It was no surprise to see Virtual Grogmeet at it’s biggest and best yet this year, in part due to the cancellation of quite a few ‘before coronavirus’ cons, but mostly due to the great organisation of the hosts Dirk and Blythy and the great gamers who have come together to make this happen.
Initially I had planned to run a game on the Friday night as I had expected to attend DevaCon on the Saturday (a small, friendly con held in Chester that I’ve attended for the last couple of years that doesn’t usually clash with VGm), but with that event postponed until later in the year I put forward another game to run and signed up to play in a couple of other games. My VGm weekend went down like this:
Friday 17th Evening
Wanting to run a game that was low prep I had selected The Mad Queen’s Jewels which I’ve run a few times before, a homebrew set in The Midderlands using the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells system. I’d written the adventure to be very open, starting with the PC’s on the verge of snaffling the jewels and having to escape through Leaningtown, home of the infamous spa, then having a set ending. In theory the journey could have been different every time, but each party selected the same route, so maybe I need to think about how I’m presenting those initial options…
I had a great group of players, many of whom I’ve gamed with before so I knew it’d be a good session, and they didn’t let me down bringing the enthusiasm, creativity and humour I’ve seen so often in recent times, making each game a treat to run. The Midderlands setting is fantastic, I really need to set more games there.
Saturday 18th Morning
Dungeon Crawl Classics has always been a treat to run, with level 0 funnels being a great fit for one shots and players seem to love it, so it was easy choice to put this forward for VGm. The adventure I picked was Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign, a highly flavourful adventure where the PCs are press ganged into service in the Earl of Nanch’s army and form a search party going into the mysterious fey realm of Greenwood. It’s railroady which is fine for a one shot and the players seemed to really enjoy it with quite a few of their hearty peasants surviving. Having ran the same adventure the previous week at Virtual Go Play Manchester it was interesting to compare how the two groups of players tackled the challenges presented. I’m a big fan or running the same adventure multiple times: you get twice the value out of the preparation put in and the experience is always enjoyably different with a fresh group of players.
Saturday 18th Afternoon
I played in Griff’sFive Torches Deep game Once More Unto The Grindcore. I’ve read FTD a couple of times, even contributing to proof reading on it, but I’d forgotten most of the system. It’s a credit to the game and Griff’s GM style that we’d all picked it up in no time at all. As we’ve come to expect from Griff the setting was bursting with character, set in a fantasy France where the nobility had shutdown the Grindcore (a monster generator buried deep underground) and fell on us to restore the nation… I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers, but it goes without saying it was an excellent adventure. I’d really like to play FTD more now as well (too many games!)
And that was my VGm, the weekend rounded out with Dirk interviewing Pookie online and a session of a regular game of Luther Arkwright the Sunday evening. Posts to Twitter showed others having great games across the weekend, the events going on into the Sunday night. I’d say VGm was a huge success, a massive thanks must go out to Dirk and Blythy and for all the great GM’s and players who took part.
Ok, so I’m a bit late putting this out, but it’s been one of those weeks.
The weekend of 6-8 March saw the 4th outing of Convergence in Stockport and my 4th visit. As in previous years I only attended the Saturday, but I know many enjoy the full weekend experience. It’s a great con in the excellent Element Games which has a huge gaming space for all kinds of fun, covering wargames, X-Wing and RPG’s. This year the organiser Kris pulled it out of the bag; I know from speaking to him about it that it was a real challenge to pull together on his own, but it seemed to me to be busier than ever, so huge kudos and thanks to Kris for running it. The great news is that there will be a Convergence in 2021 and I’ve already seen loads of RPG folk on Twitter getting excited about attending.
I love an early start to a day of gaming, so with an hour or so drive from Crosby I arrived at Element Games just after 9. Enough time to meet and greet and grab a coffee before setting up my game for a 9.30 start. Convergence offers generous 4 hour slots which I really prefer (although my own BurritoCon only has 3 hour slots) – it gives a bit more breathing room and if the game finishes early it’s just more time to chat.
Since first grabbing Winter’s Daughter for Old School Essentials I’ve really wanted to run it. It’s an excellent adventure set in the enchanted forest setting of Dolmenwood. Tagged as a romantic fairytale dungeon adventure it’s not my usual fare, but it had a real charm and some elegant touches. Certainly it doesn’t follow the pattern of standard dungeon adventures. I had a great group of players, all of whom I have gamed with previously, and they all dived into the setting and played the odd assortment of characters in the true spirit of the game.
After a delicious chippy lunch and a quick catch up with @DissectingWrlds who I’d not seen for a while, but had brought his lad along for a quick tour of a gaming con, it was on with setting up my second game. A session of the new Fria Ligan Aliens game had been planned for the afternoon slot, but the GM was unable to attend at short notice – Kris had asked me if I could put something together a few days earlier, so I grabbed an old favourite, For the Honour of the Tribe. This adventure is from Imagine magazine issue 2 and was devised to demonstrate the abilities of the new Barbarian class for AD&D, also detailed in that issue. I’ve previously ran it with The Hero’s Journey and Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, but having reworked it for Old School Essentials for BurritoCon3 last year, I decided to use that. It’s a cracking adventure, highly action oriented but perfect for a one shot. Each time I’ve ran it the mortality rate has been quite high, and this time was no exception, with just one character surviving and saving the day. As in the previous session the players were spot on, embodying the barbarian spirit required for this adventure – thanks @Dragongirl74, Simplikissimus, Paul and Tom.
I had planned on staying for an evening game of Call of Cthulhu with @CyaeghaUK as GM. I’d heard great things about @CyaeghaUK‘s games from Convergence last year so wanted to get a game in with him. However, I was pretty knackered from the previous week and after running two games was starting to feel it even more so. I ducked out of the game and my slot was taken by another player. A couple of days later I asked some of my Night’s Dark Terror players who’d played in @CyaeghaUK‘s game how it went – it sounded brilliant and I was sorry to have missed it. But as Logen Ninefingers is wont to say, you have to be realistic about these things.
With cons being cancelled left, right and centre due to coronavirus I was pleased to get this face to face gaming in. As much as Roll20 allows me to play regularly, there really is nothing like getting together in person to go on an adventure. While it’s a good 12 months until the next Convergence, I’m already looking forward to it; if you can get yourself to Stockport I’d highly recommend it, for the weekend or just a day.
It’s becoming a bit of a thing now. BurritoCon is in its third year, bringing together brilliant RPG players with amazing RPG GMs for fantastic RPG games! And potentially Burritos.
I’ve booked a load of tables at Fanboy Three for Saturday 1st August. The event will run from 10am to 6pm, with game slots of 10.30-1.30 and 2.30-5.30.
Although it’s very early days some of the GMs have said they will run games like DCC Lankhmar, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Down Darker Trails. I’m sure there will be loads more good stuff on offer on the day.
If you’re interested in coming along message me on my Twitter account @OldScouserRPing, either DM or just tag me in a post.
Grognards in Tenby = Grogten. Not just ten Grognards hanging out somewhere; there were actually eight of us there, top gamers and good mates. The idea came together last year, I think inspired by The One Ring Roadtrip. I must have been raving on about it to my Barbarians of Lemuria group when @davepaters suggested we do a similar thing at his place in Tenby… lovely. Plans were made, ideas formed, permission sought. Slowly it came together.
Unlike The One Ring Roadtrip with it’s single adventure over a weekend, this time we would have different games of 3-4 hours each, and because I was the regular Barbarians of Lemuria GM, I would get to sit back and play in them all. Post Grogmeet we started to firm up plans, making travel arrangements and deciding on games.
An early start on the morning of 24 January saw me leaving the leafy suburbs of Crosby and heading in a more or less direct line across Wales to Tenby. The journey was a little fraught with the main road completely closed due to a house collapsing and Google Maps having no idea how to get around it, although there was some stunning scenery. Arriving a little later than anticipated and giddy with excitement, it was great to catch up with the others: @MozleyJim, @jaje7406, @KiernanEd, @Sam0Vail, @davepaters, @OrlanthR and @carlclare. @jaje7406 had prepared a fantastic South African lunch of Boerewors which we all hungrily scoffed before getting stuck into the first game of the event.
Despite it being a regular game back at the old Rice Lane Game Club in Liverpool I never did get the play Star Frontiers, so was incredibly excited to give this a go. As the opening game, @davepaters had bravely decided to run with 7 players using an old Imagine magazine adventure. With most game events there isn’t enough time to create your own characters, but with the luxury of a whole weekend we did just that, the old fashioned way, with lots of randomly generated stuff. My character was Chee-tar, a techie Yazirian with a penchant for hacking robots and blowing stuff up. Our band was hired by a mysterious agent to blow up a data storage facility outside of town; as it was our only route of the stinking planet we took the job.
As you’d expect there was lots of old school gaming going on, but it was a great deal of fun and I really enjoyed the Star Frontiers system. Needless to say we were successful in our mission, perhaps doing a bit more damage than we needed to.
By the time Star Frontiers was finished we were well set up for the weekend, and so headed to a local venue for further beers and tasty grub before returning to the house to spend the remainder of the evening talking gaming nonsense with more beers and whisky. This is what life is about!
After a glorious fry up for breakfast we settled down for the first session of the day. Really, it was glorious with @MozleyJim and @jaje7406 taking on chef duties and everyone else helping out in whatever ways they could, and it set us up for a solid day of gaming. In fact, three sessions back to back. We’d cleverly organised things so that each GM got to run their game twice and players got to to play every game; so while I was sitting down with @Sam0Vail and @carlclare to play in @davepaters Liminal game, @MozleyJim, @jaje7406 and @KiernanEd were getting stuck into @OrlanthR‘s Tales from the Loop adventure.
I’d not played Liminal previously but had heard and read lots of great things about it. It’s a unique setting, a modern day UK with a hidden world of magic, fey and weirdness. Our characters were sent out to find Welland Archer, a missing researcher from the Council of Merlin who curiously was looking into a connection between Henry Tudor and Dr Dee… It turns out Henry Tudor fled to France from a house in Tenby (in fact just a couple of doors down from where we were playing the game!), and young Welland had started his research there. I don’t want to give any spoilers as I’m sure @davepaters will run the game again… but it was fantastic, full of local information and flavour, lots of trails to follow and a brilliant conclusion.
After a tidy lunch of local pies and pasties, myself, @Sam0Vail and @carlclare created our TftL characters. Before too long we’d put them together based on archetypes; I was Benjamin ‘Buttons’, a nerd who found solutions to everything in his pocket calculator. Turned out it was one of the adventures from the TftL rulebook, but @OrlanthR had cleverly changed the setting from somewhere in Sweden to Tenby – we were in the Pembrokeshire Loop with all the Magnatrine tech that is part of the TftL . Our adventure started with some weird stuff about birds… but in the interests of avoiding spoilers we’ll leave that there. The system was really neat; a simple dice pool resolution mechanic, and a setting very easy to get into… we were all teenagers in the 80’s so doing weird stuff like using libraries was all part of it. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about playing a 10-15 year old, but it was a lot of fun with a system designed to just make it work.
@Sam0Vail has a copy of an old Games Workshop Strontium Dog game that never made it into publication. It’s based on the GW Judge Dredd game but in it’s current form is three ring binder folders of dot matrix paper. This time I was joined by @MozleyJim and @davepaters as we created our mutant Search and Destroy agents. Initially the random tables were throwing up some odd mutations – I had with ‘back covered in suppurating spots’ and ‘skin hangs badly in folds’. Luckily with a bit of GM fiat we rolled on different tables, and I ended up with a much more exciting animal mutation – a tiger head. Thus was born Roary, joined by Worker (@davepaters‘ ant headed mutie) and Tickles (@MozleyJim‘s cute and cuddly cat headed mutie).
We’d taken a job worth 3.2M creds to apprehend and return Harlan Brozack, a crim with a long list of offences, primarily involving the narcotic Zaap. Our adventures took us across worlds to seedy nightclubs, dodgy warehouses and more… ending with a great chase scene finale. The system held up really well, our PCs seem much more capable than the Judges from GW Judge Dredd and the action was fast moving. @Sam0Vail had really capture the flavour of Strontium Dog, we felt like dirty muties with the galaxy against us.
Game 5: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition: Slaughter in Spittlefeld (GM: @jaje7406)
Sunday gaming started with a trip to the Old World; I was playing the Rogue Albrecht Von Bakstabben and was joined by @MozleyJim as a devout Priest and @davepaters as an angry Dwarf. No spoilers for this beyond us waking up in a quarantined flop house with a mystery to solve. It’s the second time I’ve played WFRP 4e in the past month – there’s so much to like about the system and the setting, and this was a great one shot adventure.
After a rustic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, ham, pickle and maybe a beer or two, we swapped tables for the last time. Randomly picking our characters, I played Oliver ‘Ashcan’ Quinn, a grizzled old veteran one last job away from retirement, while @MozleyJim played Mace Hunter, an American Con Man who Ashcan didn’t fully trust. @davepaters played the French Assassin, Dr Felix Duboise, with a glorious french accent. It has been commented on Twitter that @carlclare really knows his history, and this really came across in the adventure; real depth and loads to investigate. Once again avoiding spoilers, this was a great adventure with an explosive ending. What a great way to draw the curtains on the final game of the weekend.
Fortunately the weekend was not yet over and so we whiled away the Sunday evening with a stroll around Tenby, beer and lovely grub in a local pub and chatting back at the house about games nonsense and other stuff, then we were all heading back to our respective homes on Monday.
What an amazing weekend it was, better than we could have hoped. A huge thanks to @davepaters for putting us up and putting up with us, and to everyone who was there, the fantastic GM’s and players. I don’t know if these games will be on offer at other events, but if they are I’d highly recommend playing them.
Last year I set out my gaming plans for 2019 – they were ambitious but open to change, and for the most part I followed them, getting to cons and running most of the games I had planned to. The games I didn’t get to run were Black Blade of the Demon King and World of the Lost for LotFP, I’d like to get to run one of them in 2020 at least. Unfortunately I had to drop out of Lunchtime Lairs as my company moved me to a different office, but that has gone from strength to strength which is pleasing.
Convergence (6th-8th March, Stockport) – same as previous years I’ll only attend on the Saturday. Will try to run something for Barbarians of Lemuria or Romance of the Perilous Land if I can get something together in time.
Virtual Grogmeet (17th-18th April, Roll20) – as this conflicts with DevaCon I may just run a game on the Friday evening, probably my Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Midderlands Adventure, The Mad Queens Jewels
DevaCon (18th April, Chester) – I’d love to run a Midderlands adventure set in Chester, but have no ideas as yet. Will see how that pans out.
UK Games Expo (29th – 31st May, NEC Birmingham) – last year I ran two games, I expect to do the same this year, although I will probably play less. No idea yet what I’ll run, better get my thinking cap on!
BurritoCon 5 & 6 (June & October, Fanboy 3 Manchester) – if things work out I’ll throw together further BurritoCon events, but I have no specific plans at the moment
Owlbear & Wizards Staff (September in Leamington Spa) – this was a brilliant con in 2019, so I really hope I can get to it in 2020
Grogmeet (7th-8th November – I think) – there will be a Friday afternoon multi-table game again along the lines of this year’s Mothership game, still very early days, but we’ve already talked through a few ideas. Other than that I have no plans on what to run…
Go Play Manchester (various dates, Fanboy 3 Manchester) – I didn’t get to as many of these as I had hoped in 2019, I’m hoping 2020 will offer more opportunity to get along.
Grogten and The One Ring Roadtrip – these are two weekends away with gaming mates. From my point of view they require little prep as I won’t be running any games at them; however they look like being excellent events.
My plan is to continue to enjoy the amazing games I’m lucky enough to play in (Pink Gins and Googlies, Two Headed Serpent, RuneQuest, Luther Arkwright, Fall of Delta Green), and play others when I can. As a GM I’m still very much focussed on OSR games, particularly Old School Essentials, LotFP, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells and to a lesser extent Dungeon Crawl Classics, but there are a handful of other games I want to delve into more this year including Barbarians of Lemuria, Everywhen and Romance of the Perilous Land. The One Ring also has huge appeal but I doubt I’ll get that to the table in 2020.
I’m going to continue running Night’s Dark Terror, that’ll definitely be completed this year. If I have time I’d like to run some other old D&D modules, maybe Red Hand of Doom or Night Below.
Restart Barbarians of Lemuria. The heroes look on while Parsool falls under the boot of the almond eyed Sorcerers… there’s loads I can do with this. There’s also a load of good stuff in Lemurian Legends I’d like to bring into my game.
Run Black Blade of the Demon King, probably using LotFP or possibly Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells which I think has the potential to become a go-to old school fantasy RPG
Do something with GDW Space 1889, I’m thinking of running it using Everywhen, the generic system based on Barbarians of Lemuria. It looks like a good match at the moment and I have a load of old modules I can put to good use.
Run some Dungeon Crawl Classics one shots, possibly set in Lankhmar if I pick up the boxed set
I’d love to run a hexcrawl, ideally Hot Springs Island, but I don’t know if I’ll have time for that.
I did struggle with some of my 2019 resolutions although I still think they were entirely reasonable, I just need to be more determined. I managed to focus on LotFP, Old School Essentials and Barbarians of Lemuria for the most part, although I also ran Mothership, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells and Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, not too bad really. I was also able to get my Kickstarter purchase impulse under control, only grabbing a couple of new systems in the early part of the year and a few adventures and other bits as the year went on. Lighter prep still eludes me, but I am working on it…
I guess the question is, what are the point of these resolutions – for me it’s about making the best use of the time I have. Too many games is a distraction, it’s easy to spend so much time reading new systems that you spend no time running them (or preparing to run them). So for 2020 my resolutions are:
Focus on these systems: Old School Essentials, LotFP, Barbarians of Lemuria, Everywhen, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, Dungeon Crawl Classics. Everything else is just a distraction.
Continue to master Kickstarter, only supporting projects where:
They add content to games I already own, adventures, settings and so on
They are revisions of games I already own
Aim for lighter prep. Brief notes and lists will do for the main part
Get to grips with Fantasy Grounds Unity which should come out of beta soon. I’ve already started dabbling with it and I’m impressed, but there is still quite a steep learning curve. It will replace Roll20 as my VTT for games I run.
Manage social media better – spend less time on Twitter, more time doing useful stuff
In preparation for this I was reading my review of 2018 – it showed a very busy game filled year. I’m pretty certain though that 2019 has been even busier, with more games, more cons, meeting more gamers, all great stuff. Once again Roll20 played a massive part in my gaming life, in fact apart from con games all others were on Roll20.
I’m not really sure where I found the time for all this, but I started 2019 with a number of ongoing campaigns, the longest running of which is Two Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu with @theGROGNARDfile as GM. It also has the longest surviving character I’ve ever played, my Scouse Greasemonkey Percy, who is just about keeping in the game, despite a slowly decreasing sanity. The campaign really is fantastic, a globe spanning adventure with lots of twists and turns; the Pulp is ever present, the game never really feels deadly like Call of Cthulhu and our characters are way tougher than regular investigators which for me that’s a big part of the appeal. This game is due to go on until mid 2020…
May 2018 saw a load of campaigns kick off that continued into 2019; @OrlanthR‘s Dredd: Death’s Dark Embrace and RuneQuest Glorantha and my Better Than Any Man campaign for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Dredd started with the Mongoose Traveller system, but after a whole evening on one minor combat @OrlanthR switched to his homebrewed Night’s Black Agents hack which worked incredibly well. This really nailed the feel of Judges fighting crime in Megacity One and @OrlanthR once again delivered in bucket loads with the gameplay – a series of clues and events leading us to an inevitable climax against the Dark Judges in Deadworld and Judge Kowalski bravely offering her life to save Megacity One. It was an emotional moment… and @OrlanthR followed it up with a printed book of our adventures based on his session reports with a gorgeous custom cover by @K_0.
@OrlanthR‘s RuneQuest Glorantha game was no less impressive, an intricate plot with many strands in a Glorantha expertly brought to life. While our characters were centre stage the world still felt very much alive, with events moving forward in the background. The first season ended with a cliffhanger in July, a full 14 months after starting, with an epic uprising scene against the traitor king Kangarl and his Lunar masters… and picked up again in November with our heroes striving to destroy Kangarl, but ultimately fleeing with our tail between our legs (apart from the diplomatic Randel who managed to keep in Kangarl’s favour). The adventure continues on into 2020 with us headed into the Upland Marsh to retrieve a legendary sword as part of an Orlanthi Marriage contest…
Since coming back to RPGs in 2015 I had wanted to run a campaign or at least a decent sized adventure, so when I got my mitts on Better Than Any Man for Lamentations of the Flame Princess I knew I had to run it. Having started in May 2018 a great deal of progress had been made so when we picked it up again in January the adventurers (I can’t call them heroes for that would imply a certain moral aspect that became less evident as the campaign progressed) were nearing their end goal… literally crawling through shit to get the job done. When the game came to a conclusion in February the characters had achieved many goals, killed many of the Seven and seen Karlstadt fall. It was truly grim and entirely appropriate.
Reaching that point was very satisfying – I can’t recommend Better Than Any Man highly enough, although it would not suit everyone’s tastes. But if you want something truly dark and gritty rooted in history it is well worth looking into. BTAM was the last adventure I produced session reports for – although I did enjoy writing them, it was a time consuming activity that took time away from actual game prep.
Towards the end of 2018 I had started thinking about Barbarians of Lemuria, an excellent, light, heroic Swords & Sorcery system that is very different to the OSR style games I usually run. I decided to start a short campaign using the one and two page adventures in the rulebook – it would be episodic with each adventure being more or less entirely isolated. However, after recruiting players and going through character generation there were quite a few nice background details (which came out of boons and flaws in game) which I decided to pull into the game. After the first session I had abandoned the episodic idea, and inspired by @OrlanthR‘s use of a Kanban Board to track his very open RuneQuest Glorantha campaign, I decided to try the same thing. I pulled loads of items together into a board and each session decided what to draw on – for a GM who likes to prep everything it was a unique experience for me. In the end I found a rhythm where I plan sessions using the Kanban Board, put together brief session notes and update the board afterwards. It worked really well from my point of view at least, bringing in elements from the characters backgrounds while moving towards a bigger goal which emerged from one of the adventure ideas in the rulebook. This campaign ran until September when we had a climactic battle on top of a sea drenched obelisk on a stormy night in the bay of the Port of the Sealords… I’m hoping to pick this up again early in 2020.
My Saturday evenings since August 2018 were often taken playing a Swords & Wizardry campaign set in the Lost Lands. This was with an established group who had been playing together for a couple of years, so initially it was a little strange as a newcomer. Generally the group were very welcoming, although I always had a feeling of being a guest rather than a resident… perhaps as much due to my missing sessions because of conventions and other weekend commitments as anything. I really did enjoy the game, Swords & Wizardry is an excellent OSR system – but ultimately the commitment was too much and I left the group in February. I’m sure they are still causing mischief in the Cyclopean Deeps.
Of the campaigns continued from 2018, last but by no means least is Pink Gin and Googlies by @DissectingWrlds using the Cthulhu Hack rules. Another globe trotting campaign with a Pulp feel, it follows the adventures of a female cricket club touring the world with unlikely but exciting and intriguing adventures happening along the way. These adventures range from investigating drug rings to weird science, parallel worlds, lost worlds and beyond. I am in awe of @DissectingWrlds imagination. I have missed a few sessions throughout the year though as it does clash with the monthly Two Headed Serpent game, however when I have been able to play it’s been great to see Mavis and the other girls take on the world! Can’t wait to see how this develops in 2020…
The other game that I played in January was The Eleven Lights for HeroQuest Glorantha run by @Corsair1973… we are still part way through that adventure, it would be great to pick it up again at some point.
With Better Than Any Man coming to an end @Lintillaz started running his Darker Than Duskwall campaign for Blades in the Dark. Having played it at the 24 Hour RPG event in 2018 I was keen to give it another go. It’s an interesting game with lots of little subsystems to give structure to gameplay in a way other RPGs traditionally haven’t, and of course it has the marvellous Flashbacks mechanic. I played Silverspoon, a young noble who was drawn to the criminal lifestyle – our group had some great adventures with all kinds of crazy stuff going on, from fighting ghosts to taking down powerful politicians and gang leaders. All amazing fun and expertly GM’d by @Lintillaz. The campaign ran across a few months, ending in September – I’d like to think our little gang left Duskwall in a better state than they found it, although I’m sure many folk wouldn’t agree.
I attended the first gaming event of the year this month, @goplaymanc, at @three_fan in Manchester. @goplaymanc is was a small, friendly event at my favourite game shop (although January 2020’s WinterCon promises to be a much bigger event) and I was lucky enough to get a slot on @Newtus‘ Bad King John adventure, written for one of his homebrew d100 systems – I really liked the game and am hoping @Newtus will publish it at some point.
The Convergence con really marks the start of the convention season for me. This was my third visit to the Stockport event run out of @ElementGames_, and was just as good if not better than the previous events. I ran a homebrew Barbarians of Lemuria adventure A Heart for Madness (a crappy name I know, coming up with adventure names is hard), which I also ran at Virtual Grogmeet, DevaCon and UK Games Expo (I like to get my money’s worth from all of that work). It was the first time I had ran the game, and while it did run over a bit timewise, it worked out better than I could have hoped and all of the players seemed to really enjoy the game – in fact, this was my experience each time I ran it. I may resurrect it for a 2020 con.
I played in @theGROGNARDfile‘s Savage Worlds/Strontium Dog mashup adventure Bring Akill-Eaze to Heel. Our mutant band of bounty hunters had to deal with the criminal Akill-Eaze, a straightforward job in many ways, but after we crash landed it was thinking on our feet. It was a great session delivered in @theGROGNARDfile‘s usual style, pulpy, fast moving with lots of space for characters to shine, and the Lego props really added to the flavour of the game. The last game of the con for me was The Abduction by @ConvergenceUK1 – I picked this because I hadn’t played WEG Star Wars for a long time and the session really delivered. So much so that I grabbed a copy of the Star Wars Redux rules not long afterwards.
Perhaps the highlight of March was The One Ring Roadtrip, where a few gaming mates and Tolkien fans got together to play The One Ring over a weekend. We hired out a cottage in Tolkien country and spent two days pretty much gaming, with good food and beer to keep us going. Our GM Graham is a Tolkien nut and that came across in the game, the adventure itself and the whole weekend was just fantastic. We’re planning on doing the same again in 2020.
Besides my regular ongoing games there were two gaming events that I enjoyed this month: Virtual Grogmeet and DevaCon. Virtual Grogmeet is organised by @theGROGNARDfile entirely over Roll20, it’s a great way to catch up with many of the Grogmeet gamers. DevaCon is held in a posh hotel in Chester, and despite being slightly disorganised is a small, friendly event – I’m pleased to see it is continuing in 2020, although it does clash with Virtual Grogmeet (I need to decide how to manage that, maybe Friday night Virtual Grogmeet and Saturday DevaCon).
Barbarians of Lemuria, A Heart for Madness (GM: me)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess, The Road to Hell (GM: me) – a cracking, rather dark adventure by @Newtus, I also ran this at UK Games Expo and it went down really well on both occasions.
Dragon Age (GM:?) – this was a last minute option, the game was ok, didn’t leave me with a good impression of the Age system though
@Corsair1973 was keen to run Traveller for me, @TonyLayter and another old gaming mate Dave, who joins us in online games from time to time, and having enjoyed playing Traveller with @Simplikissimus at BurritoCon2 in 2018 I was keen to try it again. I don’t know if this was a published adventure or a homebrew, but it was very good with us escaping from a crashed ship and trying to help out a remote research site. It had… dark moments. Really hoping to play this again in 2020.
This was a huge month in gaming with UK Games Expo, but the earlier part of the month I also played a neat Call of Cthulhu adventure, Buried Histories with GM @thegrampus. This was a truly horrific Cthulhu adventure, a homebrew no less and the second of @thegrampus‘ I have played – some GM’s just have a knack for running a particular type of game and Call of Cthulhu is his. I was also pleased to play in a trial adventure for Romance of the Perilous Land with author and GM @trollishdelver – this game was already in my shopping cart even though it wasn’t due to be released until December. It exceeded my expectations on all fronts; although a short session @trollishdelver delivered a pacey, flavourful, exciting adventure… I now have the game and can’t wait to run it myself.
UK Games Expo was a glorious event – 4 days of gaming with some top gaming people, eating and drinking, spending some cash on new games and just having an amazing time (plus I was able to watch Liverpool become Champions of Europe). There’s much more detail in my event report, but here are the games I played:
Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Inn at Five Points (GM: @BrendanJLaSalle) – this was a pre-Expo meetup at Bean Gaming Cafe in Leicester that I was invited to by @M0RT75, a great way to start the weekend. @BrendanJLaSalle is the definitive DCC Judge, you should try to get on one of his games if you can..
Barbarians of Lemuria, A Heart for Madness (GM: me)
Terror in the Tempest Hills, Ironsworn (GM: @gspearing) – I read Ironsworn a while back, but was unable to get my head around it. I enjoyed it very much, but I’m certain it’s not a game I’d run.
Dungeon Crawl Classics: Sailors on the Starless Sea (GM: @LeeJNeilson) – I’ve not played or run enough DCC, so I was made up to get to play with @LeeJNeilson, another great DCC Judge. I’ve heard this was a classic DCC adventure and it didn’t disappoint.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess, The Road to Hell (GM: me)
Lyonesse, Coddefut’s Stipule (GM: @theGROGNARDfile) – running a beta version of the Lyonesse rules and the module, @theGROGNARDfile brought the strange setting alive with plenty of flavour and a nice system based on the Mythras rules. This was a great way to close the con.
BurritoCon was resurrected in June as BurritoCon3… it was all really a last minute affair so I was pleased to get 3 tables of great gamers together. I ran an old staple, For the Honour of the Tribe from Imagine Magazine Issue 2 using the Old School Essentials rules. I’d previously ran this adventure with The Heroes Journey and S&W Whitebox, but Old School Essentials felt like a much better fit. I was able to play in @whodo_voodoo‘s Project Cassandra adventure Ich bin ein Berliner – it’s a light, clever, narrative game based around a rather famous speech. Overall I was delighted with BurritoCon3, we had great GM’s and players in attendance, and before too long I was considering running the next BurritoCon.
The Burning Wheel is one of those games I’d heard about, it had a reputation for crunchiness that was beyond my comfort zone. @Corsair1973 offered to run it in the Harn setting which seemed a good match for the grittiness of the game. We played a great adventure set in the estate of a local lord who had long been absent; there was a nice investigation, we attempted to navigate the social hierarchy, absorb Harnic lore and flavour, explore a tomb and scrap it out in exciting combat scenes, overall an excellent few sessions. Another game I’d like to play again.
The summer months are typically quite with many folks on holiday, so it was great to see @TonyLayter step back into his GM shoes after many years of absence and run an introductory Delta Green adventure. He ran a great game with good pace, an intriguing investigation and an exciting ending… More please @TonyLayter.
Still a quiet month, but we were able to start one multi-session Star Wars D6 campaign with @OrlanthR at the helm, and I started Night’s Dark Terror, an old Basic/Expert D&D module using the Old School Essentials rules for two groups on alternating weeks. After playing Star Wars D6 at Convergence I was keen to try it again, playing a Brash Pilot for a second time – this game was a huge amount of fun, running on until November. It’d be great to get involved in a big Star Wars D6 campaign at some point.
I was lucky to get two groups for Night’s Dark Terror, both with great players. It’s an adventure I owned back in the day and tried to run it a couple of years back without success. This time I was determined to do it. Both groups of players have engaged with the old school sensibilities of the adventure, and so far I’ve been able to keep the actions of the two groups separate in my head. We’ve had some great sessions so far for both groups with some really memorable moments including a partial TPK. This game is going to continue well into 2020.
By now I was thinking very much about games for the Owlbear and Wizards Staff con and Grogmeet. I had been working for some time on an adventure using the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells system by @diogo_oldskull set in @Monk3yBlood‘s The Midderlands. I wanted an open adventure that would have different encounters each time it was played; it took me quite a while to reach an outcome I was pleased with; a reverse heist where the party have to escape with The Mad Queen’s Jewels. I did a trial run over Roll20 in advance of Owlbear and Wizards Staff, and after a few tweaks ran it at the con where it went down really well – I was very pleased with the result. I also played in @M0RT75‘s DCC Lankhmar game – Acting up in Lankhmar. @M0RT75 is a another great DCC Judge and ran an excellent set piece game based around a theatre; the whole thing dripped Lankhmar atmosphere.
Overall the Owlbear and Wizards Staff weekend was brilliant, small enough that you know many of the gamers there, big enough that there are loads of great games to play and people to socialise with.
Another highlight in September was the 24 hour RPG event held in Southport. The last couple of years it has been held in November, so initially I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it, but I was lucky to grab a late space on @theGROGNARDfile‘s Legend of the Five Rings game. A 12 hour extravaganza in the Scarisbrick Hotel, we played through the Masks of Oni adventure. It really was a session that had everything – exciting combats, puzzling investigations, characters with breadth and depth, an interesting modern system, and a competition (in game with real world outcomes – @sjamb7 won a set of dice!). The nice thing about this type of event is that it goes beyond the gaming and gives a good opportunity to catch up over food and a brew.
Master of the Mythras system @Corsair1973 started a multi-session Luther Arkwright adventure as well, with our mixed bag of Zero Zero agents working to undermine the scheming Disruptors, curse them! We’re near the end of the current adventure which is excellent, a social intrigue/investigation adventure with a fair share of danger and weirdness, I’ve really been enjoying this game.
I’d taken a different approach to BurritoCon4; rather than the ‘pick a table on the day’ game selection of previous BurritoCons I used Warhorn to manage game sign ups. It was an interesting experience that certainly gives more control and insight around sign ups, but it also felt a little more stressful. For a larger events though I think advanced sign ups are very useful – I’ll use Warhorn for future events. This time around we had five tables booked, although we only used four on the day – again I was delighted by the interest and commitment shown by gamers to get stuck in and give a little event like this a go. As before @three_fan were amazing, making it easy to book the event and manage payments. Games wise I ran the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells adventure I’d used at Grogmeet17, Who Watches the Watchfires, a Fantasy Age adventure I had converted over. It’s a tidy little adventure, pretty much a skirmish, but lots of opportunities for heroic action – although an OSR system SS&SS characters are a bit tougher than traditional OSR level 1’s. I also played Goblin Quest, a perfect one shot game GM’d by Joy – it was a huge amount of fun that I’d recommend trying if you get the chance. We ended the day with a few beers in @theGROGNARDfile‘s favourite pub.
The other notable game played in October is Heart, the sequel to Spire, which was in beta at the time. It took us a while to get our heads around how it worked, but once @OrlanthR guided us into the rhythm of the game it was flying and turned out to be an excellent narrative style dungeon delve with the characters and their reality getting more and more fragile the deeper they delved. I don’t think it’s a game I’d ever run, but would happily play it again, feels like there’s still a good deal more to explore.
Grogmeet was the focus of November. There was a big build up to the event, both in practical terms of game prep and just excitement levels. Much of my preparation over the preceding weeks had been focussed on the few days in early November when grognards from across the world (or europe at least) gather in Manchester for this ultimate RPG event.
At Grogmeet17 I’d organised a multi-table, multi-system bar-room brawl/dungeon crawl along with @theGROGNARDfile which was a lot of fun, but a bit chaotic. This year I’d suggested running a multi-table Mothership game, and so we recruited @OrlanthR, @Lintillaz, @Sam0Vail and @doc_griffiths as our crack team of GM’s to put together an adventure that would work across five tables. The adventure was written, we’d had a couple of trial runs, the second more successful than the first, and we were as ready as we were going to be. On the Friday afternoon of Grogmeet Eve we ran the game which seemed to go down very well with many unpleasant character deaths, betrayals and sanity lost, and got Grogmeet off to a flying start.
Across the weekend I also played:
Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells: Escape from Skull Prison by @diogo_oldskull (GM: me). I was lucky enough to squeeze a trial session of this in beforehand and the game went very well with just a few timing tweaks. I really enjoyed running it on Grogmeet Eve with the SB&CS system proving fast and light and the players getting into their roles of escaping convicts.
Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: The Mad Queen’s Jewels, A Midderland Adventure (GME: me). Having already ran it at Owlbear and Wizards Staff in September I had quite a bit of confidence in this scenario and it delivered again – I’m going to get this to the table again in 2020.
Middle Earth Roleplaying: The Dawnless Day (GM: @OrlanthR). Having ran and played MERP back in the 80’s I was keen to try it again, see how it has aged. @OrlanthR ran a great game, dealing with much of the complexity of the system. The adventure itself perfectly captured the desperation of a group of Gondorian rangers on the Pelennor field and had an exciting climax.
The Sunday morning of Grogmeet was an interview in @three_fan with @PaulFricker, it was a nice way to wind down. @Newtus had arranged a @goplaymanc to coincide with Grogmeet, and I joined @sjamb7‘s Troika adventure The Cage of Sermit. I played a Burglar and was the least strange of the characters, but the adventure was top notch with us setting off to free an imprisoned mage.
November also gave me an opportunity to join @mcookie123‘s Fall of Delta Green game. Coming in halfway through an adventure can sometimes feel a bit weird, there are lots of details to catch up on, but @mcookie123 had written fantastic session reports in the form of a typed up interview, great stuff. The adventure, which we have yet to complete, is set in 1960’s Alabama with all the issues that entails – it’s rich, incredibly detailed and immensely engaging, which makes it all the more shocking when weird stuff happens.
Like those summer months when people are away, there’s a winding down in the lead up to Christmas. However, it has presented an opportunity for a couple of little one shots and an extra session here and there… in addition to continuing Luther Arkwright over the break, I’ve also played in @BudsRPGreviewDelta Green adventure, Operation Black Thumb; this was another excellent mystery with some clever tweaks and surprises. It was good to play Swords & Wizardy Complete again, this time with @OrlanthR who has a plan to work through a load of old White DwarfD&D adventures. This was proper old school, the type of game I really love, again hoping to play this more in 2020.
All of this gaming is well and good and thoroughly enjoyed, but I have to say the thing that has made this year such a fabulous one in gaming is the people I have gamed with, both as GM and player. Really, just such amazing people, so thank you all for getting involved and letting me play in your games.
There are events you look forward to – a weekend break, Christmas, your best mates wedding, and they are nice. Then there are the epic events that dominate your thoughts for months in advance, a sense of excitement growing as the occasion draws near. Grogmeet is one of those events, occupying my RPG thoughts for many months and when it arrived it didn’t disappoint.
In the run up myself and a crack group of Grog GM’s had been planning a multi-table adventure for the Friday afternoon of Grogmeet using the Mothership system for a neat space horror adventure. I’d also offered to run The Mad Queens Jewels, a homebrew adventure on the Saturday morning of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells set in The Midderlands, an adventure that seemed to go down well at Owlbear and Wizards Staff con back in September. Then, just a few weeks before GrogmeetDirk the Dice asked me to run a game for the Friday evening and after much consideration I put forward Escape from Skull Prison, the starter adventure for Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells. With a load of prep on my hands (apart from The Mad Queens Jewels which was pretty much boxed off), I ramped up my efforts for Grogmeet, not wanting to disappoint any of the players and deliver the best games I could.
Last year I had to leave Grogmeet early due to an unexpected family illness and so this year I was keen to get the full experience. Unlike previous years I had to make a solo journey over the Manchester, but it gave me a chance to go over my adventure notes, then after a bit of lunch and a quick catch up with a few Grogs, we headed over the Fanboy 3 for the start of the weekend.
Last year’s Friday afternoon game, a multi-table, multi-system bar room brawl was a lot of fun with many players commenting on it being a good ice breaker. But it was just a little chaotic and didn’t go quite as planned. I was hugely relieved then to get our multi-table Mothership game off to a start; I was much more confident about this, we were using the same system and the GM’s Dirk, Sam, Steve and Rick (plus Griff who while not present due to a bout of laryngitis left an indelible stamp on the game with his contribution) did a great job in the lead up to the game. It was truly a collaborative effort with everyone bringing ideas and insights to the format and writing one of the scenes in the game.
Dirk started the ball rolling with the introductory blurb, bringing to life the cigar smoking Sergeant Apone who unsurprisingly was a native of Brooklyn. Quickly the players moved to their tables (drawn randomly) and we quickly started the simultaneous adventures. Mothership is great for ramping up character stress levels so when they panic bad things can happen. The scenes were all designed to pile on stress and get to panic points quickly and it was no surprise to find characters freaking out, curling up in catatonic ball or dieing due to a heart attack (quite a common occurence it seems). My players – Ian, Norman, Rob and Simon – were a great group, getting stuck into the spirit of the game, with Simon as the Corporate Jerk in the last scene taking the last escape pod and leaving the others to perish. Part of the set up was that each table had to detonate a nuclear core before reaching the escape pods – if three of the five were activated then the resulting explosion would be enough to close the rift that threatened the universe. Honestly I had expected all five of the tables to activate nuclear self destruct, but at least two of them didn’t, self serving, cowardly bastards…
I was a little nervous about running Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells as the system was fairly new to me (although quite light and easy to run) and I wasn’t entirely sure about the adventure. However, a trial run the weekend before had given me some valuable feedback that I brought into this session. I had six experienced players – Dirk, Adam, Andy, Mark, Blythy and Simon – at the table and they quickly took to their characters, a ragtag bunch of cons on Skull Prison, a private facility where the prisoners may or may not be guilty. When a power shortage released the mag-locks on their doors, they took the opportunity to attempt an escape, quickly subduing Slitface and his gang, but nearly coming unstuck against the Black Bats – some quick thinking navigated that problem and the rest of the prison, until they reached the final encounter against the prison commander. A desperate firefight seemed to be going against them until the smart character in the group (played by Mark) activated the self destruct sequence (‘the Mothership gambit’ as Dirk called it), and with a minute to go they raced for one of the ships and managed to fly out as the prison exploded behind them.
Saturday morning was my last session running a game – this time it was Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. I was feeling good about this adventure as it was a homebrew that I knew really well. As I’d come to expect, I once more had a great group of players – Steve, Martin, Malcolm and Chris – who really engaged with the setting and wasted no time planning their escape from the Leaningtown Spa with the Queen’s jewels. Once again there was some really creative play and exciting combat and despite a few hiccups this group did the job as well.
Grogmeet GM’s get the first pick of games for sessions for the slots they are not running, and I no hesitation in picking Steve’sMiddle Earth Role Playing game. Like many Grogs this game has a special place in our hearts as it was often our first gaming experience in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It was with some excitement that I sat down for the Saturday afternoon session. This was an adventure that Steve had written set in the dark days of the War of the Ring after Osgiliath had fallen and the hordes of Mordor flooded across the Pelennor fields. Our mission as a band of rangers stranded in Osgiliath was to return to the Minas Tirith and join fellow Gondorians in defence of the White Tree. I won’t give any spoilers but will say that it was an excellent adventure. MERP showed it’s age, but it worked amazingly well with Steve handling much of the crunch for us – when I think of the complexity of combat and the tracking of effects on our characters, I shudder to think how a GM would keep a grip on that for all of the NPC’s and monsters that could be encountered.
Sunday morning is the interview slot where Dirk the Dice chats to an RPG luminary and this year it was Paul Fricker, author of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and one of the authors of The Two Headed Serpent adventure for Pulp Cthulhu. Dirk follows the format of his show, engaging his audience throughout (all together now “Where’s me dice bag?”); it was like watching a master craftsman at work aided by the tools of his trade – the ridiculous homemade shrine to the actor Caroline Munroe and of course the GM screen so he could make hidden roles to randomise questions for Paul. Good job we all had decent imaginations… Paul was a great guest, going right from the early days of his gaming life (agricultural simulation board games anyone?) to working with the luminaries of Chaosium on their Call of Cthulhu game. I’m playing The Two Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu at the moment so it was great to get some spoiler free insights.
And with that Grogmeet itself was over. Some folks had to leave for long journeys home so there were many fond farewells, but for myself and a few others the gaming was to continue as Newt Newport of D101 Games had arranged a Go Play Manchester event to follow straight on from Grogmeet. I’ve been to Go Play Manchester before so knew it would be a great event and was looking forward to playing in Blythy’sTroika adventure The Cage of Sermit. I’ve not played in Blythy’s games before and was particularly looking forward to it and to playing Troika, a game that sits on my shelf but has not yet made it to my table. We were an odd group of adventurers (and players one could observe!) tasked with rescuing an imprisoned wizard from a desert prison to save a dying world. Troika delivered admirably with light, fast moving rules as did Blythy, giving us a colourful, exciting adventure full of crazy characters and strange locations.
There is another element to Grogmeet that I’ve not yet touched on, and that is the amazing sense of camaraderie, generosity and good spirit. I spent quite a bit of time eating and boozing with the other Grogs, catching up on life and gaming – that is nearly as much a part of Grogmeet as the gaming. And so to all you Grogs (most of whom I’ll game with one way or another before next Grogmeet), cheers to you all, here’s to Grogmeet 2020!