The Kraken takes place in Schloss Neuhausen in Neuhausen, Germany. That’s right, it’s a castle. What more could you ask of a convention than it being run in an actual castle? In the pictures below you’ll be able to see the cool scenery in which you’re playing games. There’s games being run in the different rooms of the castle, even in its cellar, there’s workshops and Sandy’s B-movie nights in the chapel, and outdoor gaming and relaxing in the gardens.
Food and drinks are included in the price when you make your reservation. So you could call it an all-in vacation. The food is really great and even caters for vegetarians and vegans (on request). But they really go through much effort to make the veg meals as appealing as the rest of the food. And that is very very appreciated!
Rooms are limited at the Kraken. Although it seems for the 2014 convention, the organizers are also looking for accommodation outside of the castle. You can choose a 2-person or 4-person room or (very limited) camping in the garden. Rooms have the option of having a bathroom in the room, or a shared bathroom in the hallway.
Everyone gets a welcome folder with information on the Kraken and its program. This folder also holds your ticket to enter the Sandy Petersen lottery.
The atmosphere of the Kraken is extremely relaxed. You can play as many or as little games as you like. The way of deciding which games are being played was also very nice. A number of games are indicated on the website in advance but only the freeform games require registration in advance.
In the main room (where you can also play a game of pool) are a number of boards on which the games are put in their respective time slots. On the board are small pieces of paper on which the games and dungeon master is mentioned with the number of open slots. To play you only need to write your name in one of the open slots and show up on the designated time and there you go. There’s also a whole bunch of empty sheets available in case you want to add to the program on the spot.
As the convention is quite small, we didn’t run into cases where we were unable to enter a game. Due to the fact that it’s a rather small convention you tend to end up in a good number of games with the same people as the Runequest crowd heads for the Runequest games and the Cthulhu gamers bond together to summon some Great Old Ones. This is quite nice as you get to know a number of people by name quite quickly which only improves the general atmosphere. 2 years later I still know most of the names of the people in the pictures and that says something about the friendly gaming going on at the Kraken.
Steven and I arrived rather late in the evening on wednesday but we were still welcomed with open arms and organizer Fabian took the time to show us around the castle and show us our rooms.
Something we were very excited about was of course the lottery for a spot in Sandy Petersen’s game ‘Allison Gross’. My friend Steven won his spot through that lottery. Organizer Fabian made my day when he added me to the second game that was ran by Sandy. And I had Sandy sign my Call of Cthulhu 20th anniversary contributers edition.
Next to Sandy, other guests of honor were Pedro Ziviani (Chaosium’s Mythic Iceland), and Jeff Richard (Moon Design).
On thursday, Steven and I started off slowly, trying the Lords of Waterdeep game which we really liked. I played the Harpers and was in the lead for pretty much the whole game until Gaz pulled out a card that gave him 6 victory points for each of his holdings. This card also gave him the victory. Overall a really cool game that I ended up purchasing myself afterwards.
But we weren’t going to dwell in the Forgotten Realms long after that. We were there to play Call of Cthulhu and play Call of Cthulhu we did.
The first game we played in was ‘The lion, the witch and the werbaugh’ which was ran by Nick Davison. We were playing a bunch of templars and priests (read religious fanatics) that were sent to a village to investigate some claims of witchcraft. The scene I still remember vividly is when we tried to stop the cultist leader from completing a ritual. We ambushed the cultists on their way to some ruins where they would sacrifice an innocent victim. The cult leader makes off with the victim while the rest of the cultists try to stop us from interfering. In the end me and another player manage to break away from the fight and go after the cult leader. The only thing separating us from the ritual is a ditch. We’re both on horseback so you’d think that would not stop us, right ? Yeah right. The other player was shooting a bow at the cult leader, missing pretty much every shot. Then we try to jump our horses over the ditch. We both fail. We try again next turn, and fail. We then get off the horse and try to climb through the ditch and fail again. Are you kidding me??!! By the time we finally managed to get past that ditch, the cult leader had already sacrificed the victim and had opened some kind of portal through which a scarecrow monster appeared. Guess what ? The ditch was still there so running away would likely take a million turns too. In the end everybody died. Total party kill and the tone was set.
Is there a library of occult books because I have great occult knowledge? – Templar knight Sir Robert wanting to experience what it’s like to burn at the stake.
In the evening we joined Sandy’s movie night where we first enjoyed a nice quiz on b-movie knowledge. As Steven and I hold b-movie evenings ourselves we felt pretty confident. That lasted until Sandy started showing images of monsters and actors everyone should know. Then he continued with less known monsters and actors to end with the obscure. At the end of the quiz I was staring at an almost blanc answer sheet. Then we saw Battlefield Baseball which was great fun.
On friday Steven got to play in Sandy’s game and I joined a Dead of Night zombie apocalypse with kids game that was run by Gaz. Great fun leaving home and trying to reach the church while trying to navigate burglars at the neighbour’s place, a zombie ice cream man, more zombies, then some zombies, a shopping mall with zombies, … TPK anyone ? Lovely end scene where one of the kids who was bitten by a zombie, reaches the church, is let in by the townspeople, the doors close and screaming starts.
In the evening Steven and I joined another Call of Cthulhu game by Glyn White called “Buried in the past”. Germany, 1993, as we play a mix of western germany and eastern germany cops who look into an old border crossing shooting case. The party splits up, two of us do research in old documents, while the other two investigate a mansion that had popped up in our investigation. They die. And the research team arrives just in time to investigate all the carnage.
I seem to be pissing it off – Rainer Thiele, after shooting seven times at a Byakhee and not getting through its skin
Saturday morning started with Hounds of love, an unofficial 7th edition Call of Cthulhu playtest game ran by Nick Davison. Pretty funny is that we all first received a character sheet of a dog. Then afterwards we received the actual characters who happened to be the dog’s owners. They also happened to be a bunch of friends going on a stag night. And of course when the Mythos is involved, dogs turn into crazy mutated creatures that turn on their owners. Oh yeah and if that wasn’t enough, a local friendly dark young wandered the camp site too. And another TPK was accomplished.
What happened to you Robin? How can I be Batman without you? – Mikey Malone after finding out his mutated dog was killed by one of the other characters.
In the afternoon it was time for Philip Glass’ “Von Zeppelin’s Last Hurrah” freeform. We were all characters who had received an invitation to join Leopold von Zeppelin’s 89th birthday celebration on board of his latest zeppelin. I played Heinrich von Paapenstein, a famous aviator, and Steven played Von Zeppelin’s greatest competitor who had just bought the majority of Von Zeppelin’s shares. Steven had made a certificate for a 1% shareholder as a birthday present/diss. So we get dressed up, walk towards the cellar where the game would be held and see Sandy Petersen emerging from the castle all dressed up. Huh? He’s going to join this freeform? Turns out Sandy was playing Von Zeppelin himself ! Good luck with that certificate Steven!! A lot of stuff was going on on that zeppelin. Some cultists were there trying to perform some kind of ritual, the zeppelin seemed to need that ritual to stay afloat, and when the ritual failed everybody was looking at von Paapenstein to keep the zeppelin in the air. Oh yeah, and Leopold von Zeppelin jumped off somewhere in mid air. That weight difference gave me as von Paapenstein the necessary boost to crash the zeppelin safely. Great fun all around!
Saturday evening we joined Sandy again for a screening of The Whisperer in Darkness. Steven and I both owned the movie but we didn’t watch it prior to the Kraken, thinking it would be screened there and we were right. Great to see the movie with the necessary anecdotes from Sandy. And a really well done movie!
Sunday morning Sandy talked about his upcoming kickstarter for Cthulhu World Combat (which unfortunately didn’t get sufficient funding but he made up for that with Cthulhu Wars I’d say) after which he did a workshop on horror gaming and writing adventures for horror games. Three big principles for horror writing/gaming :
- Don’t use jargon (describe things, don’t say ‘I roll spot hidden’)
- Set the story where the reader/viewer/players could imagine themselves to be
- The ghost/monster needs to be malign
Translated to RPGs this became
- Any movie can have a scene that you can adapt. Imagine that scene and how to get players from one scene to the next
- Use 3 senses to describe things, not just sight
- Hit home with a scene they don’t expect
- Have balls (for example the small girl in The Whisperer in Darkness gets killed)
We then proceeded with a joint adventure design where we started out with 2 calendars. One featuring scenic locations, the other one pictures from space. First we decided the best picture in both calendars and from there we went until we ended up with a cult that was making drugs using the essence of Cthulhu himself. Really great to see the thought processes and vast knowledge of Sandy at work. Really a shame only a handful of people followed that workshop.
In the afternoon I got to play in Sandy’s game while Steven had some knightly adventures in a Pendragon game. Sandy’s game was a bit strange at times. First there was a lot of talk about food. Then there was some strange decision making among the players. So you meet at a small cafeteria, nobody knows each other but you all had some kind of unpleasant encounter with a woman called Allison. So what do you do ? Let’s break into her house. Really ? Needless to say almost everyone died. My character and one more got away as I forced the other character to drive the car out of town at gunpoint.
In the evening Steven joined another Call of Cthulhu game called Swamplight and I ended up in another one of Glyn White’s games called ‘Into the unknown with Yuri and Jenn’. Glyn’s group was so kind to wait for my game with Sandy to end (it went way beyond the slotted time) so I could still join their game. Just another example of the extremely nice and relaxed atmosphere. In ‘Into the unknown’ we played divers working on a tv show, who explored some underwater caves. In those caves we found a strange floating sphere which we of course unearthed (in an underwater kind of way) from the caves. Turns out that was a bad idea and the local indians had been guarding that location for ages. Poor researchers who were investigating the sphere when the monster popped out. Do I need to mention that everybody died ? Guess not eh.
And that was the end of an amazing gaming vacation filled with Call of Cthulhu, nice people, great games, amazing atmosphere and for sure a convention I will visit for as long and as many times as it’s being organised which is once every two years.
The Kraken 2014
The good news is that this means in 2014 there will be a new Kraken at Schloss Neuhausen from the 20th – 25th of August.
Check out the Kraken 2014! Sandy will be there with Cthulhu Wars. Will you ?
Kudo’s to Toumy for a lot of the pictures I used in this convention report. Check out more pictures at Carré & Kawaii Photographie.