03 November 2018

THE KRAKEN 2018 Report

the Schloss! Ⓖ

Here is my traditional post-Kraken report. As written on its web-site, The Kraken is an annual ‘gathering of international gamers, game masters and game creators to play, develop and test fine quality games’, organised by the über-efficient Fabian Küchler and his small team of volunteers. This year The Kraken was held between 19 and 22 October, as always at the incredibly isolated Schloss Neuhausen, which is in the least populated area of all Germany. One of the first conventiongoers described driving to the Schloss like the opening of a horror movie: “Every fibre in you tells you to turn around and drive back but you keep on going not knowing why.” That sums it up pretty well.

Anyway, apparently Fabi likes my inept write-ups, and he has requested a particularly detailed one for this year, so please bear with me as I shall start from the very beginning.

THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER, late afternoon

We (my daughter and I) jump into the car right after work and off I drive northwards. Travelling to The Kraken with my daughter means the car’s audio system is playing Baroque music, rap, System of a Down, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Can’t really complain.
We now stop every year at the same place: a super cheap roadside hotel at the border between Belgium and Germany. The place is ugly and not particularly comfortable but it’s close to the motorway and to a very good patisserie – always a good place to start your day.


After an early wake-up and some excellent custard pastries and an OK espresso, we’re soon on the autobahn, in the vain hope of getting to the Schloss for lunch (ha ha). Well, even though it’s a mere 600km from the hotel to the Schloss, we only got there at about 5 pm because of the bloody Baustellen. Heed my advice, dear readers: don’t drive to the Schloss— fly! and take advantage of the shuttle bus between the Berlin airports and the Schloss. Alternatively, you can take the train to Karstädt; it’s only 12km from the Schloss, and someone will come and pick you up.

FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER, late afternoon

Anyway, once at the Schloss we immediately feel both welcome and at home. We greet our friends and start cutting the elements (counters, cards…) of a boardgame prototype we want to demonstrate (It’s a well-established tradition at The Kraken of always being late with boardgame prototypes and RPG props).

Conventiongoer's material! Ⓖ

Our room. Ⓖ

After a hearty vegetarian dinner (The Kraken provides an option for vegetarian or vegan catering), I get to chat (in Italian) with my Maltese friends from Malta’s Wargaming and Roleplaying SocietyThe Kraken truly is an international gathering.

Tired but happy. Ⓐ

FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER, evening

After the opening ceremony, I catch up with further friends, amongst whom Jason Durall, with whom we reminisce about Greg Stafford, who passed away on 11 October. The shock and pain we experienced one week earlier are now giving way to pleasantly remembering Greg and his incredible kindness.

one of the programme boards Ⓖ
sample minis from Petersen Games' Gods War

Then I go to bed early to get some much-needed sleeeeep.


I have already mentioned catering at The Kraken. It’s not only compassionate, it’s also GOOD. At breakfast, for instance, we had home-made preserve. Now, I don’t know how many conventions serve home-made preserve at breakfast but I bet you can count them on the fingers of one hand.

German breakfast! Ⓐ

Panel: ‘Building A Horror Scenario The Sandy Petersen Way’

The cool thing at The Kraken is that you have these panels with luminaries from the RPG industry with a scarce attendance, meaning you get to ask your questions and to directly chat with the host without any hassle.
Anyway, this was a really cool interactive panel with Sandy, in which he built a horror scenario only using input from the attendance. Sandy has actually adapted the ‘Sandy Petersen Way’ from the three rules of M. R. James, which the English author had established with regards to ghost stories:
1) the ghost must be malign
2) no jargon (jargon becomes dated quite easily; it also gets in the way of suspension of disbelief) Sandy—> importantly, this applies to in-game terms, keep them minimal!
3) set it where the reader can imagine themself
The above was adapted to Call of Cthulhu as follows:
  1. Setting
  2. Monster
  3. Scene
And we did it interactively (audience/Sandy)
1. Setting: submarine
2. Monster: undead
3. Scene: banquet
I won’t transcribe the whole scenario here. I will simply advise you not to go treasure hunting into an abandoned Soviet submarine at the bottom of the Norwegian Sea…

Saturday morning panels Ⓖ

Sandy's panel Ⓖ

The traditional Chaosium panel, hosted by Ian Cooper & Jason Durall

In this age of social networks and internet forums, there is no need any longer to precisely write down everything that has been said. However, I am transcribing here the salient points of the panel.

Ian: Still working on the ‘Open Game Licence’ version of HeroQuest, which is forking from HQ 2.0, and concentrating on rules-only stuff —> basically, it will be a System Reference Document (SRD).
In print form, however, it will be a new core book, with new sample genre packs (rather than Glorantha), and it will be followed by standalone genre packs (of approximately 32 pages each).
A famous indie designer is working on an HQ-based game, which is currently in its playtesting phase.
So if you also want to pitch a genre pack to Chaosium, please contact Ian!

At the Gloranthan side, the third Red Cow book is nearing completion. It should contain some mind-boggling revelations about some Gloranthan secrets (e.g., the Boat Planet). It will be possibly followed by a pre-1625 Fonrit book.

Jason: The RQ:G Bestiary and GM Pack are at the printer (with the crowdsourced errors fixed). So don’t start asking when they will be available, because they will be available… when they’re back from the printer. (OK, if you really want to know, that should be Q1 2019).

The next books in the pipe are (and this is a non-Euclidean pipe since work is progressing in parallel on several titles):
  • The gigantic Gods of Glorantha (Jeff Richard keeps adding pages to it...).
  • Then a scenario book by established authors (Ken Rolston, Steve Perrin, Penelope Love...).
  • A book taking older out-of-print resources and adapting them to RQ:G.
  • A book of introductory short adventures for starting RQ:G referees and players.
  • In parallel to the main line of RQ:G books written by Chaosium authors, Robin Laws has been contracted for two Pavis & Big Rubble books, and the first drafts look very satisfactory.
  • And the 800-pound gorilla is always ART— what happens is that fully-fledged books are lying idle because there isn’t any art yet.
  • RQ Fantasy Earth. Pedro Ziviani has been commissioned for the first one (a rewriting of Mythic Iceland)

Q&A Session
1- Wyrms Footnotes
There’s lots of material (enough for 120 pages —> reduced to 64 pages, so enough material for two issues)
They have art for the next issue, which isn’t a themed issue but contains a little bit of everything (adventure, GM advice, NPCs, creatures...)
Looking for contributions!

2- Hero questing rules that will be in the upcoming GM book
Jason: they will enable any GM to create hero quests without being Greg or Jeff, or a fan of Jung’s writings.

the Chaosium panel Ⓖ


Whilst I was attending the Chaosium chat, there was the traditional horror lottery to draw the lucky names who would get to play with the Only Old One himself… and my name was drawn (at last! after all these years!).

the traditional lottery... Ⓐ

At lunch time I had a great chat with Ian Cooper and the Runeblogger about the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers of my Chern Durel campaign, and possible connections with Lunar cults, Sheng Seleris, etc. (which I’m not revealing here because my players read this blog).

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, afternoon

Sandy’s lottery game: The Monster of Poznań

Very satisfactory adventure with a pivotal twist (note to self: never trust an NPC in a CoC game ever again... the enemy of my enemy also usually ends up being my enemy!)

Puzzled investigators Ⓐ
Note that for the very first time in the history of Sandy's Call of Cthulhu adventures run at The Kraken, not a single investigator died. Hooray for us!

We did it! We survived! Ⓖ
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, afternoon

Replaced my daughter at the Harlem Unbound game because she had conflicting schedules. Harlem Unbound is a very interesting Call of Cthulhu offshoot, in which you play a person from an ethnic or racial minority in the canonical 1920s Call of Cthulhu setting. The second, updated edition of this indie game is going to be published by Chaosium, so hopefully it will attract more attention (well, Harlem Unbound won three Gold ENnies at the 2018 ENnies so it is already well-known amongst hardcore gamers, but I’m not sure about the larger public).

my friend Jean-Christophe refereeing Harlem Unbound

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, late evening

The Kraken provides an opportunity to test out one's prototypes of boardgames or role-playing games with seasoned players. On Saturday night, I found three players to play my four-player historical boardgame Siebenbürgen, and we played a very tight game until 3 a.m. The players provided great feedback, which I have now incorporated into the rules. Can’t wait to try out the new version.

situation at the start of the game Ⓟ

situation after the third turn Ⓖ

Mythos Q&A with Sandy

This being Sandy and the Lovecraft mythos, it was mostly a display of knowledge, wits and humour, so I didn’t take notes… just enjoyed the time with Sandy. The best part of the Q&A was when Sandy’s wife asked him “Why do you love me so?” and he blushed!

Sunday morning panels Ⓖ

Good Game Design Q&A with Sandy

Again, this was mostly us wannabe boardgame designers asking Sandy stupid questions and getting extremely valuable advice in return. Well, I certainly did.

Sandy's Good Game Design Q&A Ⓖ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, 14:00-16:00

Impromptu seminar by Jeff Richard and Ian Cooper about Gloranthan mythology & running hero quests  (basically about next year’s book)

an impromptu seminar! Ⓖ
[Note: as a referee running hero quests using RQ:G, this certainly was one of the most valuable panels of the con.]

Jeff: Up to now, the usual approach was “let’s write a myth ahead of the game session”.
New approach: no real difference between a hero quest and a good story using Campbell’s archetypes.
How to present that information to GMs? Treating mythology as a sandbox, and using myth maps!
E.g., at the 2018 Gen Con (running RQ:G for newbies), Jeff improvised the following hero quest:
  • Get to the troll underworld
  • Get passage
  • Find the snake cave
  • Bring back the blue woman— not the yellow man!
All run in the context of a Gloranthan sandbox

Jeff expatiating upon hero quests & mythology Ⓖ

Other parts of the book will address the following:
  • what cool powers does my character get? (because this is what players are really interested in)
  • how to mechanically represent the “hero part” of the player’s character at the Other Side? (concrete rewards)
traditional Sunday Finnish pancakes Ⓐ


‘Gated!’ a RQ:G adventure set in Prax, run by Andrew Wood from New Zealand (who had travelled all the way from NZ!!!)
As mentioned at the beginning of this report, it is an established tradition to always be late with props, and we had to wait quite some time for our character sheets. Once the wait was over, however, we enjoyed a classical but lively RQ:G adventure with lots of nice props, which saw my first use ever of the RuneQuest Strike Rank Tracker by Infinity Engine. The pregen characters were quite seasoned, with many Rune Points, and I enjoyed being able to cast lots of Rune spells! By the way, did I already mention on this blog how much I liked the new RuneQuest rules?

traditional axe-throwing session Ⓖ
traditional axe-throwing session Ⓐ
SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER, evening

Nice chat with Graeme Murrell about East Asian rock bands.

friends playing Petersen Games' Evil High Priest

I usually do not attend Sandy’s late night film showings because, well, the films are bad. This Sunday, however, he played a black and white Mexican horror film: The Brainiac (1962), which, except for the mucho cheapo latex max of the monster, was reasonably good.

Ooooh, inquisitors! Ⓖ

Closing ceremony… sad, sad, but we all pledged to reconvene next year in October!

We Are All Us! Ⓖ

Pictures by: Ⓐ Aliénor Perrard - Ⓖ yours truly - Ⓟ Pedro Ziviani


  1. Very well done!!! :-D
    OK, and now I'll get back to writing my own write-up! :-S

  2. Noice - I'll get there one day!