Clockwork Vines: Growing Kindness

Season 2 of Clockwork Vines: Alstromeria Alley wrapped last night. When I joined the Clockwork Vines cast almost two years ago, I had no idea how much this game and these people would affect my life. I had heard good things about the GM, Honey, so I figured it would be fun. That it turned out to be so much more is something I treasure.

A little history. Back in late 2019 I was poking around, putting my name forward for actual plays looking to cast for a campaign. At that point I had played in a handful of one-offs. Those were fun and wet my appetite for a longer campaign, but since I was still a relative nobody in the AP space I wasn’t finding much success. I wasn’t a known entity. I think that, coupled with the fact that I was a beardy white guy, kept a lot of groups from wanting to cast me (for which I don’t blame them, given the way most beardy white guys were and are acting out). But I kept going, adding my name to the pile whenever a group was casting and accepting the fact that I likely wouldn’t hear from them again. As someone who trained as an actor and endured the theatre audition mill, it was an all too familiar process.

But my patience paid off! I got an email from someone named Honey about my application to join something called Clockwork Vines. Session Zero was [date] and could I fill out this questionnaire ahead of time. Woot! I’m going to be in an actual play, Ma! And for Call of Cthulhu, no less, one of my favourite systems. I wasn’t sure what “flower punk” was exactly, but it sounded intriguing.

At the Session Zero I met the other six players with whom I’d be exploring the world of Alstromeria Alley. Yes, you read that correctly. When most casts were in the 3-4 player range, there were enough of us to play rugby. Honey explained that fourteen people had responded to her “seeking players” notice and, not wanting to turn anyone away, she decided to run two tables of seven. This was the first example I had of Honey’s kindness; it would not be the last by a longshot.

And that was out first season. Two tables of players, our characters unknowingly facing the same threat albeit from different vantage points and little coordination. I settled into the role of Doctor William Lindsay, a Scots medical doctor modelled loosely after my grandfather. Skilled medical practitioner and amateur culinary enthusiast, Dr. Lindsay fit in nicely with the rest of our rather eccentric cast of characters. Sadly, most of the VODs for Season 1 were lost to the aether but Episodes 1 and 2 still exist, they’ll give you a taste of our merry band. While I am sad the Breakfast Episode was lost, it does make it that much more special for the folks who were there.

When Season 1 came to a close Honey had already hinted there would be a Season 2. The pandemic, of course, was in full swing by this time, so it took a bit longer than originally planned to come back together. But come back we did, sadly missing some of the cast from both tables dues to life and scheduling. That was okay; Fearless Leader Honey decided that, if two tables of seven were doable, one table of nine was also doable! And so we launched Season 2 of Clockwork Vines with not only a rugby team but a few spares. Which is good, it turns out we would need them before the end.

Season 2 took a lot longer than Season 1 for many reasons. I think primarily it came down to us being in the second year of pandemic isolation, whatever that meant to the individuals at the table. In general 2021 did not start great for any us, and going into play we were a lot more cognizant that, if we weren’t at out limits, we were damn close. So we practiced a lot more care for one another, opting to reschedule games rather than try to play when we just weren’t there mentally or emotionally. As a result, episodes in Season 2 went up more sporadically than Season 1. But everyone involved was better for the waiting, I think.

I could (and probably will) write an entire separate post about Honey. How amazing she is as a storyteller and GM, how generous a worldbuilder she is, creating a setting as evocative as Alstromeria Alley while leaving room for us players to inhabit that world and create personal bits of it. In fact I think if I needed another word to describe Honey beyond kind, it would be generous. Not just at the table, but in organizing fundraisers like Honey Bunches of Hope and the myriad other supports she organizes for the groups she believes in. If I told you Honey is one of the best people I have met through TTRPGs I feel I would still be underselling her as a person. But if you’ve been lucky enough to game with Honey, you know. If you haven’t, I envy you still having that possibility in your future.

It’s fair to say that Clockwork Vines, both the game itself and the people involved, helped get me through a couple of bad years. I’m a simple man and if it had “just” been a good game that might have been enough. But it was more than that. My fellow players were excellent people and I’m better for knowing and playing with them. Thank you to Aras, Vey, Chase, Margaret, and Jess for making Season 1 such a memorable and fun experience. You’re all outstanding and I hope to play with all of you again. Thank you to Rowan, Bella, Velvet, Ryan, Paul, and Nikki for making Season 2 just as special as Season 1 but in a completely different and distinct way. And thank you for the level of support we showed each other this past season. It wasn’t easy but so worth it in the end.

But if you get a chance to play with any of these folks, take it. That goes doubly for Honey.

To anyone reading this who has worked in theatre, here’s a hint at how much this game meant to me: I’m having the same post-production sense of loss I used to have when we closed a really good production. I’ll get over it, of course, and we were already talking about a possible Season 3 so I know Alstromeria Alley isn’t closed to me forever quite yet.

But that doesn’t stop me from missing it.

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