Leicester - July 1996
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I've just got back from Convulsion 3D (although it'll be over a week before the last Chaosium freeloaders leave the palatial Brooke/Gidlow residence): I'll try to convey my impressions of how the Con went, before it all disappears in a haze of fatigue, romanticism and Real Life. Warning: I was a member of the Convulsion Committee, so my perspective on events may be rather warped; also, I can only talk about events I saw and heard for myself. Trust what the punters post more than you trust me... and please, if you were there, let the whole world know what you thought!
The Con opened with a HeroQuest Party: three teams of Questers, representing the Orlanthi, Praxians and Sun Domers, demonstrated (with assistance from Guests of Honour and committee members) how they journeyed to find a Hero who would save them from their plight. Each group had to perform six set scenes, including Portents, Journeying, Defeating Enemies, Tricking Guards, Impressing Locals and Presenting Gifts.
The Orlanthi produced a mythically resonant and precisely choreographed piece, ably fronted by the redoubtable Mike Cule, in which the cultural virtues of cooperation and innovation were plainly displayed. The Praxians, under Sandy Petersen's direction, produced a rather more participatory event, including an astonishing staged fight and rousing renditions of "Old Man Waha Had A Herd" (with the audience doubling for sundry Praxian beasts). And MOB's Sun Domers threw decorum to the winds, with the Curse of Rampant Transvestitism, the no-touching Last Tango in Pavis, outwitting the Bouncers at the Blue Lotus, and a chorus of "Y-E-L-M" (to the tune of "Y-M-C-A") -- not forgetting the ritual castration of David Hall.
The audience were so stunned by these various antics that they forgot to lynch the Committee members who concluded the event by whipping out a song-sheet for "Away In A Manger" and a red-painted baby doll... fortunately, as it would have been a shame to miss the rest of the weekend's events for a mere theological controversy.
Next in line was the now-legendary SingalongaNick: despite the complete inaudibility of the backing music, I can honestly state that this was an unqualified success, although the voices of many participants (including Greg, MOB and myself) suffered later in the weekend for our early exuberance; Oliver Dickinson's help at a particularly hoarse moment was greatly appreciated. My heart swelled when we came to my latest song, And the Band Played Dance of the Goddess: I introduced this as a Lunar anti-war song, based on "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"; one voice piped up, "I don't know that"; many more chorused "WE DO!"; and the evening continued on its stunningly magnificent course.
Greg Stafford spoke on HeroQuests, now a regular fixture at RQ-Cons. His accounts are becoming more and more consistent as time goes by, which can only be a good thing. Key subjects this year included the different types of heroquest (worship, reenactment/journey, experimental), and whether the world of heroquesting was subjective or objective (Greg thinks there's an objective Mythical Truth behind Glorantha, but that all cultures perceive their own subjective Truths and can, in some circumstances, inflict these upon others).
I helped MOB and Ken Rolston run a speedy introduction to Glorantha for players of Home of the Bold: the most resonant theme was that the freeform can be treated as "the bastard child of Life of Brian and Braveheart". Again, the costumes were excellent -- particularly striking were the Lunar Army officers and woad-painted Sartarites -- but I was not directly involved in the game this year: handing Temertain's laurels to Neil Robinson, I was instead charged with running a programme of events against HotB.
These commenced with a (sadly unfinished) session of the Tarsh War, with Simon Braithwaite as General Thrax ably banging together the heads of his unruly subordinates. Outstanding performances from many of the players meant we ran out of time to complete the game, because I was enjoying refereeing them too much to speed them along. The Char-Un were more brutal than I had ever seen them; the Puppeteer Troupe got to perform to hundreds of Lunar troops; we even managed to playtest two new cameos which had been added to the final draft of the scenario. At the end, as dashing Prince Orontes rode off to propose marriage to the Holy Avenger of the Cannibal Virgins, there was a lump in my throat, and I was sorry not to see what happened next...
Scuttling away, I just made it to the start of Alex Ferguson's The Sky Dome at Night panel, in which Greg, Alex and I discussed some of the problems and features of Gloranthan Astronomy. I had produced slides derived from my (unfinished) Gloranthan Ephemeris program, which helped illustrate the problems associated with the rotation of the Sky Dome. Greg explained some of the mysteries of Yuthuppan Star Lore, while equinoxes and solstices reared their often-confusing heads. It looks like there's enough interest in the Ephemeris for me to move towards completion and distribution, so watch this space for more information.
Greg and Sandy hosted a panel on the Secrets of Glorantha, which concentrated on the modus operandi of the Kingdom of War, and the various tribulations associated with the End of an Age. Sandy feels that Glorantha comes close to destruction at the end of every Age, but that the end of the Third Age will be the closest call ever, and we'll be lucky if anything survives: there are half-a-dozen or so plots afoot, each of which (by itself) could result in the complete destruction of everything. Some of these were revealed; more remained hidden, despite prompts and pleas from the audience.
Greg, Eric Rowe, Shannon Appel and myself discussed Chaosium's publishing priorities in a Pendragon Panel, after which it was time for the rowdy Pub Quiz (where Sandy "Leather-Lungs" Petersen ably bailed out the flagging quizmasters). During this, Home of the Bold came to its climax, and we all listened to MOB's account of the various confusing military manoeuvres (the full-strength Lunar assault on an all-but-empty Geo's; the thousand-a-side game of Shield Push played by Sun Dome mercenaries employed by rival factions, etc.). The Lunar Standards hand-crafted by Lewis "Dr. DIY" Jardine were an awe-inspiring sight: my own favourite was the Dark Moon Cohort of the Beryl Phalanx (their motto: "Rock Hard Men With Big Spears").
Last event of the evening was an unplanned People's Revolutionary Tribunal (chaired by Comrade James Wallis) which cut a swathe through today's decadent borgeouis capitalist games industry. Good News: despite some at-times close votes, Greg Stafford was permitted to continue talking about HeroQuesting, and RuneQuest survived intact (not so Avalon Hill!), some of the few to emerge from an evening of general carnage and destruction. (By way of comparison, all three Tekumel RPGs were condemned to be burnt, with Prof. Barker sent for compulsory re-education... the loudest calls in favour coming from hardened Tekumel fans!).
Greg shared a panel on Lunar Philosophywith myself and Chris Gidlow, narrating the complete mythology of the Red Goddess (similar to the version Dave Cake painstakingly reconstructed here, though including the end of the story and various sidelines on the Blue Moon), then ranging around some of the philsophical issues that arise from the Lunar Way. I don't know if we made converts, but we certainly tried our best!
A cluster of Megacorp artists, including Dan Barker, Simon Bray, Wayne Ridgeway and Ralph Horsley, displayed their talent in an Art Attack! I would probably kill for Simon's Carmanian Bashkar, which has inspired me to write a Carmanian book soon so I can use it as a cover. Jean-Paul Lhullier of La Toile d'Arachne Solara was present throughout the Con, showing off his artistic wares as well as a remarkable God Learner document of variant Runes, which the Guests of Honour agreed was almost certainly the basis of Runic classification in the Gloranthan West to this day. J-P also lamented the lack of dissemination from French sources into the largely Anglophone gaming community, feeling particularly hard-done-by w.r.t. Nephilim (originally French) and his own work in La Toile. We should try to do more, as this is often excellent material.
I shifted around six cubic feet of my old games at the Auction, which included novelties and old faves aplenty -- the bottom appears to have dropped out of the Wyrms Footnotes market after the release of Footprints, with copies going for derisory sums or failing to attract their reserve prices. I suppose this is a Good Thing; it was certainly a remarkable difference.
The Meet Tales panel turned out to be a rather civilised cheese and wine party, where our future publishing plans were discussed. Tales #16 (a Lunar Special) should be out later this year; the next Special will focus on Sartar, although there may be another "catch-up" general issue before we produce this. The other members of the Megacorp learned more about David Hall's intentions from this one meeting than from any number of evenings down the pub. I can also report that Best of Tales #1-6 is apparently well in hand, with just artwork and a few more articles to go before completion. Apparently people want wider access to more comprehensive submissions guidelines: we may distribute these as part of Best of Tales, although every recent issue has told punters how to apply and submit... while nobody who turned up expressed their Clique Pique (c'mon, now: if you hide from us when we give everyone the chance to speak their mind, how's anyone going to know what you want?).
My Cultural Exchange guest-starred Sandy Petersen, and although we began by agreeing to disagree about everything, as the event wore on we found more and more cases where our opinions tended the same way. Subjects included Giants, Dragonewts, the Monomyth, the Kingdom of War and far more. The Dragonewts of Teleos never eat: they are hatched, go out into the world, starve to death in six to eight weeks, and are reborn again without feeling any particular discomfort. And Sandy confirmed that all human religion was learnt from Baboons in the Great Darkness.
The now-traditional Lunar Tunes panel included Chris Gidlow, who talked us around the structure of the Red, Blue, Black and White Armies and Navies of the Empire. Horrible Truths were revealed about the Standard-Making rituals of old Dara Happa, the use of Bats in the Lunar armed services, and the oath sworn by "volunteers" in the Danfive Xaron Punishment Legions.
Greg and Sandy answered questions in a confusingly-discounted Lore Auction, where MOB and I got good value for money with queries about the potential for imperial pretenders, civil wars, et cetera.
The Closedown was a traditional tear-jerking farewell: Ken was presented with a stack of Asterix books (to improve his understanding of Sartar), while the omnipresent Pizza Delivery Man was rewarded for his diligence with an insect-attracting Convulsion T-Shirt. In the brief hour of no-time before the evening's events, Chris invented and refereed live-action games of Dragon Pass, Nomad Gods and Masters of Luck and Death; the Nomads were the most successful, with piggy-backed gamers cavorting freely on the lawns...
That left just the Gloranthan Storytelling and other wind-down events. Mike Cule took the honours with an astonishing Trickster tale of the creation of humanity: although this will certainly lose something without his professional delivery, I hope it can be posted to the Digest some time soon. Chris and I recited all eight of his Seleric Verses (coming soon to Tales) to a select audience of blasphemous heretics: their names are even now being divulged to the Black Army. And MOB took his scatological view of the Imperial Court to new lows, with The Son of Light's Number Two, set in and around the Red Emperor's capacious commode. Greg read selections from his Lunar Novel (current work-in-progress), and then it was all over save for the Animal Noise drinking games (thanks, Sandy!), the frenzied hunt for beer after the bar had closed, and the last morning farewells (including the ceremonial dismemberment and abuse of the Red Baby).
I enjoyed this Convulsion more than ever: the crowds of attenders (more than ever before) pretty much knew by now who to see if they had any problems, while the Committee had carefully delegated some of the more onerous organisational tasks to tournament referees (in business, we call this 'empowerment'), leaving more time for us to gallivant and having fun. Some of the events we had been unsure of were riotous successes (notably on the first night), while others surprised us with their breadth, depth and (in one case) existence. And the new venue was a great improvement on previous years.
Many new products were unveiled at the Con: the Convulsion '94 Compendium ("Proceedings in Malkionism"), the UK printing of the Entekosiad (with some additional, often sickening, material), Tales #15 ("Prax Part Deux"), the Programme Book, a new line of Gloranthan miniatures, and a chance for the public to see and purchase material not available in the shops (past Compendia, Tales issues, New Lolon Gospels and the like). There was also some startling news about the future of Glorantha (which I missed, and will wait for a more authoritative release), as well as the general continuing round of Con bonhomie and good-fellowship. Any whingers and dweebs in attendance kept a low profile beneath their flat stones, while the buzz at the bar and between panels never stopped.
Most panels were recorded (with the professional assistance of Danny Bourne), and if the tapes turn out OK there should be another Compendium -- though I hope we can get this one out faster! Unfortunately, there was no time in the programme for my Proofreading Panel, the only event I'm really qualified to front: maybe next year...
Overall, it was great fun. I'd like to do it again... although if anyone else in the UK wants to invite Greg, Sandy & Ken over for a Con, I'd be just as glad not to have to help organise it!
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