20 May 2016

Back from Bacharach

I would've never believed that I'd write this, but two cons in a row, well— that's pretty exhausting! After having spent a few days in the Luberon, back to work for a few days, and then off to the Eternal Con (7th edition!) in Bacharach on the left bank of the Rhine.

A short lunch break whilst travelling to Bacharach

Now, the Eternal Con has always been a "family-friendly" con, but I had the impression, this year, that it was really, really more diverse than usual in terms of gender and age. We had lots of families, lots of kids (more than 25!). Lots of new babies this year too! And many events. As a result, I will only concentrate on the ones I managed to attend.

the Rhine

FRIDAY 13 MAY, 19:00, Grand Opening Ceremony

This was held, as usual, on Friday night. Just like last year, Franziska and Charlotte were our hosts and entertained us with their witty humour and a faux Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? quiz show that featured RPG-related questions. It was really all good-hearted and very funny, much like a reunion of old friends. I think at one time the organisers asked "who is here for the first time" and only two people raised their hand!

Opening Ceremony

FRIDAY 13 MAY, late evening, Friendly Gloranthan chat with Jeff Richard

Jeff gave us pretty much the same information as at Chimériades, so please refer to my Chimériades report here.
I'll concentrate on the extra details that we didn't get at Chimériades in this blog post. Jeff said, for instance, that the mammoth Gods War boardgame will be cheaper than Cthulhu Wars even though the miniatures are more awesome.
With regard to RuneQuest Classic: the books will be carried by game shops (yay!).
RuneQuest 4 (lots of extra news):
  • We all had a small discussion about spirits and spirit combat. Apparently spirits in RQ4 are going to be based on Stormbringer demons in terms of potential for customisation.
  • Rune magic is going to be available before rune level— actually right at the time of character generation. Rune level characters will simply get back their rune points much faster.
  • Sorcery is going to be based on four core skills, hence a high learning curve.
  • Also, the whole price system has been re-written.
Jeff and Ian

SATURDAY 14 MAY, 10:00, New Conan RPG Seminar with Jason Durall

Modiphius got the Conan licence two years ago. At the time, Jason Durall was working (with Modiphius) on the Achtung! Cthulhu: Assault on the Mountains of Madness campaign pack. Modiphius asked Jason to work on the new Conan RPG as the line developer, and Jason, who has been a huge Conan fan since he was 9 years old, enthusiastically accepted.

There have been lots of Conan RPGs in the past... So why a new one? Here are the design pillars of the new game, which Jason thinks make it stand out of the RPG crowd:

1- Inspiration.
a- The source material is pure Robert E. Howard, no pastiche, no movies; e.g., all the characters' names, locations, etc. were double-checked by REH scholars. Hence the exact name of the game: Robert E Howard's Conan.
b- It has been decided that the stories set in the same world as Conan but without Conan are canon source material. Even other REH works like the Kull or the Lovecraftian stories are!
c- Time-frame of the core RPG: about the time Conan 'enters the stage' (he's about 17 years old). The setting of the core book is centred on Cimmeria and the surrounding countries (Aquilonia, Hyperborea), and hence focuses on clan warfare, border skirmishes...
Later sourcebooks will cover later eras and more southerly areas (e.g., Zamora), thereby introducing different flavours of setting: the Zamora book is thief-oriented. A later book will focus on being a sea pirate. I think that's pretty clever.

2- The system will be strongly pulp-oriented. The idea is that the characters start heroic; rather than become more powerful with experience, they get more diverse powers.

3- The setting will feature exotic places, strange technology, mysterious ruins... all the ingredients of the sword and sorcery subgenre, of which REH is regarded as the father.


In parallel to the source books, there will be an adventures book, a magics book, a cults book. Jason said they were looking at something like 18 books, already funded by the kickstarter. Additional standalone adventure will be available as PDFs.

The System is called 'the 2d20 system'. You basically roll 2d20 and use the best one... sort of like the advantages system of other games, except it is always on! Skills give you extra dice, and you may trade automatic successes for "doom points" to the GM.

beauteous cover!

SATURDAY 14 MAY, 14:00, Conan game with Jason

We started as a ragtag mix of adventurers and Aquilonian soldiers in the Bossonian Marches, between the Black River and the Thunder River. I was playing Maeve, the Talented Archer (a kind of female Conan, really).

We only used d20s and d6s to play. The rules are heavily combat-oriented, with lots of "visual" manoeuvres that directly translate into dice-related effects (re-roll, add 1 die, etc.); it's fun and easy to learn, way simpler than RuneQuest 6 or Revolution D100. Not much else to add on the 2d20 system part... It really works well for combat! (and I'm the guy who's usually bored during combats), I would say slightly less so for non-combat skills. I only have two pieces of criticism with regard to the game mechanics: (a) We dispatched our opponents too easily, even the big fat sorcerer at the end of the adventure, and (b) You usually lose no vigour/health points during combat until a given threshold where all of a sudden you lose a lot of them!
Anyway, the system is still being refined. Note: Apparently the 2d20 system hasn't been created ex nihilo for the Conan RPG but it is a reworking of an early, already-existing system (from the free Drifting Through Space RPG – also by Modiphius).

And we had lots of "I hit it with my axe" utterances — proof of a good S&S game :-)
Conan game

SATURDAY 14 MAY, 14:00, German RuneQuest 6 seminar

There was a seminar presenting the German-language version of RuneQuest 6. I missed it.

SATURDAY 14 MAY, afternoon

While I was playing Conan, some people out there were having fun in a  Glorathan freeform!

Yanafal Tarnils cultist

Babeester Gor cultist

Classic Fantasy with the RQ6 rules

After the freeform, some of my friends played RuneQuest 6 in German while I went for...

SATURDAY 14 MAY, 19:00, HeroQuest game set in Japan

This was run by Robin Mitra himself, who translated HeroQuest in German, and it was in German! The game started with a lengthy clan generation questionnaire à la Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes. It was very funny and helped me get into the game (not that I don't know Sengoku Japan — it's just that I'm not used to playing in German).
The clan generation questionnaire and the adventure itself were full of cultural detail, and devoid of the usual anachronisms one finds in faux Japanese RPGs. Kudos to Robin. When one thinks that this was not a fully-fledged Japanese HQ setting, but a mere adventure from a book collecting 15 different adventures for HeroQuest... I wish it were translated to English!

Sengoku Japan HeroQuest Game

SUNDAY 15 MAY, 10:00, Trollball

This was the traditional Trollball game in the court of the castle. I missed it because I was playing downstairs in the castle.

SUNDAY 15 MAY, 10:00, Revolution D100 game

Simon Phipp, he of the acclaimed Merrie England RPG, demonstrated the brand new Revolution D100 rules. We had a very refreshing adventure set in 12th century England with much intrigue and little combat.

Morris Dancers Adventuring!

SUNDAY 15 MAY, afternoon, 1714: The Case of the Catalans boardgame

I had already noticed this game on the Saturday, but unfortunately couldn't play it. I managed to play on Sunday though, even if it was in the three-player version.

My, what a fantastic card-driven wargame~boardgame! There are so many cool ideas in it:

1) All the players are allied against the French (whose actions are driven by some of the cards) yet you're obviously vying against your "allies" to win — without being allowed to attack them. Intrigue, manoeuvring, and especially resources (whose significance I figured out way too late into the game) are of paramount importance if you want to win.

2) There are two possible outcomes: the French "win" (by taking Barcelona) or they "lose" (by losing too many troops); depending on the outcome, the victory conditions are different. So depending on what kind of victory points you amassed you are going to try and favour one outcome rather than the other. And you will never know, until the very end, how your VPs are going to be computed!

3) Each country has a 'Will to Fight' gauge. The more goals you reach, the more your Will to Fight decreases... and under a given threshold you're not allowed to recruit and to move armies any longer!

Anyway, this was probably the game I preferred during the whole con. I can't believe I'd never heard of it.

SUNDAY 15 MAY, 19:00, Chaosium seminar with Jeff (as creative director)

Since there had already been a Gloranthan seminar, this one concentrated on Chaosium's other products, mostly Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

Jeff mentioned that Pulp Cthulhu was out next, and that there were lots of products in the pipe, in particular Sandy Petersen's Call of Cthulhu adventures (2 volumes).
More generally on the product themselves, Jeff explained that the level of art would be top notch from now on, at least the same level of art as in the French Sans Détour books.
What to expect in the future?
  • Lots of licences: Call of Cthulhu video game, Pathfinder supplements (!)
  • More co-operation with European companies (Sans Détour, Pegasus Spiele)
Mythic Iceland 2nd edition this year.

No non-Gloranthan HeroQuest products in the pipe.

Fiction line re-launched this year, done with more care, because it's important.

SUNDAY 15 MAY, 21:00, Closing ceremony

So sad.

SUNDAY 15 MAY, 23:00

Played the Operation Market Garden wargame that I had already played at THE KRAKEN.

Note: some pictures by Heini.

10 May 2016

Back From Chimériades V

Back from the first con in ‘con season’!  This year’s Chimériades took place in the same wonderful village in the Luberon as the two previous incarnations.

As usual, here is my feedback for the poor souls who had other priorities in life than travelling to a wonderful château in a seraphic location to enjoy role-playing under the Provençal sun. [Important notice: since I’ve had an appalling H1 2016 at my day job, I am in fuсkwit mode at the moment, so: no GMing at my side at the Chimériades (nor will I GM at the Eternal Con in Bacharach), and I must also disclose that I have stolen from various friends’ con summaries to complete mine.]

Blue sky, ochre castle *

THURSDAY 5 MAY, evening

Chimériades aren’t particularly known for their being a ‘dry’ convention, but the organisers have overachieved this year… after the inaugural ceremony, several tables of fresh mojitos were expecting us in the courtyard of the castle. Also by the end of the con, we hadn’t run out of beer kegs (contrary to what happened in 2014…)!

Beer and mojito *

Mojito Army †

Another big subsistence-related surprise: this year the food was prepared by a professional caterer! We had fantastic paella cooked in huge frying pans just in front of the château. So most of us started the three-day playathon sipping a fresh mojito in the mouthwatering smell of frying capsicums. I’ve definitely experienced worse at a con.

Keep it flowing †

THURSDAY 5 MAY, late at night

I had obviously signed up for Jeff Richard’s very first worldwide open playtest of the new RuneQuest rules! First significant surprise: you are encouraged to play a party of characters from a similar background, and the [quite long] character generation is not dissimilar from the Sartar clan generator in HeroQuest, except that each character is similarly created via a long questionnaire, and not the clan or the character party itself. As a result, and since there were five of us, this took almost two hours, at which point we decided to play the actual scenario the following day in the early morning. Second surprise; the rules are really, really close to RQ2, even more so than what Jeff had hinted at on G+. To me, it looks like Chaosium’s two guiding principles in this endeavour have mainly been “remove unnecessary rules” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; I am happy with 99.9% of the results… I only miss the Defence skill, but since apparently I am the only such person on Earth, it shouldn’t be an issue for most of the fans.

A thick manuscript! *

FRIDAY 6 MAY, morning

OK, so were all from the same ‘Old Tarshite’ village on the slopes of Kero Fin, and Jeff demonstrated that you could play an intense hero quest even with beginning characters. We all had the opportunity for mucho roleplaying and we got to try out all the new skill combinations, augments, etc. All I will say here (since RQ4 definitely warrants its own dedicated blog post) is that the new system works flawlessly, that there aren’t any maths involved (augments are flat ±20%, not percentages of percentages), and that rune magic ROCKS. These first impressions still have to be confirmed, of course, since I’ve only played a mere one-shot, but as much as I enjoyed the short-lived RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha supplement for RQ6, I have had the impression at Chimériades that we had found –at last!– the holy grail of Gloranthan old school role-playing!

My first RQ4 character sheet! *

FRIDAY 6 MAY, 10:30, first panel: Gloranthan Round Table

The first panel of many that were available (and of which I only attended two) was the Gloranthan Seminar with Jeff Richard and Ken Rolston.

Jeff and Ken Talk *

As usual, the first questions were about upcoming products— so:

The Coming Storm is at the printer. The first book is expected in time for Gen Con. The second book is at layout, and is scheduled for the end of the year.

13th Age in Glorantha (13G) is at its final review stage. Currently at 400+ pages. Scheduled for the end of the year. As Jeff goes through the edits of 13G, he adds relevant stuff here and there to the 1627 sourcebook to make sure everything mentioned in 13G gets properly covered in the sourcebook, which BTW is a myth book; the model for the sourcebook is the myths articles in Wyrms Footnotes. The sourcebook will be useful for all Gloranthan-based role-playing games and not only for 13G, since all Gloranthan RPGs now heavily revolve around hero questing – and hence myths.

New RuneQuest core rules. Public playtesting in the next few weeks. Missing sections: hero quests, new sorcery [note that there won’t be any Malkioni in the core rules, only Grey Sages will have a few sorcery spells]. The full manuscript is scheduled for Gen Con. The new rules are designed to be backwards compatible with all the reprinted RQ2 products, which are going to be back in publication and printing.

Six Ages (successor to King of Dragon Pass): finished writing, missing the art. Looking at end of 2016/beginning of 2017. Set in Glorantha, but not in Dragon Pass [yours truly suspects Esrolia].

Gods War is being kickstarted this summer, by Petersen Games and Moon Design.

Wyrms Footnotes issue 16 will gather RQ material that won’t have made it in the published book.

Once the rules books are out, supplements will have to be rolled out… An “Esrolia Pack” is in the works (the published Nochet map was the first step).

The new Dragon Pass boardgame by Chris Klug is currently being playtested. It is designed to be played in 90 minutes. The aim is to kickstart it at the end of 2016.

Reiner Knizia card game: each player is a Praxian khan raiding the other clans. Fun, fast-paced filler game (20- to 30-minute play time).

Trollball proof-of-concept boardgame using miniatures from Petersen Games. A few pictures were posted on G+. No schedule at the moment.

HeroQuest: Glorantha in French, directly published by Moon Design— no intermediaries!

Jeff and Ken also mentioned that Glorantha should not be seen as a “scholarly” world any longer: GMs now have the Guide at their disposal, and beginning players should have enough understanding of their starting locale thanks to the character generation process in RQ4.

FRIDAY 6 MAY, afternoon

Rightly expecting not to be in great shape for Chimériades, I hadn’t booked anything for the Friday afternoon slot. I have thus been able to leisurely walk through the castle and its gardens to see the various RPG tables, and more.

Basking in the sun... *

...and playing RPGs *

Stéphane Gallay was playtesting Gingerbread (working title), his new RPG in which the players are students in a super-hero academy. Readers of a well-known French graphic novel will feel at home. I didn’t play, just watched, but the system seemed quite reminiscent of Hero Wars.

Stéphane and his playtesters *
I’ve also enjoyed listening to my friends playing Grégory Privat’s Bimbo RPG. I love how the game “forces” the players to be creative both in how they describe their character’s actions and in how they have to talk in-character.

Bimbos in the sun †

I have drooled at length in front of a copy of Cthulhu Wars painstakingly painted by Grégory Privat that you could win thanks to the lottery (alas, I didn’t).

Lottery prize *

There were nice Gloranthan decorations everywhere in the castle, this year being the 50th anniversary of Glorantha (but more on this later), including some unpublished illustrations!

Some friends of mine were playtesting the 21st century version of an old favourite of ours…

Er, I think the Red Emperor is dead! †

Also the usual publishers’ and resellers’ booths, etc. Other friends playing, and various games being demo'ed.

FRIDAY 6 MAY, night

Another piece of epic Gloranthan gaming! Early in the year, Éric Vanel had adapted the BattleLore rules to Glorantha for an in-campaign battle that we played during the course of his HQ campaign. Since we all loved how the game had played out, he decided to use those same rules to render the battle of Dangerford (from the Coming Storm) as a standalone wargame.

I acted as the co-referee. We had 5 players on the Lunar side, 4 representing the Sartarite rebels. The game played really well, the only problem was that the players who had received the rear-guard counters didn’t get to play much. Also, the Sartarite units exaggeratedly benefited from a scaling error on the map that made the Creek much wider than it really is, hence decreasing the efficiency of the Lunar units that use ranged weapons and/or magic. Hopefully a version 2 (for THE KRAKEN?) will fix these small shortcomings because except for these the game was fantastic.

Map and counters *

Gaming Aid *

And... Action! †

SATURDAY 7 MAY, 10:30, second panel: Ken Rolston: What I’ve Left Undone

This had been advertised more as a workshop than a panel, so I had assumed we would be creating stuff with Ken Rolston. We ended up mostly listening to Ken talk about CRPGs –which I hate– but him being the Rune Czar it was still very interesting.

Ken globally talked about failed games, how he pitched them to bigwigs, what they could have been… The one that caught my attention most was ‘Exile’, a mix of Civilization and Oblivion, and ‘Markland’, pitched as Sartarites settle the New World, or Elves and Dwarves settle a post-Hobbit Desolation of Smaug. I also remember this particular sentence: “Managing artistic people is like herding cats”.

Oh, and Ken did mention a single failed tabletop RPG: Seals of Satan (published in White Wolf Magazine issue No.42) with, er, cute seal-like demons firing death rays from their eyes!

The Rune Czar Talketh *

SATURDAY 7 MAY, afternoon

The usual perk at these cons is that you get to play with the very authors of the games, and so I managed to secure a place at Camille Guirou’s The Cardinal's Blades table to enjoy her adventure le Serpentaire (the word means both ‘Secretary Bird’ and ‘Ophiuchus’ in French, and both meanings played an important role in the scenario…). It was really one of the most enjoyable adventures I’ve ever played, with a breathtaking in medias res opening, great locations (Provence in the 17th century), and possibly the best NPC I’ve ever been confronted to. Loved it!


While I was enjoying Camille’s game, some other lucky friends were playing Scions of Ralzakark with Ken Rolston. This was a scenario Ken had already GM’d at THE KRAKEN… Can you believe I missed it twice?!

SATURDAY 7 MAY, late afternoon and night

Alas, alas, even the best cons get to an end, and we had a moving closing ceremony, during which Philippe confirmed there would be another con in 2018.

After the traditional barbecue dinner (yes there were vegetarian patties) the organisers had a big surprise for us Gloranthan fans: a score tartes du Luberon with Gloranthan runes on them! This is part of what makes the Chimériades so special.

Beauteous!! †

Thank you, thank you, thank you again to Camille Guirou, to Philippe Auribeau, to Rémy Croxatto and to all the other organisers, and see you in 2018!

Un jour, toujours

The ugly pictures (unmarked or marked *) are by tours truly.
The beautiful pictures (marked †) are by Stéphane Gallay, under a creative commons licence.