Follow-up to Episode 3: Aquelarre, confessions of a roleplayer

Following reports of the recent translation of potentially dangerous texts, an investigation was initiated leading to the discovery of an audio surveillance tape found in the basement of an abandoned tapas bar in the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood. Following your request, please find below the transcript of this mysterious recording. Hopefully, it will prove helpful in your work against the anatidae threat. 

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[BEGIN OF TRANSCRIPT]

(Assembly member #1, probably the chairman)  Hello I am Zorg the Mighty, but sometimes people call me Laurent, I would like to welcome you to the Lapsed R. group. We would like to give a special welcome to our new attendees that have come today, please introduce yourselves.

(Visitor) Hello my name is Lucas, or Kanard sometimes, and I used to be a role player.

(Various assembly members) Hello Lucas, welcome to our group

(Visitor) Thank you.

(Assembly chairman) We all know it’s a daunting task to speak first but without challenge none of us would be here, so can you explain us your story from the beginning.

(Visitor) Glups, well it started when Adam and Eve successfully spotted a tree and there was this reptilian creat…

(Assembly chairman) hum, well maybe we can start a bit closer to the events that brought you here

(Visitor) oh sorry I failed my intelligence test, never been lucky with dices.

(Assembly member #2) *whispering* the ways of Ranald are hidden, may the 6 be yours often…

(Visitor) so yeah, It was the end of the summer, an old friend from a previous town was in town for business he proposed to meet and have a drink, also he told me he had a podcast project and he wanted to interview me for the third episode.

I said Ok. It was going to be a bit different from my classic drinks with old friends where conversation always end up on the same topics about expats etc. So we met in this random cafe near his hotel. It was a forgettable place, but I remember there was something in the air, a storm was coming outside, and, I didn’t knew back then, inside me. The interview was obviously a trap, to try to lure me in the addiction.

(Assembly chairman) Lucas, we understand you are speaking your heart and your feelings are strong but here we prefer to use the word “hobby”.

(Visitor) Sorry about that I don’t know all the rules yet.

(Assembly chairman) Don’t mention it, these are not the official rules, they are our home-brew version.

(Visitor) Oh, I see, interesting. So, during this kind of interview we talked about various things first general chi-chat about life in Barcelona, then more and more about “the Hobby” and how I used to do it, how I became a regular, chasing the dragon every week etc etc. And then there was that single question:
“How was your first time, I mean how did you learned about the dice”.
Innocently I told him my childhood memories, gamebooks and my first real session with my elder cousin and his circle of friends on a game called Aquelarre. The interview continued, we moved to another bar and I got quite drunk alone on Belgian beers, after he left under the pretence of having to attend his company’s diner.

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(Assembly chairman) Yes, as we all know professional game master are skilled at luring people into doing things without realising, even without having to throw dices. But surely just that interview didn’t push you to come to meet us tonight right?

(Visitor)  No you’re right, there was another session. A few week later after a long day at the office I was on the bus back home, scanning my newsfeed for kitten videos, because they are the only creature on earth that can justify the existence of 3G video streaming, when appeared in front of me an innocent advert showing a leather-bound book with some golden geometric drawings. Without really reading the title I clicked on the advert, wondering how such a kitten-free item could be featured on my page. And I landed on the website of an editor called Nosolorol. The volume was a special 25th anniversary edition of Aquelarre, bound in (probably human) leather, with fancy metal highlights.

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25th year celebration “Cogex Gigas” leather edition limited to 12 exemplars

Realising this was a trap I closed the browser quickly, and seek mental refuge launching a game of Nyarly Crush Saga, where you have to align stars to open the portal let the old gods in while you move to the next dimension. I thought it was just a scare, oh how wrong was I….

(Assembly member #3) The lord of the book of faces is a demon, his chaotic good alignment is just a face too the world, he and his minions work for Tzeench and only want to bring the world to its downfall.

(Assembly chairman) Brothers, don’t interrupt our friend, we all know how unfair traps can be and blaming the translation doesn’t help solve ambiguities. Please Kanard continue.

(Visitor) *long sigh * The last and final part of this Machiavellian plan came before the Christmas holiday. That old friend who had interviewed me contacted me again, pretexting to wish me a happy new year, and in his message he said something in the lines of “your interview was one of the most successful episode we ever did! I had quite a few people asking about that Spanish game you mentioned. Could you write a small piece explaining a bit more its features and dangers compared to previous versions”?

At first I was very scared, I’d been away from the dices for 3 years now and my life was good. I had a wife, a cat, hobbies etc. But then he insisted. H had hopes to create a big media outlet to talk about “the hobby” and help people deal with it and have normal lives. I reluctantly accepted, thinking that might help him see the truth and also prevent other people from become too involved. After all I had been through several campaigns of Cthulhu and L5R and I was still a fully functional professional. It would give other people an example on how to talk about this and live on.

(Assembly chairman) And that review, you refused to comply I suppose? Writing texts beyond 140 characters is what saves people from becoming regular user as we all know.

(Visitor) *embarrassed tone* Well I actually did write it. My main project at work had been delayed and I had a Paypal voucher to use. So without really thinking, like a man ordering his usual burger at GBK, I ordered the PDF version of the rule book without any guilt.

(Various assembly members) Ohwm, shhhh *sounds like they were suffering virtual pain*.

(Assembly member #4) Dear comrade since you failed your willpower test and looked into the book, how would you describe it? Surely it was in some foreign language you could read with your current Spanish Literacy Skill?

(Visitor) Funnily enough, once I got the file I noticed it was quite large, somehow a relief, surely this would be a dry, horrible, unfriendly book of rules without anything else than tables and obscure definitions, plus as you say my Spanish should have a bit weak for long arcane reading. Yet when I opened the file something magical took over me, 538 page in full colours with illustrations, tables, player’s section, historical background, bestiary and a few scenarii.

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(Various assembly members) Ohhh shiny !

(Visitor) The title itself is quite interesting actually. “Aquelarre” comes from the Basque tongue and was incorporated to Castellano by the Holy Inquisition to describe some of Witches’ Sabbath they tracked in that region of Spain.  This locates straight away the game in term of themes and topics: Medieval Spain, Demons, Witches and other supernatural beings.

*retaking his breath* I knew I shouldn’t read anything from it to avoid falling into the trap, but there was a whole historical references part about Spain or rather the kingdoms that formed it in the days the game is played (XIVth / XVth century ) , and it looked rather well written. I learned so much about the Arab states and their society that still existed in the south of the peninsula.

Aquelarre402-403.jpg

(Assembly member #5) But why republish a game and not do just a history book then?

(Visitor) Well I am not one of the authors, but I imagine all that rich information is not the purpose. The purpose is to explore the classic dilemma of men wanting to thrive torn between their desires and so called morality. And in this case the desires are represented by fantastical creatures. One thing I felt though is despite the apparent Manichaeism of the system, based on the opposition between Rationality and Irrationality as 2 opposite character attributes, the bestiary and other elements try to give the world a more subtle cut. Some of these fantastical creatures are not really supposed to be plain evil things. Don’t take my word for it I didn’t read in details the whole books. This would have been too risky. This is just my gut feel after scanning some of the pages and also the memories of my session maybe 20 years ago.

(Assembly member #6) You speak like the devil Kanard! Why did you come here to tempt us into falling back in idolatry!

(Visitor) Well, I’m sorry I thought this was a place for talking freely to understand and explore our weaknesses as former “hobbyists” .

* diffuse discussion in the assembly *

(Assembly member #7) *very excited voice* What about the dices, which type do they use?

(Visitor) Well it seems it’s mostly D100 for the tests and player attributes on D20. I didn’t want to read too much but I noticed the combat had some interesting twists based on a large number of moves people can do to disarm, hit unprotected areas etc. Much more than most of the games I’ve played. It seemed everything was quite detailed. Maybe the game system is a bit leaning toward simulationism. I mean, the character creation has 2 options. One is like 100% random based for most of the archetype. Also they explain you how to perform spells that adventurers will never approach for they are ultra-demonic, a bit like Warhammer.

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Overall the world of Aquelarre has all the perils of the dark middle ages, with added supernatural creatures. I guess characters don’t last too long, you can die as easily from illnesses as from fighting forest gnomes. The system translates that harshness. Being foolish will kill you. Being prudent will kill you also, but later.

(Various assembly members) hahah

(Visitor) The biggest risk for me to fall back completely into this game has been the Rationality / Irrationality thing, it’s a very interesting take on the subject, and unlike most games Rationality has some non-scientific parts like the existence of God!  Let me find that bit again, I’ve got the file on my tablet.

* electronic noises *

(Assembly chairman) *embarrassed* Hum, dear friend maybe this is not really what we are used to in…

(Visitor) Here we go  ” La Racionalidad representa una visión lógica de la vida, una concepción del mundo razonable, ordenada, científica, histórica y humana ” and a bit further  ” Y dentro del ámbito de la Racionalidad se acoge la noción de la luz, del día y, por tanto, de Dios —o de Allah o Yahveh—, del cielo, el paraíso y la fe.”

Wait the part I’m looking is a bit further  “En la Edad Media la existencia de un Dios era considerada una verdad tan evidente que era inverosímil pensar lo contrario” .

And actually, the creatures of God like Angels and the spells for priests use rationality as their anchor attribute, in a sense their goal is to bring back the world to the vision of men and avoid fantasy to come back. There is a hint of that classic fantasy used to be stronger but modernity and civilizations killed it.

(Assembly Member #7) That looks really interesting, maybe we could study this book further. I mean…

….to identify its dangers of course.

* turmoil in the assembly *

(Assembly chairman) Brothers, calm yourselves, do I need to remind you that we are here to repent our old ways, not spend our disposable income rare editions via Ebay or Kickstarter for re-editions of old legends.

(Assembly member #4) But revered dungeon guardian, you told us we need to keep an eye on the enemy hence spend our annual membership fees to build a collection of forbidden book so we will identify them.

(Assembly member #7) * ignoring the exchange between the other members * Then it could be just Cthulhu in the middle age then

(Visitor) I don’t know. It definitely has a little feel. However, it’s a less one-ended I think. The players can embrace the irrational with caution, with much less risk than for Cthulhu. It feels a bit more archaic in some part. It seems many adventure are much lower key: freeing villagers from a ghost, chasing something that kills the game in the forest etc. It has a few very interesting modern twist though. For instance, one of the “gamebook” style scenario to play aloe and discover the universe.

(Assembly chairman) *annoyed tone* But wait, why did you come here, then? The good people of this room have long gone up their wretched ways and now only want to play Match 3 candy based games and talk about respectable things for a level 12 family man. Our board game library is not there to be played but to remind us of the perils of such getaway activities.

(Visitor) Oh, I misunderstood then. When we talked at the Barcelona comic festival,you made it sound this was a club for people who stopped playing but were thinking to go back without losing themselves completely in the games.  And you implied you needed new blood to re-motivate players who had lost their appetite for new RPG experiences.

(Assembly chairman) Noooo, you traitor! These are MY players! Only me can master them!!  When desperate, they will BEG ME for a scenario. ONLY ME can have them throw dice. Leave this place with your new fancy games.

(Visitor)  * sudden gasp *

(Assembly chairman) Be gone! Vade retro! Minions Chase this infidel who came to break our holy alliance! I will grant 100 XP to whoever kicks him out first.

(Visitor) Your lies won’t triumph there! These people here might be gone but the truth will… No, don’t hit me… No not the D&D’s Player’s Handbook… No stop please don’t destroy these books…

*SPLAM* *various noises and screams * 

[END OF THE AUDIO RECORDING]

In the tape box there was a Spanish phone number and a few words written in a poorly formed calligraphy.

“The devils and demons are still there, come with us if you want to hunt them, bring soft drinks, we have gusanillos and sugus. Bailen X Traverseria”

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Aquelarre is now available in English thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.

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