Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Origins 2015: Running Games

Instead of writing out a day by day travelogue of my Origins 2015 experience, I will instead be breaking it out into multiple posts. This one is on my experience this year as a GM.

As I said my a previous post, I was scheduled to run 4 games this year.




The first was a modern day Call of Cthulhu scenario I wrote named Devil's Cave, scheduled for Wednesday evening. Having never run a game on Wednesday, I wasn't sure what to expect. Fortunately, 1 person had signed up and 4 generic tokens showed up before we started.

The 4 players with generic tokens were three kids (aged around 10-15) and their father. The kids had never played in an RPG before and it had been forever for the father.

The game went well, although I did give some leeway to the kids' and their actions, given this was their first RPG experience. In the end, they had fun and the party barely survived. Barely.

I love this scenario, although I need to decide where I want to take it and modify it appropriately. The first half definitely needs improved, but I think I know how to do it in a way that it helps ramp up the horror of the game.


Thursday - Morning


My next game was another modern day Call of Cthulhu game called Paradise Falls. It was scheduled for Thursday morning at 8AM. Unfortunately, no one had pre-reg'd for this and no one showed up. I was a little bummed, as this was the game I was most looking forward to running at Origins. Since this was cancelled, I spent the morning catching up with the amazing Oscar Rios, barely missed braining a passer-by with my water bottle, and hitting the vendor room.

8AM games can be hit or miss, especially on a Thursday since 1) not many people are there yet and 2) the vendor room opens during this time slot. Live and learn.

If anyone is interested, I am probably going to run this at Con on the Cob if I GM this year.


Thursday - Afternoon


Fortunately, my Thursday 1PM game had 5 people pre-register for it so I knew it was going to go off. This was an End of the World Zombie Apocalypse game. If you are not familiar with it, this is a rules-light RPG where you play yourself in an apocalyptic scenario. In this case, it was a zombie apocalypse that I made up. I will be putting the setting out in the next few weeks for all to use if they so desire.

This game went off amazingly. One of the key aspects of this game is you get to play yourself, and the only items you have are the ones that you have on you at that second. As you can imagine, at a convention this could go horribly wrong; fortunately, it was spectacular.

We started by creating characters. I used a shortened method, so the entire process took about 30 minutes (including a rules explanation). After that I explained they were at Origins playing a game I was running when a scream was heard in the hallway. Soon, they the zombies were upon them and they were in survival mode.

For a game that relies upon the players playing themselves, which can go horribly wrong with the wrong group, the game went extremely well. The PCs worked together as a team even though most of them didn't know each other, and made imaginative use of the skills and equipment they could find. Fortunately for them, one of the players worked in the building next door (she showed me her key card), and by the end of the session they were safely on the roof awaiting rescue.

I have to say I love End of the World. The system is simple and doesn't get in the way of story telling. As a GM, I definitely could have done more to make the game more exciting and play to the system's strengths (e.g. diverse encounters, harder combat). However, the players said they had a blast which is all that counts.


Thursday - Evening 


My last game was scheduled for Thursday evening and almost didn't go off. This was my personal favorite Call of Cthulhu scenario, Crack'd and Crook'd Manse. I had 2 registered players who showed up and absorbed 2 others from another game that couldn't run with that few players. Four PCs is my sweet spot, so off we were!

In my opinion, this is one of the best "non-haunted house" haunted house crawls there is. The horror slowly creeps up on the PCs, eating away at their sanity, until the big reveal happens and the PCs are forced to hope for the best. Survival in this scenario is unlikely, although those that do survive, do so by the skin of their teeth (the best way in this game).

I had a 50% survival rate here, and probably the best two deaths I've had in a while for a Call of Cthulhu game. The first death occurred for an insane former Navy sailor who thought he saw a shipmate drowning in the sea, so he dove in to save him. His last thoughts were the realization that his "shipmate" was the corpse of the house's owner and he had just dove into the big bad.

The second was of a folklorist who, after escaping the house, watched her two fellow investigators tear off down the road in their car, leaving her to be horribly killed from the inside out. (I'm keeping these descriptions somewhat vague so as not to spoil anything.)

Needless to say, everyone was happy.




My experience as a GM this year at Origins was a hundreds of times better than last year. While the room we got was small and stuffy, the players and the fun made up for it.

Unfortunately, my fellow GMs and I in the shoggoth.net group have been seeing a decline in the number of players in our Call of Cthulhu games this year. Wednesday and Thursday only saw about 1/3 of our games run due to lack of players. Friday, Saturday and Sunday raised that amount, but there were still some cancelled games. Rogue Cthulhu, another group at Origins, had more games run but said they saw some cancellations as well. I'm not sure if this means that interest in the game is waning, or there were other factors at work.

I think this does mean, however, that if I do GM again at Origins (next year's attendance is questionable for me due to scheduling), I will diversify the games I run. There are a lot of great RPGs out there that don't get a lot of play time at cons, some of which I actually know how to run.

In the end, my players and I enjoyed ourselves in the games I ran. Thats what I go to Origins for, so as a GM I'm calling this one a success.

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