Archives for March 2019

Carcosacon 2019

So that was Carcosacon and it was a lot of fun. A bunch of us drove up from Prague to Czocha Castle for a weekend of games, panels and live action roleplaying all dedicated to the Cthulhu mythos. We got there on Friday morning, checked in and were gaming by one o’ clock that afternoon in a library that looked like something from Dennis Wheatley complete with a secret doorway hidden in a bookcase that swung out to reveal a spiral staircase up to yet another gaming room. I thought there never was a better setting for a Call of Cthulhu session but I was wrong, and I’ll get to that later.

The scenario itself was run by Mike Mason, line editor of Call of Cthulhu and it was exemplary. We were a small party of occult investigators sent to check out weird goings-on at a farmhouse in that well-known centre of paranormal activity, the Peak District. After a creepy encounter with some odd fertility cult stuff, we ended up blowing our chance to completely thwart the ritual and suffered some casualties, myself included. Some form of portal opened and hideous carnage ensued. First death of the weekend. Start as you mean to go on, I thought.

We attended the welcome ceremony and a panel on Mythos roleplaying in WW2. After dinner, it was into another game, run by Mark Morrison, author of the Dreamlands boxed set and editor of Horror on the Orient Express. This was set during the French Revolution, and it featured the best intro I have seen in over fourty years of RPGing. It began in flashback. We were soldiers in the French Army called in to guard the Bastille on 14th July, 1789. We immediately split along political lines with two of us refusing to fire on the crowd of fellow citizens and the rest going into the fortress and preparing to defend it.

It was a brilliant way of introducing us to our characters, a tightly knit military unit broken under political strain, and set against each other. During the course of that long afternoon we got to know our characters, a couple of us became heroes of the revolution, and the rest despised oppressors destined to come under suspicion once the Reign of Terror got into full swing.

This intro broke so many of the rules I have applied over the years, it was eye-opening. It was told in flashback, it split the party and it worked. It immersed us in the brutality and violence of the period, put everything beautifully in context, and introduced the setting, characters and a good number of the supporting cast in the most dramatic way imaginable.

After that, the story picked up years later with the sad remnants of our unit guarding the roadblocks into Paris and soon immersed in royalist escapes, escalating paranoia, a murder mystery and a ghost story. Amazingly enough, none of us died. I don’t want to say to much more for the sake of spoilers, but suffice to say it was an absolute masterclass in how to GM, our experience enhanced by the use of appropriate music and a setting that could not be bettered.

We played the game out in a castle bedroom complete with a four poster bed, antique furniture, and a chandelier. In the dark, for the light’s were often dimmed when they were in the story, it felt as if you could have been there. After the game was over the five of us who had come up from Prague agreed that we could have left the convention then and still felt like we had got our money’s worth.

That’s not take anything away from what came next day. Lynne Hardy (assistant editor of Call of Cthulhu) ran another great scenario for us in the gazebo beside the castle moat. (Somehow we avoided fireballing the gazebo–sorry old RPG joke there.)

It was another great game involving a time-slip from a modern museum exhibition to an old Scottish castle. Once again, I don’t want to say too much, but I was very surprised that we all made it out alive with our sanity intact. This was mostly down to the fact that Emmanuel’s (our psychic) die rolling was little short of astonishing. I would have suspected that his dice were loaded but for the fact that Alex’s was busily failing all his rolls with the same dice. I also suspect this may well be the only Mythos castle that has ever been escaped from by an impromptu Frank Sinatra style rendition of songs performed on a staircase in the face of a coven of astonished cultists.

Mark gave an excellent panel on storytelling in Call of Cthulhu and we hit the dealer’s room. I picked up a thematically appropriate elder sign incribed dice box and filled it with metal dice from Q Workshop. Consumerist duty done, we wandered the castle grounds, inspected the fine artwork in the dealer’s room and took a look at the Call of Cthulhu computer game in Polish.

In the evening it was LARPING time. The central premise of the story was brilliant, an auction of occult relics that could be used in the demon-god summoning ritual and which let you get swept up in the thrill of a high-stakes auction. It was a lot fun and I enjoyed myself immensely.

I was given the part of an self-aggrandising author of occult thrillers (no stretch there then, I hear you say) and cultist planning the undermining of all that is sane. Sadly my attempts to summon demon gods were undermined by the far more important business of getting my own back on a journalist who had given my character a bad review and the scurrilous knave who had sued me just because a person matching his name, description, socio-economic background, drunkenly slurred speech and deplorable personal hygene had appeared as the title character in Fatal Folly of Prudence Harrington, one of my many masterpieces. The monstrous egotism of the man! Sorry! I started channeling my character again there.

Next day, I got to talk with Ken Hite, of whom I am a big fan, and go for a last wander round the castle before attending a panel by Ken and Robin D. Laws on the King in Yellow.

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. To sum up, Carcosacon was a small intimate con in an amazing location, an old Polish castle riddled with secret passages, a setting that pretty much invited conversation with the other guests.

My thanks to Alex, Adriano, Christian and Emmanuel for journeying with me into the heart of madness. And well done the people at Black Monk Games. We’ll be going back next year.