Grand Tribunal 2007 - Report from the front

Some of you may know that some months ago following a casual comment on the Berklist I promised to run a dedicated Ars Magica convention. Well just reporting it went very well, and while many delegates are still missing following the 4am end of one game, we're all gathering to say good bye now.
Folks came from Norway, Germany, the USA and throughout the UK and (hopefully) a good time was had by all. So much so that they are still here!

Anyway thanks to all who attended, and photos and reports will follow in the next few days as we all recover no doubt. It was a pleasure to introduce a number of local roleplayers as well to Ars Magica - at least one was still gaming at 4am.

all the best
cj x

Thanks, I look forward to the photos and reports :smiley:

I've just got back from Cheltenham and I'd like to thank CJ for struggling through against a number of "organisational challenges" (if you bump into him make sure you ask him about cats and scrolls, print heads, and baptists...) and hosting what I think was a very successful weekend.

There were more people there than I expected and special mention has to go to the continental contingent (those from Norway and Germany), the US phalanx, and the indomitable Nick Meredith who we know survived at least one November night in a tent (I'm hoping he survived two as this would be a pretty poor obituary).

It was great to meet everyone and I'm looking forward to the next one where I hope to chat to those that I didn't get chance to chat to this time around.

OK, I have just said goodbye to my last guests and after a heroic struggle in sleet managed to get my front door open - ten minutes of icy cold - what I would have paid to know Cloak of Duck's Feathers. :slight_smile: I think I'll briefly talk about the weekned while the memories are fresh.

Firstly, I need to know who to blame. It all started with a discussion on the Berklist about Amber, and it's dedicated cons, and Volkazz casually remarked -
"I mean, the horror of Ars Magica having its own devoted conventions... No,
no, I can see why you want to avoid it...
" as a joking aside. A certain Someone responded "You want the Berklist to get together for a long
weekend in your town, James?
" and a certain Kevin Sides said "Quick! grab the dice bags and let's go!" and I replied "I guess that means we are organizing an mini-Ars con for Cheltenham UK in
2008 Kev.
" That was February 20th. The die was cast. What is that old proverb about acting in haste, repenting at leisure?

So we planned, and because of misleading information that there were no Festivals or race meetings that weekend from reliable sources, we set the date for November 16th/17th 2007. Here was the first botch. Always use multiple Intellego spells - one can be misleading, and in fcat this weekend was a race weekend, and one of the busiest of the year - accommodation was short (to put it mildly). The two first things to put together when organising even a mini-con are reliable accommodation (DO NOT rely on friends to help out putting people up, unless your friend is Kevin Sides, as I learned the hard way) and decent gaming spaces.

While the first was definitely problematic, I think the second was remarkably successful - we had a pub basement room for the Friday social meet, a university room (and pleasant cafeteria) for the Saturday morning meet up and a well equipped community centre for the Saturday till early Sunday. No complaints on my part there.

Next up was advertising the event. I placed it here and on the Berklist, and it briefly appeared on, but kind folks told others and word circulated fast. I became quite used to finding our event listed on lists of 2007 conventions, and i'm grateful to everyone who helped publicise it. The excellent Pitt Murmann created a very fine wiki for us, and we used a special section on the Sagalocator forum. Regular email updates i think must have reached most folks.

Then in late September disaster struck. For 9 years I had the same email address - and without warning my ISP closed it down. Many folks helped me resubscribe to the forums and lists in my new address, but I still had a real problem. I am admin on Sagalocator, and though I'd given others mod and admin status, I was now unable to log in - my password was wrong, and I could not email for another one. Unfortunately the other admin Kevin could not log me in or email people via that forum, and did not have the necessary permission to reset my password. To this day I can not post as admin! This meant my plan ot send announcements from that list failed.

Next up, we were trying to gauge the level of interest - we expected perhaps ten people - at a rough guess I think we had 32 in the end, which was great, but many only came for a few hours owing to other commitments. Still, relatively few people registered in advance - our special guests Erik Dahl, Matt Ryan, Neil Taylor, Sheila Thomas and Mark Shirley (and in fact other Ars authors appeared as well, which was delightful, on the day!) all registered, and offered to pay their own way. In return we offered accommodation to Erik and Matt, as they were coming from the USA.

Still trying to get folks to sign up was extremely difficult, but a succession of folks did just that... and the con was on!

As it happened the guests were absolutely wonderful company, and on Thursday we set off to explore the Stonehenge Tribunal. I'll leave a detailed account to the Bezerklist. A wonderful day, and excellent weather apart from occasional dense fog, and Matt Ryan's Drive Car (UK) was tested to the very limits. He knows what I mean! On Thursday night we sat up and awaited our guests from the Order of Odin and The Rhine Tribunal - Karl, Leif, and Pitt arrived sometime after midnight bearing gifts and after a long chat headed off to their hotel in Stroud. Great chaps all, I hope to see them again soon.

Friday was the official first day of the con, and in the afternoon as i was desperately working on the last parts of the organisation and writing my freeform Neil Taylor and Sheila Thomas called from town and we met for coffee. Their enthusiasm and generosity - in fact EVERYONE's enthusiasm and generosity made the event the success it was. Shortly afterwards we met Nick Meredith, and after a worrying time we heard that Matt and Erik who had set off to Stonehenge itself had returned safely - we had feared them lost in a regio - and had picked up Mark Shirley from the airport en route. We were very worried about them, I was positively stressed as they were very late back - if anything had happened to them I was going to have to explain to David - and the line was going to be a lot more Australian-only authored as someone said! :slight_smile: After a lovely meal (thanks Neil and Sheila) we made our way to a pub basement, where local chap Tom was meeting people, and i met Christopher Gribbons for the first time, and Nathan Hook for the first time in years. Mark Shirley and i set out to find Mark Lawford, and with locals Kevin, Hugh, Pete and Lloyd we actually filled the basement room, and a game of Grand Tribunal was launched. The main focus that night however was on chatting about Ars Magica - well what did you expect? :slight_smile:

After the pub we set out on a short ghost walk, and well I whittered a lot about spooks and history and so forth. Everyone was terribly nice about me droning on. Eventually at some unearthly hour everyone drifted off to their digs, and Nick Meredith aroused our awed respect by camping in a tent in the rather chilly conditions!

Saturday 10am. The delegates gather for the morning session, which I missed while meeting another guest Ed and setting up the last prep for the freeform. I understand an excellent round table discussion was had, but I don't know the details - anyone want to share any insights? At 12 noon we opened the doors of the main venue - the event officially began at 12.20pm, as Ars Magica always starts in 1220 as Matt Ryan joked. In reality it was nearer 1am by the time we started play, with Helen, Luke and Kenton arriving. Everyone but Mark Lawford and Kenton was in the freeform - surprisingly some local Ars Magica players who hoped to run 4th edition did not make it at all - so Mark and Kenton were co-opted in to co-running as GM's. They did an absolutely fantastic job, and I realise now there is no way the freeform which ran over the next four hours or so could have worked anywhere near as well without their input. :slight_smile: I owe them a huge thank you for their enthusiastic assistance when I am sure they would have preferred to be gaming themselves, and for helping Ed and i prepare the poker chips which served as Vis stocks and were traded among players, and the primitive scrolls which served as books. :slight_smile:

The players looked wonderful, many having very elaborate costumes, and a special mention must be made of Ed as Desiderius the Necromancer whose elaborate home made mask must have been extremely uncomfortable to wear. I'm hoping that someone will post the photos - I never had time at any point to take a single photo. I'll let others describe their experiences, but the plot was designed to be melodramatic, and hopefully fun. Called The Road to Blackthorn it was unusual in NOT taking place initially at a Tribunal, allowing free casting of magic, and with some stats it was as close to tabletop Ars Magica as I could manage. Matt Ryan came out with the single funniest line of the con - as the crazed Junius of Verditius on the decks of a flying ship with a doomsday style device suspended from chains below, he shouted to the anxious watching magi "I can destroy the world with this device: there is nothing against THAT in the Code" I think he botched his Code of Hermes roll, but it was wonderful stuff - and a voice came up from below "Yet..."

Suffice to say a number of magi did not even make it to the Tribunal meeting, and I think Sheila was quite surprised when she as Julia of Jerbiton was sworn in as Praeco in the absence of the other candidates :slight_smile: The actual Tribunal meeting saw some excellent roleplaying - I missed much as I was dealing with characters still outside but I did see Leif as Viator describing his magical communication devices, while Ebrion, Primus Ex Misc (Neil Taylor, looking hilarious!) already glowing with pride from his demonstration of the strengths of Columbae magic (see Societates) and Nick I think tried to foil it's adoption with impressions of large dragons! There was a wonderful scene where Erik Dahl as Iudicium cross examined Luke Price as Gerfallon about events on the flying ship and the fate of Maximianus (Kev) and the Praeco (Pete) and remarkably Luke managed to lie his way right through. Meanwhile Junius (Matt) kept reverting to five year old, owing to a botched Blessing of the Childlike Mind!

Actually I could go on for ages about all the other great scenes and people, but of course I saw only a fraction of what went on over the several rooms representing the haunted caverns and the upstairs "ship" how much fun was had, and the good news was people who had not played Ars before (and surprisingly there were quite a few, mainly local roleplayers) enjoyed themselves and were convinced to stay and try the tabletop rpg session in the evening. Lorna joined us about this time, and Sheila managed to manipulate and scheme her way to success before Erik as Presiding Quaesitore declare the Tribunal invalid. :slight_smile:

Anyway, the photos will be more entertaining!

OK, Saturday Evening. Thanks to Pete Hiley and Lloyd Graney for generously providing tea, coffee, milk and sugar - I'm sure it was appreciated - and loan of mugs. Kenton, Pete and Lloyd had other commitments, but people were still arriving - and after a huge communal trip to TESCO we ate and cooked food in the kitchens, before settling down to the Raffle. Many signed Ars books, some rarities, and some other rpg and fun stuff were raffled off, raising well over fifty pounds for the Red Cross, ( I still have not counted it having passed it on to others before i spend it! :slight_smile: ) and I think a lot of people got one of the twenty or so items. Erik Dahl outed himself as Dear Abelard and gave a beautiful collection of scrolls of those letters signed and presented in a very medieval manner, and Angela Taylor gave us some beautiful artworks which were very popular picks. There were also various other wonderful odd and eccentric things - most of the 5th ed books i think, though i forgot to bring TMRE as I planned to to my annoyance, never mind, next time. I gave Lion of the North, Trial by Fire and Societates and was pleased folks who had not got these were there. the problem was many people had everything for Ars already, but some newbies went home with lovely 5th ed supplements signed by the authors present to begin their collections.

After the raffle we had a brief discussion, but dropped meet the authors as so many were present now and everyone had been talking to them all weekend. We now proceeded to more gaming.

Nathan Hook ran a fantastic little Ars freeform for seven players with an Arthurian feel. I played in the second run of the night, and I think it was very deservedly popular. Meanwhile Neil ran Long Way Home, which is always appreciated, and I took one newbie and three hard core Ars fans and ran Neil's excellent An Ill Fated Meeting, a game with magi 40 years out of gauntlet an experienced in the esoteric Mystery Cults. Excellent fun was had!

People came in to see us (Neil and Erik briefly sat in on my session) then the longest even of the night began - Mark Shirley running a story from Tales from the Dark Ages to rave reviews. That game was to continue till 4am, so popular was it, the tired (exhausted in fact!) players unwilling to quit till they finished and savouring every minute of it. It was great to see at least one new Ars player really enjoying herself in that group. :slight_smile: The only down side was i had to stay on the premises till the end to lock up, but Leif Olav Josang was a great companion and helped me carry everything back in driving rain, while remaining good humoured.

Ten o clock this morning and many folk who had only turned in at 5am were up bright and early for the Farewell Breakfast, followed by a swif trip to a pub. Atrocious weather was the only downside, but it was great to see so many of you make it. At last people began to drift off, and some are probably still on their way home now, or still in the uK as I know Erik and Matt are. I hope the reported heavy snowfalls do not interrupt anyones travel plans.

That was Grand Tribuanl 2007 - I'lll write more comment about folks, games ideas, and anecdotes when I've had some sleep. It was a blast, and i'd like to thank everyone who came, for overlooking my many flaws. the chaos, lack of prep, and other hassles, and all mucking in to make it a very special weekend . See you all in 33 years time! :slight_smile:


Mark Shirley incidentally made me a wonderful wooden plaque to remember Grand Tribunal by. It's gorgeous - he is a very skilled craftsman. Is it possible to post photos on this forum???

cj x

Thanks for the accounts, it seems to have been great and very fun, and I took great pleasure in reading it. Makes me wish I'd been there :smiley:

As per the photos, I can host them, it it can help.

Thanks Fixer. Well it may well happen again, but it certainly was a great meeting of Ars interested folks and writers. :slight_smile: I'm sure some interesting ideas developed during the con and will be discussed on here - unfortunately as organiser I was in a constant state of absolute stress/exhaustion, and running around trying to make sure everything ran smoothly. I did enjoy running my two games though, while realising that without Mark Lawford and Kenton generously donating their time running the freeform would have been impossible.

cj x

Oh, I wouldn't say impossible. Improbably, yes, but not impossible...

Hi mark! It's a shame you had to head back early on the saturday night - Mark Shirley ran a game after Neil's Long Way home which did not end till 4am, and sounded excellent. That is one thing I should bear in mind for a future event - having more games run. We were supposed to have some locals who were not taking part in the freeform sho up and run Ars 4 but they never made it. :frowning:

cj x

Darn, missing this event (I'd planned to attend) due to my labourous lab-work on Perdo Ignem spells (aka. not being able to get off my duties with the local fire dept.) only grows more painful from this report!!!!

But great to know you had a blast - and looking forward to the illuminated version of the tall tales (now lay those pictures on us!! :smiling_imp: )...

Not even having attended I want to express my praise for the organizer(s) - of course with the secret agenda of hoping for the success warranting a sequel....