Returning to In-Person Play

Hi everyone! We’ve talked to a lot of you informally and during our games, we’ve been hearing your concerns and fears and excitement and desire to get back to seeing real people. We also collected feedback a little more formally from you all with a survey that you hopefully had a chance to fill out! We’d like to talk to you about what we heard, and what we’re doing in response.

While our approach was strongly informed by your feedback, it’s still a compromise. Not only are we trying to strike a compromise that’s good enough for our players and GMs, but we also need to keep the limits of our venture-officers and our venues in mind. As a result, we hope you’re happy with the outcome, but please be patient! Nothing is set in stone and we anticipate changes as time goes on.

One thing we won’t compromise, though, is everyone’s health. In the end, we’re scheduling games, not lifesaving medical procedures. The CDC is recommending that each of us should evaluate our own risk and modulate our behavior accordingly, and we’re going to try to keep everyone as involved as we can. In exchange, we ask that each of you make smart decisions and stay healthy, and if that means you stay online for a while, that’s fine!

Why Are We Returning Now?

We’ve been keeping an eye on a number of factors:

  • vaccination rates
  • vaccine effectiveness
  • the spread of COVID variants, and
  • local spread.

The governor’s announcement at the end of May was a little bit out of the blue, but so far, cases have continued to drop in Allegheny County. (As I’m writing this, we only had 15 cases and one death in the past 24 hours.) The vaccines have continued to be effective, and while there’s some variant spread, it remains limited. The vaccines are believed to be largely effective against the variants; although they are less effective, the effectiveness we’ve seen from the vaccines commonly available in the U.S. remains as high, if not higher than, many other vaccines that are still actively in use for other diseases.

A small amount of risk remains, and if we have a resurgence we may need to shut down in-person play again. But a measured return seems to be justified and safe.

We also know that we have some in-person players ready to return. There was an almost even split between those of us who are vaccinated and ready to return right now, and those of us who aren’t ready. We think we have enough interest to run some tables, but not so much interest that we’ll be packing ourselves in like sardines to play.

So what’s the plan?

For July, we will be returning to two venues: Heroes Ink and Phantom of the Attic in Greentree. If this goes well, we’ll run more games in person later in the year!

Why are we only returning to two places? What about our other games?

The survey results showed a very large majority of our community shared the same opinion on how to return: we should start slowly, and if that goes well, ramp up to our bigger events.

While starting slowly makes sense to us, there wasn’t much of a decision to make for July even if we had a difference of opinion. We also have venue constraints:

  • The Gaming Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania: GASP remains shut down. Don is waiting on the church to move forward on reopening, and the church is waiting on a higher (administrative) power to determine the path forward for Pittsburgh as a whole.
  • Victory Pointe: we check in with VP periodically. The last we’ve heard, prior to hitting “publish,” they’re moving toward a reopening that hasn’t been scheduled yet, and posting pictures of pinball and arcade game repairs on Facebook.

What about new places to play?

We’ve gotten a number of suggestions of places we can be playing over the past couple of years, and prior to the pandemic we were also discussing scheduling a regular game with another store. After the past year plus, though, us organizers are stretched amazingly thin: there’s fewer of us and we’re GMing more tables than before, and our remaining GMs are running more than is probably sustainable. Pittsburgh has always had a very robust GM culture, and we’re hoping to rebuild that once we’re all back to physical venues and you all don’t need to deal with Roll20! (We know that GMing online is hard.) With luck and some contributions from the community, we might be able to start gaming at some new venues later this year or early next!

What about online gaming? Is it going away?

As we hinted up above, we plan to keep a complete (or nearly so) online schedule for the foreseeable future. We can’t see very far into the future (Aroden is dead, after all), so we don’t want to make any long-term promises. It’s more work to run an online game and we don’t have many online GMs at the moment. Still, we’re going to try!

In Category: Announcements, Gamedays