27 May 2014

HeroQuest Glorantha

As mentioned in my previous blog entry, there's a new edition of HeroQuest coming up, specifically targeted at playing in Glorantha (the HeroQuest 2 rule book presents itself as a generic role-playing game).

very early draft cover :)

Game mechanics-wise, this is not really going to be a new edition; at least not in the sense that HeroQuest 2 was a new edition compared with HeroQuest, or HeroQuest compared with Hero Wars.

According to what Jeff has posted on the Glorantha G+ community wall, the main rules-related changes are going to be:
- explicitly "roll high"
- as-you-go is the default method
- lots of confusing optional rules dropped
- Very High difficulty level increased in value
- rules against hoarding Hero Points

But the real added value will be, as the title of the book implies, in terms of Gloranthan play. Today, the only cultural region with fully-fledged rules is Sartar, thanks to the Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes supplement.

Now, Jeff promises us that the new book will enable us to create Tarshite, Praxian, and Esrolian characters on top of Sartarite ones. There will be seven cult write-ups, including Waha and the Seven Mothers [Wot... No Kyger Litor cult write-up??]. There will be rules to make a clearer distinction between Rune magic, spirit magic, sorcery, and Lunar magic. And the book will include a sample heroquest.

12 May 2014

Back from Chimériades

Back from the first con of the 'con season'!  It took place in a wonderful château in the middle of Provence.

Here is my feedback from the glorious Chimériades convention, based on my faint and inexact memories [not because of the booze but because of sleep deprivation]:

THURSDAY 8 MAY, late at night

Played La Piscine by Grégory Privat, possibly the most traumatic rpg scenario I've ever played, masterfully GM'ed by its wonderfully evil author, in a freezing oubliette [true story] of the château. A fantastic experience.

mood is everything

FRIDAY 9 MAY, noon, first panel

As usual, and despite my having lived in France for 36 years, I didn't know any of the French games or of the French authors present at the Chimériades [that is, besides the obnoxious Monsieur Privat]. Despite this pesonal shortcoming, I attended a panel by Les Éditions Sans-Détour about their adaptation of Pierre Pevel's novel into a role-playing game with much interest, because obviously the topics tackled are of concern to any author working on a similar endeavour. The two points that most struck me were:
 - try to set the game in a slightly different epoch to the novel (e.g, the The Cardinal's Blades rpg is set ten years after the novel)
 - when reading the novel as a preparation to developing the rules, write down all the cool things that appear in the novel and make sure the players will be able to emulate them

author and captivated audience

FRIDAY 9 MAY, noon, second panel

The second panel was much more to my taste since it was about "Glorantha… Myth & Magic", with Jeff Richard and Robin Laws as speakers.

yes, I'm the worst photographer ever

Here are my short notes:

Guide to Glorantha - short intro by Jeff Richard (Moon Design)
The Guide to Glorantha aims at resolving once and for all the old "oh I can't play in Glorantha until I own all those out-of-print volumes" issue. The Guide will contain everything that is UNCHANGEABLE CANON in Glorantha; Jeff has said: "the Guide can't be Gregged".
He has also stressed that the Guide is based on thousands of notes and maps from Greg's basement rather than on old out-of-print material, which was not even necessarily written by Greg [Jeff has revealed that much of what was indicated as "by Greg Stafford" in old material wasn't actually always by Greg]. Now, any buyer of the Guide will be able to say "I have the same level of detail on Glorantha as any author who writes for Moon Design, including Jeff".

Questions from the attendance (or from Robin), Answers by Jeff:

Q: There is a Sun Dome Temple in Karia, why?
A: Again this is from Greg's "basement maps".
Q: OK, but what is its history?
A: It was founded by EWF mercenaries.

Q: So no more surprises after the Guide?
A: There will be surprises, but they'll build upon the contents of the Guide.

Q: We've noticed quite a difference in the illustrations compared with older ones. Can you expand on this?
A: Yes, the visual impression we've wanted to convey is another big change with the past, when you could spot, for instance, Celtic influences on the Sartarites. Although it is true that Glorantha is based upon several Real World ancient cultures on top of a base layer of 60s/70s post-hippie Californiana, we have striven to make that basic mix evolve into its own. All the various Lunar sub-cultures, for instance, are really Gloranthan.

Q: What was the most difficult part of the project?
A: Dealing with artists! Not really because of guidelines, but because of conflicting deadlines: all these artists also work on other projects for other companies.

Q: How did you resolve textual contradictions?
A: We established a simple hierarchy:
1- what Greg wrote
2- what Sandy wrote
3- what other authors wrote
Whenever we found any inconsistencies, "1" would take precedence over "2" and "3"; "2" would take precedence over "3".

Q: Any areas where Greg's thoughts are still evolving?
A: Greg's pretty much retired with regards to Glorantha, but the last area he's really worked on was Second Age Glorantha – and unfortunately that ended up being way different from what you may find in the Mongoose products. Unfortunately it wasn't ready yet at the time MRQ was published.
And as you know, getting rid of the mediaeval look of the West is another area where Greg thoughts have changed. Or rather reverted to their origins.

Q: Can you talk about HeroQuest Glorantha? Is that going to be the third edition of HeroQuest?
A: No, it's not a third edtion, it's a standalone HQ genre pack to emulate play in Glorantha, based upon feedback we've received in the last 5 years.
It will focus on:
- Character generation (e.g., all starting characters get a rune at 1Ш),
- Magic in Glorantha, with lots of examples,
- Roll high will now be official (i.e., if two contestants both roll under their score and succeed, the highest roll wins).

The panel went on but I had to leave to attend my afternoon gaming session, see below.

FRIDAY 9 MAY, afternoon

I've played in Éric Nieudan's White Books, a game of shared GM impro (for want of a better definition) for 3-5 players. Each player receives a small booklet loosely corresponding to one of the Old School frp "classes" (fighter, thief, magic-user…).
First, through a fun session of Q&A, the players decide upon a setting and a flavour/mood. This is pretty similar to the HeroQuest Sartarite clan generation questionnaire, for those who know it. Despite the vanilla fantasy setting implied by the booklets, we ended up playing a party of Aztec characters; the adventure was supposed to be gonzo/epic.
The second part of the game was the adventure proper. There is no GM in White Books or, more appropriately, each player take turns at being the GM, starting with the fighter and then, based on some events clearly listed in the booklets, moving on to another player. My daughter had the "magic-user" booklet, and she GM'ed about 40% of the time. That is possibly the only imperfection of the game; there were 4 of us and, ideally, each of us should've GM'ed about 25% of the time. However, the game is still in its beta phase, and I'm sure Éric will improve it. Anyway, the game ended up as Aztecs v Aliens and we had much, much fun. Second fantastic experience.

FRIDAY 9 MAY, evening, third panel

This one was "GM Troubleshooting with Robin D. Laws", and basically we had a lot of frustrated GMs (including yours truly) asking Robin stupid questions, to which he managed to give useful and insightful answers :)

Robin speaketh

FRIDAY 9 MAY, night

The cool thing at cons is that you get to play with authors, and I secured a place at Gilles Théophile's Enba, le mythe des Régulateurs. The game is set in a fantasy reinterpretation of Heian Japan. Gilles was incredibly knowledgeable about Heian Japan and Yōkai, and his adventure was low on violence and heavy on negotiation. The GM and the other players were like half my age so it was a refreshing experience. The only problem I had with the game (and I told the author) was that I'd rather play in the real Heian Japan than in a faux one!

SATURDAY 10 MAY, freeform

We played the Rise of Ralios freeform by my friend Hervé. I played poorly (as always in freeforms) so I won't complain about my entering the Tower of Xud to become Arkat the Saviour and ending up transformed into an ice lolly, or about my best-cavalry-in-the-whole-of-Ralios performing appallingly against infantry because the other guys had better cards. I will be a referee at THE KRAKEN in August, so hopefully I will have fun there.

stupid me I thought it was a wargame

SATURDAY 10 MAY, late at night

Jeff and Robin concurrently GM'ed an introductory game of HeroQuest for a bunch of French players who didn't know the game, and I managed to sneak in. We were playing Sir Ethilrist's black horses. Our riders had all died in the previous battles, so we first had to get ourselves new riders, and then we had to fight Lunar arachnoid female demons on behalf of Sir Ethilrist. Since everybody was drunk and/or sleep deprived we had excellent fun. Third fantastic experience.

More photographs:

04 May 2014

Con Season

The "convention circuit" begins soon. This year, I will be attending a grand total of three conventions:

1 - Chimériades, from 8 to 11 May
Chimériades is possibly the one and only French convention worthy of attendance. French cons, and French players in general, are obsessed with only playing French games, or at least foreign RPGs that have been translated to French. At Chimériades, on the contrary, you will find plenty of French players happy to mingle with non-French-speaking conventiongoers and even -- gasp! -- to play in English.

I had aimed at GM'ing a generic Old School dungeon on Friday afternoon, but since no one signed up to my game, I cancelled it. I will be playing White Books instead.
On Saturday, I will be a player in the Rise of Ralios Gloranthan freeform.

That still leaves quite a few slots open. I will be bringing along a few RPGs, with pregens and adventures, just in case:
- Almogàvers (I can GM the introductory adventure in the rulebook if anyone's interested)
- Tunnels & Trolls (I can GM one of the adventures in the Adventurers Compendium)
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess (I can GM one of the published adventures)

See you in Provence!

2 - Eternal Con, from 6 to 9 June
The Eternal Con is the one convention I never miss, even in lean years. It is held in a lovely castle above the Rhine, and most of the conventiongoers are people who have attended for a long time, so they're more like friends now than fellow gamers. The castle is now a youth hostel, so it has all the expected amenities even if they are somewhat Spartan.

The Eternal Con emphasises games that have stemmed from the original Chaosium mould, and their present-day descendants, such as RuneQuest 6, HeroQuest, Call of Cthulhu, etc., and there are always authors and publishers of these games present who demo new supplements or give out speeches or set up panels. It's really interesting for fans of the world of Glorantha, and I always make sure to write a small summary of the panels on this very blog.

I will be GM'ing a special science fantasy Glorantha In Space adventure on Saturday.

3 - The Kraken, from 20 to 25 August
The Kraken is not really a convention: it is a gaming vacation. The fact that it lasts a whole week rather than the typical 2 to 4 days of your usual convention makes it an altogether different gaming experience.
Also, it is slightly more expensive enabling the organisers to make sure the accommodation and the food are superior and, well, when you're 46 like yours truly you do pay attention to this kind of detail.

Even more so than the Eternal Con, The Kraken specialises in games that have stemmed from the original Chaosium catalogue; Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen have always been the guests of honour. Now that Greg cannot travel to Europe any longer, Sandy is the main guest of honour.

I don't really know what I'll prepare for The Kraken yet. I'll be probably helping refereeing the Rise of Ralios freeform, but apart from that I have no set plans yet.

02 May 2014

Deluxe T&T - OK, I'll Stop Complaining

OK, we all know that the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Kickstarter is laaaate, I've complained enough about this situation on this very blog.

However, the nice chaps at FBI (or whomever is driving this KS) keep sending us all kinds of freebies to keep us backers content. And, man, was the latest freebie simply astonishingly fantastic: Adventurers Compendium, a 92-page compendium of material from the Golden Age of Tunnels & Trolls, when the Sorcerer's Apprentice was the best frp magazine around, period. SA ran from 1978 to 1983.

So what does this beauty contain?

It starts with a gallery of all the SA covers, along with the names of the artists. Alas, I miss issues 1 to 4, so it's nice to see the reproduction of the covers in full colour (even if they are small).

This is followed by a short intro by Ken St André, then by a two-page Random Treasure Generator, again by Ken St André, which is very simple (monetary + weapons) but deliciously Old School in flavour.

Then follow 10 solo adventures and 3 GM adventures from SA that have been re-statted to render them compatible with the upcoming Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls [which looks like it will be fairly similar to the latest French edition], and the paragraph links work within the PDF. This is so cool. The adventures are:
 - Kingmaker (solo) by Michael Stackpole from SA issue No.1
 - Seven Ayes (solo) by Ken St André from SA issue No.2
 - Golden Dust, Red Death (solo) by Michael Stackpole from SA issue No.4
 - A Sworded Adventure (solo) by Ken St André from SA issue No.5
 - Stop Thief (solo) by Michael Stackpole from SA issue No.7
 - Thief For Hire (solo) by Robert B Schofield from SA issue No.12
 - The Legend of The... (humorous solo) by Liz Danforth from SA issue No.13
 - First Command (solo) by Ken St André from SA issue No.15
 - Hot Pursuit (solo) by Michael Stackpole from SA issue No.16
 - Circle of Ice (solo) by Paul Creelman, not from SA
 - Sea Reaver's Tomb (GM) by Liz Danforth from SA issue No.3
 - The Tomb of Axton (GM) by Ryan O'Connor from SA issue No.9/10
 - The Black Dragon Tavern (GM) by Michael Stackpole from SA issue No.11

So, for those of you who aren't backers... Go and buy it now!!!

Волкодав из рода Серых Псов (Wolfhound of the Grey Dogs)

I love serendipity. Last night, I unexpectedly stumbled upon a great Russian fantasy film on television titled Wolfhound of the Grey Dogs.

The film didn't have a particularly good start though. Tranquil village, camera moves to fair-headed child playing on the outskirts of the settlement, when suddenly the village is attacked by mysterious black-clad figures on horseback, who start indiscriminately killing everybody and setting the huts afire. The mother of the fair-headed child is killed at the very end of the scene by the boss of the baddies. No, it's not the beginning of Conan the Barbarian, it's the beginning of Wolfhound of the Grey Dogs.

The film then jumps to a pretty inventive fight within a dark foreboding fortress. A lone fighter is killing all the baddies. We soon figure out that the he is the boy who survived the killing in the previous scene.

Next scene is on a damp, narrow road in the countryside, between lines of tall trees. Our kick-ass fighter is travelling with some companions when a figure clad in black appears riding a black horse with unnatural red eyes, and starts emitting terrifying noises. No, it isn't The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it's still Wolfhound of the Grey Dogs.

The film then eventually manages to get a style of its own. The hero gets to a small town that has a very distinct Slavic flavour. The town, the inhabitants, their clothing, it's all really very flavourful and very well photographed. Pretty much in the style of Vsevolod Ivanov who is one of my big influences for Second Age Umathela.

Approximately in the middle of the film there is a wedding scene between the beautiful princess of the small town and her suitor, no doubt inspired by pagan Slavic imagery, and it is fantastically rendered:

Another cool thing which differentiates the film from Conan or LotR is that the gods are very much real and intervene in the affairs of humanity. And there is a blind seer that does all sorts of D&Desque magic.

All in all, an entertaining fantasy film. I wish my Russian were good enough to read the novel the film is based upon.