Chaosium Con 2023: The Way it Was
And the fabled city of Ypsilanti
In the words of Laurie Anderson, ‘Days go by endlessly, endlessly pulling you into the future'. My last post was in March — where did April go? Well, I can tell you where some of it went: Ypsilanti. I know right, I’d never heard of it either!
It was the evening of Easter Monday when Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy arrived at my home to find me and the family on Arrakis, midway through a game of Dune. I was fresh from having won a game earlier that day. I first played the Dune board game in the mid-80s, and to be honest, this was probably the first time I’d ever won (I’ll admit, the fact that it was new to the rest of the family may have provided me with a slight advantage).
Anyhow, Tuesday morning we headed for Heathrow > Detroit > Ypsilanti, and the Marriott hotel situated amidst a golf course. That evening, Mike introduced me to the delights of the Coney Island hot dog.
Wednesday morning, I was feeling low on magic points after the journey, and declined a trip to Ann Arbor in favour of sitting in front of a fire and reading my book. The convention didn’t officially start until Thursday evening, and these two days saw a gradual accumulation of attendees, some of whom were old friends, and many who would become new friends.
Rather than continuing in chronological order, let’s switch to highlight mode.
You Too Can Cthulhu
I’ve wanted to play a game with these guys for a long time. YTCC are a group organised by Bob Geis, that run CoC games at cons across the US. I was in a scenario titled The Cat in the Mirror, run by Kit, with another Keeper, Rachel, on hand in a supporting role (both of whom were excellent). Hat’s off to Rachel, who got so into character that she made herself cry! There was a great emphasis on roleplaying and some wonderful props. If you ever get the opportunity to game with these guys, I very much recommend it.
VTT, AI and Sharks
It was fun hang out with Gunnar, an Icelander and head of a company creating Elder: a virtual tabletop (VTT) for playing Call of Cthulhu. The VTT uses AI, enabling it to answer questions about the rules and setting of the game. Gunnar and Gummi explained (in layman’s terms that even I could understand!) that the AI is focused on the core CoC rulebooks. We tested it out with a variety of questions and it did a great job.
Oh, and sharks. There was mention of my scenario set aboard a whaling ship, which somehow led to a discussion about eating sharks cured in piss (and Gunnar asserted that it takes a lot of piss). Sounds like a TikTok trend waiting to happen (and for all I know, probably has).
Friday evening, I found myself running a game in the same room as the great John Wick. I was running a CoC scenario, Penetralia (written by Scott Dorward). John was running 7th Sea, and I was a little worried about potential escalation of volume levels — you know what sailors are like! John asked what I was running, and I assured him I was running Yelling: the RPG. I needn’t have worried, everyone was considerate and noise wasn’t a problem (and I hope John’s table felt the same).
Another gaming highlight was playing with Matt Ryan as Keeper. Matt is part of the Chaosium team, and is responsible for some of the beautiful maps you’ll find in the recent publications. He ran a 1920s CoC game set aboard a cruise ship, heading from down to Havana. Matt’s punk aesthetic bled through to the minimal character sheets and sanity tables. I loved the renamed skills: What the hell? (Spot Hidden), Wrasslin’ (Brawl), Throwin’ Lead (Firearms). It was also a delight to play with Bob Geis (and his pet tiger).
Thanks to Mike for taking me on a walk around the nearby lake — I doubt very much I’d have discovered it otherwise. One of the things I love about visiting other places is experiencing the local wildlife, most likely, the kind of everyday animals that locals wouldn’t think to comment upon. The birds were different to those back home. Lots of American robins, much bigger than those that visit my garden (an entirely different bird I think). Also some blue-headed birds that may have been grackles (those hours playing Wingspan have not been wasted). But the highlight has to be the turtles — loads of the little fellas.
As we rounded the lake, the wooden walkway passed over some shallow water and I peered in, looking for frogs and found nothing. Then Mike calls me over and points down, and there’s this big fella sunning himself. Guess he’s maybe 2 foot long.
Finally it’s all over. The Michigan weather has turned from warm sunshine (mid-20s C) to snow flurries.
I find myself at Boston airport, considering the offer of a free hotel and a thousand dollars if I volunteer to give up my flight. The guy at the desk assures me they will try to get me on a flight the following evening — I didn’t like that little word ‘try’. As much as I like the promise of free money, I wanted to get back home. But I’d love to hear from anyone who has volunteered to bump their flights and how that went, for future reference — one day I might just give in and see what happens.
Back in London, I joined Lynne and the team at Forbidden Planet for a book signing (Rivers of London RPG) with author of the novels, Ben Aaronovitch. Which was nice.
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Then, finally, home.
Thanks to everyone who put in so much hard work to make the convention such a great time. I’m already looking forward to a return trip next year.
It takes me a few days to adjust. America is something of a Dreamland to me — it’s a ridiculous and romantic view I know, but when I’m there I’m a tourist, and I get to shed much of the baggage of my everyday life. Also, the name Ypsilanti feels to me to sit nicely alongside Inganok and Celephais. Did I mention the zoogs?
Other Reviews of Chaosium Con 2023
I’ve been home for a week now, and there have been a number of great accounts of the convention posted already. Here’s a selection: