Convention Report Tentacles 2005

Convention Report Tentacles 2005 By Greg Stafford

Another tentacles has come and gone.

It was a great convention for me, plus a bit more. I went to simply relax and enjoy, but had fun as well. I was unprepared for the cold weather, but Fabian lent me a sweater and all was well.

Jet lag is a worse problem for me coming home (flying west) than going to Europe, but still requires a couple of days of recovery and adjustment. So I got to Germany, napped at Fabian’s and slept five hours. Then Philippe Auribeau and Remy Croxatto appeared, after an 11-hour drive north from Aix en Provence, on the south coast of France. The drive itself is difficult enough, but they had also been stopped by the border patrol who were suspicious of the only French car driving to Germany at this time of year. But they made this great French duck dinner, with a bottle of wine for each course, and it was a kinda nobleman moment where everything is just a bit exotic, very lazy and perfect. And oh yea, eating duck, just before the con. Hmmmm…

At one point I looked for a clock. “Excuse me, it is 4:00 and I have to go to bed.” And we got up the next day, we picked up the Petersens: Sandy (last face to face, two years ago), Arthur (his oldest son, who I had last seen when he was 5 or so), and Grant (last seen age 2 or so). We stopped at the WalMart in Frankfurt and then took a long and very pretty drive through Hessa and into the Rhine Valley and down it. Arthur had never been there before and, having in interest in medieval history, loved the castle after castle of the Rhine. Then to Bacharach, a restored castle that is a youth hostel most of the year, but each Pentecost weekend is transported to be an intense, concentrated realm of gaming.

The castle is familiar to me, in general. I realized this time that I have never actually walked the corridors of some of the buildings. Didn’t do it though. David Dunham was my roommate and the first night we had a really tiny room (“there are smaller ones,” said Fabian) that was next to the exit door, so all night whenever someone entered or exited it went Bump bump really loud. But the nest day when the con really started we moved up to room called the Eagle Nest, where I have usually stayed. Fortunately, it isn’t really high up as the name might imply, but just one clumsy stone stairway to climb. And it is bigger than the previous night’s room, and most importantly: away from the door.

We held another GTA party. Skullbuster this year was a bottle of the best Mescal I found in Oaxaca. The heroes all got a shot, then the rune masters, then the initiates and then the heroes again. Simon Bray qualified as GTA at the last moment and he got the last shot.

Mezcal is a wonderful liquor made from Maguey, and is the drink with the worm in it. And this one had three worms (sorry Simon!). [And they are actually grubs. The Oaxacans eat them (and other insects) as food too, and it was always a bit startling to be in a marketplace and come upon a big basket full of caterpillars squirming all over each. But chapulinas, or fried grasshopper-Mmmm.]

We shared news, and I showed a slide show of “Greg’s HeroQuest to Oaxaca,” which was I don’t know how long. I arranged it (not in chronological order) as a HeroQuest heroquest, but didn’t quite follow the script so I missed some lines. But I hope everyone was entertained. It appeared that the bored ones went to sleep or left, either of which is a good thing.

I had some seminars and stuff, but the games I played were more fun. You can get a sound copy of the seminars from the Tentacles Committee at www.tradetalk.de.

The first game was a Pendragon game I gm’d. I used some handout characters. We had seven players, which is a lot to GM at once, but the players were all experienced and picked up on the interpersonal potentials of their characters as they met, moved to the Forest Sauvage and tried to get in. The forest is part of a setting, not an adventure, and it is hard to find the king that everyone is looking for. Part of Pendragon’s motif is that characters may fail, and have to return again (whereupon victory is so much sweeter) and besides, the game was only three or four hours or so long. So they joshed and bickered their way forward until the dragon came upon their camp at night-always a cheat by the GM of course, to deprive the player characters of the armor and horse which are the very core of the characters! But it was late, and everyone seemed to have fun dashing through the dark and being mauled by the dragon. Then the Old Knight stepped in, Inspired, and saved the day. After judicious First Aid went around, most of the characters survived to the Winter Phase, whereupon the game ended.

I didn’t play in the larp by Simon. I didn’t like the first character I got and decided that maybe I didn’t want to spend seven hours on my feet, and I wanted to relax, so I decided I’d play a bit of Settlers of Catan instead. So the players were David Scott, Frank Dermody, Alex Fergusson/Roger “Roj” McDonagh and I. A usual game lasts an hour or so, but this one lasted three! (No bricks, essentially). First David was ahead, then Frank, then David, then Frank, then David and then Alex/Rog won by mainly using the Development cards. It was a terrific play and great fun.

So was the HQ Association game. I wanted the players to each be the guiding entity for a Lunar Association, or have the Association as a player character. I had some ideas of how it ought to work (always begin with the character sheet!) but told the players I would be soliciting ideas form them too. The players were Charles Corrigan, old regular and friend; Hank Langveld, old timer who once oversaw the Digest; Wilfried Hallier, a first timer to the con, from France; and Pierre Praela, also French first-timer.

We used the great UW Lunar Map and put colored tokens on it to visualize where the leagues were, and then little plastic things marched across the provinces as the story progressed. Each “turn” was a season (1/4 year). The leagues of the associations were the Abilities, which were divided into different categories of action (Farming, Leadership, War, Trade, etc.) and had ability ratings. In addition to the tokens of the leagues, the Leadership had some personality tokens to move around.

The game was about the disappearance of the Red Emperor and subsequent events, and I thought this first playing of this setting and magnitude went quite well. Everyone contributed ideas and opinions, so it was even more of a creative effort than a test play. And for me, it was quite fun. Swimming in the instant moment of creativity is just about the best fun.

The game became very board-gamish, using HQ mechanics. That is, the seasonal turns got specific activities that were done each season, and we discussed random event cards. By the end there was a little mini-map of the moon, another for the Hero Planes. It really helped me to focus on what needs to be done for the next time I play that game. There will be offices to be held. And it provided me with some insight onto the political methodology of the Empire.

And after a struggle Charles’ association made one of their number to be the Emperor. The Solar Emperor of Dara Happa! I wish that I could have played through the subsequent years!

I also had meeting after meeting with people working on projects. Face time is worth a million emails, which are quite imprecise and empty of content compared to sitting with someone to talk. Simon and Martin and I got a lot of ground covered and proposals solidified, and with Merlin Cox we made solid decisive setting of the content problems of Dragonrise, in the Sartar Rising! series. With Joerg for his magnificent database plan, and forgive me you who I have overlooked and wished to be mentioned.

Of particular interest was the Grégory Privat’s miniatures game. Five armies met in combat at the Hill of Gold. He played it a couple of times. I don’t know what set of rules he used, but I hope to convince him next time to use a version of HeroQuest adapted to the milieu.

It was really cold this year and everything was inside, but on the last day, Monday, when it was over, some of us lazed about in the sun as the staff worked hard to clean everything up, moved it out and packed cars with stuff and in general hustled and prepared to go home. And we got sunburned.

That night we went to the traditional old style German dinner in Dreieich (sounds like Dry Isch). Huge hunks of pork and traditional apple wine. And of course, the meal starts with the famous Musical Cheese, with onions in vinegar. Very tasty. (The cheese comes now, the music is later.) Ate too much.

And then the traditional shooting picture. Nine of us tried it, and Christian won with just 8 shots. The rest: Fabian 9, Swen 12, Charlie 15, Arthur 16, Grant and Daniel at 17 each, me at 18 and David at 27 (Thanks Daniel!).

Throughout the whole night I kept getting up as the cheese music came home. Man, I had a full 38 piece brass marching band that was out of tune, I confess. But next day I slept in late and ate a German breakfast (cheese, bread, lunchmeats, fruits, yogurt, etc, and decent coffee) at the hotel where we were staying (Petersens in one room, me another).

That day we went out to a barbecue at Pegasus Spiele. They are a German publisher who also distributes English Language games in Europe. They also translate Call of Cthulhu, and so have a close relationship with Charlie, who was out there barbecuing meat for 30 people. Andréas, the Pegasus boss, had invited us all over as well. Charlie’d spent the earlier daytime shopping (after they stopped getting lost, that is) for meat and an American-style grill. Which was put together wrong, and hence everything was late. No one cared; it was a fun event. And Andreas’ father had made this cool hanging iron skillet-like hanging over coals for frying the potatoes, peppers and onions. And there were four or five huge salads. And German beer (i.e.- good, of course). All delicious and I ate too much.

Next day we went to the Museum of Natural history to see the dinosaur remains. We drove to Frankfurt, Fabian, Sandy, Arthur and Grant. We met Andreas, Christian and Charlie there. Sandy said, “I want to see the insects,” (him being an entomologist by training) so we did that first. Basically, anytime Sandy gets on one of his rants about something he knows (and he never talks about stuff he doesn’t know) I am always just content to come along and listen, ask a few questions maybe. It is one of those moments to stuff your brain. But we both talked through mammals, and we agreed to skip plants and birds because it was getting late. We had to walk through the birds and here’s a picture I took of the unicorn bird.

We got to the dinosaurs, looked around for about two minutes and then decided it was late, we were hungry and we ought to go. “I want to leave it unfinished for the next time I come back,” said Sandy. Off we went to eat. The Indian restaurant was closed, so we went to this upscale Italian one. First we had these huge platters of starters and then for main course I ate something really delicious that was like a stuffed sausage in a sauce that was so good that I ate bread to sop up the sauce. I ate too much.

We went shopping. I did emergency email. I finished my laundry. It was late and I was ready to go to the hotel and pack. Then Sandy says, “You gotta see this movie.” It was called Wild Zero. Flying saucers, zombies, rock and roll, love stories (including a zombie love story), “Rock and Roll knows no boundaries, nationalities or genders.” Then we went home.

Packed at 12:30 midnight, got up and snatched some breakfast, went to the airport (thanks for the ride Fabian), and spent 12 hours stuffed into a too-small seat with horrible movies and food. After landing I took sleek, clean BART back here, to Berkeley, my brand new home where I have yet to unpack my stuff into my new apartment. Wow.

Tentacle is always worth attending. It has LOTS of games and lots of people and lots of fun as well. Try to go next year!

I give my thanks to the staff who once again made my stay such a pleasant experience, and I look forward to attending again next year.

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