Thursday 1 November 2018

Season of Mists and Mellow Games Conventions

Now that Hallowe'en has come and gone, we're really hurtling towards winter (as can be attested by the knocking sounds currently coming from the radiator next to me as the heating turns itself on again).

As usual, it's been a busy month here, with me largely wrapping up work on Children of Fear (well, attempting to: I've still got some art and map direction left to do on that one, but it's soooo close now, honest).

Besides that, there was a goodly bit of PDF proofing going on for the upcoming Call of Cthulhu supplement: Terror Australis. For those of you who fancy a trip Down Under in the 1920s, I can safely say that there's plenty in the book to suck your investigators' faces off, as well as a few Mythos threats for if the local wildlife isn't quite deadly enough... (Seriously, everything on that continent is going to try to kill you, one way or another.)

What else? Let me consult the Oracle (the desk diary I keep everything written in so I know what I've been up to and what appointments I have coming up. I also have a mini-Oracle in my handbag for when I'm on the go).

Oh, yes: hieroglyphics.

Every year for my birthday present, my lovely Hublet gets me membership for the Lit and Phil in Newcastle (the largest private library in England outside London). I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it's one of my happy places, and they do an amazing range of talks and courses on literally pretty much everything. As I was glancing through the Autumn newsletter a few months ago, I spotted a most intriguing entry: a notice that a 10-week beginner's course in Middle Egyptian hieroglyphics would be starting in October.

To be honest, I thought I was seeing things (or had fallen into one of my own Cthulhu scenarios...), but no, it was genuine, so a couple of weeks ago I arrived at the Lit and Phil, notebook in hand and far too excited, ready for the first class. It was wonderful. Okay, there are way too many birdy-things to draw (that really don't look much like the actual hieroglyphs by the time I've done with them), but it's like a giant puzzle solving game wrapped up in a dead language, which means my brain is really enjoying itself working out what's going on. And I have been most restrained - no Mummy jokes at all (I'm sure they've heard them all by now).

I have missed two classes due to being away at a convention and the accompanying con lurgy from hugging too many strange Europeans and Americans, but the tutor is lovely and sent me the lectures so I could get back up to speed. This meant downloading several Egyptian grammars onto both the desk top and iPad so I could figure out some of the more esoteric points (caused, in part, by Powerpoint slips due to version variance), which also made me inordinately happy (both the grammars and the puzzle-solving). And last night (yep, I was learning hieroglyphics on All Hallows Eve - squeeee!), Masks of Nyarlathotep came in handy as we were reading the cartouches of several pharaohs, including Sneferu and Menkaura...

I know I'm incredibly lucky to live close to such a wonderful resource as the Lit and Phil, and to have a job where doing something like this officially counts as research! Just don't ask me to write any curses or spells in hieroglyphics for you. Certainly not Cthulhoid ones anyway - Middle Egyptian has no letter L (that was only introduced by the Greeks at a much later stage because they needed one), so there'll be no invoking of Nyarlathotep, on paper at least. (Hmm, maybe that's precisely why there's no letter L...) 

As to that convention: October is Kraken time, so off we trundled to Schloss Neuhausen to be thoroughly pampered and over-fed by Peter, Yardena and their staff while we played games, drank far too much beer and gin (including one that tastes like strawberry laces), and gossiped with like-minded individuals. We headed to the Schloss a few days early for the pre-convention convention, which largely consisted of the folks who'd attended mini-Kraken in May this year. It was good to be back in the middle of East Germany (as was), among friends and in a very welcoming, relaxed atmosphere.

Kraken is a pretty tiny convention, with only room for around 80 people. Unlike many conventions I attend, even though I was a guest, I didn't feel like I was "on" in the way that I usually do - you know, performing for the attendees, always with a mind to professionally representing whichever company and product I happen to be working with/on at the time. Like OrcaCon, Kraken is definitely somewhere I get to be me, and hang out and game with people I like. Yes, it is work - I hosted a panel on what was coming up for Cthulhu and ran four games, three of them in a 13.5 hour period on the Sunday (confirming that I'm getting too old for that sort of nonsense, although all the games were great fun) - but it doesn't feel like work, if that makes sense?

The funniest thing about the Kraken is that I only attended my first one this time last year, yet it feels like I've always been going there (and several people were very surprised when they found out about my inexperience with this con). I have every intention of going to both mini- and big-Kraken next year, provided we're allowed off this island after you know what horrific debacle comes into force in 2019. If it does. Who the heck knows - the people "in charge" certainly don't seem to, that's for sure. People keep inviting/encouraging me to move to Germany, and it's tempting, let me tell you!

Ah well, such is life. Better get back to this here art and map direction - it isn't going to do itself!

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