The GROGNARD Files

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

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Intro: It has been a summer of love for the library – there’s too much on there!

Open Box: We’re in Port Street in Manchester reflecting on the campaign

The White Dwarf: Daily Dwarf goes Against the Giants.

Games Master’s Screen: What’s our favourite class?

Ed’s Shed: Ed decides to ‘bring out the Gimp‘ when he creates a dynamic, digital table top.

Outro: Find out more about the Patreon campaign and the next GROGZINE.

IMG_2335.JPGWork has commenced on the annual ‘zine that we put together as a ‘thank you’ to Patreon backers of the Podcast, who keep us going with monthly tips into the hat.

The previous two issues are available to Patreons on PDF as hard copies are extremely limited. The print run will be determined by the number of Patreons at the end of 2018, so if you want a hard copy, you’ll need to sign up before the end of November.

This time, we’re looking beyond White Dwarf and taking our inspiration from some of our old school, favourite ‘zines such as the peerless DragonLords.

Russ Nicolson is on board to produce another wonderful cover for issue three and GROGSQUADer Marc Laming will be reimagining Daily Dwarf again.

The content list for the main magazine looks like this so far:

Steel Hearts and Straight Razors – an epic WarHammer Fantasy Role-playing scenario from Rog Coe –

Lempfahle hurled himself into the undergrowth, sprang up the high boundary wall and jumped down the other side, before pelting into the dark city streets.

Minutes later, he paused for breath outside a workshop, despite the interruption he still had a decent haul safe in the bag at his side; he’d lost his tools, but he could buy more. He exhaled with relief, it looked like ‘Three Balls’ had pulled it off again.

It was then he saw the blue glow from the corner behind him and the skittering of barbed feet as a vision of chaotic horror raced shrieking toward him….

Author Niall Hunt goes in search of his past and the Midlands Role-Playing Club

There’s no school like the Old SchoolThe Old Scouse Role-Player, Neil Benson, provides an introduction to the OSR

Ramshackle – Nick Edwards looks back at the appeal of the Judges Guild

FRP Family Tree – FRP writer Sean Hillman looks at the different directions that d100 games have grown towards.

Still Golden? – Jerry Nuckolls found Golden Heroes 1st edition after hunting for it for thirty odd years, what did it reveal?

More content is promised from great the great GROGSQUAD talent pool: watch this space for more.

This year, depending on your pledge level, you’ll get a bundle which will include The Collected Daily Dwarf Volume 3, with essays on the Golden Age of White Dwarf about Judge Dredd, Paranoia, Golden Heroes and more.

For the first time, you can ‘own’ the dubious wisdom of Judge Blythy in his ‘Book of Judgment‘ where he hand-picks and analyses 10 of his favourite mechanics.

 

Not sure what you’ve missed in previous years? Thankfully, Pookie has provided his usual forensic analysis on his long-running, always interesting, Reviews from R’Lyeh.

All this is due to be released in January 2019. Keep watching for updates.

Hi everyone,

Hope that you have enjoyed your Summer. I was lucky enough to have a couple of weeks in the USA: a week in San Francisco, searching for locations from my favourite movies, admiring the Bay Area that provided inspiration for both Greg Stafford and Jack Vance; then a week in LA battling  the hoards in DisneyLand.

Like most holidays, it gave me a little time to do some navel-gazing, so here’s some fluff and lint that I found there:

GROGFRINGE– On Thursday 30th August, I’ll be making tickets available for The Old School GROG-FIGHT that will be taking place at Fan Boy 3. There are 20 places available for a classic bar-room brawl across four different locations, using four different systems. Ever wanted to floor an orc with a bar-stool using the rules of The Fantasy Trip? Now’s your chance. Neil Benson (the Old Scouser Role-Player) is hosting the event between 13.00 – 17.00 as a warm up for GROGMEET eve.

BLADES … after dark. You may remember thatlast year I GM’d a 24 Hour game of RuneQuest for charity. This year, I’ll be taking part again for 12 hours playing Blades in the Dark. Sponsors will be able to create a list of items, targets to be stolen or assassinated during the game. This year it for the benefit of MIND (which will also be the GROGMEET raffle charity).

RuneQuest Glorantha– if you have not played RuneQuest Glorantha and would like to, then let me know as I’m looking for players. Put your name in the comments. Game is likely to be scheduled for January next year, online using Roll 20 and will be for new RuneQuest Glorantha players only.

Smart Party – Our friends at What would the Smart Party Do? Podcast have recently interviewed Satine Pheonix, the community manager for Dungeons and Dragons (R). I always think their pod is worth listening to, but this is an extra special treat. A great interview that explores the differences and similarities between the UK and US gaming scene and is brimming with boundless enthusiasm. These are cooperative games, why does the scene seem so competitive? What can we do to engage more people with the hobby? Great, inspiring stuff.

Vintage – I’ve found a podcast that you might enjoy. The Vintage RPG Podcastfrom Stu Horvath and John McGuire looks at games from yester-year in an insightful yet unpretentious way. I’ve listened to the first couple and enjoyed their emphasis on playing and how the artwork shapes your imagination.

Vance – Next year we have some GROGPOD episodes planned that look at some of the influences that we had back in the day – a review of some of the media that shaped our imagination, Starburst Memories of such classics as Robin of Sherwood and, dare I say it, Lord of the Rings.

This is an advanced warning of one of the episodes, so you get the all important reading in before hand so you don’t get left behind. Next year, The Design Mechanism, producers of Mythras are producing a Lyonesse RPG. On my holiday I revisited the novel and managed to generate a few sides of adventure/ NPC ideas.

Never under estimate Vance’s impact on the development of RPGs. Check out this further reading recommended by Neil Benson about the impact of Vance on Dungeon Crawl Classicsand this one from Jon Hancock about how it could have been a RQ killer.

Adios amigos

Dirk

Enthusiastic GROGSQUADer Dr Cowie is a frequent convention attendee and self-confessed Chaosium fan-boy who kindly agreed to file this after action report about this year’s GenCon event on the Streets of Indianapolis: Born to Game!

This year I attended GenCon for the sixth time, taking both my sons for the fourth and fifth time respectively. Why would anyone endure the predictably ghastly missed plane connections and jet lag over and over again?

Each year sixty thousand gamers descend on downtown Indianapolis, streets are closed off for parties with live bands, beer and food trucks abound, restaurants have custom menus, retail staff dress up and join in – even the airport has gaming tables set up in the departure lounges. It’s enormous (the Lucas Oil Football Stadium is only the third largest space), but incredibly friendly and relaxed.

Speaking of friends, the first time I attended GenCon I went on my own, and it was frankly a bit overwhelming. But apparently if you have tens of thousands of people in one place gaming and chatting and eating and drinking – turns out lots of them are lovely. And every year you know more and more of the people you bump into and it feels more and more heading back to a small town full of gamers where people know your name.

But of course, you are there to GAME! GenCon is a chance to play with incredible DMs and players (usually incredibly good, though sometimes…) Over the four and a half days the boys and I played Runequest, Champions, Pathfinder 2E, D&D 5E, various boardgames , a quick LARP session and finished with our traditional Call of Cthulhu on Sunday afternoon. Oldest Boy tends to go for at least one all nighter with Sith Yoga to perk him up in time for breakfast – easy enough if you have the stamina of a teenager and you’re below legal drinking age in the US.

Then there is the GenCon Exhibit Hall. You’ve probably seen the videos, but like so much about the convention it’s difficult to get your head round without being there. This year there were over five hundred exhibitors, many of which have large dedicated areas for demos (or queues!) or have several different locations because you just can’t get round the hall in one day. Everyone you’ve ever heard of in gaming is there, usually trying to sell you something but extraordinarily prepared to chat. Name dropping is almost pointless, if anyone attending the convention cares about a “celebrity” they’ve probably already spent ten minutes pestering them about gnomes in WFRP4E.

But everyone has One Special Thing* you don’t get elsewhere. In some ways GenCon is thirty or more different conventions simultaneously with a couple of thousand people at each. Do you love Magic the Gathering? Pre 70’s wargames? LARPs? Pathfinder? Miniatures? Cosplay? Virtually anything you can think of brings hundreds of excited people together – not really interacting with the other conventions but mixing in amiable (if sometimes slightly bemused manner) in the Exhibit Hall and across the city.

After all this; why am I not recommending that everyone grabs a ticket and heads over? Lots of reasons. It’s expensive – about £2,000 each all in for me and the boys (though you can save a lot of money by staying further away from the con). It’s huge and baffling the first time. There is a non zero chance you will spend over twenty four hours getting home, and lose your luggage while you’re about it. Most importantly – you can meet equally lovely people a lot closer to home at UK conventions (though the beer is more expensive at Expo).

But, even after all these warnings, if you’re ever thinking of going, give me a heads up. Over a pint at GROGMEET (if you’re going) I’ll tell you the tales we couldn’t print – and it would be great to have other GrogSquadders at GenCon next year!

*My Special Thing is stalking Chaosium employees. Luckily their huge generosity (or maybe poor security) has given me the chance to playtest a possible Dragon Pass remake with Chris Klug, and to play Gods War with Sandy Petersen. This year I’d like to thank Todd Gardiner for running the organised play, and Scott and Tracey for awesome Runequest and Call of Cthulhu sessions respectively. But ultimately – where but GenCon can Jeff Richard drag you through the Big Rubble and Michael O’Brien take you behind the scenes at the Second Battle of Moonbroth on the same day?

@DrACowie

The crowds begin to gather

Jeff Richards reveals a Secret Shield (coming soon)

Thanks to Scott, our awesome @Chaosium_Inc GM who took us through the Broken Tower…

OK, competition time! Of which iconic picture is this a perfect reproduction? PS Thank you @Chaosium_Inc for loan of shield. PPS My son is being a lizard.

Escape from the Big Rubble, before Jeff Richard’s voice completely gives up…

But we got away with a Wyrm’s treasure. Well, a handful of it, anyway..

MOB uses his awesome antipodean acting skills to portray the misery of a tortured talking horse.

After being lost in transit: Triumph! Can’t thank you all enough for support with Divine Intervention!

Most important, @GraemeJDavis confirmed that Gnomes will definitely have a nonzero chance of appearing in #WFRP! (Not a guarantee)

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Looking buff … Cthulhu arrives at Fan Boy in Manchester

My favourite FLGS, host of GROGMEET eve, FanBoy Three has a small collection of vintage RPG stuff for sale in a discreet corner of the store. I often dip in to see what’s on offer, as it’s usually at a reasonable price and often some real treasure can surface. 

Normally, I can curtail my irrational impulses to buy things in a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ shop as I’m browsing with the default setting of “do I really need this” which usually short-curcuits my desire to buy things for the sake of it.

Last month was an exception. I went to Manchester with my good friend Judge Blythy and had a good old drink. After a few pints of Neck Oil we went to visit the vintage corner of FanBoy Three; It was like an analogue version of a Sunday late at night when I hit eBay after the bottle. The normal rules did not apply. I filled my real-life basket with old copies of White Dwarf, a couple of Citadel Companions with their covers missing, a dog-earred copy of Champions and, most interesting of them all PSI World.

There was something compelling about the title. “PSI World” sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?

Blythy kept repeating “are you sure” over and over; but he always does and the Neck Oil was drowning out his Jimothy Cricket advice.

The Armchair Adventurers are not collectors, we are players: if we get it, we play it. Them’s the rules. 

PSI World was released by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1984, written by Del Carr and Cheron with artwork by Bill Willingham and Matt Wagner. It feels like this was their home game that has been transformed into a commercial publication. The main rule book doesn’t offer much about ‘setting’ focusing instead on the convoluted character creation and the barmy combat. The authors encourage you to create your own ‘near future Earth’ setting where there are people with PSI powers and the ‘norms’ who feel threatened by them.

It’s a shame that they didn’t have more confidence in their own setting which is given more detail in the ‘The PSI World Adventure’ included in the box set. It details the history of the emergence of the PSIS and how they have become persecuted in a stratified society. It’s possible to play characters from different sides. The same setting is used in some of the other supporting material that was published for the game; all currently available for download at drivethru.rpg.

The rules are not crunchy, they’re clunky, (there’s a skill for riding a bicycle for goodness sake) but there are elements in here that I like and with a bit of work, could be entertaining. 

I have an idea that has been insipired by Wild Wild Country, a documentary currently playing on Netflix about the Indian guru Bhagwan Shee Rajneesh (Osho) and his community of followers, that could work in PSI World. 

Maybe it will surface in 2019. Maybe it’s the Neck Oil talking.

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This is all you get for ‘rationale’ and setting in the core book. It suggests that there needs to be some conflict, but it’s up to you to determine what form it takes.

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Although PSI World is very laid-back about the setting, it’s very specific when it comes to the price of Mens’ Slacks

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The craziest Hit Point calculation ever? [(STR+WILL)/2 +END/2] = HPN then HPN x 1d3 = Hit Point Base THEN consult a couple of tables for additional STR, WILL and END modifiers.

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The adventure included in the box set provides the ‘play-test’ setting which is interesting. I like the idea that Player Character ‘norms’ can suddenly develop a PSI skill, mid-adventure, on the roll of a 1 on a D100

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Meet Elton McGuire, an Empath Cop: “Do you feel lucky punk? I’ve got a feeling that you don’t” 

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Norms can get more ‘education’ therefore access to more skills. Still a bit boring though. Decided to give Julie a cool ‘MagJet Pistol’ to compensate.

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Don’t browse drunk people

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INTRO: I’ve got one of those blowers with a feather on the end to celebrate our anniversary and the release of RuneQuest RolePlaying in Glorantha.

MOB RETURNS: MOB talks about all the different ways that you can play in Glorantha: 13th Age, HeroQuest, but especially RuneQuest. Here he talks about how RuneQuest appeals to the gamers from back in the day, through its legacy supplements and how it can appeal to new gamers who have discovered Glorantha through The King of Dragon Pass. He also talks about some of the new releases, such as the Bestiary and 6 Ages as well as some of the fan initiatives such as Encounter Role-Play. He also reveals the plans to create a site for Glorantha fan material using a similar model as The Miskatonic  Repository.

 

JUDGE BLYTHY ROLLS: We discuss ‘how to get started in Glorantha’ with an emphasis on ‘play’s the thing’.

ACTUAL PLAY: Gaz and Baz from The Smart Party podcast with Matt Hart from Steam Forged Games join Dirk in a Diana Jones Award winning segment of Actual Play. If you want to see more then head to their site.

JUDGE BLYTHY ROLLS AGAIN: We discuss character creation using the new rules. I try to appeal to the Judge with my new gizmos from Infinity Engine and Q Workshop.

OUTRO: There’s three months to go to join the Patreon campaign to receive a hard-copy of the GROGZINE 19.

 

…having an encounter with a three-thousand-year-old walking, talking corpse does tend to convert one. – Eyelyn Carnahan, The Mummy (1999)

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This week we came to the end of the first chapter of the heart-stoppin’, snake-charmin’, death-rayin’, globe-trottin’ Two Headed Serpent campaign!

It’s a campaign for the Pulp Cthulhu variant rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, written by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorwood and Matthew Sanderson, the hosts of the ever excellent Good Friends of Jackson Ellias podcast.

The Armchair Adventurers have two teams of heroes battling through the adventure simultaneously on the last Monday of the month. Keeper Doc Griff also reached the dramatic conclusion of the Bolivia episode.

To find out how you can join the campaign, see the foot of this post and the next thing you know, you’ll be donning a fedora and snapping a bull-whip.

Here are some of the highlights of playing so far (spoilerish free) and one downer.

Once more, with character

It’s odd that the characters that have been created for this campaign seem more real and immediate than the ones that we have recently created for our more ‘purist’ campaigns. There’s something about the ‘Pulp Talent’ features that really bring characters alive as they feel like competent heroes rather than a team of ‘occupations’. Perhaps it’s because it suits our style of play playing ‘a team heroes’ seems to inject them with life:

Max (Phil the Dice Mechanic): Max von…I mean Mark Weaver joined Caduceus out of an interest in taking his dendro-pharmacological research out of the lab and into the field. Did we mention the outrageous German accent?

Jock (Sam Vail): A resourceful, former man-servent of Lord Colin Bruce-Machintosh, who followed his master around the world until he was killed by an infected mosquito bite. Now Jock is seeking adventures of his own and has proved himself a useful chap in a fight (against giant snakes).

Jack (Judge Blythy): Bootlegger turned gun runner from the mean streets of New York. He’s been keeping his head down by working going on a mission of mercy with the medical aid charity Caduceus. He needs to lie low for a while, as back in NY, Martino Bresciani has a bullet with his name written on it.

Percy (Neil Benson):  Born into poverty, his family living in the slums of Scotland Road and working the docks in Liverpool where he got into gang-life following the war. Much of his ill gotten cash allowed him a modest living and a workshop at the end of the block where he spends most hours of the day working on engines and various other contraptions. He’s created some weird gadgets in the first episode.

Javier (@dailydwarf) DD is impressing us with his Spanish while playing this character from Northern Chilli. A talented and hard-working mining engineer he’s been toughened by harsh and unforgiving background. He’s also great with explosives and rendered a Formless Spawn even more formless.

Atmosphere

It’s an explosive start that gets the players engaged with the action right away. They are working for Caduceus, a medical aid charity, that is not quite as it seems. They learn quickly that its their job to deal with a ‘possible level 3’ threat in the area.

The adventure is marinaded in atmospheric detail, not too much, but enough to paint an evocative picture of the setting. The muggy heat of the Bolivian jungle and the intensity of a ticking clock, while trying to locate the lost temple of the dreamer is set up really well through a few choice scenes.

Wrought for LUCK

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This is the first time that we have applied 7ed Call of Cthulhu ‘as written’ as well as the variant rules for Pulp Cthulhu. I’ve been impressed with how the new innovations work. From the core rules, Bonus/ Penalty dice have worked really well. On paper, I was sceptical about them, but in play, they provide more options for the Keeper and players to negotiate a method of resolution.

The Pulp elements have been scaled as we have all become more confident with them. The luck resource has proven itself to be a fantastic method of bumping down fumbles, succeeding at key moments in the scene and defying death. Percy blew up a Formless Spawn after being swallowed by it, he succeeded in chucking a stick of dynamite while he was enveloped, temporarily destroying the hideous, protean entity, which sent him plummeting 1000 feet to his death. Fortunately, he was able to throw himself to the side of the shaft that he was falling through and, some how, grip, on to a crevice in the wall by his finger tips.

“You can’t use luck to alter a sanity roll,” Phil the Dice Mechanic reminded Judge Blythy at a crucial moment.

Rules lawyering the rules lawyer.

Insane Pulp Weirdness

One of the unexpected joys so far has been the use of weird science. Neil’s character Percy has been making some strange inventions along the way, including a Heath Robinson deathray-rifle made of wood, monkey bones and ancient alien technology.

It took a couple of sessions to for everyone to respond to the tone of The Two Headed Serpent campaign. There was a sense of caution and slow, steady investigation of scenes. This has now given way to a more confident gung-ho approach.

Great fun, but there is still a sense of danger. Percy’s interventions have driven him slightly insane, so much so that he’s now driving slightly insane with a new ‘insane driving talent’.

This is not the end, its the end of the beginning …

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This was the first chapter and one of the pleasures of being the Keeper of Arcane Secrets is the knowledge of what’s going on in the background, working out how it will unfold and revealing the adventure that stretches in front of the heroes.

The final scene was epic and I only hope the rest of the campaign can live up to it: “Are sure he said he wants to take the serpent queen mummy back ‘alive’? He did say ‘alive’ didn’t he?”

Please, can we have more …

The downside of such a huge campaign is fitting it in the schedule. One two-hour session a month doesn’t seem enough to give it justice. If only we could conquer time and space.

Want to be part of the action? There are a couple of guest-spots available to join either Keeper Dirk or Keeper Griff. The sessions are usually on the last Monday of the month (except when they’re not). If you are interested in playing the next episode (it’ll probably run until the end of the year) then please put your name in the comments on the Patreon page. Names will be drawn from the hat.

 

In Episode 22 of The GROGNARD files our special guest, Michael O’Brien (MOB) the Vice President of Chaosium, discusses his formative experiences as a role-player in Melbourne and how he was motivated to revive Glorantha by producing new material for the game that could inspire new players in the nineties.

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The supplements produced MOB, under the editorial guidance of Ken Rolston, over this period was known as ‘The RuneQuest Renaissance’. The first volume in the series of supplements was based on MOB’s house campaign set in Sun County: RuneQuest Adventures in the Land of the Sun. He describes it as ‘Spartans in the Wild West’ as it focuses on a highly civilised society trying to cope within the wastelands on the edge of Prax. It’s a cracking adventure packed with loads of interesting NPCs and exotic locations.

At the centre of it all is the Sun Dome Temple, a distinctive building which is the seat of religion and government in the Sun County. The book explains the day-to-day life of the Yelmalio (Sun) worshipers, it also describes some of the local features, such as the Retirement Towers that hold Yelmalio priests waiting in solitude for great insight from their god.

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LEAVING OZ

MOB hasn’t lived in Austailia all of his life. After a career in Higher Education, he went to live in the United Arab Emirates for 10 years, he came back in 2014. He had a job in a university there,  as part of the senior leadership, which was, “an interesting, yet demanding and intense job. There was not much opportunity for gaming during this period, because I think my entire life there was like a live action roleplaying game.”

“There were many great things about living in the UAE, I really enjoyed my time there. I did have some gamer friends, Andrew Bean who helps out at the Chaosium booth many times. He lived in the UAE and his wife and my wife would play board games there quite frequently as well down at the British club; she talks about it in her women in table-top gaming interview.”

Bear in mind that this was over a decade later than the publication of Sun County: “One of the most bizarre aspects of living in the UAE; if I looked out of my window, across to the break-water there was a building, a theatre, that was the exact image of the Sun Dome Temple. I found it fascinating.”

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The Sun Dome Temple – as seen from MOB’s apartment building

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A closer view of the theatre

He said, “In many respects the whole place there very much looked like Sun County. It even has watch-towers spread throughout the desert and countryside like the retirement towers you see in Sun County.”

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UAE and Oman have watch towers dotted everywhere

“I must have been channelling all of this as the book was written way back in the early nineteen nineties. Back then, I knew nothing about the UAE, my first experience was going into work one day at the University of Melbourne and my boss asked, “how would you like to go to a conference in Abu Dhabi?” I said, “I’d love to do that, where’s Abu Dhabi?” I had to look it up.”

Now, that’s what I call sun-chronicity.

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MOB outside the fort in Al Ain Oasis … very Sun County

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INTRO: Three years of GROGPODing and Forty Years of RuneQuest seems like a great point in time to revisit the game that we played the most back in the day. RQ3 contributed to us stopping playing, so this is a chance to revisit the game and see what happened when we stopped playing. The sound is a bit haywire on this podcast, hope it doesn’t spoil things too much.

OPENBOX: Chaosium’s Vice President tells the stories of his formative years in role-playing and how RuneQuest in Glorantha was so important to him. He was instrumental in keeping the flame alive as a fan as he wrote and developed Sun County, the first RuneQuest supplement produced for 8 years, following Avalon Hill acquiring the game in 1984. He wrote a report in the early nineties for The Tales of the Reaching Moon explaining how the game could be revived.  This is a great chat about the nineties renaissance.

THE WHITE DWARF: A survey of RQ3 as it appeared (and disappeared) from White Dwarf, written by the wonderful @dailydwarf

JUDGE BLYTHY RULES! Dirk and Blythy pick over the bones of RQ3 and there’s a monster quiz!

OUTRO: Check out the RuneQuest Actual Play with The Smart Party   . If you’d like the GROGZINE 19 and The Collected Daily Dwarf Vol 3 and Judge Blythy’s Book of Judgments — then please chuck us a tip in the beret and join the Patreon campaign