One Weekend to Rule them all

You know you have those weekends, the special ones, the ones you look forward to for weeks or even months in advance. Maybe it’s to celebrate a big life event, a break away with the family, or a gaming weekend (especially gaming weekends!). Whether it’s a one day con or a whole weekend like UK Games Expo or Grogmeet, when it’s first booked and many months away it’s given an occasional thought… maybe you have to write an adventure or do some other preparation. But as the event looms closer it occupies a much bigger slice of your waking thoughts, and then when it arrives it’s just like Christmas.

I’ve just had one of those weekends, and I would suggest it is the best gaming weekend I have had ever, certainly it’s right there at the top.

Wrapped up in a bundle of great company, gaming talk, hearty food, plentiful beer, fine whisky and a roaring fire, the focus of the weekend was Cubicle 7’s Tolkien epic, The One Ring. We all owned the game, but none of us had played it much (as far as I know only me and @OrlanthR at DevaCon last year), and so we wanted to set that straight. Tolkien whizzkid, top GM and all around nice guy @kinnygraham was keen to run the game and so in preparation we created characters in advance online. Our fellowship was formed of two Dwarves, the noble Vidar Stonesong of the Blue Mountains (@OrlanthR), his companion, the wayward Hanar of the Grey Mountains (@Lintillaz), a Dunedain Human Ranger, Iorlas (@oilpainting71), and my character, the optimistic, inappropriately adventurous and naive hobbit, Brogo Burrows. I have met and gamed with @kinnygraham, @OrlanthR and @Lintillaz at events before and we often play online so I knew I’d get along with those chaps, and it was great to have @oilpainting71 along as well – it’s always a pleasure meeting new gamers and we all got on like a house on fire.

Our adventure started on the Friday afternoon and took us through to midday on the Sunday. I reckon we had somewhere in the region of 16 hours solid gaming; a sufficient amount of time to give The One Ring a great play through and explore the area around Bree. Our company was thrown together on the road heading east and settled down in the comfortable surroundings of the Prancing Pony. All was peaceful until young Thomas Heatherton ran in with tales of a monstrous white skinned creature in the graveyard… the rest was pure Tolkien inspired adventure with some true epic moments.

In the preceding weeks I had read a fair amount of the rules. There are a few fiddly bits, but the one method of resolution (a d12 feat dice and a varied number of d6 skill dice to beat a target number, usually 14) means you always know what to roll. It didn’t take too long before you get into the swing of things. The One Ring has subsystems that capture the feel of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings; travel plays a big part as does the ever present threat of Shadow, overcome through Hope. Each time the dice are rolled all players are keeping an eye on the d12 feat dice for the Gandalf rune (cheer!) or the Eye of Sauron (groan); the former gives an automatic success while the latter is worth zero and makes it much harder to be successful. The Gandalf rune and Eye of Sauron are reversed for evil creatures – their evil overlord powers their actions, while the light of Gandalf deters them. And if a roll is successful, a 6 on any d6 gives a great success and a second 6 gives an extraordinary success; on the funky The One Ring Dice each 6 is marked with a t symbol which is a Tengwar rune. Even dice rolling felt flavourful and thematic.

Highlights of the weekend included some fantastic props such as a hand-drawn map of the area around Bree; the paper had been treated (dunked in tea, burned and marinated over a cigar) to make it look old and dry. The first mystery of the map were the dwarfish runes which we translated (through a combination of @OrlanthR‘s Middle Earth knowledge and the internet) , but then our delight only grew as we discovered the secret of smoke runes! Utter genius. A big fight with a Troll allowed us to test the combat system and explore tactical options; it really felt like an epic combat.

I was just a little sad when the weekend was over, but we had such a fantastic time. Huge thanks to our GM @kinnygraham for running such an amazing game and putting in so much prep, to @OrlanthR for arranging the whole thing, adventuring companions @Lintillaz and @oilpainting71 for being excellent fellows, and of course to @theGROGNARDfile without whom we wouldn’t know each other. Hope we can do it again soon.

Convergence 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grogmeet Friday Old School session initial thoughts

 has asked me to host the Grogmeet Friday OSR session at Grogmeet 2019 – a great honour indeed!  As Grognards have already been talking about this kind of thing on Twitter, I emailed Dirk with some ideas – these are my initial thoughts and will no doubt go through changes before the event. I’m looking for feedback, ideas, preferences and ultimately will need some GM’s for tables. I may take a back seat with GMing on this one and do the organiser and ‘table runner’ role that I think was missing at Grogfight last year.

I’ve got 3 ideas for Grogfringe at the moment. I’m aiming for table interaction and hopefully a bit of an ice breaker. In the order that I prefer them:

Aliens!

All tables use the same rules (something like the free Mothership rules). Adventure starts with the PC’s coming out of cryosleep, alarms blaring, red lights flashing. While they’re dazed and confused a bossy Sergeant tells them the ship has been attacked by aliens and they need to get to escape pods – he puts them into teams which must make their own way there (one team per table). There are other options though; they could head to the armoury and try to take on the aliens, or try to get to the comms room to call in support….

Each team with have three comms links – one for each of the other teams. They can use them to talk to another team for up to one minute. There is a 1 in 3 chance of the comms unit failing after that and they can no longer contact that team. Could either have players going to other tables or use GM mobile phones for more realism…

Would be good to have a full schematic of the ship as they would have some knowledge of the layout etc. Could also put this on a board to track each teams movements.

If a PC dies they move to another table, but this time as a new character, someone that team has come across as they try to escape the ship.

Globetrotting Pulp Adventure

Using different pulp systems (Daredevils, Justice Inc, Pulp Cthulhu..), each table/team is from a Caduceus like operation trying to foil Evil Corp (traditional pulp baddies). Teams uncover clues in New York, Paris, London, Berlin that lead them on 4 separate missions in exotic locations. At each they must all foil the plans of Evil Corp to save the world.

Table interaction could be through telegrams (short hand written notes) that can only be sent and received at certain points.

Deathtrap Dungeon

Using the same rules (maybe B/X D&D) each party is a pre-formed adventuring group ready to take on this lethal dungeon. They are all playing in the same dungeon. First to the prize wins. Would have a board showing progress of each team… they get points for achieving goals, or have penalties for losing party members (which are not killed but knocked out, slowing them down). Those furthest through the dungeon could set traps for those that follow (maybe!).

I’m not sure on the table interaction on this one… would need further thought.
I’d like to keep tables more self contained and minimise table swapping – I reckon players would want to stay on the table they begin with for the main part. I’d also like to reduce the amount of prep on GM’s by having maps good to go (use something like this https://wizardawn.and-mag.com/tool_smap.php), just need a few encounters adding.

Some of this was based on conversations on Twitter immediately after Grogmeet. There was a Pulp thread with @DissectingWrlds, @KiernanEd, @thedicemechanic and others, some fantastic ideas – although I do have my reservations about multiple systems after last year. @dimbyd had suggested using the original Tomb of Horror competition module for this – that could be a great one for a Deathtrap Dungeon option.

Let me know what you think, what you would prefer, any problems you can see – any feedback or ideas at all – on Twitter/MeWe would be fine, but if you post your comments here it’ll be easier to refer back to in the future.

2018 Review

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

January

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

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

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

February

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

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

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I don’t often write my own adventures, although it’s something I’d like to do more. One particular story in the Shakespeare vs Cthulhu short story collection really stood out as the basis for an adventure, and wanting to run some Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) I decided to create an adventure for that system based around it. I’d been working on The Greater Share of Honour since Grogmeet 2017 and wanted to test run it before offering it as a convention game at Convergence and DevaCon. The adventure was set on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt and offered a different take on the events that lead to the English victory.

As a Con game I would need to run it in a 3.5 to 4 hour slot, so it was crucial to get the timing right. I gathered a cracking group of players for a test run, including three gamers from the USA. The adventure went down really well, but coming in at just over 6 hours I knew it would need tweaking. I’ve since ran the adventure a number of times and mostly managed to finish it within the allotted time – however at Owlbear and Wizards Staff we were only halfway through at the end of the 3.5 hours; luckily they were another great bunch of players who were up for completing the adventure over Roll20 a few weeks later.

March

This was a great month with Convergence in Stockport and an increase in my regular Roll20 gaming. It was my second visit to Convergence, in 2017 I had my first face to face game in over 20 years with @theGROGNARDfile, @sjamb7, @Edinthesand and a few other great gamers I’ve had the pleasure of playing with since. I knew this would be a great con, having had such a good experience with it previously and would also be gaming with some old faces from Grogmeet and new gamers I’d played with on Roll20. The day started with a double session of Golden Heroes, a game I had owned once myself in the 80’s. Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail was GM’d by @theGROGNARDfile, and myself and the other players, mostly other members of the Grogsquad, created some fantastic characters and got stuck into this globe trotting adventure to save not only old Queen Vic, but the world! Character creation is crazy and a real test of the imagination; take a random set of abilities and put them together into a superhero with a backstory. My creation was Captain Spyfly with his main abilities being flying and spying (you don’t say!)

The evening session of Convergence was the first opportunity to run The Greater Share of Honour in a Con setting and a time limit. I feel I’ll keep saying this as it’s true, once again I had a cracking group of players who really got stuck into their characters and engaged with the adventure. It was a buzz and I loved running it. The evening session tends to finish quite late, but on the drive back to Liverpool my head was filled with scenes from the day. Cracking stuff!

510vM6uEnuL@Corsair1973  had backed the Modiphius Conan kickstarter and had a load of stuff that he wanted to run, so we had a pop at that over Roll20. I was impressed with the system and the ebb and flow of combat with the Momentum and Doom mechanics; they really add an extra dimension to scraps and Momentum allows you to do some fantastic stuff. Not so good when the GM brings out the Doom. We’d started with an introductory adventure (the best way to go about it in my opinion), and although it was fairly simple it felt like we were characters in REH’s world. It’s a game we played on an off throughout the year, moving onto more complex and sophisticated adventures – I hope we’ll get to play it some more soon.

I enjoyed a couple of one shots:

  • Robot Imana-665-C, a Paranoia adventure with @theGROGNARDfile as GM. The Bull’s Eye intro music set the tone and the game progressed in the absurd Paranoia fashion we know and love with the computer putting you into situations which break it’s rules. There was lots of backstabbing and quite a few laughs; it’s a perfect one shot game, I’m not sure I could play it long term though.
  • While most of my RPG activity has been organised through Twitter, Google+ has also been a great platform for connecting with other gamers. Through the OSR UK Hangouts Gaming group I joined an LotFP game ran by Dominic over Hangouts. With his homebrew adventure The Gallow Beckons played over Hangouts, Dominic really nailed the Theatre of the Mind style of play; unhindered by maps and other props he created a fantastic world set during the English Civil War. There is a lot of darkness and misery with Witch Hunts, the occult and general unpleasantness. We only played a couple of sessions of this, I’d love to continue with it at some point.

As well as all this  started his Sartar Rising! RuneQuest campaign… at least when it started it was a 6 session season of games, but it just took off and is still going strong. I was never a fan of RuneQuest back in the day, but after a couple of games with @theGROGNARDfile (including a 24hr charity session in November 2017) I was starting to warm to it.  We started with RuneQuest 2e and continued with that until RuneQuest Glorantha was released, then  converted everything over. I’ll tell you, that guy is a powerhouse when it comes to Roll20. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing in this across the year, seeing our characters grow, their relationships develop, their legends spread… it’s what a campaign should be.

April

April was a bumper month with the kickoff of Two Headed Serpent and Lunchtime Lairs and DevaCon and Virtual Grogmeet. So much gaming!

  • THS_Front_Cover_for_web__37568.1486510208.1280.1280Two Headed Serpent is a huge campaign for Pulp Cthulhu GM’d by @theGROGNARDfile, with a plan to run it once a month over a couple of years.  So far it’s been one hell of a ride, our characters taking on horrors beyond mortal understanding and doing it far more competently (in most cases) than regular Call of Cthulhu investigators. Every session ends on a cliffhanger leaving us hungry from more…
  • Since late 2017  and I had been talking about starting an casual lunchtime gaming session in Liverpool. Plans were made and we settled on every Wednesday between 12pm and 2pm at Just Play in Liverpool with the name Lunchtime Lairs; we were aiming for gamers who could swing a bit of flexitime for an extended lunch to get a bit of extra gaming in. We wanted a single simple system that would allow anyone to have a go as GM (we picked The Black Hack which has been a great fit), with each session being a complete adventure. That didn’t quite work out, instead we had adventures running over multiple sessions with ongoing campaign elements shared between GM’s. We’ve now got a small but regular group and have met some top local gamers to boot.
  • It was my first time at DevaCon and I’d put forward my LotFP game The Greater Share of Honour for the afternoon session. Chester isn’t too far to travel and in no time , Dave and Cliffy from Mersey Game Knights had arrived at the very posh Crowne Plaza, the venue for the Con. Unlike other Cons I’ve been to with prearranged player sign ups I was worried I might not get anyone playing my game, but as it turned out I had a full table – indeed the sign up system did work quite well and from what I could see all games went ahead. I played The Words of the Wise, a beginner adventure for The One Ring in the morning session and really enjoyed it; it’s a cracking system (I’ve not played it before, but it was one of the first RPG’s I bought since my hiatus from the hobby). I’m hoping to play it more in 2019. The Greater Share of Honour went down well with some good performances; everyone seemed to enjoy the game and the day was saved! The evening session was the homebrew adventure Sabeurs and Savants for The Cthulhu Hack, written and GM’d by . It was a cracking historical Indiana Jones type adventure with a fine polish of sanity blasting horror.
  • For those unable to attend Grogmeet in Manchester (and greedy gamers who could but wanted more), @theGROGNARDfile organised Virtual Grogmeet, an online version of the Manchester Con. There were a load of games available, some real gems, but due to other commitments over the weekend I was only able to GM one game. I picked Forgive Us for LotFP, a single location creepy adventure that I’d had on my radar for a while. It seemed to go down well; I’d taken time to set up dynamic lighting and sound effects which added to the atmosphere – it’s with adventures like this that Roll20 can really shine. All but one of the characters survived… kind off. And we ended up with the saying “It’s all gone Norwich”

May

Not the busiest of months, but had a ton of prep for UK Games Expo and saw the start of my Thirty Years War LotFP campaign Better Than Any Man (session reports here). I started the campaign with A Strange Storm, a short paranoia inducing adventure from the old Referee’s Guide, added a few other bits and pieces myself and then let the PC’s out on the rampage. The campaign is still ongoing but is drawing to a close; it’s been a huge load of fun and a big challenge for me, not having ran a sandbox game before. It’s a format I’d really like to run more as it offers great freedom to the players, but is definitely harder work than a ‘regular’ adventure.

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Through the OSR UK Hangouts Gaming group I grabbed a place in Dominic‘s Swords & Wizardry Whitebox sandbox campaign The Grim North. Our PC’s were members of the prestigious House of Mercenaries, Sell Spears and Blades for Hire in the expansive frost bound city of Nox Eterna. I really enjoyed the ‘pick your job from the noticeboard’ approach, really we had no idea what to expect from any job, but they were always great fun and full of twists and turns. It was great stuff while it lasted, unfortunately other commitments for the GM put it on hold.

The last day in May was perhaps the best – it was the start of my UK Games Expo weekend. I’d been invited by @M0RT75 to join a one off DCC game run by @BrendanJLaSalle at Weekend Warlords in Loughborough. It was a perfect arrangement since not only did I get to play in a DCC game with one of the @GoodmanGames luminaries, it also meant I had a much shorter drive to UK Games Expo the next day. I had a cracking time, @M0RT75  was a top host and @BrendanJLaSalle ran a great game, Neon Knights, a crazy adventure that saw us dimension hopping in an attempt to save the our city (we failed, but what a way to go out!)

June

UK Games Expo. Say no more, this is the biggest UK games Con going, with just about every game you could want to buy and play available. I tackled the trade hall in the Friday morning (I’d strongly recommend this as it’s when the hall is least busy) with gaming chums @Lintillaz, @OrlanthR  and @TakasakiAndy, bought a few things (Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe and some LotFP and DCC goodies) and just had a great time hanging out with them and bumping into other gamers.

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After dropping my stuff of at the hotel, my first game session was The Promised Land for Symbaroum, wonderfully GM’d by @Asako_Soh. The adventure was perfectly paced and action packed with a good few scraps – I was really taken with the game and nearly bought it from the trade hall (however, I’ve since grabbed it from a Bundle of Holding). Definitely a game I’d like to play again.

Following a catch up with many of the Grogsquad over a bite to eat it was on to the evening game. I’d signed up for Feng Shui as it’s a game I’ve always liked the idea of – action packed crazy martial arts sounds great. The GM did a smashing job running us through The Green Garter Affair, but I struggled with the game, perhaps because I was pretty knackered by this point – something to try again in the future maybe.

The Saturday morning I joined @theGROGNARDfile and @sjamb7 to play HeroQuest, GM’d by HeroQuest expert @ian_h_cooper. On paper the system seems simple (and it is), but as it was quite different to other games I’ve played it took me a little time to get my head around it. In The Noose our characters were to investigate a string of murders that lead to an exciting conclusion, and while the investigation was well constructed I enjoyed the interaction between the characters just as much… it was all very cleverly set up and executed.

My Expo weekend came to a close with a final session, this time me GMing The Greater Share of Honour for LotFP. It was the first time I’d ran it where all the players were unknown to be, but they were a great group and all seemed to have a good time. It was with some reluctance that I packed my stuff away and prepared for the trip home, saying a brief farewell to a handful of gaming friends and to this great event. I knew that many of them were staying for the Sunday and determined that in 2019 I would go for the whole weekend.

June still had plenty to offer though… in addition to the regular Roll20 games started earlier in the year (Flashing BladesTwo Headed SerpentRuneQuest and LotFP) and Lunchtime Lairs we also had the fantastic Free RPG Day. I headed over to Manchester with one of my old mates @TonyLayter where we picked up a few bits from Fanboy3 and Travelling Man and joined a game of The Cthulhu Hack. @boreders (the author of The Cthulhu Hack) was running The Observer Effect, a Delta Green adventure converted over, and it played really well – we had a great time with @boreders showing his Cthulhu GM skills off to great effect. It was a top day all around, ending with a few beers with @TonyLayter and @clownf1st.

Unfortunately at the end of June I knackered my foot which left me with mobility issues for quite a while. This also meant that I would miss out on Lunchtime Lairs for a few months.

July

Besides the great regular games things were a little sparse over July. We did start Judge Dredd on Roll20 with @OrlanthR as GM; I played Judge Muller, a grim and jaded veteran street Judge who saw violence as the solution to most problems. Along with Judges Kowalski and Wily we set off investigating a chain of crimes; many of these have been resolved with new ones to take their place. It’s been great to see this game evolve over the months, @OrlanthR has done a great job of presenting a spider web of crimes, some related, others not – it’s has a real sandbox feel that I like, and captures the chaos, corruption and scale of MegaCity One really well. Changing from the Traveller system to a homebrew Gumshoe version early on was a great move, Gumshoe is a good fit for Judge Dredd.

BurritoConI’d also arranged a small meetup in Fanboy3 with two tables of gamers, mostly Grogsquad members and few other friends or gamers from Google+.  It started out as ImpromptuCon, but because of the general excitement about grabbing burritos for lunch was quickly renamed BurritoCon. My idea was to have two tables and two sessions – a total of four games. As well as Traveller with  as GM and Tunnels & Trolls with Andrew J in the driving seat, I ran two DCC adventures – The Portal Under the Stars (a level 0 funnel) and Elzemon and the Blood Drinking Box (a level 1 scenario). It was the first time I’ve ran DCC and I felt it went down well, I was later informed that one of the players picked up DCC to run with their group.

August

Just regular games and holidays – my knackered foot meant I didn’t get start anything new or go to any Cons.

September

I’d seen a group on Google+ looking for an extra player for an established and regular Swords & Wizardry Complete Saturday night game. This seemed like a good fit as I’d spent most Saturdays at home since injuring my foot, so I contacted them and joined in their The Lost Lands campaign. It’s been a great experience, a proper old school sandbox game with high level (6/7) characters, and the GM Greg runs it rigorously by the rules – 1 minute combat rounds, wandering monster rolls and so on. Unfortunately I’ve had to miss quite a few sessions, so I’ll have to see how this goes on into 2019.

586After completing An Ambassador’s Tales for Flashing Blades,  took a break from GMing duties at our Monday session and @thegrampus started a homebrew three session Call of Cthulhu adventure, Buried Histories, which was very good and involved our party investigating old an WW2 railway site in Germany. With a couple of other sessions to fill I ran The Gates of Hellwinter for Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a system I’d wanted to try out for some time. It’s a tidy set of rules which I planned to also use for Grogfight. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get to the third session to box the game off.

525d4e50-a112-11e8-81c9-1b431fd718bc-rimg-w400-h400-dc1c1c1c-gmirThe highlight of this month was undoubtedly the inaugural Owlbear and Wizards Staff Con in Leamington Spa, organised by @Asako_Soh. A single day Con with a nice social element (curry and beers the night before, yes please!), I was pleased to grab a place at Not in Kansas Anymore, an out there DCC adventure ran by @LeeJNeilson. We were 1970’s civilians transported into a fantasy dimension which we had to survive (although many of us didn’t as you’d expect from a level 0 funnel); top moments include the bus driver PC squashing some monsters with his bus and a DJ decapitating another bad guy with an Abba album thrown frisbee style. I ran The Greater Share of Honour  in the afternoon slot and was lucky enough to get a great group of players; unlike previous Cons they didn’t get to complete the adventure in the time set, so we agreed to box it off over Roll20 later on.

October

@OrlanthR had asked for players for a trial run of his Dying Earth adventure The Hotel Grand Perdusz in preparation for Grogmeet; not wanting to miss out I signed up. It wasn’t what I was expecting, not having read any Dying Earth, but it was a lot of fun – the paranoia and backstabbing elements soon came to the fore and layered on top of the investigation was a great combo. It was an interesting system with story game/narrative elements (like HeroQuest) so it took a little bit of time to get my head around, but once we were stuck into it the game moved apace, moving onto great ending – it could have gone either way based on a handful of dice rolls. And my character ended up being The Mucker for all eternity – nice!

 had been planning for Pink Gins and Googlies for quite some time; using a modified version of The Cthulhu Hack our characters were all members of the Cranford Ladies Cricket Club on a world tour. We were off to a great start in Cairo with some weird occult goings on, it was proper action packed pulp stuff, but with bats, balls and the odd gin rather than a revolver and bullwhip. We’ve had some fantastic adventures with this as we continue our tour and will do on into the new year.

Along with my other regular games of LotFP Better Than Any Man and alternately RuneQuest/Judge Dredd and Swords & Wizardry Complete I also managed to get along to a Mersey Game Knights session over in Wallasey where Cliffy ran Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, a tidy bandit hunt adventure with some nice world building.

A highlight for me was pulling off BurritoCon2. This time I took a back seat of the day and was only a player, but thoroughly enjoyed Traveller GM’d by  and Rifts GM’d by @ConvergenceUK1. I’d only ever played Traveller back in the 80’s and had a fairly low opinion of it, but found that opinion changed considerably – it’s a cracking game with a neat system. I suspect like most games, our opinions are shaped as much by the GM and other players as they are by the system itself. I was pleased that @M0RT75 was able to join us to run Umerican Survival Guide and  @boreders to run The Cthulhu Hack – both went down a treat.

November

What a month this looked like being. As well as Grogmeet and a charity 24 hour RPG event, one of my old mates @Corsair1973 was visiting from San Diego, so I knew there would be lots of great gaming.

The month started with a Roll20 session to complete The Greater Share of Honour from Owlbear and Wizards Staff Con. I was pleased to get the players back together and box this off.

I’d booked a day off to get in some gaming with @Corsair1973 and another old gaming mate of ours, Dave. We had an afternoon playing the Monolith Conan board game – I’ve played this before and it’s very enjoyable, one of those games that is nearly an RPG. The treat of the day was Dave running a short Call of Cthulhu adventure for us; The Winoka Point Research Centre, needless to say, in good Cthulhu tradition neither of our adventurers survived. Dave was the GM who introduced me to Call of Cthulhu back in 1983/84 so it was a real pleasure to play in one of his games again.

Grogmeet kicked off on the Friday afternoon with Grogfight, a multi-table, multi-system bar room brawl with dungeon crawl designed to have players jumping from one table to another. I was running Advanced Fighting Fantasy on my table, while @Corsair1973 was running Classic Fantasy, @Lintillaz Tunnels & Trolls and @theGROGNARDfile The Fantasy Trip. It was fairly chaotic and the table swapping thing didn’t work out as I’d hoped, but it was a lot of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. After dumping my bag at the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat it was on to the Friday evening session. Having developed a taste for Judge Dredd RPGs previously it was a no brainer to jump onto Judge Dredd: An American Werebear in Brit-Cit GM’d by @DailyDwarf using the Savage Worlds system. It was a great setup; I was one of two MegaCity One Judges who had to host and help a pair of stuck up Brit-Cit Judges – right from the start there was tension and a lot of banter. Our briefings took us first into the wastelands of The Cursed Earth and then onto Brit-Cit itself, great stuff. Followed up by drinks this was a near perfect day, but unfortunately I had to cut my Grogmeet weekend short due to my Dad taking ill (he’s making a great recovery now). Besides the obvious concern over my Dad I was gutted that I wouldn’t be able to run the DCC adventure I had prepared, The Carnival of the Damned. I may try that one for Virtual Grogmeet in 2019.

243681Before @Corsair1973 headed back to the USA we wanted to get in another game session – I offered to run Vikingr, a game I’d Kickstarted earlier in the year and was eager to run. I had some notes for an adventure ready to go, so @Corsair1973 , Dave and @TonyLayter picked their Viking heroes from the pregens on offer and quickly got on with the slaughter. Because we’re all so familiar with Vikings it was easy to roleplay well defined stereotypes – The Berserker, The Shield Maiden, The Warrior, and the OpenD6 based system worked a treat. Although Vikingr isn’t on my radar for 2019 I would like to run it again.

I did get a big RPG fix the following weekend though as I’d signed up for the 24 Hour RPG charity event in Southport, this time in the very posh Prince of Wales hotel. Last year I’d played 24 hours of RuneQuest with @theGROGNARDfile as GM, so this year I signed up for the 12 hour Blades in the Dark session he was running. Although there were just two players and the GM it was a great way to spend 12 hours of gaming; Blades in the Dark is perfect for a small party, and the flashback mechanism allowed us to get really creative when digging ourselves out of situations and swinging things in our favour. @theGROGNARDfile was on top form, responding to our ideas and creating exciting situations for us – it felt like we could try whatever we wanted, very sandboxy, dynamic and brilliant.

I’ve written a blog post about these Grogmeet, Vikingr and 24 Hour RPG here.

December

With the year drawing to a close I wasn’t anticipating any new games and knew we’d have a break from regular games over Christmas. However, I was pleased to have another try at HeroQuest, this time with @Corsair1973 starting the Eleven Lights campaign over Roll20. This time the system really clicked with me and I found my character much easier to get stuck into (perhaps because it was in a part of Glorantha I had become more familiar with in ‘s game). So far we’ve had a couple of sessions and it looks like we’ll be continuing it on into 2019, great stuff!

And that was it really, I hope I’ve not missed anything out. I managed to squeeze in quite a bit of gaming in 2018 and hopefully will continue to in 2019.

Here’s the full list of games I used to put this post together.

 

Grogfight Dredd Vikings Blades

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

Grogmeet

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

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

Stafford Puzzle

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

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

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The Grogfight GM’s… smiles of relief?

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

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

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

Vikingr

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

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

Blades in the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!)

Owlbear and Wizards Staff 2018

525d4e50-a112-11e8-81c9-1b431fd718bc-rimg-w400-h400-dc1c1c1c-gmirA day after the events at Owlbear and Wizards Staff, I’m still coming down from the excitement of it all. Set in the welcoming town of Leamington Spa it promised a day packed with RPG goodness with a bus load of games on offer. The weekend started for me on the Friday night with a visit to a local boozer followed by the delights of Warwick Spice (just to be clear it’s a restaurant with amazing food), the whole evening hosted by the affable emcee Matt Broome. With great company all around I had a chance to catch up with some older gaming pals (I’d like to say old friends because it feels like they are, but I’ve only known most of them 12-18 months!) and meet twitter folk face to face for the first time.

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Matt couldn’t believe the size of his poppadom! Great food, great company in Warwick Spice.

The day itself started early with RPG folk descending on The Band Factory, a rehearsal venue not far from the town centre but free of musical aspirants for the day. The space was perfect, well lit with good sized tables and facilities. Drinks and biscuits were readily available with a load of tasty samosas shipped in at lunchtime. I didn’t have to take more than a step or two to bump into someone I knew.

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GM Lee playing us like a fiddle

I was playing Dungeon Crawl Classics in the morning session, expertly GM’d by DCC Judge Lee Nielson. Lee was well at ease with the system and quickly had us up and running through the 0 level funnel. But rather than being the usual fantasy peasants we were ordinary people from the 70’s somehow transported to fantasy land. My characters were a plumber (Mario of course), a taxidermist and a minister… other’s included a corny radio DJ, a drug addled hippy and a retired ex-SAS dude. It was a lot of fun imagining how these characters could rationalise the crazy fantasy world they had been transported to, and how they would feel having seen three of their fellow time travellers slaughtered by alien lizardmen. Lots of scraps and a few traps saw our numbers decimated until we came to the final encounter and bravely won the day. Great game, great GM, great players.

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The Aliquam Martialis – Howard (hidden by my girth), Lee, Turan, Matt and Paul

After a chilled lunch spent chatting to some top gaming folk it was onto the afternoon session where I GM’d my Lamentations of the Flame Princess home-brew The Greater Share of Honour, set on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. It’s a game I’ve ran a number of times at cons and it always seems to go down well. I had an great group of players who really engaged with the game and took to their characters with gusto – I had little doubt they would be able to carry out the King’s orders. On this occasion I struggled to fit the game into the 3hr 30 minute slot, hopefully we’ll be able to pick it up and complete it on Roll20.

There were a ton of other great games on throughout the day – like with most cons I wish there was some time trick we could do that would allow me to play in every game – I’m certain everyone there felt the same. Some of the other games being run included Mutant Crawl Classics, Startrek Adventures, WFRP, Monster of the Week (with the Hookland setting), Space 1889, Genesys, D&D 5e, Shadowrun, HeroQuest Glorantha, Runequest, Numenera, Call of Cthulhu, Fate, Elite Dangerous.

The day ended with a gathering of DCC/MCC GM’s – you wouldn’t want to bump into this lot down a dark alley!

DCC Crew

Now the countdown begins, only 364 sleeps until the next one!