Convergence 2019

This small, friendly con is my first in 2019 and holds a special place; it was the first RPG con I ever attended two years ago now, and the first time I met some of the great gamers I enjoy playing with still. As the first con of the year I like to think it sets the standard for cons to come…

After the date was set and the call went out for GM’s, I knew I’d want to run a game. Last year it was The Greater Share of Honour, a homebrew adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This year I wanted to try something a bit different, indeed something considerably different from the OSR games I love and usually run. Earlier on in the year I started running a Barbarians of Lemuria campaign on Roll20 and have found it to be great fun – it’s a fast and simple system that makes a ton of sense while offering a style of play which is far more heroic than my usual OSR fare. My game choice to run then was BoL. There are few published adventures for the system and a few more in the core rulebook, but I felt that none gave me what I wanted from a con game, so I rolled my own adventure A Heart for Madness and put it forward for the morning session at Convergence.

I had four players for this early session, all but one of which I played with before. Barbarians of Lemuria really delivered; it didn’t take long for the players to get into the swing of things and before long they were mowing down rabble, battling toughs and defeating villains, all the while tempted to spend their hero points which make them totally badass. It also gave me a gauge on timing to work with when I run it at Virtual Grogmeet and UK Games Expo – I ran over by nearly half an hour so I’ll need to trim it a bit to fit the 3.5 hour slot of Virtual Grogmeet. A huge thanks to the players Brendan, both Steve’s and Tom.

After a quick lunch (because I ran over by a bit) I joined Dirk the Dice‘s Strontium Dog game Bringing Akill-Ease to Heel, a homebrew using the Savage Worlds system. A ragtag gang of the weirdest muties in the galaxy, we were sent from the Dog House to the planet Caytor with a fistful of individual warrants and a group warrant to bring the criminal Akill-Ease in alive. It was easy to imagine our characters appearing in an episode of Strontium Dog; my character GlassJaw Vargas was a huge and hideously strong and deformed mutie, yet he was far from the weirdest, and could be considered a norm next to The Grimby Reaper. From the off it was proper Strontium Dog comic book stuff and the Lego props and huge table were used to good effect. It’s the second Savage Worlds 2000AD homebrew game I’ve played (and I’ve signed up for more at Virtual Grogmeet) – it seems to me that SW really works with 2000AD settings and characters (sorry World of 2000AD folks), with it’s easy to understand system, Edges and Hindrances which help characters stand out, but still keeps it simple. Bennies always give you that epic moment of action or a get out clause provided you use them carefully. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I would say if you get a chance to play it you really should.

The evening session was GM’d by Kris, one of the Convergence hosts; Star Wars, the West End Games 2nd edition. I’ve developed a real liking for the OpenD6 system, and having played in one of Kris’ games before I knew we’d be in for a great adventure. I played a Brash Pilot, a young, enthusiastic, optimistic, willing to do anything for the Rebel Alliance kind of guy. We were sent on a mission to track down Crying Dawn Singer, a Shashay entertainer kidnapped by criminals out to discredit the alliance. Our adventure took us far and wide from an abandoned research centre to the bustling planet Narg. This was a huge amount of fun, Kris really captured the Star Wars vibe; the templates help players quickly understand their character, and the D6 system works incredibly well (although one thing I would change is how rolls of 1 on the wild die effect outcomes, it seems that a series of bad rolls could lead to a chain of unrealistic complexities). Another bonus was playing with a chap I’d worked with 20+ years ago and have only met briefly once since at an earlier Convergence – if I’d known he was a gamer back then…

This was a long day in the best way possible – a very early start, then picking Clarky  up in Liverpool, and not getting home until after midnight – but with so much great gaming in between. Kris and Snowy run a great con, it’s friendly with good facilities and a load of great games on offer. I’m really hoping it will run for a 4th year in 2020, if it does you should try to get there. Next, onto DevaCon, 27th April in Chester.

The Lemurian Seven: Thoughts on BoL

Last Friday I started running Barbarians of Lemuria… it’s a game that has been on my shelves for ages and I thought it would be worth a trying it out. I read the rules a couple of times (for it’s 200+ pages BoL still feels like a light game) and had a plan to run each of the brief adventures from the core book in an episodic format. Each episode the heroes would start somewhere new, with no thought or acknowledgement given to how they would get there. That was the plan at least…

BoL

I decided to run the game on alternating Friday’s just to give me a bit more prep time between sessions and also so I had opportunities to do social stuff without having to cancel. I had in my mind I would be lucky to get three or four players, and that I would be content with that. After putting it out there on Twitter I found there was quite a bit of interest… I can manage 6 players, I’ve done it before, so I went with that. But somewhere along the way I lost count, so we now have 7 players; I really didn’t want to have to drop a player, and as I’d not been too fastidious in tracking who had asked to join last, it would have been unfair to randomly drop someone. Although it would have given me a practical use for my Dungeon Crawl Classics D7 Zocchi dice…

Now I’m not a huge fan of big character backgrounds, but BoL encourages players to establish simple backgrounds to tie in with their careers. In this my players went above and beyond; I have excellent backgrounds, not too detailed, but filled with the right stuff. Adversaries and interesting characters have all been included. Every question I asked I was given an interesting, engaging answer. And as time went on I started to wonder how I would use all of this great background material with the episodic format I had planned. I couldn’t see a way to do it.

I’ve since decided to abandon that idea and go for a much more player directed campaign, one where their backgrounds, and most importantly the NPC’s they have identified are a big part of the adventures. After mapping everything out using a Kanban board, I feel I’ve got a good grip on all of the moving parts – certain threads will come into focus for different sessions. In fact, I have so many threads and possibilities that I will have to leave some out for now, otherwise the players will each be going off in different directions to complete their own quests. BoL provides some great mechanisms to bring out backgrounds as well, such as the Hunted flaw which means each time a hunted character enters a city, on a 1 on 1d6, the hunter or an agent of the hunter will turn up and cause problems.

“How’s it been managing seven players online?” I hear you ask. It’s been amazing fun! Some players are more vocal than others, but I try to ensure everyone remains engaged with the game – it was great to see the players chatting amongst themselves using Roll20 chat, making plans while I was dealing with another encounter in Hangouts. We’re still finding our way with the game etiquette and balance, and I think we’ll get to where we need to be before too long. Plus with seven we have the added bonus that if up to 4 players couldn’t make it, we could still have a game!

I need to give more thought to how I prep for sessions as well; too much means I’m pushing the players where I want them to be all the time, not enough means the game can feel a little slow. I felt part of last night’s session was like this and hoped that writing this up might help identify the improvements I can make. We finished on a climax, so I’m hoping to start the next sessions with some pace and continue it from there…

Any thoughts or advice on how to proceed would be appreciated!

 

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.