In their podcast about Burnout, the Smart Party rightly advise caution against committing to a large book campaign; disappointment is almost inevitable because it’s difficult to sustain over a long period, when people’s lives are busy. When you do finish a big book campaign against those conditions, it makes it even more sweet.
Almost exactly 2 years to the day and 32, 2 hour long, sessions we completed The Two Headed Serpent in an epic finale. Every session had its thrills and spills, adventure and excitement as the players trotted around the globe, but the final session was great: every player made a contribution to the audacious saving of humanity from certain destruction.
Between the sessions, I created a recap in the form of a comic, which was one of those things that once I’d started, immediately regretted, as it was a time-sink. Now that it’s complete, I’m glad I did it for a record of one of the best series of adventures that I’ve ever taken part in.
It was down to the players, so I’m handing over to them to choose their highlights. Warning, there are spoilers.
The usual format is 5 highlights and fumble, but this time there are no fumbles, other than I’m sad it’s over.
Has to be the nightgaunts attacking the plane. The pilot dead and no one with above 2% pilot. Pure pulpy Indiana Jones stuff and a perfect example of how the system works using luck. Blythy
The disease camp in North Borneo, really loved how the plots slowly revealed there to culminate in a high speed escape whole defusing a mythos nuke!Phil the Dice Mechanic
There’s a few I can think off… Percy’s chat with Gary the Ghoul in Borneo is probably my favourite.Old Scouse Roleplayer
For me I liked the Icelandic base as it slowly collapsed while we were there giving a real sense of urgency, the theft of the brain case and the escape over the lava flow.Mark Kitching
My favourite bits were when Jock got to yell at some Bawbag before opening up with the devastating shotgun! Also, the scene where Percy was grappling Meadham and aided by Jock was driven into the whirling propellor blade! In 40 years, Jock is maybe one of my favourite ever characters.Sam Vail
For me, I loved Oklahoma (I’d just read The Grapes of Wrath) as it was a bit of a different pace from the high-adventure of the other episodes. I could see the players feeling disturbed and unsettled about what was happening and their role in it. I also loved playing gangster NPCs in New York and terrifying Neil, not his character, but Neil.Dirk the Dice
Last weekend it was virtual GROGMEET and by all accounts, a good time was had by all who attended. Thank you for the GMs who hosted the games and to the players who took part.
Here are some of the stories from the GMs:
My virtual Grogmeet
The planning for my games began in January at our gaming weekend on Tenby, hosted by Dave Paters. I ran Strontium Dog for the first time in 20 + years and I remembered how much I enjoyed it and how much fun we had playing. So I decided to create a new adventure for virtual Grogmeet.
However, my first game of the weekend was scheduled for Friday evening where I was to run my Pendragon homebrew. Set in 1963, the Agents (knights) were investigating a mysterious death of a young Jewish University student from the London School of Economics. The trail led them to the dreaming spires of Cambridge University, where more information and a package drop led swiftly on to London via Cambridge train station and then on to Salisbury. Visiting a packed Italian restaurant, the Agents were able to follow the package to Porton Down where a shoot-out occurred in the rocket testing facility and the sleeper cell of Nazi scientists were apprehended. The players, Andrew, Howard, Mike and Clarky were great and after a slow start, picked up the pace and the action to finally defeat the Nazi’s and defuse the bomb. “It’s either the red wire or the blue wire.”
My second game was on the Saturday evening and was my Strontium Dog scenario called, ‘Jelly Manelly’s done a runner!”. My players, Mark, Andrew, Alister and Rob got into their mutations and the system pretty quickly and although I had already run that scenario a couple of times already, it seemed to take a different direction from the start. From the Anglian Everglades, to ZinZan Station and then to the planet Zamboo, we saw our Mutant heroes locate and capture their prize.
My final game was as a player in Carl Clare’s game of Ghost in the shell using the FATE system. Carl had captured the Mango feel brilliantly and as usual he had meticulously prepared for any direction we wanted to go. My fellow players, Jon, Tom and Ty were all deeply invested and having Tom, an experienced FATE player, really helped the game run smoothly. We went through the investigation and captured Herr Doktor in the final encounter. Awesome fun.
This was my second Virtual Grogmeet and an incredible time was had. Meeting new people was great and playing with some old familiar faces was a lot of fun. Thanks to all my players and GM for throwing themselves into the games with such gusto.
Great session of Ghostbusters on the first night of Virtual Grogmeet with players Kaum @rolistedpod , playing Dr Sylvia Townsend, historian, Alister @awdscrawl playing David Bellamy, College gardener, Jon @jonac943 as Derek Trotter, College Porter, Chris @theschwerpunkt as Colin Eliot, Physics DPhil student, Graham @graham_r_smith as Professor Adair, leader of the Ghostbusters and parapsychologist
The adventure was set in the Oxford of 1985, with the players starting a new franchise of Ghostbusters based out of Balliol College. The scenario began with the characters celebrating St Scholastica’s Eve and starting their first meeting of the franchise, but was interrupted by the sight of a young Boris Johnson falling from his room and crashing into the stones of the quad. The brave Ghostbusters unravelled a mystery of jealousy and revenge, mourned over a murdered Nigella Lawson, concussed a dark sorceress with a tin of custard creams, and fled from the inn of the returned ghost of a medieval landlord, John of Barford, who was determined to wreak revenge on the scholars of Oxford. The adventure ended with the bells of the churches peeling out, weakening the spirit as the Ghostbusters firedup their proton packs forcing Barford him into a containment field.
A good days work ending with a pint of real ale with Inspector Morse.
A Pulp adventure in the Savage World of ‘The Day After Ragnarok’.Across the world, lies the trillion-ton corpse of the Midgard Serpent, raised from the sea by the nazis and destroyed by Truman’s atomic fire: poisoning the Earth with every night that passes.A small band of mercenaries under the command of the Royal Navy have been deployed to escort a volatile tanker of Ophiline from the Hereford Cut to a small coastal town in Wales. A local separatist politician, Solo Man, is rumoured to have a stock-pile of precious resources to trade, in exchange for the valuable fuel.
The mission to play a different post-apocalyptic games each month in 2020 continues. This time I used Savage Worlds in The Day After Ragnarok setting created by Kenneth Hite in 2009.
The world in 1948 reeling from the intervention of the Nazis who summon the Midguard Serpent to the sound of Wagner (the players joined in with the Ride of the Valkyries) from the depths of the seas; Odin’s son reaps havoc upon the world.
Truman’s Trinity Device is despatched and it destroys the serpent’s brain “in torrent of of atomic fire … Dark crimson rain fell from Dublin to Denver. Where it struck the seas boiled and the Earth drank poison. And things engendered, mutated horrors born of dragon’s blood and broken strontium atoms …”
The serpent body (350 miles across) lies as a curtain across Europe, wiping out most of Britain. The Empire stays intact as Australia was untouched by the events, so Prince Henry serving as the Governor-General set up Sydney as the new Imperial capital. The Royal Society (and the Royal Engineers) have begun to drill into the serpent to extract precious resources from its gut. For the sake of Crown and Country, the grit of the Brits are keen to keep calm, carry on and rebuild from the wreckage.
This adventure begins at the Hereford Cut, the location of the serpent mine, where a group of mercenaries volunteer for a suicide mission, transporting 20 canisters of volatile, un-refined orphaline across the Brecon Beacons to coastal town. They’re acting on a rumour from ‘Douglas’, who was played by Michael Douglas, that a separatist movement are building up a power-base using resources that have washed up on the coast of Wales, including planes (in kit form) which were heading for RAF Burtonwood.
A forward party which would include a negotiator will accompany the 2 1/2 truck filled with canisters of orphaline with the intention of negotiating with the group, exchanging their technology with oil from the serpent.
Here is a play report in the usual format, 5 highlights and 1 fumble.
Bennies – Check!
Special ’snake skin’ playing cards as the action deck – Check!
An extra action deck of playing cards for the ‘chase’ sequence – Check!
Status cards – Check!
Traveller minis – Check!
Adventure cards – Check! Wild dice – Check!
A play mat downloaded for each player so they can layout all of their dice and stuff – Check!
Natty new GM Screen – Check!
I think I’ve said before that there are a lot of ‘bits’ to Savage Worlds if you get carried away (like I do). Most of the extra things that came out from the Adventurer Edition kickstart don’t really add much other than more palaver to manage. The Adventure Card deck on the other hand is a really good addition to the game. Every player gets an adventure card and they can play it once during the session.
These operate in a similar way to MOS in Nights Black Agents – a game-changing advantage that can be used to great effect if used at the right time. In this game, a stash of gas masks were found, some cards were played to ensure that they had initiative advantage at the best time and one was used to roll away from an exploded wreckage.
Sorcerer! Most of the fun from this session came from the ‘Wages of Fear’ set up they gingerly overcame obstacles in their truck, most of them taken from the original film or from Sorcerer (the William Friedkin remake).
They faced a tight turning circle over a rotten platform, a giant boulder, and sharp, tyre-shredding rocks on the road.
This was mechanically represented with usage dice. Prior to the journey, each character had a chance to make an adaptation to add a dice to the pool. Depending on their relevant talents they improved the suspension, loaded the canisters in sand and reinforced the canvas sides with steel-plate (which would prove very useful).
They had a d10, d8, d6 and a d4 to begin with. Every time they made a manoeuvre without a raise, they had to roll over 2 on highest the dice, otherwise it was removed.
At the point when the dice decreased, the oil released a cloud of vapour, if inhaled it gave them the ’snake bite’ and made them more vulnerable to the Serpent’s thrall.
The ‘unlucky’ driver seemed to suck this up every time!
Nunbush! The forward company (including the negotiator) were ambushed while the player characters were undertaking a tricky manoeuvre.
“When you get closer, you realise that the bandits with sub-machine guns are dressed as nuns.”
“Nuns, with guns?!”
They were actually members of the Daughters of Dionin, but it seemed funnier describing them as nuns.
It’s a savage world
I have the FATE version of The Day After Ragnarok, but after using its Adventure Generator to get the bones of the scenario I soon decided that I would take the Savage Worlds approach.
There were a couple of reasons: I know it better and the current Adventurer version has new chase rules that I wanted to test out.
I feel that Savage Worlds is better for the ‘fighty Pulp’ excitement that I wanted to generate.
The swingy exploding dice and the unexpected results add a more spectacular, unpredictable element that’s harder to achieve with the more controlled FATE.
Explosive End To prove the point, the finale was an exciting confrontation within the serpent temple. They were outnumbered. The driver spiked the eye of the ‘Aunt Jenny’, a serpent-witch who had devoured their contact Douglas and had assumed his form. The driver only had a Philips head screwdriver, but thanks to exploding damage dice he managed to kill the creature with a single blow. As the GM, I didn’t have enough bennies left to soak up the damage.
A lucky hit with a thrown orphaline canister took down the big boss Solo-Man followed by the shrine to the serpent.
Then, as they reversed away, the delusional character thought he’d finish it all off with another canister, “I’m rubbish at throwing, but don’t worry, I have 4 bennies.”
Sure enough, he burned through the bennies, and the canister landed on the truck. A couple of them survived that explosion, but not the moment when the final usage dice rolled a 2, causing the remaining 18 canisters to explode.
The delusional character managed to roll away to safety after causing a TPK. It was a great moment, and a very fitting conclusion.
The adventure card was played to ensure that the team got commendation. King Henry IX bestowed a post-humous Victoria Cross on the team.
My fumble: I forgot that the nuns had laid mines to protect them from being flanked. Ah well, the explosions got them in the end.
The next Go-Play is 28th March 2020 (follow the details on the web-site). The next post-apocalyptic game is The Morrow Project on 15th March (which was opened up to Patreons).
As an addendum to Episode 35 and our guest Paul Fricker’s interview, this is a quick overview of Demon’s Drawl, the fanzine that first gave him his lucky break.
First launched in July 1983 Demon’s Drawl was produced for a couple of years before transforming into Telegraph Road. The energy behind the zine was editor Jeremy Nuttall who was based Congleton in Cheshire and it originally emerged from the Chaos Tribe Fantasy RPG Club. Overall, it has the appearance of a collaborative effort with ‘a team’ of contributors who are diligently acknowledged in each issue. The list of participants include some familiar names: David Robinson and GROGSQUAD regular Nick Edwards.
The overall tone of the zine is ‘sensible and committed’ as it lacks some of the fripperies that marked the zine-scene of the time. The resources for its campaign world of Galadra are serious minded, inviting contributions from the readership to create “a consistent, good and believable” world.
At its peak, it had a print run of 400 copies with 80 subscribers, which confirms Nick’s theory that this represented the entire active fandom in the UK at the time and that one in four of them were producing their own ‘zine.
The tone of the ‘Let us talk’ letters-pages debate about ‘Classless Systems” is representative of the general earnest approach: “what happens if I don’t want to play a character who falls within this strict categorisation?”
Most articles were inviting participation by adopting a conversational rather than an authoritative tone. It’s a great example of where the RPG gamers who wanted to push the boundaries of what they were playing could have a space to share ideas.
The editors clearly had an eye for talent too – they must have spotted something in Paul’s contribution: subtle shades of cosmic horror and a precise articulation of the human condition.
* If you want to see more, check out the Patreon only GROGLOCKER at the end of next week.
What makes Pulp “pulp” we ask ourselves in this episode.
It features the interview with Paul Fricker that we recorded at GROGMEET19. He’s one of the hosts of The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias, who we joined in the E.N.World Hall of Fame, thanks to the generous votes from the GROGSQUAD.
There’s also a First, Last and Everything from Lee Williams and much more.