2020 Gaming Plan

Last year I set out my gaming plans for 2019 – they were ambitious but open to change, and for the most part I followed them, getting to cons and running most of the games I had planned to. The games I didn’t get to run were Black Blade of the Demon King and World of the Lost for LotFP, I’d like to get to run one of them in 2020 at least. Unfortunately I had to drop out of Lunchtime Lairs as my company moved me to a different office, but that has gone from strength to strength which is pleasing.

Conventions

  • Convergence (6th-8th March, Stockport) – same as previous years I’ll only attend on the Saturday. Will try to run something for Barbarians of Lemuria or Romance of the Perilous Land if I can get something together in time.
  • Virtual Grogmeet (17th-18th April, Roll20) – as this conflicts with DevaCon I may just run a game on the Friday evening, probably my Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Midderlands Adventure, The Mad Queens Jewels
  • DevaCon (18th April, Chester) – I’d love to run a Midderlands adventure set in Chester, but have no ideas as yet. Will see how that pans out.
  • UK Games Expo (29th – 31st May, NEC Birmingham) – last year I ran two games, I expect to do the same this year, although I will probably play less. No idea yet what I’ll run, better get my thinking cap on!
  • BurritoCon 5 & 6 (June & October, Fanboy 3 Manchester) – if things work out I’ll throw together further BurritoCon events, but I have no specific plans at the moment
  • Owlbear & Wizards Staff (September in Leamington Spa) – this was a brilliant con in 2019, so I really hope I can get to it in 2020
  • Grogmeet (7th-8th November – I think) – there will be a Friday afternoon multi-table game again along the lines of this year’s Mothership game, still very early days, but we’ve already talked through a few ideas. Other than that I have no plans on what to run…
  • Go Play Manchester (various dates, Fanboy 3 Manchester) – I didn’t get to as many of these as I had hoped in 2019, I’m hoping 2020 will offer more opportunity to get along.
  • Grogten and The One Ring Roadtrip – these are two weekends away with gaming mates. From my point of view they require little prep as I won’t be running any games at them; however they look like being excellent events.

Games

My plan is to continue to enjoy the amazing games I’m lucky enough to play in (Pink Gins and Googlies, Two Headed Serpent, RuneQuest, Luther Arkwright, Fall of Delta Green), and play others when I can. As a GM I’m still very much focussed on OSR games, particularly Old School Essentials, LotFP, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells and to a lesser extent Dungeon Crawl Classics, but there are a handful of other games I want to delve into more this year including Barbarians of Lemuria, Everywhen and Romance of the Perilous Land. The One Ring also has huge appeal but I doubt I’ll get that to the table in 2020.

  • I’m going to continue running Night’s Dark Terror, that’ll definitely be completed this year. If I have time I’d like to run some other old D&D modules, maybe Red Hand of Doom or Night Below.
  • Restart Barbarians of Lemuria. The heroes look on while Parsool falls under the boot of the almond eyed Sorcerers… there’s loads I can do with this. There’s also a load of good stuff in Lemurian Legends I’d like to bring into my game.
  • Run Black Blade of the Demon King, probably using LotFP or possibly Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells which I think has the potential to become a go-to old school fantasy RPG
  • Do something with GDW Space 1889, I’m thinking of running it using Everywhen, the generic system based on Barbarians of Lemuria. It looks like a good match at the moment and I have a load of old modules I can put to good use.
  • Run some Dungeon Crawl Classics one shots, possibly set in Lankhmar if I pick up the boxed set
  • I’d love to run a hexcrawl, ideally Hot Springs Island, but I don’t know if I’ll have time for that.

Resolutions

I did struggle with some of my 2019 resolutions although I still think they were entirely reasonable, I just need to be more determined. I managed to focus on LotFP, Old School Essentials and Barbarians of Lemuria for the most part, although I also ran Mothership, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells and Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, not too bad really. I was also able to get my Kickstarter purchase impulse under control, only grabbing a couple of new systems in the early part of the year and a few adventures and other bits as the year went on. Lighter prep still eludes me, but I am working on it…

I guess the question is, what are the point of these resolutions – for me it’s about making the best use of the time I have. Too many games is a distraction, it’s easy to spend so much time reading new systems that you spend no time running them (or preparing to run them). So for 2020 my resolutions are:

  • Focus on these systems: Old School Essentials, LotFP, Barbarians of Lemuria, Everywhen, Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, Dungeon Crawl Classics. Everything else is just a distraction.
  • Continue to master Kickstarter, only supporting projects where:
    • They add content to games I already own, adventures, settings and so on
    • They are revisions of games I already own
  • Aim for lighter prep. Brief notes and lists will do for the main part
  • Get to grips with Fantasy Grounds Unity which should come out of beta soon. I’ve already started dabbling with it and I’m impressed, but there is still quite a steep learning curve. It will replace Roll20 as my VTT for games I run.
  • Manage social media better – spend less time on Twitter, more time doing useful stuff
  • Read more, particularly novels and comics

2019 Review

In preparation for this I was reading my review of 2018 – it showed a very busy game filled year. I’m pretty certain though that 2019 has been even busier, with more games, more cons, meeting more gamers, all great stuff. Once again Roll20 played a massive part in my gaming life, in fact apart from con games all others were on Roll20.

January

I’m not really sure where I found the time for all this, but I started 2019 with a number of ongoing campaigns, the longest running of which is Two Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu with @theGROGNARDfile as GM. It also has the longest surviving character I’ve ever played, my Scouse Greasemonkey Percy, who is just about keeping in the game, despite a slowly decreasing sanity. The campaign really is fantastic, a globe spanning adventure with lots of twists and turns; the Pulp is ever present, the game never really feels deadly like Call of Cthulhu and our characters are way tougher than regular investigators which for me that’s a big part of the appeal. This game is due to go on until mid 2020…

May 2018 saw a load of campaigns kick off that continued into 2019; @OrlanthR‘s Dredd: Death’s Dark Embrace and RuneQuest Glorantha and my Better Than Any Man campaign for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Dredd started with the Mongoose Traveller system, but after a whole evening on one minor combat @OrlanthR switched to his homebrewed Night’s Black Agents hack which worked incredibly well. This really nailed the feel of Judges fighting crime in Megacity One and @OrlanthR once again delivered in bucket loads with the gameplay – a series of clues and events leading us to an inevitable climax against the Dark Judges in Deadworld and Judge Kowalski bravely offering her life to save Megacity One. It was an emotional moment… and @OrlanthR followed it up with a printed book of our adventures based on his session reports with a gorgeous custom cover by @K_0.

@OrlanthR‘s RuneQuest Glorantha game was no less impressive, an intricate plot with many strands in a Glorantha expertly brought to life. While our characters were centre stage the world still felt very much alive, with events moving forward in the background. The first season ended with a cliffhanger in July, a full 14 months after starting, with an epic uprising scene against the traitor king Kangarl and his Lunar masters… and picked up again in November with our heroes striving to destroy Kangarl, but ultimately fleeing with our tail between our legs (apart from the diplomatic Randel who managed to keep in Kangarl’s favour). The adventure continues on into 2020 with us headed into the Upland Marsh to retrieve a legendary sword as part of an Orlanthi Marriage contest…

Since coming back to RPGs in 2015 I had wanted to run a campaign or at least a decent sized adventure, so when I got my mitts on Better Than Any Man for Lamentations of the Flame Princess I knew I had to run it. Having started in May 2018 a great deal of progress had been made so when we picked it up again in January the adventurers (I can’t call them heroes for that would imply a certain moral aspect that became less evident as the campaign progressed) were nearing their end goal… literally crawling through shit to get the job done. When the game came to a conclusion in February the characters had achieved many goals, killed many of the Seven and seen Karlstadt fall. It was truly grim and entirely appropriate.

Reaching that point was very satisfying – I can’t recommend Better Than Any Man highly enough, although it would not suit everyone’s tastes. But if you want something truly dark and gritty rooted in history it is well worth looking into. BTAM was the last adventure I produced session reports for – although I did enjoy writing them, it was a time consuming activity that took time away from actual game prep.

Towards the end of 2018 I had started thinking about Barbarians of Lemuria, an excellent, light, heroic Swords & Sorcery system that is very different to the OSR style games I usually run. I decided to start a short campaign using the one and two page adventures in the rulebook – it would be episodic with each adventure being more or less entirely isolated. However, after recruiting players and going through character generation there were quite a few nice background details (which came out of boons and flaws in game) which I decided to pull into the game. After the first session I had abandoned the episodic idea, and inspired by @OrlanthR‘s use of a Kanban Board to track his very open RuneQuest Glorantha campaign, I decided to try the same thing. I pulled loads of items together into a board and each session decided what to draw on – for a GM who likes to prep everything it was a unique experience for me. In the end I found a rhythm where I plan sessions using the Kanban Board, put together brief session notes and update the board afterwards. It worked really well from my point of view at least, bringing in elements from the characters backgrounds while moving towards a bigger goal which emerged from one of the adventure ideas in the rulebook. This campaign ran until September when we had a climactic battle on top of a sea drenched obelisk on a stormy night in the bay of the Port of the Sealords… I’m hoping to pick this up again early in 2020.

My Saturday evenings since August 2018 were often taken playing a Swords & Wizardry campaign set in the Lost Lands. This was with an established group who had been playing together for a couple of years, so initially it was a little strange as a newcomer. Generally the group were very welcoming, although I always had a feeling of being a guest rather than a resident… perhaps as much due to my missing sessions because of conventions and other weekend commitments as anything. I really did enjoy the game, Swords & Wizardry is an excellent OSR system – but ultimately the commitment was too much and I left the group in February. I’m sure they are still causing mischief in the Cyclopean Deeps.

Of the campaigns continued from 2018, last but by no means least is Pink Gin and Googlies by @DissectingWrlds using the Cthulhu Hack rules. Another globe trotting campaign with a Pulp feel, it follows the adventures of a female cricket club touring the world with unlikely but exciting and intriguing adventures happening along the way. These adventures range from investigating drug rings to weird science, parallel worlds, lost worlds and beyond. I am in awe of @DissectingWrlds imagination. I have missed a few sessions throughout the year though as it does clash with the monthly Two Headed Serpent game, however when I have been able to play it’s been great to see Mavis and the other girls take on the world! Can’t wait to see how this develops in 2020…

The other game that I played in January was The Eleven Lights for HeroQuest Glorantha run by @Corsair1973… we are still part way through that adventure, it would be great to pick it up again at some point.

February

With Better Than Any Man coming to an end @Lintillaz started running his Darker Than Duskwall campaign for Blades in the Dark. Having played it at the 24 Hour RPG event in 2018 I was keen to give it another go. It’s an interesting game with lots of little subsystems to give structure to gameplay in a way other RPGs traditionally haven’t, and of course it has the marvellous Flashbacks mechanic. I played Silverspoon, a young noble who was drawn to the criminal lifestyle – our group had some great adventures with all kinds of crazy stuff going on, from fighting ghosts to taking down powerful politicians and gang leaders. All amazing fun and expertly GM’d by @Lintillaz. The campaign ran across a few months, ending in September – I’d like to think our little gang left Duskwall in a better state than they found it, although I’m sure many folk wouldn’t agree.

I attended the first gaming event of the year this month, @goplaymanc, at @three_fan in Manchester. @goplaymanc is was a small, friendly event at my favourite game shop (although January 2020’s WinterCon promises to be a much bigger event) and I was lucky enough to get a slot on @NewtusBad King John adventure, written for one of his homebrew d100 systems – I really liked the game and am hoping @Newtus will publish it at some point.

March

The Convergence con really marks the start of the convention season for me. This was my third visit to the Stockport event run out of @ElementGames_, and was just as good if not better than the previous events. I ran a homebrew Barbarians of Lemuria adventure A Heart for Madness (a crappy name I know, coming up with adventure names is hard), which I also ran at Virtual Grogmeet, DevaCon and UK Games Expo (I like to get my money’s worth from all of that work). It was the first time I had ran the game, and while it did run over a bit timewise, it worked out better than I could have hoped and all of the players seemed to really enjoy the game – in fact, this was my experience each time I ran it. I may resurrect it for a 2020 con.

I played in @theGROGNARDfile‘s Savage Worlds/Strontium Dog mashup adventure Bring Akill-Eaze to Heel. Our mutant band of bounty hunters had to deal with the criminal Akill-Eaze, a straightforward job in many ways, but after we crash landed it was thinking on our feet. It was a great session delivered in @theGROGNARDfile‘s usual style, pulpy, fast moving with lots of space for characters to shine, and the Lego props really added to the flavour of the game. The last game of the con for me was The Abduction by @ConvergenceUK1 – I picked this because I hadn’t played WEG Star Wars for a long time and the session really delivered. So much so that I grabbed a copy of the Star Wars Redux rules not long afterwards.

Perhaps the highlight of March was The One Ring Roadtrip, where a few gaming mates and Tolkien fans got together to play The One Ring over a weekend. We hired out a cottage in Tolkien country and spent two days pretty much gaming, with good food and beer to keep us going. Our GM Graham is a Tolkien nut and that came across in the game, the adventure itself and the whole weekend was just fantastic. We’re planning on doing the same again in 2020.

April

Besides my regular ongoing games there were two gaming events that I enjoyed this month: Virtual Grogmeet and DevaCon. Virtual Grogmeet is organised by @theGROGNARDfile entirely over Roll20, it’s a great way to catch up with many of the Grogmeet gamers. DevaCon is held in a posh hotel in Chester, and despite being slightly disorganised is a small, friendly event – I’m pleased to see it is continuing in 2020, although it does clash with Virtual Grogmeet (I need to decide how to manage that, maybe Friday night Virtual Grogmeet and Saturday DevaCon).

Virtual Grogmeet games:

  • The Jewish Gene, Pendragon (GM: @Sam0Vail) – set in the 60’s with us as agents of Excalibur, this featured magic, a neat investigation and unsurprisingly nazi’s
  • Barbarians of Lemuria, A Heart for Madness (GM: me)

DevaCon games:

  • Barbarians of Lemuria, A Heart for Madness (GM: me)
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess, The Road to Hell (GM: me) – a cracking, rather dark adventure by @Newtus, I also ran this at UK Games Expo and it went down really well on both occasions.
  • Dragon Age (GM:?) – this was a last minute option, the game was ok, didn’t leave me with a good impression of the Age system though

@Corsair1973 was keen to run Traveller for me, @TonyLayter and another old gaming mate Dave, who joins us in online games from time to time, and having enjoyed playing Traveller with @Simplikissimus at BurritoCon2 in 2018 I was keen to try it again. I don’t know if this was a published adventure or a homebrew, but it was very good with us escaping from a crashed ship and trying to help out a remote research site. It had… dark moments. Really hoping to play this again in 2020.

May

This was a huge month in gaming with UK Games Expo, but the earlier part of the month I also played a neat Call of Cthulhu adventure, Buried Histories with GM @thegrampus. This was a truly horrific Cthulhu adventure, a homebrew no less and the second of @thegrampus‘ I have played – some GM’s just have a knack for running a particular type of game and Call of Cthulhu is his. I was also pleased to play in a trial adventure for Romance of the Perilous Land with author and GM @trollishdelver – this game was already in my shopping cart even though it wasn’t due to be released until December. It exceeded my expectations on all fronts; although a short session @trollishdelver delivered a pacey, flavourful, exciting adventure… I now have the game and can’t wait to run it myself.

UK Games Expo was a glorious event – 4 days of gaming with some top gaming people, eating and drinking, spending some cash on new games and just having an amazing time (plus I was able to watch Liverpool become Champions of Europe). There’s much more detail in my event report, but here are the games I played:

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Inn at Five Points (GM: @BrendanJLaSalle) – this was a pre-Expo meetup at Bean Gaming Cafe in Leicester that I was invited to by @M0RT75, a great way to start the weekend. @BrendanJLaSalle is the definitive DCC Judge, you should try to get on one of his games if you can..
  • Barbarians of Lemuria, A Heart for Madness (GM: me)
  • Terror in the Tempest Hills, Ironsworn (GM: @gspearing) – I read Ironsworn a while back, but was unable to get my head around it. I enjoyed it very much, but I’m certain it’s not a game I’d run.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics: Sailors on the Starless Sea (GM: @LeeJNeilson) – I’ve not played or run enough DCC, so I was made up to get to play with @LeeJNeilson, another great DCC Judge. I’ve heard this was a classic DCC adventure and it didn’t disappoint.
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess, The Road to Hell (GM: me)
  • Lyonesse, Coddefut’s Stipule (GM: @theGROGNARDfile) – running a beta version of the Lyonesse rules and the module, @theGROGNARDfile brought the strange setting alive with plenty of flavour and a nice system based on the Mythras rules. This was a great way to close the con.

June

BurritoCon was resurrected in June as BurritoCon3… it was all really a last minute affair so I was pleased to get 3 tables of great gamers together. I ran an old staple, For the Honour of the Tribe from Imagine Magazine Issue 2 using the Old School Essentials rules. I’d previously ran this adventure with The Heroes Journey and S&W Whitebox, but Old School Essentials felt like a much better fit. I was able to play in @whodo_voodoo‘s Project Cassandra adventure Ich bin ein Berliner – it’s a light, clever, narrative game based around a rather famous speech. Overall I was delighted with BurritoCon3, we had great GM’s and players in attendance, and before too long I was considering running the next BurritoCon.

The Burning Wheel is one of those games I’d heard about, it had a reputation for crunchiness that was beyond my comfort zone. @Corsair1973 offered to run it in the Harn setting which seemed a good match for the grittiness of the game. We played a great adventure set in the estate of a local lord who had long been absent; there was a nice investigation, we attempted to navigate the social hierarchy, absorb Harnic lore and flavour, explore a tomb and scrap it out in exciting combat scenes, overall an excellent few sessions. Another game I’d like to play again.

July

The summer months are typically quite with many folks on holiday, so it was great to see @TonyLayter step back into his GM shoes after many years of absence and run an introductory Delta Green adventure. He ran a great game with good pace, an intriguing investigation and an exciting ending… More please @TonyLayter.

August

Still a quiet month, but we were able to start one multi-session Star Wars D6 campaign with @OrlanthR at the helm, and I started Night’s Dark Terror, an old Basic/Expert D&D module using the Old School Essentials rules for two groups on alternating weeks. After playing Star Wars D6 at Convergence I was keen to try it again, playing a Brash Pilot for a second time – this game was a huge amount of fun, running on until November. It’d be great to get involved in a big Star Wars D6 campaign at some point.

I was lucky to get two groups for Night’s Dark Terror, both with great players. It’s an adventure I owned back in the day and tried to run it a couple of years back without success. This time I was determined to do it. Both groups of players have engaged with the old school sensibilities of the adventure, and so far I’ve been able to keep the actions of the two groups separate in my head. We’ve had some great sessions so far for both groups with some really memorable moments including a partial TPK. This game is going to continue well into 2020.

September

By now I was thinking very much about games for the Owlbear and Wizards Staff con and Grogmeet. I had been working for some time on an adventure using the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells system by @diogo_oldskull set in @Monk3yBlood‘s The Midderlands. I wanted an open adventure that would have different encounters each time it was played; it took me quite a while to reach an outcome I was pleased with; a reverse heist where the party have to escape with The Mad Queen’s Jewels. I did a trial run over Roll20 in advance of Owlbear and Wizards Staff, and after a few tweaks ran it at the con where it went down really well – I was very pleased with the result. I also played in @M0RT75‘s DCC Lankhmar game – Acting up in Lankhmar. @M0RT75 is a another great DCC Judge and ran an excellent set piece game based around a theatre; the whole thing dripped Lankhmar atmosphere.

Overall the Owlbear and Wizards Staff weekend was brilliant, small enough that you know many of the gamers there, big enough that there are loads of great games to play and people to socialise with.

Another highlight in September was the 24 hour RPG event held in Southport. The last couple of years it has been held in November, so initially I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it, but I was lucky to grab a late space on @theGROGNARDfile‘s Legend of the Five Rings game. A 12 hour extravaganza in the Scarisbrick Hotel, we played through the Masks of Oni adventure. It really was a session that had everything – exciting combats, puzzling investigations, characters with breadth and depth, an interesting modern system, and a competition (in game with real world outcomes – @sjamb7 won a set of dice!). The nice thing about this type of event is that it goes beyond the gaming and gives a good opportunity to catch up over food and a brew.

Master of the Mythras system @Corsair1973 started a multi-session Luther Arkwright adventure as well, with our mixed bag of Zero Zero agents working to undermine the scheming Disruptors, curse them! We’re near the end of the current adventure which is excellent, a social intrigue/investigation adventure with a fair share of danger and weirdness, I’ve really been enjoying this game.

October

I’d taken a different approach to BurritoCon4; rather than the ‘pick a table on the day’ game selection of previous BurritoCons I used Warhorn to manage game sign ups. It was an interesting experience that certainly gives more control and insight around sign ups, but it also felt a little more stressful. For a larger events though I think advanced sign ups are very useful – I’ll use Warhorn for future events. This time around we had five tables booked, although we only used four on the day – again I was delighted by the interest and commitment shown by gamers to get stuck in and give a little event like this a go. As before @three_fan were amazing, making it easy to book the event and manage payments. Games wise I ran the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells adventure I’d used at Grogmeet17, Who Watches the Watchfires, a Fantasy Age adventure I had converted over. It’s a tidy little adventure, pretty much a skirmish, but lots of opportunities for heroic action – although an OSR system SS&SS characters are a bit tougher than traditional OSR level 1’s. I also played Goblin Quest, a perfect one shot game GM’d by Joy – it was a huge amount of fun that I’d recommend trying if you get the chance. We ended the day with a few beers in @theGROGNARDfile‘s favourite pub.

The other notable game played in October is Heart, the sequel to Spire, which was in beta at the time. It took us a while to get our heads around how it worked, but once @OrlanthR guided us into the rhythm of the game it was flying and turned out to be an excellent narrative style dungeon delve with the characters and their reality getting more and more fragile the deeper they delved. I don’t think it’s a game I’d ever run, but would happily play it again, feels like there’s still a good deal more to explore.

November

Grogmeet was the focus of November. There was a big build up to the event, both in practical terms of game prep and just excitement levels. Much of my preparation over the preceding weeks had been focussed on the few days in early November when grognards from across the world (or europe at least) gather in Manchester for this ultimate RPG event.

At Grogmeet17 I’d organised a multi-table, multi-system bar-room brawl/dungeon crawl along with @theGROGNARDfile which was a lot of fun, but a bit chaotic. This year I’d suggested running a multi-table Mothership game, and so we recruited @OrlanthR, @Lintillaz, @Sam0Vail and @doc_griffiths as our crack team of GM’s to put together an adventure that would work across five tables. The adventure was written, we’d had a couple of trial runs, the second more successful than the first, and we were as ready as we were going to be. On the Friday afternoon of Grogmeet Eve we ran the game which seemed to go down very well with many unpleasant character deaths, betrayals and sanity lost, and got Grogmeet off to a flying start.

Across the weekend I also played:

  • Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells: Escape from Skull Prison by @diogo_oldskull (GM: me). I was lucky enough to squeeze a trial session of this in beforehand and the game went very well with just a few timing tweaks. I really enjoyed running it on Grogmeet Eve with the SB&CS system proving fast and light and the players getting into their roles of escaping convicts.
  • Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: The Mad Queen’s Jewels, A Midderland Adventure (GME: me). Having already ran it at Owlbear and Wizards Staff in September I had quite a bit of confidence in this scenario and it delivered again – I’m going to get this to the table again in 2020.
  • Middle Earth Roleplaying: The Dawnless Day (GM: @OrlanthR). Having ran and played MERP back in the 80’s I was keen to try it again, see how it has aged. @OrlanthR ran a great game, dealing with much of the complexity of the system. The adventure itself perfectly captured the desperation of a group of Gondorian rangers on the Pelennor field and had an exciting climax.

The Sunday morning of Grogmeet was an interview in @three_fan with @PaulFricker, it was a nice way to wind down. @Newtus had arranged a @goplaymanc to coincide with Grogmeet, and I joined @sjamb7‘s Troika adventure The Cage of Sermit. I played a Burglar and was the least strange of the characters, but the adventure was top notch with us setting off to free an imprisoned mage.

November also gave me an opportunity to join @mcookie123‘s Fall of Delta Green game. Coming in halfway through an adventure can sometimes feel a bit weird, there are lots of details to catch up on, but @mcookie123 had written fantastic session reports in the form of a typed up interview, great stuff. The adventure, which we have yet to complete, is set in 1960’s Alabama with all the issues that entails – it’s rich, incredibly detailed and immensely engaging, which makes it all the more shocking when weird stuff happens.

December

Like those summer months when people are away, there’s a winding down in the lead up to Christmas. However, it has presented an opportunity for a couple of little one shots and an extra session here and there… in addition to continuing Luther Arkwright over the break, I’ve also played in @BudsRPGreview Delta Green adventure, Operation Black Thumb; this was another excellent mystery with some clever tweaks and surprises. It was good to play Swords & Wizardy Complete again, this time with @OrlanthR who has a plan to work through a load of old White Dwarf D&D adventures. This was proper old school, the type of game I really love, again hoping to play this more in 2020.

The Gamers

All of this gaming is well and good and thoroughly enjoyed, but I have to say the thing that has made this year such a fabulous one in gaming is the people I have gamed with, both as GM and player. Really, just such amazing people, so thank you all for getting involved and letting me play in your games.

Now, here’s to 2020!

UK Games Expo 2019

A week after the event I write this with tears in my eye, tears of joy for Expo was truly awesome, and a tear of sadness now that it is over. Friends, games, food, beer and a single game of footy made it a weekend of epic proportions. Just how did it go down?

Thursday 30 May

Invited to Bean Gaming in Leicester by @M0RT75 for a Dungeon Crawl Classics session with DCC master Judge @BrendanJLaSalle, I was very much looking forward to this. The spiritual if not actual start to my Expo weekend, plus it would be much quicker to get to the NEC the next morning compared to driving direct from Liverpool.

It’s the second game I’ve played with @BrendanJLaSalle and as expected he delivered in bucket loads. His boundless energy is infectious and draws you into the colourful scenarios he creates; even with a table of 8 players he keeps things moving and the adventure keeps flowing. On this occasion we were playing The Inn of Five Points, one of Brendan’s published adventures – without giving spoilers we fought foul beasts, took a wild ride and battered a big bad, all living to tell the tale. Gordo Ironarm will fight again!

Friday 31 May

A very early start saw me on the way to Expo. The prepayment for parking meant I didn’t need to queue and before too long I’d met up with gaming chums @OrlanthR and @Lintillaz. We visited the trade hall with our own individual quests; what games would we buy, what surprises lay in store. Maybe it’s because I’m an old hand (my 3rd Expo) I wasn’t too overawed by the scale of the thing and was able to focus on the stalls I wanted to visit. The highlights for me were F-Side Games (the best little game store in town), Soul Muppet, Mottokrosh Machinations, LotFP, Melsonian Arts Council, but there were many other worthies including All Rolled Up/Just Crunch and Squarehex. I love these smaller publishers and the materials they produce.

After a locating my hotel and dumping my goodies I returned to the Hilton for some RPG goodness. I was running my tried and tested Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness; as expected the players were great and really got stuck into the Swords and Sorcery vibe of the game – cutting down swathes of rabble to take on the evil villain and his band they were victorious. It was the fourth time I’ve ran the adventure and it always seems to go down well… keeping it simple really seems the way to go for con adventures.

Despite trying to move things along I ran over slightly (I always struggle for time, something I’m working on) and so only had a little time to grab a bite to eat and catch up with a few Grognards before heading off to my evening game, Ironsworn with GM Graham S. This is a narrative game inspired by PbtA, not the kind of thing I’d usually go far – I couldn’t get my head around Dungeon World, so I hoped this might make this type of gameplay clearer. Plus the setting sounded fantastic.

Graham ran a cracking game and the other players threw themselves into the setting. There are some interesting mechanics that dictate the flow of the game such as journeying; there was an endpoint we had to reach, and based on rolls of our guide degrees of progress were marked on the journey track each day, with various encounters also stemming from the rolls. When combat breaks out there are no rounds as such, just a narrative flow; if a character can trigger a Take the Initiative move in response to an enemy attack they get to act. Then you can Enter the Fray to join the fight and so on. I think a good grasp of the mechanics would be useful for players (a couple were already familiar with it), but overall it made sense.

The adventure itself was very good, our band of Ironsworn had made an Iron oath to help out another village many days travel away. The land was mystical and dangerous, our characters primitive and superstitious, decisions had an impact. We were victorious, although as with all great stories the nature of our victory was somewhat ambiguous, we knew this was likely not the end of this tale. Unfortunately as the evening wore on I was becoming increasingly tired and I don’t believe I gave the game my best (apologies to Graham for that, he was a top GM); maybe I will avoid any evening games next time and just head to the bar.

Saturday 1 June

An early start to the day saw me at the table of another great DCC Judge, @LeeJNeilson  to play the classic Sailors on a Starless Sea. It’s an adventure I’ve heard great things about and wanted to GM myself; however before reading it I wanted to play it through. Once more a group of peasants roped in to carry out an impossible quest, we took on monstrous challenges and as we progressed our trusty band of heroes lost comrades, one by one meeting a grizzly death. The death stamp is so much fun! Another bonus was catching up with an old work colleague I’ve not seen or heard from in over 10 years, he was playing in Lee’s game. Unfortunately I didn’t get his contact details as I had to leave the game before it finished… maybe I’ll bump into him next year.

With another trawl around the trade hall I picked up a gifted copy of Best Left Buried Deluxe (for my editing contributions), Mothership and Winter’s Daughter. Then it was off to the afternoon game.

According to Expo I had six players signed up for The Road to Hell by D101 Games which I was running with Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules, however only four players turned up – something I’ve not experienced before at Expo. I had clearly flagged the game as 18+ as there was some dark and twisted content in it, and in the lead up to the session I had the controversial incident of the previous day at the back of my mind… I hoped nobody would be offended by the game. As it turned out I had a great group with @carlclare who I have gamed with for a while now and three Scottish chaps; John, William and Alex. Investigating the mysterious goings on at the Inn of the Cock in a weird and mystical Elizabethan England, they really threw themselves into it, it was a great session that left me exhausted and elated.

I had kept the evening clear to catch up with gaming friends in the Hilton bar, and as it turned out there was also the Champions League final and we know how that turned out. All in it was a fantastic day.

Sunday 2 June

My final game of the con was a Lyonesse adventure called Coddifoot’s Stipule, GMd by top Grognard, @theGROGNARDfile. The Lyonesse RPG isn’t due out for a little while yet, but the Design Mechanism sent a copy of the rules to @theGROGNARDfile and put together the adventure for the event. What an honour! Not wanting to give any spoilers I’ll just say that the adventure captured the feel of Lyonesse as I understand it from my recent reading, full of charm (and food) and no small measure of humour (and food), wrapped up in an easy to understand d100 system (with food), and pleasingly served up in tasty portions of adventurous fun by our masterchef GM.

A bit of lunch and a final potter around the trade hall with @theGROGNARDfile, @sjamb7, @DailyDwarf and @OrlanthR saw the day out. A little sad that it was over, yet still buzzing from the event I headed back home, although sadly not in time to catch LFC’s parade through the city.

And finally…

To sum up, I had a great time, everyone I talked to was having a great time. We talked, we gamed, we spent money, we ate, we gamed! Catching up with the folks I game with online and chat with on Twitter was a huge pleasure and a great part of the overall experience; these games would be nothing without great people to play with. Saturday night in the Hilton bar was amazing for so many reasons…

So my mind turns to future cons. There’s BurritoCon3 in Manchester, 27 July, Owlbear and Wizards Staff in Leamington Spa, 21 September and Grogmeet in Manchester 8-10 November, with a few Go Play Manchester‘s thrown in between that lot. Hope to see you at one…

Hold my hands up to this one – I’m pretty rubbish at taking photos at events, so while some of these photos are mine I’ve nicked others off Twitter and MeWe…

A Heart for Madness

I’m running a Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness, at UK Games Expo. The characters start the adventure in the employ of the merchant Rustus in the old trading city of Oomis, acting as guards for him and his family.

The heroes are a hard as nails ragtag band of adventurers. Like all such heroes they have blown the fortune from their last adventure on carousing, and now find themselves in gainful employment. They are:

Barbarians of Lemuria is a classless system, in addition to their attributes and combat abilities characters are defined by careers. The titles above are there just to give an indication of the careers the characters have and perhaps their archetype when I created them.

Barbarians of Lemuria is a simple system, the key elements are:

  • Roll 2d6 + attribute + career (if any) vs target of 9 to succeed
  • Roll 2d6 + attribute + melee/ranged – targets defence vs target of 9 to hit
  • Every roll is against a target of 9
  • Bonus die; roll 3d6 rather than 2d6 and drop lowest
  • Penalty die; roll 3d6 rather than 2d6 and drop highest
  • Boons give good stuff and often a bonus die on certain actions
  • Flaws are bad stuff and often give a penalty die
  • Heroes start each session with 5 hero points, these can be spent on cool things in the game

That’s about all you need to know to get started, the rest is so easy to pick up in play. Can’t wait to run this!

DevaCon 3

Now in its third year, DevaCon is the same small friendly con with a big heart held in the super posh Crowne Plaza in Chester. Stephanie McAlea has done a great job pulling the event together with everything you need for a full day of gaming in one place (ok, food and drink can be a bit pricey being in a big hotel), and everyone there out to have a good day.

In my mind the fun starts when I leave the house, giving a lift to gaming pals Tony, Andrew, Dave and Cliffy. The gaming banter starts way before we get to the venue. We arrived in plenty of time which gave me an opportunity to catch up with some other great gaming mates I’ve got to know in recent times and get to meet some new faces. Unfortunately the start of the event was held up slightly due to a technical issue, but we were soon underway not long after the official 10.30 start time.

This year I had offered two adventures; The Road to Hell by D101 Games, a nice adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Swords & Wizardry Complete (I picked the LotFP version), and my homebrew Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness (yeah, stupid name I know, but you have to call it something). I have already ran the BoL adventure twice before at cons and so while I knew it was a good adventure, I was worried about the timing; it took 4.5 hours at Convergence and 5 hours at Virtual Grogmeet – could I fit it in to a 3.5 hour slot? I had the same concern and a few others with The Road to Hell

Slot 1: The Road to Hell is a fairly lengthy adventure with 4 main acts; while I’d like to go into considerable detail here I don’t want to drop any spoilers. I’m hoping to run the whole thing at some point, but for this 3.5 hour con I knew I’d have to strip it right back; Newt Newport the author had sent me some advice on doing this and so I came to the day well prepared but still not sure of a couple of bits and pieces (I have read the adventure a few times including proofreading for Newt, so I knew it pretty well). I was pleased to have a full table, so characters selected we were soon underway. I could tell the players were experienced and they quickly engaged with the adventure, but I had to work hard to hold their attention, at least for the first half of the session. As things moved forwards they became much more involved in the tale and we ended with a fun and interesting ending. The big takeaway for me for this adventure is that the ‘happy path’ for the players needs to be more clearly sign posted, I have an idea about this for Expo.

Dr Dee’s employees. Yet to travel The Road to Hell

Slot 2: Signups for the afternoon session where a little all over the place. By the time I’d packed my GM stuff away and grabbed a bite to eat most of the afternoon tables were booked (some of them had been filled up before the first slot!) This bit of the con could definitely use some improvement – signups on the day is fine, but it has to be well coordinated so everyone has a decent chance at a game they wanted to play. As it turned out I was happy with the table I ended up on; there was a final slot left for Dragon Age. I’ve played and enjoyed all of the Dragon Age video games so had a passing knowledge of the setting; I was particularly interested in the Age system it uses. I’ve often considered grabbing Fantasy Age, so I was looking forward to getting a taste of it.

The session had been put on as a last minute filler and the GM by his own admission was running an adventure that he last ran/read four or five years ago. I don’t know how he managed it, but he ran the whole adventure from a PDF on his smartphone! The adventure saw us investigating a farm, finding the residents slaughtered and a wounded Dalish Elf the only apparent survivor. We followed the trail of the perpetrator, another Elf who had been corrupted by a demon from the Fade, finally confronting him in a nearby town. It was a nice adventure, but I wasn’t impressed by the system – it felt a little flat to me. Perhaps that’s due to the nature of a one shot; it could be a system that requires more time to get the best out of.

Slot 3: Now more than a little tired I set up the table for my Barbarians of Lemuria game. Like the previous times I’ve ran it we all had a lot of fun. I was much happier with the timing – it took 3hrs 45 mins, so that should be perfect for the 4 hour slots of UK Games Expo. One big take away from this is not to GM for the last slot of an all day con with a bar; I like to keep a clear head when GMing so tend to avoid booze, but fully endorse players enjoying themselves with a drink or two. There are limits though…

Barbarians! Run Away!

A cracking day all in; it’s set me up perfectly for UK Games Expo as I’ve now had a run out of the adventures I’ll be GMing there. Bring on DevaCon 4!

Virtual Grogmeet 19

After only running a single game VG18 I’d decided to step up this year – still running one game, but joining in some others. My initial plan for Virtual Grogmeet was:

Friday evening play in @Sam0Vail’s Pendragon adventure, The Jewish Gene, set in 1963 and using Sam’s homebrew rules.

Saturday morning I was running a Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness which is super tropey, but a lot of fun.

Saturday afternoon I had signed up for The Strigoi Taint, a Savage Worlds adventure written by @DailyDwarf set in the 2000AD Rogue Trooper universe where we would play a team of Nort commandos (the original baddies in the early comic strips). However this was postponed, so while gutted not to be playing it Virtual Grogmeet weekend, it is something to look forward to in the future.

I signed up late to @doc_griffiths‘s Something from Down There, a Down Darker Trails adventure for 7th Ed Call of Cthulhu, but unfortunately I had to cancel.

I had great fun with the two games I did get to play.

Sam’s game was set in 1963 where a hidden Arthurian world coexists with our own; fae, magic, sorcerers and of course vile nazi’s are day to day for agents of Excalibur (myself, @kitch66uk and @awdscrawl), charged with defending the realm from magical and occult threats. The game was pacey with twists and turns full of interesting (and some very odd) characters… I don’t know when Sam is running this next but I would advise playing it if you get a chance.

When I ran my BoL homebrew adventure ‘A Heart for Madness’ at Convergence earlier this year I exceeded the 4 hour time slot by half an hour. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit it into the 3.5 hour slot that Virtual Grogmeet gives; I have a bit of a habit of taking too long at cons and it seemed likely I wasn’t going to fit it into the 3.5 hours this time either….

With 5 great players (@dracowie, @HobbsTheGamer, Ian E, @jaje7406 and @LaticsExile) who really engaged with the adventure it was easy to see that the time would be eaten up, luckily they were all available to extend the session by a further hour and a half. Just like at Convergence I had a cracking time running this game, and it was great to see the heroes prevail in true Swords & Sorcery fashion.

A huge thanks to @theGROGNARDfile for organising Virtual Grogmeet and to all the folks I played with over the weekend. Roll on Grogmeet 2019!

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.