The first Fastaval
Sometimes things does not really begin. They just happen. Afterwards it is easy to look back and say: “That’s when it started!”
That is how the very first Fastaval came into being. Not as a vision springing forth battleready at first light. More as an almost random chain of events, emerging from a deep, somewhat naïve, love of games. The year was 1986., The mood was perhaps not the best. In January NASA’s spaceshuttle Challenger exploded – the biggest disaster of the US spaceprogram ever. In February the primeminister of Sweden, Oluf Palme, was gunned down in the streets of Stockholm – the Scandinavia equivalent to the Kennedy assasination. And in March some 150 gaming enthusiasts met for a weekend of gaming in Aarhus.
The club Fasta created Fastaval
And how did it all start? In the early 1980s roleplaying was something not many people in Denmark had even heard of. A few had tried their hand at playing it during visits to the US or England. Others had picked up a rulebook for Dungeons & Dragons or Call of Cthulhu from some obscure shop. A note posted in the comicbook store Yellow Kid in Aarhus led to a meeting at the university, where some 20 people, most between the age of 16 to 22, attended.
Yes, the basis for a club existed. A founding meeting was held a few months later in March of 1985. 26 people showed up – and at this very meeting Mads Lunau came up with the name Fasta, an anagram composed of letters from Fantasy-Strategy-Tactics (In Danish: Fantasi-Strategi-Taktik). The support was not overwhelming: 14 out of 26 voted for the name. However he was almost unanimously chosen as chairman. In April of 1985 the five members of the board, led by Mads, together with the two alternates – Malik Hyltoft and Adan Hannestad – met in Maliks dormroom at Aarhus University. One of the key agendas was recruting enough members to qualify for economical support from Aarhus municipality. Without that, there was no way of getting suitable premises. No one remembers who came up with the idea of hosting a large gameday in May of 1985. Probably Mads or Malik. At the time most ideas came from the two of them. They knew each other from highschool, where they had met at national political meetings as representatives from rightwing supporter and left wing communist. There they had grown to respect each other.
Posters were printed on typewriters, xerox’ed and hung at suitable places around Aarhus – various institutes at the university, a few highschools, hobby stores and comicbook stores. Creativity exhausted with the name Fasta, the posters got the headline “Gameday”. Later, much later, it was remembered in house as Fastaval 0.
150 participants at the first Fastaval
No one remebers the exact number of participants at the first Fastaval, that was not named Fastaval, but it was not more than 50 probably not even 40. Gameday was supposed to be repeated in 1986, and in January the first invites was sent out to what optimistically was called “The 1. International Fastaval” to be held in Aarhus on the 7th – 9th of March. The invite was aptly sent to “All boardgamers, roleplayers and other crazy nuts.” The process was so chaotic that no suitable location had yet been found. Only later, just a few weeks prior to the event date, did they succeed in landing premices at Skt. Anna Gade Skole (Saint Anna Street School) located in the Frederiksbjerg part of town. Each day the school closed at 10 PM, so Fasta’s members offered sleeping arrangements to the guest, primarily people from Odense and Copenhagen, 140 to 300 km away. The decision to cook in Adam Hannested’s kitchen was taken just a few days ahead of the event, when the 150 people signing up, hinted that they might get hungry. There was no overall theme – just a bunch of boardgames as Car Wars, Risk, Diplomacy, Conquistador and Third Reich and some roleplaying games: Marvel and the inevitable Call and AD&D. The guys from Odense roleplaying club delivered the Call-scenario – The Monestary in the Mountains (Klosteret i Bjergene.) – and paved the way for a long standing tradition of cooperation in arranging conventions and guest scenarios.
Focus on Roleplaying
During the cleanup after the first “real” Fastaval in 1986 with 150 participants, there was no doubt: This had to be done again next year. And the reviews all favored the roleplaying. It was at this convention that the founding stone was laid. In Aarhus – opposed to other roleplaying clubs in Copenhagen and Odense – the focus was on roleplay in the form of scripted scenarios, After the first faltering steps in the late 1980s, Fastaval quickly grew into a large and well-organized convention. In the early 1990s it was difficult to get people to write scenarios, so threats and pressure were taken into use. Even harder was it to get the authors to hand in the finished scenarios.
It became clear to the organizers that something had to be done to make writing scenarios more attractive. In 1992 the award “The Otto” (Ottoen) was implemented at Fastaval. The award was not for the players but for the authors, who was celebrated at the very first Fastaval banquet.
The Otto created quite a stir in the roleplaying community, both for its transboundary and provocativeness in a hobby that was all about the fact that no one player was the best, naming winners and naming one scenario to be the best.
The Otto had an effect, and in the years to follow it actually got easier to recruit scenario-writers. And if the authors wanted to compete for the award, they had to turn in their scenarios early, so the judges could evaluate them ahead of the convention.
Today it is not about getting people to write for Fastaval, but more about choosing between the submmitted synopses. The Otto was the catalyst to this author culture, that has made Fastaval a world leading convention when it comes to high quality scenarios.
A convention constantly evolving
A lot of things have changed since the first Fastaval in 1986. Fastaval is a fluid convention, where nothing is written in stone. Fastaval has always been shaped by its organizers, and the constant replacement of organizers each with new visions and ideas ensures evolution.
The baseline for 900 people meeting at a school or high school at Easter time, today is the same as in 1986: Playing original roleplaying games and original board games written and designed for the convention, and the participants plays other kinds of games as well.
It is possible to show up at Fastaval on Wednesday and go home after The OttoParty Monday morning without interacting with the real world. Multiple accomodation options exist, and breakfast and dinner is optional. Various foods and beverages is sold throughout the convention.
When participants are not engaged in roleplaying, boardgaming or other scheduled activities, they socialize and hygge in the boardgame café, cocktail café or in the bar enjoying a cold one.
Fastaval has evolved in many ways since the first convention in 1986, but the focal point is still about beeing together enjoying a large assortment of games.