Conception 2016

My experiences with Conception have been slightly odd. I first went last year, and managed to spent the con suffering from a cold (which rather spoiled my ability to enjoy the event).

This year, the con was split across two sites. The usual areas we used for gaming in were being renovated during the week that we were supposed to be using the site. Luckily, the organisers were able to negotiate the use of another site that was a 10 minute drive away and laid on a frequent bus service to it. Aside from a minor blip on the Wednesday night, I can’t say that I noticed anything but a very smoothly run event, so much kudos to the organisers.

Next year I might experience Conception properly! One site and free of plague!

The Games

I played more excellent games than I care to count, so selecting these highlights wasn’t easy (except for Blood & Water which you’ll see from the length of the write up made quite an impression!):

Dungeon World. I’d managed to end up in two of Richard’s games by just going from the descriptions of the games. It wasn’t until near the end of the con that I’d started to pick up on people’s names and was sold on the game before I noticed it was DW. I really enjoy playing Apocalypse Engine games, and it’s also my favourite system to run. DW is one variant that I’m still trying to get to grips with (it isn’t a genre that I’m confident at running). This game proved to be excellent fun as well as a great learning experience.

In it we dealt with evil forces corrupting innocent townsfolk.

It also introduced me to The Perilous Wilds, a delightful supplement that I’d managed to pick up in the Dungeon World +2 Bundle of Holding but not get around to reading until last night.

I think I shall have another go at GMing DW soon.

The Difficult Life of a Costumed Henchman. LARPing is always fun, so much so that I tend to run or help to run two a year. This one rapidly turned into joyful chaos and left me kicking myself when I failed to put 2 and 2 together at a couple of points. Glorious fun. Thanks to Archie for organising that one.

Blood & Water. Mik ran a two part game of the unofficial (and still unpublished) RPG in the style of Being Human. This became the tale of a Bristol house share between a vampire (with a zero-hours contract at the local meat packing plant), a werewolf (who had lost the use of his legs when his plane was shot down — they did still work in wolf form though), a ghost (of the lead singer in a boyband), and a troll (who guarded the Clifton suspension bridge). Then a Japanese exchange student turned up needing a place to stay … and she turned out to be a Kitsune.

Over two evenings we experienced their trials and tribulations while trying to do such varied tasks as:

  • Arrange for an engineer to come out and fix the broadband
  • Find that banshee that has outstayed her welcome in the city
  • Return a library book
  • Look after Queen Titania’s unicorn, Starshine
  • Attend mandatory therapy sessions in the hope of being cleared to fly a plane again
  • Get a pair of shoes mended (it is practically impossible to find a pair of shoes that comfortably fit a troll)

The unicorn rather dominated the game — it was just so much fun to play with — from dealing with its feeding habits (good unicorns eat rose petals and dew, evil ones eat rose petals, dew, and baby hearts), to getting it out of the garden (it could go pretty much anywhere it liked so long as nobody was looking… and it didn’t like to go indoors… resulting in rose petals being scattered on the roof followed by the fucking quantum pony falling through it and into one of the upstairs bedrooms). In order to stop King Oberon from getting his hands on Starshine Sparkles III (he was having a tiff with his wife and wanted to cut up her pet and send her pieces) we decided to hide it in the petting zoo at Bristol Zoo.

This plan made sense. Well. It made sense to a dead boy band singer with no ability to think things through. And everyone else was so desperate to move the creature that they jumped on the plan.

To be fair, it went very well right up until the point where the troll, the ghost and the fox spirit had got the animal to the petting zoo. At that point Nick and Sue realised that their characters hadn’t eaten all day… so they ate the petting zoo, while the ghost went off to leave them to it as he couldn’t be bothered trying to dissuade them and wanted to make use of the Internet connection in the visitor’s centre to find out what a newspaper headline he had spotted was all about.

Listening to Mik giving one half of a telephone conversation between the night watchman at the zoo and his boss was an utter delight. I’ll paraphrase it.

“There’s been a massacre at the petting zoo!”

“Everything is dead! There’s blood and bits of animal everywhere!”

“Only the horse survived!”

“What do you mean you don’t have a horse? I’m looking at it.”

“Well, I can see that it might step on a small child, but I can see it. It’s white.”

“I’m just telling you what I can see!”

“No! I have not been drinking!”

And at that point the unicorn decided to play its quantum trick and left the night watchman stomping away with a very put upon sense about him.

Meanwhile, after a disastrous attempt to get a new library book out, which resulted in his having to stand in a queue and expose a bunch of humans to his presence for long enough for them to get agitated and and panicked (which is what standing next to a ghost will do to you when you select that as one of your supernatural drawbacks) until the most religious of them starts proclaiming that he should be ashamed to be here, then notices his choice of book, and redoubles her efforts. Not only was the ghost kicked out of the library but he had his ticket taken away from him. This would not be stood for!

Aside. Oh dear. While looking for the link I put in the previous paragraph, I found this Guardian opinion piece and now I have a slight urge to go and actually read that book IRL. Save me now. On a related note, while I haven’t read any of the series, the author of reasoning with vampires has and used the experience to write a very amusing blog commenting on the books.

Back at the house, the ghost was shunned by the kitsune up until the point where she realised he was a dead pop star, at which point she turned into a fan girl. This led to the unfortunate incident of the map.

Part of character creation for Blood & Water involves drawing a floor plan of the house that everyone shares. Since the game was set in Bristol, and since the building was perfect for it, I simply stole the floor plan of a real house which a number of my friends used to share. At this point I will apologise to Sam, Ezzy, Mickey, Katie, Ben, Rob, and everyone else who I know who has lived in that building.

We needed rose petals to feed the unicorn so the kitsune volunteered to go to the florist… but she didn’t know the way and asked for a map. So the ghost drew one. I was playing the ghost. I also grabbed the pad of A3 with the floor plan of the house on and drew something that approximated to a map. It was very much in the style of a child’s drawing of a street.

There was a hill. There was a tunnel under the bridge. There was a road winding through the tunnel and curving around to the shops. The was a nice curvy arrow that curved smoothly around the shaded in oval of the tunnel entrance.

OK, OK. It was an accidental obscene drawing of a piece of male anatomy and I didn’t notice until everyone else started giggling like schoolgirls.

Later, while dealing with the unicorn, the ghost noticed that there was a headline about him appearing in Game of Thrones. Later, at the visitor centre at the zoo he discovered that his manager had managed to do a deal to have the first computer generated simulation of a pop star appear as an actor on television.

It was around this time that the penny dropped and the ghost realised that his manager, the ex-bus driver, had stolen the 220 bus that had run him down and was actually his murderer (and was making a lot of money off the back of his dead fame).

Launching off half cocked he tracked down the banshee that was loose in the city (the troll was supposed to have tracked it down and ejected it but had been busy with the quantum pony) and sent it off to mark the manager for death.

Later on he realised that he deserved some of the money that the manager had been making and launched another half cocked plan which ended up with him scaring the man half to death, acquiring the username and password to his investment banking account and then desperately trying to persuade the vampire to help him launder the money before the banshee murdered the manager.

Since the broadband wasn’t working at home (it had been fixed thanks to vampiric contacts earlier (the vampire lord was very confused by the phallic artwork on the coffee table) but broken again (along with a couple of windows) when Oberon turned up looking for Starshine) these Internet escapades were mostly performed at the visitors centre at the zoo. After the police turned up to investigate the massacre at the petting zoo, that became a no-go area so the ghost switched sites to the library (and stole back his ticket while he was at it).

Meanwhile the vampire was having his own set of problems (involving a lack of milk, the horrors of BT Broadband Technical Support, vampire politics and a dying van), the werewolf was slowly discovering that his therapist was a werewolf hunter, and the kitsune was having her own set of adventures.

Queen Titania had dropped by to tell the troll that she was very impressed that he had kept the beast safe from Oberon, but she wanted him to steal the animal. It was, after all, an evil unicorn and would rampage through Oberon’s court eating the hearts of all his elves (they are so child-like aren’t they?).

With Starshine loose in the city, and with a fondness for eating the vascular organs of children, we ended the game on a mad hunt to track it down. The final showdown featured the werewolf chasing the unicorn through the hospital (I found a theme tune for this) in a desperate (and eventually successful) attempt to prevent it from reaching the pediatric ward.

And so we ended the game with a nurse opening a door to find a dead “horse” lying in a hospital corridor with its throat ripped out, next to an unconscious man, while an urban fox (the kitsune) snuffled their snout in a medical waste bin.

As you may imagine from the amount I wrote, the game left quite an impression 😉

So I’m left looking forward to next year. I think I shall pull my finger out and put my notes for Deadlands Noir: The Case of the Bothered Brother into a sensible order (so I don’t need to keep flicking through the book trying to track down the details of the NPCs and locations I used in that game), generate some proper PCs for it, and then do my first bit of Con GMing.


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About a year ago I took part in the filming of some pre-recorded video segments for a freeform live roleplay game called 12Light30.

The players are responsible for guiding a group of mercenaries who are trying to capture a terrorist (naturally, things are complicated by the player characters have their own agendas).

I helped run it at UK Games Expo earlier this year where we ran into some issues with the technology we were using. The videos were being run through PowerPoint and it developed an unfortunate habit of crashing.

Whispered conversions of “Shouldn’t we have had the next video by now? Umm… maybe?” were a little unhelpful.

I gave in to be need to fiddle with any tech that comes near me and threw PowerPoint out and replaced it with a custom JavaScript application.

It ran again last weekend at ArmadaCon and I’ve had some positive feedback from the game running (who also said all the players enjoyed it).

It’s running again at Imaginary Consequences this week, so if you’re attending you might like to check it out.

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DramaSystem in the Bundle of Holding

Last year I ran Heroes of the City more-or-less every day for a week in a campaign that spawned a 6000+ word actual play write up. Later this year, the group is getting back together to run Season 2 of that campaign. Suffice to say, I really like this system.

The Bundle of Holding is currently selling the core game and a bunch of PDFs very cheaply (with 10% of your money going to charity) so now is the perfect time to pick up a copy for yourself.

You can find the Heroes of the City setting (along with useful advanced rules) in the Blood on the Snow book, so you may will want to beat the threshold price to get that.

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EVE Online for Character Portraits

EVE Online, along with many other video game RPGs, has a rather nice tool for designing your own character image. You can tweak hair, features, clothes and lots of other details.

With a Star Wars game coming up, I thought it the ideal way to get some visual representation of my Rebel and his Imperial father.

The latter was built by returning to the edit screen, adjusting a few features and applying some ageing effects. Hopefully the family resemblance is still visible.



There are stand alone tools on the market (Poser comes to mind), but I’m not found anything so easy to use as the ones from video games. It would be nice if they could be released as stand-alone art tools.

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5th Edition

I wasn’t going to bother with 5th edition D&D. I glanced through the playtest materials and wasn’t really grabbed by them. Then the Internet started talking about it and praise was heaped high. When my FLGS announced it was going to start running Adventurers’ League, I was sold.

Last night was character creation and Dark Sphere managed to fill three tables (pretty impressive since the store focuses on wargaming with a strong sideline in M:tG). My table rolled up:

  • A Warlock
  • A Bard
  • A Wizard
  • Another Wizard
  • A Paladin

We are Team Glass Cannon and shall all hide behind the Paladin (which is going to be tricky since he is a Dwarf).

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