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Tentacles Wrap

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Sunday — The day kicks off with the ever-reliable GM Troubleshooting seminar. Tentacles offers a powerful incentive to ten a.m. seminar attendance. If you’re not in the cafeteria by 9:45 you miss breakfast. As always for this topic the bulk of the discussion revolves around the difficult trade-offs involved in balancing the action in your game to varying sets of player tastes.

Tentacles sells lottery tickets to game events run by its guests. My initial idea was to run Ad Hoc HeroQuest, an event where we’d pick the genre at the table and go from there. Then when Greg Stafford couldn’t make it I also offered to also run a second game of the new HQ set in Glorantha. I was too tightly scheduled to actually fit in two contributions to the lottery, so winners were given the choice of either of the two ideas. I thought for sure they’d leap at the Glorantha. By the time I arrived for the game the players were not only assembled but had come to a consensus with no prompting required from me. They wanted to play retired superheroes.

I asked each player to pick a superhero name, which would operate as the character’s highest ability. (A cool and ambiguous reference, in HQ parlance.) So the group had such abilities as Starlight, Dr. Shadow, and the Chief. Their next-highest abilities were civilian identity descriptors: native American beer truck driver, bad shoe salesman, pushy claims adjuster, et al. Then, explaining that the PCs were all ex-members of a super group called the Mighty Squad, I had each player specify the thing about the character to his right that he held responsible for its breakup. So each got further defined by another player with ability/flaws including control freak, collateral damage, and sell-out. In three hours the characters were reunited by crisis, confronted by a weird mystery, and brought to a series of personal epiphanies leading to a strange return for the Mighty Squad.

The set-up offered opportunities aplenty for fun discoveries and creative action descriptions. I allowed more rules discussion than I normally would in a demo. My usual rule (copped long ago from Jose Garcia) is that it’s not really about teaching the game but rather showing the players a good time. Here though everyone knew the current HQ and was there to get a taste of the new nuts and bolts.

The first ever Tentacles wine tasting followed shortly thereafter. I don’t at all mind a sweet white, so the five selections from the local Dur Fledermaus winery were right up my alley. It was late starting, so I had to try the last of them during the final Ask Robin seminar, which kept going with nary a lull for two hours. The almost exclusive topic was HQ new and old.

All told, I had a fabulous time, even though my brain was mush by the end of it. It was a three day visit to an alternate universe where the most popular RPGs in the world are Call Of Cthulhu and HeroQuest. Naturally this would be a happy place for me. In this dimension, it’s only the latter game that has an eagerly anticipated new edition on the way. There’s some other thing called 4E but that’s barely on the radar.

Monday — The traditional post-game dinner with the guests of honor takes place at the Alte Burg in Dreieich, which serves German fare with an emphasis on regional Hessian dishes. As is the case at many international cons, the guest is expected to consume something local and appalling that the organizers masochistically adore. Here it’s the infamous handkäse, a.k.a. musical cheese. And yes, it’s affectionately named after the explosive flatulence it is meant to provoke.

It is a very rich, buttery cheese that has me worrying more about artery damage than my emissions standards.

The main dish is a Hessian specialty, Frankfurter grüne sauce: hardboiled eggs in a herbed cream sauce. Most of the sauce, as you can see from the egg to grüne ratio on the plate, appeared to be there for ornamental reasons.

The obligatory beverage is the local very dry cider, central sacrament of tonight’s fertility ritual, the Haaner Kerb. In the old days young men ceremonially courted the objects of their fancy by uprooting birch saplings and erecting them outside their homes. It wasn’t the size of the birch tree, but what you did with it.

We wander off to the old-school fair with rides and games that is central to today’s version of the celebration.

Throughout the carnival grounds mill young men wearing sashes, straw hats and plush toys they’ve won at the booths, having just been inducted into Germany’s official drinking age with a punishing week of cidery binge drinking.

The night concludes with a torchlight parade led by past inductees, from eldest to youngest. Oversized flags are flapped with phallic mock menace at spectators and drinking songs belted out.

Each year's contingent displays its own distinctive flag.
This one bears the iconic clay pitcher associated with the cider.

When this year’s crop of fine young drunks weaves by, a fiftyish woman darts from the sidelines to tuck one sozzled young guy’s shirt in for him. Thanks, mom. Nothing like being emasculated at a fertility festival.


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