College of Saint Benilde got to be unfamiliar territory on the afternoon of October 20. I never really found myself in Taft a lot. If I did it was probably for samgyeopsal. Or that one time I walked for three (3) hours to reach Makati for a ride home. Point is, CSB’s got a rep for being one of the premier art schools in the Philippines. And walking to Turn Undead premises got me understanding why. Yeah, I was the slouching kid wearing the X-Men jacket. In my defense, that’s really me with Heightened Senses turned on.
Thankfully, no one did any Surprise Attacks. However, Turn Undead was still surprising, given it’s my first tabletop roleplaying game convention. So let me give you a quick rundown.
I got to play Blades in the Dark. Moreover, other games in the convention included Wrath and Glory, based on Warhammer 40,000. There’s also a couple of Dungeons & Dragons tables, as well as Call of Cthulhu and World of Darkness.
Turn Undead: Let There Be Undeath
I anticipated entering the event a bit lost. I imagined myself entering a jam-packed event where I have to walk past a lot of noise and music just to find registration and hope for the best. It wasn’t anything like that, and not in a bad way. I entered the auditorium with people greeting me and leading me inside. There weren’t a lot of people, which is what I should expect being present as early as 1 PM when registration starts at 2 PM.
I got to see both organizers, players, and game masters (GMs) set up and prepare for the upcoming convention. Such a sight remains new to me, as I’ve never seen other GMs “prepare” for such an event. You’d be surprised how much time and effort it takes for GMs to pull off their sessions, much more begin a campaign. And a lot of efforts got paid off by the time the convention ended, as based on reactions from other players they sure had a blast.
What’s interesting can be the kind of “turning” it eventually did for both new and veteran GMs and players. You geeking out can be already fun. However, imagine living the “unlife” when you get sucked into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying games. For me, this was the main appeal of tabletop conventions like Turn Undead.
The convention in itself had a format I’m not super familiar with. Normally, conventions would have events happening alongside attendees touring the venue for themselves.
In Turn Undead, raffles and cosplay competitions happened in conjunction with the games. This format in itself appeared to be quite the unique take on the format. As to whether or not such a format is practical though, I’m in no position to tell having not organized events myself.
The Turning: When Roleplaying Plunges You To The Deep End
“We’ll blow the bridge, then. We can’t risk zombies and demons getting into the city and infecting other people. The police have closed us off, ‘e.”
These aren’t sentences you normally hear in popular media. Movies might have a hard time fitting all of this in a single scene. Books might take a sequel or two to show how things play out. Moreover, TV might find this story point too complicated to produce. However, for a roleplaying game? This can be standard routine – and that’s what makes it fun.
I got to play Blades In The Dark with friends and new people I got to meet in the event. Moreover, the game has got a format quite different from numbers-reliant systems such as Dungeons & Dragons and dice pool-based systems like World of Darkness. In Blades, getting a 4 to 6 in any dice in your pool merits a success.
What makes it fun is its ability to allow players to make moves “on the go.” Despite a system that relies on “planning” for stories, Blades has a unique take on execution. Players, which are scoundrels in a gang, earn reputation by doing scores. Yeah, Blades touts itself as a heist game, and that’s what makes it fun. Moreover, players utilize their skills not just as individuals, but as people with connections and networks at their disposal. As such, Blades has an interesting system that allows players to purchase items on the fly to use in unexpected situations, and flashbacks to even out the odds.
Howeve, players only have a limited pool of items and coin to buy them with. This makes execution just as important as preparation and makes the game a challenge regardless of its straightforward nature.
The Takeaway: Assimilation, Immersion Work Both Ways
Looking back, the abundance of games and GMs ready to share their love of the craft can become intoxicating. As such, Turn Undead and Adventurers Anonymous helped me find the part of myself that loved RPGs for what they are. There’s a first time for everything, right?
Point is, I think newcomers to the scene like myself get to immerse ourselves fully into the games given the right kind of nudge. GMs have it hard, given they have to tread the fine line between handholding and motivating players enough to “live” the lives their characters play. Do it right, though, and you turn the experience into something that can actually change lives. I salute fellow players for opening up and having fun with our characters’ shenanigans. And I tip my hat to the GMs, who made assimilation possible by transforming what should be storytelling into an amazing art.
Admittedly, the year had a surprising turn of events – pun unintended. I couldn’t exactly call myself an “avid” tabletop roleplaying gamer, although I’ve kept a lot of cards close to my chest. And to be honest? I didn’t think the community would be this… welcoming. Moreover, a lot of Turn Undead attendees were people I already know, and a lot of them I already play with. This probably helped with the immersion, really. And knowing you have friends there to help did assure me this was a safe space to be, well, myself and whoever I wanted to be.
Oh, yeah, I definitely turned. Thankfully I don’t like brains – yet.
Turn Undead is a tabletop roleplaying game fair held at the De La Salle University – College of Saint Benilde on October 20.