NecronomiCon 2017, and a Short History

Noah

From August 17th to the 20th, myself, Matt, and his wife KC, were in Providence, Rhode Island, for the third annual NecronomiCon. Based in H. P. Lovecraft’s hometown, I think that it was an auspicious event–the stars were right, you might say. In fact, you might also say that this blog, this project, whatever you want to call it, probably wouldn’t have happened had we not gone. Walking around the show floor on Friday, Matt asked me what I would think about a website, and what we would do if we had one… Well, I’m getting ahead of things. On Thursday we drove the five hours to Providence, checked into a little AirBnB in the Armory District–walking distance to the two convention hotels–and headed straight for registration. That evening, from 5 to 9, I ran my first convention game, a scenario that Matt and I are still working on called “The Founding.” I can talk a little bit more about that experience, but Matt, what did you think of day one after I split off from you and KC?

Matt

None of us had been to a convention before, so there was a certain level of anxiety as we closed the distance from home to Providence. I wasn’t running any games until Saturday, so Thursday I was calm and cool and let Noah do all the sweating. KC had found us a place to stay–thanks dear!–and both her and Noah’s electronic devices displayed walking routes to the convention. Real pal that I am, I let Noah do all the sweating about “The Founding,” since he was running it Thursday night. The gaming was staged on the eighteenth floor of the Biltmore Hotel, offering a commanding view of Providence. Noah somehow scored a private room for his games, Salon #5, and closed the French doors on his first group of victims. KC and I sat down to a game written by Matt Sanderson and run by a fellow convention gamer. We had a full table of six players, dice, plastic shot glasses of water, and were ready to go. It wasn’t the best opening for the weekend, unfortunately. The Keeper wasn’t very familiar with the rules of the game and perhaps wasn’t as familiar with the material as he ought to have been. But I’m likely being overly critical, and must say that it takes a lot of nerve and courage to run a role-playing game for six strangers. So kudos to him! We three walked home together, bought beer from a shop that smelled like an Old Spice explosion, and reconnoitered for tomorrow. Noah, take us through Friday morning and the vendor’s’ area while I feed the dog.

Noah

Well before we move to Friday, a quick word on the game I ran Thursday–it went great. We had four investigators: one experienced, one who hadn’t played in years, and two completely new players. Having new players at the table was a real pleasure, and felt like a good test of the new scenario. They were hard to read in-game, the dour gamer gentlemen that they were, but everyone had a blast (I hope). Best of all was the conversation we had after the game, with some really genuine, positive feedback. I look forward to gaming with all those guys again in the future.

Friday we hit the show floor. I had a second game–that afternoon, I think–but first we eyed some of the vendor’s goods. I was taken with the pins being sold by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, but I remember you practically drooling over the boxed set of Chaosium’s Horror on the Orient Express. And was it that morning you raised the idea for Reckoning of the Dead?

Matt

Yeah, so, backstory: Noah has been keeping a list of all the player characters he’s killed throughout his gaming career. This list, called “The Reckoning of the Dead,” lives on the back two pages of his gaming journal. The listed dead are either characters he’s played or characters he’s killed while GMing. It’s a very nifty idea and I was impressed. So while we were floating around the vendors’ booths–and yes, I lusted after the 13-pound revised box set of Horror on the Orient Express–I said that “Reckoning of the Dead” would make a good blog title. But I didn’t want to home in on what I imagined was your thing. I know you’re planning a podcast with another chum, you’re talented, and writing a blog would be a good idea for you. I didn’t realize that by voicing the idea I’d get pulled into its vortex. I’m very glad you said, “we,” in response, and I think in that moment Reckoning of the Dead was born. Did we have lunch before you went back to the 18th floor to run “The Founding” a second time? How did it go on Friday?

Noah

I think we had lunch, though I honestly can’t remember where, a lot of the days have blended together. My Friday game also went really well, this time with almost all beginners. No game-theory discussion afterward, but one of them did say they were convinced to go out and buy the rulebooks, and I don’t think I could come up with a higher compliment. Friday night I also played in my one game as a player at the convention, and it was an experience, that’s for sure. A new rule system for the Dreamlands, which I kind of dig, though it certainly needs some more refinement. On Friday I think we also started tossing around ideas for one-page scenarios, starting with your “Susquehanna Sasquatch,” which we had actually joked around with in the car drive up (and which we should be coming out with in a few weeks).

Matt

Friday, KC and I played in one of Matt Sanderson’s games, I forget the title, and had a fantastic time. Playing-wise, this was the highlight of NecronomiCon. Matt was everything a good Keeper should be: friendly, confident, encouraging, and engaging. He wrote the scenario, so knew it inside and out, and expertly led our pregenerated characters through it. Brian Courtemanche, another Chaosium author, was also in the game and added exponentially to the enjoyment. Really, really good time. Your game went late. KC and I had dinner and then I walked to the Biltmore to walk back with you. That might have been the night we sat up throwing ideas around for future One-Page Scenarios, and we might have dreamed up “Fresh Off the Bus,” then. Hard to remember, considering we came up with seven or eight scenario ideas over the weekend. Staying up late Friday didn’t help my nerves Saturday morning, when I was scheduled to run “The Founding.” Up until this point, I hadn’t run a single game. Walking back to the Biltmore, I kept running the scenario’s outline through my head, rehearsing the necessary points for the game: first this, then that, then that, etc. Was it Saturday you and KC went Providence exploring?

Noah

Yep, and I have to say that, for me, Saturday was by the far the best day of the con. I had already run the two stressful games, (“The Founding,” twice) and that morning we made it to a panel on “Campaigns in Call of Cthulhu,” with Matt Sanderson, Scott Dorward, Paul Fricker, (the three creators of The Good Friends of Jackson Elias fame) Lynne Hardy, who’s written a number of campaigns for both CoC and other systems, and moderated by Chaosium’s line editor Mike Mason. You had to take off early to run your first game, but I asked a question about pregenerated character backgrounds versus player-made characters–and was very proud to get the head-nod and “very good question” line. I don’t know if the panel was recorded or not, but if it was and you’re reading this in the future, dear reader, take a look for it.

(Update: the panel was indeed recorded, and you can find it here.)

Afterwards KC and I got lunch and then hit the streets of Providence. We accidentally wandered by the Fleur-de-Lys house, (mentioned in the short story “The Call of Cthulhu”) and then visited the Ars Necronomica exhibit in upper Providence. Here are some photos from the exhibit:

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Flight to the Mountains of Madness by Bob Eggleton

 

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Cheers, Curwen! by Jason C. Eckhardt

 

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Sculpture by Karen Main (@dogzillalives)

Later I ran my last game, yet another Matt Sanderson adventure (he had a lot of representation this year!) called “An Amaranthine Desire,” which you can find in Nameless Horrors. Most of my victims…*cough* players, were returning from my other games, so there was significantly less worry this time around, and once again I think everyone had a blast (though they definitely solved the puzzle far faster than I expected).

Matt

While you two were sightseeing I got down to my share of the heavy lifting. My first session of “The Founding” was full, six pairs of eager eyes expecting four hours of entertainment. Guided entertainment, I should say, because without the players the game is nothing. One gentleman even dressed for the event, sitting on my right in mock-eighteenth-century garb. We had a very good time and the game went surprisingly well. You started your third game as mine finished, and KC was sitting at Lynne’s table for a game of Achtung! Cthulhu, so I wandered a bit on my own. At 5 pm, while you two were still engaged, I started “Weekend in the Woods” with four players who had never played Call of Cthulhu. I hate the self-promotion part of things, but realizing it’s a necessary evil I’ll mention that “Weekend in the Woods” was one of Chaosium’s Cults of Chaos Scenario Competition 2017 winners (Noah: And you wrote it, don’t forget that bit). An even more important point was that we had a great session. The players went tooth and claw with the scenario’s villains, and despite my best efforts they all lived!

You two had dinner and waited for me, and Saturday night we sat at the kitchen table in the AirBnB and plotted Reckoning of the Dead in earnest. Pencils scratching we realized that we had a month’s worth of material. We hit the racks at 1 am, with one more half-day of con ahead of us.

Noah

Sunday was pretty chill. We had a lazy breakfast in a local coffee shop that made Elder-sign foam art in my latte. It was nerdy and awesome. When you went off to run your last game from 10-2, KC and I wandered back around to the vendors, where I talked myself out of (regretfully) the Doors to Darkness scenario book. But hey, I can always borrow it from you. Eventually we meandered back to the Biltmore’s eighteenth floor and played a few rounds of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards while you finished up–one of my favorite silly games of the past few years. Then we had a late lunch and hit the road, talking KC’s ear off the whole way with one-page scenario ideas, creeping her out especially with “The Hitchhiker.” (Of course, we knew that meant a winner.)

Is there anything you want to add to Sunday, or last thoughts before we wrap this thing up?

Matt

No, that’s a happy ending for our first blog post I think. Maybe we follow this up with a post about what our intentions are for Reckoning of the Dead. But now I’ve got to get editing; Sunday is hand-off day! I hope you’re ready to edit “Fresh Off the Bus”, ‘cos I’m ready to edit “Drug Wars.”

4 thoughts on “NecronomiCon 2017, and a Short History”

  1. I was lucky enough to be in Noah’s game on Thur night, and wanted to say thanks again for a great game. I think we had a good group of people too that made the game fun as well. I look forward to following you both to see what horrors you both will unleash in the future. – Jef

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  2. Hi Jef! It was a pleasure meeting and gaming with you, and I’m happy you found the site! You and the other players certainly made “The Founding,” come life, and I hope that you’ll like what we put out here.

    Best,
    Noah

    (P.s., keep your eyes out for an email to all you NecronomiCon players!)

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