The Owl Bear and the Wizard’s Staff is a meet up in Leamington Spa now in its second year. A warm, friendly event where we get together with familiar faces and twitter-handles in addition to a more diverse gathering of local players. There was an entertaining array of games available from the traditional to the new; the mainstream to the more obscure.
Asako_soh is a welcoming host who made sure that the event ran smoothly: He’s the man at the barbecue who ensures everyone has a sausage. During lunch, someone turned to me and said, “goodness me, this has grown, I wonder why?” He took another bite, “samosas, it’s the samosas.”
It was a Cypher day for me. In the morning it was the dimension-jumping The Strange and in the afternoon it was Vurt: both set in Manchester, it was like I hadn’t left the house. Having worked (and played) there for years, the city is part of my psycho-geography, it’s a place intimately woven into my imagination.
Back in the nineties, Manchester was the place to be; the centre of cultural activity thanks to its bands, its dance scene, the baggy fashions of Joe Bloggs, sport and, believe it or not, poetry. While my contemporaries were enjoying thrills, pills and bellyaches of The Hac, I was up the road at Waterstones bookshop, surviving on twiglets, pringles and red wine poured from boxes. After work, I’d attend their author events, featuring William Gibson, Iain Banks, Margaret Atwood, Kim Newman and many others.
Jeff Noon was one of the book-sellers and he would tell anyone that would listen about his novel that he’d been working on. VURT (1993) was originally published by a tiny local, imprint Ringpull Press before gaining awards and a bigger publisher. Noon’s vision of cyber-punkish Manchester where the citizens escape into the wonders (and horrors) of a consensual dream space via the consumption of feathers, captured the imagination of a science fiction audience becoming bored with the conventions of slip-stream fiction. It was followed up by Pollen (1995), Automated Alice (1996) and Nymphomation (1997).
The VURT RPG does a good job of codifying elements of the setting into gamable material. It’s not the first place you’d expect to find the type of adventure that usually drives RPGs, but the rule-book does set it out well with inspiring hooks and finer details extended from concepts in the books.
Following the principle “if you buy it, you play it” I scheduled VURT as my #OBaWS game earlier in the year. It has been slipping in and out of my subconscious ever since. Like a shadow, I’ve been walking between normality and the game for months. In the end, the session didn’t bear the weight of my expectations (for reasons spelled out in the latest GROGPOD) but, it’s a setting I’d like to explore further, perhaps in an extended sequence to let the dream worlds breathe a little more.
OBaWS staff attracts great, open-minded players with sense of fun and imagination. Long May it continue.
It must be something in the samosas.