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.

 

Grogfight Dredd Vikings Blades

This last week and a bit has given me quite a few great gaming moments; initially I had planned on writing individual articles on each, but as time has been against me I decided to bundle them up into one neat package.

Grogmeet

I have been looking forward to Grogmeet for ages – it is the highlight of the gaming calendar (Expo comes a close second IMHO) offering an opportunity to run and play RPG’s with fantastic GM’s and players and catch up over a few pints with the great folk who are part of the community.

Dirk the Dice had asked me to organise something OSR/Old School for the Friday afternoon, so after much brain wracking and ideas backwards and forwards we ended up with Grogfight! A four table, four system, four GM, table hopping bar room brawl with added dungeon to fill the hours of the Friday afternoon. The GM’s were all great (buying into this ludicrous idea) and in the run up we had a few online meetings to tie things down. I had chosen to use the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system, while  was running Tunnels & Trolls, was running Classic Fantasy and himself running The Fantasy Trip. As Grogmeet weekend coincided with Chaosium’s call to play a game and honour Greg Stafford, we decided to put the Stafford Rune in as a puzzle at the end of the dungeon… I believe it was a bit of brain teaser, although my group didn’t quite reach it.

Stafford Puzzle

I thoroughly enjoyed GMing for great players and everyone seemed to enjoy it – as an experimental multi-table thing it worked well and was a good ice breaker. The table hopping element of the game was a bit of a pain as I had to interrupt all the games to swap players around – after a couple of hours I gave up on that and everyone just got stuck into their own tables.

I’ve used Advanced Fighting Fantasy before and it was nice to take it out for another spin. I couldn’t see it being my daily driver but it’s great for one shots – it’s light and fast with some nice options to personalise characters and the Fighting Fantasy angle means it’s generally familiar to most players of a certain age.

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The Grogfight GM’s… smiles of relief?

Once Grogfight was finished and following a quick hotel check-in and chippy tea it was time for the evening session. I was lucky enough to get onto the Judge Dredd Savage Worlds table GM’d by @DailyDwarf  and a grand job he did as well. The whole session oozed original Dredd with comic book frames pinned to the wall as the game progressed, a really nice touch. I was one of the MegaCity Judges hosting two Brit-Cit Judges, and from the start we played out the tension between the two factions while trying to complete the missions in front of us. It was great fun! Savage Worlds was a great fit, a simple system that captures the energy of Dredd comics.

We rounded off the Friday evening with a good few beers in a nearby pub; it was great to catch up with gaming friends, particularly because my old gaming mates from a long forgotten time (the 80’s),  and , were there.

Unfortunately my Grogmeet weekend was cut short so I didn’t get to run Carnival of the Damned, but I know everyone thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday events. There are write ups here:

Vikingr

spends most of his time in the sunnier climes on the west coast USA, so while he was back in Blighty we took the opportunity for more face to face gaming. A game was planned at short notice and I offered to run Vikingr, an OpenD6 game also by Arion Games. I’d picked it up in their Kickstarter earlier in the year and it had really caught my imagination; at the time I had cobbled together a few notes for an adventure not knowing when I would run it. This presented an ideal opportunity.

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The players all grabbed one of the pregens provided with the game (actually they are templates based on archetypes – the Berserker, Gothi, Warchief etc that are easily converted into pregens), and in no time were off on an adventure in the wilds of Norway. I thoroughly enjoyed running the game and the system held up really well – even though I was quite rusty with it. I’d love to run it again.

Blades in the Dark

Dirk the Dice was running Blades in the Dark at 24 hour RPG, a charity event that runs this time each year in Southport. Games on offer also included WFRP 4th Ed, WOIN, Numenera and D&D, but I’d selected Blades in the Dark as I knew I’d get a great game with Dirk, had wanted to try the game and the 12 hour slot was more within my current endurance limits…

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Even with two players we had a cracking game, in fact I’d suggest there were certain benefits to having just two ambitious sneak thiefs… our plans were quickly formulated and generally uncomplex. Blades in the Dark is a great system, very intuitive with some clever narrative tricks that are perfect for the genre. Dirk kept us on our toes with lots of turns and twists, with NPC’s based on number sequences given by Grognards who had donated to MIND, the charity supported by the event.

The flashbacks mechanism is pure genius; during a scene, particularly when things aren’t going your way you can jump to a flashback. Maybe you planted a dagger under the table earlier in the day, or as we had done blackmailed the bodyguard of another gang leader to plant an item in the gang leaders room. There’s a different rhythm and style of play to most other RPG’s, but once you get into that the game just flows.

Dirk has written a cracking session report on his blog here.

Donations to MIND, the charity supported event, can still be made here:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hr-rpg-challenge-2018

That’s lots of great gaming behind me, so it’s on with the regular Roll20 games now until the con season kicks off again next year with Convergence in early March. Can’t wait!

Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Hellwinter Keep

The howling wind whipped the snow into flurries but did little to mask the roars of bears beyond the camp, one of a fully grown specimen, the other on the far side a cub. Aethed Elindan and Mithrielye watched and waited as bear paws thumped on the ground, big bear paws… Aethed stacked the fire high hoping to scare the creature away; a plan which may have worked had the party not started arguing about the nature of bears. Mithrielye believed it to be a noble guardian of the forest that would cause them no harm, while Aethed strongly argued a hungry bear was likely to try and eat them. Their conviction clear in their beliefs was inspirational, but the bear just heard noise, the kind of noise food makes.

bear_blood

Aethed was proven right as the full grown bear came charging into camp. The warrior and Pyram the Priest closed in on the beast while Mithrielye singed it with a fire bolt. Who’d have thought moving to close combat with an 8″ tall bear could be so bad for your health? It took a couple of swipes at Pyram, tearing into his flesh while Aethed tried to lure the creature nearer the fire, hoping it would fall in. Although this tactic failed a combination of force bolts and a coating of lamp oil saw the poor animal enveloped in flames, running a short distance from the camp before collapsing – dead.

A+ for a proper old school ingenuity and bear stakes for breakfast saw their spirits lifted, and after a decent rest and a smattering of healing for Pyram, they set off on the final leg of their journey to Hellwinter Keep.

Hellwinter TowerThe rain now turned to snow, the heroes struggled on towards Hellwinter, climbing ever higher along treacherously steep and narrow mountain paths. Despite taking great care Mithrielye lost her footing and tumbled from the path dropping 20 feet to a ledge below; her luck held as she landed on tough mountain grass, softening the fall. Many hours later the tower of Hellwinter Keep came into view, their journey close to an end.

Aethed nimbly scaled the courtyard wall and opened the gates. Within the desolate area with it’s drifts of snow and unswept paving stones are hints of neglect, not the warm welcome from Sir Gallaharn Kairn they were expecting. A graveyard to one side has many worn gravestones, and of those one with readable engravings stands out – Sir Deckar Kairn, an ancestor of Sir Gallaharn. No attention had been paid to this grave for some time; why has Sir Gallaharn completely neglected his ancestors resting place?

There is little else to explore in the courtyard, a well of no obvious consequence which our heroes chose to ignore and a stable door. Mithrielye ventured into the stable out of the snow, trying to pierce the depth of the shadows when the torn and bloody remains of a warhorse comes charging out. Shreds of flesh cling to bone and part of the poor creatures jaw is missing; there is no life in it’s eyes yet it charges at the adventurers. Blocking the door into the courtyard Aethed and Pyram take mighty swings at the undead nightmare, bringing it to halt in short order. The mystery of this place grows. Where is Sir Gallaharn and why the hell is there an undead horse?

zombie_horse_by_dougcalaver-dbn5h4m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A broken door leads from the courtyard into the tower itself and the heroes proceed onwards through it with due caution. Beyond is a common room, cold and damp with a large fireplace, engraved with a heraldic device of a Black Dragon belonging to a long forgotten order of knights. A ruined oak table fills the room while cutlery and dishes are scattered about. Two doors lead from this room while a staircase leads up to the next level.

Before the party can decide on their next step we have to call it a night. I wasn’t expecting to run a second session of this adventure just yet, but was pleased to give Advanced Fighting Fantasy an extended trial run. I’m really warming to the system, it’s very simple and does everything you’d need, plus the magic system is interesting – wizards and sorcerers are powerful even as beginning characters.

 

Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Gallows End to Hellwinter

For the past 12 months or so Monday evenings have been split between Flashing Blades and more recently a monthly session of Pulp Cthulhu. This week the regular Monday group was scheduled to start a modern day Call of Cthulhu adventure, however with one of our players out of action that was postponed. We were looking for something else to play and I had been looking for an opportunity to try out Arion Games’ Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF) – a game under consideration for Grogfight!

wpbb2109b7_06AFF is the most recent incarnation of the RPG based on the Fighting Fantasy series of game books; I’d eat my hat if you haven’t at least heard of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; most likely you played it in your youth. The system has no classes or levels and is very simple with three core stats – Skill, Stamina and Luck, and the additional Magic and Magic Points for wizardly types, then special skills which allow characters to do cool stuff, and a few different types of magic. The system uses 2d6 for all actions; roll under stat+skill for unopposed skill tests and add 2d6+stat+skill for combat and opposed skill tests. These two different skill tests caused some confusion and in future I’ll use the optional rule of 2d6+stat+skill vs target number for unopposed skills – then all rolls will use the same mechanism.

The adventure started in Gallows End, a small frontier village on the edge of the Bron forest. Our heroes are tasked by the Baron of Tytern with discovering the fate of Sir Gallaharn Kairn, a knight sent to the frontier fortress of Hellwinter. After a few questions to the local peasants they pick up a couple of rumours: undead are gathering to the north and there are druids in the forest. Winter furs are purchased for the journey ahead the group set off through the forest.

The Gates of Hellwinter Cover

Torrential rain, grey skies and a biting wind make their journey through the forest a thoroughly unpleasant one, made all the worse by a goblin ambush (is there a starter adventure for any fantasy game that doesn’t feature goblins or kobolds?) Daggers flying out from the shadows of the trees injure the wizard and priest and before too long the party are toe to toe scrapping with their scrawny assailants.

This gave me a great opportunity to get a feel for combat, and I liked how it played. Each combatant rolls 2d6+stat+weapon skill and whoever gets the highest damages their opponent – armour can further reduce the damage. We had some spells firing off as well; a starting wizard feels much more powerful than a level 1 D&D/OSR Magic-User and the spells were used to fry some of the goblins.

The fight over and wounds healed the party continued to the foothills of the mountains on which the Tower of Hellwinter was perched, cold, wet and miserable. It seems it’s not going to be a peaceful night as roars from two directions bring them to attention…

The session was fairly short – no more than an hour and half, but the PC’s made decent progress. We may get to complete the adventure at some point, but I’m looking forward to starting Call of Cthulhu and the sessions served it’s purpose of giving me some insights into how the system plays at the table. While I’m still undecided on which system to use for Grogfight, AFF is starting to edge ahead of DCC…