The GROGNARD Files

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


Monsters! Monsters! RPG with Ken St Andre

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INTRO: 00:00:16 – This is the first part of a two part episode looking at the games and worlds created by Ken St Andre. He’s one of the founders of the hobby and tremendously influential on the development of RPGS.

OPEN BOX: 00:04:40 – Live from his Troll Cave in Arizona, The Trollgodfather tells the story of his origins and influences. Find Ken St Andre works at Trollhalla.

WHITE DWARF: 00:40:40 @dailydwarf is back! He’s looking at how White Dwarf provided advice on how to get the best out of your monsters!

FIRST, LAST, EVERYTHING: 00:55:10 A brand new feature for the GROGPOD – a member of the GROGSQUAD selects three of their favourite games – the first they played, the last game that got them excited and the game that means everything to them. James Holloway from the Monster Man podcast is up first.

GAMESMASTERS’ SCREEN 01:03:40 Blythy and Dirk in the room of roleplaying rambling playing monsters.

OUTRO: Check out Save for Half and their episode about Monsters! Monsters! The most recent edition of What would the Smart Party do? podcast covers 70s games. If you’d like to hear a Monsters! Monsters! actual play, go to Whartson Hall.

The GROGZINE is coming as a gift for Patreons.

I’m still cock-a-hoop. The podcast has been selected as the Pod Pick of the Month in Issue 460 of Starburst magazine. Regular listeners will know that the magazine has always been close to my heart. It was via an article in Starburst, written by Steve Jackson, where we first learned about the hobby. There is an interview with me and Alister Davison talking about the podcast.

In the interview I make the point that there is a community that has developed around the podcast, “people are rediscovering the hobby, sharing their experiences and, more importantly, playing the games again.”

Last weekend, was a good example, as it was virtual GROGMEET: an online version of our annual meet-up in November. There were 15 games on offer over two days and 4 slots. The GROGMEET GMs did a fantastic job of hosting the event and it sounds like a good time was had by all.

When the GROGPOD has done and dusted, it will be times like this that I’ll remember. Thanks GROGSQUAD!

Dirk the Dice

KING OF DUNGEONS

Baz Stevens, (from What Would the Smart Party Do? podcast) has been putting the finishing touches to his forth-coming game ‘King of Dungeons’. He gave the game a test-drive during the event:

Grog times had by all! looks like I have a few more King of Dungeons fans at the end of the session. Thanks ever so much for setting the event up.
Here’s a snap of Mark (“Rusty the Angelic Warrior”) as he decides to eat the treasure rather than let it fall into the wrong claws.

CALL OF CTHULHU with Matt Wrycraft
LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS

Next month, I will be playing in this game with @Askako_Soh at UK Games Expo, so he’s done a spoiler free review of his virtual GROGMEET experience:

Three brave samurai, Kakita Soetsu, duelist (@zos93), Doji Ojijiro, diplomat (@thegenemayes), Hiruma Nezu, scout (@comicevangelist), risked honour, life and limb against foul creatures of the Shadowlands to ensure that the path of true love runs true. We used the most recent edition of Legend of the Five Rings, from Fantasy Flight Games, and managed to get the dice roller working in roll20 and enjoyed the dangerous criticals and the mechanic of strife and unmasking, with the samurai losing face and honour in times of intense stress.  I had some fantastic players who brought great insights to the game and should a true understanding of Bushido.

FLASHING BLADES

Kehaar is an enthusiastic advocate of FGU’s Flashing Blades RPG. Everyone who plays has a rollicking great time. You can find out more about his game on his blog.

The players all threw themselves into the game with gusto being it hanging off a German assassins neck while lackey attempts to insert his ramrod where the sun doesn’t shine or speeding across Paris to farcically gather rare gifts for the beautiful Madamoseille Rosalind. 

RUNEQUEST GLORANTHA with Dimbyd
PENDRAGON

Sam Vail offered an interesting proposition: a home-brew version of Pendragon set in 1963 where there is a hidden, Arthurian world coexisting with our own.

The brave Agents of Excalibur managed to track down a Weapon of Mass Destruction and successfully neutralise it and bring the conspirators to justice. Overall, the game ran for 3.5 hours and there was a lot of role playing and laughing along the way.Looking forward to Grogmeet 19 where I may run this scenario again.

CALL OF CTHULHU – DOWN DARKER TRAILS – with Ian ‘Doc RPG’ Griffiths
BARBARIANS OF LUMURIA

Neil Benson, the Old Scouse Role-Player, ran his home-brew adventure A Heart for Madness, that’s currently on tour. You can read a spoiler free review on his blog.

NIGHTS BLACK AGENTS

There were 7 players for the sequel to the Enemies Within, miners’ strike scenario that I did last year. The first part appeared on the podcast and this adventure reunited some of the characters (and players). It featured emulated scenes from the overly complicated audience participation event: Tinker. Soldier, Tailor, Spy and The Man with The Golden Gun. It was good fun with some very cinematic moments. When Harry Reeves and his crew came face-to-face with Dracula, it came to an explosive end.

PSI WORLD

I bought PSI World after a drunken visit to Fanboy 3 last summer. Since then, I have been determined to get the best value from the game: if you buy it, you have to play it, right? This was a very entertaining session with federal agents tracking down the cause of a psionic-energy spike in a small town. They tried to be discrete, but their armoury was too irresistible. It was Scott Pilgrim directed by John Hughes – imagine Rob Lowe, having his head blown off by a jet propelled bullet, that kind of thing.

Stormbringer Actual Play

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I was kindly invited to Games Master a game of Stormbringer by the wonderfully macabre actual play podcast Red Moon Roleplaying.

These is a teaser for an upcoming special guest, listen to the show to find out more …

Adventure: The Fang and the Fountain from Perils of the Young Kingdoms
Music by: Ager SonusCryo Chamber

At the end of February we closed our HeroQuest competition. We asked the GROGSQUAD to “show off your stuff ” the home-made enhancements that made you proud.

Our friends at bonhomiegames.uk have been reviewing the submissions and you can see the runners up and their work below. Scroll to the bottom to see the winner.

Jo: “Thank you to The Grognard Files for allowing us to sponsor your HeroQuest RPG competition, and thank you to all the entrants for your many and various ingenious table top inventions. Yes, even the cocktail umbrellas.”

“@Roll_a_one – for the most edible looking table top creation”
Andrew Cousins – “for the gaming-and-beer shed that I would most likely lose Cris in for a week”
Dimble Nackle the Gnome’s character portrait: “@oilpainting71 – whose funky Bowie Gnome created a literal squeal of delight and laugh-out-loud that I had to explain to my poor confused children when I first saw it.”
@Andy Hemming – turning the cover of a D&D book into a game setting
But – the winner is – (drum roll please) @wayne_peters – for the steampunk airship.  As well as being an engineering marvel, this one really spoke to my own love of things steampunk, and is clearly the tabletop setting most like to have both the players AND the characters enjoying tea and digestives at the table and in the story.  And yes, I’d even allow for an in-game Hob Nob or two.

In April virtual GROGMEET, the online version of our annual meet-up, will be in full swing on the 12th and 13th. Patreons are currently signing up, remaining places will be made generally available next week.

To celebrate the event and the release of GROGZINE 19 we will be having a celebration of 80s fanzines here on the blog and the You Tube channel. I’ll be browsing through the collection of Doc ‘Con’ Cowie to unearth homemade GOLD.

The third edition of GROGZINE features a new and exclusive cover created by Russ Nicolson: I’m looking forward to revealing the spectacular, extremely dramatic and detailed image when the zine is released.

Added to the GROGSHOP, with permission from Russ, you can get merchandise featuring the covers from the first two issues. Keep your eyes peeled for offer codes. All proceeds from the ‘mark up’ on Redbubble’s costs will go to Russ, so it’s a great way of showing your appreciation to a treasured old-school artist.

Be a hit on the Summer Convention scene with ‘zine tee!

Three years ago I had my debut running a con-game at the first ever Con-Vergence in Stockport. The event will always hold a special affection my heart, and last year I hosted Golden Heroes, which was one of my personal gaming highlights of 2018.

This year I could only get there for the Saturday afternoon, so I missed some of the other games that were on offer as I flew in and flew out. It was great to catch up with gaming buddies who I normally only see in a small square window online or at other conventions.

I ran my Savage Worlds of Strontium Dog game. I’m doing it at Uk-GamesExpo on the Friday evening, so forgive me if I’m a little coy about the details in this play-report: no spoilers.

As usual, 5 highlights and one fumble.

  1. Role-Play Relief: Simon “Iron-GM” Burley was there this time to offer a full complement of games for every session (he’s done one of his comprehensive review of the Con). It was good to catch up with him briefly as it’s 12 months since I interviewed him for the GROGPOD. He had copies Role Play Relief that he has edited and published to support Comic Relief. It comes in two volumes: Beginners and Expert. I bought both as I simultaneously know nothing and everything about Role-Playing Games.
You’ll recognise many names from the British gaming scene contributing to these books.

2. Character Class: This was a Savage World game that used the Mongoose supplement written by Loz Whittaker for Traveller. I rolled on the mutations tables provided in the supplement and translated them into Edges and Hinderances. The resulting crew of Strontium Dogs pre-gens are both interesting, varied and down-right weird.

3. Play’s the thing! I’ve been messing about with this adventure for a number of weeks now. I’ve even run it online for a play test prior to it appearing here. These characters don’t really come alive until they have a player imagining their reactions to situations. There were some really entertaining moments as the players came up with mad-cap plans: “All clear *squark!*”

4. Le’ go of the Lego: This was the game where I was experimenting with ‘stuff’ to enhance the game. I didn’t go as far as miniatures, but I did use my son’s Lego collection to build up a scene using the whole of the table. We had to improvise with empty bottles of HobGoblin beer standing in for buttes in a magnificent canyon. I’d forgotten my battle mat and tape measure so my phone was used to make the measurements. I’m not sure how much the lego added to the enjoyment of the players, but it created a talking point for people not actually playing

This was the moment that Harpi Harry was gliding to cover while under fire from a hail of gun fire.

5. Pat Mills would be proud … At the start there were a couple of people playing who had never heard of Strontium Dog and didn’t really like westerns. I was concerned that this game wouldn’t be right for them. Thankfully, they seemed to come along for the ride as everyone else seemed happy to recreate the mad cap action scenes from the comic. There was a great moment when Brightman Rock chucked a plasma grenade in the range of another character who whacked it back with his Happy Stick; the bomb exploded on Brightman’s calcified head.

Overview of Stump Canyon

6. The little hunt! On reflection, I’ve realised that there’s a couple of issues with the scenario that need to be ironed out before the next session. There are a couple of important skills missing from the pre-gens, for one thing, “You’ll need to roll ‘shooting'”

“I don’t have it!”

Most significantly, because of the time restraints, it didn’t work out as a ‘hunt’ as I had planned. The opening set up ended up being so compelling that the action came to the location, rather than the players going looking for it.

Above all, it was entertaining, and I had fun playing it. Not sure I convinced everyone that “Westerns are not *that* bad.

Dirk the Dice

Thanks to Kris and Snowy for organising the event.

The auditorium was massive!
Call of Cthulhu Actual Play (with How We Roll and Scott Dorwood)

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I attended the first ever PodUk Convention in Birmingham and appeared in a live show. How We Roll podcast hosted a live, actual play, with Scott Dorwood (from The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias) as the keeper.

Hope that you enjoy listening to The Necropolis.

Robin of Sherwood (with Graham Staplehurst)

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INTRO: In this episode we are continuing our exploration of the context of gaming in the eighties, by looking at one of the TV series that influenced how we played.

POTTED HISTORY: This is a quick summary of how the programme came to be made and a bit of background about Richard Carpenter. If you’d like to know more, I recommend the wonderful, comprehensive books by Andrew Orton 

OPEN BOX: Graham Staplehurst talks about his writing in fanzines, for MERP and his role in bringing Robin of Sherwood to life in RPGs. He mentions Other Minds magazine and the audio dramas available from Spiteful Puppet.

GROGGLEBOX: A new feature. Blythy and Ed join Dirk to do a commentary on The Seven Poor Knights from Acre episode.

OUTRO: A quick update on our latest projects. Also a shout out for The Lost Art of Ray Willner: The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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There’s still time to submit your photos of the supporting material that you’ve made for your games.

Handouts, minis, floor-plans, counters, character sheets, improvised props or anything you’ve produced to enhance a game. Send it before the end of the month and the best, selected by our friends Jo and Cris from bonhomiegames.uk will be sent a copy of HeroQuest Glorantha as a prize (kindly donated by them).

Send them to me at dirk the dice at gmail dot com, or by twitter, or me we, or on the Facebook page.

We’ll show a selection of the images on here in a scrapbook.

The competition is inspired by the preparation that I’ve been doing ready for Convergence.*

Last year was an incredible learning experience as I managed to get loads of time playing with different people in one-shots at conventions. For years and years I’ve played with a small circle of people who know what to expect from my games (and I know what to expect from them as players). Playing one-shots with people that you don’t know or only know as gamers presents a number of exciting challenges that ‘up your game’.

Famously, when it comes to prep, when I play with the Armchair Adventurers, it usually amounts to a few scrawled notes on post-its and, if they’re lucky, I’ll sketch a map in front of their very eyes using my trusty note-board and dry-wipe pen. Chutzpah, ‘barrelling on’ and a sense of humour manages to pull me through the * deepens voice * Theatre of the Mind.

I ran @dailydwarf ‘s rather brilliant Judge Dredd scenario A Better Living Through Chemistry on a couple of occasions last year. Thanks to the artistic efforts of Roger Coe, it came with floor-plan maps that really enhanced the experience.

Playing in other people’s games have really given me clues on how to manage and track elements of the game in interesting ways. At GROGMEET I played Price of Freedom which was more like a tactical war-game than I was anticipating. The experience of play was helped by the visual bits-and-pieces used to support the descriptions. Not just floorpans and miniatures, but all of the equipment was presented on cards with the stats and a photograph: my Judd Nelson character looked cool with an Uzi open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun.

In a Dying Earth game, the illustrated cast of characters were displayed to the players as they were introduced which made sure everyone knew who the NPCs were and could refer to them (by pointing at them) without having to remember their names.

There’s advantages to having physical stuff at the table.

Gaz from the Smart Party said on Me We, “They instantly make your game better. Having character names on the table, maps with places on, Termination Warrants with the mission writ large… All provide more texture. Plus, lazy players are reminded of details they couldn’t be arsed writing down or memorising. Attentive players are rewarded with cool artefacts to mess about with.”

I really admire these trappings in other people’s games, but generally I find them hard work to create with minimal returns. For the Strontium Dog game, I’ve thrown myself into making Warrant Cards, equipment cards, character sheets and customised counters. It seems that having a generic game like Savage Worlds encourages the GM to create home-made stuff.

I’ll post some of the stuff I’ve made when we’ve played the game: If you show me yours, I’ll you mine.

 

* Convergence in Stockport 9th – 11th March – a great, small, friendly convention that first got me into running games for strangers. All of those strangers have become friends.