As an extra to Episode 30, here’s the rest of the Actual Play. It also features a ‘Games Master Prepares’ segment about using The Five Room Dungeon.
As an extra to Episode 30, here’s the rest of the Actual Play. It also features a ‘Games Master Prepares’ segment about using The Five Room Dungeon.
INTRO: This time we are looking at Blake’s 7 and its influence on our gaming.
GROGGLEBOX: Eddy joins us in a noisy Port Street Beer House in Manchester to discuss ‘Project Avalon’
ACTUAL PLAY: Thanks to Andrew Cousins of lending me his copy of the rules to play. Blythy as Avon, Doc Con Cowie as Blake, Andrew Cousins as Vila, The Welsh Wizard Michael Hobbs as Jenner, and Mark Kitching as Cally.
FIRST, LAST and EVERYTHING: Guy Milner of Burn After Running blog.
THE GM SCREEN: Just how much of a fan is Blythy?
OUTRO: News about the GROGZINE 20
Episode 30 was all about the Blake’s 7 RPG, the fan produced roleplaying game that was printed and distributed by Horizons, the Blake’s 7 Appreciation Club. When the GROGPOD was published one of the GROGSQUAD linked it to Kin-Ming Looi and Zoe Taylor, the designers of the game.
It was lovely to hear that the two friends are listeners and were more than happy to share their reminiscences of producing the game via messenger, while Zoe was perusing a stately home and Kin was geocaching.
Dirk: We always begin our interviews by going backwards to the point that you started playing. What were you playing and who were you playing with?
Zoe: I started playing with Call of Cthulhu; I always had in interest in gothic horror and my boyfriend at the time wanted to try role-playing so [we played with] two of his mates.
Kin-Ming: In my case, that would be the 1977 edition of Basic Dungeons and Dragons; played initially back in 1979/80 with my mother and sister but that was very short-lived as I had watched some older boys at school playing Advanced D&D and was aware that the Basic set was distinctly simplistic by comparison (e.g. all weapons did 1d6 damage). I quickly graduated to AD&D. After I got over the shock of the book prices, I played with friends at school. Things really took off when I started going to boarding school with lot more time to play on account of not a whole lot else going on!
Dirk: How did you meet? Were you playing RPGs together?
Zoe: We met due to Blake’s Seven. We both joined Horizon, the B7 appreciation society and the Newsletters had penpal section; we started off writing letters to each other about B7, Dr Who and other science fiction. I think it was a while before we met in person at a Horizon gathering. Then at B7 Cons too. We just got on so well. We planned at various times to join the same game but it did not quite work out.
Kin-Ming: I’d tried running a play-test of B7 RPG at my local club, figured it had gone down well and was do-able, but needed more work. I thought, I’d go to the pen pals section of the Horizon newsletter looking for a collaborator. My, this takes me back. The receptionist at work was puzzled by the sheer volume of personal post I was putting in the out-tray!
Zoe: My goodness me, yes, letters were flying both ways, at least once a week and they were very long
Kin-Ming: I was in the privileged position of being an early owner of an inkjet and then a laser printer, not to mention Ami Pro, an early Windows WYSIWYG word processor. Email connectivity took a little longer to connect – it’d be intolerable now – but, back then, compared with the frequency of Horizon newsletters, it felt miraculously fast.
Dirk: What is it about Blake’s 7 that caught your imagination? Why do think it’s so enduring?
Kin-Ming: For me, B7 had a compellingly bleak, grim feel to it, had a large ensemble cast that both seemed suited to group RPG play and, unlike the likes of Star Wars, didn’t have an off-the-shelf game I could buy. It it had, I’d just have bought it. The many one-liners, especially Avon’s, struck me as the sort of things players said in games, hence the list of quotes in the rule-book.
Zoe: I agree it was bleak. The lack of budget for special FX meant there was more emphasis on characters. It also gave stronger female role-models; as an electronic engineer there wasn’t many offered by Star Wars or Dr Who.
Kin-Ming: Yeah, I was hooked on B7 from the first episode I saw, TRIAL (Episode 6, Season 2), when I arrived in the UK. From the start, even at an early age, it astonished me because it referenced a main character having just died in a futile attack on the Federation. Not to mention Travis’ politically expedient court martial for war crimes and his speech on the Federation’s institutional responsibility were all heady stuff for a prime time programme.
It was many years later that I got to see all the previous episodes. Indeed, getting to see episodes was a key reason to go to Horizon meetings. I’d argue the BBC’s release of the full VHS episodes was as important to being able to do the game as PCs and laser printers! Tony Attwood’s Programme Guide was insufficient.
Zoe: Had the advantage of watching from the start. The guide was laughable, because of all the gaps and missing facts, (even so I have all the books.)
Kin-Ming: I did watch every tape at least twice as soon as they came out, once just normally and at least once more to scribble down any relevant detail: sensor detection and engagement ranges, speeds, terminology, world names – the levels of detail the programme guide just didn’t go to. For example, in DUEL (Episode 8, Season 1), I noted how much of a Liberator energy bank each plasma bolt hit drained. I was a war-gamer and these details mattered to me!
Dirk: Tell us more about the design process and the different approaches you took. Were you using the crew or characters that you created?
Kin-Ming: I did look at Traveller, but even if you ignored the Imperium background, it is embedded in the assumptions of the game mechanics: e.g. jump drive, career options, Gauss rifles and fusion guns etc. so that adapting an existing system seemed to be more work than starting from scratch.
Zoe: The systems we both already played influenced the game we created. I had the wargamers group play testing with me, where we tried both new adventures (as a Keeper I was used to creating those) and we tried recreating episodes as a start to see where we could go.
Kin-Ming: My motivation for the design were my wargame design heroes; people like John Hill and Jim Dunnigan who espoused the ‘Design For Effect’ philosophy: the mechanics should be customised to reflect the subject you’re trying to recreate hence the specific skill names (such as ‘sensor operations’) to encourage players to use the right terminology, and getting the first snap-shot off being vital in combat.
The West End Games Star Wars RPG’s chucking loads of dice and reducing them for multiple actions really encouraged flamboyant play. And, for me anyway, Cthulhu and GDW’s 2300AD and Twilight: 2000 were the ideal balance between being complex enough to reflect what I wanted to do and being playable
I ran games with both TV and player-generated characters. Former mainly for one-offs and demos e.g. at conventions and the latter for a campaign at Finchley Games Club. I ran two campaigns, one starting on Post Gauda Prime shortly after the Federation attack on Blake’s base (continuation from final episode).
Zoe: For the play-test all the characters were from the show. As Blythy pointed out in the podcast, without the crew it’s just not the same.
Kin-Ming: Another campaign started off with the classic prisoner transportation to Cygnus Alpha setting, only as the Galactic War starts so the journey is interrupted by the Andromedas. I did a one-off kind of inspired by Sarcophagus (Episode 3, Season 9): the crew encounter a world which unleashed a psychic-Doomsday weapon. Essentially, the setting was very rich and surprisingly consistent for something that was written in the days before boxed sets and ubiquitous Internet access to allow geeky frame by frame dissection. (There is the matter of view long the Intergalactic War lasted, but let’s not talk about that.)
This was first and foremost a game we wanted to play but couldn’t just buy. The idea is Horizon publication came later but even then, the one thing you could expect from Horizon members is they know their B7. We did have the idea of a sourcebook but that never quite got going.
Are you still playing?
Kin-Ming:It’s been a long time since I played any tabletop RPGs. I started working in management consultancy involving travelling a whole lot. I still keep picking stuff up from Bundle of Holding and DriveThruRPG to read though. I have hung on to a core of games in physical form: Cthulhu, 2300AD and Twilight: 2000, mainly.
Zoe: Great to hear the podcast: someone else was interested in a project Ming and I had been passionate about at the time. It has made me think about RPGs again. Thanks to The GROGNARD files, it has made me subscribe to How we Roll, Good friends of Jackson Elias … and looking at other CoC podcasts
There was a copy at a second book supplier a while back
Kin-Ming: Oh yeah, that’s right, a friend sent me a link to someone selling a copy at £198! Wonder if it sold?
The earliest issue that has appeared from the d100 roll: I’m doomed to roll high.
It’s short and sweet with the ‘zine feel that was apparent in the early issues.
Welcome back to a new term of the White Dwarf Book Club. The dice have spoken and this one is for the birds.
During the introduction for GROGPOD 30, I mention New Voyager, the short-lived UK magazine that was: “Today’s magazine for those who can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Thanks to The Empire Strikes Back and other block-busters such as The Wrath of Kahn, as well as the NASA Space Shuttle launch, the interest in science fiction and all-things space was very much front and centre in 1982.
Around this point, Games Workshop were reaching out to a wider audience through genre magazines. In this issue, Steve Jackson provides an overview of the current state of the art of RPGs with a capsule review of the games available. There’s a couple on there that I’m not familiar with, such as Heroes of Olympus, Odysseus, and Universe. Fortunately, in pride of place is D&D, ‘rising star’ RuneQuest and Traveller (all distributed by Games Workshop, handy eh?). If you are interested in finding out more, you can send off for information, or enjoy a White Dwarf subscription a whole one pound cheaper than the normal price.
There’s a fairly dry listing of the episodes from the first series of Blake’s 7, which I suppose would have been indispensable given that the details were probably not available anywhere else.
The reason I was fascinated by this issue at the time was the contribution from my hero Mat Irvine who gave a report on the Shuttle programme. It might have been miserable in early-eighties Bolton, but we had a Golden Age of space travel to look forward to in the future. I can’t wait.
If you would like to see more, this is now available in the GROGLOCKER: a page of resources for Patreon supporters. See the post issued today to unlock.
For the past 4 years I’ve had a crack at the RPGGaDay challenge and by the 10th day I’ve usually burned out. In previous versions there has been a series of very specific questions that invariably got to to a question that I had no opinion about.
This year there has been a more ‘word association’ approach that I’ve indicated in caps. Although some of them lent themselves to a potential portentous statement, I’ve tried to avoid it by being as personal as I can. For example, the word “VAST” lends itself to platitudes like “the human imagination is vast and I intend to explore it through RPGs”.
I’ve done it every day in August on twitter, and for those of you who don’t use it, here are my entries:
1. Four years ago, the FIRST podcast was published featuring the first RPG we’d played: RuneQuest #rpgaday2019#RPGfirsthttps://thegrognardfiles.com/2015/08/07/the-grognard-files-rpg-episode-1-runequest/…
2.The greatest thrill of playing one-off convention RPG games is that every experience for every player around the table is completely UNIQUE. Never to be repeated. #rpgaday
5. The last, regular SPACE adventure I participated in was The Traveller Adventure 4 years ago. I’ve enjoyed our occasional Star Trek Adventures with @Asako_Soh but I need more SPACE in my life. #RPGaDay19#RPGaDay#RPGaDay2019
6. ANCIENT settings are my personal favourites. I’ve always wanted to be Jason thanks to @Ray_Harryhausen RPGs such as RUNEQUEST have let me realise the dream (albeit with no left leg) #RPGaDay19#rpgaday
8. I have a load of GM Screens to OBSCURE my secrets from the players, but I’ve never found the perfect one … perhaps I should treat myself to one made by @cognitivemerch (here’s @OrlanthR with his at GROGMEET18) #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
9. We’ve had a CRITICAL comment about the GROGZINE content “it’s just not nostalgic enough”. Excellent. It’s finally a *real* 80s ‘zine with a readers’ letters page pointing out how things have gone downhill. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday
13. I’m on holiday. New places are filled with MYSTERY, waiting to be unlocked; what’s the story behind this Deep One carnival masque? What’s lurking in the murky green Venetian lagoon? #RPGaDay2019 #RPGaDay
15. The DOOR is the GMs’ best pacing friend. Stick a door in it and it’s either an encounter, a brake or an accelerator (see also, a box) #RPGaDay2019#RPGaDay (here’s a Roman Door – what would you do with it? A Magic Mouth for riddles? An impenetrable seal? A teleport?
16. My DREAM? One day, I’ll all have all the time in the world to retire to a house of gaming. A place lined with shelfies, with many comfortable rooms filled with friends, drink, music and games. Welcome to DunGroggin’ #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
17. ONE on one play happened all the time when we couldn’t get a group together. Recently @sjamb7 played in a ‘link up’ adventure for the Two Headed Serpent it seemed both awkward & dangerous! @PelgranePress are supporting Solo Ops with Gumshoe; what about you? #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
19. When I want to make things SCARY for players, I think of the things that made me scared as a kid. They’re all wrapped up in one book: A Pictorial History of Horror by Denis Gifford (Conrad Veidt in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS … shudder…) #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday
20. One of my favourite and most enduring characters from bitd was Marcus Mendusor, a NOBLE Gladiator. You can read about him in the first GROGZINE. Submissions needed for GROGZINE20 too. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday
21. On the site of The Boar’s Head in Bolton, there was a pub for students known as Varsity, but @sjamb7 named it The VAST Empty Space-we were often the only people in it-at the top of the stairs in Nipper’s Corner, making plans “let’s write a RPG memoir” #RPGaDay2019
24. Battlecars was fuel for my imagination in the eighties. @Edinthesand and I added RPG elements, with scenarios and reoccurring characters, such as, The Bean and his opponent, Rooster Rotten and his souped up TRIUMPH T-100. #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
25. A RPG session can survive any CALAMITY apart from one: A forgotten character sheet I made me and @sjamb7 two hours late for an all day D&D session because I had to go home for my character. Anything else can be improvised, but you need your character, right?#RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
26. I never thought that I’d abandon my notebook of scrawl that I take everywhere, so that when an IDEA strikes, I can catch it. I’ve gone digital by using EverNote, where I can keep clippings and scrawl in one place. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday
30. “Crew Members Required” It’s 4 years since we made CONNECTION with the online, Wednesday, fortnightly group. @oilpainting71@rumleech@BenBgalvin@Edinthesand@sjamb7@DailyDwarf and Hal #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday
31. This is the first time that I’ve completed the RPGaDay Challenge – I hope it isn’t the last!
The next GROGZINE which will be published in time for virtual GROGMEET next year.
I’m looking for submissions from the GROGSQUAD.
This time I want to make a bit different.
Previous GROGZINEs have featured articles and useable content like scenarios and reviews that were a homage to White Dwarf, Imagine and 80s ‘zines.
This time, I want to create a ‘peoples’ history of RPGs’, looking back at some of your home-brew creations from back in the day.
What were the worlds you created?
Who were your favourite characters?
What happened in your epic campaigns?
What were the conventions that you attended?
Who were you playing with and how did you get together?
I’m looking for articles, features, scenarios based on the ideas above: please let me know if you want to be part of the project.
It will have all the same illustrations and look and feel, but this time it’s all about your experiences. What about retro-fitting your favourite characters from back in the day to bring them into the 21st century? Or redesigning your favourite scenario to make it playable now? Or sharing the photo-scrapbook of your favourite session?
If you have an idea, or want to crawl up into the loft to discover your lost treasures, then contact me at the usual address: Dirk The Dice At Gmail dot com.
I would like to finalise content before the end of January 2020, so please contact me as soon as possible to discuss your idea.
Join us in a collective memoire of the 70s, 80s and 90s heyday of RPGs!
Dirk the Dice
Patreons who have recently joined since March will start to receive a hard copy of GROGZINE19, until they run out. Watch your doormat during September!
It’s August, it’s the GROGNARD Files, it’s time for an update from GenCon!
Those of you who have read my previous update know the score :enormous, expensive, extraordinary.
So, let’s cover the Big Four, and, heck, let’s rate them out of ten to give this update some sort of tension and excitement!
Let’s begin with everything you will have already seen on the interwebs – the cavernous Trade Hall, the New Releases, the Gen Con Limited Editions, the queues, the crowds, the credit card bills…
Those of you who know me will already have guessed I enjoy this – we had a record haul this year with over 200lbs of games and paraphernalia.
There’s a reason I bring my sons, and though I obviously love the bonding, it’s mostly the luggage allowance.
Top priority this year was unsurprisingly the Chaosium stand, where I ended up bringing back six of the twenty sets of preview Runequest books available for sale (sorry, rest of the world).
The Trade Hall is almost Vancian, everything you can imagine and a lot more. Twisting and packed pathways through a bazaar lined with entreating booth merchants, bardic music, extraordinary and impossible sights – even the mysterious and forbidden…er… “delights” of the Cosplay Deviants gazebo!
Have a look at the picture if you want to see what else I managed to find. Ultimately half of this pile was stuff for other people, so this is another reason I’m so keen to tempt you lot along – maybe someone else can share the fetch quests next year?
Favourite Purchase – May the Lord above forgive me (because my bank manager won’t) I got a Beadle and Grimm Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh…
Favourite Paraphernalia – the Oddfish Games Adventure Scents. Sadly looking at the site online doesn’t really capture a good sniff at “Fetid Swamp”or the other extraordinary perfumes…
Well, people seemed a lot more interested in pictures of food than anything else I tried to communicate about my trip, so I thought I’d better put it in. There is a lot of good food in Indianapolis – I’m not pretending it’s necessarily the hautest of cuisine, but they really do comfort food incredibly well and in the quantities you’d expect. There is everything you’d hope for – and the huge numbers of food trucks have a ridiculous amount of variety with (usually) short queues.
Favourite Meal – the legendary horseradish shrimp cocktail, epic steak and gigantic bread pudding at Harry and Izzy’s.
Entirely Coincidental Weight Gain – this year 6kg. Perhaps I need to walk around the Trade Hall a bit more
Perhaps the one area where Gen Con doesn’t excel. Companies are always short of people running their games, and are happy to stump up con passes to those who run large numbers of sessions. Unfortunately this sometimes affects quality control, and the boys and I always have at least one really tepid game that reminds us how important a good GM is, and how lucky we are usually.
This isn’t the norm, though; and on the flip side you have games you just can’t get anywhere else – epic Pathfinder games with fifty tables working together, demos of the new hotness, escape rooms, huge wargames; and, of course, you can find yourself playing with the designer of your favourite game if you get lucky….
But seriously, if you just want high quality and reliable quality games, DMs and fellow players, stick with Expo, or even better – Grogmeet :- )
The outstanding “Flaming Star” by the “You Too Can Cthulhu” team – complete with sixties airplane LARP, video screens and *MILD SPOILER* the near thermonuclear destruction of America
This is really the most important thing for me, and obviously the most personal. It’s certainly why I go every year, and every year it gets better, as you meet up not only with your friends from previous years but also find new ones. The Trade Hall is a great place to meet and chat with game designers both great and small, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars with reliably good beer to continue the conversations.
9/10 (would have been 10 – but, dear reader, you couldn’t make it)
As always, Gen Con is amazing, but don’t get too much FOMO. Conventions are 80% the people who attend them, and I’m sure everyone gets as much joy from their regular gaming group, or the local conventions they attend.
On the other hand – if you ever want to give it a try, give me a shout, and I’d be delighted to go over the inside scoop…
Friday 08:11:2019 13:00-17:00
Now open for registration, a spectacular OSR event featuring ENnie Award winning MOTHERSHIP, hosted by very good friend Old Scouse Roleplayer at FanBoy3. If you are signed up for GROGMEET, you should have had confirmation that registration is open.
GROGMEET eve games and the main event will be available for sign-up in October.
The research vessel USS Arkhangelsk is at the start of it’s return journey back to Earth following an exploratory mission to the planet Goloka in the Ivaldi system. The ship’s course has been set, autopilot engaged; prior to entering stasis the crew gather in the cargo hold, the largest single room on the ship, before heading off to their cryo bays. Commander Scott Gorman addresses the crew, commending them on a job well done; the scientific mission was a complete success with the sample in storage being a real coup for the company. Better yet, the reports of a xenomorph presence in the area have been wildly exaggerated.
A toast is made; champagne would have been nice but would hardly sit well during statis. Standard pre-cryo protein rations are eaten. All is well and as the crew feel the anti-statis drugs kick in they head to their bunks, drifting into a deep sleep for the long haul, secure in the knowledge that the ships’ androids will see them safely home.