Category Archives: Call of Cthulhu

Interview: Chris Birch

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fb_profile_picture.mediumRecently I had the chance to do a short interview with Chris Birch from Modiphius. Modiphius is a pretty young company but is already well-known in the RPG community. The Kickstarter for Achtung! Cthulhu was a huge success and their recently released Mutant Year Zero RPG finally brings the Swedish franchise to the english-speaking world. But let’s see what Chris Birch, the man behind Modiphius has to say.

Stargazer: Thanks again for having agreed to answer a couple of questions for my blog. I guess with the announcement of the Conan RPG you have a lot on your plate, so it even more of an honor that you’re willing to take your time for this.

Could you please start by telling a bit about yourself and Modiphius? What was the first roleplaying game you played back in the day? When did you decide to open your own roleplaying business?

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Chris: My first was Dungeons & Dragons aged 8, I remember the excitement of being asked if I wanted to join my brother and his girlfriend and their friend who was the dungeon master. I looked forward to those nights immensely. I’ve always been a gamer since, writing my own rules to play solo wargames or boadgames, writing with friends, then finally writing Starblazer Adventures. I like organising teams though, and realised my strength lies in creating ideas, or worlds and helping find the talented people to bring them to life – whether writers or artists. With the advent of Kickstarter it meant it was suddenly possible to start a business without investment (which would be rare with a games business) and so we gave it a go. I have never been happier!

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When You Realize that You’re the Baddy

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I have always been interested in history and I always found it quite intriguing to play in historic roleplaying games. So it was of course no surprise that I backed Achtung! Cthulhu which combines Lovecraftian elements with the history of WW2. For most of my readers playing in such a game has no special significance. The vast of majority of my readers is from one of the countries who were known as the Allies in WW2. But for me – as a German – things are a bit different. My people were the bad guys back then.

I am usually a very mild-mannered and peaceful person, but there’s one thing I particularly hate: fascism. Fascists and Nazis make me terribly angry. For me (and probably you as well) the Hitler regime was definitely what we’d call the bad guys. So if I’d ever play in such a game I’d probably play an Allied soldier or something similar. It just wouldn’t feel right for me to play one of the supporters of said regime. I think I could portray Nazi NPCs as a GM, but never as a player. It just feels terribly wrong.

Because of our history I always hesitated to actually run a game set in WW2. I am sure there are many interesting stories to be told, but I fear it’s hard to do it in a proper way that also respects the victims of the war. I guess I might be overthinking things. Perhaps it’s because I always try to do the right thing. My question to you, my dear readers, is how do you see this? Would you play one of the bad guys? Do you think that topics like the Holocaust can be properly handled in a roleplaying game? How do you deal with your home country’s history in a roleplaying enviroment?

Since this is a very serious and complicated topic, please let me try to end the post on a lighter note:

1st Kellercon in Limburg

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Yesterday the first Kellercon has taken place in Limburg, Germany. We chose the name Kellercon because the location was the Villa Konthor, a local whisky pub, which has an excellent vaulted cellar we use for our monthly RPG pub meetings.

Even though the location was a perfect fit for what we had in mind, attendance was not as good as we hoped. Due to the beginning flu season and scheduling conflicts a couple of our regulars couldn’t make it. Luckily a couple of new people showed up and quickly signed up for the game sessions we were offering.

poster_kellercon_a3About half an hour after the con had officially started four players had signed up for my Numenera game and we decided to start. It took about thirty to fourty-five minutes to go over the rules and give the players an overview of the setting. Aside from my girlfriend the other players were new to the game but picked the rules up very quickly. I had decided to run “Into the Violet Vale” which turned out to be a great choice. The adventure  had been designed with a con game in mind and it was very easy to run. The player characters were all pregenerated but the players quickly filled them with life and had a lot of fun. Especially one player put a lot of effort into roleplaying his quirky and definitely creepy nano. It’s a performance I’ll definitely not forget and which is pretty rare for con game. I hope I’ll meet this gamer again at our next event. Overall I am very happy with my choice of running Numenera. It works great as a con game because of the simple mechanics and the “everything goes” attitude of the setting. And the most important thing was that everyone at the game table had a lot of fun and enjoyed themselves.

Later in the evening it was my turn to play in someone else’s game. Mirko, our local Call of Cthulhu expert, ran a very interesting scenario of his own design. The investigators were all wine connoiseurs who had been invited to a private wine tasting. Things started pretty normal, but after the host had suddenly disappeared, things went downhill quickly. I don’t want to spoil anything, in case Mirko plans to release the adventure in the future, but let me tell you that it was one of the creepiest Call of Cthulhu adventures I ever played.

Overall I see the first Kellercon as a success. About 23 people attended, which is not as much as on our Free RPG Day event in March, but everyone had a blast. We also met a few new people who will probably show up to our pub meetings in the future. So I wouldn’t mind to organize a second Kellercon next year!

For more information on our regular RPG pub meetings and other events in the Limburg area, please check out our blog.