ConTingency 2023

I didn't actually plan on going to ConTingency. Having a lot of stuff on the calendar and still being a bit wary about covid, I decided I'd skip this one. And then the real life Call of Cthulhu character and all round bad influence, CJ Romer, told me he had a spare bedroom in his lodge and would I like it?

And I'd had a bit of a rubbish time with Autumn conventions, having to miss two entirely and scale back my participation in two others, and I'd got this brand new winter themed adventure all ready to run...

Prior commitments meant I couldn't be there for the first couple of days, but I was able to book some time off and arrived in Hunstanton at lunchtime on Friday. I had just enough time to get my stuff into the cabin before CJ dragged me off to play a game.

Game 1: The Yellow King

The Yellow King is, as the name suggests, based on the works of Robert Chambers. We were playing in the default setting of Belle Époque Paris. As the last player to arrive I picked up the last available character, a poetess called Anna. We were a group of art students, and as one player rapidly pointed out, we were basically early Eurotrash. We rapidly settled into drunken debauchery, briefly interrupted by actually going to an art class, bur really that just pointed us towards more debauchery as we began digging into a mystery regarding a new dance craze from Argentina known as the Tango.

This game uses the Gumshoe system, but a variant version of it that seemed less focussed on spending points and more on making creative use of your special abilities. I'm really not a fan of Gumshoe as a system, but this variant I found rather better and reasonably well suited to this bizarre game. I might even consider playing it with someone other than CJ.

Around this point I realised that I'd completely forgotten to have lunch, so decided to treat myself to a meal in the venue's restaurant, and also managed to track down Lloyd for a chat. There we were joined by some of Lloyd's friends, whose names I entirely failed to remember. And then it was time for another game.

Game 2: Casting The Runes

Casting The Runes is another goddam Gumshoe game, and not a better variant version either. But I love the ghost stories of M. R. James enough to put up with Gumshoe for a bit. Plus it was CJ running it, who loves those stories just as much as I do.

We were the members of a psychical research society based in Bury St Edmunds, which one of the group quickly named Bury The Dead, a name that stuck around longer than I expected. We went to investigate a haunted pub, but an encounter on the way there soon put us on the road to a much bigger mystery.

If you do like Gumshoe, I thoroughly recommend this game. Both the core game and the adventures are written by people with a real passion for Jamesian ghost stories and it shines through. It's just not for me. And talking of which...

Game 3: Cthulhu Dark

I'm firmly of the opinion that Cthulhu Dark is the right system to run Jamesian ghost stories with. All it needs is to change the name of the game's single stat to Fear.

In December, in a burst of post-covid creativity, I opened up a bunch of old files I hadn't looked at for a while, and found a half-written adventure about a haunting at Christmas. I'd started writing it when Casting The Runes first arrived, but rapidly stalled as I realise Gumshoe and me weren't getting along. Finding it again, I decided to give it a try with Cthulhu Dark instead, and this time everything worked perfectly. My online playtests were great, with good feedback from the players, so I decided to bring it to ConTingency.

Cthulhu Dark is a game that lends itself to on-the-spot character creation. I provided a little initial guidance: the three characters for this scenario are an academic, a doctor and a reverend. Beyond that it was up to the players to fill in the details. For tracking their fear levels we used my box of multicoloured skulls. The three players thoroughly embraced the setting, giving me three delightful characters to work with as they uncovered the mystery taking place at Alderley House.

Then it was time for a trip to Tesco to make sure that I did actually have lunch.

Game 4: Black Code

I'm always up for new cyberpunk and I first played Black Code with its author at ConDensed 2021, so I was pretty excited to find a space in a game. I picked up Aedon, the same character I played last time, a bioframe with a pair of scorpion stingers that she could use for both combat and healing. We picked up a rather complicated job that involved acquiring some additional data in the process of investigation a different data theft. Which might not sound exciting on the surface, but which involved dealing with some big name rappers, not to mention a few terrorists along the way.

Whitt does an incredible job of bringing the setting he's created to life, and there were plentiful moments of comedy mixed in with the darkness of cyberpunk. I really need to get on and actually run this game myself some time, especially since it sounds like there might be a campaign coming.

Game 5: Kult: Divinity Lost

The Kult game was full when I went to sign up, so I put myself down for something else, but half an hour before the game was due to start I had a look at the sheets and saw someone had dropped out. With more people signed up on the reserve list for the other game, I removed myself from that and added myself to Kult.

First challenge: find the game, since it was in a lodge rather than the main rooms. I went via reception to get a map, plus some not entirely helpful directions that I should probably have ignored. After an extremely cold walk in the dark, I found the lodge, right behind the other players who'd had a similiarly difficult time finding it.

Then we all settled in for a game that turned out to be the highlight of the con for me. I don't often play Kult, as I'm usually the one running it, so that was exciting right away. And then the scenario turned out to be full of twists and turns as everybody's secrets gradually came spilling out. It was really everything I could have hoped for, and motivation to keep on upping my game when it comes to Kult GMing.

Game 6: Cthulhu Dark

I knew CJ wanted to play my game, and the Saturday morning game had filled up before he got to the sign up sheet. But I had another sheet with me, and since it doesn't need character sheets it was no issue to run it a second time. A slightly more comedic take this time, partly due to the reverend managing to gain a point of fear even before getting to the bit of the adventure where I start turning up the fear.

I was pretty tired by this time so decided to skip the afternoon session in favour of a shower and a nap. But first came the raffle, in which CJ unexpectedly won a Boba Fett helmet. He'd been talking about getting a present for me to take home for my husband, and I don't think there's anything in that raffle he would have liked more.

Game 7: Casting the Runes

And finally, another game with CJ, with the same character I'd played in the earlier adventure. A trip to Borley Rectory, a notoriously haunted building, tied into one of M. R. James' classic stories. A delightful way to finish the convention.


I'm extremely glad I went. It's a lovely convention and I very much hope to attend the whole thing next year. And that's all there is to day really.

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