Origins 2024 – Alpha and Omega

The horror of reality looms large on the horizon. I departed Phoenix last Sunday for a short work trip in Milwaukee before arriving at Origins on Wednesday afternoon. The plaintive cries of obligation now issue forth from my inbox that managed to seal with a protective ward (read out-of-office message) over a week ago. My time is running short to sketch an outline of my most recent journey through the halls of the Columbus Convention Center and surrounding environs. In haste, I shall not wax poetic and lengthy about these adventures but, rest assured, a good time was had and many good companions encountered.


All smiles at Heather Ashcraft’s Star Trek table in the packed Lurking Fears room.
  • Early check-in before noon allowed me to drop my luggage, compose myself, and return outdoors to brave the sweltering heat wave.
  • I obtained nourishment under the roof of the famed North Market where I met Bridgett Jeffries and Matt “Doc” Tracey for lunch. 
  • The intimidating serpentine badge queue moved quickly in friends’ company, and our small group got our packets within an hour. 
  • I stopped by the humming Lurking Fears room, where I would run all but two of my games for this convention. With two stocked shelves full of swag, massive decorations provided by Free League and Cephalofair Games, and, most importantly, a smoothly run front desk overseen by Queen B(etty), this was THE place to play TTRPGs at Origins.
  • Since the Dealer Hall is closed on Wednesday, I said some quick hellos, took snapshots of the engaged tables and headed back to my hotel.
  • At conventions, self-care is a top priority rest when you can, and definitely when you need to. I scheduled a two-hour game on Wednesday at 9 pm allowing ample time for a nap, organization, and mood-setting viewing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
Homestar Runner’s nod to the trusty gongfarmer.
  • For your money, the short and free Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel “Portal Under the Stars” is one of the best ways to spend two hours. Everybody loves learning about a gong farmer.
  • The sweaty ten-minute walk between my hotel and the convention center necessitated a shower before I retired. This would only become more necessary as High Street verged on melting as the week wore on.   


Deliver Us From Evil crew still smiling about halfway down the Lost River.
  • Slight nerves as I prepared the table for my second convention run of “Deliver Us From Evil.” I had made some modifications after the Chaosium Con playtester and editorial feedback. The jitters subsided when I was joined by three returning players from past Origins Call of Cthulhu Games.
  • This first game ended on a dramatic note. The scenario tweaks played out nicely, and the group seemed very pleased with the gruesome outcome.  
  • I reserved Thursday afternoon for a run through the dealer hall where I picked up the following: 
    1. A soft-copy version of the DCC rulebook. Ten dollars, an absolute steal! Also, a good time to mention the Quickstart Rules are free
    2. The King in Yellow Tarot Deck from Arc Dream. Beautiful, inspiring, and an unbelievable table prop. I plan on incorporating this in a forthcoming scenario.
    3. The Paranoia Accomplice Book. An incredible resource and on-the-fly prep tool for the new Perfect Edition. All you need is the Core Book and D6s.
    4. A small plastic deck box to hold my Bouts of Madness deck from the Miskatonic Repository. A great Keeper resource available via print-on-demand. 
Just a sample from Arc Dream’s King in Yellow tarot deck.
  • With my Accomplice Book in hand, I returned to my hotel room to flesh out the meager three lines I’d prepped for my next 7 pm Paranoia session. 
  • Up until this Origins, I have exclusively run Call of Cthulhu at conventions, and I figured it was time to branch out, so I submitted two Paranoia sessions and slapped the title “Hogan’s Heroes” on it. 
  • Just one player at the Paranoia table had played once before, and not since they released the new, streamlined Perfect Edition. A group of four gaming buddies at the table returned after last year’s playthrough of “The Vanishing Conjurer.”  
  • I had played Perfect Edition once before with my weekly game group; it was wild. Six players at a con is deliriously exhausting. A flurry of secret notes passed around the table as the mission unfolded. I did my best to keep up the improv as mayhem spread. 
  • By the end, my jaw hurt from laughing. Scandinavian Death Metal thundered through Troubleshooter HQ as the team’s mutant pyromaniac telekinetically detonated their Top Secret delivery (a sandwich) as it reached the hangry Superior. Another team member teleported to the Alpha Complex power station and released aerosolized bath salts…the lights went out…all according to…plan???
  • As an aside, Origins gamers are fantastic. This year, all but one of my tables featured at least one return player. It’s so nice to play with familiar and talented folks.
  • After such an enjoyable time with the Paranoia group, we planned for a Call of Cthulhu pick-up game on Saturday morning. 
  • Finishing a half-hour early, I returned immediately to the hotel for some shut-eye. Sleep, get it when you can.  


  • The 9 am slot was another run of Hogan’s Heroes. This group included three gents who had played earlier editions, and they enjoyed the somewhat adversarial at-table character creation. This group launched a viral AlphaTube channel, successfully marketed and released a new candy bar, and smuggled a crate full of bombs into the Supervisor Core of Troubleshooter HQ before delivering their sandwich. Sadly, no mayo. The debrief with Hogan-G-3 ended with the judicious application of a flamethrower.
  • I hurried out of the Lurking Fears room in the Hyatt over to Union Ballroom B to run an Organized Play event for Dungeon Crawl Classics. 
  • The piles of DCC references and rulebooks stacked for this game contrasted with Paranoia’s fast and loose style. The group finished their “Race Against Slime” within seconds of the three-hour time limit. 
Another metal scenario by DCC Organized Play author and organizer, Brendan LaSalle.
  • I love DCC for its random tables, potentially devastating fumbles, and spell misfires, but it’s not for everyone. Sadly, one of our players did not appreciate the spirit of the erratically punishing system, and we had to take a few moments to course correct and bring the focus back to fun. 
  • The above was a novel experience after years of running Call of Cthulhu convention games. It was a reminder about setting table expectations. The player had just come from another DCC game, and I wrongly assumed he was onboard system-wise.   
  • Once more, rest when you can. Three hours before the Cthulhu Masters Tournament, I returned to my room for a quick nap. 
  • Lurking Fears expanded its Cthulhu Masters tournament this year from one table to eight. Instead of selecting a single winning player from a table, they now pitted eight tables against each other by running eight instances of the same scenario and applying a defined scoring system. 
  • I got to run my game surrounded by seven other tables led by exceptional Keepers, including past Prospero Guest authors, Jon Hook and XPLovecat. The room was filled with shrieks, laughter, and gasps as Chris Tatum’s brilliant scenario, “Snake Oil Salesman,” ran its grotesque course. 
An emotional moment at XPLovecat’s Cthulhu Masters table, while Jon Hook works in the background. Photo credit: Betty Tatum
  • My team, which included a father-son trio, conducted a methodical investigation over the first two hours, then executed a three-way party split that nearly ran for the session’s remaining length. One group played a straight-and-narrow path, the other borderline criminal, and the third wildly dangerous. Their strategy paid off, as they achieved a perfect score and emerged as tournament victors. It was a con highlight for all of us.  
  • I look forward to the eventual publication of Chris’ scenario, as I’ve run it twice with remarkably different, but equally entertaining results. 
The Cthulhu Masters winning team with their well-deserved loot. Photo Credit: Betty Tatum


  • Four of my Paranoia players brought another friend to join Jon Hook for a pickup game of “Deliver Us From Evil.” It was a bloody good time with some great player feedback. Art and new character sheets poured in from my hardworking collaborator, Alex Guillotte as we played. I can’t wait to get this released.  
Hogan’s Heroes return for a Call of Cthulhu session. Someone’s got some explaining to do. Photo Credit: Jon Hook
  • After grabbing some food, I sat down for the second scheduled run of “Deliver Us From Evil.” We had five players, and I opted to bring one of the pre-gens as an NPC. Tensions rose at the table as the party members struggled on the best course of action. The conflict came to a head in a heinous climax. 
  • Every single run of “Deliver Us From Evil” this weekend brought some of the best roleplaying I’ve seen at convention tables. It was great to see all the players connect with their investigators. 
  • My 6 pm DCC time slot was starting just as I wrapped in the Lurking Fears room, and I ran back to the Union Ballroom to locate my Organized Play table.
  • This group of four casually steamrolled through traps, guardians, and environmental hazards. During the final boss fight, they quickly seized the objective and leaped back over the lava-filled chasm. The last roll of the game was by their Cleric who came up with a 1 on his Agility check…no one bothered to look back. Classic DCC.
  • Saturday night at Origins, I really wanted to hang out and see some folks, but I didn’t have the juice for hijinks on High Street. I crawled back to my room, packed my bag, and put myself to sleep with some Clark Ashton Smith. 
Deliver Us From Evil, group 3. How things started…


  • With a flight out at 2 pm, I had just enough time for another session of “Portal Under the Stars.” This group of four provided a perfect mix of roleplay and technically skilled dungeon crawling, as they suffered party attrition throughout this funnel. They survived with nine of their sixteen starting Level 0s intact. 
  • Shadowdark had a big presence at the convention, especially in the Lurking Fears game room where numerous sessions ran. As a special guest of Lurking Fears, the creator Kelsey Dionne could be spotted in the game room throughout the week. Several people mentioned a Shadowdark game as the high point of their Origins experience.  
  • In retrospect, I wished I had devoted some time to running Shadowdark. Having branched out from my standard fare, I’m confident this will be on the agenda next year.
  • After my final game, I took one more pass through the Vendor Hall, but my bags were packed to their limit. I dropped by various spots to say farewell to friends and headed to the airport.  

As has become custom, I promised myself before Origins that I would adhere to a light schedule. Just enough to earn a GM badge. I proceeded to pile on three more games and back out of my only player ticket to run a pick-up game. I will admit I’m hopeless. And I love it. 

Shadowdark creator Kelsey Dionne spent lots of time hanging out and engaging with fans of her system that perfectly blends modern and old-school sensibilities. Photo credit: Matt McCloud

If I missed you at Origins, you can catch me next at GameHole Con in Madison. I’m sad to miss two of my favorite conventions in August, but I’ll try to be there next time!

1 thought on “Origins 2024 – Alpha and Omega

  1. Jon Hook says:

    This was my first Origins, and it was amazing! Deliver Us from Evil was one of the best, (if not THE best), Call of Cthulhu scenarios I’ve ever played. It is, (no kidding), destined to be a modern classic. Great job, Doc.

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