Call of Cthulhu
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.
Adventure fragments is my name for either short scenarios that never go beyond a session, ones I’ve used at Conventions, or never really got around to describing fully. The name comes the “fragments” of unfinished work left behind when HP Lovecraft passed away. It’s also a nod to the “Fragments of Fear” Call of Cthulhu campaign. I plan to occasionally write some up completely (like I have done for WFRP’s Legacy of Praag) and Heart of Chaos), so keep an eye out for these in the future.
When I’m running a game, I don’t really need much to run. Most of my sessions tend to start out as Adventure Fragments. An idea, some basic stats, and NPCs is usually all I need. Obviously I’ve still planned it to a certain extent but I do prefer to “Wing it”. See http://www.themandragora.com/winging-it/for how I often do this. There may not be enough for some GMs to do much with but that’s why I call them Adventure Fragments!
Hunters Moon (ORC Edinburgh)
Originally an Ebranch game.
The players are investigating suspected “mindsmog” (the psychic taint on Lumley’s Wamphyri), but it is actually a devolved vampire of the Francezi family. See Brian Lumley’s Necroscope: the Lost Years for the details of this Wamphyri/Mafia family. As the investigators get drawn in, it becomes obvious that there’s something other than a vampire lurking beneath the ground in the ancient sewers and catacombs of Rome. A shoggoth underground would be a terrifying thing. It was a blob of vampiric protoplasm in the Ebranch game, all mouths and feeding tendrils, but could easily be a shoggoth. I could imagine it seeping up through the street’s drains, surrounding the PCs.
The solution? Fire, and plenty of it.
Crom-Cruach (ORC Edinburgh)
Originally run as part of my Cthulhutech Through the Looking Glass setting, and published on the ORC wiki.
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crom_Cruach. The Great Old One Crom-Cruach is believed to be related to Shudde M’ell. However, it is unclear whether it is a Cthonian of huge size, or a unique entity.
Few Mythos tomes refer to Crom-Cruach, with the exception of an obscure passage in Prinn’s De Vermiis Mysteris. It is mentioned there as “From beneath it devours”.
Worship of the Great Old One was largely restricted to a few Druidic sects in the region of Fife outside Ireland, where various sacrificial barrows were marked with a spiral symbol. Victims were left tethered to sacrificial altars for Crom-Cruach to devour through various feeding tendrils, giving it the name “The Thousand Maws”.
The Great Old One actually resides far beneath the Longannet area of Fife, where it is tended by a tiny human cult. Since the Night of the Worm, it is believed that the Great Old One is dead – however, Section 13 Telepaths have picked faint emanations from something beneath the Longannet fields…
The Night of the Worm
This was actually split into two games – the first were Investigator PCs finding Crom-Cruach . The returning ” Deep Patrol” took place as part of a mecha game.
The Night of the Worm saw the destruction of the Rosyth naval base by the Great Old One Crom-Cruach. It has been theorized by Section 13 since that David Nichols orchestrated the rise of the Great Old One in an attempt to weaken NEG military forces in the Forth valley. The subject of some debate among the intelligence community, many feel that the proximity of the Night of the Worm to the Inchcolm Insurgence was no chance occurrence.
For several weeks, attempts had been made by Nichols and Crom-Cruach’s tiny cult to wake the Old One, using sacrifices from the rural communities where disappearances would not be remarked upon. Rosyth and nearby communities also reported increasing numbers of people manifesting psychiatric disorders. Seismic tremors were also reported, and even the weather was affected.
An investigative team from Section 13s HQ at The Basement was dispatched and their investigation confirmed that the Great Old One was waking and active beneath Longannet. Narrowly escaping the feeding tendrils of Crom-Cruach, they escaped back to the base, closely pursued by the ravenous Great Old One. Once Crom-Cruach rose the place became a scene of utter horror as the Great Old One feasted, the ground erupting with tentacled maws plucking victims at random in an awful hunger. In a bid to save nearby towns and the Edinburgh Arcologies, the Command staff ordered a returning Deep Patrol of Mecha and Engels to turn their weaponry upon the ammunition bunkers. The resulting detonation is believed to have destroyed Crom-Cruach but it is rumoured that he has only been injured.
All six of the Hamshall Engels allocated to Rosyth survived, but the base suffered almost 80% losses and only a handful of Mecha were salvageable. The garrison was then ordered to evacuate to Musselburgh. To date, the Night of the Worm is the biggest single loss of life since the Arcanotech Wars.
Beneath this Placid Surface (Q-CON 2014)
Now vampiric blobs in this one, just the classic Deep Ones! I used this for a game of The Void RPG at Q-CON. The PC Wardens are sent to the terraformed ocean moon of Tethys to investigate the death of an Earth Senator’s son.
The PCs aren’t exactly made to feel welcome as Wardens (with good reason as it turns out). The Senator’s son was disliked and it becomes obvious that his injuries were not caused by a diving accident. As the Wardens investigate it becomes obvious that there’s something not quite right in the submarine habitat. The victim had been killed elsewhere, and the body dumped. Metallic deposits found on the victim suggest he was swimming in “uncharted territory”, according to the locals.
As the group investigate they notice the population is far less than the Earth records would indicate. Parts of the habitat stand empty, and stay sealed off apparently. Power consumption is also less than a facility of this needs. Cue some scary darkened tunnel crawling through the abandoned sections as the Wardens suspect something hiding there…
The real truth of the matter is that the missing members of the population aren’t actually missing at all. They’re Deep Ones and hybrids who came from Earth. They’re not using the space or power as they’re not inside the habitat at all. They’re in the uncharted territory, constructing their own city in the depths around the tomb of a Cthulhu Spawn, who is very close to waking. And the Wardens are right next door.
At this point I’d recommend the following movies to get some idea of how to run this fragment: Leviathan, the Abyss, and Deep Star Six. You can imagine what happens when the Spawn wakes up. if you can find it, you could combine it with the Grace Under Pressure adventure for Call of Cthulhu. You may need to Google for it, or check out ebay. It’d be a lot of fun with two GMs running at the same time.
Synchronicity II (ORC Edinburgh)
Many miles away something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish lake.
This adventure was inspired by the film Deep Rising and a visit to the island of Rum. For those interested, Cthulhu Brittanica: Shadows over Scotland details this island. Again chasing mindsmog, the PCs find themselves on the remote Scottish island of Tallavallish. The only village in the island is abandoned, with strange holes in the ground everywhere. The scryers are unable to locate the source of the mindsmog, but it appears to be everywhere. A ground mist has wrapped around the island too, so the PCs were pretty nervous. Wamphyri can generate mist and use it to send psychic probes. Being Call of Cthulhu players too, the group also wondered about ghouls dwelling in the tunnels. A loch in the centre of the island was supposed to be inhabited by a monster too, although the players thought it was an urban myth.
Ironically, the latter was true. In WW2, a Nazi aircraft containing a vampire lieutenant crashed in the loch. Feeding upon the local wildlife, the vampire had devolved into a huge mass (similar to the shoggoth-like blob in Hunters Moon, only bigger!). Having fed and grown fat it was literally the island itself. It could also sense movement, so cue some fun Tremors-style moments as the PCs tried to escape using various plans, when the island “woke up”. You could also use some other burrowing horror in other games – such as Purple worms or Landsharks from D&D 🙂
I later used much of this idea again when I ran the Night of the Worm adventure for Cthulhutech (see Crom-Cruach above).
I’m heading to London for Dragonmeet this weekend, where I’m hoping to run a few demos of Achtung! Cthulhu for Modiphius. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there!