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!

Owlbear and Wizards Staff 2019

I measure my progress through the year with family birthdays and gaming events… Convergence marks the start of the con season in early March, then DevaCon in April, UK Games Expo in May and BurritoCon3 in July, then it’s the inevitable slow down over summer with folks on holiday and fewer game opportunities. Owlbear and Wizards Staff (OBaWS) fires off the second part of the con season, followed by BurritoCon4 in October and Grogmeet in November. It was with great excitement I looked forward to OBaWS, held in leafy Royal Leamington Spa.

This year I decided to make a full weekend of it and stopped in a nice B&B with fellow gamers Julian & Sue, Lee and Graham. It was great to have some gaming chat over breakfast! Everything needed for the weekend was within easy walking distance – pubs and the venue.

The Friday evening was a nice social event, catching up with old friends and making new ones over beer and a fantastic curry with more booze and food on the Saturday evening after the main event. Of course gaming is the main focus of these cons, but socialising is a big part of it as well.

Julian, Sue and Paul too, Blythy Dirk and James

OBaWS is held in The Band Factory, a nice sized venue with 13 tables and loads of great games on offer. Matt the organiser did an amazing job of putting the whole thing together with Samosas for lunch, and drinks and biscuits available throughout the day – the kitchen was the main meeting place, it was great to catch up with the many gamers I’ve come to know over the last couple of years. GM’s received nice goody bags with some OBaWS dice and a nice OBaWS dice tray, a lovely touch.

The main game room with additional tables in the kitchen and upstairs – a properly busy con

Session 1: The Mad Queen’s Jewels (Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells)

I really didn’t get this adventure into a workable state until a couple of weeks before OBaWS; I couldn’t decide on which system to use and the overall idea for the session kept changing, but I nailed the adventure and went with Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells in place of my initial choice LotFP. Great players really made this game for me – Bruce, Erin, Mark, Phil, Tom and Turan really invested themselves in the game and SS&SS proved to be a great system, I’ll definitely be running it more often.

Heroes of Obediah Cromwell’s rebellion (left to right): Phil, Erin, Tom, Turan, Mark and Bruce

Unlike other con games I’ve ran recently this adventure was very much theatre of the mind with a few hand drawn maps, but no cardboard miniatures or detailed maps. This suited the nature of the adventure which was very open – rather than plan and execute a heist as I had originally planned, we had a “you’ve got the jewels, now you’ve got to escape” situation; there’s a load of content that wasn’t explored which I expected – the hope is I can run this adventure with multiple groups and each time they will have a completely different adventure. The finale to the adventure ended far better than I could have anticipated!

Notice the Judge Death pterodactyl head on the desk – a gift from the very talented Kaye Elling, was well pleased with that!

Session 2: Acting Up in Lankhmar (Dungeon Crawl Classics)

I’ve only played DCC with the GM Bruce Cunnington once before – it was at my first Expo back in 2017 (hard to believe Bruce!), and so I was desperate to play in one of his games again. I love Lankhmar and had heard great things about Goodman Games’ version, so I was made up to get a place in this game. Without giving spoilers, this was an adventure that oozed Lankhmar, in fact it highlighted to me why DCC and Lankhmar are such a great match – weirdness, larger than life characters, fast pace and a great sense of adventure left me wanting more. All of the players threw themselves into the game, with crazy schemes, and subtle and not so subtle machinations winning the day – in particular the way magic works in DCC and how it was used by the Wizards in the party really changed the game. Can’t wait to play it some more!

Theatres can be such dangerous places in Lankhmar…
But we survived… the iconic DCC players and GM photo

Even after the games we finished there were so many people to hang around with, so many folk to catch up with and chat to – it was great! After quickly dumping my stuff of at the hotel it was off to the Royal Pug for a night of booze and food with gaming pals old and new. Brilliant stuff.

This is a con with a big heart run by a well organised, generous and very hospitable host and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m already thinking about con games for 2020 and what I might run at the next OBaWS…

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…

2019 The Big Plan

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

Conventions

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

Games

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

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

Resolutions

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

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

2018 Review

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

January

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

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

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

February

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

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

battle_of_agincourt_by_wraithdt-d948orf

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.

better-than-any-man-cover

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.

BurritoCon2 over and out

Manchester gave us great weather and a fantastic venue for the nano-RPG Con with the food inspired name, just as perfectly formed and tasty as it’s namesake: BurritoCon!

BurritoCon

This is the second time we’ve run the event (I feebly scrawled about the first one) and after filling two tables with great gamers first time we wondered – could we fill three tables?  The three table plan was ambitious, perhaps too ambitious (OK definitely too ambitious) but we did have two tables of fantastic players and GM’s. We planned for more time which I thought really helped, two 4 hours sessions with an hour for lunch.

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The day panned out like this:

Morning session 10am-2pm

The table of terror hosted The Cthulhu Hack, expertly GM’d by the author himself @boreders . I’ve played in one of Paul’s games before and he does a great job conveying a growing atmosphere of terror and futility, perfect horror stuff. By all accounts this was a great game, enjoyed by all the players.

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Those smiles mask the real terror in their souls…

I’ve not played Traveller for decades and so was excited to grab a place at  table. This was a dark future with strong hints of Alien and Bladerunner, a grim future with a dark universe. Tim ran a great game putting together an intriguing mystery and with some dark twists and turns. I was impressed by the Traveller system, it was very tidy and played really well at the table.

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Love those 15mm Traveller mini’s, beautifully painted

Afternoon session 3pm-7pm

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I don’t have a photo of the group, so this will have to do. We met one of these things… 

By pure coincidence the afternoon session had a post apocalyptic theme, with  running Rifts, a weird science fantasy game from the 80’s and  running Umerican Survival Guide, more or less Gonzo Mad Max on a Dungeon Crawl Classics chassis.

I’ve heard Rifts described as clunky, but I thought it played really well – I know Kris had simplified things for us. It was a classic rescue mission with some nice set pieces and inter-dimensional beings. Great stuff!

The players in USG were full of enthusiasm telling me how they completed the adventure by nuking themselves (accidentally as it turned out). There aren’t many games that can provide such a memorable and epic TPK; I’d hope to play some USG in the future, will just be sure to avoid any big red buttons!

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Only these guys and Trump could be so pleased with having hit that big red button…

Star of the Day

Inga was kind enough to grace us with her presence; she charmed both gamers, staff and passersby.

 

There will be more BurritoCon’s next year, you never know we may get to three tables!

Thanks to everyone who turned up and joined in and to the GM’s Bruce, Kris, Paul and Tim.  Finally a big thanks to the staff at Fanboy 3, they have created a great gaming space and are very welcoming. Look forward to my next visit there (Grogmeet in a couple of weeks!)