Whispers from THE KRAKEN 2016 – An Interview with Organizer Fabian Küchler


The lovely Schloss Neuhausen. Picture courtesy of Yohann Delalande

Yohann: Hi Fabian, last year, you organized a smaller version of THE KRAKEN which served as a Gaming Retreat between two Gaming Vacations. I was lucky enough to attend and I really had the time of my life, game-wise. What about the organizers? After all these months that have passed by, what are your fondest memories of THE KRAKEN 2015?



TIGER! Fabian having fun with Sandy Petersen’s son Link at the Panzer Museum. Picture courtesy of THE KRAKEN.

Fabian: Oh boy, that is really hard to decide (Laughs). Maybe it was listening to Sandy telling funny stories of the heyday of Chaosium. Or his second Forgotten Secrets of Glorantha panel with his discovery of the Chaos Mostali and their uranium weapons that give their foes maximum damage AND cancer (watch out for a future Chapbook)? Or wait, it was learning about the Godlearner Secret only to find out later through Greg Stafford that my source remembered it incorrectly. But we also had tons of fun playing Axis & Allies again and hanging out with Ken Rolston and Chris Klug. Another highpoint was visiting the Panzer Museum in Munster with Sandy as a guide after THE KRAKEN. Tricky question, Yohann, there was so much going on. We always strive to make the next KRAKEN the best one. But I am really happy you enjoyed yourself as well. What did you think about the atmosphere: the fireplaces, the lighting and the cozy table and seating arrangements?
Yohann: Truth be told, I loved it. I’m used to large conventions with a blander gaming environment. So when I arrived at The Schloss, where everything was so quiet, tidy and warm, I really felt intimidated. I didn’t want to break or stain anything. Next question Fabi. This year, you’ve decided not to come back to the regular one-week-long summer gaming holiday but to organize another three-day-long gaming retreat in October. Why?


“A mysterious but not totally unwelcome stranger. He brought the right gift.” Picture courtesy of THE KRAKEN.

Fabian: I am glad that you were not in the break-stuff-at-conventions-business that time (Laughs). The decision to host another Gaming Retreat instead of a Gaming Vacation in summer this year is mainly because of the birth of my daughter and my restricted time because of that. But we also found out that the date in October, a week before SPIEL in Essen, is really a plus because many people and Guests of Honor will combine coming to THE KRAKEN and then going to Essen SPIEL. So the timing is really fortunate. Also the date marks the end of the wedding season at The Schloss and they really want THE KRAKEN to be their end-of-season celebration. This year we give our Krakeneers the option to book an extra day (and help the team behind the scenes) – we will see how much the retreat will eventually morph into a vacation (Laughs).


Yohann: One constant feature at THE KRAKEN is the presence of Sandy Petersen. Could you give us some hints on who might some of the other Guests of Honor be, just to try and make me regret not being able to attend this year?


The box of Glorantha card game Khan of Khans with glorious artwork by Ian O’Toole. Picture courtesy of Chaosium.

Fabian: (Laughs) Well, Sandy had to pull out at one point because of a critical project for Petersen Games this fall but thanks to a change in timing he could reverse his decision and still attend this year (never underestimate the power of THE KRAKEN). Sandy really loves us. And we are truly and deeply happy about that. The other guests are just Robin D. Laws, Jeff Richard, Michael O’Brien, Jason Durall and Ian Brumby from Fenris Games (Laughs). But this is just the official roster. With the addition of Rick Meints and Neil Robinson we basically have the whole Chaosium management present and with Phillipe Auribeau and Grégory Privat we have some pretty well known figures of the French gaming scene. There will also be some exciting German game designer present. Chris Klug couldn’t make it back just yet and Ken Rolston will be back next year — he was confused that we had changed the biannual schedule and was already booked for this year. But we also have many creative people in attendance who are working on unofficial or private game projects and are there to show of their prototypes. That is really exciting. Just have a look at our website ( But hey, we will really miss you there, Yohann.
Yohann: Thanks Fabi, and believe me, I’ll really miss The KRAKEN too. But with the recent birth of my daughter (yeah, looks like there’s a pattern here) and some professional commitments, this October is really impossible unfortunately. And trust me when I say that I would have loved to come. I had such a great time last year! But, oh! Well, I’ve had the chance to read this year’s KRAKEN’s Fundraiser Chapbook, and as usual I’m quite impressed. So could you remind the readers what a KRAKEN’s Fundraiser Chapbook is, why the KRAKEN organizes a fundraiser each year, and most importantly, what this year’s Chapbook is about?


The cover of 1 of 6 (!) KRAKEN Chapbooks featuring the famous Gloranthan hero Griselda. Picture courtesy of THE KRAKEN.

Fabian: With delight, our Chapbooks are up to 40 pages and feature a single theme by one author. We want the quality of the content to be superb, so we hire (or convince) industry top shots like Robin D. Laws and Sandy Petersen to write them for us. The physical Chapbooks are nice ‘homemade’ books with a clear and beautiful layout and a very limited print-run. They are true collectors’ items. Rick Meints, the CEO of Chaosium, a huge collector, already announced he is coming to collect his due in form of our Chapbooks (Laughs). They are available as PDF’s ( as well, of course. You see, we really need some additional funds to finance THE KRAKEN so these Chapbooks are a wonderful tool to achieve that. They are much easier to produce than our Ybots (Ye Booke of Tentacles) – the fundraiser magazines of our Tentacles Convention. It is so much easier (and more pleasurable) to do a single topic publication instead of a magazine. This year we have the immense pleasure to publish not one but six (6!) Griselda short stories by the great and beloved Oliver Dickinson. They will all be separate Chapbooks but each will be cheaper than usual since the stories have different lengths. Do you like Griselda? How would you describe the stories?
Yohann: I’m a huge fan of Griselda. Her stories give a radically different take on this world from what is usually known through RuneQuest and HeroQuest Glorantha. With Griselda, we’re not reading about a “zero-to-hero” saving the world and the day, but about a cunning woman and her gang of unreliable friends in Pavis who all live fun adventures under the Lunar occupation. All the short stories contain a lot of humor and are a real blast to read. Alright, another question now. 2016 is Glorantha’s 50th anniversary, and I’m sure you’ve thought about some ways to celebrate it. Could you give us some hints on what’s in the pipeline?


The fantastic Gods War concept art for Orlanth based on brilliant Dan Barker’s work. Picture courtesy of Petersen Games.

Fabian: Jesus, let me just make a quick list. (Laughs) We will have a Skype event with Greg Stafford (note from Yohann: Fabi, should I tell you again how frustrated I am not being able to attend this year?), we will run the Glorantha FreeForm White Bear and Red Moon: The Hero Wars Begin, the new RuneQuest will be introduced, we will have the full prototype of Glorantha: The Gods War with a lot if not all the miniatures, we will demo the Glorantha card game Khan of Khans, we will play with the new Trollball miniature game and the new Dragon Pass board game, there will be a Chaosium BBQ, we will have news about the Glorantha Skirmish game, Robin D. Laws will host his Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha workshop and he will run an exclusive HeroQuest Glorantha game (which will become one of our next Chapbooks) as well as a Glorantha Hillfolk game (!)(note from Yohann: Fabi, you’ve decided to have me die of envy or what?). Gianni Vacca will introduce his Glorantha card game Glorantha Realms and we will hear about 13th Age in Glorantha, the computer game 6 Ages and RQ2. Looks like you even got some unannounced scoop here. (Laughs) I have to admit that making you regret not to come is a huge source of inspiration. (Laughs) Oh, wait another thing: We will have (fingers crossed) a truly KRAKEN exclusive Glorantha fundraiser item (!) that I worked on with Greg Stafford. It is something with truly historic dimension that goes way back to the discovery of Glorantha. It is something that I convinced Greg to finally do (I heard about it from him years ago) and we got permission by Chaosium and are doing it now. I am afraid I can’t say more right now.


#DuckArmy recruiting poster with art by Dan Barker. Picture courtesy of THE KRAKEN.

But you who are reading this interview can also help to celebrate the birthday of Glorantha with THE KRAKEN initiative #DuckArmy. We are mustering a Duck Army and sending it to Greg Stafford to thank him for giving us Glorantha. You can check it out here ( It is a nice way to give Greg Stafford some love and it involves sending him one of the most hilarious Glorantha creations – Ducks (or Durulz) – as a pre-drawn illustrations (by some of the best Glorantha artists). You can use the empty speech bubble next to the Duck to write your thanks or something hilarious.


Yohann: I agree, the #DuckArmy initiative is a very pleasant one, and I took some real pleasure sending a picture of a duck to a man I’ve never met but who’s made me dream so much with Pendragon and Glorantha. So, thanks a lot for this interview Fabian. It looks like this year’s KRAKEN will be an event not to miss (*sigh*) so I’m counting on you to take A LOT of pictures, save some Chapbooks for me, and most importantly to have an awful load of fun.

Fabian: Will do. But who will bring us our bottle of Kraken Rum this year? (Laughs). Thanks for the interview, Yohann.


This year, THE KRAKEN will take place on October 7-10, 2016.

More info here:

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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


Regeneration at The Chimériades – a Game of HeroQuest Glorantha

Regeneration at The Chimériades – a Game of HeroQuest Glorantha

Last weekend, I attended the Chimériades for the 2nd time, a gaming holiday set in a Provençal castle at a two-and-a-half-hour drive from my place. An exceptional convention with a bit of an intimate touch, and always full of awesome guests of honour, like Jeff Richard and Ken Rolston this year.

The Chimériades are organized every other year, and two years ago, I discovered the world of Glorantha there. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that since then, I’ve tried to make my way into this world, managed to run some games, and even had a few people discover Glorantha as well.

So, for this 5th iteration of the Chimériades, I found it natural to give back what was given to me there, two years before, meaning I strongly felt like running a game of HeroQuest Glorantha. Besides, this convention was also going to celebrate Glorantha’s 50th anniversary. So I knew I had to be a part of this celebration somehow. What I didn’t expect though was to see five expert Gloranthans registering to my table (I had kind of actually expected them to run their own games). I have to admit that I got intimidated.

Then that daunting evening came, and due to logistical reasons, we had to start an hour later than scheduled. Everyone, myself included, was pretty tired, and we still had to create the players’ characters before our game. Let’s say that everything was there to start on the wrong foot.

But the contrary happened: I had the time of my life! Well, what I mean is that I tremendously enjoyed this game.

So, let me tell you a bit about what happened.

Our heroes:

—Sir Gareth, a jaded old knight, initiate of Humakt (played by Alex)

—Atouron, a drunken knife thrower, initiate of Eurmal (played by Eric)
—Lulu, a troll-loving farm girl, initiate of Ernalda (played by Emmanuel)
—Varanis Arandaughter, an avenging warrior, initiate of Babeester Gor (played by Grégory)
—Samara Ligne-Claire, an amazon astrologer, initiate of Yelorna (played by Jean-Paul)

Our spectator:

— Hervé, provider of learned advice to the GM

The premise of the adventure:

It’s the night of Winds Day, Death Week, Dark Season, 1621 ST at Whitewall. The Lunar troops, and more particularly the Lunar College of Magic, have launched a brand-new attack on the fortress, only to be thwarted again by the besieged, unknowing that behind those walls, there are only two dozen people remaining, while the rest have managed to sneak out

Actually, King Broyan and his own troops are hiding in a forest nearby, the Troll Woods, waiting for the Orlanth’s Ring to rise up again from the Underworld. At that moment, the Orlanthi’s magic would reach its apex, and the King’s plan to crush the enemy between the hammer and the anvil would undoubtedly succeed. What could go wrong when even the stars themselves are right?

The Adventure:

So, the characters, who belong to King Broyan’s troops, have been tasked to distract the Lunars while the rest is preparing their attack from the rear. And being in the Troll Woods, Lulu decides to call her trollinet friends to wreak havoc in the camp, but she only manages to reach a handful of them. However, this is enough to start a little commotion. Meanwhile, Atouron uses his Illusion Rune to amplify the sounds of the attacks on the fort, to focus the Lunars’ attention to what’s happening there. Varanis decides to slay the first Lunar she sees, an officer who just stepped out of his tent, and Sir Gareth takes put on the uniform from the dead body to give some random orders to the Lunars.

Samara, on her unicorn, Arthax, becomes increasingly worried as she notices that the Orlanth’s Ring should have already risen up in the sky. She closes her eyes and tries to look into the stars to see the future. She suddenly feels a dead wind, the earth decaying and falling down into darkness, chains of silver locked by the Moon rune, and all around, an ancient feeling of revenge on love spurned.

When Samara opens her eyes, she can feel that the wind has stopped. The planets from Orlanth’s Ring are nowhere in the sky. At the same time, the small clay amulet representing Ernalda that Lulu wears breaks from within and crumbles. Orlanth and Ernalda are dead indeed, and a grave danger threatens the Earth Goddess in the Underworld.

Our heroes then decide to undertake a heroquest to walk down into the Underworld, and to do that right away without reporting back to King Broyan. They go to the best place for that: a clearing in the forest with ring of statues depicting the Hendriking Kings, where they are buried. However, Lulu decides to use her Earth rune to find a hole between tree roots: without any effort, a huge tree replies to her by opening its roots like a woman opening her legs, and with a square as a gateway. In the meantime, Samara rides back to the Lunar camp, abducts a Lunar and slices his throat on the roots to pay for the crossing of the Styx with blood.

Descending a dark tunnel, they reach a crimson-purple-hued river, the Styx, with Jeset the Ferryman, a gaunt figure, waiting for them. The price for the crossing having already been paid ahead of time, they enjoy some quiet time basking in the darkness of the realm of the dead.

Sir Gareth prays Humakt, who gives him some insight on the presence of Nontraya, the Undead Emperor and his army of talokans, his demons.

Samara blindfolds herself and her unicorn, and reflects on the latest events.

Varanis dips her axe into the Styx and imbues it with the power of Death.

Lulu suddenly remembers, thanks to Sir Gareth’s insight, details of the Dead Point heroquest, and the necessity for Nontraya to believe Ernalda is dead, but also for her worshipper to her from Ty Kora Tek: ‘She sleeps, she is not dead.”

Atouron decides to catch some Stygian water in a little vial and suddenly, a scroll gets into it, like a message in a bottle. He takes it out and a huge ancient map with unreadable, watered down writing on it unfolds before them all. But none of them is able to decipher it.

Suddenly, they can hear a funeral at a distance, with cries, bells and chimes. There’s a procession slowly moving toward a huge gate, and all around, hills with figures on their top. Our heroes then land and getting closer, they can see an army of talokans, with, among them, ghosts and other dead creatures. Samara quickly understands that Ty Kora Tek has forged an alliance with Nontraya. Then a pale figure, Nontraya, mounted on a huge horned wolf gives his orders to his army, which rushes down the hill.

Varanis dashes to the nearest enemy, and Lulu calls on her Darkness rune to summon her troll friends. Suddenly, the sky in the Underworld breaks, rocks fall like the ceiling of a cave collapsing, and a horde of trolls fall down like rain. Before attacking Nontraya’s army, an Elder troll turns her head to Lulu and says: ‘you called us, there’s a price to pay’. Atouron decides to join the procession, when Samara reminds everybody of the heroquest: Nontraya and his talokans have to witness a dead Ernalda, which means they have to be kept alive.

That creates a huge internal conflict within Sir Gareth, an old warrior who has served Humakt all his life, who has seen everything and swore to Humakt to kill any undead he would encounter. But in order to achieve the heroquest, he decides to sacrifice his sense of community with the priesthood of Humakt. He thus manages to stand by the procession instead of taking the fight to the undead.

Stopping at the Gates of Death, Atouron can see Nontraya and his demons approaching. He decides to use his Illusion rune to enhance the appearance of death on Ernada, while seeing through it at the same time: a withered-leaved woman, chained with silver locked by the Moon rune, and with a pregnant womb, hidden by the Eurmali’s illusion though.

Nontraya asks his talokans to bear witness, and all agree that the Earth goddess is dead indeed before leaving. However, Ty Kora Tek still needs to say the words, and she will at one condition. Ernalda has kept escaping the clutches of death too many times, and one has to sacrifice themselves by passing the Gates of Death in order to save Ernalda.

Sir Gareth then steps in and passes the Gates of Death, which close behind him. Ty Kora Tek then whispers the words: ‘She sleeps, she is not dead.” At the same time, wails break the silence, and a flowery girl is born from Ernalda. This is Voria, the Goddess of Spring. Atouron leaves the map on the sleeping body of Ernalda, a map which is actually the Great Compromise and takes the baby girl with him back to the world of the living.

The Epilogues:

Back at the surface, each hero goes their own way.

Samara starts telling the legend of Sir Gareth to the rebel troops of King Broyan as an example of selflessness and bravery. And shrines in his honour start to be built along the roads.

Varanis adopts Voria and rears her with a vengeful spin to her education.

Lulu, holding on to her promise to the Elder troll, spends a few years among the trolls, eating like them, living like them, and the powers or her Earth rune and Darkness rune start to shift and replace each other.

Atouron gets back to King Broyan’s army and keeps getting drunk.

Sir Gareth, now dead, meets Humakt, who rejects him as his initiate broke his vows. The Death god tells him that from now on their links are broken and that Sir Gareth has to walk his own path. Our hero can then feel that above in the Dragon Pass, some people start to put their faith on him, and he turns into a minor god.

Conclusion of this whole post:

This is the 4th time I’ve run the Dead Point heroquest, with each time a new spin to the story, and I think that even though it’s far from being as satisfactory as I’d like this adventure to be, I lived an amazing gaming session, all that thanks to my fantastic players.

To be frank, I feel regenerated by this gaming session, by the smiles of my players, by the way, as the GM, I could dive into the adventure myself, immersing into the Underworld without drowning to death and getting back to the surface with a failed quest.

The Chimériades is a convention where good things happen and fantastic people meet to create amazing stories. And that was one of them, just one among many.


Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Glorantha, GMing, RPG, RPGing


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Random musings on my latest Gloranthan gaming

The tree of many paths

Last Saturday, I ran a game of HeroQuest Glorantha in French for three friends of mine. Two of them had only briefly heard of Glorantha from me, and the third player used to run some RuneQuest back in the 80s and had kind of lost touch with the the setting.

After some quick character creation, I planned to have them undergo the Dead Point heroquest just after the fall of Whitewall. It was an adventure I had already started to run with another group and that came to a non-definitive halt halfway through with a side heroquest.

But with table everything went south. Instead of three pure heroes gloriously undergoing a tragic, dramatic dive into the darkest recesses of foul death, we had three deviant initiates who started to dabble in necromancy and awakened Nontraya, infiltrated the Undead Emperor Army and managed to solve the heroquest from the inside, and who came back both victorious and secretly guilty.

Alright, we had a fantastic time together, we played, we laughed, we had an adventurous break to pick up some pomegranates from my garden and came back all scratched, then we resumed our adventure, and they asked for more (which I’ll gladly oblige).

However, the mythic weight I so love in this setting was kind of missing from our game. Obviously, preparing my adventure differently would have helped, but actually, the characters’ actions were critical in the direction our game session took.

Then I started to think of YGMV (Your Glorantha May Vary), or, as said in the HeroQuest Glorantha rulebook, YGWV (Your Glorantha Will Vary). From the perspective of a native French speaker, I’ve got to admit that I had always understood the possessive article “Your” to be directed to a single person – i.e. a GM, a player, a reader, etc. – and not to a whole table of gamers.

As a storygame aficionado, I hardly ever say no to my players. “Yes, and” and “Yes, but” are the way I usually run my games, and it’s the way I love them. This also means that my players can get some tremendous freedom with a setting they either don’t really know or one they want to shape according to their own tastes.

So in this case, I discovered that not only “my” Glorantha varied, as it’s been doing since I first set foot on the lozenge, but so did “ours”. And we all loved it! I mean, as much as I wanted to follow what are in the books, all the fun we had was worth some improvisational modifications.

But in a way, aren’t what myths also are: variations of the same fundamental narratives and structures? By applying variations on a fictional setting that isn’t tangibly grounded on our histories and cultures, aren’t we also playing with mythic signifiers to appropriate them the way all civilizations and human communities have done since the dawn of humankind?

At a personal level, I love immersing myself in the canonical elements of fictional worlds I enjoy. But at the same time, I need to find some room to manoeuvre, some creative freedom within the solid framework of an established roleplaying setting. And with like-minded players, this can give some fantastic stories.

So, as much as I’d love to share my exploration of Glorantha and drag as many roleplayers as possible into it, I’ve come to understand that gaming in this world is a social experience made of and leading to a lot of individual footpaths. The plurality of approach angles also helps as there’s no “one good way” to get on with the setting.

The way myths are re-enacted and legends are born will depend much more on the gaming table than a set of rules and codes to respect. And on top of that, the impact the characters have on the whole fundamental structure of a setting will create many more memorable memories, than just the fixed adherence to an established setting that cannot be changed or acted upon dramatically.

Oh! Wait! I think I’m giving the definition of what a roleplaying game is…

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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Unleash THE KRAKEN 2015 – An interview with Fabian Küchler

©‎ Fabian Küchler

Schloss Neuhausen ©‎ Fabian Küchler

I’ve had the pleasure to interview my good friend Fabian Küchler a few weeks before THE KRAKEN 2015, a short gaming retreat that is taking place on October 2-5, 2015 at Schloss Neuhausen, a Prussian château at a couple hours drive from Berlin. With an impressive list of Guests of Honor and so many great RPGs and boardgames already programmed, THE KRAKEN 2015 is definitely one of the gaming events NOT to miss this Fall.

In this interview, you’ll discover a bit of THE KRAKEN’s past, what’s planned for this 2015 edition, and also some of the secrets on running a successful gaming holiday.

YD: Hello Fabian, thank you very much for this interview. For starters, could you present yourself a little, and tell us which games you’re playing at the moment?

Fabian: Hi Yohann, you are very welcome. My name is Fabian Küchler and I think I am best known for my role in organizing gaming events like the former Tentacles Convention, every other year THE KRAKEN Gaming Vacation, and now THE KRAKEN Gaming Retreat. Because of this ‘hobby’ I rarely have time for gaming myself. I host a boardgame day at my apartment every other month, where I and some other gaming enthusiasts playboard games like Civilization, Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Cosmic Encounter, Arkham Horror, Battlestar Galactica and now Cthulhu Wars. Well, I am basically introducing some people to the classics. (Laughs) There is a promise of a Call of Cthulhu campaign I might be invited to as a player and I have yet to discover playing roleplaying games again via Google Hangouts. I heard it is great. Not the least from you (Laughs). But at heart I am a Glorantha fan and I love RuneQuest and HeroQuest. I am also nuts for Robin D. Laws other games like Hillfolk with its DramaSystem.

YD: You’ve been organizing conventions and gaming vacations for, what, a decade now? Could you present THE KRAKEN, and also tell us why the 2015 edition is a particular one?

Fabian: Well, I started organizing conventions when I was 19, a bit over two decades ago now. (Laughs) It has been a bit of time now. Sandy Petersen said once “This is my good friend Fabian, that I’ve known for over 20 years.” as he introduced me to someone. I went “Wow, he is right.” and of course I got to know Sandy through conventions. To us THE KRAKEN is the direct development out of Tentacles, hence the name.

Fabian in Provence ©‎ Yohann Delalande

Fabian in Provence
©‎ Yohann Delalande

YD: Can you explain that?

Fabian: Sure! First you only see the Tentacles and then THE KRAKEN comes up and devours you. (Laughs) To understand THE KRAKEN and what it is, I need to go back in history a bit. Tentacles, our first show, was a classic 3-day weekend convention at castle Stahleck, in beautiful Bacharach, on the Rhine in Germany. It was a direct successor of the German RQ-Cons of our club, the RuneQuest-Gesellschaft e.V., and a very international show heavily focused on the games from Chaosium Inc. and all their offsprings. Naturally Glorantha, RuneQuest, Hero Wars and HeroQuest as well as Call of Cthulhu, Elric!, Pendragon and FreeForm games, big and small. It was a lot of work to organize it every year and fill the castle with 140 to 180 gamers from around the world. But it was also a lot of fun and a truly magical experience. However, we ran into an odd problem after doing it for 13 years. First of all it was foreseeable, in a not too distant future, that we could not line-up our Guests of Honor and good friends Greg Stafford, Sandy Petersen, Charlie Krank and Lawrence Whitaker any more every year. Either because the wear and tear was going to be too much for them, or as they moved away to even more remote locations in the world. For us, there was no way Tentacles could be the same without their charisma, their games, jokes and wicked sense of humor, their ideas, stories, creativity and motivation for the team.

Secondly, and that was the odd problem, it was becoming more and more obvious that the Tentacles’ attendees, whom we love with all our heart, had a tougher and tougher choice to make every year. Do you want to hang out with your friends from all around the world, that you can only see once a year, and chat and have a drink? Or do you want to participate in a gaming program that took 6 months to prepare? The success of Tentacles was simply beginning to eat the Tentacles itself. Sven ‘Evil’ Nolte, our financial officers; dryly said “We simply passed our half-time.”. If that is not a verdict — I don’t know what it is. (Laughs)

We discussed the situation within our team and the legal organization behind it, our roleplaying club RuneQuest Gesellschaft e.V. We agreed we had to change, and then we took a vote at our official meeting. The club allowed us to take all the funds and material from Tentacles and host a new gaming event with it,because at the same time, we still felt we weren’t done and that we still had fun doing conventions. In fact we had already presented our new idea.

Basically, instead of watching Tentacles wither away and become a ghoul, we decided to host a last Tentacles Convention, Tentacles Omega for a proper goodbye, instead of just ending it and then take all we like from the convention and start over. Why not make it longer? We already spent a week of holidays to set-up and run Tentacles anyway? We would have had time to play AND hang out and chat. Why not having more comfort and better food? Why not harnessing the incredible creativity of our attendees to create, develop and test games? Why not going from the castle to a chateau as history demonstrated? The result was THE KRAKEN a Gaming Vacation. We brainstormed the idea at our infamous team meeting Camp Fork hosted by Sven Fork. We looked around while having beer between relaxed games, chilling in the sun and we said: “More of this.”

So, THE KRAKEN is basically a baroque gathering of international gamers and game creators to play and create fine quality games at Schloss Neuhausen, along with great food, comfy beds and all-inclusive drinks. Normally, it lasts 5 days and takes place every other year. Except this year, I went rogue on the team and decided more or less single-handedly to run a Mini-KRAKEN. I guess I could not stand to wait another year before the next one. (Laughs) And it looks like quite a lot of our Krakeneers agree. (Laughs) So THE KRAKEN a Gaming Retreat was born. It is shorter, cheaper and a bit less elaborate than the Gaming Vacation ,and it is also a great way for people with less time and money to find out what THE KRAKEN is. I am sure it also helps to counter some objections people might have against the concept or better evaporates them. (Laughs) We have a certain philosophy about gaming events, you know.

©‎ Fabian Küchler

©‎ Fabian Küchler

YD: Interesting, can you tell us more about it?

Fabian: I have the feeling that most conventions are at their heart still the way they were in the very beginning. They have developed less than the games they host. This insight struck me as I was reading the book 40 Years of GenCon by Robin D. Laws about the history of GenCon. At the very first GenCon someone was insightful enough to snap a few pictures. You can see geeky teenagers having fun or better livin’ the high life. They radiate joy and companionship and do not care that there are no tables and chairs (they play on the ground), let alone food, drinks, beds or showers. Somehow this seems to be the DNA of conventions. Meaning who needs comfort and culture when you can just play games? Do conventions have to define themselves through size and attendance numbers? Do we need the exhausting feel of gaming through the night and crashing under a table on a camping mattress? Well, it is fair enough if you are a teenager but many gamers are older than that. But I am not saying these things can’t be fun.

I always felt conventions could be more than that and always tried to do crazy things early on. At one of the very first Dreieich Cons (now one of the biggest Cons in Germany) I was on the team and had the crazy idea — wait for it — hand out FREE BEER to GMs at the end of the show on Sunday night. Guess what, no one wanted it — except the team. (Laughs) People literally passed us by while we offerend them free beer. (Laughs) Maybe it was too social an idea for most gamers. I am very fond of Chimériades (in Provence, France) and their convention culture. They have been able to capture the true spirit of Tentacles in my opinion. If you want to have an idea what Tentacles felt like, don’t miss the next Chimériades. A big inspiration for Tentacles and THE KRAKEN has always been the Convulsion conventions in England and the RQ-Cons worldwide.

YD: THE KRAKEN 2015 is meant to be a gaming retreat for all the attendees (myself included), and I hope for the organizers too. Could you tell us a bit more about the activities that are planned there?

Fabian: First of all there will be many excellent roleplaying sessions and great players. One of the secrets of our success is that most if not all Krakeneers are GMs. So they make GREAT players because they are happy to play and know what you need as a GM. We will have a multitude of seminars and boardgames. Sandy Petersen will basically bring ALL games still in development at Petersen Games including the Cthulhu Wars expansions with finished miniatures and game pieces, AND run a Call of Cthulhu session for the winners of the Horror Lottery. We will have crazy events like Axe Throwing and Speed Archery, Kubb, Sandy’s Movie Nights (Oh! yes, Sandy is a Movie Buff), a Cthulhu Sing-Along as well as an action ready Billiard table, all inclusive food and drinks, Finnish Pancakes, a French Apero (Wait, that is not even on the website yet!?), a KRAKEN Bazaar, a Charlie Krank style BBQ and you can help test and create games. Tentacles and THE KRAKEN have been Hotspots for new designers, artists and authors. You should have to ask Grégory Privat about that! (Laughs) It is a very creative atmosphere. And then there will be cake… Oh, while I’m typing, there is this one last spot that has just opened up for THE KRAKEN. So if you still want to come, hurry up!

YD: So what is the difference to THE KRAKEN Gaming Vacation?

Fabian: First of all it is shorter and cheaper but it is also a bit less elaborate and has a smaller team running it. But it is the same crazy fun. During a Gaming Retreat however we do not plan to be booked out and we do not host FreeForm games, workshops or big miniature games. But we are booked out now. Well, no, as I said there is still one spot open. Well, open again. (Laughs)

Sandy Petersen GMing ©‎ Fabian Küchler

Sandy Petersen GMing
©‎ Fabian Küchler

YD: There will also be Guests of Honor, and this is quite an impressive roster! Could you present them briefly, please?

Fabian: Sure, there will be Uncle Sandy aka Sandy Petersen the designer of Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Wars and main contributing author of Glorantha, Ken Rolston from Paranoia and The Elder Scrolls fame, Jeff Richards ,the architect of the Guide to Glorantha and creative director of Chaosium Inc., Michael ‘MOB’ o’ Brien, former editor from Tales of the Reaching Moon, Maximum Game Fun advocate and author of the RQ supplement ‘Sun County’. We will also have Jason Durall the main author of the Big Gold Book ‘BRP’ book and Online Game Designer for Drakensang Online, and as a last minute addition none lesser then Chris Klug himself, the author of the James Bond 007 RPG. Well, I was not sure if we would host any Guests of Honor at a Mini-KRAKEN but since it is a week before SPIEL ’15 in Essen and Sandy was going to be there anyway because of business, so we got lucky. Jeff and Jason now live in Berlin, MOB is passing through, Ken owed me a visit since he never made it to Tentacles and Chris Klug heard about us through your Google Hangout game about us and decided he wanted to come play games and hang-out with the crew. Why, don’t you tell us something about that Yohann?

(Note from the interviewer: Chris Klug heard about THE KRAKEN 2015 from me during a session or HeroQuest Glorantha I ran with him on Google Hangouts. He got interested, so I just gave him Fabian’s contact details. My work stopped at that point).

©‎ Tentacles Press (RuneQuest Gesellschaft e.V.)

©‎ Tentacles Press (RuneQuest Gesellschaft e.V.)

YD: Every edition of THE KRAKEN sees the release of a KRAKEN Chapbook as part of a fundraiser. Could you give us some details about this year’s edition and what this fundraiser is about?

Fabian: That is not entirely true. (Laughs) Even so it was planned since the beginning we could only pull it off last year and this year. We just had to find a format for the fundraiser and it was an inspiration I during conversations at and after the last Chimériades, especially with Robin D. Laws. So, thanks Philippe, Camille, Rémy and the rest of the team (the love pays back nicely)! (Laughs) The idea of our fundraiser is to provide stellar content by well-known roleplaying designers and authors but in a very simple and accessible form. We make them available in a very small print run and in PDF. This year will see the publication of a great talk by Sandy Petersen about forgotten secrets of Glorantha. After 20 years of knowing Sandy I finally realized the huge impact he had on Glorantha. While Greg is the über-creative creator of all things in Glorantha, Sandy was the guy who saw connections, made many things work, and most importantly made them fun. One thing about hanging around with Sandy is that it is never boring. For 20 years, I have kept hearing new stories. So I told him I wanted him to talk about the super secret stuff of Glorantha that is basically stored only in his and Greg’s brain. So I set up a camera and a Dictaphone, and Sandy sat down in the empty chapel of Schloss Neuhausen with only me at first. While we were waiting for more people Sandy calmly grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and began to write down an honest to god list of the forgotten secrets from his memory. So I was right these things exist like I envisioned it. The room filled up pretty fast after we started the seminar. (Laughs) So this year, the KRAKEN Chapbook is the transcription of this seminar and we have to thank Scott Martin for jumping in the trenches and transcribing it all. It has pieces of Glorantha art by Jon Hodgson who is famous for his illustrations in the Guide to Glorantha. Hey, you have read it, Yohann. What do you think?

(Note from the interviewer: as one of this Kraken Chapbook’s proofreaders, and a relatively new Gloranthan explorer, I got utterly mindblown. The amounts of details provided in there and their depth will make this little tiny book an incredibly indispensable supplement to this world. Besides, I really loved Jon Hodgson’s illustrations. They’ve really captured the mood of… Oops! I was about to spill the beans…)

Fabian: Here is an evil tease : Jon was also captured by the contents he did two more illustrations  without me knowing.

TentaFabi ©‎ Laura Aus Dem Siepen

©‎ Laura Aus Dem Siepen

YD: Fabian, you inspired other conventions, like the Chimériades in south-eastern France, which has seen an increasing success over the years. If you had to share your experience and give some advice to future convention organizers, like on how to attract big names from the industry and so on, what would you tell them?

Fabian: It is said that we have inspired only ONE convention so far. (Laughs) But boy, it is a really cool convention. Honestly, I am very pleased and humbled by the existence of the Chimériades and I have to tell you the story on how it all started one time. It is very funny. (Laughs) But yes, 20 years of doing conventions with a bit of unnatural zeal leaves you with a lot of experience and possible pieces of advice. If you ask Philippe (Note from the interviewer: Philippe Auribeau, one the Chimériades’ masterminds), he will tell you that the most valuable piece of advice I gave him was ‘Start small.’ This is particularly amusing for me because I sat down with him when I visited him on my holiday in Provence and we talked for HOURS. I gave him all kind of advice but this is what he took away. (Laughs) But yes, starting small is a good idea. Also be unique and special. Focus on something. There are many conventions that have general gaming as a focus. Game designers can be more easily lured to a convention that celebrates the games they have written of course. One secret is that they often LOVE be among like minded people after years sitting writing lonely in their room. They like the feedback and they like seeing their games are cherished and played. Also I found that a trip to a foreign country and hospitable hosts is a great motivation to attend for them. And being able to not talk about your character is a great skill especially if you meet the spouses of said authors and designers. (Laughs) Tree McLean the wife of Charlie Krank once said about me and Sven “These two can visit, they don’t talk about their characters.” (Laughs) Also the more convention experienced Guests of Honor, like Robin D. Laws, have a very effective detector if your convention is good. Robin says he knows it when he gets off the plane. Basically it goes like this: “If the people picking you up at the airport (mostly the people in charge of a convention) are calm and relaxed it is a great con. If they act as if they are in a constant emergency and seem to panic it is going to be a rough ride.” So, yes being prepared helps. I think, there are only guidelines for running a great convention or better principles but no formula that you can copy. You must have fun doing it. You must find your own thing. I like doing it. It is a great way of self-expression; it is a creative outlet. It is ‘Doing something.’ And you can do great things. So if anyone asks me for some advice or help, then do feel free to ask me, even if it is “only” about packing cars the German way — one of my most noble activities at Chimériades. (Laughs) True, just ask my Fabian-Deutsche-Ninja-Squad. But hey, there is some good advice I have for convention organizers. “Burned” by my teaching experience with Philippe, I came up with shorter more snappy advice or rather a rules list for convention organizers:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Shower
  4. Do it again

Philippe cherishes this list even though he is not that good following those points. I guess I framed an ideal that is indeed very hard to live up to as a convention organizer worth their salt. It is harder then it looks like.

YD: Thank you very much for your answers Fabian. I’m really looking forward to being at THE KRAKEN this October. If you agree, I’ll also interview you when this gaming holiday is over to share your experience with us once again.

Fabian: It will be my pleasure. See you soon.

For more information, visit THE KRAKEN website:

©‎ Fabian Küchler

Fabian Küchler patiently waiting for us all ©‎ Carré & Kawaii


Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Interview


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GMing HeroQuest Glorantha – The Toena Clan, session 2

Gathering your group of players can sometimes prove a bit difficult, which explains the one-month gap between our first session and this one. And even when a date is set, no one can ever foresee any real life setbacks that would prevent one of them from playing. This is how we lost our sellsword for this session, as the Humakti mercenary got sent by King Ilgalad Trollfriend on a secret mission for the time being.

However, as we didn’t want to cancel this game, we decided to run a side quest aimed at strengthening the characters’ community, weakened by the fall of Whitewall but also by the death of Orlanth and Ernalda. Besides, the whole band of heroes would have had to wait for the Dark Season to undergo the Dead Point quest anyway.

As a side note, kudos to the player who helped me find the quest they would play. In a way, this means that the characters had quite a lot of agency in this session, a feature I actually enjoy in the games I usually run.

The cast

The heroes

  • Hegermast Sharp-Tongue, adventurous Orlanthi skald
  • Drake ap Quackford, haunted Humakti warrior, durulz
  • Therona, one-eyed Humakti huntress
  • Kestel the Frowning, cynical Humakti sellsword

The Toena Clan

  • Wealth                       18
  • Communication        09W
  • Morale                       12 (+6 at the end of the session)
  • War                           12W
  • Magic                         18

The story

1622 ST, Fire season. Drake, Hegermast and Therona are sitting by the fireplace, discussing how to best serve their community. The auguries have foretold a bad harvest this year, which will just provide enough food to sustain the clan. However, without the Storm god and the Earth goddess, the situation is unlikely to turn for the better soon. Therona has tried to hunt, but the game is scarce as well, and she barely manages to bring back enough food.

Saying that morale is low would be an understatement, and even though our heroes originally decided to undertake the Dead Point quest, King Ilgalad Trollfriend has sent Kestel the sellsword on a different mission while waiting for the Dark season, the appropriate time for this endeavor.

Without Orlanth and Ernalda to protect their clan and their tribe, Drake and Hegermast are discussing the possibility to undertake a heroquest that would lift up the morale of the Toena clan. Drake then suggests the barely known Humakt the Champion quest, which gives a new perspective on how Orlanth could eventually be given Death, Humakt’s sword, by showing respect to his brother.

The rationale behind this quest, as they manage to explain it to the clan’s Ring, is to form a bond with Humakt in the absence of other gods. The heroes’ goal is to turn the Toena clan into a stronger community, lift up the morale of its members, and ensure its survival. The Ring accepts this explanation, and will help them prepare the heroquest.

As they need to find a fertile place that saw a lot of death in the past, Therona secretly asks her ghosts to help her. They accept at the condition she helps them redeem their errors. The ghosts tell her that they are Sartarites who have been punished by joining the Lunars in slaughtering their kinsmen, and that they also felt the death of the gods. They want her to go to the Culbrea tribe and convince its king, Ranul Turn-Tail, to give up his alliance with the Lunars. Therona accepts the deal, and she returns to the others with the location they need.

Once there, with the Ring, some weapon thanes and carls, Drake puts his singing sword, symbol of his initiation to the Humakti mysteries, on the fertile ground, which symbolises Ernalda. Besides, Therona cannot see any ghost in this place, a sign that a clean death had been given here. As the clan’s wyter disappeared with Orlanth’s death, Hegermast calls his air spirit to represent Orlanth’s power. Stones are carefully placed on the field to represent graves, lines are traced to represent field plow lines, and everyone gathers at the center of the area to start the Humakt the Champion heroquest.

Roles are assigned: Therona puts on the mask of Humakt, Hegermast dons the mask of Orlanth, and Drake the durulz covers his face with the mask of human for all the casualties who will die during this quest. The landscape shifts and they find themselves on a mountain. The journey has started.

In the first step of the quest, Orlanth orders Humakt to give him his sword. His weapon thanes insist and throw in some comments to show that the Death God is no better than a thrall. Both gods battle for sixteen days and sixteen nights, the weapon thanes are killed, and Orlanth loses the contest.

In the second step of the quest, Orlanth comes back and demands Humakt’s sword again, this time by treating him like a cottar. The Storm god is also followed by cottars who are all killed by arrows, and interesting deviation from the original myth, which validates Therona’s use of her bow as an initiate of the Death god. Orlanth and Humakt fight for four days and four nights, and eventually the Storm god loses.

In the third step of the quest, Orlanth treats Humakt like a carl, and the death god still refuses his sword. Thanes and carls are killed, Orlanth is vanquished again, and a new enemy comes and attacked the Death god, a centaur duck – Drake using his Beast rune this time to represent a beastman. While the god and the beastman battle against each other, Orlanth, exhausted, can see from a distance that a wave of spirits of Darkness are lurking, waiting to attack them all, a part which clearly doesn’t belong to the myth.

Humakt beats the centaur duck and Orlanth admits the Death god is the greater warrior of the two. And then the threat of the Darkness spirit looms more closely. In a contest against the centaur duck, Orlanth manages to have the beastman swear an oath of loyalty to the Storm god, and the three of them rush to fight their new opponents. The centaur duck fights with his beak and hooves, Orlanth with the Voice of the Storm, and Humakt with his sword.

Finally, in the last sequence of the myth, Orlanth offers salt and water to Humakt, and offers him a seat in his Ring not as a brother, but as an equal, and as his Champion. The Death god can see the wisdom in this and accepts, ready to lend his sword. Then Orlanth asks to borrow Death, and Humakt accepts. For a very brief moment, the Death god can be seen in all his forms and glory at the same time, human, durulz, etc., as a sign that beasts and men stand equal in the eyes of Death. The rest of the ring cheers in celebration. Then the landscape starts to shift again.

Our heroes are back on the fertile land, and everybody can feel that Humakt has now joined them. An alliance has now been forged with the Death god, who offers protection as the clan’s champion. Hegermast wields Drake’s sword and he will keep it for their next quest as a sign of their new covenant.

Morale at Toena is on the rise again, and King Ilgalad Trollfriend orders the construction of a Humakti temple to celebrate this union. New initiates are to be formed there to prepare for the next war. (Morale as increases by 6 points as a direct effect of the quest)

Finally, Therona decides to overcome her fears and tell her friends about her ghost-sight. Drake and Hegermast consider her ability as a sign of a lack of clean death in the previous war, and not as curse. She tells them about her oath to the ghosts, and they all realize that if Orlanth and Humakt can change their mind, a king can also be convinced to change his friends. They clearly have a new mission now.

End of the session.

The game

Even though I’ve got mixed feelings about my GMing of this session as a whole, I must admit that in hindsight, I learned a lot about using the HeroQuest system, setting a game in Glorantha, and GMing in general. After all, I’d rather fail forward than keep a blind eye on my own failings.

The first point worth mentioning concerns semi-improv gaming in Glorantha. I know my players quite well. We’re used to playing other games together such as Hillfolk and Fiasco. Improvisation is one of our skills as players and GMs, and railroading isn’t usually something we’re concerned about. But despite all that, the beginning of our game was mostly dominated by the only player who knew enough of the setting to propose a course of action. My two other players were literally blocked.

Obviously, one could retort that being given enough info on the general situation in their clan, many things could have been done at a low level to help their community, instead of trying to undertake some heroic endeavor right on. And as soon as I started to say that to them, I bit my tongue and realized that I couldn’t expect any of my players to come up with any ideas when they felt so overwhelmed by such a gigantic setting.

Basically, the amount of background information on the setting is so impressive that the mere task of coming up with a decision can feel daunting. And without any clear landmark to anchor themselves to, they reached a point of player’s block. And the mistake is mine as I should have found a way to start our session on simpler premises instead of expecting my players to make their characters behave like heroes straight on.

Another point I learned with HeroQuest Glorantha is how to make railroading “unrailroady”. Running and playing a heroquest may represent a difficult task to gamers who are used to discovering the plot as it unfolds before their character’s eyes. Here, in this world, both the players and the characters are told the elements of the heroquest before undertaking it.

Technically speaking, in the specific framework of the heroquest, we all know, we the people around the table but also the heroes in our mind’s eye, what the steps are, and where it has to lead to. In a way, it might look like replaying a dungeoncrawl module to some. However, I was absolutely and positively surprised to see that the ritualistic aspect of the myths, plus the heroquesting rules in the HeroQuest system offered enough room for both the GM and the players to offer a refreshing narrative, joined with its own surprises.

To some of us, that was a whole new way to game, and extremely far from being unpleasant, as far as I’m concerned. We all knew the steps, but the goal and the roleplay definitely mattered in how the heroquest ran. Besides, this phase of our session showed me how decisively important bumping down a result with a mastery was.

Rulewise, this session also taught me the importance of the community creation rules as a compelling motivation that may drive the characters who can have an important impact on the transformation of their clan or tribe.

To conclude, running a session which was quite subpar in my opinion has allowed to me reflect on what I still had to learn on how to make my games more compelling and engaging, and not just with HeroQuest Glorantha. So even though I still have a lot to learn about running great heroquests, I’m really glad this experience taught me the basics of this peculiar way to game.

To be continued…


Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Glorantha, GMing, RPG, RPGing


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GMing HeroQuest Glorantha – The Black Rock Clan, session 2

Two weeks after our first session, our group met again on Google Hangouts, except for one player who had to skip this session. This meant that Dubghall, the party’s trickster, was missing, probably called by Eurmal for some weirdly cryptic purposes. Besides, another player also couldn’t start on time either, and Flicker the huntress was scouting the area when the session started.

The cast

  • Tarak the Sly Skald, initiate of Issaries
  • Orlain the Novice Weaponthane, Initiate of Orlanth Adventurous
  • Flicker, the huntress, initiate of Vinga
  • Dubghall, the clan’s resident trickster, Initiate of Eurmal
  • Hindala, the compulsive shaman, Grazelander of the Golden Bow, initiate of Jardanroste Polestar

In the last session, our heroes had reached Alda-Chur and were getting ready to accomplish their mission.

The story

After discussing how to get into the city, the heroes decide to pass the main gate instead of sneaking in. There they are stopped at the gate by guards composed of Lunar spearmen and Sartarite soldiers who check the movements into and out of the city. Tarak the skald reveals they come from the Black Rock clan to show off his poetry talents. Hindala is declared as his muse and Orlain as his guard. The guards are suspicious as the Amad tribe is considered an enemy. But as they don’t really look threatening, they are let in.

When within the walls, they’re joined by Flicker the huntress who managed to sneak in unseen. They try to find a way to reach Brolankar. They know that he frequents a « library », but no one in the group knows what such a place is, as none of them has ever seen a scroll. After asking somebody in an inn and getting a answer, they decide to split up and explore the city.

Hindala walks to the Foreigners Quarter where she meets a childhood friend of hers, a woman called Braza, who is here to trade some wool and fabrics. However, she remains cold to the shaman as she doesn’t understand why she never came back to her people. Hindala understands that such things like friendship take time and hugs her before leaving.

Flicker walks around the Sun Quarter, with the Great Hall which is being rebuilt and made bigger to fit the ego of the city’s king, and the Bronze Palace quarter with temples to Yelmalio, the Red Goddess, the Seven Mothers, and also to the Lightbringers except Orlanth. Eventually, she manages to find the Lhankor Mhy temple, and also assess the security around all these buildings.

Tarak, followed by Orlain who guards him, goes to the Skald corner of the market place and recites a poem he’s just composed about his muse, Hindala the fair, and some trivialities on Alda-Chur. Orlain then spots some weaponthanes from Harvar’s inner circle who look at them, puzzled, and not really decided on what to do with them as the skald isn’t uttering any words of dissent.

The night is falling, the Red Moon shines in the sky and the heroes gather in the room of an inn. They all agree on having Hindala use her spirit magic again to see the whereabouts of Brolankar. She decides to invoke a spirit of Darkness. She dances in a spiral and the spirit appears. She bargains the sacrifice of insects with it, then chews and swallows some. The spirit leaves and at the very same time comes back through her mouth, letting her see what is happening now.

She can see the prince looked after by four Sartarite guards, in a library, reading scrolls. They signal him it is time to walk back to his quarters, which causes him to whine as he was reading an interesting treaty on the Lunar Empire. They get him to return to the Great Hall anyway.

Eager to take advantage of this opportunity, the heroes dash to intercept them, with Flicker taking another route to attack from the rear. They will fight them. As they arrive, Tarak’s alynx spirit shouts a deafening yowl that startles the guards, while Flicker shouts words about Moon spirits escaping from the temple, and madness flying in the air.

The Sartarites guards are shocked, surprised and at a loss. Suddenly, Orlain attacks, using his superlative agility. Brolankar crouches so as to avoid taking a blow. Hindala creates an air shield to protect Tarak, and in no time, three of the four guards are taken down.

Flicker tries to attack the last guard from behind but fails. Suddenly, Brolankar picks up a sword and slashes the guard’s back, taking care of him.

Now saved, the prince thanks them but tells them he cannot leave the city yet as Eulina, the daughter of the Tres tribe’s king, is still kept hostage and has recently been convinced to undergo the rites of the Red Goddess and become an initiate of her cult. Should the Lunars succeed, this would represent a huge blow to the girl’s tribe.

Hoping for the prompt return of their trickster who might come up with a crazy plan to save her, the session ends up in the street, with the bodies of four guards in the street, their mission partly achieved as they’ve found the prince but still need to bring him back to their tribe alive, and another urgent matter to take care of.

The game

With this second session, I managed to run the system a wee bit more smoothly than last time, although I still constantly need to check the tables in the HeroQuest Glorantha rulebook, and I still feel that my combats aren’t as engaging as they should be.

However, I am really glad to have the support of my players who can help me with optional rules I didn’t remembered, and relevant points that can improve our game. In a way, it feels like team work, and it is just the way I love my games to roll.

To be continued…


Posted by on June 7, 2015 in Glorantha, GMing, RPG, RPGing


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GMing HeroQuest Glorantha – The Black Rock Clan, session 1

Concurrently with my other HeroQuest Glorantha campaign, I’ve started to run an adventure for a group of five players based in North America, also via Google Hangouts. We had already had a character creation session a few weeks before this session, which means everybody was ready when our game started.

A very important point, though, was that everyone agreed to play two-hour long sessions, as time zone not helping, it is morning in North America while it’s afternoon here in France, and short sessions would prevent blocking their full Sunday. This also means that I needed to revise the whole structure of my scenario and cut it into more engaging scenes that would feel like a short adventure for each. And as you’ll read below, every GM should also always be prepared to build on your players’ fantastic unexpected ideas.

The cast       

  • Tarak the Sly Skald, initiate of Issaries
  • Orlain the Novice Weaponthane, Initiate of Orlanth Adventurous
  • Flicker, the huntress, initiate of Vinga
  • Dubghall, the clan’s resident trickster, Initiate of Eurmal
  • Hindala, the compulsive shaman, Grazelander of the Golden Bow, initiate of Jardanroste Polestar

The characters are all part of the Black Rock clan from the Amad tribe, which is openly rebellious to the Lunar Empire, and the adventure starts at the beginning of the Fire season, in 1621 ST.

The story

Our heroes are on their way to Alda-chur, Sartar’s second biggest city, as their clan leader, Daradestra Swift Spear, a devotee of Vinga, entrusted them with a mission of critical importance: freeing the son of their tribe king who was kidnapped three months ago and held captive since then.

Three months ago, Garhinharl Shadowcat, king of the Amad tribe, waged war against Harvar Ironfist, the despotic ruler of Aldachur coalition, and the characters’ tribe lost. But the hardest blow came when Brolankhar, Garhinharl’s son, was captured by the tyrant’s army. The king tried to broker a wergild, willing to pay 200 cattle in exchange for his son, a King’s ransom.

However, Ironfist refused, preferring to keep the young man as a political prisoner. Travelling on horseback, our heroes decide to stop midway in a friendly tribe in order to obtain more information on how to enter an enemy city with Lunar sympathies. They then head to Fort Alone, a fortified town in the Tres tribe that serves as a central trading place.

As they don’t want to openly state the actual reason of the journey, Tarak the skald lies to the guards and pretends they’re going to Alda-chur for a poetry contest. The guards watching the fort gate start to be suspicious, as no member of the Amad tribe would go to an enemy city just for fame and glory. Fortunately, Dubghall the trickster manages to convince them that it’s actually a strategy to confuse the enemy.

Inside the fort, Tarak learns from another skald who has just travelled back from the city that Brolankhar isn’t actually chained in a jail, but kept as a “guest” in the great hall. Meanwhile, Orlain talks to Argyle, a local weaponthane, to check the overall mood. They become friend very quickly and he learns that Eulina, the beloved daughter of their clan leader, had also been kidnapped two years ago. And although the Amad tribe is eager to go back to war, the Tres tribe has lost all their will to fight.

Wishing to find out how the young man is faring, Hindala enters into a trance state and reaches the spirit world. She tries to project herself to Alda-chur, but she’s quickly blocked by spirits of the Sun and the Moon. However, the spirit of the Polestar, always shining in darkness, tells the shaman that Brolankhar, an initiate of Lhankor Mhy, has been biding his time in the main library, learning all he can about the enemy until he is liberated.

Then Hindala wakes up. At the same time, Dubghall manages to locate a group of local smugglers who gather around a very smelly area near the moat, outside the fort. He tries to lure them into revealing who could get him into Alda-chur unseen, pretending he has some shady business to do there. The gang of smugglers asks him for money and the trickster uses his Illusion rune, playing with their greed. He is tossed a tablet with some writing on it, and is told to give it to Uralh the Toothless, a local smuggler there. He will be found outside the walls of Alda-chur, at another very smelly place, where nobody would ever go.

When Dubghall comes back, Flicker notices that the smugglers are barging into the marketplace and point at the trickster, having obviously noticed that they got fooled. The huntress uses her Illusion rune to delay them by having them believe that all the carpets are flying about due to a violent gust of wind. Calling her companions, they all jump back to their horse and leave Fort Alone. The trickster is the last to get out of the place and he denounces the smugglers to the guards at the gate, who are eager to catch those thieves.

The session ends with our five heroes on a hill overseeing the city of Alda-chur.

The game

Thanks to my previous session with the European group and to the character generation session with this one, I felt I had a much better grasp on the basic rules, which will allow me to explore more specific points in the system in the upcoming games. I had originally planned to have my players arrive in Alda-chur at the beginning of this session, but the players’ idea to stop at Fort Alone was just fantastic. There, they could try out some of their character’s abilities and feel better prepared to undertake their mission.

Besides, the two-hour format we decided to use for this adventure gives me feeling that we can spend more time playing one big scene per session, something that I’m definitely not used to. This also forces me to avoid overseeing any detail that might matter and to offer some new interesting dynamics to all the games I run in general. Our next game is in two weeks, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters will bring about their mission.

To be continued…


Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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GMing HeroQuest Glorantha – The Toena Clan, session 1

HeroQuest Glorantha - front cover. Copyright © 2015 Moon Design Publications - All Rights Reserved. Glorantha is a Trademark ® of Moon Design Publications

HeroQuest Glorantha – front cover.
Copyright © 2015 Moon Design Publications – All Rights Reserved.

It might have taken me several months to get to GM my first games of HeroQuest Glorantha, but I eventually managed to find two virtual tables on Google Hangouts. As a result, two campaigns have been started and set in 1621 ST, although both groups will play a different story. Out of convenience, I’ll call the first one the European group and the other one the North American group.

Yesterday’s game involved four players from the European group. Hopefully, our fifth will be able to join us for our next game.

The cast

  • Hegermast Sharp-Tongue, adventurous Orlanthi skald
  • Drake ap Quackford, haunted Humakti warrior, durulz
  • Therona, one-eyed Humakti huntress
  • Kestel the Frowning, cynical Humakti sellsword

The characters belong to the Toena clan from the Aranwyth tribe, which is openly rebellious to the Lunar Empire. Fort Toena, the tribe’s main stronghold, has been under siege for several weeks already, regularly attacked by regiments of Lunar soldiers and their allies, Sartarites from the Enstalos tribe.

The story

Today, however, the enemy is leading an all-out assault against the fort, and our heroes are on the battlefield when their story starts. Well-armored and well-armed, their opponents prove to be remarkable adversaries at the beginning of the battle. Drake the Duck runs straight to the captain of the Lunar regiment, as he wants to take him down and break the enemy’s morale. Hergermast, supported by his Air spirit ally, faces an antagonistic female Sartarite warrior, while Therona and Kestel oppose other Lunars.

At the beginning, only Drake and Therona prevail, whereas Hergermast and Kestel quickly realize that on such a battlefield, war isn’t always waged with pure strength, but with superior wits as well. However, Drake and Therona’s superlative show of mastery of the Death rune starts to make everyone feel that Humakt is on their side. Taking advantage of this situation, Kestel keeps taunting his opponent to distract him, while Hegermast, protected by his Air spirit, starts to chant songs praising Orlanth, the Lightbringers and Humakt.

The enemy’s morale is definitely on the wane, some of the Sartarite from the Enstalos tribe even surrender. However, the hardest blow comes when the Lunar captain’s soul is cleanly severed from his body by Drake, enveloped by the aura Humakt, with the form the durulz give him in their worship. The Toena clan is clearly victorious, when suddenly…

Silence deafens all the Sartarites on the battlefield. The sky goes dark, and the Red Moon glows darkly. The air is foul while the earth starts to die. Suddenly, a scream erupting from the fort breaks this moment of ghastly timelessness: “Orlanth is dead! Ernalda is dead! Whitewall has fallen!”

Tears start to flow on the face of the winners, while the vanquished enemy retreats victoriously, cheering. Using his Truth rune, Kestel understands that the world is dying around them, and something has to be done quickly if they want the clan, and the Kingdom of Sartar, to survive.

Therona, on her side, starts to see ghosts of fellow clan members recently killed on the battlefield, also mourning the passing of the gods. Then they look at her and warn her against the Foul Death that threatens the Earth Goddess’ journey to the Underworld. The huntress, who considers her ghost-seeing ability as a curse, doesn’t reveal what she’s just been told as she doesn’t want to be banished from the clan and lose the support of her fellow Humaktis.

They all walk back to the fort, where they are greeted by King Ilgalad Trollfriend himself. Their bravery is praised, even though joy is absent from his face. Understanding the importance of the situation, Drake the Duck swears an oath on the Truth rune that he shall undertake any quests necessary to find Orlanth and Ernalda in the Underworld to save the Toena Clan and the Kingdom of Sartar. The Truth, Death and Beast runes start to glow all around him, and impressed, King Ilgalad renews his oath of hospitality to the durulz.

Afterwards, Kestel the sellsword is given his compensation for his good services, but even though he doesn’t want to swear any oaths, he renews his contract with the clan to lend the King his sword again. Therona swears an oath as well, she won’t let the clan down.

Meanwhile, Hegermast the skald was trying to remember some myths revolving around heroic gods and the Underworld, and suddenly, words start to pour from his mouth as he goes on to recite the Dead Point myth. This is when they understand that Nontraya, the Undead Emperor, the Enemy of Life, is going to interfere with Ernalda’s journey to Hell.

At the same time, several priestesses of the Earth goddess enter the hall, devastated, with a broken statue of Ernalda, saying it broke itself from the inside, some dark energy oozing from the cracks. Our heroes understand the dire omen and decide to fix that situation by undertaking the Dead Point heroquest.

End of the first session.

The game

This first session started in media res during a final assault where the heroes were the defenders. And even though combat dominated two thirds of the game, such a long time devoted to physical conflicts helped everybody get the system correctly, and particularly to me, the GM. Fortunaly, one of the players who is familiar with the system brought in his invaluable help, which incredibly sped up the resolution of a lot of questions.

Being new to the HeroQuest system, I’ve still got to get all the ropes, which is never easy when you start a campaign with rules you don’t handle well. However, they sank in quickly, and I could also see that my players didn’t have a lot of difficulties with it. They quickly took advantage of the Hero Points, which turned the tide of the battle to their advantage.

Regarding the third part of the game, I felt it was important to show the players how tragic the fall of Whitewall was, but also its importance on all the Kingdom of Sartar. So even though they fought their own battle, far from the main event, that particular day had a dramatic impact on everybody.

Besides, knowing we would play with three Humaktis, plus an Orlanthi skald, I knew I had to find some Orphic myth in the Gloranthan lore to take advantage of this configuration. Without revealing too much, I’d say that the Dead Point myth is particularly appropriate here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the path the characters will take.

All in all, it was a fantastic session that confirms what I thought from just reading the game: HeroQuest Glorantha is tremendously fun to run.

To be continued…


Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Glorantha, GMing, RPG, RPGing


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Emotional engagement does matter – A review of Robin D. Laws’s Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha

Emotional engagement does matter – A review of Robin D. Laws’s Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha


The object of this review, ‘Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha’ is a 34-page long chapbook written by Robin D. Laws as a fundraiser for the Kraken convention in Germany.

Developed from an idea originally pitched by Fabian Küchler, this very small and short supplement is actually meant to be guide to gamemastering in the world of Glorantha, and more particularly to the Heroquest Glorantha roleplaying game.

On a more personal note, I am fairly new to the world of Glorantha, and this is with very few expectations that I am going to approach this book. Basically, what I need for my future games can be summarized in two points: how to lay out a plot in Glorantha, and how to engage my players with this cyclopean setting.

 Plot structure

In this book, Robin D. Laws takes the screenplay approach and cuts a scenario in four distinct parts which will be made of obstacles:

  • The premise, or basically the problem that will get the characters to gather and to go adventuring together.
  • The point of no return, or the encounter that will definitely push the party forward.
  • The escalation, or an event that makes the party realize that things are much worse than they originally thought.
  • The resolution, or the final scene in which the heroes will have to shine and outdo themselves.

All these explanations are punctuated with many examples and also a couple of charts that greatly help picture the author’s point.

However, what I particularly enjoyed in his explanations is this push toward moderate improvisation, toward a better malleability in presenting the obstacles to the characters, but also toward more collaboration between the players and the GM, especially at the beginning of each session.

And this leads to the next part: players’ engagement in a game.

Emotional engagement

Many GMs can attest that there’s nothing worse than prepping up a game to finally have players who are not interested in what is going on in the session in the least. This is why all along this book, Robin D. Laws provides many pieces of advice regarding on how to hook up players in order to have them participate more pro-actively during each session.

And basically, it all revolves around the “emotional stakes” for each character, a central feature around which some of his other designs revolve around, like the Gumshoe system and the DramaSystem.

The bottom line is for the player to find a reason for her or his character to step forward and go on such or such quest, or adventure, instead of rejecting it. This would ultimately lead to having players be more pro-active during a session, and less submissive to events thrown at them by the GM.

But the author goes further in giving tips on how to modify already published scenarios by adding these emotional stakes into them in order to make them their own.


To conclude, Robin D. Laws’s Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha is a fantastic book that shines by its simplicity. Taking the screenplay approach of dramatic plot structure, this supplement is an amazing tool of new and veteran GMs to use in Greg Stafford’s world, but not only.

To be fair, in almost three decades as a RPGer, I’ve grown used to seeing and reading many of books on GMing advice, some which had been absolutely relevant to my needs and others which were definitely not what I needed.

But here, Robin D. Laws is offering us yet another proof of his talent. In 34 pages, he manages to harness and synthesize the few key elements a GM needs to keep in mind when running a game, mainly plot malleability and player engagement.

I thought I’d read a GM guide to HeroQuest Glorantha, but in fact I discovered what looks like an amazing digest version of Robin’s Laws of Good Gamesmastering, the 2014 reboot.

The points he develops in this chapbook are short, spot-on and clear. They manage to formulate the features I’ve way too often strived to put in my games in a very simple way.

I’ll finish with this: Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha is the GMing guide that all GMs need, for any kind of games, as beyond the plot construction structure advice it provides, this book focuses on and cares about the central element to any game, your players and everyone’s fun around the gaming table.

Visit The Kraken website to know more about this fundraiser:

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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in Glorantha, GMing, RPG, RPGing


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Adventuring into the Guide to Glorantha – Review 01: Introduction

This blog post being the first in a series meant to review the Guide to Glorantha, I’m going to start with a bit of personal backstory. This might not be as interesting to you as it was to me to write. If so, please jump directly to the Guide to Glorantha – Introduction paragraph.

Besides, this series is based on reading the pdf files, which means I won’t discuss the physical aspect of the printed books.

Some completely unrelated backstory

It would have taken me 26 years in the RPG hobby to eventually discover what Glorantha was actually about. I was just a young French middle-schooler when I started roleplaying games, and around me, games like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1st ed), the Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, Star Wars and James Bond were all the rage. But I could aften see intriguing covers labelled RuneQuest in RPG magazines. They looked glorious, and above all, they looked ancient.

Long story short, no one around me seemed interested, and as usual with social hobbies, I would go with the flow and play what was trendy at the time. I’ll spare you another fit of name-dropping, but let me just say that even though I had a real load of fun in all those years, I still missed the mythical aspect of heroism, and to me, they would all lack this very basic dimension that makes the “stuff of legend” be relevant.

Please, bear with me, I’ll get to the point real soon.

Fast forwarding: I was a college student in English language, literature and civilisation. I studied in France and abroad, my prospects suddenly broadening. I got introduced to ancient (Greek & Latin) works, to medieval and Renaissance works, to philosophy, psychology, anthropology, ethnology and criticism. Obviously, I did try to implement what I had learnt into my games. I utterly failed. Attempting to reproduce such structures in the established settings and games my groups and I would play at the time couldn’t just fit.

Then a couple of years passed, I lost my gaming groups and since then, the bulk of my RPG activities has been done in clubs, conventions and with my beloved “RPG Geek” community via forums and video chat. From the failure I mentionned above, I went on to discover many new games, in which narratives mattered, in which collective authority could be as important a system as dice rolling and tables. I also learnt to love again crunchy systems and find some creative freedom within.

Fast forwarding to May 2014: the Chimériades convention. I got to meet some very interesting people like Robin D. Laws, Jeff Richard, Charlie Krank and Fabian Küchler. I attended some panels evoking this name I had heard a quarter of century before, Glorantha. This pitched me this setting so convincingly that I decided to give it a try afterwards. This is when, and where, I found the first nugget of a deep, profound and rich lode of gold.

Consequently, I’ve decided to invest in this world and discover its books like an adventurer would with a foreign land. Hence this series of blog posts. As I’ll read the two massive volumes of the Guide to Glorantha, I’ll do my utmost to log my reviews both as objectively and subjectively as possible.

Guide to Glorantha vol 1 Front Cover by Jon Hodgson, Copyright Moon Design, LLC

Guide to Glorantha vol 1 Front Cover by Jon Hodgson, Copyright Moon Design, LLC

The Guide to Glorantha: Introduction

For starters, let’s have an overview of the books themselves. The Guide to Glorantha comes in two volumes of 402 pages each, the second volume continued the page count where the first leaves off. The layout is really simple and not intrusive at all. Considering how dense the amount of content is, a more elaborate layout would have, in my humble opinion, really hindered readability. The usual format is three columns per page, with recurring marginalia and inserts, which makes it actually really convenient to read on tablets and smartphones.

Concerning the artwork , the two volumes contain a real wealth of coloured and black & white pictures and maps. The illustrations don’t leave this feeling of being a means to an end. On the contrary, they integrate seamlessly to the sections they adorn. And the variety of subjects and styles seem to follow a clear artistic direction. They look informative as well as evocative.

I’d also like to mention this very detailed index at the end of volume 2, 45 pages actually. Indexes have recently become a concern of mine in a time when reading RPG books cover-to-cover has become a luxury I can hardly afford. And when I need to get some information during a session, the more comprehensive the book, the harder it gets to find such or such bit of rule without a proper index.

Now, let’s start the book itself. After a beautiful cover, the book opens on a strikingly beautiful credit page with “The Kalikos Hero Quest”, a stunning illustration by Mike Perry that throws me up upfront in the realms of the gods and mythical adventures. Then, after three pages of Kickstarter backer thanks, a table of content lists up what will be found in the first volume: cultures and Elder races, pantheons and history, and then more than 230 pages on Genertela, a very detailed description that actually continues in volume 2.

After a very nice foreword by Greg Stafford, in which he outlines the timeline between Glorantha’s early inception and the Guide itself, making it some valuable design backstory for people who are new to this world, we can move on to the Introduction chapter itself.

Not quite so actually. First of all, we have a very short description of the “world structure”, nicely illustrated by a map of Glorantha itself. The point of this description is to tell the reader that this world is unlike ours, that we’re in a different reality. I honestly think this preliminary step is necessary to avoid being dragged into some unnecessary “Earth’s logic” that won’t apply here.

Now let’s finish this first review with the Introduction itself. In this section of the Guide, the reader is given a 10-page overview of this world’s social structures, in terms of political and economical organisations, how the Heortlings (the “humans”) live with and through magic, Gloranthan warfare as well, and then how to implement the Guide into roleplaying games. But what struck me was that , beyond being written in an academic style and being laid out like a history book, giving me a feel that is completely different from the tons of RPG supplements I’ve ever read and beyond being beautifully illustrated, this introduction already starts to tell stories. We are already in the mythological aspect of the setting, adventures that will generate legends around the gaming table.

So to conclude this first review, I’d like to say that reading the beginning of the Guide to Glorantha was such a pleasurable experience that I’ve actually become regretful not to have delved into this setting earlier. Beyond its richness, the overall tone is itself enough to show that within the boundaries of a game, we can have the freedom to seriously play the anthropological structures of imagination.

And in a gaming industry that is perhaps a bit too abundant, it is refreshing to see enduring worlds that are served such a refreshing book like the Guide to Glorantha which reaches out both to the established Gloranthan scholar and to new explorers.

Let me tell you then how much I’m looking forward to reading the next parts about the major cultures, the Elder races and the pantheons, and most of all to sharing my experience with you in an another review.


Posted by on July 16, 2014 in RPGing


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