Chaosium Con: An Interview With Michael O’Brien

It’s the 40th anniversary of Call of Cthulhu and amid the celebration of that milestone, The Chaosium Group publicized a new convention. Announcing the first Chaosium Con coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 8th and 9th, 2022 is a bold step, but all part of Chaosium’s ongoing strategy of engaging with their fanbase. In 2020, I interviewed Michael O’Brien (MOB) about the pandemic induced shutdown of Alliance distributors and its impact on RPG distribution as well as good news like the transfer of the HeroQuest trademark from Moon Design Publications to Hasbro, so the toy manufacture and game publisher could relaunch their classic boardgame. Earlier in 2021, Rick Meints and I talked a bit about Call of Cthulhu’s 40th anniversary. Those moves alone would take up the entire bandwidth of most RPG publishers. However, in October, 2021, The Chaosium Group rolled out a press release showing that they are capable of more dynamic moves. Because of that announcement, it felt like a good time to catch up with Michael O'Brien to learn about the first Chaosium Con.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): MOB, thanks for taking the time to talk with me about Chaosium Con 2022. What can you share about the show?
: Next April in Ann Arbor, Michigan we’re promising a weekend dripping with cosmic horror, powerful runes, swashbuckling adventure, chivalrous quests, and all manner of Chaos! The focus of Chaosium Con will be on all of Chaosium's games: past, present, and future. Lots of games, freeforms, seminars, and a special Chaosium collectables auction. It's a chance to meet many of our authors, artists, and editors in person too. We are still working on the Guest of Honor list, but it will certainly include a number of people you think of when you think of Chaosium.

EGG: What inspired Chaosium to create a convention?
: In the 1990s and early 2000s a sequence of RuneQuest/GloranthaCons were held in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. These were fan-run events; in fact, long before we became part of Chaosium, my colleagues Rick, Neil, Jeff, and I were all involved in staging many of them – that’s how the four of us actually met. These conventions were popular and fun, and are fondly remembered by those who attended. Now that we’re owners of Chaosium, we have an opportunity to rekindle that magic featuring all the games Chaosium is known for.

EGG: Chaosium Con is a two-day show on a Friday and Saturday in April. It’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 17 miles from the Detroit airport. Why those dates and location?
: We chose Ann Arbor because we know the area, it is close to several of our team including Chaosium president Rick Meints, and is near a major international airport (DTW) and several major highways. Sure, there are MANY other places we could host this event at, including many overseas locations, but we have to start somewhere. As for the time of year, the weather is pleasant in Ann Arbor in April, and accommodation is relatively inexpensive as it’s not football season. Early April also doesn’t clash with other conventions or events we’re involved with.

EGG: Will this convention be Chaosium only? Will other publishers be there (whether Chaosium partners or other publishing peers)? Will non-tabletop vendors such as horror vendors be selling their wares at the show?
: We’re still working out those details, but certainly many of the publishing partners and licensees we work with have expressed interest in being there and we want to help facilitate that.

EGG: As you’ve experienced, conventions are notoriously hard to get off the ground. They require a lot of work and don’t tend to be profitable until they reach certain tiers of attendance. That’s to say, most new conventions are a labor of love. Do you feel that way about this project, that it’s a labor of love, or is this the right move for Chaosium to have a gaming convention in its portfolio?
: Chaosium Con is definitely a labor of love for us, but fortunately the company has a loyal fanbase stretching back over 45 years to draw from who have already shown great interest in the event. Our plan is to start with relatively modest numbers (500 attendees), and do it well. Fortunately, many members of our team have experience running conventions. Based on the success of the event and what we learn from it, we may have similar cons at different times and places, including overseas. Last year in May we intended to hold Chaosium Con Down Under in Sydney, Australia. This was going to be our first 'proof of concept' for a Chaosium convention. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Large public events are still not possible in Australia due to restrictions on gatherings and travel, so we've now shifted that focus to Ann Arbor.

EGG: Good luck with Chaosium Con. As we’re wrapping up 2021 and the 40th anniversary of Call of Cthulhu. Overall, how do you feel CoC’s anniversary went? What were some of the highlights?
: It’s going great! We’ll be capping off the celebrations on November 13th with the release of our 40th anniversary Keeper Tips book. Our Call of Cthulhu creative director Mike Mason has gathered together a collection of wisdom, advice, and tips from an experienced, diverse, and distinguished group of Call of Cthulhu Keepers including Mark Morrison, Becca Scott, Seth Skorkowsky, Bridgett Jeffries, Sean Branney, and more. November 13th 1981 was the day Call of Cthulhu 1st edition arrived at the Chaosium offices, fresh from the printers. It was, appropriately enough, a Friday. The Special Limited Edition Keeper Rulebook we’ve released for the anniversary has had an ecstatic reception from Call of Cthulhu fans. I especially like the fact it includes the iconic scenario ‘The Haunting’. That had been in every version of the Keeper Rulebook from 1st – 6th edition, but for 7th was instead included in the QuickStart Rules. As ‘The Haunting’ has been something of a rite of passage for countless Call of Cthulhu fans since 1981 we thought it fitting to put it back in the Keeper Rulebook for the anniversary.

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

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