GrimCon 2020

This weekend should have been Concrete Cow 20.5 but thanks to... <gestures at entire planet> it had to be cancelled. Fortunately, the lovely people at Go Play Manchester had picked that weekend for GrimCon, an online convention focussed on dark fantasy and horror.

Friday night was a celebrity interview with Lynne Hardy from Chaosium, talking about Call of Cthulhu of course, and also the upcoming Rivers of London game. Interesting stuff, and I only wish I could have thought of some questions to ask - although there was no shortage of things to talk about. Also really nice to spotlight a woman in the RPG industry. While the people I interact with in the hobby certainly aren't the gatekeeping type, it's still good to see someone else who looks like me.

Game 1

Saturday meant an early start to play Dead of Night. Only the second time I'd played this rules-light horror game, and just as much fun as the first. While characters have stats in this game, to really get the full experience you need to lean into playing the tropes of the genre - in this case, 80s teen horror movies. We piled into the Delorean, headed out on a road trip, ignored the warnings of the harbinger and eventually found ourselves thwarting demonic entities armed with only propane and the ability to read.

Game 2

A quick break for lunch and then another dive into the horrors of planet JWL-5 for the next outing of my Alien scenario, The Toxic Jewel. Unfortunately one person who'd signed up had to drop out due to being double booked, but I advertised the free place to the Good Friends of Jackson Elias discord group, and with a bit of encouragement from another player we got our fifth person.

I think the reason I was previously a bit apprehensive of running this scenario is the feeling that there's a lot of work involved. And there is, but it's almost entirely pre-game: creating the characters, coming up with their secret agendas, preparing the map and the handouts and so forth. Once it comes to actually running the game, everything is pretty smooth. With the exception of timing: this was a 3.5 hour slot rather than the 4 hours I was expecting. Fortunately everyone was free to stick around until the end of the story.

I'm running Liminal at my next three conventions (wow, September/October is busy) but I really should give Alien more outings as it's so much fun. My players were brilliant, leaning into their conflicting agendas and keeping me constantly entertained. Each time I run this I'm worried that the characters don't have enough stress by the end of the first act (this time I think they were all entirely stress-free) but by the end it always works out, with running and screaming in all the right places.


The Saturday evening was a social, but since this was the first opportunity we'd had to get the Symbaroum group back together since July, I had to skip that part.

Sunday morning was a slightly less early start, for a panel on British folklore in RPGs with Paul Mitchener and Paul Baldowski, and when I complain that I struggle to remember people at RPG conventions because they're all called Paul, this is exactly the kind of thing I mean. We got some great discussions, some entertaining snark in the text chat, and a lot of book recommendations.

There was talk of a GMs' post-event zoom chat, but unfortunately real life intervened.

One other feature of the weekend was Radio GrimCon, a YouTube playlist of suitable music as suggested by the GMs. I had a lovely time listening to it after my Saturday evening game finished.


I'm used to game sign-up either being via Warhorn or by the giant spreadsheet and randomiser method used by Furnace and associated conventions. This was a bit different - despite there being two slots, people only had the ability to select a first and second choice of game. As a GM this was no problem as I just picked my top two from the morning session, but I'm not sure what approach I would have taken as a player. Getting the timetable out sooner would have been good, although I know there were some scheduling issues that delayed things.

That said, I got two awesome games, and the other events I was able to get to were good fun. From my GM point of view, it was easy to get involved and get my players on board. The social evening was a really nice idea to recreate a little of what's missing from online conventions and I wish I could have been there. Themed conventions really work for me, and this event's horror and dark fantasy theme was great and definitely has a wide appeal.

Manchester's a long way for me to go for a convention, so I don't know if I could be tempted to attend in real life, but if further online GrimCons happen, I'll definitely be there.

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I was a bit too slow to get in on any of the games (Sue's must have been the first to sell out), but the Two-Pauls-Panel was very entertaining. Though for some reason my mike didn't work.