A Heart for Madness

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

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

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

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

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

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

BurritoCon3

Saturday 27th July, 10am-5pm, Fanboy 3, Manchester

Wasn’t sure that it was going to happen, but the happy circumstance that lead me to organising the first BurritoCon last year has happened again (my daughter wants a lift to Manchester ComicCon with her mates and I’m on taxi duty; rather that driving to Manchester and back to Liverpool twice I thought it’d be nice to get some gaming in).

As at previous events it’ll be held at the fantastic Fanboy 3. I really love that store, they have a great attitude towards small events like this and also have a load of great gaming stuff to tempt you while there. If only they’d relocate to Liverpool…

The event be held on 27th July and will run from 10am to 5pm with two three hour slots (10-1 and 2-5), maximum 6 players plus a GM per table. That’s space for 21 to attend, and I already have quite a few names on the list. The only cost is the regular £3 per game for players to Fanboy 3, GM’s get £1 store credit for each player in their game (at least it was last year, I’ll double check with them). The store is only 5-10 minutes walk from Picadilly station and there are loads of food options nearby (including but not limited to Burrito’s).

Games on offer:

Morning (10am – 1pm)

  • Table 1:
  • Table 2:
    • System: The Code of Steam and Steel
    • Title: The case of the missing Prince Albert – a Detective Inspector Rabbit mystery Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s IronClad, the Prince Albert, is missing. Last evening she was tied up at London Dock’s. This morning she was gone! Disappeared into thin air. Time for Detective Inspectors Rabbit, Mabel Wisbech, Strauss and (3) other characters from the recent TV series to investigate.
    • Tags: Turn of the century, Victoriana, Gritty East End Police Procedural Romp, Dockyard language.
    • GM: @squadronuk
  • Table 3:
    • System: Old School Essentials
    • Title: For the Honour of the Tribe (from Imagine magazine Issue 2)The tales of your ancestors tell how your tribe has lived forever in harmony with the land. Even when the wizard moved into his nearby tower many years ago a status quo was established, with your natural distrust of magic ensuring your people kept their distance. However the recent theft of a tribal relic is blamed on the sorcerer and you are tasked with recovering it – for the honour of the tribe!
    • GM: @OldScouserRPing
  • Table 4:
    • System: Monkey
    • Title: Peaches Fallen From Heaven
    • Chang’an is the cosmopolitan capital of the great Tang Empire. Here Chinese citizens, brush shoulders with Turkish traders, and Buddhist Monks discuss the finer points of religion with their Taoist counterparts. All while an invisible department of the Celestial Bureaucracy made up of diverse immortals, such as yourselves, ensure the smooth day to day running of the city.Today is an unhappy day. Peaches of Immortality have fallen from Western Heaven and one has landed in the city. Your department’s initial divinations are not good. They indicate the involvement of Triads, magical secret societies, a high risk of Kung Fu fighting and even Demonic interference! Nervously your boss the City God looks to you to find the missing peach and restore harmony to the city.
    • GM: @Newtus

Afternoon (2pm – 5pm)

  • Table 1:
  • Table 2:
    • System: WEG Star Wars D6
    • Title: Everyone Comes To Squig’s
    • In a town at the edges of an increasingly totalitarian state, the arrival of a fugitive freedom fighter and his partner causes a cynical bar-owner and a corrupt police chief to question their loyalties and perhaps take a stand. Casablanca 1941? No – a galaxy far away…
    • GM: @fechtbuch
  • Table 3:
    • System: Project Cassandra
    • Title: Ich bin ein Berliner
    • June, 1963. With the Cold War at its height, the subjects of Project Cassandra foretell of a perilous moment for the future. A tipping point on the scales that holds in its hands the fate of the West. With reports falling on deaf ears within the sprawling bureaucracy that controls the intelligence services the Projects risks everything with an unauthorized black-ops mission – Airlift the subject into West Berlin and ensure that President Kennedy survives long enough to tell the world Ich bin ein Berliner…
    • GM: @whodo_voodoo
  • Table 4:
    • System: HeroQuest Glorantha
    • Title: Wyrmghost Ruins
    • GM: @ian_h_cooper

I’ll post more details about the games on offer as they come in, if you fancy getting along contact me on Twitter @OldScouserRPing or in a reply to this post.

DevaCon 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarians! Run Away!

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

Virtual Grogmeet 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.