Drugs. Drugs, I tell you. He's turned into a big pile of yellow drugs!
Honourable mentions go to:
Victor (CRAGS) who won Saturday's session by popular acclaim. Victor roleplayed Joseph Worthington III, a charismatic Vagabond who travelled around setting up anarchist groups and Fascist rabble-rousing. His detailed telegrams to Aleister Crowley will be my souvenirs of the event.
Rachel gave William Dale a louche charm as a sozzled Irish artist and Adam portrayed Lord Glasgow's transition from unflappable upper class toff to cackling psychopath with great enthusiasm.
Jules (RAW) brought a similar upper class languor to Cecil Frampton Hardwick, although his psychological disintegration didn't go much further than chain-smoking furiously. Nonetheless, his asides and quips were always in character and he did a great job re-stating and focusing the scenario aims throughout, supporting other players in their efforts. He deservedly won the Sunday vote and the Call of Cthulhu event itself.
Mike's Cockney gangster Willie was delivered with deadpan intensity and hilarious effect. Gareth's world-travelling Bohemian Magnus Steele was another memorable toff who really embraced his Dreamlands persona and was another player-engine driving the story forwards. He generated the quote of the weekend (above).
And so, it's over for another year. De Montfort University empties of guys in hats and girls with dyed hair (the respective gender uniforms of gamers, it seems). The winning university team has been determined (but I don't know which one that is). Until next year, then...!
It was a blast, of course, as always. As always, the volunteer "Runners" worked tirelessly and we all owe them much thanks. DMU was not the most comfortable setting, being partly under-construction and partly run-down; it will be a stunning inner city campus in a year or two's time, but it's not there yet. The organisers worked hard to pull it off and, while it's true that had they worked a fraction harder in the weeks beforehand, the Runners might have been able to work slightly less hard during the competition itself, nonetheless, it all pulled together and scores of gaming events took place involving hundreds of competitors and volunteer GMs. No small achievement.
Also, as usual, the competitors I met were superb. They were very tolerant of my bringing Cthulhu Abides to the party rather than a professional RPG product, threw themselves into character generation, mastered the rules and embraced the scenario.
The scenario itself, The Legacy of Erich Zahn, will be posted up on this site next week, when I get it properly written up. The published version may differ in key respects from the Nationals version, because playtesting in a live event highlighted some flaws and neither group completed it - although Sunday's group probably would have completed if we'd been able to play until 4 rather then being ushered out at 2.30 so security could close the building. The scenario is a cannibalised version of a published Chaosium scenario, but the alterations might make the debt it owes less noticeable.
So, what happened? Well the scenario flung the players in and out of the Dreamlands every time a new-fangled gramophone played the Zahn-inspired melodies captured on wax disk. The King in Yellow's influence settled over Boston and transfiguring encounters with Great Old Ones became frequent occurrences. There was little combat, a lot of investigation and some bravura roleplaying.
Both groups gathered together the recordings of doomed Penelope Lindel's performances. Saturday's group played a Pulp-style game and threw themselves into dreamscapes, sailing to sunken R'lyeh to meet (a Dreamlands version of) Cthulhu and being chased round cursed Carcosa by the minions of the King in Yellow. They concocted a spell to save Miss Lindel but didn't have time to use it. Sunday's group played a Purist game and were more focused on investigating, less insane, less murderous and gathered more information without having to kill everyone in Asenath's house. They were poised to enter Carcosa's Dreamlands and confront the King in Yellow, but a long way from rescuing Penelope Lindel.
All the players were thoroughly lovely people and I enjoyed their company immensely - I hope we run into each other next year. I learned a lot about structuring and pacing of Cthulhu Mystery in a competition time slot; next year, I'll prepare something more carefully tailored to the time and resources available. However, this year was a great opportunity to give away copies of Cthulhu Abides and I hope the players get back in touch with me with feedback, especially if critical. I feel the game needs streamlining and focusing and I'd love to hear complaints.
My thanks also to fellow Cthulhu GM 'Frodo' who went to the GMs' Meeting and cheerfully agreed to represent me there while I hurried home through a stinging gale. My warm wishes also to Blitzer (Glasgow) who made a great contribution on Sunday, despite health problems in the afternoon. Looking forward to seeing you all again!
I like to get along to the Student Nationals every March and usually I run some Classic World of Darkness. These year the competition is in nearby Leicester De Montfort over the weekend of the 27th of March. I'm making a change by signing up to GM Cthulhu!
Of course, it's not going to be Call of Cthulhu but my own Cthulhu Abides. To sweeten the pill, I've invested in a dozen copies to give away to the competitors (5-6 on a team, 2 teams over the weekend). This means that, rather than hand out pre-genned characters, I'll let the players use CA's elegant little character generation system to create their own Edwardian cannonfod- err- "investigators".
Actually, CA is a Cthulhu RPG where your characters are marginally less likely to die but, when they do (notice, not "if", "when") then it's pretty quick to create a new one distinctively different from the last.
I haven't written the scenario yet because I'm lazy and because I'm more creative with a looming deadline. I want to use the Dreamlands pretty extensively and the East Anglian setting, which means Deep Ones a-plenty. I'll write the scenario up in full afterwards and publish it on this site.
The Nationals weekend is always a blast - so if anyone who sees this blog is there, seek me out! I'll haunt the bar on Saturday night and if my game is undersubscribed I'll have spare copies of Cthulhu Abides to give away.
May the team most devotes to madness and blasphemy win!