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 been pretty quiet here recently. There’s a number of reasons for this, and I’ll come to them shortly: it’s a mixture of good and bad news. Simply put: I’d had a lot of plans but some are going to have to take a back seat. I’ll be attending the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet conventions this year, but no other conventions.
Again it’s down to time – and sanity. I’ve pushed myself to the limit over the last six months, for a number of reasons, most of them personal. They’ve no place here, but suffice to say, I’ve had to compartmentalize things and take some steps.
The following is somewhat bullet-pointed, but it helps me get things ordered in my head.
I’m running two fortnightly campaigns at ORC now: Achtung! Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis, and the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign (the latter of which I helped write in a tiny fashion). I’m enjoying running both. I’ve good players, decent attendance; and as they’re already published, easy to prep for.
I’m doing freelance work for Modiphius Publishing on the Mutant Chronicles line – the indexes and occasional demented captions in most of the supplements are mine (as well as some of the proofing!). I’ve also been helping stat up the Dark Eden Supplement. I’m hoping to pick up more freelance work in the months ahead. I’m finding it very rewarding, as well as giving me a creative challenge.
I didn’t make it to Conpulsion this year, sadly – nor will I make Q-CON owing to a prior commitment. I hope to, next year; if time and finances permit. I will be at the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, of course! Looking forward to doing a bit more networking this year at them, plus I enjoy meeting other gamers. Not signed up to run anything this time, so I might get to actually play some games this time around.
My Edinburgh Gaming page still proves incredibly popular, so I’ve been keeping that updated! On the down side, I’d hoped to try to get the disparate gaming communities to talk to each other more, but I just haven’t had the time. I try to do it when I can though, but I step back from the politics now: it’s still very entrenched in old rifts and personal vendettas.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to review products or publicise Kickstarters and game launches. I’m of two minds about these. Often, it’s someone looking for free publicity or product evangelist for products that aren’t even ready. Also, getting time to do a playtest or demo review session can be tricky. On the other hand, it’s pretty good fun to do.
ORC’s Games day at the Kilderkin was a big success. There’s stuff we could do differently, and more effectively, and I/we’ve learnt from it. Not sure when we’ll do the next one, but next year I think! We had a lot of new visitors. The Kilderkin has also hosted the Conpulsion’s after-party and the Board Gamers took over the pub at one point. I like to think that I may have had something to do with that.
I ran a fun game of Conan (mid-Kickstarter) at Tabletop cafe , just up the road from the Kilderkin. I hope to run more demo games there soon, when time permits. Good food and drink, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere. I need to visit there more. As part of the Kickstarter, I’m going to be drawn in as a stat’ed NPC in Conan: Adventures in the Hyborian Age. I’ll also be appearing in art and as an NPC in the Infinity RPG.
The novel has been assigned as a secondary aim, along with any short fiction. I know I’m technically capable of writing them; just not temporally! It’s one of those things that I may revisit in future months, but for now, it’s on the back-burner.
I’m part of the Modiphius Silvershield scheme that allows GMs to get credit from running games – in my case, I ran a lot of games last year, so have built up some considerable credit. I also get points for referring new business. You can get 10% off Modiphius products in their store (both PDF and print) by using this link r.sloyalty.com/r/uc3wlqcchb8R
I’m taking my freelance work seriously enough to register with the Inland Revenue for Self-Assessment. Morally, and practically, it is the right thing to do. I’ve done it before, during my Nova Games era. There’s a chance I may or may not have to pay more tax; but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get any tax rebate. I’m certainly not paying for an accountant to do it.
I’ve managed to ask some members of ORC Edinburgh (the gaming community I help run) to take on Moderator roles for the site, so I can start taking a step back from that side of things. It’s an easy transition to make, thankfully. I’ve lost count of the different groups now, or what games are currently running and/or looking for players. ORC is now so big, it’s become difficult to keep track of things, in that respect.
I’m not doing any war gaming or board gaming now, I’m afraid. I don’t have the time during the week, and need to maintain a “normal” life as it were. Plus, I seem to have trouble dealing with some of the more complex ones – I think it might be a side effect.
I’d hoped to get a chance to play some starter games of Cassus Belli’s Infinity game (the miniatures are absolutely amazing), and Battletech. I’d been thinking of trying to develop some of the Cthulhutech setting into the Battletech rules for some time now. I’ll get around to it at some point, I reckon.
I’m still awaiting the RAFM Cthulhu minis from their Kickstarter, and the Cthulhu FATE book, Into the Shadows. I’ve got doubts I’ll ever see these, as it seems anything Cthulhu-related on Kickstarter is doomed to “eternal lie”… but at least the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu shipped (which I should get from my FLGS)!
I’ve tried to do a lot over the last six months and it has caught up with me spectacularly, so I think it’s for the best that I “clear my head” of the extraneous clutter.
In other news…
I’m reducing my time on social media. It can easily consume a huge amount of free time or attention. I’m on Google+ and LinkedIn, but hardly use them. I am still on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier if you spend 15 minutes on there, rather than getting involved in the minutiae! In moderation… I should probably update my profile on LinkedIn anyway to reflect the changes in my professional circumstances (and the About Me part of the site)!
I’m moving out of the flat (briefly) for renovation work, which could take a week or more. Had another aqueous insurgence (water ingress) in January! I can’t say it’s not a stressful place to be in (in every sense of the word), but things are moving forward. Looking ahead to getting it over with: every stage completed is one step forward. Still, it’s a bit of an “embuggerance”. I’ve got to get quotes for removal and storage and have to make it clear to the loss adjuster I’m NOT going to be staying in the flat while they rip down the plaster-and-lathe ceiling.
My day job has recently thrown up a number of challenges. I do a lot of work with virtualised machines (VMware) and field sites. The Chief Executive at my work has personally congratulated me on the work I do supporting the science. I’m becoming far more comfortable with the High Performance Cluster running Scientific Linux at my work. I’ve also manage to remove Flash Player and Quicktime from our PC estate of 1500+ computers. By the way, if you haven’t removed these, you should! Flash in Chrome is “sandboxed”, but not in other browsers like IE or Firefox. Quicktime is longer supported or patched by Apple, and is now insecure.
I need to reorganise this website: make it more simple. There’s too many pages, and this site has evolved, content-wise. It’s gone far beyond what was a simple RPG setting site. In fact, it’s been largely sidelined in recent years, as I’ve become more focussed on Edinburgh’s gaming community, conventions, and freelancing. That’s pretty easy to sort, thankfully. Not sure if I’ll keep using this site theme, though.
I’m also heading down south for the May Bank holiday, to Craster Tower, a 5* accommodation. It’s owned by my other half’s family, so I thought I’d give it a plug! Plus I’ve never really been anywhere 5* 🙂 My girlfriend used to work as an Archaeologist on Ernest Shackleton’s base camps in the Antarctic so we’re heading to London for the Shackleton Centennial service at Westminster Abbey. I’ve been reading up on him, and her experiences there might be very handy when I run Beyond the Mountains of Madness or Assault on the Mountains of Madness (Achtung! Cthulhu).
All in all, feeling I’m in a better place than six months ago!
So I’ve been following the “Grand Tour” of RPG convention season this year. I started off with Dragonmeet 2014 in December, a one-day con in London at Earls Court.
I took myself down to the UK Games Expo, and managed to miss being in every Modiphius Entertainment pic as detailed by Marc Langworthy at in his Post Expo Debrief over at http://kplangers.com/. I was elsewhere running games in the building for about half the time, including Mutant: Year 0 when it won Best RPG. I also helped flog some stuff on the stall and ran some demo games there.
Most recently I went to Q-CON. It felt less like a RPG Convention this year. I didn’t enjoy it quite as might as I could have thanks to my insomnia, so that’s on me. The accommodation was pretty basic and I didn’t get much sleep thanks to the noise. I also lost my voice on the Saturday night!
Things I’ve learned – although I covered some of this before in my Surviving the UK Games Expo post, it works for any Convention (plus I’ve updated some of the things):
- If you’re staying in a hotel, find somewhere cheap (the Hilton was brutally expensive), and there’s often cheaper accommodation to be found nearby online. Find somewhere close though.
- At the Games Expo, get breakfast early! You’ll not be able to enter the main trade/event halls before 9am but at least you won’t be hungry.
- If you’re planning on buying stuff, make sure you’ve some ready cash – in case the cash machine(s) on site run out.
- Don’t bank on eating healthily – food trucks are popular now, but some venues will have a pub. Hotel restaurants are often pricey too. Leave yourself some time though. They get busy and are usually not prepared to deal with the numbers! Or find a place to eat nearby. Take business/contact cards with you. I gave them to nearly all my players – and all were happy to take them (bar one). See below!
- While running a game one of my players was almost constantly playing some game on his phone, and wasn’t paying attention (to me or the players). At the end of it, not only did he discard my card but he said he found the game “confusing”. The rest of the players had enjoyed themselves immensely. Bloody ignorant. He’d done it in another GMs game too. GMs should call a player out on this kind of thing if the rest of the group are becoming exasperated with it.
- By respectful of other GMs, it’s not a shouting match where the loudest group have the most fun. Unless they’re playing a WH40K Ork game called Waargh Trek.
- On the other hand, speak up as a GM. Many shared games rooms are loud.
- Be on time (players and GMs!), and be ready to move to another location if there’s an accessibility problem for players.
- Have a chillout place available if it gets crowded, and take an hour to “decompress”.
- If you’re staying in student halls, expect basic facilities and noise. They’re cheap for a reason.
- Bathe daily. You’ll need to: it gets very warm and everyone sweats.
- Get a convention T-shirt or two. Not only is it a reminder, but you can use as a standby if you’re short of shirts (see above)!
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you’re running a game.
- If you’re planning on collecting Kickstarter rewards or buying games, take a big case or drive (beware of parking costs). Alternatively post your games back separately from a nearby Post Office (cheaper than £20 for an extra Easyjet baggage allowance).
- Don’t schedule yourself to run games the entire con. Take some time to walk around, play, and network.
- Be enthusiastic about a demo game, but don’t be offended if someone criticizes it or isn’t interested in it.
- Venue staff, not just stewards, need to be polite and respectful – you’re still customers.
- Cosplay is not consent (I’ve never seen harassment but it does exist).
- Don’t badger gaming personalities in the bar if they’re in there for a quiet drink.
- If you’re an organiser of a convention, expect and act upon criticism.
I’m not sure how many conventions I’ll get to next year: the accommodation and travel cost does mount up. Plus I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to attend and prepare for them. Still, I may get some time away. I’ve been offered a press pass for Conpulsion, and I’ll be at Dragonmeet this year though. I think I’ve covered everything and everywhere in individual reviews and posts elsewhere under Conventions.
Feel free to make any suggestions for other “Survival Tips”in the Comments!
Someone recently called me one of Edinburgh’s gaming celebrities. I’m kind of amused by that: I certainly don’t consider myself that way! Yes, I run a blog and may be fairly well-known around town, and I do try and keep the various gaming communities in the loop. I see myself as fulfilling more of a function than any aspiration to fame. I do have some aptitude for self-promotion though, it appears.
It’s no easy task being something of a local RPG pundit and organiser, and occupies quite a bit of time and effort on my part. Sometimes it feels like putting leashes on Tiamat and taking her for walkies. You can get caught up in things and it becomes very easy for others to expect you to maintain a certain “level of service”. There’s also a certain amount of information overload too, and trying to keep track of everything can be exhausting…
So. This something of a “place holder” post for me for the months ahead. August is a time when it’s fairly quiet at ORC, so I’ve a free weekend. With the Festival on I usually use the time to “recharge my batteries”. I’ve started to get the feeling I’m taking on too much and need to try and focus on achievable goals. So what I’m going to do below is list my current goals and priorities. They’re not all gaming-related, but it all helps. This might also be what I need to get galvanised into action (not in order of importance)…
- Actually write the damn novel I’ve been planning for years. More of a long-term goal really, but could do with outlining the plot in Scrivener.
- Finish the three Cthulhu stories I’ve outlined. They’re laid out in Scrivener.
- Begin my Open University degree – the BSc in Criminology & Psychology I planned on doing starts very soon.
- Get the bathroom of the flat redone – that’s going to hurt the cash flow a bit.
- To attempt to catch up old friends more often.
- Get the oathofshadows.net website live.
- Get the FB and Twitter feeds for Oath of Shadows online.
- Create content for oathofshadows.net.
- Get some of the more useful articles of the blog anthologised in a PDF with bookmarks.
- Get in more regular exercise. I occasionally walk for 30 minutes (about 1.5 miles) every lunchtime, do 30 minutes of weights and cycle 5km in 15 minutes. I should be doing that every day, really.
- Participating in more boardgames at [ELG] on Wednesday nights, although this may be scaled back a bit if I’m too busy.
- Participate in a game of Descent every fortnight. We start our first game tonight.
- Plan my next Achtung! Cthulhu game. Most likely Assault on the Mountains of Madness.
- Finish the Tyranny of Dragons D&D campaign. I’m uncertain if I’ll go to the second volume. I’m distinctly underwhelmed so far.
- Run Horror on the Orient Express – likely after ToD finishes. Will incorporate some Achtung! Cthulhu into it, but will be a bit of work.
- Write some new adventures for demo at Dragonmeet. I already have one for Conan…
- Research the Infinity universe. It does look interesting.
- Spend my store credit at 6s2Hit, the local wargames shop and actually play a few games there.
- Look at doing more demos of the Mutant Chronicles, Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant: Year 0, and DUST Adventures at cons. I’m really looking forward to getting the books for MC and DUST.
- Create a Mutant: Year 0 Edinburgh setting and Ark. I’ll likely post it up here when I do.
- Be more active in playtests of the Infinity RPG, Conan, and John Carter for Modiphius Entertainment.
- Have a chat with the Conpulsion organisers after my recent review sparked their interest.
- Try and get to Dragonmeet, UK Games Expo and Q-CON over the next year, as well as Conpulsion, but to participate in more than just running games.
- Try and develop some more interests outside gaming. e.g. photography etc.
- Maintain the ORC Edinburgh site, get more folk to the pub meets.
- If needed (and given a product), playtest and write some more game reviews!
- Keep blogging – I must try and get more specific posts organised.
- Get in a demo of Firestorm Armada.
- Try to strengthen links with other Edinburgh gaming communities. This may be harder than it looks due to time.
- Get some more RPG freelance work (I’ve a few things possibly coming up.).
- Get “Special Projects” organised! I’m keeping quiet about these until they become a little more certain. One of them is a pretty big deal.
I think it might be worth checking back on this post in six months. I doubt if I’ll hit all of these goals, but I’m interested to see how I get on.
In keeping with previous conventions I’ve attended (Dragonmeet and Q-CON) I thought its only fair to review Conpulsion in the same way. “Conpulsion is Scotland’s oldest, largest gaming convention” as it is billed, run by GEAS, the Edinburgh University RPG society. Ironically, I’ve lived in Edinburgh for over 40 years and this is the first time I’ve been.
It’s held in Teviot House, one of the Edinburgh University Student Unions, a 19th-century building that’s something of a maze inside. Card gamers were housed in the Potter Row building opposite. While the convention was on it was business as usual for rest of the building – so it didn’t really feel like a special event. Not sure if it was the same at Q-CON, but I don’t think the building was reserved for Conpulsion attendees. This did lead to some odd looks from people (more on that below!).
It actually started on Friday evening, but I decided to turn up on Saturday (I still had some stuff to prep), and continued on the Sunday. I ran my first game in the 10am-1pm slot. Each three-hour slot has a two-hour interval, which I think is a bit of a mistake. It’d be better to have one-hour breaks between four-hour slots, or reduce the time between slots.
First, the high points.
For most of the Saturday and Sunday, I was in the Loft Bar for much of the time. This is a room that is pretty hard to find if you’ve never been to Teviot House before, and up several flights of stairs. You’ve got to go past the toilet and cleaning cupboard down a grey corridor – and it’s not easy to find as a result. It’s also the rooftop beer garden area – given the weather (sunny!) there was a lot of foot traffic back and forth through the room between the bar and garden, mostly by non-gamers. For me this isn’t a problem (I’m used to running games in public) but for some GMs and players it might be. The “Redshirts” (Conpulsion stewards), brought drinks and a snack around to each GM and I was very grateful for that, especially in the middle of the morning or afternoon.
I had a brief chat with Simon Burley, creator of The Code of the Spacelanes. He was running demos of the game in the Loft bar. It was popular and I’ve heard good things about it from those who played it.
Owing to some kind of cock-up with the sign-in sheets (see below), I only had three players for Mutant: Year 0. They all enjoyed themselves immensely, as did I. I was in the conservatory area of the Loft Bar for this, and I had plenty of space to run the game sharing the room with another GM. Especially memorable for Lenny the Enforcer biting a huge chunk out of the Trash hawk and using it as a soft landing, after it grabbed him and flew off.
I went for a wander and had lunch and a pint, catching up with some friends, and headed over to the Peartree where the beer garden was a good place to talk and chill after the morning’s gaming (and complications!).
With the Mutant Chronicles playtest of “The Purging of the Crucible” up next, I headed to the “New” Amphion area, a large open area. I had a chat with the makers of “Frankenstein’s bodies” nearby. That’s a game I need to get my hands on. It looks great. Then I had to hunt for a table to play on. Fortunately, there was one free, but I would have thought a table would have been reserved for my use – as a demo game especially. The game ran pretty well, although I didn’t get a chance to finish it. I’d made a few cock-ups during the game (and in the prep), but enjoyed running it. As a first time game, it went well.
The evening game was the Mutant Chronicles Beta scenario “Straffar Gatan 39”. Again, I only had three players (in the Loft Bar again), but Saturday night is one of the quieter times as there are usually events like the Pub Quiz on (like most conventions). I spent a fun time running the game and pulled out all the stops in the fright/terror stakes. It was certainly memorable for me – and I hope it was for the players. We also had a GM and player looking for each other – they were supposed to be in the Loft Bar too, but for some reason got moved. Cue “Yackety Sacks” music as they were chasing each other around the con.
The downstairs Library pub was full, and only non-gamers were there. The sports bar next door had nothing on draft either. So I headed home at 11pm, utterly knackered.
Sunday morning saw me at Conpulsion nice and early, in order to run Marc Farrimond’s Cliché RPG. Largely improvised, I’m not sure how cinematic it felt but certainly the players seemed to enjoy it. I had the entire Balcony room to myself for this. Afterwards I wasted an hour or so outside before my Achtung! Cthulhu game later. I had a pint on the roof garden, and sat in the sun before returning to start “A Prayer for St. Nazaire”. For me this was the highlight of the convention – we all enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I got applause at the end of it! Always nice to be appreciated! Savage Worlds worked better than I hoped, but I think I’ll stick with Call of Cthulhu for Three Kings.
By the time I finished Achtung! Cthulhu, I was about ready to drop. I was coming down with something, unfortunately. Rather than stick around I headed home (I didn’t feel up to the closing ceremony or pub quiz).
All in all, aside from Conpulsion being chaotic, I enjoyed running the games and meeting new players.
Now. The low points.
Conpulsion 2015 didn’t feel like a convention. It felt like a bunch of GMs had been asked to run one-off games. It also felt clique-y and I felt like an outsider the whole time I was there (unlike Q-CON and Dragonmeet). In a few cases, I did not feel welcome at all, and felt some people were regarding me with hostility (I don’t know why). One person actually sneered at me and the game I was running (the Mutant Chronicles Playtest one). Also, there’s hardly anyone there that isn’t GEAS – a handful of traders, a small bring-and-buy, and a few guests. I love meeting new people and playing games with them, and those that participated in my games were a friendly bunch so there’s obviously a small handful of people that need a boot up the arse. As there’s non-gamers there too, it can make gamers a bit self-conscious too.
Most of the other Edinburgh gamers go to see friends but I’ve heard there’s a fairly low opinion of Conpulsion among them. I decided that I’d go into this con and give Conpulsion the benefit of the doubt. There’s an in-joke among Edinburgh’s gaming community that Conpulsion is always disorganised. It shouldn’t be.
First, of all there was no signs (fixed on Sunday, thankfully!) – I had no idea where I was going, and I wasn’t the only one. The Loft bar is especially difficult to find. This shouldn’t be happening – some games got moved later apparently, but I don’t know why.
Not sure why the sign-up sheets weren’t in the main foyer or better located. I noticed on Sunday that as GM, I was supposed to be standing around waiting for players in the debating hall. This kind of felt like me standing there with a sign around my neck begging for players. So no, I didn’t. I don’t know what happened on Saturday morning but I’m given to understand that the folk who’d pre-registered for games were missed off the sign-up sheets. Seriously, Conpulsion has been running for years.
The programmes and t-shirts should have been at the main entrance, not upstairs in the debating hall. Plus, the GM’s name wasn’t included in the programme.
Why weren’t tables reserved for the games? It makes really good sense to do this – for the MC playtest I was lucky, but it could have been a problem (and embarrassing!).
Admittedly, I didn’t get to the Pub Quiz or the panels, but the impression I got from those that did was that outsiders weren’t exactly welcome there (that’s how they felt). That’s something that needs to be addressed I think.
There’s also the legendary slowness of the Conpulsion website. The games were hard to find or see. A single page listing would have worked. Times for the slots would also have helped (and they were added later).
Mention was made of voting in the “Griffies”, and “Banquo” awards, but I’ve no idea what they are. Are they important? Certainly I didn’t bother voting – but voting forms could have been in the programme.
I don’t know if anyone took photos at the convention but I’ve only seen a couple. It’d be nice to be tagged in a few if so.
The place is largely empty sometimes – certainly that’s how it felt to me, certainly there weren’t that many people there compared to Q-CON or Dragonmeet. At times it felt deserted. To me, Conpulsion staggers on like a drunken pirate. It’s a shadow of its former self apparently, and I’d have to agree.
I think there’s a lot of assumptions made – that people know the layout, know the times, GMs will turn up, how the sign-up works, etc.
Q-CON had cosplay competitions, RPG player competitions, best GM award etc. If Conpulsion did, I probably missed them, but I don’t know if they actually did exist. GEAS missed the chance (and the point!) to put on something that could really fire up the Edinburgh Gaming community. It felt half-arsed. I know that it organising a convention can be hard work, but I hope the Conpulsion committee actually learns something from their mistakes this year. Yes, I know it is run by volunteers, but perhaps next year think about Edinburgh’s gaming community outside GEAS.
Ultimately, I’m not sure if I’ll go next year. So Conpulsion’s report card reads “Could do so much better”.