Friday, 13 March 2015

Dread Cthulhu Questionnaires

Boo! Happy Friday the 13th, a perfectly dreadful day to release some custom material!

For any and all interested, below are the character questionnaires I designed for a recent Dread game I ran several times that used the Call of Cthulhu scenario: Dead Light. I've been referring to this mash-up as Dread Cthulhu (or in this case specifically, Dread Light).

Although a couple of the questions relate mostly to the scenario (mainly the plot hook), with a bit of tinkering these questionnaires could easily be used in any early turn-of-the-century setting that utilizes elements of supernatural/cosmic horror.

Aside from the plot hook, most of the queries are based around the characters' backgrounds and their relationships to each other and don't directly relate to the story of Dead Light. Since the scenario itself is mostly straightforward survival horror, there were few questions I felt I could ask without directly spoiling some elements of the adventure. This I believe makes them general enough for use in other scenarios.

That said, I also think utilizing these characters for best effect (and this true for nearly all Dread games), is by providing them with interesting answers; I tried to make the questions ripe for potential. The players just need to provide meaty story hooks that can add to the atmosphere of the session; don't let them pass with run-of-the-mill pedestrian answers, I imagined most of these characters as fitting into common lovecraftian tropes and archetypes (both classic and pulp).

Don't be afraid to play these to the hilt, otherwise the characters may become too passive and static, only reacting to events but never being proactive (even if they're proactively bringing about their own doom). It's up to the players and the host to breathe life into these characters and make them interesting, that way there's more player investment in them and each pull of the tower more dire. This is a one-shot game, don't be afraid to play up the characters.

On the other hand, not every question has to have a detailed answer, as the host only ends up using a few of them directly in the game anyway; I think they're there to help flesh out a character and get the player into their mindset.

Anyway, that's all common Dread advice, but it's worth mentioning again I think.

I created nine character questionnaires for players/hosts to choose from for variety, I also tried to keep their orientation gender-neutral, leaving up to the individual gaming group to sort out if a role is setting appropriate for a particular gender or not.

You can download a PDF for printing here or a google Doc for editing here. Or you can just view/copy/paste the text dump below:


You just had to personally retrieve some relevant case information from up north. Why do you think this whole trip was a ploy by your office rival?

Though you've been a legal secretary for about a year now, only until recently people still treated you as a lowly clerk. What did it finally take for the men to respect you?

What do you consider your best feature? What's your worst?

You've had to defend yourself against those whom are threatened by your nonconforming independence. What item do you keep close to help protect yourself?

Why don't you go to church anymore?

You recognize that character from a scandal your firm helped keep from going public a few months ago. Whom is it and what was their part in it?

If you had the power to dispense justice, why would you have your own grandfather executed?

Whom or what are you anxiously waiting to come home to? Why would you loose social standing if anyone else knew?

What's your name?


You hail from one of the many of the farmsteads of central Massachusetts, but what recently brought you East from your home?

Your daughter got you one of those new-fangled pocket lighters before you stopped talking to each other. Why do you still carry it although you no longer smoke?

What dead animal did you come across as a child that profoundly affected you? How?

What do you dislike about the character sitting next to you? Who would you rather sit with and why?

What handy item in your pack did you have the opportunity to pick up whilst in town?

Years ago, you had an appendage amputated after it was crushed whilst you were repairing a traction engine. On which limb was it? Do you use a prosthesis or aid?

People say you're superstitious because you do what?

As much as you dislike the city, how has this trip made you feel better than you have in years?

Only family members refer to you by your given name. What's your full name?


You just attended a reading of an old colleague's will in Ipswitch and have caught the motor coach back to Arkham. What strange object did they bequeath you?

You've studied many languages during your spare time at Miskatonic University, but why do the texts in the Special Collections Room make you uneasy?

Though you'd be practically blind without them, what do your bifocals help you with the most?

Why do you keep from listening to the radio or using the telephone despite being so apt at electronics?

What are the first things others notice about you?

Why do you feel the need to blame others for your own shortcomings?

Who amongst the other characters makes you nervous and why?

What gives you the strength to face another day?

What does the nameplate on your door say?


A few months ago you started to bus people around the county in your converted charabanc. Why can you no longer stand being in town more than a few days?

Why do you think you have such control issues? What is the real reason?

Though you took it to the garage in Arkham last week, what part of the motor coach is still giving you problems?

What happened during your childhood that makes you hate it when people whisper?

What do you keep underneath the driver's seat just in case?

You were quite an athlete in college before you were expelled. What did you compete in? Why were you expelled?

Despite having a deep-seated grudge against their kind, which character did you let board the coach and for what reason?

Why do you believe your string of bad luck is about to change?

What's the name on your bus drivers license? What's your actual name?


You have been making your way south through Massachusetts via motor coach to Kingsport to see distant relatives. Why do you dread this visit?

You wouldn't have lasted long as a medic in the Great War if you hadn't been so reliant upon it. What do you have with you that you've been unable to part with?

Why did you save that old woman instead of the child?

What about your appearance makes people recognize you as a member of that lost generation?

You once had to evict a fellow tenant because of their bizarre and unsavoury practices. What possession of theirs have you secretly kept?

What injury of yours has never quite healed right and occasionally drives you to the morphine syringe you keep in your jacket?

Why are you deeply afraid of relapsing to the person you became during the war?

Despite all you've gone through and witnessed, what keeps you from taking your own life?

What name is printed upon the dogtags you still wear?


The first thing you did after being discharged from the sanatorium was travel. Why are you compelled to return home to Salem?

Why do you think your parents would've preferred a son?

What odd skill have you acquired whilst gaining further insight into your art?

They said it was an accident but somehow you know it wasn't. How did your late mother die?

Which of the other characters do you instinctively feel you can trust and why?

What is that thing in your pocket and why haven't you thrown it away yet?

Why do strangers often feel compelled to tell you the intimate details of their lives?

What is your muse that inspires you through periods of darkness?

What is your full name? What do prefer to be called and why?


You were picked up off the side of the road just as the weather was beginning to turn sour. What made you take to the road despite the coming storm?

You had no money to pay the coach fare. Which other character paid for you? Where do you recognize them from?

What do people automatically assume about you? And are they often wrong?

Why did you prefer to burgle houses to straight theft or armed robbery?

What awful thing did do to stay out of prison?

What do you have in your bindle that might alter the genial nature of your fellow passengers if they knew about it?

When things get tense, how do find relief?

When the world seems against you, what one thing keeps you going?

Long ago people stopped calling you by your birth-name. What do they call you now?


Normally you'd have the means to travel by rail but as of late you've been forced to contend riding motor coach. What brought about this change?

They say that it isn't becoming of one of your station. What is it and why do you do it anyway?

All lineages have their secrets, but your own has a long, dark history. Do you embrace or reject it? Why?

Though you try to dress chic and keep with current trends, what one thing is offsetting about your appearance?

What have these throbbing headaches generally preceded?

What gaudy heirloom are you compelled to keep close otherwise the family threatens they'll disown you?

Though you don't envy what they do, which of these crass characters do you respect the most and why?

When you finally inherit your legacy, what change do you most look forward to enacting?

What's your full name? You tend to go by a false last name when going abroad. What is it and why?


Why did your mentor warn you against this journey back south? Why are you going through with it anyway?

What obviously gives you away as a member of an oft prejudiced group and what lengths do you go to to hide it?

You often have a recurring dream that you awake in a cold sweat from. What is it?

When you place your hands upon a person and concentrate, what can you do? What's the harsh side-effect for you?

What do you always have with you to keep you protected from evil?

What vocation are you forced to do you do to keep your family fed?

Though they'd be loathed to admit it, which other character has had to rely your unique talents before? Why?

What gives you hope through the trials ahead?

What did you have change your name to? Why?

Cheers! ;{١

Friday, 6 March 2015

GottaCon 2015

Last weekend was GottaCon 2015 here in winter-less Victoria, and though I was able to book 2 out of the 3 three days off for it I was extremely exhausted and still recovering from all that gaming the following days. Again, this is a testament to the sheer amount of fun had!

This year's convention kicked off on a bit of a sad note with the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. I've never been as huge a fan of Star Trek as I have other geekdoms, though I still enjoy the franchise and the importance it brings to geek culture in general. Nevertheless, I was deeply saddened upon hearing his passing; it was nice to see that a memorial board was hastily erected at the convention where many fans added their own sign-off's to the legendary actor. Here's a quick photo I snapped of the memorial before I had to jet off to work Sunday:

Truly, he lived long and prospered.


I never ended up running Umläut, but
 it's nice to have spiffy cards for when I do.
It might be on my GoD roster for next year,
I stayed up fairly late the night prior doing some last minute editing to the joint EotE adventure Larry Spiel and I had been planning for our session on Sunday (more on this later), and I awoke early on Friday to make sure all my ducks were in a row for the weekend. Sometime after noon I went downtown to print and laminate some play cards for one of my Games-on-Demand selections: Umläut: game of metal, before I picked up my event coordinator badge early.

I then returned home, changed into my Medieval Chaos character Kampi's outfit, packed all I needed for the day (which wasn't much as I was just playing a single game), and headed back to the convention centre.

Before my first game I hit up the gamer auction to submit a bunch items for bidding: a spare copy of the D&D module Quest for the Silver Sword, Grimtooth's Traps Ate, my hardcover corebook of Savage Worlds (I now own the digest-sized book which I prefer over the hardback), and my unplayed copy of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG.

Auction Items
Item submission went much faster than last year; the con organizers increased the amount of laptops used for item data entry to two (yet they were still limited by a single shared printer). Also it was soon decided that if sellers had all the correct forms already filled out when they were submitting their items (which I did), they could just leave said items with the forms and then the staff would later input them in the database and sync them to their respective accounts on the GottaCon app.

Aside from limiting the disruptive PA announcements from last year by sending convention notifications directly to the app, it also allowed auctioneers to remotely see/directly bid on items by scanning the item sheet's QR code with their phone's camera. Amazing what we can do nowadays! I never had the chance to peruse the auction for sweet deals and I only ended up selling two of my four items (Savage Worlds and Doctor Who) but I received over $50 for them, and I ended up giving Grimtooth's Traps to a friend who was collecting the series anyway.


After the auction stuff was all dealt with, I killed a bit of time in the vendor hall before I headed to my first game of the con; Mythender, run by the designer himself: +Ryan Macklin.

Mythender appropriately uses an EPIC amount of dice and tokens.
In brief, Mythender is a game about playing mythic individuals that have colossal vendettas against a god; they seek their way to battle to the deity her/himself, increasing in power and corruption along the way, leading to a final climatic confrontation; your character fears not death, only becoming what they hate: accidentally attaining godhood during their quest from their mythic actions. This game is all about being cinematic and over-the-top. Turn the dial to 11 kinda stuff. Plus the base setting takes place in the heavy metal-esque Scandinavia realm of Norden. Several things I love combined into one!

Squeee! Signed copy!

The game itself is available for FREE on its website as a PDF; where you can also order a print copy and/or donate. I enjoyed our session so much I bought a physical copy from Ryan, and he even signed it for me! Also (being one of the designers of Fate Core), he gave me a set of Fate dice, which came in handy when I ran my FAE game the next day.

I can't wait till I have the chance to sit back and read through my copy and/or possibly run it.

After the game I chatted up a buddy of mine, and we walked about halfway to our respective homes discussing gaming theory in Medieval Chaos. A short but excellent day overall.


Lamentations of the Flame Princess - The Gougou's Lair

I awoke early, dressed again as Kampi, packed the items I needed for GoD and the Dread game I was to run, and awaited to catch an early bus. Unfortunately transit is so reliable here at times two buses should've arrived during the span till one finally picked me up around 9am, the time when +Peter C's LotFP game was set to begin! Needless to say, I arrived late, but luckily I hadn't missed much.

This session was phenomenal. We had a great group of roleplayers and Peter was [is] an excellent GM. One thing I really enjoyed about the session is that we all played characters from various non-European cultures; I played a Persian Magus and our party further consisted of a Barbary Corsair, a Native Shaman, an Arabic Artificer, a Turkish Janissary, and a Japanese Samurai. I think the mix of cultures really added to adventure; it might've not been as fun with your standard European PCs. I also got the chance to play a magic-user; I like that the limited number of spells is balanced by their flexibly of use. LotFP does OSR very well.

Another thing I love about this game (and possibly/probably LotFP games in general) is the horribly amusing deaths: Near the end of the adventure when things were looking their grimdarkest, a few of us decided to imbibe a mysterious drug powder: my buddy David's PC gained a few points to his wisdom stat, tearfully seeing the error of his past ways as a slaver; the shaman believed himself a god (the great eagle; ca-caw! ca-caw!) and demanded all to worship him or die; and my character was driven to suicide by the mind-bending narcotic. His method of choice? Cast a maximized Summon spell right in his own viscera!

For those not in the know, Summoning in LotFP is particularly dangerous because you call forth a random Lovecraftian entity that may be more powerful than intended and/or beyond the caster's control (my precise intent in this case); a huge armoured fungoid creature burst forth from the Magus' guts and promptly began to devour the rest of him. Half the party slunk off with some treasure whilst the remainder slew each other in a delirious rage.

This might be my favourite game all weekend, but it's up against stiff competition.

Games-on-Demand - Fate Accelerated Edition: Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force!

Unfortunately the LotFP game ran a tad late and I went to the foodtrucks outside the con to grab some lunch before I ran my first session of Games-on-Demand. Everyone else was trying to get food as well and the convention's food policy kept me from bringing my meal inside, so I ended up having to shove my burger in my backpack because I was already late and a full table was waiting for me.

Once I had presented my selection of Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, FAE, and Umläut, my initially aloof group opted for my BZDF! game. Once we started getting into the ridiculous story of cooking, fighting, and food delivery, my group totally got into the premise, took the outrageousness of it, and ran with it.

We all seemed to have a great time (so far everyone seems to enjoy BZDF!); I'm both glad I quickly won over their initial disinterested nature and my very first Games-on-Demand slot was a success.

Games-on-Demand - Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Rescue at Glare Peak

Once we finished our game another group approached me wanting to play some Star Wars; a couple of them were looking to run their own game in the future and wanted some experience with it, so after I quickly went and noshed my cold burger, we all sat down to play. We decided that the Rescue at Glare Peak adventure would work best crammed into the small timeslot we had remaining, and the group chose a mix of pregen characters from that adventure and my other EotE offering, Under a Black Sun (in fact I had six players and four of them were EotE characters and two were AoR characters, but the mix blended both narratively and mechanically seamless in our game.)

They didn't complete their objective before the slot ran out of time, but we all had fun. I offered to pick the session up Sunday when I was to run GoD then, but I unfortunately declined the next day as I was too exhausted. I hope they left with the confidence to run this system on their own. Also my whole vinyl covers/wet-erase marker idea worked perfectly.

Initially I wanted to run some games I wasn't as completely familiar with for my first time running GoD such as Fiasco or Dungeon World, but in the end it was a better choice going with RPGs I knew really well, especially EotE/AoR which are probably my strongest systems currently. That also turned out good because demand for those two latter games was high this year, and my buddy Larry was running the two former games in his GoD roster so there was a wide variety with little overlap.

Conan d20 - Escape from the Haunted Black Kingdom

After a brief break, I played in my buddy Ash's Conan game. Ash had been representing MC all day dressed in his garb as his Al'Akir, a Rak'Zanzen (catfolk, similar to the Khajiit from the Elder Scrolls series) character, and like his Centurion garb last year, continued doing so whilst he GM'd. Again, dedication.

I reprised the same role I had last year as Hievlan, a Nordheimer warrior, making use of my MC character Kampi's affects and accent but maxing out the personality: Livin' large and drinkin' hard.

I received a positive comment from a fellow player after the convention about the accent I was using: He's generally not a fan of accents in games, as they're usually cliché/just plain bad, and I agree that doing a believable accent is a difficult thing to do. I was flattered to hear the accent I was using (Kampi's accent) was quite believable for the character I was portraying. Like Kampi, the Nordheimer was based around historic/mythic Norse, so I had time practising that voice.

When I was developing it for Kampi, I wanted to sound Germanic/Norse but not have a stereotypically German voice nor have something goofy like the Swedish Chef ('bork! bork! bork!'). I watched a few youtube videos of native Scandinavian's speaking in English along with a pronunciation guide for Old Norse; from these I selected a few particular ways to pepper my speech, both with different letter pronunciations and use of specific words/phrases instead of their English counterparts. I think the secret to affecting a solid accent is subtlety: The more outrageous sounding an accent, the more comical it can become, and therefore less believable.

I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with for Kampi and I was really glad to hear it sounds convincing. I still seek to practice and improve it though.

Another cool thing that happened was I was able to lend a bunch of my Star Wars RPG material to another GM to fill-in a scheduling snafu. It was great to be able to help out.

Anyway, brief asides; the Conan session was a rather enjoyable game.

Dread Cthulhu

We concluded our session around 11pm but my long day of gaming wasn't over yet. I still had one last game to run: the Call of Cthulhu adventure Dead Light in Dread.

Sadly, I got took no action
shots of the tower collapsing.
I had made the questionnaires for this particular adventure late last year, and I had the chance to playtest it with a couple groups of victims willing participants and shoehorn the session into the 2.5 hours the timeslot allotted for.

Though Dead Light has a very simple story premise, it's slow to build tension before reaching a breaking point. It feels like I had to get very ruthless toward the end of the game to really hit the survival horror theme I was going for. No complaints though, the tower killed 3 out of the 5 PCs, a better death ratio than my playtest games. The session was fun, but I feel that if I wasn't as tired, it could've been more memorable.

Now that I've officially run my game, I'm going to release the questionnaires I made to go along with this adventure, along with some pointers in a future post.

My last slot ended just before we were told to leave for late night closing. I managed to catch a cab home with a pair of con goers heading in the same direction and were kind enough to offer paying for the whole trip. It's little offers of kindness that really stick with me, and remind me that many gamers are kind and wonderful people. :)


Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - While The Hutt's Away

Early next morning after a brief sleep, I was up again relatively early preparing for the day. Larry picked me up and we arrived at the GottaCon before the public entry to set up for our dual-table EotE adventure: When The Hutt's Away.

+Larry Spiel and I began conceptually designing this adventure late-fall/early-winter last year, and had been working on it on and off since. The week before the convention was the big editing push that tied up nearly all the loose ends. The adventure itself is designed as a limited sandbox with plenty of interesting things that one group may do that may effect the other and vice versa, though we wanted to avoid direct competition between the tables and kept the groups from ever actually meeting each other. 


Each group starts the adventure in different a locale inside the Hutt's multi-level palace built inside moonlet within the planetary ring that circles a gas giant; and each PC has a different pair of motivations/obligations (more like personal goals in the context of this one-shot adventure) and a limited opportunity to try and attain them. This is all compounded by a running timer that controls the three Act structure of the adventure, increasingly putting pressure on the PCs, and ending in a climatic escape and pursuit through the icy rings as the station plummets toward the gas giant during the final act.

Pending a few edits and rewrites, Larry and I shall be releasing our adventure on the interwebs sometime in the future.

The sessions (at least my own for sure) turned out awesome. I had a great group of players, with some really fantastic moments. I'd be interested in playing this dual-table adventure again at the next convention (GottaCon or otherwise) with swapped groups.

I'm glad all our effort paid off so well. :D

I was originally slated to run two more 2-hour Games-on-Demand sessions following our EotE game, but I starting to feel pretty burnt out, and as I wasn't able to get the evening off work I decided to take it easy before I went in for my shift at 5pm. My final hours of the con were spent perusing the vendors, snapping a few photos, and chatting up folks.

+Jeff Wike running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

My friend Nathan Patton running Feng Shui.

Larry running Dread.

From the vendor hall I grabbed a few things for the Missus: a rainbow chainmail anklet, a pair of scalemail earrings that looked like oranges/peaches (I presumed correct that they'd go well with her recent peach-dyed hair), and another replica Celtic penannular brooch from Gaukler Medieval Wares

For myself (along with the copy of Mythender I acquired Friday), I picked up a small bronze Mjölnir pendant for Kampi, a steel/deep violet chainmail dice bag, and a copy of the pocket edition of the Conan d20 RPG because I especially enjoy collecting small (height-wise) RPG books, even when they're of old games. Also I won a potion of stoneskin during the MC raffle on Friday, and my good friend +Steven Saunders of +Black Goat Games finally got me a shirt sporting the logo of his company:

Snazzy. The Missus braided my tiny beard the other night and I love it.

A very descent haul of con-swag if I do say so myself.

If I could do one thing different for next years GottaCon, it'd be getting a hotel room for the sheer convenience of catching much needed sleep and storing all my stuff rather than lugging it around. Plus the amenities would be a bonus.

Unfortunately I missed the appreciation dinner hosted for the volunteer GM's on Tuesday as it was my better-half's birthday plus I had to work that evening.

Since I missed my chance then, I want to sincerely thank all my friends, players, GMs, volunteers, and RPG managers (especially +Mike G and +Angela Gruber, you two are solid champs!) for everything that made this year the best year at GottaCon for me thus far!

Cheers! ;{١