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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to many of the questions you were going to ask, and some you haven't thought of yet.

Role Playing Games (RPG)
What is roleplaying?
What is a roleplaying convention?
What is Necronomicon?
Where is Necronomicon?
What games do you play there?
What is a tabletop (in Australia)?
What is a freeform (in Australia)?
Why should I go to a convention?
How do I enter Necronomicon?
Who are Shadow Games?
What should I expect from Necronomicon - what will it be like?
 
 
 
Role Playing Games (RPG)
  What are role playing games?
What is roleplaying?
  The simple answer is that roleplaying is playing a role. Any time that you pretend to be someone else, acting according to a set of guidelines or a character description, you are roleplaying. Roleplaying is used in situations such as job training and anger management courses, especially training for counseling or crisis lines where letting trainees loose on real people could have adverse consequences. So experienced workers play the part of a distraught caller - 'ok, Susie, you are upset because you've lost your job, and you have a bad temper, so you're going to get loud and obnoxious if you don't feel they are taking you seriously' - and the trainees go through their paces - 'ok, Jim, Susie is on the line, let's see what you can do'.

While this general description is accurate, the roleplaying that we are concerned with here is a specific hobby. People who roleplay, henceforth referred to as players, take on new personas, henceforth referred to as characters. Players meet in groups and play their characters for the duration of an adventure run by another person, usually known as the Gamesmaster (GM) but also called, in various games systems, the Dungeon Master, the Host, the Storyteller, etc. An adventure could be anything from a short game lasting a few hours to a long term campaign played once a fortnight for many years. The GM has the plot ideas written down (or maybe just kept in memory), and controls the environment that the adventure occurs in - the GM describes to the players everything their characters see, smell, hear, touch and taste. The GM controls all the people apart from the characters (the distinction is made between player characters (PCs) and non-players characters (NPCs), who are run by the GM). The GM listens to what the characters are doing, and responds accordingly. The outcome of combat and the success of actions are determined according to the rules of the system. The roleplaying experience will vary depending on which system is being used and the style of the GM and the players. There are hundreds of different published roleplaying game systems, and people will usually have a favourite or two. Some players enjoy heroic sword & sorcery style games, others like dark and edgy science fiction games, others prefer games of diplomacy and political maneuvering, etc.

The question 'What is roleplaying?' is a subject of much debate within the roleplaying community, and the above description is intended to be a quick introduction for non-roleplayers, not a definitive answer.

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What is a roleplaying convention?
  A roleplaying convention is several days - often a long weekend - of organised roleplaying games.

Games are written and run by members of the roleplaying community and players can choose which games they want to play. Games last for a session (usually 2 to 3 hours depending on the convention) and are run multiple times over the convention. We do aim to give everyone who wants to play a game the chance to play that game, but GM and player schedules sometimes make that impossible. A roleplaying convention is fun. It is a chance to play new games, meet new people, see old friends and have a great weekend. Of course, it does cost money, but you can play all day for a lot less than other forms of entertainment.

See also 'Why should I go to a convention?' and 'What should I expect from Necronomicon?'

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What is Necronomicon?
  Necronomicon is a roleplaying convention, one of two run every year by Shadow Games Inc. It is currently held over the October long weekend, and lasts for three or four days. The first Necronomicon was held in 1989. The original vision for Necronomicon involved horror, darkness, angst and cathartic games. Although some people feel this vision has been left behind, we believe it lives on in Necronomicon's signature games category - Short Sharp Shocks. Designers write Short Sharp Shocks by invitation only, and this category is a chance to offer very scary or intense games that push boundaries (and which can consequently be disturbing, so we don't recommend them for under-16s).

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Where is Necronomicon?
  Currently, Necronomicon is held at Newtown Performing Arts High School. It is convenient for trains and buses, and these is a car park attached to the school.

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What games do you play there?
  Necronomicon, like most conventions, offers a number of games, both tabletops and freeforms, from a range of categories. Most conventions will include some horror, science fiction, fantasy, and comedy. Some games will be run using a particular games system, although players rarely need to have rules knowledge, and others will be systemless. Necronomicon also offers Short Sharp Shocks (see 'What is Necronomicon?') What games are at a particular convention depends on the designers - convention organisers rely on designers and GMs to write and run games, and we have to choose from the games we are offered.

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What is a tabletop (in Australia)?
  Tabletops are "traditional" style games: players - usually 5 but occasionally 6, 7 or 8 - sit at a table and play. The GMs are in control of the action, as they can see and hear everything that the players/characters do and say. The party tends to follow one or two main narrative lines, with perhaps a few character subplots. Of course, it is hard to generalise about the style of tabletops when they cover such a range of games, and remember that all designers will do things differently. This is the style most gamers are used to, from their own campaigns. The majority of games run at a convention will be tabletop games.

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What is a freeform (in Australia)?
  Freeforms are the other style of game that conventions offer, and are quite different to tabletops: in a freeform, players - usually 12-25 but we have had freeforms with 60 players - move around a room and interact with each other in character. Rather than a single narrative line, there are dozens of plots and subplots, each involving a handful of characters, although there may be one overarching plot line which acts as the justification for assembling all the characters in one place, such as a funeral, a party, a journey, etc. The GMs (and there are often multiple GMs for a freeform) are much less 'in control' as they cannot possibly overhear all the conversations that are going on. There is also less resolution to a freeform, as it is usually impossible for all the characters to 'win'. There is often less emphasis on combat than in a tabletop, and the success of actions are likely to be determined using alternatives to dice, such as cards or rock, paper, scissors.

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Why should I go to a convention?
  It depends who are you are. If you are new to roleplaying, conventions let you try a variety of game systems, and you may find one that really appeals to you. Cons also give you the opportunity to meet other roleplayers, and you might discover a group that games near you or one that is looking for another player. If you play with a group of friends or a uni club, a convention will give you a chance to play different systems, or a familiar system in a different way - maybe you tend to play AD&D in a wilderness-based fighting campaign and there is a city-based political adventure being offered. The plot has been written for a 2 to 3 hour session, and so your party will achieve definite goals and reach a plot resolution, not something that is guaranteed every time you play a regular campaign. You will meet other roleplayers and have lots of fun. You will be playing characters written by someone else, and probably very different from the ones you usually play. If nothing else, your regular GMs will get a break for a weekend.

Freeforms are also a great reason to go to conventions, because it is difficult to play these at any other time. (There are LARP campaigns in Sydney, but these have a different feel to a freeform.) It is difficult to get 20 or so players together outside a convention to run a freeform and so cons offer the best chance to play.

Going to conventions also supports your local gaming community. Organisers and game designers put a lot of effort into a convention, and it will all go to waste if no one turns up.

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How do I enter Necronomicon?
  The first interaction you are likely to have with Necronomicon is the website and/or printed entry form. In recent years we have not created printed entry forms, but as a number of people have said that they miss them, future Necronomicons may feature them. Looking at the blurbs on the site or in the booklet, decide what games you want to play. Blurbs are written by designers and are supposed to provide an idea of what the game will be like. It can be hard to tell whether you will like a game from the blurb, but it is usually worth a risk. Take a note also of what category the game is in - horror, fantasy, comedy, etc. However, note that it is usually the organisers, not the designers, who put games into categories, and we have made some spectacular mistakes! If a game doesn't turn out to be quite as you expected, please don't get upset about it. Just keep playing, and you'll probably still have fun.

Once you have decided which games you want to play, put in an entry form. You can enter as an individual or as a team. Most tabletop games are designed for 5 people, so if you want to only play with your team make sure you have 5. If you enter games as an individual or an incomplete team, we'll schedule you with other partial teams, so don't worry about that. Tell us the name of every team member. One person will be the main contact, and we need a few extra details from them - address, phone, email, etc - so that we can contact them if needed. The form should make clear what details we need from each team member. Your team will need to think up a name - try to keep it reasonably short and not too obscene please. Then you have to indicate which team members want to play which games and for which sessions team members are unavailable - follow the instructions on the form. Calculate the cost - again, the form will tell you how. You can either send us a cheque or money order with your entry form or wait to pay at the convention.

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Who are Shadow Games?
  Shadow Games Inc. is a non-profit organisation which has as its major aim the promotion of roleplaying in Sydney. The main way Shadow Games does this is by running conventions. There are two conventions each year that are run by members of Shadow Games - Sydcon, currently held over the Easter long weekend, and Necronomicon, currently held over the October long weekend.

For more information, check out
  www.shadowgames.org.au

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What should I expect from Necronomicon - what will it be like?
  First, on behalf of the organisers, there are a few things we expect from you. We will try to get you into all the games that you want to play, but this may not be possible, so please be understanding. We will try to deal with any problems that you have, but it makes our job easier if you are polite about them. There are certain rules that must be adhered to, such as no smoking and no weapons, real or replica, on the site - these are Department of Education property rules. If these rules are broken we could lose the site, and we need that more than we need one or two belligerent roleplayers.

You will probably be at registration (rego) night. If you have pre-registered, we should have a personal schedule for you. If you haven't already paid, we'll ask for your money before we give you your schedule. Then you can go around the other rooms, where designers will sit at tables, clearly labeled with the name of their game. Some designers will give out information sheets, some will let you choose characters and take the character sheets. Don't panic if a designer isn't there. Wait for 10 or 15 minutes, as they may just be wandering around. Ask a nearby designer if anyone has been at that table (bits of paper are always a good clue). Ask an organiser - we usually know if a designer has arrived yet. Some designers just don't turn up, as they don't want to give anything out before the game sessions themselves, so it isn't a disaster. If you haven't pre-registered, you can enter games at rego - one of the organisers will tell you what to do. There will usually be a rego desk set up with an organiser in attendance during the con, so you can enter games on later days too, or pay and get your schedule on the first morning if you couldn't make it to rego.

Rego night is always busy, something always goes wrong, and organisers get very stressed. Just remember that organisers are volunteers and human - we are bound to make some mistakes - and bear with us.

Once you have your schedule, turn up to games! It is very disappointing for a game to be cancelled because two or three people haven't shown up. If you have been given the character sheet in advance, read it in advance. Think about the character. If you are in a freeform, you may want to find a costume, or maybe a prop or two, to make your character more recognisable. (On props, please remember, no weapons!) If you are in a tabletop, think about bringing dice if you know the system needs it. Although GMs will bring dice, many people prefer to play with their own. Bring a pencil - to both types of games. Some designers won't mind if you are eating and drinking during a game, but others will. Almost all will mind you leaving to get food, so buy stuff during the session breaks.

So what is different about the actual roleplaying at a convention? Well, one difference is that unless you have entered, and are sticking closely with, a full team, you will be playing games with people you don't normally game with and may not even know. And because there are three or four sessions a day, you will play a variety of styles and characters with little time to 'recover' between those games - you need to get into character very quickly. Convention roleplaying can be very intense, but there will always be sessions when everyone is tired and things get a bit silly. Variety and novelty are the keys to convention roleplaying - playing many systems you have never played before with many people you have never met before. (Of course, once you have been to a few cons you will know most of the crowd and the novelty wears off. Fortunately variety remains.)

So what about when you aren't playing games? Browse through the roleplaying books for sale. Buy food from the convention canteen - eat and support the con! If you have a free session, volunteer to help in the canteen. Play a card game. Talk to people - once you have been to a few cons, they become a social event. Conventions are a great opportunity to catch up with people, and many gamers have friends who they see only at conventions.

The final session of Necronomicon is prize-giving. All the designers give out trophies for best players. Just as designers' games vary, so do their ideas of best roleplaying - sure, it might be the group who successfully completed the mission and didn't drop out of character once, but it could just as easily be the group who botched things so badly that the GM was in tears of laughter the whole game. There is a tradition amongst freeform designers to offer 'player's choice' trophies, and if you play a freeform you might be asked to vote at the end. In the middle of prize-giving, organsiers of other conventions will get up and talk about their cons, which gives everyone a chance to hear about them.

Once prize-giving is over, the majority of con goers will migrate to the after Con party. The after party is a chance to see everyone when they aren't running off to play/run a game, and to find out how their con was. The after party is also the chance for the organisers to thank the designers for this year and recruit designers for next year. In practice, this works in a six month cycle, and the Sydcon designers approach people at the Necronomicon after party, and vice versa. After parties are a great place to talk to designers about games you played - still not quite sure of the significance of the runes on the secret door? Now is the time to ask the GMs, because tomorrow they'll be focused on something else. Want to know more about a game system that a designer ran? If they like it enough to run it, they'll probably be happy to talk about it. If you liked a designer's game, buy them a drink. Even if they don't accept the offer, they'll appreciate the compliment on the game. Designers and organisers get very little return on their time and effort apart from the appreciation and thanks of the gamers - we always welcome a 'that was a great game' or 'fantastic con'.

And then the con is over!

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