Although notable for other reasons, this was an out-and-out roleplaying games convention, heavily oriented towards the excellent Chaosium line. Greg Stafford was Guest of Honour and most of the committee and attendees were big Runequest and Call of Cthulhu fans. While not exactly an avid roleplayer (lapsed would be a better word), I felt the Chaosium slant and the ostensibly 'adult' attendance would offer some value.
I rolled up on the Saturday morning to find games underway in most of the well spread out rooms. The con didn't really have a focus in the shape of a central hall and the place was swarming with unspeakable wankers dressed up as Runelords or something. Of course, they all exhibited the obligatory rubber battleaxes and Gloranthan greasy hair. Throughout the day, there were demonstrations of 'weapon skills' on the lawns outside which were highly amusing. In particular, two prime wallies with real swords were prancing around and, I am ashamed to say, I got to hoping that a glancing blow would lop off an ear or a finger to teach them a lesson. This is the first con I have been to where at registration they ask if you have a weapon. I should have expected this with a 'weapon code' mentioned in the progress reports and someone on the committee called, simply, 'Kari' (presumably Harry to her friends?). As my age advances, I am afraid that I'm becoming more and more intolerant of such tossers.
Despite these distractions, I wasn't exactly averse to having a game of something but because of the cliqueish attitudes and the flaky nature of most of the attendees, I quickly dropped this idea. Instead, I had a walk around the expensive dealer stands, buying nothing, and then had a lengthy chat with Theo Clarke wherein I dug out the latest GI gossip. Before I knew it, it was time for Greg Stafford's GoH speech. It would be true to say that there was a strong element of hero-worship among the con-goers and here was the man they wanted to see. Accordingly, Stafford's snide, uncalled for comments about D&D, Gygax and Avalon Hill were greeted with fawning laughter. Throughout the hour-long talk, which was interesting in parts (for instance, there will be an official Call of Cthulhu computer game from Infogrames), Stafford revealed surprising intolerance of other systems, designers and companies. There was also more than a hint of a grievance over the Avalon Hill sell out. Not that this would have been noticed by the dribbling masses hanging onto his every word.
After the GoH speech, it was over to the fanzine workshop organised by a rather hungover Paul Mason. This was highly informative and could have done with twice the time allocated. However, I think the decision to have fanzine editors on the panel proved to be a mistake. With the exception of Paul's chairing and the restrained David Hall, they all proved to be massive egotists and it was difficult to keep them to the point or, indeed, to get a word in edgeways. The worst offender was Ashley Watkins, apparently the editor of 'The' Battletech fanzine (wow), who thought the world owed him a living and that we were all fascinated by his opinions. Not true Ashley - get a life. Sitting quietly in the corner was the infamous Wayne who some of the room (as deeply serious roleplayers) probably wanted to strangle. As it happened, the much-maligned editor of GM stood his ground well and, as I have always found in the past, belied his appearance and reputation by being an eminently reasonable chap with a decent turn of phrase.
The big event for me, and the real reason I went, was the auction on the Saturday evening. It was primarily intended to raise funds for Greg Stafford's attendance costs but anyone was free to sell games and bumf. As it turned out, there were some real surprises but few bargains. It seems that if you get a room full of well- off Chaosium fans, you can expect to pay big money for the more unusual items. I guess the problem is that most of these people actually still play the damn things and an avid Chaosium collector in their midst pushed prices a little high. Therefore, I think that the prices below are highly inflated but the demand for certain items is undoubtedly high.
So, to the high points of the auction. First up was The Gloranthan Encyclopaedia (a unique item representing ten years work, never commercially printed, signed by Stafford etc) which went for an stunning £290. After the sale (which rightly prompted spontaneous applause), Stafford immediately joked about coming back next year with more copies. This is the one I was thinking of paying about £100 for, as it was I went to £150 in the heat of the moment and then pulled out, grateful that someone had bailed me out of a silly bid. I really didn't expect it to go anything like that high but with a more aggressive auctioneer it could easily have gone over £300.
A punched copy of Nomad Gods went for £45 which I thought was excessive - there is only one edition by the way for those that asked me recently. A copy of White Bear Red Moon also went for £45 (again very silly), Stafford's personal Runequest figures for up to £30 each (!) and the original Pendragon manuscripts (another one off) for £75. The auction alos threw up a Dragon 1 that went for £35 (a total steal) and Dragon 4 that went for £30. Somebody could have made money on those simply by selling on to a dealer. Thankfully, those are the ones I didn't buy.
Biggest news of all though for me was that there was a limited edition (800 copies) of White Bear, Red Moon before even the 'first' edition. Greg Stafford's copy turned up in the auction and I had to go up to £50 to get it. Rather pleased with this surprise appearance, I took it back to my seat and started inspecting it. I found, to my horror, that there were no counters, maps or charts in the bag. I had paid fifty quid for a rule book, albeit a very rare one. Feeling more than a bit sick, I took it back to the auctioneer who reasonably agreed to re-auction it 'not as described' and, of course, I didn't then feel I could properly take part in the second round of bidding. I got some funny looks as it was, but what use is a boardgame without the pieces? It went for £20 or so in the end but boy do I want one of those complete games.
What else? I bought a first edition of Runequest, Swordbearer (Heritage), Monsters! Monsters! (SJG), a copy of White Dwarf 2 and finally, the rarest item - Wings of the Valkyrie (ICE) which was withdrawn before release due to having a high Nazi count. Apparently, there are only a few copies in the UK which I find doubtful but promising. Anyone heard of it? It must be worth having. Mustn't it? Huh? Huh? Nurse, the screens.
I didn't know many of the people present (thank god) but Paul Mason (who proved a witty auctioneer), James Wallis, Ian Marsh, Theo Clarke and Kevin Jacklin were all in attendance. Incidentally, Kevin told us about Asterix by Spears, a card game that is apparently like Hols der Geier with a couple of twists. Sounds good.
And that was it. A strange, fragmented convention that really showed that I don't have much in common with the role playing field these days, but it was an auction to be remembered. Sadly, I never did meet the lovely Kari.
Sumo - Mike Siggins