It's Saturday morning and I'm half way through my GenCon Online 2021 experience - I've played two main games, both Pelgrane Press classics Trail of Cthulhu and Night's Black Agents, more of those in bit. But I've also had a blast hanging out on the various Discord servers and channels, chatting with people, making connections with people who I may well get to play with in the future and also picking up lots of hints, tips and just soaking up the experience.
There is no doubt that there are moments when the time differences are a real bummer - I had a pretty full on day at work yesterday, so pulling myself together to start a game at 11pm last night wasn't the easiest thing, but I had a blast (in so many ways).
I thought I was off to a false start on Thursday when the GM for the Trail of Cthulhu game had car troubles and had to pull out at the last minute. I think its fair to say that everyone who had signed up was fairly disappointed, but in the end it worked out pretty well for us. Cat Tobin from Pelgrane Press stepped up to save the day; stepping in at the absolute last minute to run the game. We got off to a fairly slow start, it was a group with really mixed experiences of Gumshoe as a system and in the main was people who had not played Trail of Cthulhu much at all, although all extremely experienced role-players - I include myself in that camp, I think I've probably played Trail once or twice, but I am familiar with the system. We spent about an hour pulling together characters, but that was in truth a really fun way to actually get into the game and for me was much more satisfying than just picking up a random pre-gen. There is no way to get more invested in an RPG than to spend time getting to know your character and actually investing in their generation. If I review any new game the first thing I do once I've read it is to spend time generating a character, and given the experience levels in the group it was the perfect start.
We were playing The Dying of St Margaret's, which is a very dark scenario. It falls very much into the "purist" mode of play for Trail of Cthulhu - and Cat did a great job of communicating to the group what that meant. We understood that we weren't in for a bug hunt gunning down deep ones, this wasn't going to be Indiana Jones and the Temple of Shoggoths. It was going to be dark, gritty, hopeless, the best we could hope for was to survive and the likelihood of doing that was slim at best. It was likely we would go insane trying to discover what was going on. I love this style of play, it really evokes the feel of Lovecraftian literature, bringing out mans frailty and insignificance in the cosmic scheme.
I think its fair to say that I had a great time playing, the group did a pretty good job of keeping each other on the rails - moving (albeit slowly at times) towards the game s deadly denouement. Whilst my character, Ramsey Collins, was doomed from the moment he left London for remote Scottish island I thoroughly enjoyed taking him intact final journey. It was an excellent session.
I have to say huge thanks to Cat Tobin, not just for stepping up and running the game at the drop of a hat, and for walking us so expertly trough the game and the system, but also for going the extra mile and allowing us to run over by a little over an hour to get to the games ultimate conclusion.
Friday evening's game was Night's Black Agents - now I've fairly recently been running NBA for two groups that I play with, I'm relatively new to the game and I'm loving it. I"d only actually taken part as a player once before and last night I was really tired - it had been one of those days at work where it just doesn't matter how quickly you shovel the s**t the pile never seems to shrink. Again, I thought we were off to rocky start, a couple of players had clearly dropped out at the last minute leaving only three of us. Now I generally love playing in small groups, but there was a bit of me last night that wanted to go along for the ride and just gently enjoy the scenery. You can't however really do that in a game with three players, you owe it to the group to really pull your weight...
What did happen last night was that I had a great time, even if it was probably (at times at least) a little bit torturous for our GM Patrick Joynt who did a masterful job in herding the cats that we players were being. I think Patrick delivered an absolute masterclass in running a time boxed convention game for a group of mixed experience players. I was not at my best, I really appreciated the pushing, leading and cajoling that Patrick had to employ to get us over the line. And get over the line we did. The scenario that we played was entitled "Kill The Dead", I don't know if this was an official published work but it had absolutely everything you could ask for. A contract to kill a Vampire from a shady religious organisation. I came to appreciate just what a difference there is between running a game of NBA and playing it - just how engaged you really need to be as a player in helping narrate and steer the story.
Anyway like I said at the top, it's Saturday now, I'm half way through and I've got a real late night game today - but hopefully one of my best buddies is going to be playing as well, so I'm really looking forward to that. I'll be back to let you know how the rest of the weekend pans out. I don't think I'm doing too bad so far, I might have been killed by the Cthulhu Mythos but I survived the Vampire conspiracy... So I say bring on the Zombies!