Cthulhu, horror, roleplaying, RPGs

Con report – Dragonmeet 2016

On Saturday 3 December 2016, I was up horrifically early to get the 5am train down to London. Why? Because that is the time you are forced to awaken if you are planning on going down to Dragonmeet from Durham in a single day!
This year’s convention was the first time I have attended Dragonmeet, which at the time of writing is run by Modiphius games, publishers of roleplaying games such as Achtung! Cthulhu, Infinity and Conan. I had decided late in the day to go down and was just about able to afford the extortionate train fare, but could not stretch to accommodation this year. It was a tiring day, getting up around 3.30am to make sure I caught my train and not getting back home until midnight, but it was totally worth it.

Since I was coming down, I decided that I might as well look to see if I could run a game while I was there. Fortunately, Cat Tobin of Pelgrane Press was happy to have me run The Keepers of the Woods on Pelgrane’s behalf. So that was the first thing on the agenda at 10am. Sign ups were done via Warhorn, with four slots available to be booked in advance. I had all four slots taken pretty quickly, with each booking having a small cost (£2), half of which was donated to charity. Two remaining slots were available for sign up on the day, but I had no other takers, so the game went ahead with my four players, who turned out to be excellent roleplayers and really made the day for me.

Sign up experience

Before I go on to discuss the game, I will briefly mention the process of sign ups. The advanced booking was, in my opinion, a great idea for gauging interest in each game in advance. Sign ups on the day, however, had some issues. All the sign up sheets were squashed into a relatively small area, which was then surrounded by a crowd all trying to access the signup sheets. There was also a little bit of disorganisation in terms of what rooms were being used – these were mentioned on the sign up sheets, but the map in the con programme failed to mention half of them, leaving some players and GMs confused about where there needed to go. There was also general confusion about how GMs picked up players. My players were smart though and all managed to find their way up to the room we were playing in. By the time everyone located each other, however, we had lost about 30 mins of a 4 hour session – precious time in gaming terms.

Some small changes could be made to the system to get things running smoother. For example, letting GMs know in advance what they need to do for picking up player and where their room is (I know there was an email that went around to GMs, but as I had been signed up via Pelgrane, they got the email instead of me – having this information on the website would have helped in this situation). Better signage. And advanced information to players about rooms etc. via Warhorn would have prevented a lot of players trying to find out which room they were in via the sign up sheets on the day.

The Keepers of the Woods

Anyway, the game went off without a hitch. The investigators (Sheldon Rawlings, Edward Tillman, Gwendolyn Forster, and Rev. John Bowles – the latter lifted from The Rending Box) quickly found out about Prof. Blackwood’s death after their dreary journey to Postbridge. The immediately decided to pump William McArthur for information down at the East Dart Inn, something that many players in previous games leave until returning from Princetown. They pressed him for information about  what Blackwood had been researching, but never really doubled down on him about Blackwood’s death and the mention of the sect. Afterwards they headed over to Princetown and followed up on the leads there, deducing that Blackwood’s death wasn’t quite as clear cut as the papers made out, leaving them suspicious of nefarious activity, as well as hints about the 25 year ritual cycle. Getting back to Postbridge, it was decided to head to bed and continue investigations in the morning. However, Sheldon decided he would like a night cap at the local pub, running into the Yeth Hound on his way back. Gwendolyn Forster then had a disturbed night’s sleep, dreaming of the Horned Man out in Wistman’s Wood.

The following day, even though the snow was deep and prevented driving, they decided to wrap up warm and head out to the woods. There they discovered minor evidence of possible ritual activities, including blood and discarded bindings. They returned to the Thistle Lodge and interrogated the landlord, Hannah Bucknam, revealing her suspicions and concern for her husband. With Hannah’s permission, they tooled up with her husband’s shotgun and several wicked looking farm implements, and decided to confront Father Blakely. They headed to St Gabriel’s Church and there discovered the Testamentum Vigilum and Blackwood’s journal. Worried by Blackwood’s last, hastily written passages, they headed back to the The Thistle Lodge, managed to translate the Testamentum, and prepared themselves to confront the Order of the Green Man in Wistman’s Woods that very evening.

The showdown went similarly to many versions of this scenario that I have run before, with a slight twist… The investigators confronted the Order and, despite Father Blakely’s insistence that the ritual must be performed, decided to shut it down at shotgun point. Unfortunately, the Yeth Hound used this opportunity to begin killing off the Order’s members. A scuffle broke out between Edward and Blakely, with Edward coming off victorious, just as the Horned One appears. Upon seeing it, Sheldon went mad and broke off fleeing into the night. He ended up in a sanitarium back in London, after being found half frozen on the moorlands once the snow melted. Gwendolyn Forster, following her dreams, offered herself up to the dark, spectral figure in a fit of madness. Her mortal form is now dead, though she herself lives on int he chaotic vortex of screaming consciousness that is the god with a thousand masks. Likewise, Edward Tillman met his fate, charging the Horned One down with sickle in hand.

The Rev. Bowles, however, upon seeing the Horned One appear had a revelation. He suddenly understood the importance of the ritual. Having translated it previously, he attempted to cast the spell within the Testamentum Vigilum. Throwing the entire power of his will behind it, he actually pulled it off, leaving him a broken shell of a man. The Order of the Green Man looks after him now, as part of their cult dedicated to keep the Horned Man sleeping on Dartmoor…

As I mentioned above, my players were fantastic and there were some brilliant moments, especially towards the end. I loved the fact that each of them came up with unique responses to the horrors they discovered. So thank you Mark, Gray, Paul and Stuart – I couldn’t ask for a better group.

Trade hall experiences

Dragonmeet loot!

Following on from running the game I bumped into Paul from YSDC and several other Yoggies, and toured around the trade hall. I unfortunately didn’t manage to pick up the pre-release, limited edition of Cthulhu Confidential from Pelgrane – ironic that it sold out while I was running a game for them! Alas! But I have just today pre-ordered the Case Note edition off the webstore, so the PDF will keep me happy in the meantime. I consoled myself at the convention by picking up Blood in the Snow for Hillfolk, which I’ve been meaning to buy for some time.

I did managed to pick up several other things that were on my wishlist though. First I managed to get the second to last copy of Pulp Cthulhu, which I had signed by Mike Mason. I also picked up Broodmother Skyfortress for Lamentations of the Flame Princess from James Raggi. I also wanted Blood in the Chocolate, the other new release, but the budget just wouldn’t stretch. I also picked up  several supplements for The Cthulhu Hack from Paul Baldowski and Just Crunch Games. It was also really nice to meet Paul in the flesh too. We had a good chat about the line Paul has been developing for his Mythos take on The Black Hack, all of which is well worth checking out for a fantastic OSR take on Cthulhu based roleplaying.

Lastly, I managed to get my hands on my grail game for this Christmas – the Arkham Horror LCG. I couldn’t afford it when it was released in late November, but Leisure Games had a few copies, so I grabbed one. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays.

While travelling the trade hall, I also got to talk to the guys on the Shadows of Esteren booth, who were lovely, and introduce myself to Simon Rogers from Pelgrane Press, who was also lovely.

Finally, I went to the Swords, Spies and Shoggoths seminar from Pelgrane Press, which was very interesting. I am very excited to see all the developments coming out of one of my favourite RPG publishers over the next year, not least the release of Cthulhu Confidential and the forthcoming Kickstarter touted for Robin D Laws’ The King in Yellow RPG. 2017 is looking to be another great year for roleplaying!

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