Sitting at home, it always looked like a delightful mix of breakfasts, games, branded tee-shirts and more breakfasts. What’s not to like about that proposition?
Apart from the Tolkien games, it sounds ideal.
I hatched plan to organise a similar event, except playing Moorcock games, with fewer breakfasts and more bitter ennui. I discussed the idea with Orlanth Rex Steve Ray in the bar at UK Games Expo last year. We considered, “wouldn’t it be good to do it at the same time,” then it developed to, “wouldn’t it be good to find adjacent properties, so we can have water fights to settle the Moorcock vrs Tolkien debate after all?”
Steve transformed this small talk into reality by applying his organisational mojo. His Air-B&B-fu struck gold to find the perfect location, in South Kilworth, so the event could take place under the same roof.
We arrived in a magnificent three story building with a stone-floored kitchen that retained its ‘below stairs’ charm with service bells stuffed with tissue paper, presummably to prevent them blowing in the wind. As the excited propritier showed us around the various nooks and crannies, he asked, “You play games? Are you part of a group?”
Chris, who he had appointed leader, said, “well it’s more of a cult.”
THE END OF TIME
Friday afternoon, we played Greg Stafford and Charlie Krank’s Elric: Battle at the End of Time which was a revamp of the original Elric! game. It’s for four players, but we needed some consultation on the sidelines, and the guiding hand of the ultimate rules-lawyer Mark. He has a talent for grokking the most convoluted instructions. The game mechanics are simple, but there’s so many different aspects at play, described in an ambiguity that it took all of Mark’s mental facilities to coordinate.
It was a slow moving experience, however it was filled with atmosphere and was effective at recreating some of the climatic scenes from the novel Stormbringer. There’s a random element to the game too that can send it spinning in crazy directions.
Theleb K’aarna was recruited by Blythy to the side of law. He had the Runestaff, destroyed Hwamgaarl of Pan Tang, battled with Elric and the dragons in Melinboné, destroying the Young Kingdoms by tipping the balance away from chaos.
STARTER FOR TEN
It was too cold for a water fight and the hot tub was out of bounds. The battle between the Hobbits of the One Ring and the Eternal Champions will need to be resolved by quizzing. Twenty five questions about Lord of The Rings and and twenty five on the work of Moorcock. It was a hard fought battle with only three points between the teams. It was the Moorcock team what won it!
Lords of the DragAGON Isles
I have been wrestling with the difficulties of how to create a Moorcockian experience at the scale of The Eternal Champion. Most of the RPGs that have been developed for The Young Kingdoms tend to create characters within the world facing gritty fights and bizarre random situations. In the novels, there are a series of encounters at different scales with portentous high-stakes consequences for the characters and the world itself.
AGON is John Harper’s game with epic heroes in ancient Greece facing trails set by the gods. With a bit of tweaking, I put AGON in the multiverse. Divine favour came from the Dukes of Chaos and the Lords of Law. The Eternal Champions are on the Black Vessel, sailing the seas of fate, seeking to restore balance.
There was lots of fun creating aspects of the Eternal Champion, and the nemesis Al’zxx of Awain, The Serpent Lord, the emissary of Lucifer, sometimes known as Rasputin, and the scourge of the Welsh Republic.
He had to die.
Just before lunch, he did.
On the whole, it created some interesting dilemmas and situations, but AGON warns that it doesn’t really work with six people, and it was straining a bit at times.
ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
In the afternoon, it was a Dungeon Crawl Classics version of the multiverse. Our characters were summoned to the court of the Lords of Chaos to recover an egg. Our quest took us to a multiverse museum with an odd-ball collection of artefacts from time and space. I was feeling a bit sleepy, but I’m pretty sure that Elvis managed to kick a robot to death. Yes, I’m pretty sure that happened.
It was the finale that was worth the price of admission alone. Each player had their own motivations to seize the egg. There was player verses player plots and counter plots with sneaky wizards, clerical blessing, picked-pockets and virtuous interventions. Ultimately it ended with the two rogues back in the city where the adventure began, as if nothing happened. Perfect.
After a colossal takeaway curry, the two teams swapped sides. The Tolkien Team went sailing on the seas of fate and Moorcockians went hurtling to the Shire.
Following the gaming, the chat went on, late into the night.
Early Sunday morning, it was time for Bookclub, our monthly chat about RPGs and RPG adjacent publications. This month it was Moorcock’s first Elric novel, and the last of the series, Stormbringer. Nihilistic? Tragic? Dramatic? Just a bit daft? There were a cross-section of opinions in a lively, fun debate. We were in the rafters, a temple of law, while the GROGSQUAD joined the Zoom of Role-Playing rambling.
It was a perfect ending to a fantastic weekend.