1D6 – Reviewing even more GM Advice

I made an appearance on The What Would the Smart Party Do? Podcast chatting to Gaz about Reviewing Games Master Advice currently available in print and featured on blogs. 

Baz is on holiday, so like a supply teacher, I had the general feeling of ‘I think I’ve got away with it’. It’s available on their site, and wherever you find your podcasts. 

During the show I mentioned how I turned to Robin’s Laws of Good Games Mastering in an hour of need. It was at the point where I was playing with people outside of my normal gaming group for the first time. I had also seen myself as a GM on video. Urgh.

This post is to supplement the discussion and point you towards other publications that you may find interesting. I have also reiterated some of the points that were made and expanded upon them.

Guides to GMing are usually shaped by the following broad topic areas:

Scenario design, these include ‘story’ or ‘structure’ generators

Preparing for a session, tips and techniques to ensure that you are ready to run the game

Running a session, a guide to some of the ways to keep a session moving while in play

General tips, some pointers towards good practice is applicable to all areas of game-play

Many are a combination of all of the above, but some specialise in a particular aspect of GMing. The best ones are the ones that don’t offer an overall philosophy, instead they offer ideas for particular circumstances.

This follows the usual 1d6 format of 5 highlights and a fumble.

1. Peterson’s Rules of Good Gaming – these are a set of five ‘rules’ to use during a game session that I have adopted through osmosis as I’m not sure I’ve actually seen the original source. The Design Mechanism quotes these in their ‘Games Mastery’ section of Mythras.

The principles are ‘baked in’ to elements of Basic Role-Playing (which after several dalliances elsewhere, remains my go-to system). 

I mentioned the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule during the discussion, which means that players should always have three opportunities to make an informed decision to escape their fate. I sometimes summarise this as ‘three dice rolls from death’.

‘The Right to have fun’ is Peterson’s ‘Rule of Cool’ to make sure that you inject pace and hook the characters into the action at every opportunity. 

I also like the principle of ‘Make Bonuses Worthwhile’ – don’t mess about with a 5% boost – go big or go home. If the players come up with something, make sure they have a good chance of succeeding, otherwise their clever plans will result in disappointment. 

Perhaps it’s a bit rich coming from Mythras given that it’s possible to have a 1d2 damage bonus.

2. The Alexandrian – During the discussion we focused primarily on Justin Alexander’s essays on running investigative games. Here are some of my favourites from the random Games Master Tips section to pep up your game:

How about some random text so you can ‘speak in tongues’ when representing an Orc? 

Or, a guide to presenting locations, reminding the GM that the description doesn’t end at the beginning when the scene is framed?

Or, practical advice on preparing cheat-sheets, again, reminding you to return to them and refresh them as you play.

This blog is an excellent resource and should be part of every GM’s toolkit.

3. The Angry DM. I have been blocked by The Angry GM on Twitter for asking him a question at the wrong time. He really is *that* angry. Grrrrr. 

The Angry schtick is what made Scott Rehm’s blog exciting. Anger is an energy and this is energic writing about RPGS. 

Game Angry: How to RPG the angry way is a collection of the writing from the blogs which is not confined to GM Advice – this is geared towards making you a better player whether you are new to the hobby, a player character, or a Games Master. 

He starts from the basis that “this is not complicated”. 

He’s frustrated that people who are curious are put off by the apparent complexity. He remarks that playing RPGs is the most fun you can have with your friends and FOR GOODNESS SAKE, DON’T MAKE IT COMPLICATED – the people are responsible for explaining it are rubbish and make it too complicated. 

What follows is 220 pages, about not making it complicated.

The tone is a consistent, demystifying explanation from a ‘man of the people’ trying to make this as easy as possible. 

I like his short-hand for representing NPCs if you don’t have the energy to keep it going. He has his patented “Four Ps of Play Acting” one of which is “PFIDGET” – a little thing that the character does to make them distinctive, such as pulling their fringe, puffing on a pipe or stroking the chin.

It does it all in a much less stuffy manner than the Ultimate RPG Game Play that I referenced in the show.

4. Liminal If like me you like the laconic and cogent: it doesn’t get much better than Paul Mitchener’s guide to developing the multi-factional, investigative scenarios that drive Liminal.

Tales from the Loop adopt a story generator approach, but Liminal has much leaner recommendations on how to think of structure, twists and building cases.

It guides GMs on how to form a structure for investigations and use appropriate, varied conflicts as obstacles. 

Ideas will generate just from reading this chapter and being absorbed into the setting.

5. Seth Skorkowsky – This stretches the remit a little as this is a YouTube channel rather than published advice, but Sly Flourish also dispenses his advice on a vlog as well as his respected Lazy Dungeon Master series, so I’m giving it a pass. 

Skorkowsky has a pragmatic, unpretentious approach to RPGs that he presents in an easy-going, comic manner. His series of GM ToolBox, RPG Philosophy and Running RPG programmes are informative and entertaining.

I highly recommend his How to Run a Module programme as it is a topic seldom tackled. He talks through his method of working through pre-written adventures to get them into your head before running.

This channel is my lockdown discovery. It’s entertaining as well as informative.

6. Gary Gygax – at the point when he was in the wilderness following his split from TSR, Gygax wrote two mass-market paperbacks: Role-Playing Mastery (1987)  and Master of the Game (1989). These are densely written paperbacks with prescriptive set of rules to “bring forth your personal best during play” and “total mastery” of the game by players and GM.

In some ways, it’s a toned down version of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide, but no less Gygaxian in its approach. You could never accuse him of understatement. There’s a portentous declaration in every sentence. Here’s a quote concerning the ‘problem GM’ dealing with different players inconsistently:

“…This kind of attitude can spread like a cancer through the playing group if the players who are being treated properly feed the GM’s ego even more by supporting and approving of his actions toward the downtrodden ones. No campaign containing such participants can exist for long. The reasons are obvious, and I will not deal further with the subject. A new campaign must be had, and that suffice.”

Master of the Game – Gary Gygax

Sheesh…

Dirk the Dice

1D6 Two Headed Serpent – The End

In their podcast about Burnout, the Smart Party rightly advise caution against committing to a large book campaign; disappointment is almost inevitable because it’s difficult to sustain over a long period, when people’s lives are busy. When you do finish a big book campaign against those conditions, it makes it even more sweet.

Almost exactly 2 years to the day and 32, 2 hour long, sessions we completed The Two Headed Serpent in an epic finale. Every session had its thrills and spills, adventure and excitement as the players trotted around the globe, but the final session was great: every player made a contribution to the audacious saving of humanity from certain destruction.

Between the sessions, I created a recap in the form of a comic, which was one of those things that once I’d started, immediately regretted, as it was a time-sink. Now that it’s complete, I’m glad I did it for a record of one of the best series of adventures that I’ve ever taken part in.

It was down to the players, so I’m handing over to them to choose their highlights. Warning, there are spoilers.

The usual format is 5 highlights and fumble, but this time there are no fumbles, other than I’m sad it’s over.

Has to be the nightgaunts attacking the plane. The pilot dead and no one with above 2% pilot. Pure pulpy Indiana Jones stuff and a perfect example of how the system works using luck. Blythy

The disease camp in North Borneo, really loved how the plots slowly revealed there to culminate in a high speed escape whole defusing a mythos nuke! Phil the Dice Mechanic

There’s a few I can think off… Percy’s chat with Gary the Ghoul in Borneo is probably my favourite. Old Scouse Roleplayer

For me I liked the Icelandic base as it slowly collapsed while we were there giving a real sense of urgency, the theft of the brain case and the escape over the lava flow. Mark Kitching

My favourite bits were when Jock got to yell at some Bawbag before opening up with the devastating shotgun! Also, the scene where Percy was grappling Meadham and aided by Jock was driven into the whirling propellor blade! In 40 years, Jock is maybe one of my favourite ever characters. Sam Vail

For me, I loved Oklahoma (I’d just read The Grapes of Wrath) as it was a bit of a different pace from the high-adventure of the other episodes. I could see the players feeling disturbed and unsettled about what was happening and their role in it. I also loved playing gangster NPCs in New York and terrifying Neil, not his character, but Neil. Dirk the Dice

1D6 UK Games Expo ’19 Exposed

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.

 

 

 

1D6 wielding the WARHAMMER

We never played WARHAMMER Fantasy RolePlay back in the 80s, so we’ve been making up lost time over the past few weeks to catch up on what we missed.

The WARHAMMER Grogpods have been produced with the help of The Smart Party podcast. Baz joined us as a locum judge in Part One to dissect 1st edition rules: we managed to play using the rules with Asako Soh (from twitter).

The co-host of The Smart Party, Gaz, has been touring the autumn cons (including GROGMEET) with his WFRP 4e adventures. We played “Here comes the Prince!” set in an Empire backwater of his own design.

Here’s the play report from those sessions. Five highlights and a fumble.

IMG_4310.jpeg

1 The Enemy Within – Asako Soh revived ‘Mistaken Identity’ for last year’s GROGMEET and this year’s virtual GROGMEET. From the start of the session when we answered the call of a proclamation, it felt like we were in the throes of a classic.

It starts off simply enough with a straight forward across country journey, but an encounter with vile chaos sends the adventure spiralling into warped direction.

The adventure is cunning as lures the players into a tempting get-rich-quick scheme that quickly becomes complicated.

Phil The Dice Mechanic made the observation that the skills are very  well considered in the 1st’ed as they quickly establish the character and their place in the world. He also observed that the critical tables are very lurid and colourful but at the top end of the tables, the descriptions are likely to reoccur. Never mind ‘hit left leg’ we had many ‘shattered pelvis’ results.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session, as it was full of sardonic humour as well as the gross-out pestilence. The scenario is smart too, probably a little rail-roady for modern tastes, but it never felt like that in Asako Soh’s hands.

2. Game for a laugh?

“I know that it’s a darkly comic game, are we playing it that way?” asked Matt.

“No, we’re playing it straight as games played for laughs are annoying,” said Gaz, carefully framing the scenario, “if comedy emerges then we’ll go for it, but otherwise it will seem forced.”

We solemnly nodded, before Gaz went into a description of our Lipsensnout Sausages and mash served by a man with sausage-like thumbs – we’d had wurst.

3. Get thee to MittleburgScreenshot 2018-12-17 at 23.53.36.png

The marriage of Ines von Horgen to merchant’s son Frederich Friccen is rumoured to have been brokered to inject cash into the ailing fortunes of Baron von Horgen’s house, while elevating the common, yet wealthy, Friccen household to minor nobility. Scandal enough, but a week before the impending nuptials, Frederich has ridden off to Mittleberg for seven days of Volksfest revelry and a Junggesellenabschied to remember (or forget).

Our small band of ‘resourceful and discreet’ souls were sent to recover Frederich and treat him to ‘hair of the dog’ to get him back to fulfil his duty.

Mittleburg was packed to the jowls with grotesque NPCs who were brought to life with great gusto creating some memorable encounters.

Encounters such as Cunz Gunther, the sausage chef at The Boar and Truffle, or Juergen Schmidt who was abducted from a palanquin by our group, and forced to pay debts to the brothel in a wonderfully ‘Richard Lester’ Three Musketeer moment.

The setting in both editions is really rich.

4. Pre-Generation of the next generation

The character sheets were a little more complex than the 1st edition, but no less colourful.

Blythy was Magdelena von Horgen, an impatient, duellist of lesser nobility, who was easily distracted by her desire to seek out and confront her rival Marx Tuschman. She was guarded by her man-at-arms, who had seen better days, Hans Maiger (played by Mat Hart from Steamforge games).

Helping us to find out way around the city was Grete Vesars, a well connected racketeer (played by Dan, one of the original Smart Party).

I played Elspeth Voltz, a taciturn, single-minded Thief Taker who was more used to tracking down less salubrious characters. She is the impatient side-kick to the more deliberate Barold Loffen, an investigator, a literate and learned locator of missing persons (played by Baz).

5. Something wicked, this way comes …

IMG_4184.jpeg

Before long, we realised that there was something more pernicious at work. Rather than a stag-do that had got out of hand, the infiltration of chaos, symbolised by a dance-of-veils featuring a costumed sex-worker with a lobster hand and an exposed breast.

The final confrontation was satisfyingly horrific. The mechanics work differently than the first edition as it employees ‘degrees of success’ where oppositional tests are compared on a scale of 1 – 10 depending on the ‘tens’ rolled on percentage dice. There’s no example of combat in the rulebook, which means some of the finer points of ‘advantage’ are difficult to work out in play.

The comparison of scales of success means that if you fail less than your opponent, it is still possible to succeed: a rule that proved to be decisive in the final confrontation.

6. Corrupted files

We attempted to record the sessions for use as podcasts. When it came to playing the tapes, the file was ‘corrupted’, which was fitting, but frustrating. No one will hear of Mat Hart’s character dressed for a masked ball wearing a costume that made him look like he was riding a griffin, a la Bernie Clifton.

You won’t hear Phil The Dice Mechanic recreating Benny from Crossroads playing Werner, “SPEAK UP. YOU’RE VERY SHUSSHY.”

Fortunately, Gaz blessed the third attempt by Tzeentch, and it will appear in Episode 25 of the GROGPOD and followed up in a Smart Party bonus episode.

 

1D6 12 hours in Duskvol

IMG_4533.jpeg

There was something about Blades in the Dark that captured my imagination when I read it last year. Apart from a couple of games, it has not become part of our regular repertoire, so when the opportunity to take part in the 24 Hour RPG came up, Blades was my first choice to run at the event.

It’s an annual event; I did RuneQuest Borderlands for 24 hours last year. It takes place the week after GROGMEET which affects the number of people available to participate. Neil and Will were great players and between them they gradually brought their characters to life in the world of Duskvol: starting as lucky chancers in the thrall of Bazo Baz, to finally becoming the Kings of Crowsfoot, seizing the turf from under the noses of The Lamp Blacks.

Donations to Mind are still being accepted at the Just Giving site. Thanks to the generous support of the GROGSQUAD we have helped the event burst through its target of £1500.

Five highlights and a fumble …

The Dark Needles 

IMG_4528 3.jpg

The players created a created a ‘Shadows’ crew as it was the best fit for their characters’ Playbooks (a Lurk and Slide). The most satisfying element of the day was seeing the crew grow its resources during the long session. Their lair was beneath a shop that sold fine Iruvian cloth, needles and thimbles had a number of upgrades. Once the crew began building up their capacity by upgrading and investing in long term projects (such as mapping the underground network of tunnels beneath Crowsfoot) it spurned them on to become more ambitious and take on more audacious scores.

Blades … allows mechanics and imagination work really well together in the crew creation rules.

Crowsfoot

To keep things simple, I limited the hunting grounds to a single district: Crowsfoot, where the three factions of The Crows, Lamp Blacks and Red Sashes, are on the brink of a gang war. One of the highlights of the 12 hour session was seeing the loyalties and allegiances shift from score to score. The players were smart in how they played the factions off each other and developed relationships when it was expedient.

Fortune Rolls

IMG_4529.jpeg

I was more confident this time with some of the core mechanics of the game. There’s a structure to the game that imposes some discipline to provide focus for the action. On the previous occasions I’ve played, I found it stifling and the moments of Freeplay and Downtime seemed to merge into each other. I was more strict with it this time as the nature of the session allowed more space to impose a rhythm to Freeplay, Score and Downtime.

In previous games I’d ignored the ‘Fortune Rolls’ that are made at the start of each score.

This sets the level of the situation. Depending on the outcome of the roll, the score can be Controlled, Risky or Desperate, with each stage representing increasing danger.

This time the Fortune Rolls added an exciting dimension to the scores mechanically and contributed to the narrative in the game world. Thanks to meticulous planning they were able to stage an audience with the leader of The Crows and pull off an audacious trick on her, while their attempt to shake-down a barber and steal some action from his gambling outfit was Desperate as there was an unexpected encounter waiting for them.

Once a rhythm is established Fortune Rolls work really well.

Flash Back!

The use of the ‘Flash Back’ device was stunning in all of the scores completed by The Dark Needles. They were used sparingly, just they allowed the game to keep moving without the need for endless planning. For example, they forged a pardon to boost an assassin from prison, as the Blue Coat constable was about to study the paperwork, they flashed back to a moment the night before when one of the Skulks from the crew, swapped his eye-glasses. Neil rolled a triple critical.

The extra dice added to the scene meant that there was another critical. The constable, embarrassed that he was unable to read the document fully, released the prisoner.

It was so easy. That was only the beginning of their problems.

A cast of Thousands

Before and during the event, I was receiving numbers from members of the GROGSQUAD who were making donations. At the back of Blades in the Dark there are a number of tables that allow you to create NPCs and situations at random during the game.

Roethe Hellyers was an emaciated, annoying, ruthless assassin who bargained with The Needles, they reunited him with his daughter, so he became an asset of the crew, until he met a tragic end (Andrew Cowie).

“Twelves” was Baz Bazo’s beautiful capo and handler of The Needles who met them in the dark corners of The Leaky Bucket to give them scores. (Lee Carnell)

‘Wicker’ was an assassin preparing an ambush for Roethe in league with Twelves. The Dark Needles stole him away before he could make an attack. (Matt the Clownfist!)

Vond ‘Rooster’ Coleburn was an accomplished fence who was offered to The Needles as a contact in return for favours.(Andrew Clark)

The Birch and Thorn were leaders of the sword academy of the Red sashes (Ty Callaghan-Jones and Per Boden)

Vey Hellyer or ‘Thistle’ was Roethe’s daughter. (Rick Knott)

Hix Haron or ‘Ogre’ was a Cutter, employed by Baz Bazo as an assassin to kill Lyssa (the leader of The Crows) when Roethe ‘disappeared’. (Glen Robinson)

Crowl Sevoy a Crow who flipped to the Lamp Blacks following the death of Roric: a valuable source of information (Andrew Jones)

Rustol was Lyssa’s personal bodyguard. In a flashback, The Needles commanded Roethe to abduct his only son. (Mike Watson)

Skannon Harvon was the barber who ran a cock-fighting operation between the hours of Smoke and Ash. (Mike Hobbs)

Wester Dalmore appeared as an assistant alchemist for the Red Sashes producing spark-bombs for the explosive finale (Chris Miles)

Skinner was the faithful Skulk who aided in the final raid of The Crow’s lair (Daily Dwarf)

All of you who pledged appeared in the game, if you haven’t seen your character on Twitter or elsewhere, let me know and I’ll tell you who you were. Thanks for taking part and donating, it’s really appreciated.

24 Hours 

The organisers also were very accommodating and willing to allow me run to adjust the format and run the game for 12 hours. The time zipped by and my only regret was not playing for longer. This was one of my most satisfying moments as a GamesMaster this year: collaborating with the players to construct adventure on the fly and producing unforgettable dramatic scenes. Fantastic.

1D6 GROGMEET 2018

According to Tabletop Gaming Magazine, GROGMEET is the UK’s favourite “Manchurian” RPG games event; who can argue with that?

IMG_4295-2.jpeg
Tabletop Gaming Magazine, November Issue 24

Back in the eighties, we would dream about having people to play with and it took thirty odd years for us to reach out and find more gamer friends. What started out as an experiment has become a regular feature of our gaming calendar. This year there were more events as we added a couple of ‘fringe’ meetings for those in the GROGSQUAD who arrived early on Friday and could stay a little later on the Sunday.

It’s now a three day event, how did that happen?

Mad Lab may have changed locations – transforming itself into a replica of Eddy’s shed complete with woodworking tools, 3D printers, and blood-splattered walls (eh?) and there were lots of new faces replacing familiar ones – but the atmosphere was the same as always; GROGMEET creates an enthusiastic, sometimes eccentric, energy fuelled by a friendliness that’s hard to ignore.

A meet-up rather than a convention with an emphasis on games – play’s the thing – but there’s also plenty of grog at GROGMEET as the convivial chats in the pub are often the most memorable moments of the weekend.

It’s a testament to the munificence of the GROGSQUAD that there was a stunning display of raffle prizes donated which generated £402 for Mind (the charity supported by the 24 Hour RPG in 2018).

The following table features five highlights and a fumble from my own personal experience of the event. There are other blogs popping up with different perspectives from The Welsh Wizard, Gaz (from the Smart Party), Guy Milner, Pookie and Keehar.

  1. GROGFIGHT – an Old School Brawl & Crawl

The Old Scouser himself, hosted an opening fringe event that was ambitious in scope: four tables, four systems, four GMs, in four hours with twenty players moving around which would include an old school brawl and dungeon crawl. The four tables represented four dimensions where the five adventure archetypes had been dispersed by a Soul-Forge that they had destroyed. Shards of the Soul-Forge had been scattered to different dimensions as had the souls of the adventurers. Simultaneously, the characters had to rediscover the Soul-Forge and bring it together. Are you keeping up?

grogmeet-eve.jpg
The Old Scouser advises that the Soul-Forge is throbbing, and it’s time for a player to be carried away to another table.

My table was The Fantasy Trip, the MetaGame skirmish rules from back in 1978, designed by Steve Jackson and a forerunner to GURPS.

The location in my dimension was The Lamia’s Lips brothel in Endlespace, a ruined, decadent place at the end of time. This was my homage to the dungeons I created as a spotty teen. The brothel was the kind of puerile juvenilia that might be found in ‘zines in the 80s. I even used the Harlot Random Encounter table from AD&D’s Dungeon Master’s Guide, really.

There were hilarious scenes where the Wizard, whose magic didn’t work in the presence of halflings, was chucking ‘Saucy Stumpets’ off the balcony to land on the blind-fighting, eunuch hobbits below.

When the Soul-Forge throbbed, new players joined the table and the situation was explained to them: “We’re in a tower with a domed roof, with two circular chambers underneath.”

Soon the innuendo became tiresome and the players a bit ‘judgey’.

I don’t think the Lamia’s Lips will be opening again.

2. The Price of Breakfast

IMG_4386 2.jpeg
John Bender under the Soviets: “Being bad feels pretty good, huh?”

GROGMEET eve (6pm-9.30pm-ish) is the more traditional ‘pre-GROGMEET’ slot for newer games or a more experimental approach to older games. Doc Con ‘Cowie’ pitched an idea for West End Games Price of Freedom (1984), featuring the characters from The Breakfast Club, at UK Games Expo.

I was excited about the prospect as the game was extremely controversial in the pages of White Dwarf when it was reviewed. The concept of America being occupied by the Soviets and the armed struggle against the Red army was seen as problematic in the fevered context of the cold-war. Letters to White Dwarf reflected this moral panic. Throw John Hughes into the mix and there’s a winning formula.

The rules have an unfair reputation for being overly crunchy, as it is a war game after all, so in spite of its endless modifications and precise ‘statement of intent’ turn management, the mechanics worked really well for simulating a cinematic, yet lethal battles.

Doc Cowie has an indefatigable energy and the game cracked on at a pace. He offered us the option of three modes of play: ‘Punisher’ mode which were rules as written; ‘Red Dawn’ which meant that the opponents took damage one step higher than the player characters; and A-Team where the ‘death’ step is removed from the player characters. We went for Red Dawn mode and put the lethality to the test immediately at a check-point.

I was flagging a little and my ability to insert John Hughes references into my responses was failing. My reference to Abe Foreman, Sausage King of Chicago, fell on deaf ears as I’d lost the ability to speak due to lack of sleep the night before.

There were some great moments in the game, as well as epic scenes of conflict, the Doc wove in the ‘dad-issues’ themes from the movie which produced satisfying moments.

I got to see Molly Ringwald take down a helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, so I can cross that off the bucket-list.

3. The Dying Earth

IMG_4452 2.jpeg

I’m a massive fan of Jack Vance. His Dying Earth novels in particular are a firm favourite, so I was very keen to participate in the RPG based on the novels designed by Robin Laws.

I was Quens a pedantic character who was a master of pettifoggery details who finds himself in The Hotel Grand Perdusz a manse of Urbotast, a magician, who has seemingly trapped the player characters into a contract to be his servants. The morning after the apocalyptic, party the night before, we had to work out what had happened to the previous servants and extract ourselves from eternal slavery.

The hotel had plenty of exotic locations to explore and NPCs to interact with, to piece together evidence: not so much ‘whodunnit’, more of a ‘how did they do it and can we escape in the same way’.

I had great fun trying to extract myself from employment by challenging “a contract predicated on the supposition of negligence” and bamboozling my fellow companions. There were elaborate arguments about haberdashery, petty pugilism over the status of one character over another and moments of hilarity as three different characters were persuaded to dunk themselves, head-first into a septic tank.

The epic escape at the climax hinged on a single dice roll. A real thrill, superbly handled by the GM Steve Ray (@OrlanthR).

If the session was transcribed, it would read like a Jack Vance story and I can’t give it a bigger compliment than that.

4. Gaming for Greg #WeAreAllUs

IMG_4412 3.jpeg
Chopper himself tagged Nelson with the Greg Rune in @dailydwarf ‘s Savage Worlds Judge Dredd session: An American Were-Bear in Brit Cit

The weekend coincided with a memorial celebration of Greg Stafford’s life and work. Gamers all over the world were encouraged to include Greg in their games to connect with his spirit. I never met him, so it was great to hear the stories from people who had done. Over the weekend we played in Glorantha (RuneQuest and HeroQuest) and Pendragon, but he was also apparent in the other games too. His rune was the Soul-Forge, the instructions to closing the damn in Price of Freedom and many other inventive name-checks to the Grand Shaman of Gaming.

At the end of the day, the attendees clapped, cheered and shouted Waha! to thank Greg for his contribution to the hobby. I hope they heard us in Berkley.

5. The Room of Role-Playing Rambling with Ian Cooper

IMG_4481.jpeg
Ian prepares to sit on the Ruby Throne

Memories of Greg appeared in the live recording of a future GROGPOD (Jan ’19) about HeroQuest. Ian Cooper is the line editor and he gave a fascinating interview about his formative years in the hobby, a demonstration of the core mechanic of HeroQuest and some tips on oral storytelling.

He chose Tolkien (the world builder) over Moorcock (the pulp, hack) which proves you can’t have everything.

6.Fumble

It was a fantastic event and ran like a dream. I anticipated it being more complicated, shepherding people around Manchester, but it was easy as everyone was so laid back about it all.

The pre-work left me a bit too knackered, so there’s a few changes that I’ll need to make next time, but I’m not complaining because it was great seeing everyone enjoy themselves so much.

There’s enough in my second wind to start planning the next one; the GROGSQUAD have asked for a theme of ‘Anthropomorphic Animals’. Sigh.

Next: GROGMEET Scrapbook

1D6 The Owl Bear and The Wizard’s Staff ’18

IMG_4040.jpg

This is the play report from last weekend’s RuneQuest marathon at The Owl bear and Wizards Staff mini-con held in Leamington Spa.

I took my players through not one, but two QuickStart adventures: firstly, in search of The Broken Tower, from the ENnie Award-Winning, Free RPG Day supplement, produced last year; then in the afternoon they explored A Darkness at RuneGate (as yet unpublished preview).

I’ll do a Scrap Book about the mini-con, until then, here’s the game report, delivered in the usual format. There are five highlights and a final fumble.

RuneQuest Glorantha

The day before the event, the physical books were finally available to purchase. The PDF has been with us for a couple of months, but there’s nothing like a rule-book appearing in the material plane to bring imagination to life.

Against this background of fevered anticipation for the new game I approached the two sessions as a ‘demonstration’. Most of the players had a very limited experience of the RuneQuest, so I decided to show-case its capabilities.

Rules lawyers, cover your ears.

I also went with the run of play rather than limiting proceedings with a pesky rule. The runic inspirations were enjoyable, so I wasn’t going to ruin things by saying ‘you can’t do that’. It’s called maximum game fun (MGF), I believe.

I must of done something right as one player bought the game using his phone before he left.

RuneQuest Paraphernalia 

IMG_2295 2.jpg
“They look like something from Biscuit Week on Bake Off” Daily Dwarf

I had a bad case of ‘gamers’ back’ on the Sunday. Schlepping all of my gear in a ruck sack for two days took its toll. There’s just so much wonderful stuff for RuneQuest to share. I used my new Q-WorkShop, turquoise dice-set, complete with its hit location ‘left-leg’ bias. There are new ones on the way apparently, but I think it’s traditional for the left leg to be the first place hit. It always raises a cheer.

The Glorantha Source book was also useful to share with the players. During down-time it was an opportunity to flick through and admire the art and study some of the cult relationships. One of the players was well-versed in the cosmology of Glorantha. He was playing Sorala, the pre-generated character from the rule-book who is the scribe from Nochet, an initiate of Lhankor May. I was very grateful when he provided information about Dragon Pass at different points during play as it prevented a GM info-dump.

Last, but not least, it was the Strike Rank tracker from Infinity Engine what broke the gamers back. This is a beautifully engraved wooden strip with rules and a twelve phase gauge to keep a track of turn order. There’s also matching Rune tokens which can be used on the tracker and to mark ‘augments’ when characters have active ‘runic inspiration’.

It’s hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. In the thrill of battle, I forgot to refer to it, using instead my ‘keep it in your head’ system that I’ve used for years. That said, the tracker is a nice thing to have at the table as a talking point and useful for explaining strike rank initiative order rules.

The Broken Tower

This is the forth time that I have GMd this scenario: the first time was around the time of its release, the second was recorded for The Smart Party and the third was at UK Games Expo. This time the players really bought into the mythic setting and brought their own ideas and concepts to the scenes, there was more of an eerie quality to the journey through the bad lands.

They were certainly a single-minded party of adventurers who were determined to complete their task. Vostor, the Lunar exile, was particularly forthright.

The Grey Dogs never stood a chance.

Hospitality

Asako-soh was the genial host for the day and he looked after us throughout the weekend. The night before he arranged a meal at Warwick Spice, there were samosas for lunch and a GM goody bag containing a liquorice pipe.

Lunch was a time to re-group and say hello to podcast listeners.

The highlight of the weekend came from a couple of people who were grateful to the GROGPOD as they had started playing regularly thanks to listening. Like the samosa, they gave me much needed nourishment to get me fired up.

A Darkness at RuneGate

Thanks to Richard August, one of the members of the GROGSQUAD, I was given a preview draft of a new QuickStart that’s in development. Rich is one of the writers who designed the adventure. It was a real privilege to playtest something that only a handful of people in the world have played before.

If you know Rich’s work from such supplements as Three Faces of the Wendigo you’ll know that he has a real flair for the macabre. A Darkness … is no exception. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s an investigation with a pervasive stench of the horrific.

The players enjoyed the distinctive ‘The Wicker Man’ folk-horror elements as they encountered people of RuneGate who had embraced a new way of life, adopting a sinister, yet appealing serenity while those around them were in disorder.

RuneQuest fans new and old will enjoy the climatic encounter.

QuickStart apart

The pre-generated characters that appeared in the original QuickStart appear in the new rule book. I used the new ones as they are laid out over two pages which makes things easier to spot, however I failed my roll and missed the fact that there are some new features in the character sheets.

“How does sorcery work?”

Gulp.

I made something up. MGF. Right?

 

 

1D6 The Two Headed Serpent

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

IMG_1220.jpg

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

IMG_1718 2.jpg

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 …

IMG_1217.jpg

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.

 

1D6 Spaghetti ConJunction

IMG_0464.jpg“What fools we are,” I said to my wrinkled reflection as it stared at me disapprovingly at five thirty AM yesterday. I was off to Spaghetti ConJunction 2a, the twice yearly convention hosted by Pookie, Simon Burley and James Mullen, at the Geek Retreat cafe/ game store in city centre Birmingham.

The early start was brought on by the interminable rail-replacement between Adlington and Manchester. Don’t get me started. Despite getting on the bus at quarter to seven, I still had to run, that’s right, run to get on the train to meet Blythy at eight thirty. A journey that normally takes 40 minutes had taken the best part of 2 hours. Mutter. Mutter. Grumble. Grumble.

There were plenty of games available: Hot War, HeroQuest, Prime Time, Manifold, RuneQuest Mythic Britain, Blades in the Dark, Tales from the Loop and more.

Here’s my report in the usual format: 5 highlights and a fumble.

1 Geek Retreat.

Geek Retreat is in a good central location with amiable hosts who bring your food & drink orders to the table. Despite its lurid signal-yellow and purple colour scheme, it turned out to be a good, simple space for playing. The prices for food and drink reflect its central location, but the quality is good and worth it to support their provision of gaming space.

2 Morning Dredd

IMG_0444.jpg

I was running Better Living Through Chemistry for Judge Dredd RPG: the adventure that appears in the 2018 ‘zine, written by Daily Dwarf. It’s an intriguing, witty adventure packed with layers of pop culture references, subtle jokes and Easter eggs that went over the heads of some of the younger people playing.

I was surprised that the only awareness of Dredd for three of the six players was the Karl Urban film. This was the first time that I have run the game for 35 years – we’ll go into detail about the actual game in the next part of the podcast – but it went surprisingly smoothly.

The Judges’ methods were questionable, but we’ll leave that to the SJS who are reviewing the case. A spell on Titan is on the cards.

3 Numenera

IMG_0442.jpg

Over in the corner, Blythy ran a game of Numenera, this is what he said:

“So you’ve never played Numenera before?

“I’ve never played an rpg before actually.”

Gulp. The hobby’s reputation rests on my shoulders… I handed him my dice and he went on to roll two ‘1’s (automatic failure) at once. Great start.

4 Afternoon

27858471_10156198636139669_9082506731416340095_n.jpg

A rerun of the Judge Dredd game, this time the group was a little more experienced, with only a couple of players with no knowledge of the comic version of Mega City One. There were some exciting chases, including the Rookie Judge keeping up with an escaping perp, but no resources or skill to stop him in his tracks: bike cannons, rubber ricochet and loud, persuasive shouting all failed.

There were some additional scenes to this version. These players were more tuned into the nostalgia, so I propelled things along to get them to points of interest, rail-roady maybe, but I think there was enough opportunity for them to interact with the scenes and engage with the entertaining set up. The limitations of the mechanics were exposed with this group of more mature players, I could sense the nostalgia wearing off, the rules were found wanting.

Gaz, from the Smart Party, described the GM style as ‘Cabaret’. Not sure if it was a compliment, but it’s the last time I wear a basque and bowler hat to a convention.

5 Raffle

I never win anything, so it was a great delight to win, not once, but twice. There were generous donations for the charity auction from a number of different publishers. I picked up Sixty Stone Press’ ‘Cathulhu – Velvet Paws on Cthulhu’s Trail’ with rules for playing a cat investigator in Call of Cthulhu, and The Midderlands, from Monkey Blood Design which is an OSR bestiary and setting (recommended by Pookie).

6 Paraphernalia

IMG_0440.jpg

I’m normally a ‘theatre of the mind’ GM, but this adventure came with floor-plans, figures, counters, skull tokens, hand-outs, flash cards and all sorts of props. I was in a muddle. Within 10 minutes, I flipped a cup of tea over everything and remained in a state of flustered disarray for the rest of the day. A genuine fumble.

In the words of Travis Bickle, one of these days I’m going to get myself “organized”.

 

The rail replacement meant that I was home just after mid-night, but it was worth it, a throughly enjoyable day. Thanks to the three organisers, Geek Retreat and all the players for making it such fun.

Next part of the podcast out soon.

Next month, we’ll be at ConVergence in Stockport.

 

 

1D6 No sleep ’til Five Eyes!

I think my ‘old-timer’ body clock is almost getting back into synch after last weekend when I participated in the 24 hour RPG charity event.

This is the fourth time that the event has been run, but the first time I’ve taken part. I was kindly invited by Tim from the Old Scroats, (see the UnEarthed Arcana part of the D&D podcast episodes.)

WarGames, the huge games store that can be found on swanky Lords Street in Southport, UK, were the generous hosts for the event.

If you’ve listened to my appearance on The Smart Party podcast, you’ll know that I originally intended to run the new RuneQuest rules in Dorastor, however at the last minute, I decided to make things easier for myself and keep it old school: I ran the BorderLands campaign using the Classic RuneQuest rules.

I can run those games in my sleep, which is just as well as the plan was to run the game from noon Saturday to noon on Sunday.

The whole experience was tremendous fun and for a good cause too. So far, with the Just Giving account and cash collected, the event has raised a whopping £2281. Thanks to all the participants and the generous pledgers.

You know the format … 5 highlights and a fumble.

1.Once more, with character …

IMG_3882.jpg
Fresh-faced at noon on Saturday

Rather than turn up with a fistful of pre-gens, we created the characters at the table (a session zero, if you will). The process took a little longer than I anticipated, but it allowed me to do a quick prima on Glorantha as well as the rules.

In the end, I think it was a good idea for the players to create their own characters as it allowed them to establish relationships and rivalries with the other players. There were a couple of siblings, for example, which meant that they looked out for each other more (jumping in the river to rescue a brother in distress), or they had deep rooted antipathy towards each other (“You are a coward brother!”).

IMG_3883.jpg

 

2. RoneQuest

IMG_3891.jpg

A party of six mercenaries gathered at the fort of Raus of Rone, ready to tame the wild lands and broker deals with the local beast-riders and other nomad tribes in the region. The fusty old Lunar Duke-in-exile plans to create a new colony of settlers from the North, but first, order needs to be brought to bare on new frontier.

The episodic format was perfect for the 24 hour long session as it was straight-forward, “go there, do that” mission based with a punitive contract that encourages the party to break the rules.

One of the players was a veteran of the BorderLands campaign, so he became Gerontiios, the right-hand man of Daine, the Duke’s sergeant at arms, (the lapsed Humakt Rune Lord and stoical NPC confident for the players.)

Gerontiios was bold, leading the unruly sell-swords, around the wilds of the Zola Fell valley. They encountered High Llama riders, dinosaurs, chariot-raced with Morokanth, battled with crocodile riding ducks and much more.

3. Gift from the Gods

IMG_3893.jpg

This being RuneQuest, there were limbs flying and fumbles galore, but I gave them a little advantage. At the start of the game I gave them a packet of wine gums. This was their luck pool. They could use the sweets to reduce their roll so that a near miss could be a hit.

In addition, some of the players had been given extra rolls thanks to sponsorship donations. They came in handy at some crucial moments.

3. Multiverse

IMG_3900.jpg

There were other games being played: Numenera, StarFinder and D&D 5e.

The GMs agreed beforehand that we would have a common theme of “an evil presence, breaking through the dimensions, aided by acolytes in the different Universes.”

An obscure symbol would unite the campaigns, to identify the influence of this cosmic evil as it attempted to penetrate the different realms of the multiverse.

IMG_4008.jpg

Using ‘whats app’, we shared elements that had escaped from our games. Ethan sent “500 tonnes of rock and dirt from a plane,” from Numenera which manifested in Glorantha as a rain of silt which formed into a congregation of Whirlvishes – a vortex of sand.

I followed Baz & Gaz’s advice and had a group of rival mercenaries tormenting the PCs. The Sartarite bandits led by Rattle Poisionknife, a Sartarite bandit who had a tattoo of the symbol on his arm and was leading some of the locals towards his sinister faction, who were intent on awakening the dormant Nosferal.

At midnight, Gerontiios was sent on a HeroQuest to another table. He ended up in a dimension of sound in Numenera.

A nano from the Numenera game manifested as a purple duck at our table. He taught the Flintnail masonries how technologies of a ‘lifting device’ to help them in the construction of the Duke’s Fort. He defied being tied by a Waha rope by reversing his temporal existence.

Delirium began to set in at this point.

5. Five Eyes

“Avoid Five Eyes Temple,” Gerontiios commanded. Once they eventually went there, he was hit in the face with a manticore stinger and left for dead. Thanks to Divine Intervention (and a couple of wine gums) the Red Moon goddess revived him.

The River Horse temple had been taken over by the revived soul of Nosferal. The Newtlings were now undead servants in his thrall.

Despite his depleted power Gerontiios explored the far corners of the river caves and was possessed by a disorder ghost, who unleashed Nosferal from his tomb!

IMG_3918.jpg

6. The 4am Wall (fumble)

IMG_3917.jpg

By 4am, the esprit-de-corps was breaking down somewhat. 16 hours of play and things started to fray. They struggled to motivate themselves to reach the lofty heights of Condor Crags.

“What the hell are we doing this for? Why are we here?” they exclaimed. I’m not sure whether or not it was in character.

“We are all of us!” declared Gerontiios, rallying the band together to make the final push.

As dawn broke, the players found a second wind, an Orlanthi wind, which blew them towards a final confrontation with Nosferal, Rattle PoisonKnife, and the zombified bone-dragon Kerrang!

Their enemies were defeated thanks to the cypher recovered to Numenera (water from the River Styx) and a few remaining wine gums.

IMG_3919.jpg
Noon on Sunday!