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Tentacles Day One

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Last night I assisted in running a new variant of HeroQuest, which might aptly be named DrunkQuest. In DrunkQuest, one is called to the table to assist when a game has begun even though the GM and at least half of the players have been down in the old town dramatically overindulging in the libations for which the region is famed. The gaming equivalent of a designated driver, if you will.

Through a Q&A process it was determined that all of the players were residents in a tiny splinter version of Hell—an experimental rebranding initiative, if you will. PCs included a just-arrived soul, a pair of guardian demons, the beleaguered Stygian project manager, an auditor from the heavenly host and, just for variety’s sake, Jack Burton from Big Trouble In Little China. Hell itself is the worst place imaginable—Essex. A traffic circle of eternal congestion that sears the soul of inmate and warder alike with its cosmic mediocrity.

DrunkQuest must for obvious reasons be simpler in design even than the new stripped-down HeroQuest. There is only one rules mechanism: players who find themselves in conflict with one another roll d20s and the high one gets what he or she wants.

No doubt miraculously, the storyline was eventually steered to shore, to a conclusion that was positively Sartrean in its pitiless thematic appropriateness. The apocalypse came, and the participants, in order of success, all got to define one thing about the new cosmo-theological order.

You see where this is going.

Horribly, they wound up putting everything back just the way it had been before—except that now they’d forever languish in the knowledge that they could have made it all different, if only they had chosen to.

A silly and accidentally profound exercise that nonetheless reminded me of one of the inchoate questions bubbling on the mental back burner—that we have yet to really establish a solid way of resolving verbal conflict between main characters in a way that resolves as do like scenes in dramatic literature. Instead of a give-and-take of negotiation and resolution, each player tends to stake out a position and reiterate it until the GM calls for a die roll and one of them wins and the other loses. I’m seeing the opening glimmerings of a system to explore this goal, which could be bolted on to nearly any RPG, from HQ to D&D. (Though not Dying Earth.)

As the sun completes its warm and gentle orbit for through the sky, the competition among convention’s English contingent for the last waning patch of shade grows ever more desperate.

Although a few impromptu game sessions are staged here and there, the first day of Tentacles is devoted mostly to social events — opening ceremonies, Cthulhu For President, the pub quiz. (Note to self: submit much less difficult questions next time.)

I do my bit at a "state of Glorantha publishing" panel helmed by Moon Design honcho Rick Meints. Looks like the log jam of printing problems and scheduling issues that has plagued the line of late is about to break. I’m very proud that the new HeroQuest is part of this. And happy to hear very good feedback from playtesters.

The green lights and elder sign gobo on the castle tower are an eldritch delight.

Check out the Tentacles live web cam.

In what is surely mere coincidence, it turns out that the standard wine by the glass served by a hostel café in the middle of German wine country is exceptionally lovely. However, I stop at one. You never know when you’re going to be called upon to serve as designated GM at a surprise session of DrunkQuest.


Gene Ha portrait

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