters a basis for trying to improve modules.
Perhaps nearly as important (at least to me) the players also ranked the judge from 1 to 5 in each of six categories:
(1) how well they* organized play
(2) how well they knew the adventure
(3) how well they handled the unexpected
(4) how good they were at role playing the NPCs
(5) how well they knew the game rules
(6) overall rating
With the typical six player table, a judge could score a maximum total of 180, a score that was very, very rare. More importantly, HQ could identify good judges and bad judges and either help judges get better or spy on judges to find out just how they got to be so well-loved by the players.
While I had never actually run any role-playing event myself, I had played in multiple games a week back at the Yankee Peddler in Knoxville, so I was pretty focused on what I thought good judges were like and how a good event should play out, and the early AD&D style opens were a grave disappointment to me. When I found myself in charge of a one day gaming event that existed solely to raise money for a science fiction convention in Evansville I was determined to bring the style of gaming I had left behind in Tennessee with me. Of course, I didn’t know any of the game masters that were available to me, didn’t have any good adventures for them to use, and didn’t have player counts or preregistration ahead of time, but that wasn’t going to stop us!
To be continued!
*I don’t find “s/he” or “he or she” to be acceptable pronouns, so using “they” in a singular form seems perfectly acceptable. More on my battle with TSR over “they” is a topic for another time. Meanwhile, according to Wikipedia,
“The singular they had emerged by the 14th century and is common in everyday spoken English, but its use has been the target of criticism since the late 19th century. Its use in formal English has increased with the trend toward gender-inclusive language.”
So “Nyah-Nyah” to TSR. Oh, wait, they don’t exist anymore…
And since we’re ending with a grammar problem, here’s Weird Al’s attempt to stomp out Word Crimes: