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.

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!

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!

BurritoCon3 been and gone

After many weeks of organisation (which wasn’t a great deal) and looking forward, BurritoCon3 finally came along, and last Saturday 27th July, twenty or so gamers gathered in Manchester to play some great RPG’s. In the lead up to the event I was delighted by the response of gamers on Twitter, with plenty of GM’s offering their services and players eager to join in. Last year there were two BurritoCon’s, both with two tables, so this year being able to scale up to four tables felt great.

Like the previous events this was held at Fanboy 3, a venue that has great facilities, shelves full of gaming goodies and a great attitude to small events like this. If I had one criticism it would be that it’s not in Liverpool…

After dropping my daughter and her friends of at ComicCon I headed up towards Hilton St; my plan was to grab a coffee and bite to eat in the cafe across the road from Fanboy 3 which didn’t open until 10. Turned out most folk had the same idea and so a load of us gathered there first; it was a great to catch up with gamers I know and put faces to Twitter handles for those I didn’t. All in a great bunch of people.

When the doors of Fanboy 3 opened at 10 we headed over to get games set up and get things moving. I didn’t have any kind of sign up for games; previously I had avoided it and trusted the players would more or less be happy to try any game, but was just a little worried it might not work with more attendees. Everyone was great about it though, and when players weren’t able to get their preferred table they happily jumped on another one (at least that’s how it seemed to me). For future events I may go for a more formal game sign up with something like Warhorn.

Morning Games

Marvel FASERIP: Escape from New York

The Code of Steam and Steel: The case of the missing Prince Albert

Shock photo of @squadronuk without gaming persona cap

Monkey: Peaches Fallen From Heaven

Old School Essentials: For the Honour of the Tribe

In my photo taking frenzy I forgot to take a photo of my table… an amateurs mistake I know. I was running a classic Imagine magazine adventure, a proper old school affair where the tribal heroes @BudsRPGreview, @daveygriff82, @jaje7406 and Tim set off to retrieve the holy mace Iron Lure from the evil wizard Bayn Tamarind. It’s an adventure I’ve ran before using other OSR systems, I felt it worked particularly well with Old School Essentials. The players were great, throwing themselves into the adventure, with all but one of the characters surviving.

Afternoon Games

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Frozen in Time

@mcdie88 holding the players attention so much they didn’t even pose for a photo…

WEG Star Wars D6: Everyone Comes To Squig’s

You must remember this… @fechtbuch‘s Casablanca inspired Star Wars adventure. I hope we can… play it again, Andy

Project Cassandra: Ich bin ein Berliner

Seems I also can’t play games and take photos. Apologies to the GM @whodo_voodoo and the players, no photo for this one as well. This was a cracking cold war, psychic agents save the president adventure with some really nice set pieces and some great GMing. @whodo_voodoo was testing out his own system, Project Cassandra, which is perfect for one shot play – easy to pick up and get into.

HeroQuest Glorantha: Wyrmghost Ruins

@ian_h_cooper cunningly deploys his giant hypnotic dice while he gems up on his adventure

@squadronuk and @whodo_voodoo both blogged about BurritoCon3:

Finally, a huge thanks to everyone who turned up and made BurritoCon3 a great day – I know quite a few of you travelled some distance to get there. Extra thanks to the GM’s who put the work in and ran great games.

I’m starting to think about BurritoCon4 already…

UK Games Expo 2019

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

Thursday 30 May

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

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

Friday 31 May

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 1 June

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

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

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

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

Sunday 2 June

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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.