Virtual Grogmeet 2020

It was no surprise to see Virtual Grogmeet at it’s biggest and best yet this year, in part due to the cancellation of quite a few ‘before coronavirus’ cons, but mostly due to the great organisation of the hosts Dirk and Blythy and the great gamers who have come together to make this happen.

Initially I had planned to run a game on the Friday night as I had expected to attend DevaCon on the Saturday (a small, friendly con held in Chester that I’ve attended for the last couple of years that doesn’t usually clash with VGm), but with that event postponed until later in the year I put forward another game to run and signed up to play in a couple of other games. My VGm weekend went down like this:

Friday 17th Evening

Wanting to run a game that was low prep I had selected The Mad Queen’s Jewels which I’ve run a few times before, a homebrew set in The Midderlands using the Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells system. I’d written the adventure to be very open, starting with the PC’s on the verge of snaffling the jewels and having to escape through Leaningtown, home of the infamous spa, then having a set ending. In theory the journey could have been different every time, but each party selected the same route, so maybe I need to think about how I’m presenting those initial options…

I had a great group of players, many of whom I’ve gamed with before so I knew it’d be a good session, and they didn’t let me down bringing the enthusiasm, creativity and humour I’ve seen so often in recent times, making each game a treat to run. The Midderlands setting is fantastic, I really need to set more games there.

Queen Elspeth IV of the Havenlands, also known as the Mad Queen… for reasons

Saturday 18th Morning

Dungeon Crawl Classics has always been a treat to run, with level 0 funnels being a great fit for one shots and players seem to love it, so it was easy choice to put this forward for VGm. The adventure I picked was Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign, a highly flavourful adventure where the PCs are press ganged into service in the Earl of Nanch’s army and form a search party going into the mysterious fey realm of Greenwood. It’s railroady which is fine for a one shot and the players seemed to really enjoy it with quite a few of their hearty peasants surviving. Having ran the same adventure the previous week at Virtual Go Play Manchester it was interesting to compare how the two groups of players tackled the challenges presented. I’m a big fan or running the same adventure multiple times: you get twice the value out of the preparation put in and the experience is always enjoyably different with a fresh group of players.

The charming Sergeant Petrub and some weird encounters

Saturday 18th Afternoon

I played in Griff’s Five Torches Deep game Once More Unto The Grindcore. I’ve read FTD a couple of times, even contributing to proof reading on it, but I’d forgotten most of the system. It’s a credit to the game and Griff’s GM style that we’d all picked it up in no time at all. As we’ve come to expect from Griff the setting was bursting with character, set in a fantasy France where the nobility had shutdown the Grindcore (a monster generator buried deep underground) and fell on us to restore the nation… I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers, but it goes without saying it was an excellent adventure. I’d really like to play FTD more now as well (too many games!)

A proper old school encounter with swarms of toads and giant frog demons

And that was my VGm, the weekend rounded out with Dirk interviewing Pookie online and a session of a regular game of Luther Arkwright the Sunday evening. Posts to Twitter showed others having great games across the weekend, the events going on into the Sunday night. I’d say VGm was a huge success, a massive thanks must go out to Dirk and Blythy and for all the great GM’s and players who took part.

Convergence 2020

Ok, so I’m a bit late putting this out, but it’s been one of those weeks.

The weekend of 6-8 March saw the 4th outing of Convergence in Stockport and my 4th visit. As in previous years I only attended the Saturday, but I know many enjoy the full weekend experience. It’s a great con in the excellent Element Games which has a huge gaming space for all kinds of fun, covering wargames, X-Wing and RPG’s. This year the organiser Kris pulled it out of the bag; I know from speaking to him about it that it was a real challenge to pull together on his own, but it seemed to me to be busier than ever, so huge kudos and thanks to Kris for running it. The great news is that there will be a Convergence in 2021 and I’ve already seen loads of RPG folk on Twitter getting excited about attending.

I love an early start to a day of gaming, so with an hour or so drive from Crosby I arrived at Element Games just after 9. Enough time to meet and greet and grab a coffee before setting up my game for a 9.30 start. Convergence offers generous 4 hour slots which I really prefer (although my own BurritoCon only has 3 hour slots) – it gives a bit more breathing room and if the game finishes early it’s just more time to chat.

The busy RPG tables – @Simplikissimus demonstrating aerobics in his Traveller game, me standing as is my habit when GMing and @squadronuk recreating Blake’s 7 with his Code of the Spacelanes system

Since first grabbing Winter’s Daughter for Old School Essentials I’ve really wanted to run it. It’s an excellent adventure set in the enchanted forest setting of Dolmenwood. Tagged as a romantic fairytale dungeon adventure it’s not my usual fare, but it had a real charm and some elegant touches. Certainly it doesn’t follow the pattern of standard dungeon adventures. I had a great group of players, all of whom I have gamed with previously, and they all dived into the setting and played the odd assortment of characters in the true spirit of the game.

After a delicious chippy lunch and a quick catch up with @DissectingWrlds who I’d not seen for a while, but had brought his lad along for a quick tour of a gaming con, it was on with setting up my second game. A session of the new Fria Ligan Aliens game had been planned for the afternoon slot, but the GM was unable to attend at short notice – Kris had asked me if I could put something together a few days earlier, so I grabbed an old favourite, For the Honour of the Tribe. This adventure is from Imagine magazine issue 2 and was devised to demonstrate the abilities of the new Barbarian class for AD&D, also detailed in that issue. I’ve previously ran it with The Hero’s Journey and Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, but having reworked it for Old School Essentials for BurritoCon3 last year, I decided to use that. It’s a cracking adventure, highly action oriented but perfect for a one shot. Each time I’ve ran it the mortality rate has been quite high, and this time was no exception, with just one character surviving and saving the day. As in the previous session the players were spot on, embodying the barbarian spirit required for this adventure – thanks @Dragongirl74, Simplikissimus, Paul and Tom.

I had planned on staying for an evening game of Call of Cthulhu with @CyaeghaUK as GM. I’d heard great things about @CyaeghaUK‘s games from Convergence last year so wanted to get a game in with him. However, I was pretty knackered from the previous week and after running two games was starting to feel it even more so. I ducked out of the game and my slot was taken by another player. A couple of days later I asked some of my Night’s Dark Terror players who’d played in @CyaeghaUK‘s game how it went – it sounded brilliant and I was sorry to have missed it. But as Logen Ninefingers is wont to say, you have to be realistic about these things.

With cons being cancelled left, right and centre due to coronavirus I was pleased to get this face to face gaming in. As much as Roll20 allows me to play regularly, there really is nothing like getting together in person to go on an adventure. While it’s a good 12 months until the next Convergence, I’m already looking forward to it; if you can get yourself to Stockport I’d highly recommend it, for the weekend or just a day.

BurritoCon5 is a thing

It’s becoming a bit of a thing now. BurritoCon is in its third year, bringing together brilliant RPG players with amazing RPG GMs for fantastic RPG games! And potentially Burritos.

I’ve booked a load of tables at Fanboy Three for Saturday 1st August. The event will run from 10am to 6pm, with game slots of 10.30-1.30 and 2.30-5.30.

Although it’s very early days some of the GMs have said they will run games like DCC Lankhmar, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Down Darker Trails. I’m sure there will be loads more good stuff on offer on the day.

If you’re interested in coming along message me on my Twitter account @OldScouserRPing, either DM or just tag me in a post.

Grogten 2020

Grognards in Tenby = Grogten. Not just ten Grognards hanging out somewhere; there were actually eight of us there, top gamers and good mates. The idea came together last year, I think inspired by The One Ring Roadtrip. I must have been raving on about it to my Barbarians of Lemuria group when @davepaters suggested we do a similar thing at his place in Tenby… lovely. Plans were made, ideas formed, permission sought. Slowly it came together.

Unlike The One Ring Roadtrip with it’s single adventure over a weekend, this time we would have different games of 3-4 hours each, and because I was the regular Barbarians of Lemuria GM, I would get to sit back and play in them all. Post Grogmeet we started to firm up plans, making travel arrangements and deciding on games.

An early start on the morning of 24 January saw me leaving the leafy suburbs of Crosby and heading in a more or less direct line across Wales to Tenby. The journey was a little fraught with the main road completely closed due to a house collapsing and Google Maps having no idea how to get around it, although there was some stunning scenery. Arriving a little later than anticipated and giddy with excitement, it was great to catch up with the others: @MozleyJim, @jaje7406, @KiernanEd, @Sam0Vail, @davepaters, @OrlanthR and @carlclare. @jaje7406 had prepared a fantastic South African lunch of Boerewors which we all hungrily scoffed before getting stuck into the first game of the event.

Game 1: Star Frontiers: Aramax One (GM: @davepaters)

Despite it being a regular game back at the old Rice Lane Game Club in Liverpool I never did get the play Star Frontiers, so was incredibly excited to give this a go. As the opening game, @davepaters had bravely decided to run with 7 players using an old Imagine magazine adventure. With most game events there isn’t enough time to create your own characters, but with the luxury of a whole weekend we did just that, the old fashioned way, with lots of randomly generated stuff. My character was Chee-tar, a techie Yazirian with a penchant for hacking robots and blowing stuff up. Our band was hired by a mysterious agent to blow up a data storage facility outside of town; as it was our only route of the stinking planet we took the job.

As you’d expect there was lots of old school gaming going on, but it was a great deal of fun and I really enjoyed the Star Frontiers system. Needless to say we were successful in our mission, perhaps doing a bit more damage than we needed to.

By the time Star Frontiers was finished we were well set up for the weekend, and so headed to a local venue for further beers and tasty grub before returning to the house to spend the remainder of the evening talking gaming nonsense with more beers and whisky. This is what life is about!

Game 2: Liminal (GM: @davepaters)

Proudly displaying our sausages

After a glorious fry up for breakfast we settled down for the first session of the day. Really, it was glorious with @MozleyJim and @jaje7406 taking on chef duties and everyone else helping out in whatever ways they could, and it set us up for a solid day of gaming. In fact, three sessions back to back. We’d cleverly organised things so that each GM got to run their game twice and players got to to play every game; so while I was sitting down with @Sam0Vail and @carlclare to play in @davepaters Liminal game, @MozleyJim, @jaje7406 and @KiernanEd were getting stuck into @OrlanthR‘s Tales from the Loop adventure.

I’d not played Liminal previously but had heard and read lots of great things about it. It’s a unique setting, a modern day UK with a hidden world of magic, fey and weirdness. Our characters were sent out to find Welland Archer, a missing researcher from the Council of Merlin who curiously was looking into a connection between Henry Tudor and Dr Dee… It turns out Henry Tudor fled to France from a house in Tenby (in fact just a couple of doors down from where we were playing the game!), and young Welland had started his research there. I don’t want to give any spoilers as I’m sure @davepaters will run the game again… but it was fantastic, full of local information and flavour, lots of trails to follow and a brilliant conclusion.

Game 3: Tales from the Loop (GM: @OrlanthR)

The other Tales from the Loopers

After a tidy lunch of local pies and pasties, myself, @Sam0Vail and @carlclare created our TftL characters. Before too long we’d put them together based on archetypes; I was Benjamin ‘Buttons’, a nerd who found solutions to everything in his pocket calculator. Turned out it was one of the adventures from the TftL rulebook, but @OrlanthR had cleverly changed the setting from somewhere in Sweden to Tenby – we were in the Pembrokeshire Loop with all the Magnatrine tech that is part of the TftL . Our adventure started with some weird stuff about birds… but in the interests of avoiding spoilers we’ll leave that there. The system was really neat; a simple dice pool resolution mechanic, and a setting very easy to get into… we were all teenagers in the 80’s so doing weird stuff like using libraries was all part of it. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about playing a 10-15 year old, but it was a lot of fun with a system designed to just make it work.

Game 4: Strontium Dog (GM: @Sam0Vail)

@Sam0Vail has a copy of an old Games Workshop Strontium Dog game that never made it into publication. It’s based on the GW Judge Dredd game but in it’s current form is three ring binder folders of dot matrix paper. This time I was joined by @MozleyJim and @davepaters as we created our mutant Search and Destroy agents. Initially the random tables were throwing up some odd mutations – I had with ‘back covered in suppurating spots’ and ‘skin hangs badly in folds’. Luckily with a bit of GM fiat we rolled on different tables, and I ended up with a much more exciting animal mutation – a tiger head. Thus was born Roary, joined by Worker (@davepaters‘ ant headed mutie) and Tickles (@MozleyJim‘s cute and cuddly cat headed mutie).

These empty bowls give testament to the deliciousness of @MozleyJim‘s Saturday night curry!
And the other Strontium Dog group. Clearly I was in the camera shy crew.

We’d taken a job worth 3.2M creds to apprehend and return Harlan Brozack, a crim with a long list of offences, primarily involving the narcotic Zaap. Our adventures took us across worlds to seedy nightclubs, dodgy warehouses and more… ending with a great chase scene finale. The system held up really well, our PCs seem much more capable than the Judges from GW Judge Dredd and the action was fast moving. @Sam0Vail had really capture the flavour of Strontium Dog, we felt like dirty muties with the galaxy against us.

Game 5: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition: Slaughter in Spittlefeld (GM: @jaje7406)

Sunday gaming started with a trip to the Old World; I was playing the Rogue Albrecht Von Bakstabben and was joined by @MozleyJim as a devout Priest and @davepaters as an angry Dwarf. No spoilers for this beyond us waking up in a quarantined flop house with a mystery to solve. It’s the second time I’ve played WFRP 4e in the past month – there’s so much to like about the system and the setting, and this was a great one shot adventure.

Game 6: Night’s Black Agents (GM: @carlclare)

After a rustic lunch of fresh bread, cheese, ham, pickle and maybe a beer or two, we swapped tables for the last time. Randomly picking our characters, I played Oliver ‘Ashcan’ Quinn, a grizzled old veteran one last job away from retirement, while @MozleyJim played Mace Hunter, an American Con Man who Ashcan didn’t fully trust. @davepaters played the French Assassin, Dr Felix Duboise, with a glorious french accent. It has been commented on Twitter that @carlclare really knows his history, and this really came across in the adventure; real depth and loads to investigate. Once again avoiding spoilers, this was a great adventure with an explosive ending. What a great way to draw the curtains on the final game of the weekend.

Fortunately the weekend was not yet over and so we whiled away the Sunday evening with a stroll around Tenby, beer and lovely grub in a local pub and chatting back at the house about games nonsense and other stuff, then we were all heading back to our respective homes on Monday.

What an amazing weekend it was, better than we could have hoped. A huge thanks to @davepaters for putting us up and putting up with us, and to everyone who was there, the fantastic GM’s and players. I don’t know if these games will be on offer at other events, but if they are I’d highly recommend playing them.

On to Grogten 2021!

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

Grogmeet 2019

There are events you look forward to – a weekend break, Christmas, your best mates wedding, and they are nice. Then there are the epic events that dominate your thoughts for months in advance, a sense of excitement growing as the occasion draws near. Grogmeet is one of those events, occupying my RPG thoughts for many months and when it arrived it didn’t disappoint.

In the run up myself and a crack group of Grog GM’s had been planning a multi-table adventure for the Friday afternoon of Grogmeet using the Mothership system for a neat space horror adventure. I’d also offered to run The Mad Queens Jewels, a homebrew adventure on the Saturday morning of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells set in The Midderlands, an adventure that seemed to go down well at Owlbear and Wizards Staff con back in September. Then, just a few weeks before Grogmeet Dirk the Dice asked me to run a game for the Friday evening and after much consideration I put forward Escape from Skull Prison, the starter adventure for Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells. With a load of prep on my hands (apart from The Mad Queens Jewels which was pretty much boxed off), I ramped up my efforts for Grogmeet, not wanting to disappoint any of the players and deliver the best games I could.

Last year I had to leave Grogmeet early due to an unexpected family illness and so this year I was keen to get the full experience. Unlike previous years I had to make a solo journey over the Manchester, but it gave me a chance to go over my adventure notes, then after a bit of lunch and a quick catch up with a few Grogs, we headed over the Fanboy 3 for the start of the weekend.

Last year’s Friday afternoon game, a multi-table, multi-system bar room brawl was a lot of fun with many players commenting on it being a good ice breaker. But it was just a little chaotic and didn’t go quite as planned. I was hugely relieved then to get our multi-table Mothership game off to a start; I was much more confident about this, we were using the same system and the GM’s Dirk, Sam, Steve and Rick (plus Griff who while not present due to a bout of laryngitis left an indelible stamp on the game with his contribution) did a great job in the lead up to the game. It was truly a collaborative effort with everyone bringing ideas and insights to the format and writing one of the scenes in the game.

Dirk started the ball rolling with the introductory blurb, bringing to life the cigar smoking Sergeant Apone who unsurprisingly was a native of Brooklyn. Quickly the players moved to their tables (drawn randomly) and we quickly started the simultaneous adventures. Mothership is great for ramping up character stress levels so when they panic bad things can happen. The scenes were all designed to pile on stress and get to panic points quickly and it was no surprise to find characters freaking out, curling up in catatonic ball or dieing due to a heart attack (quite a common occurence it seems). My players – Ian, Norman, Rob and Simon – were a great group, getting stuck into the spirit of the game, with Simon as the Corporate Jerk in the last scene taking the last escape pod and leaving the others to perish. Part of the set up was that each table had to detonate a nuclear core before reaching the escape pods – if three of the five were activated then the resulting explosion would be enough to close the rift that threatened the universe. Honestly I had expected all five of the tables to activate nuclear self destruct, but at least two of them didn’t, self serving, cowardly bastards…

Imagine if this lot escaped Skull Prison…

I was a little nervous about running Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells as the system was fairly new to me (although quite light and easy to run) and I wasn’t entirely sure about the adventure. However, a trial run the weekend before had given me some valuable feedback that I brought into this session. I had six experienced players – Dirk, Adam, Andy, Mark, Blythy and Simon – at the table and they quickly took to their characters, a ragtag bunch of cons on Skull Prison, a private facility where the prisoners may or may not be guilty. When a power shortage released the mag-locks on their doors, they took the opportunity to attempt an escape, quickly subduing Slitface and his gang, but nearly coming unstuck against the Black Bats – some quick thinking navigated that problem and the rest of the prison, until they reached the final encounter against the prison commander. A desperate firefight seemed to be going against them until the smart character in the group (played by Mark) activated the self destruct sequence (‘the Mothership gambit’ as Dirk called it), and with a minute to go they raced for one of the ships and managed to fly out as the prison exploded behind them.

RuneQuest hero’s from Steve’s epic Sartar Rising campaign, with Gianni present in spirit

Saturday morning was my last session running a game – this time it was Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. I was feeling good about this adventure as it was a homebrew that I knew really well. As I’d come to expect, I once more had a great group of players – Steve, Martin, Malcolm and Chris – who really engaged with the setting and wasted no time planning their escape from the Leaningtown Spa with the Queen’s jewels. Once again there was some really creative play and exciting combat and despite a few hiccups this group did the job as well.

Steve isn’t just a great GM because of that amazing GM screen…

Grogmeet GM’s get the first pick of games for sessions for the slots they are not running, and I no hesitation in picking Steve’s Middle Earth Role Playing game. Like many Grogs this game has a special place in our hearts as it was often our first gaming experience in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It was with some excitement that I sat down for the Saturday afternoon session. This was an adventure that Steve had written set in the dark days of the War of the Ring after Osgiliath had fallen and the hordes of Mordor flooded across the Pelennor fields. Our mission as a band of rangers stranded in Osgiliath was to return to the Minas Tirith and join fellow Gondorians in defence of the White Tree. I won’t give any spoilers but will say that it was an excellent adventure. MERP showed it’s age, but it worked amazingly well with Steve handling much of the crunch for us – when I think of the complexity of combat and the tracking of effects on our characters, I shudder to think how a GM would keep a grip on that for all of the NPC’s and monsters that could be encountered.

Sunday morning is the interview slot where Dirk the Dice chats to an RPG luminary and this year it was Paul Fricker, author of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and one of the authors of The Two Headed Serpent adventure for Pulp Cthulhu. Dirk follows the format of his show, engaging his audience throughout (all together now “Where’s me dice bag?”); it was like watching a master craftsman at work aided by the tools of his trade – the ridiculous homemade shrine to the actor Caroline Munroe and of course the GM screen so he could make hidden roles to randomise questions for Paul. Good job we all had decent imaginations… Paul was a great guest, going right from the early days of his gaming life (agricultural simulation board games anyone?) to working with the luminaries of Chaosium on their Call of Cthulhu game. I’m playing The Two Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu at the moment so it was great to get some spoiler free insights.

And with that Grogmeet itself was over. Some folks had to leave for long journeys home so there were many fond farewells, but for myself and a few others the gaming was to continue as Newt Newport of D101 Games had arranged a Go Play Manchester event to follow straight on from Grogmeet. I’ve been to Go Play Manchester before so knew it would be a great event and was looking forward to playing in Blythy’s Troika adventure The Cage of Sermit. I’ve not played in Blythy’s games before and was particularly looking forward to it and to playing Troika, a game that sits on my shelf but has not yet made it to my table. We were an odd group of adventurers (and players one could observe!) tasked with rescuing an imprisoned wizard from a desert prison to save a dying world. Troika delivered admirably with light, fast moving rules as did Blythy, giving us a colourful, exciting adventure full of crazy characters and strange locations.

There is another element to Grogmeet that I’ve not yet touched on, and that is the amazing sense of camaraderie, generosity and good spirit. I spent quite a bit of time eating and boozing with the other Grogs, catching up on life and gaming – that is nearly as much a part of Grogmeet as the gaming. And so to all you Grogs (most of whom I’ll game with one way or another before next Grogmeet), cheers to you all, here’s to Grogmeet 2020!

BurritoCon4 has gone

You’ve probably heard me go on about BurritoCon4 quite a bit. A small, friendly event held at that most wonderful of game stores, Fanboy 3 in Manchester. Following on from the previous successes of previous BurritoCons, my plan for number 4 started not long after 3 had finished and after asking around I was pleased to see there was quite a bit of interest from previous attendees (many of whom I’ve become good friends with) and gamers that were new to me and the event.

The formula was unchanged with 2 three hour sessions, this time aiming for five tables (I had suggested extending the slot length, but the feedback was clear – 3 hours is just right). I communicated with attendees through a Twitter group, although I’m not sure that’s the most efficient as some folk don’t use it. I found myself repeating key messages on Facebook and email… not ideal, although I’m not sure how best else to do it.

I’d also decided to use Warhorn for sign ups to games, but this meant GMs had to submit their game specs a few weeks ahead of the event. At previous BurritoCons it was much more relaxed with GMs having up to the day to decide what they wanted to run and players trying to get onto games they wanted, a bit more potluck. Based on feedback from the last event I knew players preferred to sign up in advance. All in though there was relatively little to organise – Fanboy 3 are fantastic and make booking tables dead easy, and the GMs were great in getting their specs over to me… then it was just see how it went on the day.

The day was certainly RPG filled with Bud of Bud’s RPG Reviews knocking around at my house and us jumping the train to Manchester, talking RPG gubbins (a close relation to bobbins) along the way. Quite a few folks met up in a cafe across the road from Fanboy 3, but shortly after 10 we were all at the venue, ready to go. Again from an organisation point of view everything was really straightforward as I’d come prepared with a couple of lists, so it was easy to get tables sorted and ensure all the players paid their table fees to Fanboy 3.

Morning session

In the morning session I played A Goblin Quest, expertly GM’d by Joy. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the game; in this instance it quickly became clear as the rules were easy to understand and the setting was delightful. A little microworld where you play a ‘clutch’ of puny goblins out on a crazy mission – in fact, it is the players who decide what the quest is and determine what they need to do to complete the quest. Each quest is split into 3 tasks each with 3 stages and a simple game mechanic determines how you progress through that… features of your clutch such as area of expertise and quirks affect your dice rolls, but the real fun is the narrative bit where players describe what stupid stuff their goblin is doing to move the task forward before rolling the dice. Needless to say there’s lots of chaos and goblins in your clutch get churned through… it was huge fun and is a game I’d recommend checking out.

Our despicable and somewhat useless bunch of goblins plot and scheme to put on a play for a powerful Wizard… a tale of goblins uprising against Wizards. Perhaps not our best decision
My goblin clutch, the Fervent Five who were good at throwing stuff, especially their useless Frisbee. They were pretty useless at everything else.

While we were enjoying being small and highly squishable goblins, there were a number of other games on the go.

Umerican Survival Guide with Griff… it had crabs and vending machines. Mad and brilliant at the same time
Although you can’t see it here GM Tim had a cool 3D printed spaceship interior for his Traveller game. According to Dirk the Dice it was his best Traveller game in 30 years!
Top DCC Judge Bruce skillfully guides his players through the dangerous streets of Lankhmar

Afternoon session

I was running Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells by Old Skull Publishing in the afternoon, having resurrected Who Watches the Watchfires (a Fantasy Age adventure converted to SS&SS), last ran at my first Grogmeet back in 2017. While I love con sessions, I do struggle with time – sometimes a four hour session doesn’t feel enough, so I needed something I knew would fit within a three hour slot and this did the job. A cracking group of players joined me at the table and threw themselves into the adventure; a fairly action and combat heavy scenario involving recapturing a small frontier fort. The SS&SS system did the job fantastically well, offering fast moving action resolution and combat. Again, another game I’d recommend checking out.

I didn’t get a photo of my players (sorry!), so this will have to do. The characters (yellow bases) realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew… or had they?

It was great seeing other players getting stuck into their afternoon games.

GM Craig taking Demon Hunters A Comedy of Terrors for a spin with his homebrew adventure Talentless Hacks. Set in Hollywood, with some talentless hacks. And a demon.
GM Josh shows us older GMs how to do it with a laptop… the giant robot mechs went down a treat
Andy H unimpressed with my sneaky photo. GM Guy is too focussed on bringing Glorantha to life with 13th Age.

After the con we all headed around to a local pub for a few beers and more game talk, before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back home on the train with Bud.

All in I had a fantastic day and was pleased to get positive feedback from the folks who attended – that made it all worthwhile. It’ll be some time before I think about a BurritoCon5, it certainly won’t be until well into the new year. In the meantime if you’re after events with a similar feel and cracking games there are plenty of other events to look forward to, my favourites being:

  • Grogmeet 8-10th November in Fanboy 3 the annual meetup of followers of the Grognard Files podcast and perhaps the best gaming event of the year
  • Go Play Manchester, a monthly gaming at Fanboy 3, next one is 10th November. Their mini-winter Con on 11th January 2020 is a similar format to BurritoCon and well worth getting to.
  • Convergence, a three day con in Stockport over the first weekend of March
  • DevaCon, a one day event in April… no date has been set as far as I know for 2020, but it’s another small one day con well worth a visit

Dirk the Dice has written a piece on BurritoCon4 on his blog – you should check it out and while there subscribe to his podcast.