The Lemurian Seven: Thoughts on BoL

Last Friday I started running Barbarians of Lemuria… it’s a game that has been on my shelves for ages and I thought it would be worth a trying it out. I read the rules a couple of times (for it’s 200+ pages BoL still feels like a light game) and had a plan to run each of the brief adventures from the core book in an episodic format. Each episode the heroes would start somewhere new, with no thought or acknowledgement given to how they would get there. That was the plan at least…

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I decided to run the game on alternating Friday’s just to give me a bit more prep time between sessions and also so I had opportunities to do social stuff without having to cancel. I had in my mind I would be lucky to get three or four players, and that I would be content with that. After putting it out there on Twitter I found there was quite a bit of interest… I can manage 6 players, I’ve done it before, so I went with that. But somewhere along the way I lost count, so we now have 7 players; I really didn’t want to have to drop a player, and as I’d not been too fastidious in tracking who had asked to join last, it would have been unfair to randomly drop someone. Although it would have given me a practical use for my Dungeon Crawl Classics D7 Zocchi dice…

Now I’m not a huge fan of big character backgrounds, but BoL encourages players to establish simple backgrounds to tie in with their careers. In this my players went above and beyond; I have excellent backgrounds, not too detailed, but filled with the right stuff. Adversaries and interesting characters have all been included. Every question I asked I was given an interesting, engaging answer. And as time went on I started to wonder how I would use all of this great background material with the episodic format I had planned. I couldn’t see a way to do it.

I’ve since decided to abandon that idea and go for a much more player directed campaign, one where their backgrounds, and most importantly the NPC’s they have identified are a big part of the adventures. After mapping everything out using a Kanban board, I feel I’ve got a good grip on all of the moving parts – certain threads will come into focus for different sessions. In fact, I have so many threads and possibilities that I will have to leave some out for now, otherwise the players will each be going off in different directions to complete their own quests. BoL provides some great mechanisms to bring out backgrounds as well, such as the Hunted flaw which means each time a hunted character enters a city, on a 1 on 1d6, the hunter or an agent of the hunter will turn up and cause problems.

“How’s it been managing seven players online?” I hear you ask. It’s been amazing fun! Some players are more vocal than others, but I try to ensure everyone remains engaged with the game – it was great to see the players chatting amongst themselves using Roll20 chat, making plans while I was dealing with another encounter in Hangouts. We’re still finding our way with the game etiquette and balance, and I think we’ll get to where we need to be before too long. Plus with seven we have the added bonus that if up to 4 players couldn’t make it, we could still have a game!

I need to give more thought to how I prep for sessions as well; too much means I’m pushing the players where I want them to be all the time, not enough means the game can feel a little slow. I felt part of last night’s session was like this and hoped that writing this up might help identify the improvements I can make. We finished on a climax, so I’m hoping to start the next sessions with some pace and continue it from there…

Any thoughts or advice on how to proceed would be appreciated!

 

Better Than Any Man: The End and Closing Thoughts

Warning: BTAM serious game ruining spoilers ahead!

Caught in a desperate and bloody combat inside the main entrance to Goblin Hill, the Black Dogs are scrapping with half a dozen masked and unarmed cultist Burgerfriedensmiliz who stand between them and the huge iron doors that lead outside and to freedom. The alarm has been raised deeper inside the cultists lair and distant running feet and shouting can be heard behind them… not sure how much time they have before a horde of cultists capture (and maybe eat) them, they throw everything into the fight.

Hemming closed in on one of the cultists while the others kept their distance and tried to pick others off with missile weapons, Balock with a hastily picked up shortbow and Miklos with his crossbow. Once cultists started to fall Esmeralda threw herself into the fray, brutally cutting more down while Miklos relieved one of his head. As more cultists come tearing down the corridor the Black Dogs overpower the door guards just as Genevieve and Esmeralda push open the huge front doors and the cold night air floods in. Two guards await outside and are stunned to see the intruders pour out past the corpses of their dead companions.

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With more heavily armed and no doubt competent cultists just behind, the adventurers take the sensible option and flee into the forest…

An effective escape was on the cards but Esmeralda lingered too long, attacking a cultist that was trying to kill Genevieve. Initiative can shaft you sometimes. As the rest of the Black Dogs ran into the darkness, the plucky rogue was grappled by one of the guards who was trying to pin her down until his fellow cultists arrived. Other cultists come streaming past chasing Miklos, Balock and Hemming and all looks lost for Esmeralda, a fate of torture, tenderisation and ending up on a cannibal’s dining plate await her. As a last minute thought (as he was focussed very much on his own survival) Hemming fires his final Magic Missile at the cultist wrestling her, and as his flesh is devoured by chomping skulls, Esmeralda is able to flee into the darkness as well.

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Knowing the dangers of following the party into the woods, the cultists withdraw. It is a little while later that the Black Dogs meet up, take stock of their situation and head back to Thungen with a plan to head to Wurzburg, hand over the heads of T

he Defiler, The Joy, The Mother, The Provider and The Watcher in a bid to save Wurzburg (knowing Karlstadt is already lost).

Outside Thungen they encounter a Swedish patrol and discover they are already too late. Wurzburg has been raised to the ground, the garrison of the Marienburg Fortress wiped out and the citizens of the town slaughtered. It seems they were too late by only a day or two to save the thousands of innocents who perished… Maybe they can still claim a reward for the heads, but who would pay it?

Aftermath

A montage of scenes would show the Swedish army rampaging across the area; remains of the walls and buildings of Karlstadt, shattered and blackened by flame and cannon fire, ruined bodies lining the streets, hanging from gallows and impaled on sharpened stakes, amongst them The Defender and The Reminder. Their creatures are nowhere to be seen. A large contingent of the Swedish army are still camped outside, ensuring none escape Gustavus Adolphus’ vengeance.

Wurzburg has fared no better. The Prince-Bishop Franz Von Hatzfeld has long since fled with his entourage leaving the people to their terrible fate.

Swedish patrols scour the area cleaning up stragglers while witch hunters sentencing many poor women to the hangman’s noose (after all, if there were seven female sorcerers in Karlstadt, there could well be more). One patrol reaches Goblin Hill and before too long it is torn apart and all the cultists within, men, women and children are executed.

Did the Black Dogs prevent the Insect God from awakening and enslaving humankind? A foul and alien deity, the Insect God will slumber deep beneath the ground for now, probing, broadcasting it’s dreams until some other desperate and damaged soul can be manipulated to raise another cult to serve it…

Then there’s the characters themselves – they’ll be level 4 at least after this. What is next for them? Retirement, further adventures?

Balock, Specialist (top left) – the only character to maintain a shred of human decency, even at the end considerate and looking for the best in people; only dealing death to those who deserved it.

Hemming, Magic-User (bottom left) – like most who dabble in the arcane arts, he was aligned to chaos from the start and this only continued as the game progressed.

Miklos, Cleric (top centre) – a true man of God. Perhaps we saw the biggest change in him, in Wurzburg he was a big softie, by the time the hunt for The Seven was truly on, a demented Scimitar wielding death dealer, all too ready to remove a head or two.

Ingrid, Fighter (RIP) (right, standing with peg leg)- an experienced Black Dog who had one job in mind. Kill The Mother and stop the Insect God cult. She lost her life to see the job through.

Genevieve, Magic-User  (right, sitting) – a newer addition to the Ingrid’s Black Dog gang, nevertheless she was happy to throw around magic and wield a sword in battle.

Esmeralda, Specialist (right, standing with arquebus) – tricksy, sneaky and handy with a bow, Esmeralda is an accomplished all around monster slayer.

Maldron, Fighter (RIP) (bottom centre) – a fearsome warrior from the beginning, happy to wade in with his terrifying greatsword. None would have thought he would be the first to go, yet he was undone by The Defiler’s creature and it’s infinite stomach dimensions…

Shylock, Specialist (RIP) (not shown) – a guide from the Karlstadt Conspiracy to overthrow The Seven, he showed great potential until he was ripped in half by The Defender’s creature.

If nothing else, those who survived deserve a well earned rest.

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The player with the most dead characters award goes to Tony for his outstanding contribution to making me feel like a proper OSR GM.

Closing Thoughts

I’m happy and sad.

Happy because we completed Better Than Any Man – it’s the first adventure of this scale, effectively a mini-campaign, that I have ran and completed in a long time. And while it had some troughs, I thought it had many more peaks. The players (regulars , , ,  and an early appearance by were excellent, throwing themselves into their characters and every grim and outrageous situation I threw at them (well not me really, James Raggi the author), and really engaging with the setting and adventure. It was a demanding game as well, a time sink, particularly in the earlier parts… it’s a sandbox adventure that presents some unique challenges to the GM. It’s a bundle of stuff with a glorious historical backdrop, a load of locations, some ideas, crazy NPC’s, encounters and a few dungeons and the GM has to pull it all together to make it sing.

116452Sad because it’s all over. I really enjoyed learning about the 30 years war (I must confess to some ignorance before I started planning this; RPG’s are educational, yay!), planning how to start the adventure (I used A Stranger Storm as a lead in), throwing in some adhoc stuff and watching the players squirm was all great fun. Their morale compases were put to the test and changed direction many times. And using LotFP – damn, I love that system. It’s pure, refined OSR gold to me, as masterful B/X D&D variant – it just works perfectly (well saying that I added a few house rules).

There were a load of locations the party didn’t get anywhere near; the Farmhouse, the Mound, the Infinite Tower and the Realm of the Insect God. Part of that was my fault, I threw in a few distracting side quests, and then when the time pressure was on (with the Swedish Army heading into the area) they because really focussed on getting the heads of the Seven, ignoring the teasers to these other locations I put in their way (a child kidnapped from the refugee camp and a glass tiger prowling the hills nearby; I wasn’t keen on the Infinite Tower and had already decided to skip that). Having a sandbox adventure and a tight timeline is not an ideal mix (in my opinion) and it’s unlikely they could be separated in this case as the Swedish Army’s presence is crucial to the whole adventure.

What would I do differently if I was running it again? Early on I made the choice that this would be entirely human centric, no dwarves, elves or halflings; I still feel that was a good decision. I’d start with A Stranger Storm again for sure, that is a cracking paranoia inducing adventure, setting the tone and player expectations of what was to come. I would have them approach from a different direction – coming to Wurzburg first tied them up quite a bit. If they had come from the northwest they could have encountered the Farmhouse and the Mound before hitting Karlstadt or Wurzburg. Travel was quite slow, so I’d make sure they had easy access to horses, and most likely try to start the adventure a couple of days earlier, so if they are sidetracked they still have a chance of getting to Wurzburg to pick up the ‘Heads of the Seven’ quest and perhaps succeeding in it. Plus there would be a greater opportunity to have more of the excellent and disturbing random encounters.

Would I recommend running it? Hell yeah! It’s fantastic and well worth the time investment – there are dozens of hours of great gaming in this, and considering it is PWYW on DrivethruRPG there is no reason not to take a look.

2019 The Big Plan

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

Conventions

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

Games

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

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

Resolutions

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

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

2018 Review

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

January

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

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

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

February

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

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

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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!

When the Grogmaster calls…

Dirk the Dice, master of all things Grognard and anchor stone of the Grognard Files collective kindly asked me to write an item for his blog about my resurgence back into the amazing world of RPG’s.  Chuffed, nay honoured to be asked, I put my metaphorical pen to paper and scribbled down some stuff which you can read on his blog here.

If you don’t already read the Grognard Files blog and listen to the podcast I’d heartily recommend you do.  Right now.

After the cold and dark months of winter

As Grog’s slowly awaken from their long hibernation, it’s not only the fresh air of spring and the promise of summer that offer glorious days ahead, but also a quick scan over the convention calendar.  April is shaping up to be a great month for gaming.  On top of my regular games I’m been looking forward to these events with great enthusiasm (and you should be too).

DevaCon

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It’s only two days until we head off to histrionic city of Chester for a glorious 12 hours of gaming in the rather posh Crowne Plaza for DevaCon.  I know there are still tickets left so if you fancy it, get yourself along.  I’m going to be running my Lamentations of the Flame Princess homebrew adventure The Greater Share of Honour, set on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt.  My recent gamer pal Andrew Clark (@DissectingWrlds) is going all out and running three games; La Comedie Francaise for Flashing BladesThe Liverbird has landed for Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes and Sabeurs & Savants for The Cthulhu Hack.  The battle_of_agincourt_by_wraithdt-d948orfguy is a machine.

There are loads of other great games on offer including The One Ring, Chivalry and Sorcery, Mistborn, Firefly, Cthulhu by Gaslight and World of Darkness Glorantha.  Full listing here.  Also checkout the DevaCon Facebook page.

 

Virtual Grogmeet

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Last November a bunch crusty old gits bearing the proud title of Grognard descended upon Manchester for Grogmeet 2017.  The gaming was great and I met some fantastic folks.  The organiser of Grogmeet and host of the amazing The Grognard Files podcast, Dirk the Dice (@theGROGNARDfile) has arranged a virtual version taking place 13-14 April as an way for those who were unable to get to Grogmeet to play some games with other followers of the podcast.  Although I’m not playing any games I am running Forgive Us for LotFP, really looking forward to that.

Lunchtime Lairs

Who wouldn’t want to spend one lunchtime a week playing RPG’s?  A friendly city centre game store, a light and easy system, great gamers.  Every Wednesday between 12pm and 2pm starting 18th April at Just Play in Liverpool, we’ll be running short sessions using the Black Hack; alternating GM’s, a pool of characters, each session must be complete, no carry over to the following week.  Fingers crossed we’ll get enough players to make it worthwhile.

Lunchtime Lairs