Writing a blurb for a con game is often your sole form of advertising. You need to be able to catch people's eye and get across what your game is about - your ideas, genre and approach to the particular story involved. Your blurb also needs to let potential players know all the administrative bits about your game.
There are as many approaches to writing blurbs as there are styles of running and writing games, and they all have some good points and some flaws. This document doesn't attempt to instruct you on what to put in your blurb but is more concerned with covering the administration requirements that Arcanacon has for putting your blurb on our website, as well as briefly touching on how you can minimise some of the potential pitfalls that new (and old!) blurb writers fall into when writing blurbs for a convention site.
Most local roleplaying conventions have a form of rating system for their blurbs.
Arcanacon has up to five ratings at the end of each blurb. The Adult Content rating is required for every event, and blurbs will not be accepted without one. The Seriousness rating is strongly advised for most events, and the Characterisation rating should rarely be omitted for any roleplaying event. Sometimes either Genre Knowledge or Rules Knowledge is omitted, but generally at least one appears.
If you think Seriousness, Characterisation or both Genre Knowledge and Rules Knowledge do not apply to your game, you should be prepared to justify that to the Writer Wrangler.
For guidelines on the meaning of the five event ratings, please see the Rating System page. Try to assign ratings in accordance to the ratings laid out there, as it is better for everybody if the ratings convey the type of game you intend to run as accurately as possible.
There has long been an ongoing debate amongst con organisers and attendees about the use of names, pseudonyms and production houses. Arcanacon would like writers to provide their names somewhere in their blurbs, but we don't object to using production houses and pseudonyms as well.
When using a production house, we recommend phrasing things as follows:
A Helpful Fish production, written by Adam Aardvark
A Helpful Fish production
… (blurb) …
Helpful Fish is Adam Aardvark and Bert Banana.
Pseudonyms can be handled in a similar way:
Written by Bastet and Claire
… (blurb) …
Bastet and Claire is often known to the world as Adam Aardvark.
Over years of collecting feedback on the blurbs and games for Arcanacon, it has become clear that many attendees are leery of blurbs which don't have the actual name of the writer included, especially in the current climate of minimalist printed material. For potential attendees who only have the printed material to go by, they often only know the Event name, the System and the Writer, and so knowing who actually is running or writing the event is important to them.
Conversely, one of the three things that inclines someone toward entering an event is the writer/organiser - people remember from year to year who wrote an event and go back to play their games again if they had a good time.
Honesty and Accuracy in Blurbs
Arcanacon would like to recommend to writers that they are as honest as possible about the type of content of their game as they can be without giving away parts of their prospective stories. Players enter your game almost solely based on the blurb, and a story called, (as an example) Petting Zoo, with only quotes as the body of the blurb, could be easily misinterpreted as being an entirely different sort of story from the one you were intending to run. The blurb ratings assist greatly with helping players sort out the games they want to play, but sometimes misunderstandings happen.
We think that most of our writers and attendees are mature enough to politely excuse themselves from a game if it is causing them some distress, but there can be situations where a player can't leave, or stopping the game can be a stressful situation, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
Just as a sanity check, grab a couple of people who don't know what your game is about and ask them to read your blurb, and let you know what sort of impressions they get from the blurb. You could think of it as playtesting your blurb, in the same way as you would playtest your actual game.
There are just a few details that we always need and that we always forget to ask for, and you always forget to give us, so here's a brief list of administrative details you should check you've included with your blurb:
- provided a name for your game?1
- given a system (if applicable)?1
- listed the number of players? (min and max)2
- listed the number of sessions?2
- put your name on the blurb?1
told the organisers when you can and can't run your game?1
Arcanacon 2011 runs sessions A, and B on Thursday; C, D, E and F on Friday; G, H, I and J on Saturday; and finally K, L and M on Sunday. The session times are 9am, 1pm, 4pm and 8pm each day.
- told the organisers about any special room allocation needs you have?
- made it clear whether your game is a tabletop, freeform, living, miniture or special event?1
- told the organisers about your trophy requirements (including if you don't want any)2
- made it clear what genre your game should be grouped as? (Usually by filling in the free-form box beside the rating in AON.)
- given ratings (0 to 5, or NA for "not applicable") for each of the 5 categories (Adult content, Seriousness, Rules Knowledge, Genre knowledge and Characterisation)?1
- (opt.) dice or no dice?3
- (opt.) provided any other ratings (angst, pretension, cheese , etc)3
- (opt.) given contact information?3
- (opt.) mentioned costuming or other requirements for attendees?3
- If you submit your blurb via AON, the system will require these details before you finalise your blurb.
- If you submit your blurb via AON, the system will provide default values which will often be good enough. However, you should check these items before you submit your blurb. If you don't, the organisers may have little choice but to assume that the default is correct.
- These items are not required, but can enhance the appeal of the blurb and event.