Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fright Night V

Okay, I’m interrupting my post on how I write ‘con games to detail my attendance at Fright Night 5, which happened this past weekend. But fear not solitary subscriber – I have included some detail about my creation of my ‘con scenario below which I will develop further in a subsequent post.

This was the fifth instalment of Fright Night, a one-night horror-con. I was facilitating Fright Night I, out of the country for Fright Nights II & III and posted about Fright Night IV here and here.

Round 1 – Miller’s Children
I signed up to play this game as the blurb sounded interesting, and Donna has often signed up to play in my games, and I thought it was high time to return the favour. I was given the character of Robbie to play, the oldest sibling, and something of a delinquent in a scenario which is very much 'Home Alone', with a magical twist.

I must give full credit to the other players. Ellen was a fantastic Carol - Robbie’s sister whose birthday was ruined. She was suitably annoying and particularly good at embarrassing Robbie. Stephanie did a great job with Krystal – Carol’s friend who had a little crush on Robbie, and constantly feuded with little Jamie (played by the effervescent Mike F.). Their feuding was totally hilarious and threatened to obscure the horror elements. Mike F. also deserves special credit for being disarmingly good at portraying a 7 year old and unexpectedly adding some sentimental sweetness to proceedings.

The scenario was good fun, we enjoyed the setup, although we may have caught Donna out with a few of our wackier ideas. The climax was a little frustrating for me, as I wasn’t in a position to really influence events, but it all ended well (in that we likely wound up in foster care). The scenario ran a little over two hours, so I decided to venture out for coffee and a little fresh air before launching into my game in the second round.

Round 2 – Sundown
This is the game I’ve been writing over the last few weeks. At this juncture I should point out that I decided to write this game as a Cthulhu adventure, which means it should to conform to a couple of conventions I’d probably not apply to a scenario for my own system:

1. There needs to be an investigative component. Cthulhu has always prided itself on offering the dual attractions of both appealing to problem-solvers and horror fans, potentially giving satisfaction on both levels.

2. There should be some reference to the Mythos – usually this is in the form of a Mythos entity encountered in the final scene of the adventure.

3. There should be a way of defeating said Mythos creature, or other villains, which transcends physical force.

4. There should be player handouts of some description.

Of course, you could throw all of these things out the window – but as I had decided to write this adventure as a scenario I’d like to publish, I decided that I’d try and incorporate these ideas to varying degrees, as well as using traditional pre-generated characters with a blurb, rather than employing my contemporary ideas about using framing scenes and objects to allow for greater player buy-in.

With this in mind I wrote up 8 pre-generated characters, folks from Tombstone who ride off in a posse to hunt a man that has committed a terrible murder. I put a bit of effort into creating come character tensions (with the obvious expectation that these may come to nothing if the players chose to ignore them) and then tried to tie as much of the scenario as I could into actual history and events of this era (another common element of Cthulhu scenarios). As this is a ‘con outing, it is actually a fairly traditional railroad – so I also created a couple of floating scenes to allow the players to choose to deviate from the expected path, and then hopefully choose to return to it.

The playtest went fairly well. The inter-character drama proved to be pitched at about the right level. The players seemed to enjoy the climax, and while some complained it seemed a little tough, I think it was an overall success. The playtest revealed several elements that I hadn’t paid enough attention to in the drafting, and I found that by refining these, the game looked a lot better. That said, I knew I couldn’t trust the playtest as these were players I run games for regularly, experienced Cthulhu players who knew the score and conceit of the genre and were willing to embrace it, as well as being fairly comfortable at playing together as a group.

On the night I was down to 4 players. Something I didn’t initially think would be a problem, but as I looked through the pre-generated characters I realised that I had linked them together more thoroughly than I had intended, and that the game would be so much richer if I could beg or borrow another couple of players. Fortunately Marcus was able to oblige me with Hannah and Ants, who were attired as zombie pirates! This was particularly fortuitous as I had arranged individual touch lights for illumination and the zombie make-up looked terrifying in the darkness, lit only dimly from beneath.

Just as we were about to start, Ants told me this was to be Hannah’s first ever tabletop roleplaying experience – and that I’d better not mess it up! Needless to say, I felt the pressure acutely (also, being threatened by a zombie pirate is scary stuff!).

The game went well. I think it was a richer and more dramatic run then the playtest (which is saying something as the playtest was pretty dramatic). The credit for this rests with the players who really embraced their roles. Bryn was fantastic as the bumbling doctor (blame the dice!) and put up with my comedic spotlighting with good humour, while Hannah did a great job as Marion, adding the memorable syphilis needles and ground-up turtle which I’ll definitely include in the published scenario. Scott, Mike and Ants really came through with their conflict, and even found a way to act heroically – which ultimately sealed their fate. I also really enjoyed the characterisation that Stephanie put into the School mistress, who she played almost exactly he way I had envisaged the character. I really enjoyed the game, and felt the story went almost exactly as I had hoped, and interestingly, mirrored the playtest almost exactly in structure and execution.

Now to write it up and get it published somewhere.

For further Fright night coverage see Luke's post here, Mash's post here, or Marcus' post here.

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