The GROGNARD Files

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

The date has been in my diary for months, but I’d left the prep for WinterCon 2020 too late. It’s a new meet-up hosted at Fan Boy Three in Manchester and organised by Newt Newport as an off-shoot of the monthly Go-Play Manchester (home of the one-shots).

As part of my pledge to play a different Post-Apocalyptic themed game every month in 2020, I had pitched Gamma World (first edition) and the first module The Legion of Gold for my submission: both are available on drive thru rpg, as is the game upon which it is based (Metamorphosis Alpha which can lay claim to be the first ever, mass-produced, SF RPG).

Reading the game this week I realised that it is not really aimed towards one-shot play. It encourages hex-crawling through the desolated waste-lands of post-devastation America and furnishes the GM with encounter tables and examples of artefacts and creatures/ flora and fauna that can be found when PCs explore the map. The Legion of Gold provides a pre-populated area for the PCs to explore with three ‘mini-adventures’ (the supplement is of really good quality compared with some of the TSR material of the time).

How could I transform it into a one-shot? I decided early on that it needed more to it to make it pop, so I turned to Baz Steven’s King of Dungeons to introduce some explosive elements:

  • I knocked down the bonus threshold and was generally more generous with the application of positive modifications in the player’s favour.
  • Advantage dice, crits, fumbles, escalation dice and standardised target numbers were imported from King of Dungeons. As were, montage scenes (to cover the travel through the hex map) and the guild bonds

If you’ve played Gamma World in the past you’ll know that one of the features of the setting are the ‘Cryptic Alliances’ (factions that have developed following the apocalypse). We started the session by randomly generating a Cryptic Alliance (their very own guild) thus the Union of the Pure Mutant Animals was born – their symbol was an ‘animal’, so they became mutant-humanoid otters. Yes, it had to be otters. Their enemies were the Badders (this randomly generated the foes for the final encounter).

Part of the fun of Gamma World is creating characters by generating mutations, some of them favourable, some of them disadvantageous. I decided to give the players a character sheet that was a ‘playbook’ format that would allow them to choose aspects of their character.

Generating 5 character sheets in the style of a playbook turned out to be a time-consuming task. Each one took about an hour, so I had an early start (4.30 am!) to get up and finish them off!

It was worth it as it turned out to be a fun session that included toxic belching, waist-coats, a land-pedalo in the shape of a swan and clever use of a phillips-head screwdriver. I had ‘Mad Max written by Edgar Rice Buroughs’ in mind, but it was a bit more gonzo. I will definitely play it again (with the King of Dungeons elements) as it makes a good con game. It also proves that King of Dungeons is effective as a framework that can be overlaid on vintage d20 systems to fire them up a little.

Hero, just for one day

My daughter Amelia came along to play her very first RPG. This was either her attempt to ‘try new things’ and discover the world of role-playing games, or a clever attempt to legitimately avoid revising for her exams: you decide.

She chose to play Black Panther alongside my Wolverine in a game of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (using the Cortex Plus system) hosted with aplomb by Guy Milner. He always does a great job of plainly explaining the system and framing the session in an engaging, easy to follow manner.

He had his work cut out with Cortex Plus as it is a quirky, dice-pool system with some interesting bells and whistles to complicate matters (plot points for the players to bump up their dice or activate effects, and a doom pool that allows the GM to bring in reinforcements, or, if they have 2 d12 they can end a scene).

I thought the system worked really well as a superheroes mechanic as it allowed us to narrate our actions and build up a dice pool based on the effects deployed from the character sheet. It’s a gamey game that works best at emulating comic strip punch ups : rip apart a T-rex with adamantium claws? I don’t mind if I do.

Stability affects physical and emotional states and once effected, it adds another dice into your opponent’s dice pool (which is neat). “Wolverine is a sensitive soul,” I said to Amelia.

“You’ll have no problem with that, you cried like a baby all the way through Little Women.”

Yeah, thanks for that, don’t you have some revision to do?

E.N. World Poll

To make a fantastic day even better, the news came through that we came top of the Top ‘Talk’ Podcasts of 2019 in E.N. World’s forum. The GROGNARD files joins The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, the winners of last year’s 1st poll, in the Hall of Fame. It’s a ‘just for fun’ poll, but it’s really reassuring that people are listening and enjoy the podcast enough to take the time to vote. Thank you to the GROGSQUAD for mobilising.

The GROGPOD has had a fantastic year and it has been good to collaborate with other podcasts that have done well in the poll too: we are always grateful to Baz and Gaz at The Smart Party for their encouragement and helping us discover different facets of the hobby that we’ve missed, they have helped to boost the GROGPOD profile by inviting me to a panel at UK Games Expo and to a couple of round-table discussions; we also worked with Red Moon Roleplaying to produce the brooding, intense Actual Play of Stormbringer and appear live on stage with How We Roll and Scott from The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias for a memorable Call of Cthulhu recording, live in front of an audience.

We’ve got at least another 12 months in us and we’ll continue to do the best we can.

In many ways, this isn’t a gaming podcast, it’s a convoluted means of reuniting everyone who attended Marillion’s Welcome to the Garden Party on 28th June 1986 at The Milton Keynes Bowl.

Thanks for your support.

Innovative use of a bun tray to keep those Cortex Plus dice tidy
Some of the mutations are a bit “off the wall”
Example of one of the ‘play books’
The Union of Pure Mutant Animals Unite – I can’t believe you’re not Otter.
The King of Dungeons elements made the combats more spiky and fun
Gamma World has a ‘mini-game’ that’s used to ‘unlock the secret of an artefact’ – it can blow up in your face if you’re not careful, but it mainly involves going in a loop.
Amelia was the only mutant otter with a laser rifle.

She missed every time. This is the point when she thought it was a good idea to shoot a laser rifle at @clownfist ‘s head to remove a Zarn attached to his neck. It worked!

8 thoughts on “WinterCon 2020 Scrapbook/ E.N. World Poll

  1. Vaughan says:

    DId Amelia enjoy it?

    My eldest (11-yr old) got the D&D Starter set for xmas and has been enjoying our Age of Arthur MerlinTVseries game, but what she really loves is Marvel, so that would have been right up her street. I intend to get her over for a visit to FB3 in the near future.

    1. Dirk says:

      She did. She enjoyed Guy’s game more because he took time to explain things whereas I didn’t bother. Hoping that she’ll convince her friends to play too.

  2. Nick Edwards says:

    Great scrapbook and congratulations on well deserved win…and I was there for Marillion at the Milton Keynes bowl – terrible festival line up in retrospect.

    1. Dirk says:

      Oh, I don’t know, Mama’s Boys were the peak

  3. Angus Wallace says:

    Oddly, since a mention of Marillion in an episode of the grogpod I’ve dusted of my old Marillion albums (virtually of course) and been enjoying them, much to the annoyance of my wife…

    Though the ultimate rpg atmosphere song from the 1980s must have been Magnum’s ‘on a story teller’s night’…

    1. Dirk says:

      Eddy had a framed print of the cover in his wall.

  4. andy goodman says:

    I also play with my daughter Amelia! She’s only 3 and a half though 🙂

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