Call of Cthulhu
I think it’s correct this last year has been something of a roller-coaster. There’s been a lot of ups and downs for me personally, and it is safe to say I’m very much in a better place – literally – than earlier this year. I moved out from my flat in Albert Street, which is going on the market next month. There’s a lot of baggage I had attached regarding that place, and I’m feeling far better away from it!
Conventions & Events
Anyway… I didn’t make the UK Games Expo or Conpulsion this year. Both would have taken a serious toll on me this time, given the way things were. The amount of personal stress and anxiety I was suffering was sending me off the deep end. Since then, I’ve become far more clear-headed and remain firmly grounded in this reality.
That said, I’ve been busy in a few other realities! I ran a few demo games of the Conan RPG and Achtung! Cthulhu at Red Dice Games as part of Free RPG Day. I had a lot of fun – as did the players, plus I caught up with a few old acquaintances during the day.
Tabletop Scotland was a blast. I didn’t feel the same sense of mental pressure that I’ve felt at other gaming conventions, possibly since it’s the first year to run. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about the event which takes place in Perth. It’s on again from 24th – 25th August 2019. I’d have loved to have caught up with more folks but it was such a fun weekend, running Infinity RPG, Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu – all of which were well-received and gave much-needed feedback and new ideas.
Dragonmeet (earlier this month) was really busy for me. Again, I still didn’t manage to catch up with everyone I wanted to. I may try and make it more of an extended trip next year and spend a bit of time pottering about London, and catching up with folks beforehand.
Much of my time this year has been involved in writing for the Infinity RPG. As well as writing a sizeable chunk of material for the Infinity GM Guide, I’ve also been responsible for outlining and writing the massive forthcoming Infinity: Shadow Affairs Campaign book. It’s been a fairly deep-dive into the Infinity lore for me, but I’ve hit the ground running, just like my character (yes, that’s me on p.488 of the Infinity core book!). As a result of my work upon that, there’s a fair amount of work I’ve done on the forthcoming Paradiso source book too. Looking forward to seeing both of those in print. More on Infinity later…
I’ve also been heavily involved in converting Achtung! Cthulhu to the 7th Edition of the Call of Cthulhu rule-set, notably both the Investigator’s and Keeper’s Guide. I’ve also been responsible for a chapter of the new Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 rule set, running several demos at Dragonmeet a few weeks ago. Lotta fun running that, along with the post-apocalyptic Devil’s Run game (which went a bit off-piste, but I enjoyed it). .
Mutant Chronicles has taken a bit of a back seat, although I’ve done some work towards some of the Siege of the Citadel, and converted some of the Dark Soul’s creatures to and from the game’s rules. Compiling the Mutant Chronicles Universal Index (plus the errata and timeline) were very useful in getting me up to speed in that respect. The Mutant Chronicles Universe is still very much alive. More on that later, too….
New for 2019…
As is my custom for this annual post, I’m trying to set out some clear goals (writing and otherwise) for myself over the next year. To be honest, quite a few have been carried over from previous years. So I guess that makes them traditional.
This year, I’d like to actually play some tabletop games of Infinity and Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish/Tactics – I’ve got a number of the starter sets (including the Combined Army one) like Red Veil for Infinity, and a load of miniatures for both now. I’d like to get back to painting miniatures again. Quite likely I’ll post any work in progress here. Aside from various discussions involving Dettol and airbrushes, techniques don’t look to have changed that much – I went to Wonderland earlier in the month and bought Milliput. Looks exactly the same, too.
I’ve a pile of the RAFM Kickstarter minis for Call of Cthulhu, and also the Battletech starter set. My Cthulhutech/Battletech mecha mash-up is still a pipe-dream right now, but there is a good place to start! In the past, the size of my old flat and lack of time (and application!) meant that I had no room or inclination to paint. That given, we’re considering a summer-house (or shed!) although we also have two outdoor 10×10 cellars that might easily be converted to a workshop/painting studio given a little work. They are pretty damp though…
Writing and gaming goals
Board gaming is also something I’d like to get into again. Games like Siege of the Citadel, Thunderbirds, Burning Suns, and Legends Untold are all on my hit-list to play. I’m avoiding X-Wing and other Star Wars games as their miniatures are hideously expensive. Got to admit though, I would like to have a go of whoever produces a new version of Talisman, Fantasy flight or not. Deep Madness also looks like it might be worth a look – I missed both the Kickstarters but it looks terrifyingly fun, and not as bulky as Cthulhu Wars… famous last words, perhaps.
My flat’s painter/decorator has also asked me to run a Pathfinder game for him and a group of his gaming group. I also got my dentist back into board-gaming, and quite a few folk at my work have expressed an interest. Yeah, you’ve read that right. I’m thinking I’ll go for the classic Rise of the Runelords campaign, or a least getting them started upon it. It’s been a while since I ran Pathfinder.
In the process, I’ve also considered combining my former sandbox (ahem!) Sands of Time Pathfinder setting and Against the Odds into a single setting, for use with the Conan 2d20 RPG rules – I’m quite keen on consolidating them in that rule-set, as Conan’s low-magic rules really make the setting far more dark (no fireballs, but lots of sinister necromancy!).
Regarding my RPG freelancing I’ve a number of writing projects for Achtung! Cthulhu (inc. the 2d20 version), Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPG in the pipeline, plus a few other projects I can’t talk about yet. Infinity’s Shadow Affairs and Paradiso took a huge chunk of my time last year, but it was well worth it. Looking forward to seeing the hard-copy, after it gets approved. I recently acquired Kult, the latest edition, using my points from the Modiphius store. This horror RPG comes from the same origins as the Mutant Chronicles and uses certain aspects in both. I may plunder it for some scenario ideas…
Speaking of aspects, it’s no secret that Modiphius are now publishing Vampire: The Masquerade after recent events required a realignment of White Wolf’s material (to put it mildly). Something I’ve been considering for some time is a source book for Edinburgh that can be used with horror RPGs. It’d be a fair bit of work and system free, but would collate Edinburgh ghost stories, places like Shrub Hill and the Heart of Midlothian, individuals like Burke and Hare, and Edinburgh setting across the eras (including references to the Dresden Files, Necroscope and other Brian Lumley material): provisionally entitled “Edinburgh by night”. I’d be interested in working with any writer on that – not a solo project!
To be honest my workload and events such as moving flat have caused me to neglect a lot of the Edinburgh Gaming scene (and page), and I hope to rectify that in the New Year. ORC Edinburgh continues to expand, although the lack of a central venue means it’s difficult for me to keep track of the games that are going on, and harder still to encourage new players to try something other than D&D. Attracting players to non-D&D games is something of side-project – games like Star Trek Adventures, Infinity and wh40k may provide a little insight, provided I have time. A few one-off (one-shots) games in a regular venue might be the way forward – that seems to be a major sticking point – with a experienced GM (like me, I guess) of some traditional RPGs may fire up the creativity of would-be GMs.
The Open Saturdays group are continuing to run some unusual RPGs of interest, such as Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA), Night Forest, etc. so that’s also a good alternative for those bemoaning the lack of non-D&D games. ORC once had a tradition of a lot of one-shot games, but the dispersal across “time and space” for want of a better term has been problematic (i.e. location and scheduling). Something towards that may require something other than my efforts though.
With that in mind, I’m seriously thinking of channelling my energies into creating an Edinburgh branch of The Role Play Haven, a non-profit Community Interest Company – possibly as a replacement to ORC. I’ve been asked to look into creating a Scottish branch and it would solve a lot of ORC’s existing problems. Notably in organisation, charity funding and more of a community feel regarding reserving possible venues. It’d have a central pot for funding venue bookings and locations, and also cover GDPR and a more formal structure, along with a membership fee. I’ll need to take a good look at how to implement it: a more organised structure and paid membership fee requires something of paradigm shift for ORC members. Pitching games is also something new. All requires careful consideration…
Given my other half’s ownership of the 5-star Craster Tower apartment, I’m considering weekend RPG away-day sessions. Spend the weekend in an elegant 1,000-year old haunted tower, in the middle of rural Northumberland and the only other building nearby is a pub… This would be great for some intensive weekend gaming (RPGs or LARPS). Given the decor, definitely a good option for murder-mystery weekends too. It’s close to Alnwick and the LNER East Coast line rail links and the A1. I know its a thing/fad to game in an unusual place. Will be interesting to trial a weekend one this year 🙂 – it wouldn’t be cheap, but there’s plenty of castles and ruins, Newcastle, Holy Island etc. and coastal walks nearby for those who want a break from gaming.
I’m hoping to blog more a lot more this year. Ongoing painting work may well help with that. Provided I can secure the space required for work-in-progress shots, as such. I intend to get the cellar areas re-purposed and usable for something at least.
I’m also always available for advice, writing gigs, and general geek-related discussion. Use my Contact Me page or send me a message on the ORC website.
It’s almost the end of summer here in Edinburgh. The leaves are already coming off the trees, and the Festival is finally ending. After a rotten personal start to the year, things have – by and large – sorted themselves out.
I’ve found it necessary to de-clutter, and got rid of some of my gaming collection earlier in the year. Thankfully, to people who will use them I hope. In a strange twist of fate this led indirectly to me being interviewed for a piece on RPG collecting, which I hope to see soon online.
ORC Edinburgh goes from strength-to-strength, although I find little time to organise things as much as I did. I’ve now lost count of the number of GMs running games. I am sticking to running both the Mutant Chronicles and Achtung! Cthulhu games. I’ve also set up some of the members as Moderators. Games Day was a great success with around 30 gamers turning up to play. We hope to repeat it again at some point but it’s not something I want to organise alone.
I went down to the Games Expo again this year. had a lot of fun working on the Modiphius stand, although I didn’t get to demo any Achtung! Cthulhu. It was far more focused on board games this year, with only a few RPG companies in attendance. I did get the chance to snag a slipcase of 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu there. I could have got it signed but it completely slipped my mind. AUGH!
I’ve pretty much gone off board and wargames for the time being. I don’t have enough space in the flat to store them, or to paint and assemble minis. I’m working longer hours and the freelance work I do eats up a lot of my time (but I love doing it).
I’m largely resigned to the fact that my days of being able to play games during the week are now over. Work has become pretty challenging, so I’m never really bored. Getting my work/life balance sorted has been a bit of a tightrope this year.
One of the high points of my year so far is getting my name on this little beauty of a book. Listed as a proof reader on most of the range and have also been logging the errors, writing the captions, doing the stats, and compiling the indexes.
I’m working on the final book in the Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter, the “Dark Eden” campaign, which I hope to complete this week (or at least the bit I’m working on!).
I also plan to write up some sample Heretics and the adventure, “A Life in the Day” for the Mutant Chronicles.
Both Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles games will resume (I took some time off from MC). I’m hoping to begin converting Shadows of Atlantis to 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu soon.
I’m hoping to be at Dragonmeet this year too. Better get organised!
I’ve been doing quite a bit of work prepping for the 2015 UK Games Expo in Birmingham (at the NEC) later on this week. I’ve offered to help the Modiphius team with the setup and will be running some demo games, so will be heading down on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, it’s not far from the station to the Hilton and exhibition hall.
I’ve few minor misgivings about the trip. One is that I maybe should have left myself some time to sit down and actually play a game, and to actually get around the Expo and see stuff. The other is pacing myself. Starting early in the morning on Saturday, my last game finishes at midnight. There’s a one-hour slot between games, so I’ll need to make sure I feed/hydrate myself properly. I expect Sunday morning to be fairly quiet, so will likely see if I can do some demos then at the Modiphius stand if needed.
After Q-CON last year, I learned from my mistakes and am taking a second case to the Games Expo and Q-CON I picked up a fairly cheap solid case from John Lewis. Last year I had to post some stuff back home ‘cos there wasn’t enough room, with the novels I had bought, and WarZone: Resurrection rules. While I recall, I must get the new Laurence Donaghy novel, Completely Folk’d at Q-CON.
As well as the requisite clothing and toiletries, I’m taking the following:
- Strepsils. I’ll need them.
- Dice. Not just the regular ones, but the Mutant: Year 0 dice too.
- Pencils and scrap paper.
- Achtung! Cthulhu miniatures.
- Achtung! Cthulhu Terrors of the Secret War.
- Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (to carry stuff around).
- Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper and Player books (I’ll be coming back with the Guide to the Eastern Front too).
- Achtung! Cthulhu The Trellborg Monstrosities
- Go tokens (and the movie counters) for use with Cliché, Mutant Chronicles, etc.
- A set of playing cards for Cliché.
- Mutant: Year 0 rulebook
- Mutant: Year 0 map
- Savage Worlds rulebook.
- The Worlds Greatest Screen GM screen.
- Call of Cthulhu rulebook.
- Binder with notes, character sheets, rules etc. for Cliché, Mutant: Year 0, Mutant Chronicles 3e, Conan RPG, and the St Nazaire material.
- Netbook and cat 5 cable (backup of PDF rules and to keep updated).
- Phone charger
I’ve still to finish prepping the Cliché adventure and character sheets. I really do need to knuckle down on that.
So far there’s a lot going on for me at the UK Games Expo 2015 (and Q-CON a few weeks later!). I’ve volunteered to help out the folks at Modiphius Entertainment with set-up on the Thursday night and to run some demo games. The demo games will likely be on the Friday and Sunday, although they’ll shorter – 1 hour to 90 minutes.
As far as I know, Marc Langworthy of Red Scar Publishing/KPLangers and I will be running them at the Modiphius stand, like we did at Dragonmeet. I’m not sure if Marc will be running any of his “Purging of the Crucible” official Mutant Chronicles scenario. I think there’ll just be the two of us (possibly three of us) running the games so say “Hi” if you’re there!
As well as Mutant: Year 0 demos, I’ll be running a bunch of scheduled games as parts of the official games at the UK Games Expo. This is why I’m taking an extra bag to the UK Games Expo (and Q-CON). I’ve learnt that it’s worth it for the extra weight. I have a bunch of games outside the demos for Modiphius as follows.
- A Prayer for St. Nazaire – Achtung! Cthulhu (Savage Worlds, Saturday 10:00-14:00). SOLD OUT! Eep. Achtung! Cthulhu won best RPG last year. I’m pretty much ready for this. I’ve run it twice but my Savage Worlds knowledge needs polished. Characters are ready and plot is set. I’m taking the rulebooks and the miniatures – plus Savage Worlds of course.
- Mutant Chronicles (3rd Edition) – Straffar Gatan 39/Fall of Van Holle (Saturday 15:00-19:00). I’m hoping that the actual rulebook will be at the UK Games Expo, but otherwise this has already been run by me, so I’m fairly comfortable with it.
- Cliché: Movie Madness (Saturday 20:00-24:00). I’ll be running the Drunken Badger game of Marc Farrimond‘s Cliché RPG. I’ve not written the scenario yet, but I’m thinking Dark Edinburgh during the Festival.
- Mutant: Year 0 – For a mouthful of water (Sunday 15:00-19:0o). No idea how this will work out on the Sunday afternoon as the game has been nominated for “Best RPG” at the Expo – possibly running this just before the awards. Although I’ve created characters, I’ll need to flesh out the scenario a little more to fit in the time-frame. I’m also taking the cards and dice (as well as the rulebook), as they might be rather useful.
I’m hoping to do demos of the following games as part of my Modiphius slots (or maybe even play in one) – as well as Mutant: Year 0 if needed.
- The Trellborg Monstrosities – Achtung! Cthulhu (Call of Cthulhu). Part of the official A!C line. I’ve heard it’s good to run in a convention! Need to read up on this adventure – on the plus side it’s already written and tested.
- Robert E. Howard’s Conan: The Red Pit. I’ve a playtest pack for this, and have been reading through it. Crom!
- DUST Adventures. I’ve ordered the dice for this, pre-ordered it, and hope it’ll be ready in time for the Expo. It’s supposed to be nice and simple and I know the DUST gaming community are looking forward to it. I’ve not seen the pack for it, nor the adventure yet.
- Infinity RPG – Tales of the Long Zi Wo. I’m not at all familiar with Corvus Belli Inifinity RPG, but I’m planning to give it a bash. Need to read up a lot more on it though.
It’s going to be a fairly busy weekend. The UK Games Expo is massive, serious, and organised. The plus side is that the train goes pretty close by and I’m staying on-site. The Hilton is a bit pricey but they always are. I’m picking up a lot of little tips for conventions (Conpulsion, Dragonmeet and Q-CON so far), but I suppose a lot it is common sense. Certainly it’s something of an experience.
For more information on the games I’m running at the UK Games Expo, click the relevant image below – it’ll take you to the relevant part of the Modiphius website.
So, after Q-CON earlier this year, I decided to try and make it to Dragonmeet, a gaming convention held in London’s Earls Court. I had a pretty pleasant train journey down from Edinburgh, although London rush hour is not a favourite of mine now. I was staying with my sister in Hackney so, accommodation-wise, things were OK. What follows are my perceptions of the Convention as a first-timer to Dragonmeet. Were you there? If so, shout it out!
Dragonmeet is currently a one-day convention (focussed primarily on RPGs), and this year was being run by Chris Birch and Modiphius Entertainment for the first time. Before I continue I should point out that I’ve backed a lot of the Modiphius Kickstarter Campaigns (Achtung! Cthulhu and the Mutant Chronicles, so far!) and I’m also a Modiphius Silvershield so there’s a certain bias on my part.
Like in my Q-CON review, I’ll also add a few tips in. As usual, most are common sense, really.
I was staying in Hackney and could take the District underground to Earls Court from Mile End. As it was a Saturday morning the trains/buses weren’t too busy, but I left a little later than I’d planned (10am, with the convention starting at 9am). With my usual unerring ability to land myself in it, I managed to exit Earls Court station from the wrong damn exit. This lead to me taking a huge unnecessary detour before I arrived at the somewhat underwhelming-looking ILEC Conference Centre. I got there about 11am, so had missed the lines at least. I got my programme and red band fairly quickly as I’d pre-registered, but the entrance to the convention seemed a bit cramped to me. There were big hoardings up all over the place, each detailing the games that were going on, along with the sign-ups.
TIP: It’s pretty warm in the hall (not uncomfortably so) and crowded, so make use of the free cloakroom to stash your coat and/or jumpers.
The hall is vast. It is huge. There were 1,600 people through the doors I heard later, and there were a colossal amount of games going on. A lot of the UK gaming scene was there in the form of trade stands, with quite a lot of stock. And there were guests! I wish I’d brought my “YOU ARE THE HERO” book by Jonathan Green, and my Lone Wolf RPG book. Joe Dever (Lone Wolf gamebooks) was there signing books, and so were Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (Fighting Fantasy/Games Workshop etc.) and the artist Tony ‘H’ Hough. Next time, I’ll pay more attention to the guest list.
TIP: My Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (or bro-bag!) worked well for the books (and dice and adventure notes) I was carrying. However, I also carried a small Reisenthel fold-up rucksack (like the ones here) that proved very useful. These fold down to approximately 4″x6″x1″ and easily fitted in the A!C bag. This proved useful later on!
I was there to run three demo games of Achtung! Cthulhu, so I introduced myself to the folk at the Modiphius stall and made myself known (pics here) and scouted around the hall. It was a bit cramped in the demo areas and I was slightly worried that I’d have trouble hearing during my game. I was needlessly worried as it turned out – the hall must have some form of acoustic dampening installed. However, I did have trouble hearing any announcements – maybe a big screen would have helped?
TIP: if you’re running multiple games, make sure you’ve got some Strepsils or throat lozenges. You’ll be a bit hoarse by the end of the day.
Throughout the day I ran three games of Achtung! Cthulhu. I used the Prayer for St. Nazaire scenario I’d used for Q-CON, split into three parts. I had full sign-ups for all three games (4 players), but only had a full table for the second game. Running a 1-hour demo game is harder than you’d think – it’s pretty exhausting, especially when you’re trying to give people a good experience.
TIP: If you’re running a Demo game watch the clock, but make sure your players get a great ending, Start building up to a finale in the last 15 minutes. It may not be what you had planned, but give them something to remember.
This was the second time I’ve run “A Prayer for St. Nazaire” using Call of Cthulhu rules, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s the wrong system for the adventure. I’m looking at Savage Worlds for next time. It makes no difference to A!C as it uses both systems.
One of the GMs running the Mutant Chronicles Demo had one of the game’s original developers in his game, so no pressure there! He’d come down on the night train from Plymouth and still managed to run games and help out.
TIP: If you’re a GM running a Demo, get yourself in place on time and make sure you’re prepared. The players shouldn’t have to wait on you.
I’d brought both the GM and Player’s Guide for Achtung! Cthulhu and they were eagerly examined by ALL my players. The attention to detail in the books really helped get across the whole concept of the WW2 theater of operations. For one of my players, it was “Quite an insight into WW2”.
Dragonmeet – Bill at large
When I wasn’t running, I used the rest of my time to wander round the hall, looking at the stalls and games. There were a lot of stalls selling miniatures, but the majority of games going on were RPGs (Pathfinder Society and D&D Adventurers League included) and board games going on. Dragonmeet is still very much an RPG convention – there’s not really a huge amount of space set aside for wargames or CCGs. Personally, I think this is a good thing – many gaming Cons marginalise the RPG play areas. I can understand why they do (so they have quiet), but ultimately an RPG con should focus on RPGs in their main areas!
I also got a chance to meet the Shadows of Esteren crew, who produce some fantastic-looking games (Shadows of Esteren for one!) and great Kickstarter campaigns. Their display looked amazing and they gave me a Christmas card when they found out I was a backer of their Kickstarters :). It was great to meet both them and the Modiphius Crew (and other some of the other Silvershields!). I also now have a Modiphius T-shirt (ho ho ho).
I also bumped into some former members of ORC Edinburgh – Peter, who was running a Svavelvinter game (I’d never heard of this game until Peter talked about it at ORC), and Dee (who’d nearly forgotten Dragonmeet was on!). If you’re reading this: Hi guys!
TIP: if you’re a vendor trying to flog stuff, engage anyone actually taking the time to look (within reason). If a sale means listening to them talk about their character so be it. But don’t let them bogart you! A signature/notation in a book costs nothing really if you’re the writer/developer. At the very least that customer will walk away feeling special… that’s what happened with Sopio at Dragonmeet ; and at Q-CON; Laurence “@LarboIreland” Donaghy and Folk’d (NSFW!).
Here comes the swag bit…
More than a few folk at Dragonmeet were there to pick up their Kickstarter Pledges. As a Keeper of Terrors KS Backer for Achtung! Cthulhu I already had the PDF versions of much of the books but I picked up the books themselves on Saturday. These were the Achtung! Cthulhu Guide to North Africa and Guide to the Pacific Front and the artwork is amazing by Dim Martin. I also finally managed to get my hands on Mindjammer – I’ve both the FATE and Starblazer Adventures ones now. I also picked picked up the Sopio card game, the basic set. And, because (!), Lamentation’s of the Flame Princess – I picked up their FreeRPG scenario.
Ze Low Point
The worst thing about ILEC was the pub. The Dragon and George is one of those awful IBIS pubs that charge you a fortune for a pint. The seats were those stupid 6-seater ones that no one ever uses because there’s only two of you. That’s not Dragonmeet’s fault – it’s the venue. Plus, there wasn’t enough staff. If the queue at the bar waiting time is >= 10 minutes there’s something wrong. I’d originally planned to go to the Pub-meet that Dragonmeet holds on the Sunday. But trailing across London for a sub-par pint wasn’t something I was prepared to do. Plus it was cold and wet. I ended up checking out 221b Baker Street (a bit expensive for what it actually is), and the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at Museum of London instead. Worth a look. Its called “The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die” and is on until April 2015.
Summary of Dragonmeet 2014
Dragonmeet is a great convention if you live in London, but could be a bit pricey if you’re not local. London prices for accommodation and food aren’t cheap. For a one-day convention there’s a lot to cram in and they are considering making it a two-day event next year. Having said, that it was fun – the people I talked to were friendly and the convention ran pretty well. The only criticisms I have is that it was quite cramped and the bar obviously wasn’t equipped to deal with the volume of requests. The games I ran were well-received and hopefully got more people interested in Achtung! Cthulhu. As always for me its good to meet new people, and add another convention to the list! Will I go back? Yes. However next time I’ll likely stay over the weekend in the hotel and actually play some other games too! There were a lot of industry people there and I did feel a bit of an outsider initially, but that wore off later.