Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fright Night 8

Last night I attended the eight instalment our local one-night horror RPG 'con Fright Night.  I know there were some volatility in numbers this year and some last minute sign-ups, but overall attendance was reasonable (if slightly down on previous years), with 3 fully subscribed tabletop games each round.  Local game designer Mike Sands also generously donated a copy of his well regarded Apocalypse World adaption Monster of the Week to every attendee, which was very well received.

Round 1 - The Woods
In the first round I had signed up to play Mike's game 'The Woods' which used another Apocalypse World hack Black Stars Rise.  We played characters in the small Southland town of Otautau who witnessed harrowing murders which echoed killings which had occurred in the town two decades earlier.  I have, perhaps, played too much EPOCH of late, so I spent a lot of time early in the game trying to develop interest in my character - a local reporter for the Otautau Advertiser, who was clearly living beyond his means and closely entangled with several other prominent townsfolk.  However, around half way through the game I realised there was an implicit expectation that all the characters should investigate the mystery and did my best to insert myself and follow the lead of Morgue's amateur detective Percy.

I had a great time, and the game had a high level of carnage for which the characters (particularly Stephanie's level-headed, if trigger-happy, farmer Andy) were responsible.  The final scene was suitably epic, if somewhat grim.  My other observations is that some of the characters basically stayed in the periphery of the horror, seeing no reason to risk their lives in the pursuit of a mystery which should properly be investigated by the authorities (I fell into this camp initially), and therefore I wonder if this is something the system or scenario needs to address given the specified setup for Black Stars Rise:

"The player characters are caught up in the setup, we're here to see how they come out of it. They may try to get out, try to get to the bottom of it, or just try to survive—whatever makes sense for the player characters"

Ultimately, if the players are not on the same page, it seems that this could lead to a fractured and frustrating experience where characters focus on different priorities (investigating vs survival for example).  That said, The Woods was a fun time and a compelling story.

Round 2 - Harvest
In the second round I ran my scenario for the forthcoming EPOCH Companion, Harvest.  The selected scenario setup framed the characters as a group of friends travelling to the remote seaside town of Hudson's Point to scatter the ashes of a recently deceased friend.

The characters that were created were fairly extreme, and not really, in any sense friends, but they create some amazing backstories, which pushed the tension and drama between the characters to the forefront (which is what the system aims to achieve).  Against this rich backdrop of heavily armed mercenaries, clandestine government operatives, drug smuggling, former child stars, cross-dressing, debts and tax evasion, and ghost riders, the actual horror story was somewhat eclipsed by the energy and enthusiasm of those at the table.

It was a great game, even if I was stretched to try and keep up with the plot twists and drama unfolding at pace around the table.

Final Thoughts
The 'con was well organised, and (from my perspective) seemed to go without a hitch, and I congratulate Andy and Grant on putting together an excellent night.  The communication before the 'con was top notch, and I think helped ensure people were thinking about the 'con in the lead-up to the night and probably reduced the number of last-minute cancellations.  The reports I heard from other games were also very positive. 

As for the future, I guess we'll see.  The fragmentation of the Wellington roleplaying community (for reasons I previously described here) seems to be continuing, with the active calendar of LARP events diminishing interest in tabletop events, leading to only a few remaining viable - however, it is possible that a new roleplaying store could rejuvenate interest in tabletop if it showcases new RPG releases.  In either event attendance at Kapcon in early 2015 should provide a further indication of the relative health of the tabletop RPG community.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Horror on the Horizon

Fright Night is almost upon us again, and there is a fantastic selection of games on offer!  It's a small horror themed RPG convention which takes place over one night of play – consisting of 2 three-hour sessions.  If you'll be in Wellington on Saturday 25 October you should sign up today by contacting the 'con organisers here.  The schedule of games looks like this:

The Tribute
System: EPOCH
Blurb: Every 7 years the city of Athens pays a tribute of 7 of its young men and women to King Minos of Crete. These young Athenians are then given in sacrifice to the Minotaur in his infamous labyrinth. This year you were one of the chosen victims. You must face the horror of the Cretan Labyrinth and the beast that dwells within.

The Woods
System: Black Stars Rise
Blurb: The woods have always had a spooky reputation – stories amongst the kids, probably due to those murders back in ’95. Still, it’s a park and you use it for normal park stuff – walking to work, exercise, taking the dog out.

Today, though, something strange is happening…

Flyover Country
System: The Laundry Files
Blurb: On a dead plateau, under unfamiliar stars, behind a wall of impaled, watchful corpses, an alien god sleeps. If they wake, the Sleeper in the Pyramid will set in motion a chain of events which will bring about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the end of the world.

Now, a small band of intruders has breached the plateau, presumably with the intention of waking the Sleeper. And it’s the Laundry’s job to stop them.

A Quiet Day in the Library
System: LARP
Blurb:The workers at a small community public library on what appeared to be an ordinary week day. Only, as they pause for another cup of tea they realise that it’s even quieter than usual. Mr Brockton hasn’t been in to read the paper, and he does that every day at 10.30 am, that young mother hasn’t brought her loud child in to play with the toys in the kid’s area…. and the news reports on the radio are a trifle concerning….
A game of existential horror, self-reflection and books.


Dead Horse Corner
System: Trail of Cthulhu
Blurb: The death and suffering on the Western Front provides of the backdrop for many dark and unsettling mysteries. Most of these are dismissed simply as the fears of scared men, but others seem to take on a life of their own.
When the British forward observation post at Dead Horse Corner suddenly falls silent, it’s up to the  brave men of the Royal Fusiliers to reinforce the post and work out what has happened to Lieutenant Somerset and his twenty men.
However they will soon find that there are far worse things than snipers, gas attacks and artillery strikes to worry about in the desolation of no-man’s land.
Silent Night
System: EPOCH
Blurb:I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
"...shutting down as blizzard conditions come out of nowhere..."
with every Christmas card I write
"...there's a lot of passengers facing Christmas in an airport terminal Chuck..."
May your days be merry and bright
"...please if anyone can hear us, help, please, there's something out there... Please help us! It's coming!"
And may all your Christmases be white
System: EPOCH
Blurb: "Every year the good people of Hudson’s Point celebrate the bounty of the land with a spectacular Harvest Festival.  This year is no exception; scarecrows are beginning to show up on street corners, in front of homes and stores and just about anywhere you can put a stake in the ground.  It’s all part of the fun, which culminates in a costumed torchlight parade.  This Fall, Hudson’s Point is the place to be!"
The Face of Oblivion
System: LARP
Blurb: 2277, May 17, Asteroid Habitat Aoraki Mountain, Captain’s Address to Crew: “People, we’ve done this before. The system newcomer Oblivion, whatever it’s mass, is just another flying rock. Killing rocks is our trade – we have the technology, the manpower, and the will. Earth will not fall on our watch.”

2278, April 4, Asteroid Habitat Aoraki Mountain, Captain’s Address to Crew:
“… in light of Oblivion 3′s failure due to catastrophic equipment malfunction, technical crews will be inspecting Aoraki’s infrastructure early this year. We trust that our crew will behave in the spirit of Aoraki as Oblivion passes through our orbit…”

2278, April 4, Captain’s Private Log
“This isn’t over.”

For more than a hundred years the people of Earth and its surrounding space habitats have been fighting the Rock War – a collection of solid masses are passing willy-nilly through the Solar System, many of which could profoundly damage the mother planet. Most have been neutralised – humanity is winning!

But now the largest planet-killer of them all, code-named Oblivion, has defeated the last three attempts to divert it. Soon it will pass through the orbit of Asteroid Habitat Aoraki Mountain, almost close enough to see, and the Captain has one last desperate gambit in mind…

But oh – this will cost. Join the habitat’s officers in the last two hours before an irrevocable decision is made. Sometimes there aren’t any good choices.

What compromises will you make, in the Face of Oblivion?