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

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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?

 

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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?

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“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?

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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 (www.the-kraken.de). 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?

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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 (http://www.chaosium.com/licenses-heroquest/) 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?

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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.

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#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 (http://www.the-kraken.de/duck_army.html). 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: http://www.the-kraken.de/

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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

 

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…

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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