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What I did on my holiday, or Continuum Conquers! 7 July 2010

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Role-Playing Games.

Whatever the list of ingredients that comprise a great convention are, this had all of them. Being a regular it was great to see the gathering of the tribe again and the regular embarrassment of seeing people you’ve not seen in a year or two, even if you are friends on Facebook and desperately looking for the name tag in those first few hours!

Considering that some months ago there was real concern about meeting the 150 delegate mark, and that the highest number on the published membership list was 221, even if some of those couldn’t make it, speaks volumes; especially as the event was a month early this year and a number of notables were absent (and sadly missed). Thanks are due to all those who encouraged new attendees, Chris Green deserving especial note for his generosity.

I arrived about 1’o’clock on Friday with my friend Derek, a first-time visitor itself, and although registration was pretty speedy and hassle-free, my intentions of an early game evaporated in catching up with friends (thanks to Graham Spearing for James Bond and Weapons of the Gods), perusing the Bring-and-Buy (Cthulhhu 1920s Sourcebook), succumbing to the lure of the bar and the realisation of my own un-preparedness (as in remembering I hadn’t decided when to run my game and needed to do a sign-up sheet!)

The Opening Ceremony was well-done and commendably short, introducing the Committee, the Mentors and the Zombie theme for the Convention newcomers. It’s worth noting too that some of the Committee (Loz and Simon, and did I miss anyone else?) are stepping down and replacements are needed. All I’ll say at this point is that my heart says one thing, and my head says the opposite!

Supper was uneventful apart from the events of catching up with old friends and for whatever reason (the bar, perhaps…) I never made it to a game on Friday evening. Likewise early Saturday morning disappeared in a creative blur as I laboured to create a seventh (!) character for “Colours in the Dark” (I didn’t want to let the Reserve down) and realised just how appallingly large chunks of the game were simply absent… from paper if not from my head!

Thus it was that 10am saw Dr Chadragupta, Lietutenant Carver, Sgt Amroliwala, Technician Borischenka, Med-Tech Wang, Colonist Gonzalez and Post-graduate student Yutani investigating the mysteries of the planet Lethe in a rather rules-light, but dark-toned HeroQuest adventure. My players were very kind and seemed to enjoy themselves (you’d have to ask them for the truth!) and I learnt a lot from what was really a brainstorming playtest (like ‘be better prepared Dr Moose!’) – as well as being reminded by how exhausting it can be to narrate!

All in all I must say how glad I was that nobody had signed up for the 2pm slot when I had offered to run it again. At this point I should mention how well the signing-up seemed to go, as sheets appeared in good time for games, but not so far in advance as to deny the less organised a chance.

I spent Saturday afternoon wandering round in a game-less haze (for which I don’t think alcohol was totally to blame) until the combination of a power nap and the generous offer of real coffee from Con Central brought revival, and the realisation that although a caffeine addict at home I’d barely had any at all since arrival!

Having seen a new Indian Take-away had opened in Oadby, very close, if not on the site of, the old one, I decided to try it for supper. All I will say is that I have never tasted a Jalfrezi like it (in a negative sense), although the Tarka Dahl was very good. So was the bottle of Badger Golden Champion I’d bought in the Co-Op, which helped!

The evening saw my first game as a player with Tom Zunder running Nathan Baron’s “Winter Song” in a very “Mythic Russia”-esque setting. OpenQuest proved to be just about everything I remember RuneQuest2 to be(!) – apart from Fireblade giving only d10 damage, something we “house-ruled” very quickly back to the proper 3d6. Tom believes in democracy when it comes to choosing characters – he is the man, and he had the vote – which saw me typecast as the Count’s personal Chaplain! We all had a blast, and Julia, our Ukranian player was very forgiving of our outrageously bad Russian accents and attacks of Monty Python.  Suffice to say that not only did we succeed in our goals but that I acquired an orcish disciple and manservant along the way, as well as the improbable (and successful) conversion of a Frost Dragon to faith in the Hvitacrist (the White Christ) – although not before Tom had made me sweat for what felt like 10 minutes in real Christian apologetics! (For example, my starting gambit to conversation, the first line of St John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…” was greeted with the wonderful draconic response “Really? I don’t remember it!”) Mercifully it wasn’t greeted with the EWF creed – “in the beginning was the Wyrm…”

And thence on to more beer on Saturday night before the traditional Singalonganick… safely removed from the majority of Con-goers in the freeform house! Ah well! Their loss was our gain, with all the usual favourites like “Hero Wars Ga Ga!” and “Pelorian Rhapsody”: which as Nick put it, is “The only song here that makes more sense than the original!” Then, lest we forget the contributions of others, such delights as “Waha!” (to the tune of “Rawhide”) and “Walktapus Picnic” (“If you go out in the Marsh today/You’re sure of a big surprise”.)

Sunday proved to be a busier day, as Colin Driver had, with typical wit and aplomb, scheduled my seminar “Religion and Role-Playing 3” for 10am. So no change there, then! It proved to be well-attended, with some very good questions and observations, as well as appearing to cause quite a lot of thought among the attendees, both then and after. I need to write more on this, because I had several later conversations with folks who’d missed it and wanted to discuss it. Once I’ve written up my “briefing notes” I suspect more reflections will follow. I was a little more explicit in Christian stuff this time; aiming to be thought-provoking rather than proseletysing, of course, and it really seemed to work. So if it was “work”, can I claim parish mileage? 🙂

I also stayed in for the Glorantha Q&A, which was interesting, and unlike my seminar, recorded for posterity, as was the session on Cartography, which was, again, another good one. (Have I ever mentioned that I actually did a course on practical cartography back in the days before computer graphics? It certainly qualifies me to make critical comment every so often: and yes, I do do my own maps where possible).

Then after a somewhat rushed lunch I was off to my only freeform of the Con. “You can’t take the sky from me”, was the flavour of Serenity, with costuming as a tourist taking inspiration from none other than Twoflower, from  rather different fictional creation. I just wish my camera had been a real one, and digital at that, since the costuming was excellent as usual, even if I felt my performance was somewhat lacklustre, which is also normal. I enjoyed myself, even though I was flagging badly with an hour to go, and always feel somewhat lacking in the deviousness department, which was definitely something required of “Jonah Wilkes”, the tourist.

Nevertheless the day hadn’t finished, with a six player 7.30pm slot of Toon, with a humorously insane take on the Saturday morning game, “Colouring In The Dark”. As the sign-up put it, “Out on the Rim a massive underground alien site has been discovered! The Ministry of Colonial Compliance has decreed that as a condition for their financial support for the excavation the site must be decorated in official colours!” Add in a cast of an orca lawyer, a dog, a koala bear, a were-penguin, a Cheshire cat and an orc politician and wait for havoc to follow! It was OK. “Escape from Castle Stale-Egg” at last year’s Tentacles was better, but maybe we hadn’t had enough to drink this time, and it does take a certain speed of response to create an excellent game of Toon!

Because they must be mentioned, since we all have real physical needs, I should touch on the issues of rooms, food and alcohol at this point! The accommodation was of far higher quality than we really needed except in one very important respect – the heat! Give me a room in the former venues of Digby or Beaumont, even if it means loosing the en suite (or failing that, let me bring my tent!) Other than that the breakfasts were perfectly adequate (the luxury of grapefruit every morning, cooked food and croissants, was much appreciated), and the rest of the food over-priced, and under-par:  in fact it explains why Oadby has so many take-away food vendors! The bar was similarly a little disappointing – but I could just be over-fussy as I like real ale. The London Pride was excellent, but consumed very quickly (as in it had gone by the time Friday night was over). The Bombardier that replaced it was too bitter for my liking (which doesn’t make it a bad pint) and the IPA was a bit “thin” for my tastes. After the excellent Summer Lightning last year I was just a little disappointed, although I can’t fault the cost, and staff worked their socks off to keep us all well-oiled!

Thus it was that many of us found ourselves in the bar, or out on the terrace, on Sunday night and I found myself involved in a “request” version of the morning’s “Religion and Role-Playing Seminar” with Loz and Pete, later joined by DuncanRowlands and David Williams! The two ‘o’clock rule notwithstanding I finally got to “lights out” at 2.45am!

Monday dawned and with it the reality of packing and saying farewells as departure approached. There was more quality conversation in the amphitheatre out front, including a discussion of the possibilities of a Baptism in Bacharach next year, which would legitimate a Pentecost outing to the Rhine as involving an element of “work”! Like University Chaplaincy, that’s nice work if you can get it! So who knows? Next time the tribe gathers there might be a real live initiation ritual too!

There are inevitably things I have missed. Being in the bar at the moment Germany put a fourth past Argentina. Picking up a playtest copy of “Microscope” which looks fascinating. Acting as a taxi to the station and coming back, simply to put off the need to drive home on Monday – although the soundtrack at our lunch stop was most definitely a bonus.

How can I wrap this report up? Well, I have to say I’m very glad I didn’t have the need to create CobbleCon, a short notice gathering in a Northampton church hall which was emerging as a possibility when the numbers were low. Inevitably there were minor niggles and glitches – you expect that, like accidentally omitting the overall timetable from the Programme, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted. I started by saying I didn’t know what the ingredients for a great con were, but I will make a stab at it. Good organisation from a willing and dedicated committee, a good mix of friendly, helpful and open people, a broad range of games (even if this year I played no Glorantha or Call of Cthulhu), superb costumes, good traders, great weather. It was a year in which some regular overseas delegates and guests were absent. We missed Greg, Charlie and Sandy, MOB, John Hughes and Mark Galeotti for example. But it’s not the “names” who make the Con, although the “conspiracy” that ensured the presence of Mike Gibb remains worthy of note… The sum of the parts is truly greater than the whole, and this was genuinely the case for Continuum 2010. I hadn’t realised, but this was my 11th residential Con in 10 years. It continues to re-assure me that Continuum is the Con to beat (with no disrespect to Tentacles, Battlemasters, Furnace and even GloranthaCon).

I can do no more than offer my heartiest thanks to everyone who was there. Committee members and gophers, players, traders. Everyone. The last Convulsion was my first Con, and so has a special place in my memories. The last Tentacles ended in a fantastic party, but I think Continuuum 2010, as a whole event, raised the bar to new heights (even if the beer didn’t!)

Will Continuum 2012 survive the ancient prophecies? Will it be a truly Olympic Con? With the spirit of 2010 at work the answer has to be yes. I will move heaven and earth to be there (given a long enough lever and a firm place to stand!) What about you?



1. Chris - 8 July 2010

When you have the funds to help, why not? I hope to be in the same position for the next convention. Who knows how many more people can be brought in and given a wonderful experience? They’ll tell their friends and a brand new set of convention goers will arise.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:37-38

2. Of Maps, Imaginings and Me « Life, Faith and Role-Playing Games - 2 May 2012

[…] of platonic philosophy, “In the beginning was the Word.” My gaming encounters, recounted elsewhere, would lead others to say that “In the beginning was the Wyrm.” But for me, very near […]

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