Words from the Wise (Guys)
An Editorial Rant
To the thirtieth issue of The Guild Companion.
The Future of Rolemaster and Spacemaster
Various bidders placed themselves and their money in harm's way. The Trustee is inspecting the various bids and the "auction" proper with its unveiling of the rival proposals and the counter-bidding is expected soon. More news as and when it happens.
The Rocococon Report
The weekend of 20th to 22nd July witnessed Rocococon in Cambridge, with Robin Laws and Phil Masters as the Guests of Honour. Though the committee was less effective in publicising the convention and securing the attendance of lots of gamers, the actual running of the gathering was extremely smooth with no apparent hiccups.
I spent my Friday night attending the "Cambridge Snapshots" and "Superfluous Thaumaturgy" panels. The former took advantage of Cambridge's Octocentenary celebrations to look at the past, present, and near future of the city in terms of gaming potential. (For those who don't know, King John gave Cambridge its first town charter in 1201 as well as giving England as a whole the Magna Carta.) The learned panelists considered such issues as the centuries-long strife between town and gown, politicking with and against kings to preserve university wealth and independence, and contemporary weird experiments into genetics, radiation, the paranormal and the threat of malevolent computers. Very entertaining. "Superfluous Thaumaturgy" was a silly panel which came up with even sillier ideas for magic - steam-powered cattle as ammunition for catapults, stasis ice cream cones, regenerating food (so you can have your cake and eat it), self-cleaning underwear, and so on.
On Saturday, I sat in on the Forgotten Futures workshop. Marcus Rowland was in fine, if mildly disorganised, fettle, discussing his latest release (Tsar Wars), his ongoing work in building a worldbook to support Victorian and Edwardian fairy tales, and his new silly RPG - "Diana, Amazon Princess". Please pause for a moment and consider how the Xena and Hercules television series have exploited Greco-Roman myth and history or how "Robin of Sherwood" etc., have dealt with the Middle Ages. (Waits for a moment.) Now consider how the media moguls of two thousand years from now might present the twentieth century. Thus we have Diana - the Amazon Princess, her husband "Bonnie Prince Charlie", her sidekick and companion Fergie, the renowned physician Louis Pasteur, and a plot to save the French grape harvest among other things. Very funny stuff. I suspect that "Diana - Amazon Princess" will be a future cult classic of role-playing.
Phil Masters then ambushed me, claiming that Simon Rogers from Pelgrane Press was looking for me. (Surely my "Twk-men" submission for the Dying Earth Bestiary was not that awful?) Actually Simon wanted my signature on a copy of the second issue of the Excellent Prismatic Spray, the series of Dying Earth supplements which masquerades as a magazine. After a couple of hours in the extremely pleasant company of Pelgrane folk (staffers and freelancers), it was time to hear at least some of Robin Laws' talk on the Dying Earth RPG, Rune, and his other projects.
Unfortunately I had to slip out early in order to set things up for my Run out the Guns! scenario ("O My Island in the Sun"), which had attracted a full complement of six players. The game went well but took unexpected directions. Wim, Steve, Tristan, Laura, Mark and Ceri spent the first hour and a half planning their assault on Spanish Hispaniola as expected. Then they executed their plan! However the best laid plans of mice, men, and bloodthirsty pirates "oft gang aglay". The landing party (with some of its members disguised as Spanish soldiers) made their way to the harbour fortress while the good ship Bonaventure entered the anchorage. The shore party walked around the outside of the fortress. Unfortunately a fumbled Awareness roll led to a lookout on the Bonaventure identifying them as "real" Spanish troops and the Captain ordered a broadside to be fired at the fortress. After this regrettable incident, the group fractured into three. The PCs on the Bonaventure concentrated on destroying the fortress and seizing the anchored ships, the Smuggler and his men tried to seize a merchant ship but instead grabbed two wealthy hostages for later ransom, the Buccaneer (after an unsuccessful pot shot at the Captain from long range) led his followers into town for some looting followed by a hasty escape to French Hispaniola. A very enjoyable session. (Note: We will be publishing "O My Island in the Sun" in an upcoming issue of The Guild Companion.)
My evening's entertainment consisted of the "Never Mind The Balrogs" quiz which was amusing, even if the references to Feng Shui, Runequest, and early (A)D&D modules passed me by, and the charity auction. As the convention lacked a dealer's room, my moratorium on all book-buying had held with ease. Fortunately I was able to weather the auction's temptations. (Yeah, I know, one more book or supplement would not make my imminent flat move much harder, but it's the principle and I might not stop at just one more book.)
Sunday's pre-lunch panels on choosing rule systems and world-building were thought-provoking. A future convention might like to consider "RPGs are just for Christmas" as a topic for a panel - why do some games have limited lifespans whereas others captivate gamers for years?
By lunch-time, there was still only one player signed up for my GURPS Age of Napoleon game. (The low number of gamers had been causing the prospective gamemasters trouble throughout the convention. Quite a few games were cancelled due to lack of sign-ups.) So I decided that I could risk a stroll over to a local pub for my lunch. This was a mistake - it was 2pm before my meal arrived, and a further twenty minutes before I was back at the convention site. The game was now fully booked up and the players were getting impatient. Oops!
Although I lost one player almost immediately (as Paula could not find a character to suit her - my fault for not restructuring my players' characters sufficiently for greater variety), the remaining four (Steve, Mark, Tristan, and Ian) easily stepped into the roles of British officers, soldiers and a sole French Royalist for a desperate attempt at escaping from the Revolutionary forces besieging Toulon. (There were further "friendly-fire" incidents during this game as well - this time directed at some unfortunate Royalist refugees and Spanish sailors.) "The Great Escape" played better than I expected - the rougher edges of my GURPS GMing having been removed by the play-test with my own group. There were some infelicities in my descriptions and a more experienced GURPS-meister would have exploited the swashbuckling rules to the hilt. My suspicion is that "The Great Escape" would work better as part of an ongoing campaign rather than as a standalone convention scenario.
While we were having fun at the expense of Revolutionary France, the new committee for the 2003 British Role-Playing Society was being formed. By virtue of being in a difficult building, I escaped a fate worse than death (namely membership on a convention committee!). (And given my expected writing and editing projects over the next couple of years, I intend to continue eluding such commitments for as long as humanly possible.)
Rocococon was an excellent (if unexpectedly small) convention. Pleasant surroundings, good weather, fun games, entertaining panels, interesting guests of honour, and civilised gamers all made for a very enjoyable weekend.
Looking forward to the future, the 2003 convention will be known as Conjuration. It will take place in the summer of 2003 in Cambridge, and it will be superb. (Well, that's what the new committee claimed anyway - they started off properly by collecting a dozen or so membership fees (including mine) as soon as Rocococon closed.) As details become available, we will publicise them here.
Farewell (for now ...)
Enough of my ramblings. I'll let you get on with reading the rest of this month's magazine. Feel free to post your thoughts on this month's article on the relevant discussion boards (use any Voices of Reason link).
Our next issue will appear in September 2001, but until then,
Keep gaming and have fun!
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion