29 October 2019

THE KRAKEN 2019 Report – A Different Perspective

I coerced my daughter into writing convinced my daughter Valentina Vacca to also write a report about THE KRAKEN. Since we took part in very different activities during the con, I think this very different perspective will make for an interesting addition to my own report. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 October

After at least ten hours of driving through France, Belgium, and Germany, we reached Schloss Neuhausen. We greeted long-time-no-seen friends and attended the ritual which would officially announce the beginning of our gaming retreat: the Opening Ceremony, with the presentation of the guests of honour (Sandy Petersen, Robin D Laws, Ken Rolston, Lynne Hardy, Jason Durall and Ian Cooper).

Then, after an awaited dinner, I started my very first game of the season: Siebenbürgen, a strategy game designed by my father Gianni Vacca, in which four ethnicities seek to develop their people in Romania, especially Transylvania, through four ages.




My brave Romanian people resisted the plague, the Mongol invasion, repelled the Hungarians, snuck between the Saxons, and saw their hills stolen by the evil Szeklers. Thanks to their ability to spread their Orthodox faith, they won the game in the end. Aaaaand led me to go to bed at 3 a.m.


Saturday, 19 October


Waking up after barely five hours of sleep was a difficult task, but not impossible. I managed to get out of bed and have a good breakfast. I needed to have some energy for the masterclasses to come: during these workshops, I took some precious notes for various purposes: my improv lessons, my theatre homeworks, and eventually my future scenarios, which I hope to GM.




Then came the famous Horror Lottery: this year I was not lucky— I was extremely lucky. I admit, I really enjoyed seeing all these jealous faces which talked to me with either amazement or kill rage: I was picked to be a player in Robin D Laws’ King in Yellow scenario and in this year’s Sandy Petersen horror scenario as well.

During the afternoon, no role-playing game yet, but I playtested a co-operative game called Perdition’s Mouth ran by its designer Timo Multamäki. A bunch of heterogeneous but skilful heroes seek to visit a dungeon deeper and deeper in order to destroy in its heart a Demon King. My epic dwarf had some fun by sending monsters and cultists to hell. So metal. I recommend it.



Then, the evening came, and serious business with it: it was time for Robin D Laws’ King in Yellow scenario: A Taste of Absinthe.




I absolutely do not want to spoil any detail of the scenario, but I certainly will remember this story – or was it real? I was a student in arts, my speciality was poetry. I entered a frightening, traumatising and horrific time loop which lead me to live again and again disturbing visions, of an apocalyptic and violent world that tried to pull me in more than once. Future, past, present, everything was the same, and all our actions were highly reflected… nobody wanted to literally beat him or herself to death, lose its face or be dragged and torn apart by enraged Parisians… you might think I am mad, but the illusions always have an inspiration that is rooted in reality. Simply drinking some alcohol with my friends and colleagues became a quest to save the world without succumbing to the temptation of reading that fascinating play: The King in Yellow. One thing is for sure: I will never write a poem that contains any of these letters again, ever: k, i, n, g, y, e, l, o, w.


Sunday, 20 October


True story: I actually was so anxious after my King in Yellow game that I drank a midnight beer to appease my spirits. A lime flavoured Beck’s. Don’t drink it. It’s absolutely disgusting. However, it helped me to go to bed with no fear, and I woke up full of energy. And what is the most obvious thing to do in the morning during a gaming convention? Playing Brains!, a game ran by Philip Glass in the Keller of the Schloss.

Now you maybe think that playing this game made me play a weak and panic-stricken human survivor during a Zombie Apocalypse. Absolutely not. It made me play a Zombie longing for some brains to devour. By playing a young lady that seemed to be twelve years old, any stupid human that had some empathy with my theatrical skills with me “playing dead” (even though I actually was dead) finished in my rotten stomach. What a way to fulfil one’s homicidal behaviour: we sure had loads of fun.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to attend the Dramatic Interaction Masterclass, the third workshop which interested me during the con. Luckily, it was then posted on YouTube and I was able to take my final precious notes:


After lunch, I played my second role-playing game won at the Horror Lottery: It has to start small by Sandy Petersen. How to describe this one? I was an elementary schoolteacher who just wanted to have fun with a man that she hoped would be her next boyfriend. But somehow, one my students knocked at my door saying his dad locked him in his room, after trying to force him to bring him to the forest by night. The poor fellow ran and escaped. This was alarming. Then, one other of my students – who really liked me – barged in saying his dad couldn’t bear the sunlight any longer. And going on and on, everybody came to my house (including my soon-to-become-my-boyfriend luckily). Eventually, that is how the story of how we saved the world by sacrificing ourselves began. We all died, but as heroes. And that eleven-year-old kid was sweet after all.



Finally, after dinner came my very last role-playing game for this year’s con: A Trip to the Lake, ran by Nikolas Tsamourtzis. I was exhausted, I was in a cellar: what could possibly have gone wrong? We all played stereotypical-slasher-teenage-characters and roleplayed it as a horror comedy movie. I for instance played a wallflower girl who actually was an expert in martial arts. The narrative system was very funny, as we often succeeded in what we decided to undertake but had to add something bad to the scene. And this is how my super badass action of throwing a rope with a knife around a three metre tall monster deer became ridiculous, when someone decided that the monster had to pull the rope to drag me to it. Well, we all managed to survive anyway. Once again, I highly recommend this narrative system!

27 October 2019

THE KRAKEN 2019 Report

Hello happy taxpayers. This is my traditional post-Kraken report. Expect a long and detailed one as — believe it or not — there are still some poor souls who wonder whether they should go to THE KRAKEN. Of course, you should. As this report will show, this is the very best game vacation ~ con on this side of the Plateau of Leng.

Thursday 18 October

We travelled from Paris to the Schloss by car. ‘Why didn't you fly?’ Well, getting to Berlin from Paris by plane emits 97kg of carbon dioxide per person per leg. With four people in the car, we emit 32kg per person per leg. It's also cheaper and you get to marvel at the beautiful countryside (ha ha, just kidding, it was boring as hell).
Anyway we stopped at the Belgian-German border in a cheap motel on the motorway, and were ready to leave first thing in the morning on Friday.

the glorious Vaccamobile


Just a few words on how games are organised at THE KRAKEN. Usually what happens is that prospective GMs and boardgame enthusiasts advertise the game they are going to run on the con's website. This leaves attendees enough time to decide which games they are going to try and sign up to during Friday night's Sign-Up ceremony (more on this later...); it also leaves Fabian Küchler, the con's supremo and stationery zealot enough time to craft minuscule cards with the names of the games on them that will be used during the notorious Sign-Up blood bath.
Anyway, this year I had advertised two boardgames I'd run: Siebenbürgen and Last Faction Hero.
Siebenbürgen is a four-player boardgame that aims at retracing the history of Transylvania and of its peoples from the Crisis of theThird Century to the 2007 enlargement of the European Union. Each player guides the destiny of one of the four historical peoples who have inhabited Transylvania, and tries to reach an optimal geographical and cultural situation by the time the game ends.
Siebenbürgen is not a “wargame”, but it is not a simple boardgame either. It is best described as a card-driven strategic boardgame, much like Twilight Struggle and similar games made popular by GMT Games, and it takes about three to four hours to play.
Last Faction Hero is a simple, fast-paced boardgame that pits several famous Gloranthan heroes against each other at the time of the Hero Wars. The game can be played in teams of two, which is much more fun. Contrary to my previous game, this one is more like a ‘filler’ and can be played in about 40 to 45 minutes.
Last but not least, the game is beautifully illustrated by veteran Gloranthan illustrator Dario Corallo (he of the Gloranthan Classics, Tales of the Reaching Moon, and Tradetalk covers).

Friday 19 October

Friday evening

Despite my best efforts, and German motorways being what they are (Stau, Werke, Stau), we only got at the Schloss late in the evening. We registered and had the good surprise of finding out that there had been an addition to the Schloss– a nice cottage across the street. Contrary to the main Gästehaus, ‘Ilse Bilse’ (that's the name of the new house) has its own kitchen, living room, and even fireplace!



our neighbours


We had dinner at the Schloss, and I had a great chat about the merits of various beers with Irish, English and German friends.


why are they all so tall?

After dinner, there was the traditional Sign-Up mayhem, during which the conventiongoers storm the display panels holding the above-mentioned miniature cards with the available games. People who run a game get to sign one game before the fray but since I was chatting with friends I forgot to. D'oh!
Anyway, I placed myself skilfully before the fray and I managed to more or less get what I wanted to.
After the fight, me and my fellow travellers settled for a game of Siebenbürgen, my very own boardgame I have been refining for several years now (see above), and we decided to play in the living room of the cottage to take advantage of its quiet. As usual, I lost, but for the first time I didn't write a single line of players' feedback or comment: all the rules are fully satisfactory now. Quite pleased with the result!



Saturday 20 October

Saturday morning

Another characteristic of THE KRAKEN is the sheer amount of high-quality panels. It's quite a quandary every year between attending the panels or the games. Obviously the panels are visible on YouTube or available as chapbook transcripts after the con, but it's much more fulfilling to attend them in person. As a result, I went for the full monty, and attended all the panels except one (the first Sunday panel).

one of the best aspects of THE KRAKEN: catching up with old friends

First Panel: Big Rubble and Activating Your Sandbox Setting

Hosts: Jeff Richard and Robin D Laws

Pavis is the archetypal sandbox setting because it's actually like a box (a walled city) in the sand (the Plaines of Prax). First principle: Sandbox = Strong player agency.
The Big Rubble is really archetypal because the players are supposed to explore it and find their own trouble, not wait for the GM to shower it upon them.
A Sourcebook is a high-level description of an area.
An Adventure provides super detailed focus (flashlight) on a given area.
The Sandbox is halfway between the sourcebook and the adventure , e.g., in the Big Rubble the descriptions are actually quite vague, and only some places are really detailed (e.g., the Puzzle Canal).



For the new edition of the Big Rubble, Robin is trying to give more detail for some areas and also to provide adventure hooks not only for some locales but for everywhere, e.g., the PCs talk to the Mani tribe and this could develop into a relationship with the Mani tribe, or a mission for them, or whatever, and this because of a much more detailed description of the Mani tribe than in the old source material. And it's similar for Troll Town or the Garden.
In a nutshell, the new book will give material for the GM to be able to improvise adventures anywhere in the Rubble.
Also the idea is to make the sandbox dynamic, thanks to the current situation (the Hero Wars). The players modify the environment, and the environment is not static because of the wars around Pavis:
  • Argrath has taken over New Pavis and is preparing the takeover of Dragon Pass
  • The new life paths have the PCs interact with the movers and shakers of the region
  • Much more PC interaction with the past of the city
  • Praxians have much more of an influence on what happens
  • The old order has collapsed, but the new one is only starting to be enforced
  • Local allies will be necessary for the story arc (see below)
The new adventures contain moral dilemmas, etc. rather than mere looting. Second principle of the Sandbox: there is a story — it's just not railroady. The GM buries the plots and the players have to unearth them.
Story arc: the Eye of Wakboth is buried beneath the area and is about to be released.
Third principle of the Sandbox: the story elements are triggered by the players. Success in a given mini-adventure is not an end to itself: it is actually the trigger to an episode of the major story arc, e.g., the PCs go to Ogre Island and clear an area of Chaos... well, that might actually accelerate the release of the Eye of Wakboth!
The lore of the setting (the past history of the city) is also to be slowly discovered by the players — the book will feature lots of artefacts from the past ages, Plunder-style.


The Horror Lottery

Some games (those GM'ed by the panellists) are not available for sign up during the Sign Up ceremony. Instead, our names are put in a big hat, and the panellists draw their lucky players. My daughter is a lucky devil... she was drawn twice, and so she got to play with both Robin D Laws and Sandy Petersen. Me? Nothing. Groan.


Second Panel: Master Map Show and Tell

Host: Jeff Richard

Basically, Jeff came with lots of old and new maps of the Dragon Pass area. The old ones were from Greg Stafford's times, and the new ones are from Jeff's cabinet.
Obviously, the old maps are from back when Greg was preparing White Bear and Red Moon, which started as an interactive fantasy novel (which got rejected on the basis that ‘fantasy as a genre is dead’ [LOL]), and which ended up as a boardgame (the rest is history).
The scale of all the maps is 1cm = 4km; Greg used the same scale for all his maps. The climate and terrain are mostly based on California and the American Southwest. Jeff has been expanding Greg's maps of Dragon Pass, the Holy Country, and Prax at the same scale. Greg's way of creating maps was one A2 sheet of paper at a time, which explains why most political entities nicely correspond to an A2 sheet of paper! Looking at the maps, you realise Sartar is small and underpopulated but it sits right on the major trade route between the Lunar Empire and Esrolia and Prax.
The idea is to have the new maps ready for publication with the RuneQuest Campaign Book.




Third Panel: Investigative Role-Playing Masterclass

Hosts: Cat Tobin, Lynne Hardy & Robin D Laws

Robin starts by summarising the merits of the Gumshoe system, mostly by making a distinction between general skills and investigative skills. The latter basically ‘always succeed’ in a Gumshoe-powered game. The emphasis is on sorting out the information that the PCs have found, rather than finding the information itself. Plus lots of advice about using this approach with Call of Cthulhu, e.g., Library skill always succeeds for the clues, the roll is just to convince the librarian to let you in.
Lynne: Always think about having the information available in more than one place so if the investigators miss location A they can always find it in location B.
Cat: Clues must be prioritised. It's the really fundamental clues that must be made ‘moveable’ as Lynne says.
Lynne: Even if it is an illusion of Agency, it's still Agency.
Robin: Use red herrings to put the investigators back on track, e.g., if the werewolves are not the killers, have the investigators find the information that puts them back on track when they meet the werewolves.
The job of the GM is also to spur the investigators on — rather than have them think forever ‘should we do this or that’, instigate them to do it!
It's OK to instigate the investigators to do sensible things: they're supposed to be seasoned investigators, whereas the players aren't.
Lynne: Use the skills to help them: if an investigator has a high Architecture skill, tell them ‘you notice this and that’ automatically — again, no roll.


Saturday afternoon

Fourth Panel: The Great Yelmalio vs Elmal Debate

Hosts: Jeff Richard and Robin D Laws

This one was pretty funny. Jeff explained how Yelmalio was so much better than Elmal, and Robin was doing the opposite, with the attendance cheering and booing. Since I hate both Yelmalio and Elmal (I often play trolls or Darkness-worshipping humans), I quickly lost interest in the arguments that they used; I mostly followed the cheering and booing.


Fifth Panel: What's New with RuneQuest

Hosts: Jason Durall and Jeff Richard

Obviously the first thing out is the Rattling Wind, a free scenario out of the forthcoming RQ adventure anthology The Pegasus Plateau and Other Stories, a collection of low-barrier introductory scenarios. Next: the Smoking Ruins, a collection of more epic-level scenarios, which will include source material about Beast Valley and the South Wilds.
Why is it taking so long? Art art art art art art art art art art art...
There are lots of artist who can do vanilla fantasy or Cthulhoid art; there really aren't many artists who can draw Gloranthan art. And the latter also goes through several iterations.
The Cults book will be two or three books, including the Red Book of Magic (a compendium of all the RQ spells). The art is coming along beautifully but it's a lot of work.
The Starter Set will be a boxed set with four adventures (two of which are investigative scenarios) set in Sartar, and it will contain a fully-fledged Jonstown city guide with a cool map, similar to the Clearwine one. This should make the Starter Set super appealing, even to seasoned players.
Further on in the pipe: an Elder Races book with an emphasis on character generation (expanding on what is available in the Bestiary), and Gloranthan Voices-like content.
Other geographical source books in the pipe: Whitewall, Nochet, Pavis, Big Rubble, Troll Lands, all by various authors.
And obviously in parallel Jeff is super busy working on the RuneQuest Campaign Book and the RuneQuest GM Source Book with battle rules that will not be “wargaming” rules but rules about how your characters live through a battle, how they shine, how they are affected by it.

Saturday afternoon's panels

Gods War

No more panels for Saturday, so we started a five-player Gods War game with the following factions: Chaos, Sea, Darkness, Storm, and the Invisible God (moi). It was the first time I played in a game with the Chaos faction since the early playtests with Sandy, and I had forgotten how quickly it became a case of everyone against Chaos — which nicely allowed me to finish first, but just a single victory point ahead of Chaos. Overall, I think I prefer the games without the Chaos faction, as they are more open and there is much more diplomacy involved.

another Gods War game (not the one I played)

Saturday Evening

Played a very nice Call of Cthulhu game GM'd by Evil Gaz aka the Iron GM. I was Vanessa the Scientist, debunker extraordinaire of fraudulent mystics and faux mesmerisers! in the exciting occult-crazed London of Queen Victoria.

playing in Gewölbekeller

Since this is a Gloranthan blog (rather than a Call of Cthulhu one), I have asked Patrick, a player from my Paris RQ:G group, to share his experience of playing in a HeroQuest game with Ian Cooper on Saturday night. I think it's also interesting because they were playing Puppeteers and, except in 13th Age in Glorantha, I feel there hasn't been much material written about the mysterious Puppeteer Troupe.
Patrick was playing Orane Nowhere-Girl, a runaway girl, and the troupe was travelling to Alone for the Aldachuria, a festival sponsored by Harvar Ironfist with a grand prize of 200 gold Wheels (the story is set during the Lunar occupation, slightly after Temertain's assassination). The following is Orane's tale.
Our small troupe had a play titled “the Prince and the Sad Lady” in our repertoire, i.e., a play about prince Sarotar of Sartar and his wife Arkillia who was kidnapped by Esrolians — some say she left by her own volition, but we wanted to set the record straight by telling the truth. Sarotar tried to save his beloved wife, but both of them died in the ensuing fights. They had a daughter who survived them, called Marlesta, and who eventually became a Puppeteer.
At the beginning of our story, we have thus organised the very first shows for the ‘tournament’. We first lured kids with illusions and short sketches (I used my puppets Tat and Tol, emphasising the cute aspect of Yinkin). Then we tried to achieve the maximum success on the applauseometer during the city pageants. Our main opponents were Gerrard’s Men, another Puppeteer Troupe, who came to taunt and disturb us before our pageant. There was a lady amongst them, Arissa, who seemed to be able to talk with spirits, and who put my mother's pendant under my nose, the very one I'd ‘lost’ after a pageant in Boldhome where Gerrard’s Men were also present... Arissa says she can talk with my deceased mother. I am 18/19, and haven't talked with her or have had any news from her since I was 15 and ran away. So according to Arissa, she’s dead!



The following day, Gerrard’s Men's gig is a great success, the public is cheering, and we have to play just after them... I am playing Arkillia Sad Lady. I am happy in my palace in Boldhome, dancing and singing while I am waiting for my beloved prince to return. But instead some foreigners arrive, who dance in a circle around me, a circle that gets tighter and tighter, I feel oppressed... My song becomes a lament, my dance a contorsion. Strings appear, as from a puppeteer forcing his or her puppet to progress towards the back of the stage until I disappear in a last cry. Sarotar rushes in, flaming sword in hand. But it is too late. By the open window of the palace, he can see the fleeing scoundrels... Furious, grief-stricken, he dries his tears and follows in hot pursuit. The choir is silent. The public cheers loudly, it is a triumph. Gerrard’s Men try to play down the magnitude of their defeat by offering a free concert after the pageants. We also think about playing the show another time for free. But in the evening an official comes and meets us; he is the festival organiser and doesn't want us to compete against the official programme. So we give up, much to the discontent of the fans who came to see the free show... During the night, we can hear dogs howling (yes, dogs in Sartar) and swords clashing at the far end of the tent city in which all the artists are staying. When we get there, we can see the leader of Gerrard’s Men, Derryl, dead in his blood with a huge spear wound. Some Gagarthi, maybe associates of Harvar's who uses them as mercenaries, are wreaking havoc. In the confusion, we meet Arissa. The Gagarthi are hot on her trail but she says the dogs are not after her— they are after my mother's pendent... Panic-stricken, she gives the pendent back to me and flees in the night. We run away when a man and his alynx block our path. The shadow cat speaks. His name is Durnan, and the rebel with him is Gurnan. They are here to help us abscond. We decide we must trust them and follow them to a cellar in the city where we can talk. Durnan asks my uncle, Brogard, the leader of our Puppeteer Troupe, to tell me the truth. Uncle Brogard tells me I am Orane, daughter of Sorana, daughter of Marlesta, daughter of Arkillia Sad Lady... and Sarotar of the Sartar Dynasty. I am the last heir to the occupied kingdom with Kallyr who — according to Durnan — has alienated too many people to be able to still lead the rebellion. The whole festival was but a ploy to attract all the Puppeteer Troupes of the region and thus find me. Because it is Tokarse, Harvar's lieutenant, who killed my mother and trained his dogs to track her scent... Durnan asks me to join the rebels, and to lead them in their fight against the Lunars.




That's all quite of a sudden and quite too much for a girl lost in a cellar, an orphan denied of the bohemian lifestyle she'd always dreamed of. But a decison has to be made, and so I accept to leave with Gurnan and Durnan, and most of all I accept to attract Tokarse's Gagarthi after me, so that their men can ambush them and inflict upon them the loss they deserve. We surreptitiously leave the city, and a cloud is soon upon us. The Gagarthis walk in the air amidst a storm, their dogs pointing their nose towards us. We meet Durnan's band, who has prepared its ambush around a clearing. We take place in the clearing as if we were live bait, and start to draw upon our powers. Far in the woods, our illusionary doubles are anxiously waiting for us... The barking draws nearer. The Gagarthi are upon us. They raise their spears to charge... and we call upon Donandar to exchange our bodies with our illusionary doubles! The Gagarthi plunge their spears into our doubles and receive a shower of arrows from the ambushing rebels, who then charge and kill the wounded Gagarthi. We are not artists any longer. We are fugitives — and the first Puppeteers to prepare to fight against the most powerful empire in the world... But Truth shall be born from Illusion!

Sunday morning

Last Faction Hero

Missed the sixth panel (Calling Cthulhu with Lynne Hardy), played a four-player game of Last Faction Hero instead. Everybody concentrated against Harrek and his terrible double attack power, so the game was pretty soon down to a three-player confrontation between Cragspider (yours truly), Androgeus, and Jar-Eel. Since both Cragspider and Androgeus are immune to her charm, Jar-Eel was soon out too. The final confrontation was between Cragspider and Androgeus; I thought I was going to win (I had plenty of allies), but Topi's masterful use of the map meant that he won the day. And thus continued the established tradition of me never winning at my own games.





Seventh Panel: What The Only Old One Told Me

Host: Sandy Petersen

This panel was a kind of continuation of previous ‘secrets of Glorantha’ panels by the Only Old One, er, I mean Sandy Petersen, which are available as chapbooks by THE KRAKEN.
Honestly, a lot of what Sandy ‘revealed’ had already been said during previous secrets of Glorantha seminars, but his anecdotes are always pleasant to hear. Also, some of the following might be new (I was too lazy to check), so here you are:
  • There is only one single Blue Vadeli left, he is 13, and he is a good guy— for now.
  • There is a zone in Ralios where spells do not work because it is just above one of the ginormous iron chains the Dwarfs are building for their Plan for world dominance.
  • The Dorastor map in the Argan Argar Atlas is wrong because it is based on the map that was given to PCs during the in-house Chaosium campaign, and which was supposed to be misleading. Dorastor is actually 4 times larger. [Note: I have checked this one, and I can see it is already on pages 18-19 of the chapbook More Forgotten Secrets of Glorantha]
  • Ralzakark promotes only two cults in Dorastor: Chalana Arroy and Humakt, because they are illuminated and are not limited in their use of Rune magic.
  • Ralzakark is not the guy behind the threat told in Cults of Terror.
the real Dorastor


This was followed by a session of Q&A, during which I asked the following [of interest to my current RQ:G campaign]:
Q: Who wrote the petroglyphs in Chern Durel?
A: Nobody knows.
Well... if even Sandy doesn't know, I guess I can continue elaborating my own theories!

Eighth Panel: Dramatic Interaction Masterclass

Hosts: Cat Tobin and Robin D Laws

The aim of the masterclass was for us GMs to manage to master the interaction between characters that have conflicting goals, e.g., the thief says “Let's backstab the guy” while the paladin says “No, no! No way!”. In D&D, this usually doesn't lead anywhere. In the Drama System, this is managed by an economy of tokens (vague explanation at the end of this page).
A similar issue is when a player introduces an element in a narrative role-playing game that the other players do not like.
Consent is also a similar issue, as emphasised by the discussions around the use of the X-card. A mutually-agreed upon list of topics to be avoided can actually make a TTRPG session more intense because nobody is afraid of going as far or as deep as possible into the unlisted topics because obviously everyone is cool with them. The Character Relationship Map (example here), also from the Drama System, enables the GM to take advantage from the relationships the players have written down to come up with cool adventure ideas, e.g., in a fantasy game with a bizarre cast of characters the Character Relationship Map may explain why a Dragonewt, a Minotaur, a Trickster and an Ernaldan Priestess hang out together.
It also enables the GM to create missions that enrich these relationships rather than ‘go and fetch the MacGuffin’.
Also: there is intra-character tension that may lead to interesting inter-character tension.
Duty <-> Freedom
Altruism <-> Selfishness
e.g., a character's Duty vs Freedom where the character doesn't want to obey a given order whereas the other characters want to. Again, the GM must take advantage of this kind of situation.
A similar case is provided by Player Character <-> Sidekick, as it's cool to bring in other player characters into this relationship. 

Sunday morning's panels

Sunday afternoon

RuneQuest Mythic Iceland

Chaosium published Mythic Iceland (based on the Basic Role-Playing System) back in 2012. Pedro Ziviani has been working on a second edition for a long time, which will be based on the new RuneQuest. One cool thing of 2nd edition Mythic Iceland is that Ravens are a playable race, so Pedro GM'ed a Raven-only game for us!
It was deeply entrenched in Icelandic Mythology and felt like a fairy tale of sorts so it was exceedingly pleasing. I was just jealous that the other Ravens got all the shiny treasure at the end.
It was also a very enriching gaming experience: when you play a 2-hit point character in a gritty TTRPG like RuneQuest, you know your noncombat skills are going to be your best friends. Icelandic Ravens have a 'Prophecy' power: by spending 3 magic points, you receive a clue from the GM as a vison of the past or of the future. Since I also use Divination/Prophecy a lot in my RQ games, I really enjoyed this.

my Raven character sheet

During that time, my daughter was playing one of her lottery games!

Sunday evening

Contemporary Call of Cthulhu

I was Steph Martinelli, 25, a tall, strong brunette in today's Manchester. A lover of 'the Fast and the Furious', I had a ball when I hijacked a TfGM bus to go and save my best friend Tish from that spooky fellow.
I tell you— playing in the 2010s is much more fun than in the 1920s!

I hope you're jealous of my KRAKEN all-rolled-up

Sunday late evening

Share your treats

This was a new addition to THE KRAKEN: since people come from all over Europe, it was suggested they should bring a treat from their country to share with the other Krakeneers. Needless to say, I found Belgian cheese much more to my taste than Hobnobs (despite their association with TTRPGs).

a selection of northern European artery cloggers

a selection of French and Belgian cheeses


You had ONE job
By the way, sorry Runeblogger. I was supposed to ask Jeff about the rumours mentioned in my earlier blog post, but he had to leave on Saturday, and I couldn't talk with him!

German beer was in constant supply.



All the nice pictures are by Aliénor, Jean-Michel, Valentina. All the ugly ones are by yours truly.

25 September 2019

Short But Interesting News

So rumour has it Chaosium is about to revive lots of old favourites. The Basic Role-Playing System first, possibly followed by Superworld and Elfquest. I shall try and pry into this and get more information from the Chaosium people at The Kraken!



07 September 2019

The Conspiracy Theory

Revolution D100 is an elegant iteration of the Basic Role-Playing System published by Alephtar Games. Of the many available flavours of the D100 System, each has its own benefits and flaws. What I particular like with Revolution D100 is that the skill creep that we may often experience with D100-based RPGs has been cleverly stemmed by having a limited set of skills that are subsequently expanded via traits.

Another great improvement over other D100-based RPGs is the concept of Conflict. Much like in a narrative RPG, instead of solving salient situations via a string of skill checks, important encounters/challenges/whatnot are framed within the scope of a Conflict. The party chooses a leading character who will face the enemy/threat with an appropriate skill. The other characters describe how they support the leading one, and Conflict points are gained or lost.

I have played in a variety of Revolution D100 campaign games, and I feel the system is best suited to complex, background-heavy settings such as historical, contemporary or sci-fi ones. It is hence a good piece of news that Alephtar Games have chosen a contemporary/mystery setting for their free Revolution D100 quick-start.

The free PDF is titled 'The Conspiracy Theory' and contains:
  • a four-page summary of the bare-bones rules
  • a 17-page adventure cleverly interspersed with extra rules when they are needed
  • pre-gens
  • a rules summary

You can download The Conspiracy Theory for free from DriveThruRPG.

20 July 2019

Cults of Glorantha

So the Gods & Goddesses of Glorantha book will be called Cults of Glorantha after all, and it will contain exactly 100 cult descriptions.

Here is the definitive list:
  1. Kyger Litor
  2. Anilla
  3. Aranea
  4. Argan Argar
  5. Gorakiki
  6. Himile
  7. Subere
  8. Xentha
  9. Xiola Umbar
  10. Zorak Zoran
  11. Magasta
  12. Choralinthor
  13. Dormal
  14. Engizi
  15. Oslira
  16. Ernalda
  17. Aldrya
  18. Asrelia
  19. Babeester Gor
  20. Caladra & Aurelion
  21. Donandar
  22. Eiritha
  23. Flamal
  24. The Grain Goddesses
  25. Hykim & Mykih
  26. Maran Gor
  27. Mostal
  28. Ty Kora Tek
  29. Uleria
  30. Voria
  31. Yelm
  32. Dayzatar
  33. Dendara
  34. Gorgorma
  35. Lodril
  36. Lokarnos
  37. The Lowfires
  38. Polaris
  39. Shargash
  40. Yelmalio
  41. Yelorna
  42. Orlanth
  43. Chalana Arroy
  44. Eurmal
  45. Issaries
  46. Lhankor Mhy
  47. Barntar
  48. Daka Fal
  49. Foundchild
  50. Heler
  51. Humakt
  52. Lanbril
  53. Mastakos
  54. Odayla
  55. Storm Bull
  56. Valind
  57. Waha
  58. Ygg
  59. Yinkin
  60. Horned Man
  61. Earth Witch
  62. Evening Star
  63. Frog Woman
  64. Kolat
  65. Morning Star
  66. Rainbow Girl
  67. Raven
  68. Six Sisters
  69. Sun Hawk
  70. Thunder Bird
  71. Travelling Stone
  72. Twin Sisters
  73. White Princess
  74. Robber
  75. Sky River Titan
  76. Oakfed
  77. Seven Mothers
  78. Danfive Xaron
  79. Deezola
  80. Etyries
  81. Hon-eel
  82. Hwarin Dalthippa
  83. Irrippi Ontor
  84. Jakaleel
  85. Nysalor
  86. Red Goddess
  87. Teelo Norri
  88. Yanafal Tarnils
  89. Yara Aranis
  90. Primal Chaos
  91. Bagog
  92. Cacodemon
  93. Crimson Bat
  94. Krarsht
  95. Krjalk
  96. Mallia
  97. Pocharngo
  98. Thanatar
  99. Thed
  100. Vivamort

I must confess I had no idea who the Lowfires, the Evening and the Morning Stars, the Rainbow Girl, the Six Sisters, the Twin Sisters, the White Princess, and the Robber were. I had to look them up in my PDF collection — and I still don't know who the Twin Sisters are (I thought the term referred to Asrelia and Ty Kora Tek, but they have their own entries). The Robber is still eluding me.

Also unsure whether “the Travelling Stone” refers to Larnste or to someone else.

02 July 2019

Back from the Eternal Con 2019

This is my traditional ‘Back from the Eternal Con’ blog post. For those who do not know, there’s been a Chaosium-friendly convention at Burg Stahleck each year during the Whit week-end, in a beautiful castle-turned-youth hostel overlooking the Rhine, for 23 years. The name of the con and its organisers have changed over time; it’s been called The Eternal Con for 10 years now, after having been the Tentacles convention (the original one) between 1996 and 2009. Bacharach (the quaint little town Burg Stahleck overlooks) is in Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the closest German states to the French border, so I always drive there. This year I have been even able to use my fantastic Christmas present... a 12V onboard espresso machine. The pleasure of drinking real coffee on the motorway is indescribable — I reckon even HP Lovecraft would have been at a loss for adjectives.



Iä!
Anyway, after an uneventful Paris-Bacharach drive (we didn’t even run into any real Staus), my daughter, myself and fellow RQ enthusiast Patrick arrived to sunny Burg Stahleck to be welcomed by the organisers and given our room keys. For the first time, we had electronic keys meaning we didn’t have to rely on roommates to get the key to our room— every conventiongoer had theirs!

with daughter in front of the Schloss

the Schloss and the Rhine

Hobbit-sized beds :-(

In terms of room, we ended up in one in the basement I didn’t even know existed. Given the heat, it was a cracking location; however, the ceiling was pretty low and, even though we are not very tall, the hobbit-sized beds were quite uncomfortable.

The Eternal Con has always been a very family-friendly con, with many families and kids in attendance (see my previous blog posts), this year possibly even more so than the last years. Honestly, I was expecting a hellish week-end with lots of screaming kids but most of them were well-behaved and, except at lunch- and dinner-time, we barely noticed them, thanks to several staff members who kept looking after them.
This being a German con, in a German youth hostel, we had scarcely time to play one or two boardgames when dinner time hit us at six o’clock. Food was better than last year, even though it remains youth hostel fare, but it still remains millions of miles away from the delicate stuff you get at The Kraken.


FRIDAY 7 JUNE, EVENING, Grand Opening Ceremony
As mentioned in my introduction, this was the 10th Eternal Con but also the 23rd con at Stahleck, so much emphasis was put on pictures of the last cons during the opening ceremony. Even though the Eternal Con is supposed to be an international con, the attendance this year was mostly German. Luckily there was a large group of British and Dutch players, plus some from other countries, mostly Bulgaria and Finland.

After the ceremony ended, the game signup board was unveiled and, consistently with what I had noticed from the attendance, most games were in German! Also, having had a difficult and tiring first half of 2019, I hadn’t prepared any RPG session on my part. Luckily my Gloranthan boardgame prototype, Last Faction Hero, was well advanced in terms of development, and I had plenty of players volunteering to play.


SATURDAY 8 JUNE, MORNING
Over breakfast, discussed the Bulgarian hobby scene with Antonia Doncheva from Sofia, who is among the organisers of През 9 земи (“over nine lands”), Bulgaria’s No.1 fantasy convention. Antonia is also an artist; you can see her art on p190 of the Glorantha Sourcebook, and she is currently drawing amazing art for the upcoming Gods and Goddesses of Glorantha books.


SATURDAY 8 JUNE, 10am
Even though Chaosium is a US company, many of its creative people live in Europe, and particularly in Germany. This is why German conventions have traditionally hosted Chaosium panels.
On Saturday at 10am, I attended the first panel, devoted to the various Chaosium games.

The speakers were Claudia Loroff, Kalin Kadiev and David Scott. Jeff Richard had been badly bitten by a bug, preventing him from travelling to Bacharach, and he was hence participating via an online video chat platform.

the Chaosium panel in the main room; Jeff is on the screen
Anyway, here are my notes.

Call of CthulhuLynne Hardy is now on board full-time as the Associate Editor for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu line.
The Berlin - The Wicked City sourcebook/scenario book is out in dead tree format. Jeff emphasises how deeply rooted in the 1920s Berlin art scene the book is.

Cover art for the Berlin book; I love it!
The old out-of-print CoC scenarios are going to be gradually reprinted, but rewritten and with new art. “Rewritten” here doesn’t only mean updated for the 7th edition rules – the way RPG scenarios are written has evolved a lot since CoC was first published, so the rewriting may actually impact the contents of the scenario.

PendragonPendragon is back in the Chaosium fold.
The 5.2 edition, which was out-of-print, has been republished in dead tree format.
Next in the pipe are the Paladin QuickStarter (basically Pendragon set in Continental Europe), followed by Paladin Adventures.
There will be a Pendragon 6.0 edition on par with what has been done for CoC and RQ:G in terms of layout and artwork.
Possibly also a Pendragon Starter Set to lure younger players into the hobby; this will really be aimed at people with zero RPG experience.

AquelarreAn English-language version of the classic Spanish-language mediaeval role-playing game has been successfully crowdfunded, and Chaosium will distribute it in English-speaking countries once the Kickstarter project is fulfilled.

Social Media PresenceWith the demise of Google+, Chaosium is now focusing on Facebook and BRP Central. It’s too difficult to focus on more than two social networks.

BoardgamesMiskatonic University: The Restricted Collection is out. It plays in 20 to 30 minutes. The next boardgame out will be the Red Thread by Pedro Ziviani, then either Folklore (also by Pedro) or Credo (by Chris Gidlow).

7th Sea
Chaosium also brought in John Wick’s 7th Sea, a swashbuckling RPG with a strong player narrative side.

RuneQuest: Adventures in GloranthaJeff explains that RQ:G has to be viewed as a rule kit rather than a rule set. More than YGWV, you must think YRQWV— the game is yours to house rule.

There a quite a few books in the pipe, written by different people, so it’s not easy to say which one will be out first.

Jason Durall is working on The Smoking Ruins, a scenario book, which is soon going to be in layout. Even though there aren’t any hard ETAs, The Smoking Ruins should be the next book out, and we (the panel audience) are shown its cover, which is truly amazing.
The Smoking Ruins will be followed by The Pegasus Plateau, another book of scenarios, which will mostly be linked to famous locations in the Dragon Pass area.
Next will be the RuneQuest Starter Set, priced at around 20/25 euros.

Jeff Richard is (still) working on the Gods & Goddesses of Glorantha book. If you check my blog post dated 5 March 2019 you will notice that, at the time, Jeff was contemplating approximately 70 cults. The list of cults has now grown to 100! Jeff says the book is turning into the No.1 Glorantha resource after the Guide to Glorantha, and that it will be presented as a set of two books, possibly accompanied by a third book with all the spirit & Rune magic spells. There will also be maps of religions per area, like in an atlas of world religions.
I know I tend to be over-enthusiastic with regards to Gloranthan stuff, but the art of the Gods & Goddesses of Glorantha book we were shown is BEYOND AMAZING – it looked like it was from the art book of a Bronze Age exhibition from a major museum rather than from a role-playing game!

Another book Jeff is working on is the RuneQuest Campaign Book, a season-based, epic campaign set after the Dragonrise in the Dragon Pass area – your heroes get to play in the Hero Wars at last! The book will include rules for large-scale battles, magical artefacts, interactions with ‘super heroes’ (Argrath, Jar-eel…), hero-questing rules + events in the Lunar Empire during the Hero Wars. There will also be mythological maps.


Misc
Regarding the current US-China trade war and the foreseeable 25% increase in tariffs, Chaosium is obviously already looking at alternatives so as not to impact the customers, price-wise.


SATURDAY 8 JUNE, NOON
I had lunch with Claudia Loroff and Kalin Kadiev; we had a great chat about Bronze Age food because of a book Claudia is writing about Bronze Age food (and she’s personally testing all the recipes!). Our conversation addressed various subjects: food itself, seasons and weather, agriculture and grain goddesses in Glorantha, the importance of salt, the impact of all of this on how people live, how society is organised, how people preserve food… down to wayfood for player characters! I really think there could be cracking Gloranthan scenarios centred on food, about who owns the salt mine, about stealing all the cereals that have been stored or burning the rival clan’s grain…


SATURDAY 8 JUNE, AFTERNOON
More Last Faction Hero playtesting with friends. This provided fantastic feedback to improve the rules and add extra event cards.


SATURDAY 8 JUNE, EVENING
Yay! Played a HeroQuest: Glorantha Mostali game set in 1653 refereed by Chaosium’s very own David Scott, mostly with UK players (and hence with lots of tongue-in-cheek humour). We got to manoeuvre Faced Statues* against a Chaos kaiju to save the world machine!
*they were exactly like the Faceless Statue except they had a face

a full-Mostali table


SUNDAY 9 JUNE, MORNING
The traditional Trollball tournament took place in the morning (see trollball.eu if you want to take part in next year’s tournament). Last year’s tournament had been quite lacklustre. This year’s was massive: six teams, huge attendance, people with T-shirts of their favourite team... probably the best tournament of the last years. For the record, the Carcosan team won.

Trollball! picture by Heini

Trollball! picture by Heini


SUNDAY 9 JUNE, NOON
My daughter and I skipped lunch for a visit of the old town with Gwen Mott and Dan Barker. We talked over Flammkuchen about the possibility of an upcoming issue (No.21) of Tales of the Reaching Moon that David Hall, David Scott and Peter Erickson would like to publish via crowdfunding. For those of you who are not Glorantha fans (but then why are you reading this blog in the first place?), Tales of the Reaching Moon was an almost professionally-produced Gloranthan fanzine that was published in the UK between 1989 (issue No.1) and 2002 (issue No.20), i.e., during the bleakest days of our hobby. Tales of the Reaching Moon’s role was paramount in keeping the flame of Gloranthan fandom alive in the Great Darkness, so obviously talks about issue No.21 strongly sparked my interest. I hope I can tell you more about this worthwhile endeavour in a future blog post.


SUNDAY 9 JUNE, AFTERNOON
After a nice hike uphill to get back to the castle, we played a Call of Catthulhu adventure set in mediaeval Japan, refereed by Gwen. I played an earnest “twofootologist” (a cat who understands humans and studies their behaviour) while my daughter was playing our party’s ninja cat. It goes without saying that we managed to save humanity— and received a full year’s fish allowance as a reward.

bespoke Call of Catthulhu dice

the game as advertised on the signup board


SUNDAY 9 JUNE, EVENING
As usual, the con was too short and before I knew it it was the Closing ceremony already. Also, as usual, it was sad. But fear not, there is a new Eternal Con next year, so let’s all meet between 29 May and 1 June 2020 at Burg Stahleck!

This year’s Eternal Con introduced a brand-new event and concept— the Art Fair. There were a half dozen artists presenting and selling their work, which ranged from traditional RPG art to oil paintings and to fantasy jewellery (my daughter bought a stunning Crimson Bat pendant by Dan Barker). The organisers said this section might grow in the future. I certainly hope it does. And if I may add a suggestion— T-shirts! I would have gladly purchased some of the art on a T-shirt rather than as a print.


SUNDAY 9 JUNE, LATE EVENING
The RuneQuest panel was the second panel this year. Since RQ:G had already been addressed during then Chaosium panel (see above), this was more like a Q&A session.

Q: Can you give us a heads-up regarding the Jonstown Compendium?
A: The Jonstown Compendium (a repository of fan-written RQ:G material, similar to what already exists for CoC called the Miskatonic Repository, and available via DriveThruRPG) is within Michael O’Brien’s able hands, and should be online soon.

Q: Can you give us a heads-up regarding the Nochet book?
A: The book is in preparation, being written by 5 different authors.

Q: Can you give us a heads-up regarding Gloranthan boardgames?
A: The Dragon Pass boardgame is in stand-by because Chris Klug is working on a Grazelanders book.

Q: Can you give us a heads-up regarding HeroQuest?
A: HeroQuest is undergoing a major overhaul (via the SRD being written by Ian Cooper, see my blog post dated 3 November 2018). When the SRD is ready, it will be open to anybody who wants to use that engine. Ian is also putting together an HQ superhero book, and another one based on 19th century Victorian literature that will emphasise social interactions.

Q: What about Claudia’s Gloranthan Cookbook?
A: It will actually be more like a Gloranthan travelogue with recipes from the various places the main character visits (see my discussion with Claudia above). The book is 80% written.

Q: What about the new Pavis & Big Rubble book?
A: Robin D Laws is half-way through the first book. The current ETA is a 2021 release for the two books together.

we do look like a cult, don't we?

I missed the traditional singalong because I had to leave early in the morning but I understand it wasn’t that different from last year’s singalong, about which you can read in my 2018 report.