domingo, 13 de enero de 2019

The Kraken 2018: the Con with Chaosium (part 2)

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In this trilogy of write-ups I'm telling my experience at the RPG Con THE KRAKEN 2018 that took place in Germany. In the first part I explained how I got there on Friday and my first impressions. This time I'm telling you all I did on Saturday: the seminars I attended and the roleplaying and board games I played.

>>>Puedes leer esto en español aquí<<<
Original picture by Graeme Murrell

I woke up with rings under the eyes, but I was very happy to have slept on a normal bed (unlike the last time). Even so, I hadn't slept long and, at any rate, the first night wherever no one ever sleeps soundly. Moreover, the "Snoratorium" had honoured its name and had gifted me with a full night symphony. Nevertheless, I woke up feeling good and went straight to have breakfast. At the THE KRAKEN breakfast is the usual hotel buffet, meaning ham and cold sausages, cheese, toast, buns, boiled eggs, marmalades, butter, fruit, etc. I sat down at a long table where there were people already eating and after some awkward silences, I started talking with Gary Bowerbank and Andrew Kenrick. They told me about the games they had prepared for that day (Warhammer Fantasy and Delta Green) and I told them about the all duck game and the shock of the previous night. Then the topic changed to the campaigns each was running at home and ended up talking about Pendragon with Regis Pannier, who's a hardcore fan of the game. After that, I went to the main building.

The "Snoratorium" during breakfast time. Other accommodation options are the double rooms and the camping site.

10:00 - 11:00   Building a Horror Scenario the Sandy Petersen Way

I got in the room 10 minutes before the start and Sandy was already there, sitting next to his wife, chatting with other attendees. I used the time to have a look at the KRAKEN Bazaar, whose articles on sale were exposed next to the wall.

Sandy began punctually his workshop of scenario creation. He had already given this masterclass at other cons. For example, some weeks earlier at the XIII Festival Internacional de Juegos de Córdoba 2018 or at the Gen Con 2018 in Indianapolis. Both were recorded and uploaded to Youtube if you care to watch them. In every one of these Sandy Petersen creates a different scenario by using three basic elements he asks the audience for. These are: a place, a monster and a film scene. Every time the audience provides very different elements, so the scenario at the end of every masterclass is unique. This time, the basic elements were: a submarineundead and a grand feast. No doubt an evocative combination. The way Sandy does it is by combining these three elements and filling the gaps until an interesting scenario for Call of Cthulhu emerges.

The audience of this particular masterclass were able to witness firsthand how Sandy Petersen's mind races at full-speed adding details he's read here and there to the mix. He was all the time thinking aloud and commenting the ideas he came up with, while adding anecdotes and other trivia. For example, with the submarine he thought of Second World War and he came up with the idea of player characters getting there as the team of a shipwreck salvage company. Then he thought of the Fabergé eggs and he concluded the submarine had belonged to Nazis fleeing to South America with some treasures looted from Russia. He commented how it was not a good idea to choose the Deep Ones as the monster of the scenario, because that would be precisely what players would expect to find. In principle, the scene of the grand feast seemed difficult to fit in all this, but the creator of Call of Cthulhu came up with a phantasmagorical idea to include it. At the end of an hour, he still had some gaps to fill, but the scenario was all but done, and heck, I'd love to run it!

The KRAKEN Bazaar, a good way to save on shipping costs. Would you have bought anything?

Apart from all this, Sandy Petersen told us many interesting things, like, when he created the roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu, he would have liked to set it during the present times, because H.P. Lovecraft also set his tales in the most rigorous "present" adding elements that were new at the time, like the exploration of Antarctica. On the other hand, I laughed when, at a scene in the scenario where the investigators have to look for information, he told us: "This is a good moment to let the characters use the Wi-Fi connection on board the ship to look for information on the Internet. Precisely because they expect you to tell them "there's no coverage", if you tell them there is, they are going to freak out. I mean, it's only then they'll figure out they are doomed!". Finally, it was also interesting to know this gentleman has a recurring nightmare that keeps him awake at night from time to time. All in all, a very enjoyable hour went by. One thing was clear enough: the more books you read, the more material you'll have to create an interesting scenario. For example: Had you ever heard of goblin sharks? They're awful.

11:00   Horror Lottery

In the central hall of the main building was where the lottery of games run by the VIPS was held, a classic of this con. This time, 4 were being raffled:

  • The Monster of Poznan, a Call of Cthulhu game run by Sandy Petersen. Sandy had already run this in Córdoba. This scenario will be included in the Polish 7th ed. of the rulebook. It deals about one of the Prussian forts around Poznan, which holds a secret the investigators will have to face.
  • Darkness at Runegate, a game of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, run by Jason Durall. Something smells rotten in the Orlanthi town of Runegate and the adventurers will need to find what it is.
  • Temertain Must Die, a HeroQuest Glorantha game run by Ian Cooper, editor of the HeroQuest line. This is the one I was most looking forward to win a seat for, because the blurb alone looked very epic:
    "Six Humakti, beset by nightmares and dark pasts, haunted by the Household of Death but promised absolution from their failures, seek a blade with which to restore honour and justice. One of them must wield it, to fell a Prince and save a kingdom. They will triumph or die, perhaps both, but most of all gain absolution for their sins".
  • Scritch Scratch, a Call of Cthulhu game, run by the author, Lynne Hardy, Assistant Editor of the Call of Cthulhu line. Chaosium shared this scenario during Free RPG Day 2018.
Sandy Petersen drawing the names of the 6 lucky players of his game. Picture by Aliénor Perrard.

Since 6 players are allowed in each game, that meant there were going to be 24 lucky winners of a place in these games. But like last time, I wasn't one of them. Ooooooh! However, when it was already too late I realised that, even if you don't win anything, this is a good time to find a gap in games that were already full, because the winners of the Horror Lottery games will need to cancel some of their games to be able to play a game with the VIPs. That's a tip right there. :-)

11:10 - 12:00   Chaosium Chat about RuneQuest and HeroQuest

Jason Durall and Ian Cooper talked about the books in production phase for these two lines of Chaosium. Ian was first with HeroQuest. As I mentioned in this news, they are working on a OGL ruleset for HeroQuest. The goal is to draw more people to try the game and to draw more authors to publish material for this line. The rulebook is being streamlined, so this will be probably called version 2.2. They will focus on explaining better those rules that confuse players and this you will be able to use these core rules as a base to create your own games. Then, after this revised rulebook some "genre packs" will be published, which are supplements of different settings to play with HeroQuest. For example, Ian Cooper is working on one for the Rocket Punk genre. In fact, the next day he was running a game in that setting: Last Voyage of the Ghislaine. Here's the blurb:
Lazenby Brackish, the Core Worlds industrialist, is missing. For the crew of the Patrol Boat Goodluck Jonathan this ought to be a simple assignment. But away from the Core, out on the Frontier, things have a way of getting interesting, fast.
These "genre packs" will be 32 pages long and, apart from the one just mentioned, there are other in the works. One is Cosmic Zap, a supplement to play games with cosmic-level superheroes, such as Silver Surfer and Galactus, that can include combats between player characters. Ron Edwards is the author, cofounder of The Forge and creator of the GNS theory and the Big Model. In his blog you can read some write-ups of his games. Other packs include a pulp genre pack and two or three more that can't be revealed yet.

Jason Durall and Ian Cooper spilling the beans about future books for RuneQuest and HeroQuest.

Then Jason took over with the upcoming publications for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. The 3 next books of this line will appear on the first semester of 2019:

Gods of Glorantha: unlike the original published for RQ3, this will include long descriptions of cults, with myths. It's in an advanced production stage, but it is suffering delays because Jeff Richard is constantly adding new content.

A scenario book: the original title was going to be The Old Ones, because the authors of the scenarios are important people involved with RuneQuest, such as Steve Perrin or Ken Rolston, but also others like Penelope Love. However, right now its code name is: Rune Masters.

The Gamemaster Sourcebook: in this other post you can read the names of the sections of this book. Jason also specified that this book he is writing will include material already published in the big gold book Basic Roleplaying (BRP) as well as revised material from older editions, such as the guilds from RuneQuest 2nd ed. Additionally, it will include advice for Gamemasters, both beginning and veteran, and other interesting details like alternative player character creation methods.

A book of mini-adventures: these are short scenarios, 5 to 12 pages each, to fill up an evening without much preparation, perfect to be inserted in an ongoing campaign or to be further fleshed out by GMs. From small sandbox scenarios to small dungeons with 4-5 rooms. The provisional title for this is Initiates. Easy to use scenarios that require no previous knowledge of Glorantha to be run.

Then Jason Durall commented on the piece of news revealed during the Gen Con 2018: Robin Laws is writing two long-awaited supplements for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha: Pavis and The Big Rubble. According to Jason, Laws had already submitted part of his manuscript and they are liking it a lot. He's a very productive author, it seems. Jason told us he had devised a questionnaire to create characters of this city surrounded by chaparral and nomad tribes. It will be similar to the one included in RuneQuest Glorantha, but since the book is set after the liberation of Pavis from the Lunars, questions include things like: "Who was the first person you killed?".

After that they announced the RuneQuest line is also going to include "RQ Fantasy Earth" with full-fledged roleplaying games set in different areas of Mythic Earth. The new edition of Mythic Iceland is already old news, but Jason let it slip that Pirates might be a possibility. That seems odd though, because Chaosium already published Blood Tide and I think it wasn't that successful.

It was now Ian Cooper's turn again and he told us about what we can expect for Glorantha with HeroQuest. I must confess I didn't get it all because Ian's Londoner accent is pretty difficult for my untrained ears:

Third Red Cow campaign book: it will be a book filled with short scenarios that take you to the time of general open rebellion in Sartar against the invading Lunar Empire.

Supplement about Fonrit: this book will let you play adventures in the vein of One Thousand and One Nights although it is still in a very vague form. However, if it ever sees the light of day and sells good, the next book could be about Harrek the Berserk in Pamaltela.

To finish with, during the last 5 minutes they asked for questions from the audience. Someone asked if they needed any material for the next issue of the magazine Wyrm's Footnotes, but Ian replied they had more than they needed, and that the new issue will be published "soonish". Jason mentioned that publishing something in it is a good way to end up getting published by Chaosium. Then I asked what they could tell us about the new heroquesting rules with RuneQuest and if what we finally get will influence in some way the way they are played with HeroQuest. Jason said Jeff Richard is developing rules to allow anyone to create myths for heroquests easily (read part 3 for more on this). Ian added that in principle the heroquesting rules in HeroQuest Glorantha are not going to change because, as they are two very different games, they don't need to share any game mechanic.

12:00 - 13:00   Chat about Call of Cthulhu

This seminar was given by Lynne Hardy, Assistant Editor at Chaosium of the Call of Cthulhu line. Mike Mason should have been there as well, but he was in the middle of a move. Lynne started off by talking about the gamer prop set for the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign and the three books included in the slipcase of the new edition of this campaign.

Lynne Hardy revealing the upcoming Chaosium news for Call of Cthulhu. Photo by Aliénor Perrard.

The she talked about the Starter Set for the 7th edition. The cover art is a tribute to the first edition cover. The contents can be seen in this other post and she explained the scenarios included are the classics for Call of Cthulhu, but they have added lots of advice for beginning gamemasters. The first scenario is for solo play, then there's a scenario for only one player, then one for more players with lots of advice and finally one with almost no advice, so the GM can fly alone. And then Lynne spilt the beans about future books:
  • Shadows of Stillwater: a campaign for the Western setting of Down Darker Trails.
  • Secrets of Berlin: supplement for the classic Call of Cthulhu, with 3 scenarios and many seeds for further adventures. 
  • A Cold Fire Within: a campaign for Pulp Cthulhu set in 1935 and a very interesting premise: the heirs to an ancient evil empire try to restore it by travelling back in time and altering the timeline. It reminds me of the Timeless TV show!
  • Cthulhu by Gaslight and Dreamlands: revision of both books for the 7th edition. These will be followed by a Gaslight campaign and Dreamlands will be updated with some new material. Lynne told us how at Chaosium they are trying to balance publications between updated old supplements and completely new material.
  • Harlem Unbound: its author Chris Spivey is revising his award-winning book for the next edition that will be published by Chaosium.
  • A scenario book based on folklore: where monsters do not necessarily belong to the Mythos, as in The Wicker Man.
  • A big campaign set in the North of India: I guess this is the one titled "Children of Fear". When Lynne Hardy published the campaign Shadows of Atlantis for Achtung! Cthulhu, lots of the ideas she had researched about India had to be left out for lack of space. Now, however, she will be able to use all of those in this new campaign, for which she has already written 200,000 words so far.
  • Cthulhu during the Elizabethan period: this new setting for Call of Cthulhu is planned for further in the future, perhaps in two years time.
  • A new Organized Play campaign: starring the most popular monsters among the fans: the Deep Ones.
Not bad at all, eh? That's a busy pipeline. And so lunch time arrived.

13:00 - 14:00   Lunchtime

On the table of the central room pizzas were served, fresh from the oven. There were some for vegetarians and some for carnivores. I believe there were 3 different kinds.

New pizzas were served as the first ones were quickly devoured.

As I gobbled down the first portions, I managed to chat with Gianni Vacca and Ian Cooper about the Gloranthan campaign Gianni is running with RuneQuest. It is set in the Kingdom of Ignorance and it looks very good. Gianni has written some posts about it in his blog Timinits & Trolls, where you can also read his write-up of THE KRAKEN 2018. Gianni was looking for information about the Black Sun god, but Ian couldn't help him. The conversation then veered towards how Glorantha includes places awaiting further exploration where an ingenious gamemaster can run a full campaign without ever touching upon anything previously published about the world. Ian commented there are fans that complain about why Chaosium does not publish books about this or that area of Glorantha, as if they believed everything is already written and awaiting publication, but the truth is it is basically yet to be defined. Then I asked Gianni if he was planning to revise his supplement The Celestial Empire for Revolution D100. He replied it was too boring for him to just do an update, so no.

14:00 - 17:30   After Dark: a Call of Cthulhu game

This is one of the Call of Cthulhu games Lynne Hardy ran at this con. She ran many, not only the one included in the lottery, so when I managed to play this one I no longer regretted not having won any of the lotteries. I hadn't played a game of Call of Cthulhu in years and I was very much looking forward to it. Besides, this was going to be the first time I played in a game run by someone at Chaosium, the first time I was going to play with a female gamemaster and the first time I was going to play the 7th edition of the game.

As it was to be expected, Lynne Hardy was an exceptional Keeper, and a charming person to boot. Among the players there were people who had never played Call of Cthulhu, but Lynne explained the details of the rules in short order, and also the changes in the 7th edition: basically two, luck points and two new levels of success. Strangely, the group of players didn't include a single native speaker of English. We were two Germans, one Swede, two Finns and me.

Playing Call of Cthulhu with Lynne Hardy from Chaosium

The game started at a History museum in a small town in the north of England, during the present time. The players played the part of a team of the museum crew who had come up with the idea of organising an event to draw more visitors. The marketing guy thought it would be a good idea to bring a medium to the museum in order to "read" with her powers several items in the vaults of the museum that hadn't been identified yet for lack of information. To accompany the session there would be some new age music and colourful lights, and that's what the two sound technicians we had hired would take care of (two other player characters). Finally, the rest of the team were the security guy of the museum and me, the curator. Lynne assured us she had created this scenario based on a similar real experience (!).

When the time came, the gates opened and the first group of visitors came in. From the stage set in the central hall, I gave a short welcome speech and, among other details, I assured the visitors the medium had no previous knowledge at all about the items we had selected for "the reading". Obviously, I tried hard to hide the fact that all that idea seemed pure rubbish to me. I turned the mic over to my colleague, "the marketing guy", and he in turn gave it to the medium, who started "reading" the items by placing her hands on each of them and saying aloud the visions she had. In order to further dress up the event, the sound technicians were doing something very vanguardist: they shot sound waves through every item to generate different sounds. Well, I was beginning to roll my eyes at every new statement from the medium when, suddenly, the story took a completely unexpected twist.

In the afternoon they served lemon cake and, of course, we paused to get a portion and some coffee.

The main characters had to survive every strange paranormal phenomena and very unsettling scenes. When we finally found out what we needed to do to solve the problem we had somehow created, it was quite funny because... We had left the security guy behind! He managed to barely survive until we went back there and, at the very last minute, managed to save him, although we risked our lives and our sanity. All in all, a great game, it was only too short! The museum curator quit his job and he was last seen moving to another town. Tuomas, the Finnish guy who played the part of the medium was great in his role and I had to laugh out loud in several scenes. Our "Keeper" knew her job well. She gave every player a bit of spotlight and her descriptions, although short, immersed you right into the narrative. As an added bonus, I learnt what "adder stones" are, and Brigid's crosses and their relation to the ancient Celtic festivals. At the end of the game, we congratulated our keeper for her job and we asked her to tell us how had the real event been, the one she had really attended at a museum in north England (!).

17:30 - 20:00   Free time and dinner

After that, some of the players quickly joined a Mythic Britain game with the Mythras rules that was just starting on the table next to us. However, I was left with nothing to do. I hadn't counted on the game to finish that early. I noticed on the table right behind me there was a GM with only three players. They had begun playing a scenario from Harlem Unbound just 20 minutes earlier. This supplement for Call of Cthulhu and The Trail of Cthulhu, published by Darker Hue Studios offers the NY neighbourhood of Harlem as a setting for Lovecraftian horror during the 20s. It had been nominated for and won many Ennie awards at the Gen Con 2018. I asked them permission to sit at the table and watch. Well, I was hoping they would give me a character to play, but they were already immersed in the story, so it could not be. After a while, I went back to the table next to it and decided to finish creating the pregenerated characters for RuneQuest game in Glorantha I planned to run on Sunday morning. I had only four ducks to translate and convert to the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha rules. I hadn't yet hanged the piece of paper with my game on the schedule tables just in case I didn't have the time to finish the characters. At 19:00 dinner was served: roasted chicken with vegetables.

Saturday's dinner

20:00 - 22:00   Starbrow's Revolt playtest game

Risto had brought to the con the prototype of the board game he had designed and set in Glorantha during the Hero Wars. Every player plays a hero or heroine at the head of an army against the advancing Lunar Empire. I chose Errinoru Leaf, commander of the Aldryami army. Heroes are represented with a miniature and a sort of character sheet with special powers and your army's stats. These are damage, troops (which double up as life points) and economic resources. On top of that, you have Spirit and Rune Magic cards. Every turn, you can purchase magic items, move your troops and fight, leave your troops in an area to fortify it against future attacks and even undertake heroquests.

Risto told us how the game was played as we played it. I don't remember all the details, but there were a lot of variables to take into account and many ways to lose. After all players move it's the Lunar Empire's turn, in which new enemy troops are placed on the board. Then there are nine decks of cards, one for each main area, that you uncover little by little to reveal random challenges that pop up, mostly monstrosities that wander around the territory. It is not necessary to deal with these cards, but if you accumulate enough of them you'll be in trouble, so at least one of the heroes must "clean" that front every turn. To avoid these problems, you can also let the Crimson Bat advance an area. The figure of this immense Chaos monster had been created by Risto's six-year-old son, and it stood menacingly on one end of the board. The Bat annihilates all troops in the area it enters, even the Lunars! But if it ever reaches the city of Whitewall, you lose the game.

The players doubtfully advanced through the game, trying to figure out the best strategy to become more powerful without letting the Lunar Empire to spread too much. After two full turns we started getting more or less how everything worked, and then Risto told us how heroquesting works. When you undertook one of these dangerous magic rituals, you could obtain great benefits, but there was a risk. However, the rules were so complicated that it looked like a game within a game.

A Gloranthan game that is difficult to master, but interesting nonetheless. Someone said he saw mechanics from Scythe in it.

In the end we could only play two hours and we left the game unfinished. As it happens, the room we were in was going to be turned into a cinema for another of Sandy's movie nights. It was a shame, but I think Risto preferred to leave it at that instead of looking for another place to keep playing because his son was already tired and wanted to go to bed.

Afterwards I continued preparing the pregenerated characters for my RuneQuest game. Before I went to sleep, I placed the game sheet on the schedule table. Would I manage to draw enough players to my Sunday morning game? Would you like to know what games I played on Sunday? One Cthulhu game, one RuneQuest Glorantha game and I also played Sandy Petersen's: Evil High Priest, one of his latest board games. Read all the details in my next post:

5 comentarios:

  1. I had the pleasure to play with Ian Cooper, and discuss lengthily with him at the airport ; he has a very interesting perspective on GMing, which his that the GM is here to _serve_ the players and follow them on their whim, and that the players are NOT there to play the scenario planned by the GM. If they do, that's fine; but if they don't, that's also fine. :)

    Risto's son and Risto's daughter are the same person (a boy) :) - don't worry, I blundered completely, congratulating Risto because his daughter was more and more feminine. Ouch.

    1. What game did you play with Ian Cooper? The Voyage of the Ghislaine or Temertain Must Die? And how was it?

      I agree with his perspective, although I also think the GM must be able to have his say from time to time. And thanks for pointing out the typo, I've fixed that now! ;-)

    2. I played the infamous game where the ducks conquer the Lunar Moon. It was as silly as you would expect it! :)

    3. Oh, I envy you! I wish this scenario was published somewhere...

    4. may be there are more important scenarios to publish before... Ducks are the jokes of Gmorantha, not the heroes... ;)


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