The GROGNARD Files

Table-top RPGs from back in the day and today.

Download Episode

It’s taken us 50 podcasts to dedicate an episode to White Dwarf. It was the centre of our RPG lives when we were teenagers.

In this episode Mike Brunton tells us how he got into RPGs and worked with TSR UK and Imagine magazine. Next time he will be relating his experiences as editor of White Dwarf and working for Games Workshop.

Neil Hopkins provides his First, Last and Everything. He created solo adventures for Quasits and Quasars

Eddy tells the story of the fateful night when he answered a small ad.

We are encouraging everyone to sign up to become a King of Dungeons (because it is awesome).

Blythy joins me for a run through some White Dwarf bag issues and to talk crisps.

Why not support our Patreon?

GROGSQUAD, pay attention, the next issue to study is this one from June 1986.

I’m not sure what you were doing in that month, but I was at the Milton Keynes Bowl watching Marillion at The Garden Party. It wasn’t a concert, it was an event. Jethro Tull, Gary Moore, Magnum and Mama’s Boys performed too in a brilliant day.

It was held on the same day as the Wham! farewell concert and our coaches met at Watford Gap. Two tribes. Us in our black Assassing! tees with long-hair and the Wham! lads in dressed in white wearing straw hats.

Nazis in Bolivia, boeing (R) in The Meg, life after death and Cosmic Encounter cards … what did you make of it?

White Dwarf helped to shape the ‘zine scene in many different ways. Usually, it provided something for upstart teenagers to push against. Often challenging the orthodoxies of the war gaming luminaries such as Lew Pulsipher: DragonLords is notable for its mockery of the authoritarian views on ‘how to do D&D right’ in the early editions of White Dwarf.

Others were happy to ape its style and content to create their own unique variations on the themes that circulated in those early years. The Beholder is an example of this approach, seeing itself as a resource for AD&D Dungeon Masters. Edited (and mostly written by) Michael G. Stoner (Mike) and Guy Duke who tried to pitch their zine ‘to everyone, from the rank amateur to top-class pro.’

It’s hard to date stamp these issues, but it seems that they appeared monthly from about April 1979, featuring reviews, new spells, tips on how to make encounters more interesting and scenarios with a ‘significant’ map presented in the centrefold.

They also included lots of monsters, Fiend Factory style, which they had ambitions of spinning out into publications in its own right; a ‘mini-Monster Manual’ is suggested in the editorial. They are neatly produced, efficiently written and still retain a sense of purpose as a quirky addition to the more professional DM resources that were emerging at the time.

Were you a subscriber or a contributor to The Beholder? Did they spin out and create other publications? Have you confronted any of these beasts?

‘Thin Giant’ … can’t be seen side-on
Time travelling rats that have come from the future ‘to see what it’s like’

Thanks to Doc ‘Con’ Cowie for the loan of these ‘zines from his collection

A random roll on the d100 as thrown up 37 (4 issues later than the first one) which was dated January 1983. The magazine had started to get into the stride as a monthly publication after years of coming out every two months.

This was the month that wearing a seat belt became compulsory in the UK, despite protests from people bemoaning their loss of the civil right of being thrown through a windscreen. BBC launched its Breakfast Time programme with Frank Bough jazzed out in his jazzy jumpers and the Green Goddess preened in green.

ET won the Golden Globes for film drama (with Tootsie winning the comedy) and Hill Street Blues won the TV awards. Steve ‘interesting’ Davies won the Snooker Classic in St Helens. Superman: The Movie is shown on TV for the first time.

Let’s look at this together: What did you make of the cover? Did Alan E Paul’s FAERIES appear in your games? Did you learn your Traveller referring ropes from Andy Slack? Some classics appear in Open Box … did you play Crasimoff’s World? Vampire tables! Don Turnbull is getting cross on the letters page… How did you make use of issue 37?

A new feature recommended by the GROGSQUAD. A weekly White Dwarf Book Club, so we can read the same issue together and talk about some of the features, scenarios, reviews, adverts, letters and other aspects of the magazine.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. If this is popular, I’ll roll on a d100 every Tuesday and post it here. This week, let’s begin when I begun, issue 33.

Dirk

Download Episode

This is a GROGPOD extra, made possible thanks to the generosity of the GROGSQUAD patreons. This is a Newstalgia podcast talking about the things we are playing now.

It is focused on the preparations for the RPGs played at UK Games Expo: Savage Worlds, PSI World and Lyonesse.

Here are some links mentioned in the pod:

Role-Play Rescue: Che Webster’s GM Journal inspired the approach to this podcast

Keehar’s Blog: An occasional blog where Keehar shares his preparation and play reports.

The Smart Party: Listen to the full seminar ‘How to GM at Conventions.

Bud’s RPG Reviews: I met the man behind ‘the hands’ check out his channel.

The Design Mechanism: Follow them to catch the Lyonesse preview when it comes available

IMG_1718.jpeg

I have at least 2 more chins than last year

IMG_1763.jpeg

We tromped around those big halls several times: sensory overload, how many copies of Pandemic can you fit in one place?

IMG_1729.jpeg

“Hida San uses the full might of his indomitable will to wield the otsuchi above his head to shatter the carapace of the evil manifestation,” and misses

IMG_1730.jpeg

Unleash the Strontium Dogs!

61608164_10219269683357556_7802889321135996928_o.jpg

This is moments after my Caroline Munro Bollywood dance demo during Caparnaüm: The Tales of the Dragon-Marked

D7-1D74WkAA-JPc.jpg

Watching us, watching you, watching us … thanks to everyone who attended the seminar hosted by The Smart Party

IMG_1747.jpeg

Doc ‘Con’ Cowie was the designated ‘card monkey’ for PSI World

IMG_1756.jpeg

The Smart Party! “Always pictured with a pint” Gaz and “Much taller than you think” Baz

IMG_1738.jpeg

I had five bags full of books and bling. Blythy used PDFs on a tablet and fitted it all in a tiny, tiny bag. Next year he’s appearing as a hologram.

61849195_10219269688917695_2747531514584498176_o.jpg

Silkspindle Spire emerges before the eyes of the players during Lyonesse (the cursed dice cup – remember that? – makes an appearance)

IMG_1766.jpeg

Daily Dwarf, Judge Blythy, Old Scouse Role-Player and OrlanthR do some post-con analysis

IMG_1768.jpg

My purchases – I couldn’t find a KeyForge Starter Set for love or money

Sigh. That’s it. Over for another year.

This is the third time that I’ve been to UK Games Expo and it was my best experience so far; I know the geography of the place and feel more comfortable than I have on previous occasions.

I met loads of great people, missed many more; play’s the thing, I spent most of the time in the ‘Devon’ room in the Hilton Metropol, as a GM and player, which meant I didn’t have enough time to socialise outside of playing.

Somehow I even managed to fit appearing in a seminar into the schedule. It featured the collective wisdom of Baz & Gaz from the Smart Party with Paul Fricker from The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias with some inspiring, fluent and engaging tips on running games at conventions. I’m on there too, mumbling about middle-management for some reason. You can listen to it on The Smart Party feed.

“There’s a massive queue for your seminar!” someone tweeted. I thought, “they’ve gone to the wrong one.” Sure enough, Paul and I found a queue for another seminar running at the same time; he shouted over the crowd, “If you want the How to GM at Conventions seminar, follow us.”

He rolled against CHA and 1d4 hirelings emerged.

Here are my 5 highlights and a fumble.

1. Legend of the Five Rings

IMG_1727 3.jpeg

We had sake to get us into the mood of the wedding celebrations

Earlier this year I bought the new edition of Legend of the Five Rings as I was intrigued by its setting of Rokugan, the Emerald Empire. The concept of a fantasy Far East is really appealing and the books are beautifully produced, but after reading it, I had no idea how to start playing.

It’s the kind of game that will be a hard-sell to our group because it needs a certain level of absorption to get the most out of the intrigue between the different competing dynasties. Asako_Soh (from Twitter) created an introductory adventure that focused on the House of Crane and the House of Crab being united by a wedding. We played samurai who discover that the bride-to-be has gone missing.

I’m still not entirely sure how the dice work (it’s a bit like reading tea-leaves) but the pre-gens and the setting allowed for some good interplay between players. There were some nice role-playing moments where the mannered, cultured and very judgey Crane were trying to hide the truth from the cruder Crabs.

The end was spectacular featuring an epilogue with a duel between the one-armed Samurai of the Crane, and my brutish, Crab samurai who was better with a blunt instrument than the finesse of the katana, so was struck down, across the clavicle.

It was an excellent introduction to the game. A great start to the convention.

2. Strontium Dog

IMG_1735 2.jpeg

Wild Dia – an arsonist who burn Rhyl to the ground, has jerry-built a huge gun to protect Stump Valley

“Bringing Akill-Ease to Heel is my homage to the early Pat Mills satirical Strontium Dog stories from the early 80’s using Savage Worlds and the Mongoose supplement. This was a Cecil B. DeMille production with lego and relentless events thrown at the Stonts from the moment it begins to the very end.

Thanks to some unfortunate rolls, their transporter craft Daze-14 (Fortnite -geddit?) crash-landed into the killing zone leaving many of them injured and confused, but they were cool and ruthless when dealing with their warrants.

There was a satisfying cheer when Leonard Stump was grappled around the ankle by Harpi Harry’s wire-launcher and yanked off a balcony to his death, prior to being rescued from the planet by Johnny Alpha himself.

3. Capharnüm

IMG_1740.jpeg

I was very excited to play this game as I was promised a Ray Harryhausen experience by the GM Dimbyd. He didn’t disappoint. Translated from French by MindJammer games, this is a setting that creates a fantasy Arabian Nights and ancient world infused with magic. At its heart is a simple d6 dice pool system that works very easily and the characters were full of flavour.

I played a betrothed princess, heading out across the desert with a caravan; I liked to refer to the other players as my entourage (not sure how they felt about it), when we were invited inside a magnificent palace that appeared to us in a mirage. It is the first time I played Caroline Munro, Bollywood dancing through a bazaar in search of followers, I hope it is not the last.

4. Psi-World

IMG_1753.jpeg

The Bandersnatch Cell rescue the PSIonic in Transition from certain lobotomisation at the hands of the PSIonic Protection Agency

“Anarchic” was the description offered by the players at the end of this session.

I like to think it was an extremely balanced and controlled session, filled with suspense, emotional highs and lows of the anxieties of  teenage life in the 80s by reflecting on the turmoil of realising that you are different and society is  oppressing your burgeoning desires.

The players could choose which side of the social divide they wanted to play. The PSIonic freedom fighters or the PSIonic protection agency. They chose to be the PSIonics with their special powers. Each player had their own school of PSIonic talents and they all deployed them in ingenious ways as they tried to track down and rescue a PSIonic in transition in Hiddenwood.

I made a school boy error that would get me drummed out of the Smart Party. I didn’t realise that the legend on the handout map actually revealed the location of the hideout of the target teens.

Well, to be fair, there was a Pre-Cog on the team, so I think I got away with it.

The session became increasingly frenetic as the PPA closed in on them.

In emotional and action-packed scenes they rescued the target. A levitating motorcycle caused a dramatic crash, a critical ‘Plumbing’ roll fixed the dripping tap of a water witch who was revealed as the grandmother of the target PSI and two lovers were reunited in a dramatic ‘hands across the divide’ moment.

An emotional meeting between grandmother and grand-daughter was interrupted when the young psionic was teleported away to safety. Their van squealed into the scene, taking down the PPA and rescuing the PSIs, delivering them to a place of safety in the Enclave. Mission accomplished.

Anarchic? No, poetry.

Lyonesse

IMG_1759 2.jpeg

The Design Mechanism kindly wrote Coddifut’s Stipule, a scenario for their forthcoming Lyonesse game based on the Mythras system, specially for this convention; it was an honour to debut the adventure as I am a huge fan of the Lyonesse novels.

“Begin in media-res,” we recommend in the ‘How to GM at Conventions” seminar. How about ‘begin at breakfast’ instead? The rules provide four pages of tables that create an exotic Vancian breakfast, the name of the tavern they’re eating it in and the town where the scenario is based.

Within moments, after several dice rolls, we created a scene straight from the pages of the novels. The characters introduced themselves over a meal of boiled fish and sea urchin in a white wine celery infused sauce accompanied with stewed effervescent parsnip. The landlord of the Dreadful Mule served it to them before the burgher of Swinspool Water appeared.

What followed was a wonderful three hours encounter Vancian fairy magic culminating in a classic scene of cruel trickery where the players conspired to get the upper hand. The Mythras passions worked really well by compelling some of the action and there was an ingenious application of the Impspring Twinkle-Toe spell to get one of the players out of a tight spot.

I don’t want to reveal too much as the scenario is going to be made available as a taster of the new game. Follow the Design Mechanism

It was excellent. The highlight of my weekend. Thank you to Loz Whitaker for making it possible.

6. Beer Drought

This time the event was bigger than ever which is great for the organisers, but is it getting too big? Places felt uncomfortable, the queues for food were ridiculous, there weren’t enough staff serving at the hotel (there had a system where you had to queue twice for a cup of tea; a queue to pay, a queue to make it.)

As in previous years, the gamers and the Masonic Order of Ladies share the Hilton. This year, they drank the bar dry by Friday lunch-time.

We had to drink lager. I know. It was terrible. Next time they’re going to need more beer or ration those ladies.

 

 

 

More Tunnels & Trolls (with Ken St Andre)

Download Episode

INTRO: A new review of The GROGNARD files

INTERVIEW: A list of interesting things referred to by Ken: His mini, Trollhala Press, Fours, and Big Jack Brass

ACTUAL PLAY: Hook up with The Smart Party to hear more

FIRST, LAST, EVERYTHING: This time : Steve Ray

GROGGLEBOX: At The Earth’s Core

Outro: Thanks for supporting

I’ve spent the weekend packing and addressing envelopes stuffed with the GROGZINE19 (and associated extras for Patreon backers at different levels). If you live in the UK, you can expect to receive it around the weekend.

This year we have designed the zine as a homage to the golden age of UK RPG zines from the early to mid 80s. One of the favourites from the era was Quasits & Quasars. There were 10 issues, including a team-up with DragonLords, and it is the latest to appear in the sluggish, Fanzine Festival.

“Played once, never again”

Edited by David Hulks, supported by his friend and GROGSQUADer Neil Hopkins (he’s done a great First, Last and Everything for Episode 29 of the GROGPOD), Quasit & Quasars was more about good content, rather than fiery exchange of opinion, by providing scenarios and other GM resources for both fantasy and SF genre games.

Unlike many others, it also featured solo games, Neil recalls carefully cutting and pasting the paragraphs together, using real scissors and glue, when composing the adventures.

From the three copies that I’ve studied (on loan from Doc Con’s Marc Gascoigne wing of his extensive RPG library) there’s a certain bias towards Tunnels and Trolls, which split opinion on the letters page. It was protected by the editors, promising a feature every other issue; as for Gangster! well, Gangster! got hit!

Dirk the Dice

The covers represented their coverage of the fantastic and the futuristic

You can almost feel the time draining as you read the page
There are loads of examples in zines where the editor apparently runs out of space or is filling space with a plea (chortle)
There was always a good, lively coverage of T&T, this provides an overview of the available material …
Hit Locations in Tunnels and Trolls!
Thieves in T&T!
Handwritten letters!!