Posts in Uncategorized

Chupacabracon Recap

I just returned from a 5-day trip to Chupacabracon IX. While I was there, I GMed three games— Necronautilus, Cthulhu Dark, and Dread—and each one provided a positive experience. In fact, I am still riding on good feelings from the con—to a point where, despite the somewhat punishing workload, (I never learn!) I came home feeling rejuvenated and ready to explore new gaming territory.

For me, it is a remarkable shift. I generally run at least two games a week—one of them public and open to strangers—so nothing I did as a GM at the con was atypical overall. And while Texas may be very different from Illinois, I don’t think that a change of venue is what really led to my positive feelings. I owe most of these to 14 very cool players.

One very important characteristic of players at conventions: they choose the games they play from a very wide range of options. If they show up at your table, it means they are there to play your game, which may sound facile, but what I mean is this: they are committed to playing your game. Sure, they can get up and walk away, but generally, in my experience, they don’t And their commitment means you can run the games as intended—you should. It’s what they want, or they wouldn’t be there.

Necronautilus is an unusual game with rules that can be challenging to pick up quickly. I made sure that everyone knew that I loved the game, and that if they gave it a shot, I’d do everything in my power to make it a good game. I almost didn’t need to say any of it. In the interest of full disclosure, I acknowledged that the game was weird. (It is.). One player said, “Then it’s the perfect game to play at a con.” He was right. Why not throw yourself into something new and really try to play it wholeheartedly? They all did, and after they’d finished burning down a massive dollhouse and putting an end to the machinations of the Heretical Doll-maker who lived inside it, they talked about what an interesting game it was, and how it had encouraged creativity in all of them. One of the players immediately bought the game.

That was my first game, and I would’ve thought the rest of the con might be an anticlimax. Game #2 happened that same evening. It was Cthulhu Dark, and it proved to be anything but anticlimactic. I ran a scenario that I wrote in which all of the player characters are women in the early 1960s. (You know, in the same way that they’re mostly all men in most RPG scenarios 😉 My table was entirely male, and they dug into the pre-generated characters with a lot of energy and depth. I’d kept the number of players low, as I wanted this game to play more intimately and to allow the players plenty of room to go big with their RP. They did—and it being a very rules light, horror heavy game—we had plenty of room to draw drama and catharsis out of the game. I am really proud of it—not in the least because it was the second game of the day for me—but, even more so, I was impressed by my players and grateful for the degree to which they bought into the basic premise of the game. We were all gonna hit the bar at the end and debrief, but the evil hotel had closed it down for the night. It wasn’t even midnight yet!

But it was all OK, because the next afternoon I GMed another really good game, thanks to the buy-in of my players. This one was a custom Dread scenario that pays tribute to bad shark movies that are set on yachts. Dread is a fun game to play, when you just want to screw around, and I intended this particular game to just be dumb fun. How seriously can you take an RPG that uses a Jenga tower to resolve tasks? All my players bought into the setting and the humor with loads of energy. They picked up my premise and carried it past “dumb fun” to something that was really remarkably comic. I had a great time in the midst of a highly improvisational game filled with Australian gangsters, pirate ghosts, and (yes, sorry,) coke-addled dolphins. I think they all did as well.

So thanks to all my players at Chupacabracon. You restored my faith in the whole gaming thing. To my players at home: I like you just as much as ever—which is a lot—and hope that you’ll believe me when I say that I’m grateful for all of you as well. You are very fun, very cool people who have enabled my excursions into…well, all sorts of weird places. I’m looking forward to coming back to the home games and bringing a little something extra to them. See you soon!

Eternal Lies – Session 25

JANUARY 1, 1935, TUESDAY: Amid the bloody chaos at the Mercy Hill Mental Institution, the Investigators convinced their former guide ABAI to travel to London. Once there, he would wait for them to get him out of the country. James “Tick Tock” Cohan expressed hope for and disappointment in Abai.

At the hotel, Dorothy perused the comic she purchased at Yellowtree Books and was drawn into a state of heightened arousal. Chantelle Perreault kept watch over Dorothy, while Luke Davis and James meditated in their room. In the morning, the group met PROFESSOR ORWELL SANGSTER at Brichester University. They headed into the countryside to find Deepfall Lake, the center of a dense body of local legend. The lake was lined with trees, and on one side, six houses stood. These were built in the 18th century by the followers of a strange pastor named THOMAS LEE. They came seeking something called GLA’AKI, which they venerated, but they soon disappeared. The houses were also the site of a series of disappearances happened in the area in the 1890s, and the houses have been abandoned ever since. Their last owner, GILBERT CELESTE, was accused of murdering the missing people. He was dubbed “The Ripper of the Lake,” and was executed in 1893.

As they approached, Sangster lectured them about the history of the area. He and James parked the car up the road from the houses and kept watch, as the party had noted strange, human-shaped forms moving in the trees across the lake. James noticed the water stirring and smelled a terrible odor coming from the lake. Beneath its surface, he saw the outlines of strange buildings, but these disappeared. Later, a large eye stalk emerged from the water to look at him. The human-shaped figures moved closer. One of them appeared to be missing archaeologist HUSAIN SOLIMAN still strangely transformed.Orwell Sangster fired his gun at Soliman, who appeared to catch a bullet and flick it aside. Soliman told them to leave.

Meanwhile, Dorothy, Luke, and Chantelle went about exploring the derelict houses. Aside from dust and an air of abandonment, they found a scrap of paper wedged between some floorboards. It mentioned “the green decay” and warned its reader to leave. The group also found the remnants of a base camp, probably belong to the Emporium of Bangkok Antiquities. It appeared that a scene of violence had occurred, leaving an outer wall and one of the bedrooms badly damaged. Strange writing lined the walls and stairs. Words had been spread around in a strange green and silver medium: THEY HAVE STOLEN THE BOOKS LAUGHTON SAW THE HELIX TRUTH. In another house, new furnishings had been installed, but peculiarly organized. A neatly made bed was in the kitchen, while an unplugged refrigerator with rotting food rested in a bath tub.

Hearing gunshots, Dorothy, Luke, and Chantelle emerged to find Sangster and James engaged with Soliman and the other strange forms. Terrified, the group got to their car and fled. Suddenly they found themselves driving in a different area, near Brichester and several miles away from Deepfall Lake.

Eternal Lies – Session 19

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24: In a salt block building, in the settlement of Dallol, Ethiopia, the Investigators were interviewed by the leader of a strange group of local Afar. She was a striking and intense woman named TSHOMBE. She spoke to the Investigators through a translator, an elderly man. She told them the whispers of the Agony on the Wind had told her they would come. She believes they are pilgrims, seeking communion with the Agony. She asked if they were carrying any relics sacred to the Agony and was disappointed to find that they had only the book, The Cults of the Aksumite Empire.

Tshombe offered her blessings to the party. James “Tick Tock” Cohan had already received a small benediction, which had led to the loss of part of a finger to something within the cloth wrapped around Tshombe’s upper body. The rest of the group demurred, which drew some suspicious glances from the Afar, who look at Tshombe in an almost worshipful manner.

Though Tshombe seemed benevolently disposed toward the Investigators, she showed antipathy toward their guides. While she allowed OGHAI and YONAS to live, she had the head of LAZARE delivered in a canvas sack. She allowed it to roll across the floor so that the Investigators could see that the flesh around Lazare’s mouth had been cut away, exposing his teeth. Dorothy Howard, who’d developed an attachment to Lazare was particularly horrified.

Hole in the salt crust – Dallol – photo

The Investigators were asked if they wished to venerate the Agony on the Wind. They were pointed toward a room in the back of the salt block building. They could hear moaning coming from inside. James was allowed to remain with Tshombe outside the room, while the rest of the Investigators reluctantly agreed to offer obeisance to the Agony. They were escorted into an unfinished space with a dirt floor. In it, a trough had been dug out by people crawling on hands and knees. The Investigators and their guides were expected to contribute, and so they rooted around in the dirt.

Yonas was outraged and horrified and made to throw a stick of dynamite, but the Investigators intervened, attempting to save their own lives and convince the Dallolites that they were not in league with Tshombe’s enemies. Their efforts were successful, but Yonas was executed in front of them.

The Investigators were taken to a small salt block building so that they could rest before being escorted to the dig site. Because James had earned Tshombe’s approval, they were allowed to keep Oghai with them, but they were told they were responsible for his conduct. Once the group was alone, Luke Davis told them that he had discovered a means of invoking powerful magic to carry them away from their current circumstances. Unfortunately, doing so would require the sacrifice of a life.

Oghai was appalled that the Investigators were capitulating to Tshombe and possibly to other dark forces. He attempted to shoot Luke, but missed. A stray bullet struck Dorothy and nearly killed her. Chantelle Perreault disarmed and subdued Oghai. Guards were drawn by the gunshots. Despite the Investigators’ inability to keep Oghai under control, Tshombe was won over by their disavowal of Oghai and by their request that they be allowed to tend to Dorothy’s injuries themselves.