Better Than Any Man: The Battle for Goblin Hill

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Deep inside the Burgerfriedensmiliz headquarters, home to the Insect God cult, our heroes flee from a mob of enraged cultists. At the end of the last session they had arrived at a junction… to their right the corridor opened into a room with what appeared to be two stone benches, at least as much as their lanterns illuminated. Straight ahead the corridor continued to open into a further room and Esmeralda reported she could hear distant shouting from that direction.cultists

A decision had to be made and quickly. Digging deep, the Black Dogs discovered the grit that makes them monster hunters and turned to fight the cultists, using the junction to good effect and setting up an effective defensive formation that would allow them to get multiple attacks in on the cultists at the front.

Desperate combat ensued as the cultists came flying in even though unarmed. Men and women tried to grapple and pull the PC’s down, trying to overwhelm them with numbers and showing little regard for their own lives (crazy cultist bastards). But with typical efficiency swords were swinging and cultists fell. It seemed like this tactic would work until more cultists charged in from behind. Balock was grabbed by one cultist while another latched onto Miklos, but he was able to shake them off. Pushing the assailants back Miklos struck the head off one cultist, a look of surprise still on his face as his head span through the air, and Ingrid buried her sword deep in the torso of another, kicking the limp body off her bloody blade and freeing Balock.

soldiers-plunderingHearing the bawled instructions of an armed cultist asking to be let through and realising they could be quickly overwhelmed the party retreated into the stone bench room. Hemming, Esmeralda and Genevieve began to explore, discovering the room to be a temple with rows of stone benches and a large throne with a giant ant statue rearing above it. Besides the throne, statue and benches, blood stained tapestries and carpets adorned the walls and floor of the room, both with a pattern of a giant ant head embroidered in them. Meanwhile Ingrid, Miklos and Balock face the cultists at the entrance to the temple, holding their own ground until three armed and more capable cultists join the fray. In an attempt to break the morale of the cultists, Miklos casts a Command spell at the leader of the group – ‘Kneel’ – but it is framed in such a way that it looks to the cultists that this commander has been overpowered by the power of god, and falls to the floor on his knees. This causes many of the cultists to flee for a while at least and gives the three Black Dogs holding the doorway the chance to finish these stronger cultists off.

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Meanwhile Hemming and the others check out the temple. The Magic-user strikes the throne with the Leg Bone of St Burchard to see if it has any effect (it doesn’t), and they perhaps wisely decide not to interfere with the throne any further. Turning their attention to a door leading out of the room, Hemming opens it and a further door beyond along a short corridor. A larger, unadorned room waits beyond and the party moves into it, their plan to secure the door behind them with a Hold Portal spell cast by Genevieve.

the mother's creatureFrom out of the shadows shuffles a horrendous monster which can only be The Mother’s creature. A human torso with a head twisted sideways, and arms for limbs, all in different stages of decay. Following ineffective blows on both sides of the combat a further door flies open and more armed cultists burst in, these armed with shortbows. They are accompanied by The Mother who casts Stinking Cloud in the room, taking Hemming, Ingrid and Esmeralda out of the combat for a few seconds. On recovering Hemming fires a Magic Missile at The Mother which hurts her, but she’s still in the fight. Having locked the door into the room with Hold Portal, Genevieve casts Unseen Servant and the summoned force pushes the other door shut, allowing the Black Dogs to deal with the two cultists who pushed there way into the room. It looks like the adventurers may be about to overcome both the creature and The Mother, when the fiend tears both of Ingrid’s arms off, leading her standing there bleeding….

This fight isn’t over yet, and even when it is, how are the Black Dogs going to get out of here?

Better Than Any Man: The Toilet Gambit

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

The Black Dogs have been standing on the edge of a cesspit, walls crawling with maggots, and flies swarming around since our last session towards the end of 2018.  Human waste rains down nearby from a shaft leading to a toilet and entrance into the Burgerfriedensmiliz HeadQuarter… all they have to do is ascend the shit covered shaft.

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Waiting until all is quiet above Genevieve casts Levitate on Ingrid, and the fighter, carrying her sword and a crowbar with rope attached ascends the shaft…. into total darkness as there are no lamps above. After a moment Ingrid’s head hits a wooden board, a large piece of wood with two holes cut into it serving as toilet seats. Trying to push the board to one side so she can get into the room, Ingrid ends up covered in faeces… not a nice look for anyone! With the board out of the way, Ingrid floats to the ceiling of the room and scrambles around, eventually calling to Genevieve to lower her to the floor and release the spell. Fumbling in the darkness, Ingrid secures the crowbar across the opening left by the wooden panel and drops the rope down the shaft, and one by one the Black Dogs climb into the room.

First to arrive is Hemming who is able to see the room more clearly; a large oval room with the aforementioned toilet, buckets for peeing in and bowls, water and rags for cleaning up. A bolt on the inside of the door is shut by the Magic-User as other party members climb up the rope, some finding it easier than others.

At this stage the party don’t know that the HQ is fairly well populated, and it is no surprise to me at least that a cultist needs the loo… finding the door locked he starts asking to come in as he shouts (and I’m paraphrasing here!) “I’m bursting, open up!”. Hemming comes up with a clever ploy to lure him in and murder him which they easily do… with the rest of the party now in the room, the body is dumped down the shaft.

Much discussion follows a quick inspection of the corridor outside… a dark corridor leads east and west (it seems there are no torches or lanterns on the walls, everyone carries their own lantern), and ahead is what appears to be a refectory… and quite a number of seemingly ordinary men, women and children are at tables eating delicious steaks and veggies. The aroma of meat cooking makes the PC’s stomachs rumble as they realise how hungry they are. The discussion is around a plan… one plan is sneak around, see what’s what; another plan is to wait for people to come to the toilet, kill them and throw their bodies down the shaft.

While they are deciding what to do, there is another knock on the door, and the same plan is put into action – let them come in, kill and dump them. Hemmings ploy is working; while the other party members hide out of sight, the unsuspecting cultists walk into the toilet. Balock and Miklos attack with ranged weapons while the others pile in; three of the cultists are effectively sliced and diced in a surprise attack, but the fourth survives and wins initiative for the next round… oh no, this is bad! The cultists runs into the refectory across the hall screaming “Alarm, intruders!”.

Options are limited; it would take too long for all the Black Dogs to climb back down the shaft, so the adventurers decide to run down one dark corridor in the base. As they flee at least half a dozen cultists come running after them, shouting for their blood (most are unarmed but still look ready for business)… while others may be running to alert futher cultists or cut them off… who knows (not me, hehe)?f1d0de131fc88ddbae64fe5dd74abc9f

Running ahead, chased by cultists, their lantern lighting only a short way ahead, the PC’s turn a corner… could this passageway lead to an entrance and safety, or on towards their deaths? They flee down the corridor and come to a junction – the passageway splits, with what appears to be a room ahead and a further room to their right, a room in which they can just make out the edges of stone benches.

Chased by cultists, the headquarters probably on alert the Black Dogs are in a tricky situation… will they survive the next session?

Grogmeet Friday Old School session initial thoughts

 has asked me to host the Grogmeet Friday OSR session at Grogmeet 2019 – a great honour indeed!  As Grognards have already been talking about this kind of thing on Twitter, I emailed Dirk with some ideas – these are my initial thoughts and will no doubt go through changes before the event. I’m looking for feedback, ideas, preferences and ultimately will need some GM’s for tables. I may take a back seat with GMing on this one and do the organiser and ‘table runner’ role that I think was missing at Grogfight last year.

I’ve got 3 ideas for Grogfringe at the moment. I’m aiming for table interaction and hopefully a bit of an ice breaker. In the order that I prefer them:

Aliens!

All tables use the same rules (something like the free Mothership rules). Adventure starts with the PC’s coming out of cryosleep, alarms blaring, red lights flashing. While they’re dazed and confused a bossy Sergeant tells them the ship has been attacked by aliens and they need to get to escape pods – he puts them into teams which must make their own way there (one team per table). There are other options though; they could head to the armoury and try to take on the aliens, or try to get to the comms room to call in support….

Each team with have three comms links – one for each of the other teams. They can use them to talk to another team for up to one minute. There is a 1 in 3 chance of the comms unit failing after that and they can no longer contact that team. Could either have players going to other tables or use GM mobile phones for more realism…

Would be good to have a full schematic of the ship as they would have some knowledge of the layout etc. Could also put this on a board to track each teams movements.

If a PC dies they move to another table, but this time as a new character, someone that team has come across as they try to escape the ship.

Globetrotting Pulp Adventure

Using different pulp systems (Daredevils, Justice Inc, Pulp Cthulhu..), each table/team is from a Caduceus like operation trying to foil Evil Corp (traditional pulp baddies). Teams uncover clues in New York, Paris, London, Berlin that lead them on 4 separate missions in exotic locations. At each they must all foil the plans of Evil Corp to save the world.

Table interaction could be through telegrams (short hand written notes) that can only be sent and received at certain points.

Deathtrap Dungeon

Using the same rules (maybe B/X D&D) each party is a pre-formed adventuring group ready to take on this lethal dungeon. They are all playing in the same dungeon. First to the prize wins. Would have a board showing progress of each team… they get points for achieving goals, or have penalties for losing party members (which are not killed but knocked out, slowing them down). Those furthest through the dungeon could set traps for those that follow (maybe!).

I’m not sure on the table interaction on this one… would need further thought.
I’d like to keep tables more self contained and minimise table swapping – I reckon players would want to stay on the table they begin with for the main part. I’d also like to reduce the amount of prep on GM’s by having maps good to go (use something like this https://wizardawn.and-mag.com/tool_smap.php), just need a few encounters adding.

Some of this was based on conversations on Twitter immediately after Grogmeet. There was a Pulp thread with @DissectingWrlds, @KiernanEd, @thedicemechanic and others, some fantastic ideas – although I do have my reservations about multiple systems after last year. @dimbyd had suggested using the original Tomb of Horror competition module for this – that could be a great one for a Deathtrap Dungeon option.

Let me know what you think, what you would prefer, any problems you can see – any feedback or ideas at all – on Twitter/MeWe would be fine, but if you post your comments here it’ll be easier to refer back to in the future.

2019 The Big Plan

At the conclusion of a highly satisfying 2018 of RPGing, it’s time to give some thought to the next 365 days. Like all good agile plans this is likely to change and I’m quite happy to accomodate quite a bit of feature creep…

Conventions

  • Convergence (1st-3rd March, Stockport) – I’ll probably only attend on the Saturday as I’ve done the last couple of years. Still undecided on whether to run my Barbarians of Lemuria one-shot homebrew or The Road to Hell for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. There’s going to be more Grognards GMing this year so there’ll be even more great games to play.
  • Virtual Grogmeet (12th April) – will run either Forgive Us for LotFP which went down really well last year, or Carnival of the Damned for Dungeon Crawl Classics which I had planned to run at Grogmeet but had to cancel. Hoping I might be able to play a game as well.
  • DevaCon (27th April, Chester) – because of the Chester link I’ll definitely run The Road to Hell. Also a good opportunity to play something different.
  • UK Games Expo (31 May – 2 June, NEC Birmingham) – my thoughts at the moment are to run The Road to Hell and my Barbarians of Lemuria homebrew, but I also would like to play a game or two. After last year I decided I wouldn’t play so many games as I didn’t get enough time to catch up with people – we’ll see.
  • Owlbear & Wizards Staff (September in Leamington Spa, date to be decided, may conflict with my daughter’s 18th) – hope I can get to this, no idea yet what I’d run.
  • Grogmeet (8th – 10th November, Manchester) – the RPG highlight of the year. I’m hosting the Friday afternoon OSR session again, so it’s time to get my thinking cap on (got a few ideas which I’ll blog about soon). I’ll also run something else, although no idea what that would be just yet, and hope to play in a couple of games at least – the games on offer here are always the creme de la creme in my opinion, all top GM’s and players.
  • BurritoCon 3+ (if I get around to arranging it will be in Manchester) – really enjoyed these last year, but with Cons, regular gaming and Go Play Manchester, I’m not sure where I’d fit them in.

Games

Besides Cons and the games I am regular player in (Pink Gins and Googlies, Two Headed Serpent, RuneQuest, Judge Dredd, Swords & Wizardy, HeroQuest) there’s a lot of GM stuff to do.

  • Finish LotFP Better Than Any Man – we’ve been playing this since May 2018 and it’s been a blast, the characters have experienced some crazy stuff and been pushed to the edge of darkness. They’re moving towards some kind of conclusion, although I have no idea how that will pan out (bound to involve lots of fire and gore).
  • Start Barbarians of Lemuria campaign in January – I’ve had this system sitting on my shelf for a couple of years and having just reread and realised how cool it is I wanted to get it to the table. I’m going to keep it simple right at the start, just a few of the short adventures from the rules in an episodic format (not going to worry about how they got to the start of next adventure, they are just there), then move onto Lemurian Legends and beyond.
  • More LotFP because it’s just the best OSR game: the full version of The Road to Hell, then Black Blade of the Demon King and moving on to the World of the Lost sandbox (although Qelong is quite tempting).
  • Con games: The Road to Hell using @Newtus‘s one shot format and my Barbarians of Lemuria homebrew which I really need to get boxed off. I’ll need to decide what I’ll run at Owlbear & Wizards Staff and Grogmeet, but they are some way off just yet.
  • Keep going to Lunchtime Lairs – this is a perfect midweek face to face session, not sure I’ll be able to do much GMing at it (with other gaming commitments).
  • Get to Go Play Manchester (2nd Sunday of every month) when I can and hopefully run a game or two.

Resolutions

Such as they are, I guess they’re there to be broken…

  • Try really hard to not to get any new systems so I can focus on and get the best out of a handful – while some GM’s love having tons of different systems, I get this weird stress thing because I know I won’t run them and they just bug me (it’s why I’ve sold a few games in 2018). I want to stick to maybe three or four systems – at the moment LotFP, Barbarians of Lemuria and DCC. I love playing new systems though…
  • Related to the above, take a more rational approach to Kickstarter – I backed a lot of projects in 2018 and still have a few to arrive (including new systems!). There has to come a point where there is no point in getting more stuff… Same with Bundle of Holding, just because there’s a bundle going cheap doesn’t mean I need it.
  • Go for lighter prep – I’ve spent way too much time (which I do enjoy) preparing for some adventures. In many cases it has paid off, and as a GM I like to feel prepared, but I think there’s a happier place I can find where I don’t need to prep quite so much.

2018 Review

So much has happened over the last 12 months, it’s really been a fantastic year for gaming, so many highlights and excellent regular games played with great gaming folk. I deliberated long and hard about the best way to present this; top 5 games, top events and so on, but in the end went for a straightforward month by month list. It’s somewhat wordier than I expected, turns out I’m a bit of a waffler.

January

I continued playing as the ill fated Remi Sordeau, a priest, a baron and a member of the Knights of the Dagger, soon to have his head ripped of by a were-crocodile in  ongoing Flashing Blades campaign. I was sad to see him go but enjoyed playing his replacement, Durand de Labossiere, an only marginally competent, short tempered and duel prone Dragoon. The highlight of the Flashing Blades campaign was An Ambassador’s Tales, a romp around central Europe foiling assassins, stealing priceless jewels and escaping devious Englishmen. This is a game that deserves more attention…

I was involved in a one-to-one game of Basic Fantasy playing a rather tidy adventure, Blood in the Snow, set in a snow bound remote and isolated village. It lasted just a couple of sessions and was great fun, having GM’d Basic Fantasy in 2017 it was great to experience it from the players perspective.

Forge of FuryI’d started GMing The Forge of Fury (3e edition) at the back end of 2017 and we picked it up in January. We were using The Hero’s Journey OSR system which I’d become rather enamoured with in 2017, however as the party explored the expansive dungeon over the subsequent weeks it started to show considerable weaknesses – most notably that armour reduced damage rather than increase AC leading to some lengthy combats.  This was OSR, combat was meant to be fast! By the time we completed the module a couple of months later, I think we were pretty fed up with it – fatigue had set it, and it was good to reach a conclusion.

February

Roll20 was starting to become a big part of my gaming and this increased as the year went by. I jumped at the opportunity to play in ‘s Night’s Black Agents adventure The Assignment and we started the first of a few sessions in February.  I played Samuel Whitman, an athletic ex-CIA asset handler, and joined a crack team of spy types. It was proper spy stuff with lots of hints about the supernatural, which all felt rather fanciful until that laptop drop-off… Scheduling has meant this game is on hold, I really hope we can pick it up in 2019.

Having only played Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) once in 2017 I was keen to get it back on the radar for 2018. One of the players in my regular Tuesday group offered to run the highly rated Shadowbrook Manor adventure using DCC, and so we played it as a level 0 funnel over a few weeks. It was an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it was best suited to level 0’s – still was good fun.

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I don’t often write my own adventures, although it’s something I’d like to do more. One particular story in the Shakespeare vs Cthulhu short story collection really stood out as the basis for an adventure, and wanting to run some Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) I decided to create an adventure for that system based around it. I’d been working on The Greater Share of Honour since Grogmeet 2017 and wanted to test run it before offering it as a convention game at Convergence and DevaCon. The adventure was set on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt and offered a different take on the events that lead to the English victory.

As a Con game I would need to run it in a 3.5 to 4 hour slot, so it was crucial to get the timing right. I gathered a cracking group of players for a test run, including three gamers from the USA. The adventure went down really well, but coming in at just over 6 hours I knew it would need tweaking. I’ve since ran the adventure a number of times and mostly managed to finish it within the allotted time – however at Owlbear and Wizards Staff we were only halfway through at the end of the 3.5 hours; luckily they were another great bunch of players who were up for completing the adventure over Roll20 a few weeks later.

March

This was a great month with Convergence in Stockport and an increase in my regular Roll20 gaming. It was my second visit to Convergence, in 2017 I had my first face to face game in over 20 years with @theGROGNARDfile, @sjamb7, @Edinthesand and a few other great gamers I’ve had the pleasure of playing with since. I knew this would be a great con, having had such a good experience with it previously and would also be gaming with some old faces from Grogmeet and new gamers I’d played with on Roll20. The day started with a double session of Golden Heroes, a game I had owned once myself in the 80’s. Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail was GM’d by @theGROGNARDfile, and myself and the other players, mostly other members of the Grogsquad, created some fantastic characters and got stuck into this globe trotting adventure to save not only old Queen Vic, but the world! Character creation is crazy and a real test of the imagination; take a random set of abilities and put them together into a superhero with a backstory. My creation was Captain Spyfly with his main abilities being flying and spying (you don’t say!)

The evening session of Convergence was the first opportunity to run The Greater Share of Honour in a Con setting and a time limit. I feel I’ll keep saying this as it’s true, once again I had a cracking group of players who really got stuck into their characters and engaged with the adventure. It was a buzz and I loved running it. The evening session tends to finish quite late, but on the drive back to Liverpool my head was filled with scenes from the day. Cracking stuff!

510vM6uEnuL@Corsair1973  had backed the Modiphius Conan kickstarter and had a load of stuff that he wanted to run, so we had a pop at that over Roll20. I was impressed with the system and the ebb and flow of combat with the Momentum and Doom mechanics; they really add an extra dimension to scraps and Momentum allows you to do some fantastic stuff. Not so good when the GM brings out the Doom. We’d started with an introductory adventure (the best way to go about it in my opinion), and although it was fairly simple it felt like we were characters in REH’s world. It’s a game we played on an off throughout the year, moving onto more complex and sophisticated adventures – I hope we’ll get to play it some more soon.

I enjoyed a couple of one shots:

  • Robot Imana-665-C, a Paranoia adventure with @theGROGNARDfile as GM. The Bull’s Eye intro music set the tone and the game progressed in the absurd Paranoia fashion we know and love with the computer putting you into situations which break it’s rules. There was lots of backstabbing and quite a few laughs; it’s a perfect one shot game, I’m not sure I could play it long term though.
  • While most of my RPG activity has been organised through Twitter, Google+ has also been a great platform for connecting with other gamers. Through the OSR UK Hangouts Gaming group I joined an LotFP game ran by Dominic over Hangouts. With his homebrew adventure The Gallow Beckons played over Hangouts, Dominic really nailed the Theatre of the Mind style of play; unhindered by maps and other props he created a fantastic world set during the English Civil War. There is a lot of darkness and misery with Witch Hunts, the occult and general unpleasantness. We only played a couple of sessions of this, I’d love to continue with it at some point.

As well as all this  started his Sartar Rising! RuneQuest campaign… at least when it started it was a 6 session season of games, but it just took off and is still going strong. I was never a fan of RuneQuest back in the day, but after a couple of games with @theGROGNARDfile (including a 24hr charity session in November 2017) I was starting to warm to it.  We started with RuneQuest 2e and continued with that until RuneQuest Glorantha was released, then  converted everything over. I’ll tell you, that guy is a powerhouse when it comes to Roll20. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing in this across the year, seeing our characters grow, their relationships develop, their legends spread… it’s what a campaign should be.

April

April was a bumper month with the kickoff of Two Headed Serpent and Lunchtime Lairs and DevaCon and Virtual Grogmeet. So much gaming!

  • THS_Front_Cover_for_web__37568.1486510208.1280.1280Two Headed Serpent is a huge campaign for Pulp Cthulhu GM’d by @theGROGNARDfile, with a plan to run it once a month over a couple of years.  So far it’s been one hell of a ride, our characters taking on horrors beyond mortal understanding and doing it far more competently (in most cases) than regular Call of Cthulhu investigators. Every session ends on a cliffhanger leaving us hungry from more…
  • Since late 2017  and I had been talking about starting an casual lunchtime gaming session in Liverpool. Plans were made and we settled on every Wednesday between 12pm and 2pm at Just Play in Liverpool with the name Lunchtime Lairs; we were aiming for gamers who could swing a bit of flexitime for an extended lunch to get a bit of extra gaming in. We wanted a single simple system that would allow anyone to have a go as GM (we picked The Black Hack which has been a great fit), with each session being a complete adventure. That didn’t quite work out, instead we had adventures running over multiple sessions with ongoing campaign elements shared between GM’s. We’ve now got a small but regular group and have met some top local gamers to boot.
  • It was my first time at DevaCon and I’d put forward my LotFP game The Greater Share of Honour for the afternoon session. Chester isn’t too far to travel and in no time , Dave and Cliffy from Mersey Game Knights had arrived at the very posh Crowne Plaza, the venue for the Con. Unlike other Cons I’ve been to with prearranged player sign ups I was worried I might not get anyone playing my game, but as it turned out I had a full table – indeed the sign up system did work quite well and from what I could see all games went ahead. I played The Words of the Wise, a beginner adventure for The One Ring in the morning session and really enjoyed it; it’s a cracking system (I’ve not played it before, but it was one of the first RPG’s I bought since my hiatus from the hobby). I’m hoping to play it more in 2019. The Greater Share of Honour went down well with some good performances; everyone seemed to enjoy the game and the day was saved! The evening session was the homebrew adventure Sabeurs and Savants for The Cthulhu Hack, written and GM’d by . It was a cracking historical Indiana Jones type adventure with a fine polish of sanity blasting horror.
  • For those unable to attend Grogmeet in Manchester (and greedy gamers who could but wanted more), @theGROGNARDfile organised Virtual Grogmeet, an online version of the Manchester Con. There were a load of games available, some real gems, but due to other commitments over the weekend I was only able to GM one game. I picked Forgive Us for LotFP, a single location creepy adventure that I’d had on my radar for a while. It seemed to go down well; I’d taken time to set up dynamic lighting and sound effects which added to the atmosphere – it’s with adventures like this that Roll20 can really shine. All but one of the characters survived… kind off. And we ended up with the saying “It’s all gone Norwich”

May

Not the busiest of months, but had a ton of prep for UK Games Expo and saw the start of my Thirty Years War LotFP campaign Better Than Any Man (session reports here). I started the campaign with A Strange Storm, a short paranoia inducing adventure from the old Referee’s Guide, added a few other bits and pieces myself and then let the PC’s out on the rampage. The campaign is still ongoing but is drawing to a close; it’s been a huge load of fun and a big challenge for me, not having ran a sandbox game before. It’s a format I’d really like to run more as it offers great freedom to the players, but is definitely harder work than a ‘regular’ adventure.

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Through the OSR UK Hangouts Gaming group I grabbed a place in Dominic‘s Swords & Wizardry Whitebox sandbox campaign The Grim North. Our PC’s were members of the prestigious House of Mercenaries, Sell Spears and Blades for Hire in the expansive frost bound city of Nox Eterna. I really enjoyed the ‘pick your job from the noticeboard’ approach, really we had no idea what to expect from any job, but they were always great fun and full of twists and turns. It was great stuff while it lasted, unfortunately other commitments for the GM put it on hold.

The last day in May was perhaps the best – it was the start of my UK Games Expo weekend. I’d been invited by @M0RT75 to join a one off DCC game run by @BrendanJLaSalle at Weekend Warlords in Loughborough. It was a perfect arrangement since not only did I get to play in a DCC game with one of the @GoodmanGames luminaries, it also meant I had a much shorter drive to UK Games Expo the next day. I had a cracking time, @M0RT75  was a top host and @BrendanJLaSalle ran a great game, Neon Knights, a crazy adventure that saw us dimension hopping in an attempt to save the our city (we failed, but what a way to go out!)

June

UK Games Expo. Say no more, this is the biggest UK games Con going, with just about every game you could want to buy and play available. I tackled the trade hall in the Friday morning (I’d strongly recommend this as it’s when the hall is least busy) with gaming chums @Lintillaz, @OrlanthR  and @TakasakiAndy, bought a few things (Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe and some LotFP and DCC goodies) and just had a great time hanging out with them and bumping into other gamers.

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After dropping my stuff of at the hotel, my first game session was The Promised Land for Symbaroum, wonderfully GM’d by @Asako_Soh. The adventure was perfectly paced and action packed with a good few scraps – I was really taken with the game and nearly bought it from the trade hall (however, I’ve since grabbed it from a Bundle of Holding). Definitely a game I’d like to play again.

Following a catch up with many of the Grogsquad over a bite to eat it was on to the evening game. I’d signed up for Feng Shui as it’s a game I’ve always liked the idea of – action packed crazy martial arts sounds great. The GM did a smashing job running us through The Green Garter Affair, but I struggled with the game, perhaps because I was pretty knackered by this point – something to try again in the future maybe.

The Saturday morning I joined @theGROGNARDfile and @sjamb7 to play HeroQuest, GM’d by HeroQuest expert @ian_h_cooper. On paper the system seems simple (and it is), but as it was quite different to other games I’ve played it took me a little time to get my head around it. In The Noose our characters were to investigate a string of murders that lead to an exciting conclusion, and while the investigation was well constructed I enjoyed the interaction between the characters just as much… it was all very cleverly set up and executed.

My Expo weekend came to a close with a final session, this time me GMing The Greater Share of Honour for LotFP. It was the first time I’d ran it where all the players were unknown to be, but they were a great group and all seemed to have a good time. It was with some reluctance that I packed my stuff away and prepared for the trip home, saying a brief farewell to a handful of gaming friends and to this great event. I knew that many of them were staying for the Sunday and determined that in 2019 I would go for the whole weekend.

June still had plenty to offer though… in addition to the regular Roll20 games started earlier in the year (Flashing BladesTwo Headed SerpentRuneQuest and LotFP) and Lunchtime Lairs we also had the fantastic Free RPG Day. I headed over to Manchester with one of my old mates @TonyLayter where we picked up a few bits from Fanboy3 and Travelling Man and joined a game of The Cthulhu Hack. @boreders (the author of The Cthulhu Hack) was running The Observer Effect, a Delta Green adventure converted over, and it played really well – we had a great time with @boreders showing his Cthulhu GM skills off to great effect. It was a top day all around, ending with a few beers with @TonyLayter and @clownf1st.

Unfortunately at the end of June I knackered my foot which left me with mobility issues for quite a while. This also meant that I would miss out on Lunchtime Lairs for a few months.

July

Besides the great regular games things were a little sparse over July. We did start Judge Dredd on Roll20 with @OrlanthR as GM; I played Judge Muller, a grim and jaded veteran street Judge who saw violence as the solution to most problems. Along with Judges Kowalski and Wily we set off investigating a chain of crimes; many of these have been resolved with new ones to take their place. It’s been great to see this game evolve over the months, @OrlanthR has done a great job of presenting a spider web of crimes, some related, others not – it’s has a real sandbox feel that I like, and captures the chaos, corruption and scale of MegaCity One really well. Changing from the Traveller system to a homebrew Gumshoe version early on was a great move, Gumshoe is a good fit for Judge Dredd.

BurritoConI’d also arranged a small meetup in Fanboy3 with two tables of gamers, mostly Grogsquad members and few other friends or gamers from Google+.  It started out as ImpromptuCon, but because of the general excitement about grabbing burritos for lunch was quickly renamed BurritoCon. My idea was to have two tables and two sessions – a total of four games. As well as Traveller with  as GM and Tunnels & Trolls with Andrew J in the driving seat, I ran two DCC adventures – The Portal Under the Stars (a level 0 funnel) and Elzemon and the Blood Drinking Box (a level 1 scenario). It was the first time I’ve ran DCC and I felt it went down well, I was later informed that one of the players picked up DCC to run with their group.

August

Just regular games and holidays – my knackered foot meant I didn’t get start anything new or go to any Cons.

September

I’d seen a group on Google+ looking for an extra player for an established and regular Swords & Wizardry Complete Saturday night game. This seemed like a good fit as I’d spent most Saturdays at home since injuring my foot, so I contacted them and joined in their The Lost Lands campaign. It’s been a great experience, a proper old school sandbox game with high level (6/7) characters, and the GM Greg runs it rigorously by the rules – 1 minute combat rounds, wandering monster rolls and so on. Unfortunately I’ve had to miss quite a few sessions, so I’ll have to see how this goes on into 2019.

586After completing An Ambassador’s Tales for Flashing Blades,  took a break from GMing duties at our Monday session and @thegrampus started a homebrew three session Call of Cthulhu adventure, Buried Histories, which was very good and involved our party investigating old an WW2 railway site in Germany. With a couple of other sessions to fill I ran The Gates of Hellwinter for Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a system I’d wanted to try out for some time. It’s a tidy set of rules which I planned to also use for Grogfight. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get to the third session to box the game off.

525d4e50-a112-11e8-81c9-1b431fd718bc-rimg-w400-h400-dc1c1c1c-gmirThe highlight of this month was undoubtedly the inaugural Owlbear and Wizards Staff Con in Leamington Spa, organised by @Asako_Soh. A single day Con with a nice social element (curry and beers the night before, yes please!), I was pleased to grab a place at Not in Kansas Anymore, an out there DCC adventure ran by @LeeJNeilson. We were 1970’s civilians transported into a fantasy dimension which we had to survive (although many of us didn’t as you’d expect from a level 0 funnel); top moments include the bus driver PC squashing some monsters with his bus and a DJ decapitating another bad guy with an Abba album thrown frisbee style. I ran The Greater Share of Honour  in the afternoon slot and was lucky enough to get a great group of players; unlike previous Cons they didn’t get to complete the adventure in the time set, so we agreed to box it off over Roll20 later on.

October

@OrlanthR had asked for players for a trial run of his Dying Earth adventure The Hotel Grand Perdusz in preparation for Grogmeet; not wanting to miss out I signed up. It wasn’t what I was expecting, not having read any Dying Earth, but it was a lot of fun – the paranoia and backstabbing elements soon came to the fore and layered on top of the investigation was a great combo. It was an interesting system with story game/narrative elements (like HeroQuest) so it took a little bit of time to get my head around, but once we were stuck into it the game moved apace, moving onto great ending – it could have gone either way based on a handful of dice rolls. And my character ended up being The Mucker for all eternity – nice!

 had been planning for Pink Gins and Googlies for quite some time; using a modified version of The Cthulhu Hack our characters were all members of the Cranford Ladies Cricket Club on a world tour. We were off to a great start in Cairo with some weird occult goings on, it was proper action packed pulp stuff, but with bats, balls and the odd gin rather than a revolver and bullwhip. We’ve had some fantastic adventures with this as we continue our tour and will do on into the new year.

Along with my other regular games of LotFP Better Than Any Man and alternately RuneQuest/Judge Dredd and Swords & Wizardry Complete I also managed to get along to a Mersey Game Knights session over in Wallasey where Cliffy ran Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, a tidy bandit hunt adventure with some nice world building.

A highlight for me was pulling off BurritoCon2. This time I took a back seat of the day and was only a player, but thoroughly enjoyed Traveller GM’d by  and Rifts GM’d by @ConvergenceUK1. I’d only ever played Traveller back in the 80’s and had a fairly low opinion of it, but found that opinion changed considerably – it’s a cracking game with a neat system. I suspect like most games, our opinions are shaped as much by the GM and other players as they are by the system itself. I was pleased that @M0RT75 was able to join us to run Umerican Survival Guide and  @boreders to run The Cthulhu Hack – both went down a treat.

November

What a month this looked like being. As well as Grogmeet and a charity 24 hour RPG event, one of my old mates @Corsair1973 was visiting from San Diego, so I knew there would be lots of great gaming.

The month started with a Roll20 session to complete The Greater Share of Honour from Owlbear and Wizards Staff Con. I was pleased to get the players back together and box this off.

I’d booked a day off to get in some gaming with @Corsair1973 and another old gaming mate of ours, Dave. We had an afternoon playing the Monolith Conan board game – I’ve played this before and it’s very enjoyable, one of those games that is nearly an RPG. The treat of the day was Dave running a short Call of Cthulhu adventure for us; The Winoka Point Research Centre, needless to say, in good Cthulhu tradition neither of our adventurers survived. Dave was the GM who introduced me to Call of Cthulhu back in 1983/84 so it was a real pleasure to play in one of his games again.

Grogmeet kicked off on the Friday afternoon with Grogfight, a multi-table, multi-system bar room brawl with dungeon crawl designed to have players jumping from one table to another. I was running Advanced Fighting Fantasy on my table, while @Corsair1973 was running Classic Fantasy, @Lintillaz Tunnels & Trolls and @theGROGNARDfile The Fantasy Trip. It was fairly chaotic and the table swapping thing didn’t work out as I’d hoped, but it was a lot of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. After dumping my bag at the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat it was on to the Friday evening session. Having developed a taste for Judge Dredd RPGs previously it was a no brainer to jump onto Judge Dredd: An American Werebear in Brit-Cit GM’d by @DailyDwarf using the Savage Worlds system. It was a great setup; I was one of two MegaCity One Judges who had to host and help a pair of stuck up Brit-Cit Judges – right from the start there was tension and a lot of banter. Our briefings took us first into the wastelands of The Cursed Earth and then onto Brit-Cit itself, great stuff. Followed up by drinks this was a near perfect day, but unfortunately I had to cut my Grogmeet weekend short due to my Dad taking ill (he’s making a great recovery now). Besides the obvious concern over my Dad I was gutted that I wouldn’t be able to run the DCC adventure I had prepared, The Carnival of the Damned. I may try that one for Virtual Grogmeet in 2019.

243681Before @Corsair1973 headed back to the USA we wanted to get in another game session – I offered to run Vikingr, a game I’d Kickstarted earlier in the year and was eager to run. I had some notes for an adventure ready to go, so @Corsair1973 , Dave and @TonyLayter picked their Viking heroes from the pregens on offer and quickly got on with the slaughter. Because we’re all so familiar with Vikings it was easy to roleplay well defined stereotypes – The Berserker, The Shield Maiden, The Warrior, and the OpenD6 based system worked a treat. Although Vikingr isn’t on my radar for 2019 I would like to run it again.

I did get a big RPG fix the following weekend though as I’d signed up for the 24 Hour RPG charity event in Southport, this time in the very posh Prince of Wales hotel. Last year I’d played 24 hours of RuneQuest with @theGROGNARDfile as GM, so this year I signed up for the 12 hour Blades in the Dark session he was running. Although there were just two players and the GM it was a great way to spend 12 hours of gaming; Blades in the Dark is perfect for a small party, and the flashback mechanism allowed us to get really creative when digging ourselves out of situations and swinging things in our favour. @theGROGNARDfile was on top form, responding to our ideas and creating exciting situations for us – it felt like we could try whatever we wanted, very sandboxy, dynamic and brilliant.

I’ve written a blog post about these Grogmeet, Vikingr and 24 Hour RPG here.

December

With the year drawing to a close I wasn’t anticipating any new games and knew we’d have a break from regular games over Christmas. However, I was pleased to have another try at HeroQuest, this time with @Corsair1973 starting the Eleven Lights campaign over Roll20. This time the system really clicked with me and I found my character much easier to get stuck into (perhaps because it was in a part of Glorantha I had become more familiar with in ‘s game). So far we’ve had a couple of sessions and it looks like we’ll be continuing it on into 2019, great stuff!

And that was it really, I hope I’ve not missed anything out. I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of gaming in 2018 and hopefully will continue to in 2019.

Here’s the full list of games I used to put this post together.

 

Better Than Any Man: From Monster Hunter to Gong Farmer

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

Having entered the hidden entrance into Goblin Hill the Black Dogs find themselves surrounded by swarms of insects; they get everywhere – in their boots and clothes. Essential lamps and torches attract only more. Knowing they are in a large cavern, but with visibility severely limited the group deliberate on their options while looking over the map taken from Gunther Mohl, the bandit leader and their enforced scout. To their left they see a the cavern floor is covered in mold, while just darkness and crawling emptiness fill the rest of the space. They do not even consider blundering straight ahead into the vastness of the cavern.

maxresdefaultWhile dithering a loud buzzing is heard over the background rustling sounds of insects crawling over insects and before they can locate it, a huge horsefly attacks, no doubt drawn by their light and the prospect of a tasty meal! Despite some of the party being surprised they are able to fight the horrid creature and quickly kill it. Gunther’s loyalty is tested and fails and he takes the chance to flee Goblin Hill while the Black Dogs are distracted.

Realising that time is of the essence in this vile place the adventurers decide to skirt the cavern walls to their right, counting off the passageways as per their map. One of the passageways they pass is wet and glistening and perhaps sensibly ignored. Flickering lights can be seen from another side passage, again bypassed; what treasures and glory can be found along these corridors so readily ignored – I guess we’ll never know. Eventually the party come to the passage that they believe will lead them into the lair of the Burgerfriedensmiliz and the Insect God cult…

Unpleasant smells are a part of 17th Century life and for those living in towns and cities the stench of effluent is all too familiar. This is the aroma that greets them now as they move upwards along the gradually inclining passage; effluent runs in rivulets along the floor and the adventurers have no choice but to stride through it, careful not to slip. As they proceed, the nature of the insect infestation changes – there are now uncountable maggots on the floor and walls, nesting in the faeces, and many more flies fill the air. This is perhaps the most unpleasant place they have been in… so far at least. For some it proves too much as they are unable to contain the contents of their stomach and throw up their last meal, adding to the already overpowering acrid stench.9f8f9604113f48c0802243bedc001e59fbc02287_hq

From along the passageway the party hear faint voices and as Balock scouts ahead  the party is once more attacked. Another giant horsefly, this one bigger than the last, speeds along the corridor towards Balock, while Ingrid, Hemming, Miklos and Genevieve look down to see giant, stinking maggots attempting to latch onto their legs. Trying to stomp and slash at the foul beasts the party manage to kill all the maggots, but not before Ingrid, Genevieve and Hemming are all bitten by them (saving throws all around which only Hemming successfully makes!). The fly, badly wounded makes it’s escape…

15607427415_c07dfb0fb0_bMoving further along the party arrive at a huge cesspit, a massive cavern filled with raw sewage. Voices can still be heard along with the sounds of toilet going and waste splashing into the cesspit. The sounds and waste are both coming from a shaft that leads to a toilet above…

Crawling around the edge of the cesspit and careful not to fall in, the Black Dogs approach the shaft, but none have yet been brave enough to look up it… so this seems to be the secret way into the Burgerfriedensmiliz headquarters.

 

Better Than Any Man: Going to Goblin Hill

Warning: BTAM spoilers ahead!

On an overcast, rain sodden October morning the Black Dogs march out of Thungen, cross a bridge over the Wern and strike out North East towards the heavily wooded hills, the supposed location of Goblin Hill. The ground is slick with the wet first fallen leaves of autumn and the unseasonal carpet of insects crawling over them.

creepy-forest

Gunther Mohl, the captured bandit leader strikes a fair pace and the morning easily passes, however at one point Esmerelda notices figures flitting through the shadows off to the side – for now she keeps it to herself. Close to midday the party spot a lone figure sitting against a tree, and a closer investigation shows its is just a small boy of no more than 7 or 8 summers; grubby from living outdoors, thin from lack of food, yet still with a mischievous glint in his eyes. Hemming’s natural distrust of just about anyone has started to rub of on Miklos as the pair of them fully expect some trap or trickery; Balock is more trusting and of the group comes across as the least likely to cause trouble. None of the new Black Dogs, Ingrid, Esmerelda and Genevieve have any particular interest in the child.

Questioning the boy, they learn his name – Berwic – and that he is in the woods with his sister and a gang of other abandoned children, all looking to survive under the leadership of the oldest boy Wilfried. Eventually the conversation leads to questions about Goblin Hill and what these children might know. Berwic offers to take one of the PC’s to meet Wilfried, but they must be unarmed; the boy points to Balock who he seems to trust the most. While the rest of the Black Dogs wait in the cold and damp, Berwic leads Balock off into the woods; doubling back to hide the trail and make sure he’s not being followed.

At last they come to a small clearing where an older boy, introducing himself as Wilfried, awaits with a couple of other children. Berwic explains that Balock is after information about Goblin Hill – the children call this Insect Hill because of all the bugs there. In exchange for all of his rations and a fine dagger (which Balock had concealed) Wilfried tells the rogue about the north entrance to the hill. He followed a gang of men wearing hoods who led a chained gang of people to the northern doors where they knocked and handed them over. Trying to confirm the nature of the masked villains, Balock pulls a hood out of his pack – Wilfried misunderstands and the kids flee.  Balock realising he doesn’t know quite where he is tries to follow the trail back to the rest of the party, but becomes lost and it is some hours before he finds his way back. With just a few hours of daylight remaining the adventurers travel a little further before setting up camp.

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With no fire, little moonlight and drizzling rain it is a miserable night. However as Miklos and Esmerelda take the last watch they see a glowing figure rushing towards them, moving with an unnatural celerity. Before they can react both are frozen; as the ghostly figure approaches it’s grotesque distorted face halts just inches from Miklos’ and it looks intently at him – the cleric has the feeling it is looking past his physical presence, perhaps into his soul. After just a moment the spectre does the same to the rest of the party; oblivious to it’s presence they sleep through. Then it returns to Miklos and it’s face changes into a warmer, friendlier visage before moving through the whole party and then disappearing.While the characters are not quite sure what has just happened, it’s a pleasure to give the players some good news – between now and the end of the game each character can change the result of any one dice roll.

Rested and fed the party continue their journey to Goblin Hill, fully expecting to reach the dreaded haunt of The Mother and her Insect Cult before the end of the day. A reflective mood comes over the adventurers as they feel themselves moving towards a conclusion; how Hemming’s lack of empathy for his fellow man has only intensified, how Miklos has become far more cynical, less ready to trust, more willing to take life, and how Balock of the three original Black Dogs has held onto his humanity with both hands and still shows a compassionate, caring side.  They are shaken from their reverie by a sad scene – a woman hanging from a tree, dead only a day or two. Hoofprints can still be seen with no evidence of human footprints. How did this poor woman meet her end? Was her life taken by force, or did she bring it about herself, perhaps lost to the despair and suffering this terrible war has brought.

The day moves on and within a few more hours the bulk of Goblin Hill can be seen through the dense trees. Insects now crawl everywhere and the air is thick with mosquitoes and midges. Gunther asks to be set free – he tells the Black Dogs that the back door is not far now. Hemming and Miklos do not trust him and refuse to let him go; he is given one a route to freedom though – take up arms on behalf of the party, lead them into Goblin Hill and when all is done he will be set free. With no alternative the bandit agrees, his hands are untied and he is armed with a spear and dagger.

Moving much closer towards the entrance described by Gunther a roughly carved wooden sign is seen with two words; ‘Welcome!’ in German and ‘Beware!’ in Arabic. Bushes across the secret entrance are pulled aside and reveal a large cave mouth with a tunnel heading down into the darkness beyond. Itching and scratching from the inescapable insect infestation, the party form up, torches and lamps are lit and they advance into the darkness.

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The tunnel floor is made of compressed earth, at least what can be seen through the insects crawling all over it. Every couple of feet a stone rod appears to stretch across the tunnel floor; these could be the edges of stairs, the gaps between now filled with ancient soil. Moving slowly, cautiously with weapons ready and eyes alert to danger the party feel the darkness closing in; the air shimmers with all kinds of insects, many attracted to the glow of the lamps and torches and it takes a moment for the mind to adjust as the floor seems to writhe and surge, thick with crawling bugs. All that can be heard is a constant rustle, the creeping of tiny legs of tiny carapaces, millions upon millions of them.

It takes a few minutes of careful, steady progress before the corridor seems to open into a larger cavern – although it is difficult to tell as the range of their light is limited. Referring to the map taken from Gunther, the Black Dogs believe they know where to go, how to proceed. Onwards into the darkness they go…