The Con Game: 3 Tips for Conning on a Budget

My local fan-con, Pure Speculation, happens this weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I love going to cons. I think there is no better place to celebrate our mutual nerdiness than a convention. And while I like all types of conventions, fan-run cons are my favourite. They may not have all the bells and whistles of company-run conventions, but with very few exceptions I always feel the sense of nerd community stronger at a fancon.

Big or small, though, many people stay away from conventions because they think it will cost a ton to attend. And certainly, with that much geekery packed into an enclosed space, the temptation to “GET ALL THE THINGS!” is quite high. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As someone on a budget myself, let me pass along three tips that will make your con experience affordable, and keep you from having to eat cheap ramen to atone for your mistakes.

1) Volunteer – The one expense you know you’ll have every convention is the pass. Whether you go one day or all weekend, you have to pay to get in. But every convention I know of needs volunteers to make the con run, and I know of very few that ever have enough. And they all offer free passes if you volunteer. Usually you need to volunteer for a set amount of time to get the free pass, but so what? While you’re volunteering you’re still AT the con, so you don’t miss anything. When I volunteer, I try to use the time to look around the con as much as possible. I always try to look around the dealer room and landmark where I need to go for panels before I actually have to shop or attend panels. If I can do that while I’m volunteering, so much the better; I’m earning a pass while doing something I’d do anyway. Plus, volunteering is a great way to make sure the con keeps happening. No convention anywhere would run without its volunteers; doing your part keeps cons healthy. And you can meet new people who are also nerds, and there are usually volunteer perks and activities throughout the year…the list goes on. In short, volunteering can net you a lot more than a free pass.

2) Set a Budget Before You Go – And stick to it. Yes, there will be lots of pretty-shinys, and yes, maybe you do have enough in your account to get the gold bust of Gary Gygax you’ve had your eye on. But do you have enough to get it and pay your phone bill? It’s amazing how we forget about or minimize other necessaries when something we desire is right in front of us. To minimize the lure of the impulse buy, set a daily budget for yourself before you go to the con. Setting it before is important; chances are that budget will inflate if you set it while salivating at the dealer’s room. Nope, save yourself the grief and set it the day before. Then stick to it. Doing this will help you when you come face-to-face with that gold bust. You can remind yourself you only have x dollars to spend, and move on. But do keep that bust in mind for later; no one is saying you can’t save up for it. Pro Tip: If you are someone who has serious impulse control issues, most banks will allow you to change the daily withdrawal limit on your bank card for a few days. Just remember to change it back after the con.

3) Look for the Free (and then Cheap) – If you know where to look at a con, there is a plethora of free stuff for the having. Promotional items from companies can be anything: pens, pencils, hats, posters, buttons, water bottles. Hey, maybe the company isn’t your favourite, but…free. At gaming cons, its possible to get free or discounted gaming material, and all it will cost you is sitting down and trying out a game’s demo. That’s practically like getting paid to play a game! Regardless, the con-goer on a budget doesn’t turn down free stuff. The con-goer on a budget says thank-you, and puts the free stuff in the bag he brought for that purpose. Also, don’t ask for seconds or thirds of something, that’s just crass. Think of the other con-goers on a budget.

The next best thing to free, is cheap. There are plenty of cool things you can get at a con that won’t break the bank. If the con has an artist’s alley or similar area, head over and see if there are any artists offering inexpensive sketches. Not all artists do it, but many offer a $5 or $10 quick sketch, in addition to the more expensive detailed drawings. If comics are your thing, the 25-cent bins are your best friend (and the $1 bins are friends of a friend). Check the game dealers for lightly used or shelf-worn stock, which is usually discounted. And don’t forget to make a pass through the dealer’s room late on the Sunday; most dealers will have marked some prices down, so they can avoid hauling or shipping all that stock back home. Just try not to be obnoxious about asking for deals, nobody likes that.

I hope you find those tips useful at your next con. Do you have any tips or tricks for con-going on a budget? Drop them in the comments!

Nerd Goings On in #YEG

Summer, I think it is safe to say, is finally here.  I know nothing is official until June, but the blue skies, blazing sun and my totally coincidental bright red sunburn (you win this time, Daystar!) lead me to accept certain things as fact.  Lucky for me or any other nerd seeking relief from solar radiation, there are plenty of geeky events in the next while that will keep us safely indoors.

“Movie” Nite – The Guild Season 4

As a lead up to the local Can’t Stop the Serenity event, Sheelagh Semper and the Alberta Browncoats have teamed up with Happy Harbor Comics to present weekly viewings of The Guild.  This Wednesday features Season 4, starting at 7pm.; Season 5 will run at the same time next Wednesday, June 6.  Admission is free, and you can pick up your tickets to the CSTS screening while you’re there!

Brass n Brew: Rose n Crown Style

Join the local Steampunk crew for rollicking good times at a brand new venue, the Rose & Crown Pub.  These are great social events for people new to steampunk, or would perhaps like to see what it’s all about in a friendly setting.  And what could be friendlier than a pub? As always, costumes are not required for Brass n Brew events, but are of course encouraged.  The important thing is to come out, relax, and have a great time.  Bully!

Monthly Pure Speculation Organizing Meeting

Want to have a say in how Edmonton’s Pure Speculation Festival runs?  Then join them for their monthly organizer’s meetings.  There is no better way to get involved with one of Edmonton’s top nerd events, plus you’ll get to meet some really great people.  If you’ve ever wondered what goes in to organizing a weekend-long nerdstravaganza, you need to attend at least one of these.

Apocalypse Kow Spring Fling

While not a nerd event per se, it definitely features a bunch of nerds I know and like.  Apocalypse Kow is a tremendously popular a cappella group here in Edmonton, and you will love them whether you are nerd or nerd-adjacent.  How do I know?  Because how could you not love five guys performing the Super Mario theme?  Or their cover of Fat Bottomed Girls?  Trust me: go to the concert and awesomeness will ensue.  Also, partial proceeds go to support The Food Bank and that is always a good thing.

Okay, that should be enough nerdery to hold you for a while.  Next week we’ll touch on a few other things coming up, like Can’t Stop the Serenity and Free RPG Day.  And as always, if you think I missed a crucial geek-oriented event, drop me a note in the comments.

And hey, let’s geek safely out there.

The Dork Round-up!

It’s been a relatively eventful time for this Renaissance Dork, so I thought I’d recap a few developments from the past several days.  Seems like a good way to get this cold, dark Monday started…

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The Pure Speculation Festival was a lot of fun this past weekend; those of you who made it out know what I mean.  A highlight for me was the Saturday Morning Cartoon panel with Joe Wos, the man behind the Toonseum.  He dropped a little knowledge on us about the origin, rise and decline of the Saturday Morning Cartoon, and it was great to watch some clips of old favourites as well as a few I’d never heard about.  Great presentation by a super-friendly and knowledgeable guy; very glad I took it in!

The Dungeons & Dickens panel with Mike Perschon was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd of steampunkers and RPG enthusiasts.  Though I got the sense the crowd was there more for the Steampunk than the RPG, I think I managed to hold my own talking about my old Eberron and Cthulhu campaigns and how steampunk informed them.  In any case I had a blast, so thanks again to Mike Perschon the SteamScholar for allowing me to take part!

Most of the rest of Pure Spec for me was Pathfinder-related.  Sadly, my scheduled Saturday game was cancelled when all the players decided to go home.  But that just meant I had more energy for Sunday, much to the delighted chagrin of my table.  With their characters in mortal danger right from the start the group had a fun ride as they tried to prevent devilish hordes from destroying the city!  Amid much cephalopodic shenanigans they finally succeeded in saving the city and received their just reward.  A good time had by all!

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I’ve spoken before about the Aurora Awards, and may have mentioned that I was nominated for one.  Well, the award ceremony happened yesterday at SFContario/Canvention 31 and…I didn’t win.  But it was honour enough to be nominated and have Pure Spec acknowledged for the fine Festival it has become.

Here are your 2011 Aurora Award winners, my geeks!

  • Best Novel – English: WWW: Watch, by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Best Short Form – English: “The Burden of Fire,” by Hayden Trenholm
  • Best Poem/Song: “The ABCs of the End of the World,” by Carolyn Clink
  • Best Graphic Novel – English: Goblins, by Tarol Hunt
  • Best Related Work – English: The Dragon and the Stars, edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi
  • Best Artist: Erik Mohr
  • Best Fan Filk: Dave Clement and Tom Jeffers
  • Best Fan Organizational: Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi for Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
  • Best Fan Other: John Mansfield and Linda Ross Mansfield, Aurora Award pins

I recommend picking up some of the winning works, you won’t be disappointed.  Thanks to everyone that voted, your support of excellent Canadian SF is appreciated.  Keep your eyes open for next year…

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My Venture-Captain duties are ticking along nicely; I’ve already fielded requests from several people for help starting PFS in their areas including Calgary.  I can see a great deal of fun busyness in my future, spreading the good word of Pathfinder (Can I get an Initiative roll!?).  But keep it coming; if you are a store looking for a great organized play game event, track me down.

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That’s it for this Monday.  It is dreary and cold out there today, perfect weather to huddle indoors and work on my freelance projects.  Of course I’d still work on them if it was sunny and bright, but this way it seems like less of a sacrifice.  So until tomorrow, my tens of readers, when I will regale you with  daring tales of browser games!  Cheerio!

Humpday Links for October 26

Welcome to the last humpday link of October!  I hope everyone has fun spooky plans for Nerd Christmas!  I will be dressing up as a beloved family character from DC Vertigo, joining a few of my friends dressed as my brothers/sisters.  But to get us through the day and closer to the Sea of Parties this weekend, enjoy these links with my compliments…

– Somewhere along the way I lost mine, but you can now enjoy The Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Colouring Book online.  Print off the pages and get your crayons!

– courtesy of @bingofuel (who you should be following on the Twitters), a baby deals with wasabi like a boss!

The latest expansion for Settlers of Catan will eerily mirror  current societal concerns.

– The next time you’re sitting in a waiting room bored out of your mind, grab a pen and leave a little surprise for the next person…

– This one is for my pal @nitabing: Legend of Zelda Hylian Shield

– Who wouldn’t want George Takei talking from their pants?

– Arguably the best part of the Police Academy movies, Michael Winslow gives us a little Zeppelin

– Out Of The Box Publishing has a shiny new site, and you need to check it out!

– If Disney got a hold of Sin City, it might look a lot like this.  I’d…I’d still watch it…Don’t judge me!

– I’m not saying you can’t be a geek if you haven’t read these books, but Wired is.  I’m just agreeing with them.

– Offered without comment: coffee wine.

Hammers of War is a snazzy little Warhammer 40K documentary shot down in Calgary.

– Local steampunk scholar Mike Perschon was interviewed by Judith Graves.  If you want more of The Steam Scholar, check out his panels at Pure Spec this year.

– Here are the five finalists in the Battle of the Geek Bands.  No surprise, Kirby Krackle is one of them.

– Finally, courtesy of @redlianak, comes the Globe & Mail telling us that candy isn’t all bad…

That should hold you.  Now get out there and get your Halloween costume!

Edmonton Nerdery and Future Plans

Today is sort of a two for one post; I have some local nerdery to promote, and I want to talk for a bit about my plans for Renaissance Dork.

But, nerdery first!

Costuming Help 101: An Informal Affair

Join the Edmonton Steampunk group for a casual afternoon of costume planning and instruction!  If you have questions about steampunk costumes, need some inspiration or just want to hang out with an awesome bunch of nerds, this is the event for you!  Taking place at 2pm at the Elephant & Castle downtown (10200 102nd ave), this is an all-ages event so don’t be shy.  With Pure Spec just around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to put the finishing touches on your steampunk array…

22nd Annual Folding Festival

Curious about the mysterious art of origami?  Ever wondered if you could do it yourself?  Pop on down to the Folding Festival and find out!  With a mix of origami displays and hands-on instruction, the Folding Festival is your place to explore this beautiful and deceptively simple-looking Japanese art.  Running two afternoons in the Edmonton Room at the Stanley Milner Library, admission is free to the public.  Come get your fold on!

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Okay, that’s the nerdery.  Don’t worry, there is more coming, I just don’t want to spoil the surprise too early.

On to Renaissance Dork!  Since I started running fairly regular Edmonton Nerdery posts, I’ve had a really good response from readers.  Obviously there was a niche to be filled for a local “What’s On for Nerds” type of site here in YEG, and I am quite frankly happy to be the niche-filler.  Edmonton nerdery is there, no question, but some days I think it needs an amplifier to be heard properly.

So I am going to be that amp, brethren and sistren, and I go to eleven!  In the next while you’ll see a separate page go up with a list of the regular and ongoing geekery around town (things like the Social Media Breakfasts, monthly events at Metro and so on), with links to find out more.  As well, unless there really is no nerdery to report, the Edmonton Nerdery posts will continue on a weekly basis.  If I have to skip a week I will be a very sad panda, so keep those geek events coming!  Seriously, if you are organizing a nerd event or have an ongoing event you’d like on my event page, contact me at brent.jans(at)gmail.com with the details.

In addition to promoting YEG geekery, going forward you will start to see interviews popping up in the posts.  I am reaching out to people I know in the geek community, to chat with them about this and that.  I will then post our chats here on Renaissance Dork for your edification and enjoyment.  It turns out I know a lot of really interesting nerds, so it seems fitting I should introduce you.

Last but not even least, I am opening the door to guest posts.  I have a few people that have expressed an interest in writing the occasional bit of geekery, but don’t have the wherewithal to set-up their own blog.  Down the road I will provide a home for these orphan posts, and I thought it only right to extend the offer to my tens of readers as well.  So if you have a nerdy piece you want to write and you need a place to post it, talk to me.  It can be anything; editorial, review, amusing anecdote.  Just drop me a line at brent.jans(at)gmail.com with a query (or even the finished piece) and we’ll talk.

That’s all for now!  The game is five card stud, nothing wild, and the sky’s the limit!

Comments go in the Comment place!

 

Edmonton Nerd Events

The nerdiness rolls ever on, my Yeggers!  Just when you thought, “No, we couldn’t possibly have more nerd events happening around the Greater Edmonton Area.”…BAMF!  More nerd events!  Just remember the advice of this Renaissance Dork: Pace yourself, geekiness is a marathon, not a sprint.  Just let those words of wisdom sink in as you read these upcoming events:

Turkey Shoot presents: Barbarella

An ongoing event at Metro Cinema, Turkey Shoot mixes everything you love about MST3K with audience participation, and the result is movie viewing hilarity!  Their latest victim, er, film is that Jane Fonda “classic”, Barbarella.  Join your hosts Dave Clarke, Jeff Paige and Morgan Smith on Thursday, October 13 at 9:30pm as they show their appreciation for this notorious bit of ’60s Sci-Fi cinema.  As always, there will be trivia quizzes and great prize giveaways!

Edmonton Pop Culture Fair

This Sunday, “Pop” on down to the Alberta Aviation Museum (11410 Kingsway Ave) for the Edmonton Pop Culture Fair!  For over a decade the Fair has brought together pop-culture vendors from all over Western Canada for your browsing and buying pleasure.  Books, t-shirts, toys, records, comics, posters; you can find anything and everything pop culture related.  Doors open at 10am and admission is just $5, so come spend a day in pop-culture Nirvana!

Pure Spec Board Game Pub Night Fundraiser

Join the Pure Spec crew at Elephant & Castle (10200 102 Ave NW) for a night of good food, good friends and games, all in support of the Pure Spec Festival!  They’ll be eating from 7-8pm, and then gaming until exhausted.  This is casual gaming, so don’t worry if you don’t know how to play something; someone will teach you.  Better yet, bring a game of your own to teach others! Cost is $3 for gaming only, or $15 for your choice of a beef or veggie burger, fries, a pop, and gaming (cash only, please).  Get your game on and support Edmonton’s premiere nerd event, Pure Spec!

Graphic Content Presents: Superman

Graphic Content is an ongoing film series done in cooperation between Metro Cinema and Warp One Comics and Games.  Curated by Matt Bowes and Erin Fraser, the series explores the link between film and sequential art.  Their latest instalment, a 35mm print of the classic Richard Donner Superman (1978), will screen on Tuesday, October 18th; box office opens at 6pm, with screening at 6:45pm.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students/seniors and $6 for children under thirteen.  Don’t miss this classic piece of comic book cinema!

Online Marketing Meetup

Join the Online Marketing Meetup group for their monthly meetup, and get in the know about online marketing!  Hosted the third Wednesday of every month at D’Lish Urban Kitchen & Wine Bar, this is your chance to talk with other folks interested in the internets and online marketing.  Starts at 5:30pm, Wednesday, October 19 and the first round is on SEMPO Canada!

Symphonic Sorcery

Join the Edmonton Harry Potter Club for their outing to Symphonic Sorcery at the Winspear Centre.  The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will present the highly entertaining music of “Harry Potter” as part of their Esso Symphony for Kids series, and the EHPC would like you to come along!  The concert begins at 2pm on Saturday, October 29th, with pre-concert activities for the kids beginning at 1pm.  Shrug off your muggle disguise, and join the wizards of the Harry Potter Club for a fun-filled afternoon!

As always, if you have a nerdy event you’d like me to post, drop me a link in the comments section or email me at brent.jans(at)gmail.com.  I post these weekly, usually Thur/Fri, so the earlier you get it to me the better!

The Edmonton Nerdery Continues!

Last Friday I posted about nerd events happening around our fair city.  Since then, several other events have come to my attention, and now I am bringing them to yours.  So much nerdery, people; there really is no excuse to stay cooped up in your house.  Get on out and let your geek flag fly!

Sci-Fi Movie Night

Happening Saturday, October 1 at Happy Harbor (12226 Jasper Avenue), Sci-fi Movie Night is going to feature two sci-fi classics…well, one classic and one “classic”.  Get your geek-on with a double bill of Disney’s dark sci-fi thriller The Black Hole (1979) and the scaly horror of SSSSSSS (1973).  Beverages and snacks will be available, with proceeds split between the Pure Spec Festival and Crystal Kids.  There will be door prizes as well, so get there early and support some great causes with some great sci-fi!

Lloyd the Conquerer

Making its Edmonton debut at the Edmonton International Film Festival is a Canadian indie film shot right here in Alberta.  How nerdy could it be?  I’ll let the site itself describe it:

Lloyd and his two best friends need to pass their Medieval Literature class in order to keep their financial aid. In desperation, they beg their teacher for extra credit work. He concedes, but only on one condition: they must join his deteriorating LARPing league, to do battle against him in a game of Demons & Dwarves.

Geeky enough for you?  Lloyd the Conquerer screens Saturday, October 1, 5:30pm at The Garneau.  Come out and show your nerdiest support for Canadian and Albertan film!

Book Launch – with Pie!

Be at Happy Harbor (12226 Jasper Avenue) Thursday, October 6th at 6:30 for the launch of award-winning author Minister Faust’s new book, The Alchemists of Kush.  About the book: “The struggle of two Sudanese “lost boys” for manhood. One lives today in E-Town: He’s Raphael, son of Araweelo. The other lived 7,000 years ago along the Nile. He’s Horus, son of Isis.”  Join the Minister Faust and your fellow geeks for a reading, book signing, and delicious desserts for sample and sale.  Not to be missed; support local authors!

24 Hour Comics Day

Happy Harbor presents its 8th Annual 24Hr Comics Day, in support of Literacy Alberta.  This is a fantastic event in which each local artist participating writes, draws and inks a 24 page comic in 24 hours!  You are encouraged to come on down, donate and cheer on the artists.  As well as supporting a worthy cause, your donation puts you in the draw for a complete set of DC’s New 52 #1 issues.  24Hr Comics Day will start at 10am on Saturday, October 8, finishing at 10am Sunday, October 9, at the HH1 location (12226 Jasper Ave).  Join Happy Harbor in showcasing talented local artists, as well as supporting Literacy Alberta!

Tesseracts 15 Launch

Join Edge Publishing at Greenwood’s Bookshoppe (7925 104 street) on Saturday, October 15 for the Edmonton launch of Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales.  This anthology is co-edited by Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor, and features local Edmonton writers Nicole Luiken, Cat McDonald, and Kate Boorman.  Readings from the anthology will start at 3pm, and there will be coffee and refreshments served.  There is no cost to attend, but you should get there early to grab a copy of the book; they may go fast!  Come on out and support great SF literature!

There you are, Edmonton, get out and get your nerd on!  And if you know of any other upcoming nerd events, drop me line here so I can post them for my tens of dedicated readers.

PS: I love you, tens of dedicated readers!