Forge Midwest is my favorite gaming convention. There, I said it. GenCon is fun since so many people go, but it’s also crowded and expensive and it can be hard to decide what to do with so many options. Forge is small—between 50-75 attendees in 2014—and held in the spring (usually March or April) since 2008. Willow Palacek and Tim Jensen organize the convention and their goal is to get as many people playing as many games as possible and make it easy for everyone to get an awesome gaming experience.
There are no pre-scheduled games at Forge: GMs pitch at set times and players are sorted into games. The organizers found that a communal whiteboard for signup created/supported in-groups and penalized people who couldn’t make it on Friday, so they switched a couple years ago to pitch sessions at session start times. The sessions are Early (10a-12p), Afternoon (1p-5p), Evening (6p-11p), and Late (11p on); you don’t have to miss a game session just to get food. All you have to do is show up!
Player to GM ratio is smaller, in my experience, than with other conventions. Plenty of folks play all weekend, but plenty run games, as well. I’ve never missed out on a session due to lack of GM or games on offer.
There is no registration fee for Forge Midwest—if you want to help offset the cost of the meeting rooms you can draw a room in the whiteboard dungeon for every $5 you donate. The hotel rate for 2014 is $79/night plus tax. Downright cheap, especially if you share a double room!
You’ll mostly find chain restaurants like TGIFridays, Panera, and Red Robin within walking distance and the traditional last meal of the con is held at Erins Snug Irish Pub on Sunday evening. Driving opens up your options for food—the university campus is 7 miles away so you can go for food and be back within the hour between sessions.
The games on offer range from playtesting to published, with mostly tabletop RPGs, though 2014 saw the first LARP. You never really know what will be on offer, but that’s half the fun. I had wanted to play Kingdom of Nothing for years until Forge. The next year I ran Heroine while others were playing It Was a Mutual Decision. Lary Lade called it ‘a Midwestern potluck of games—ideally, everyone brings something to share, and everyone gets a chance to check out a bunch of different things.
Forge is a bring-your-own-drinks kind of con, so it’s adults only.
At the risk of destroying the intimate house-party feel of the con by attracting a ton of new people… I can’t recommend Forge Midwest highly enough. It is indie RPGs distilled into a weekend.