Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend in the Realms

I hosted a game for Weekend in the Realms at a local games shop, a couple of weekends ago. A good time, but lower attended than other "Weekend in..." RPGA sanctioned games I've run in a long time. Could have been a bunch of factors.

How was the game? A good time. Josh, Martin, Mouton and Susana from the usual crowd at Time Warp Comics showed up to play. We ran the recommended "The Icy Queen's Crossing" adventure that the RPGA sent to shops with some cool glossy color character sheets. All told, the adventure was neat, but I have two qualms with it, similar to issues I saw with larger release Living Greyhawk games over the years.

1) Tying in the marketing of other products is fine, and something I think the RPGA should do to help grow the hobby, but maybe tying these events to a date a couple of weeks after the release might help with making the brand new products more usable for the game itself, rather than just a direct tie in. I recall this happening with the Bright Sands arc for Living Greyhawk tying into the Sandstorm book and nobody having really had enough time to get the book and get used to it before the games started. (That may just be misperception, but that's the way I recall it.) In this case, "The Icy Queen's Crossing" was a tie in to The Fall of Highwatch a new Forgotten Realms novel by Mark Sehestedt, which came out only days before the Weekend in the Realms. If the adventure was a prequel, that would have been fine, but according to the intro the adventure actually took place after the events of the novel. Haven't read it yet, but I've got to wonder about the spoilers or if waiting a few weeks would have been a better tie in. Read the book? You'll love the game!

2) Part of why I think the Living campaigns over the years had such legs was that they afforded players the opportunity to have organized play, and the actions of those games were reported back to a central repository and in some cases that affected the course of future campaign arcs. This was done very effectively with Living Greyhawk, for one. I do, however, have some disappointment that due to the Region system for RPGA over the years and due to wanting to hold back what I assume must by WotC's intellectual property for more formal releases that few of the Core adventures ever let you really play in the sandbox with your favorite characters from the books. Would it be so terrible if Drizz't or Elminster from the Forgotten Realms books made an appearance in a special Core adventure? I think it'd be a great touchstone, and perhaps ramp up some interest. Maybe there's even an NPC or two in this adventure that played a large part in the Highwatch novel - when I get a chance to read it, I'll find out. But adding in some of the power players from the novels as window dressing would be a nice touch.

All told, the adventure itself was a good solid 4E afternoon game - a new monster, a cool villain, and a couple of twists to roleplay through. If you didn't get to play it at the Weekend event, try to find a DM or store who got a copy. Despite my philosophical flaws about release dates, etc., above, it was still a hella fun game.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Halloween Call of Cthulhu Parts I & II

Halloween Call of Cthulhu Parts I & II

So, last weekend, DJ Lance Rock, Chef Boyardee, John Wilkes Booth and one of the experts on the Cottingley Faeries gathered to play Call of Cthulhu. (Our wives, a Poodle Skirt Dancer, a Faerie, and my lovely wife, who was taking this picture who was dressed as a Flapper, suffered us gladly.)

I cracked out one of my favorite of the more recent Cthulhu tomes, Secrets of New York. As all of the players grew up in the suburbs of New York City or the city itself, it was fun to see our stomping grounds through the eyes of 1920s Lovecraftian horror. (ooo scary) BRP/CoC is one of our favorite systems to play, and although we only get to play it a few times of year, it was like putting on an old pair of sneakers (albeit ones that are creepy and can summon a demon from beyond the abyss).

Stephan (Expert on Faeries, above) created the characters (thanks, man!) and he played a mystic. Josh (Chef Boyardee) played a young man from Spanish Harlem who was taking classes at Columbia. Mark (John Wilkes Booth) played a street urchin with the voice of a wise-cracking New Yawk kid from a Depression era radio serial ("Aw, jeez..." was muttered frequently...). I GMed the game and NPCed a Columbia professor and a jazz trumpet player.

We played the "Transgression" scenario out of Secrets of New York, which was a lot better than I thought it might be! The source book itself is fantastic, but the scenarios seemed to fall a little flat when I originally read them when the book came out, but the story of a Columbia professor gone mad and about to open a gate to the beyond came across less hackneyed than I thought it might, especially with the fine roleplaying of the party. The image of baseballs appearing mysteriously in apartments all over the city somehow being connected to a horrifying end-of-the-world scenario worked a lot better than I thought it would! The background of NY for Cthulhu also provides a very rich framework to jump into, which is something else that I was surprised at. With so few Lovecraftian and Mythos tales taking place in New York, I wasn't sure if it would seem forced, but the folks at Chaosium - like always - created a very deep campaign to leverage. Great stuff!

The day after Halloween, I got to do it all over again at Time Warp Comics in Joisey. While the Jets game played in the background, we played "Masks of Halloween" by Oscar Rios (see earlier post for background on that scenario and the "Halloween Horror Returns!" product). Josh, Susana, Martin and I played through the Masks scenario, with Josh playing his character from the previous night, Susana playing the Columbia professor, Martin playing a charlatan mystic, and me NPCing a gentleman's boxer. The Chaosium line of monographs have some excellent stuff in them, and this scenario (a haunted farm stand where Nyarlathotep is trying to bring about as much mayhem as he can) was well worth running in your own campaign, or as a Halloween one shot.

Stay tuned for more ghoulishness as winter - and in turn gaming season - progress!
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