Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Night in Sunshine Falls

Last night I attended Fright Night, a local horror ‘con with two sessions of gaming in a single evening.  This year we had a new venue, as our regular venue is being earthquake strengthened, and I must say the combination of an old house, stories of the ghosts that were said to inhabit it, high winds and rain all made this a memorable experience.

I ran two sessions of Sunshine Falls, one of the three scenarios included in my survival-horror game EPOCH.  This year the ‘con was trialing a new format, with GM’s workshopping their scenarios together then running two rounds (rather than playing one and running one as in previous years).  I hadn’t been able to make the workshopping sessions, and so I did miss the opportunity to try some of the other games, which was a shame.

The first run of Sunshine Falls ran a little over long, mostly due to all the detail and drama the players added to the characters (which I have to say I thought was very cool).  I sharpened my delivery after that and the second run went exactly to time.  I was very pleased that, in both games, EPOCH delivered a game that felt very much like a horror movie, with periods of intense drama, suspense and some gruesome splatter.

However, it was the stories that the players wove for their characters that were the standout for me.  I selected the Friends group for the scenario, deciding that the characters would be former close friends reunited for the funeral of their former teacher – a mentor who had changed their lives in some way.   

In my first run, the game focussed on the fierce rivalry between Brooklyn’s character Jessica, a girl who had grown up poor and made herself into a leading fashion designer through force of will, and Hannah’s character Tess, a driven college student who resented Jessica using their friends against her.  The other characters found themselves arrayed on either side of this protracted and bitter conflict, and sometimes electing to try and make peace, and other times getting frustrated with the bickering.  Through flashbacks it was revealed that Jessica had cheated Tess of the Harvest Queen title, with the complicity of Frank’s character T. Moore, the prize for which had allowed her to follow her fashion dreams.  
The drama in this game was so intense that it probably could have gone for another couple of hours without breaking a sweat.  This game ended with the only survivors, Tess (despite suffering some horrible injuries during the game) and Mash’s fairly sad high school coach Greg getting together, and putting the horror behind them, or so they thought...

In the second game, it was revealed during flashbacks that all of the characters had been complicit to covering up a hit-and-run death of a cyclist several years ago, but the grudges held between the characters, particularly Ivan’s character (who had drawn the ‘friend of a friend’ card so was not as tight with the group as the others) and Marcus’ character, who had been at the wheel and returned to the town to show off his success, drove a lot of conflict and drama which really made for a special experience.

In this game too, as the horror intensified, so did the drama and conflict between characters, leading to some memorable moments.  This game ended with both Marcus’ and Norman’s characters surviving with what seemed like a happy ending, only for the evidence of their original crime to be uncovered as confessions made by their now deceased friends came to light.

Interestingly in both games, one player played a law enforcement type, with Mike Foster having some memorable scenes as his mild mannered FBI agent was pushed to breaking point, and Frank’s sad revelation that his character had failed to make it into law enforcement and was living in his car, although he would never admit as much to his friends.

I had a great time in both games, so thanks to everyone who participated for making it such a memorable time and crafting such entertaining stories.


  1. I think you may have under-sold the first session. :D

  2. After the mismatch in Mash's playtest, it was good to see EPOCH delivering what it was meant to deliver, and it worked well. (And I hope you didn't take my comment about the final tension phase amiss; on reflection, I think I just wished it had been split into two tension phases but I can't think where you could have split it!) It amused me that the two characters who survived in my run were the two who played the Zero card -- apparently dick moves work! But it made it all the more satisfying when the lights started flickering and we wondered if their dead were now catching up to them... --Ivan

  3. Not at all Ivan. I had a great time in the game, and thought the irony of your character being eliminated as part of the accident a delicious irony (thanks for setting that up!) In the other run, I'm pretty sure that Mash's character had played a Hero card, and I don't recall Hannah zeroing anyone.