You are invited … 


On the 12th November 2016 there will be the first ever GROGMEET in Manchester. It’s a day of Old School gaming which will end in the official launch of the first ever annual the GROGNARD files ‘zine.


  • The event will begin with demonstrations and ‘pick up and play’ board games hosted by – the home of convivial gaming.
  • Judge Blythy from the GROGNARD files will be running a STORMBRINGER adventure to feed Arioch with souls.
  • Making a trip up the East Lancs, will be Kehaar, co-host of the brilliant DISSECTING WORLDS podcast, he’s Games Mastering a rip-roaring heist for TSR’s GANGBUSTERS.
  • We’re delighted to have GM @Asako_Soh on the team, who will be fresh from running games at UK Games Expo and the D&D Tweetup,  to run a classic adventure for West End Games Star Wars RPG
  • Dirk the Dice will be taking players to Glorantha in a Classic RUNEQUEST scenario: Assault on Lunar Outpost XIII.

More Games will be coming on board, so tip some coins in the Patreon beret to keep up to date with the developments. Please note that, at this stage, the proposed games my be subject to tweaks and adjustments.

The event will run from 10.15 – 17.00 with the RPG sessions running from noon.

The fun will be located at Mad Labs in the heart of Manchester, we’re happy to support this wonderful community resource. There’s plenty of places to eat nearby in the swanky (with a silent ‘s’) Northern Quarter; you don’t NEED a hipster beard, but it will help. The famous Manchester European Markets will probably have started too, so why not make a weekend of it?

Tea and coffee is provided throughout the day to keep old-timers refreshed.


The GROGNARD Files fanzine will be officially launched at the event and all attendees will get a souvenir copy.

This project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of our Patreon backers. 


The space is strictly limited, and there’s no tickets available at the door, so if you want to come, please book your place early. Tickets are £10 to contribute towards the hire of the space. It’s free if you’re a Patreon $5 backer.

Sign-up for the RPG sessions will be available nearer to the event and will be released to Patreon backers first.

Tickets are now available from this link.


Moorcock, Moorcock, Michael Moorcock you fervently moan

More about IMAGINE No 22 Jan 1985

“Literature holds much for the adventure gamer: a glimpse of worlds to which we are denied access by the complexity of modern life, ideas for character and adventure to supplement our own. Fantasy fiction is never far removed from the ‘real world’, and yet more than any other genre it refuses to be bogged down in ‘life as it is’ with all the defeat and compromise that that entails. As a way of exploring alternative modes of existence and remedies the world’s ills, it is unsurpassed. Enjoy …”

Kim Daniel, Editor

Some of the discussion about Imagine magazine, in the latest the GROGNARD RPG files podcast, ended up on the cutting room floor. I thought it would be worth looking at it in a bit more depth here, as it provides a useful connective bridge between The Stormbringer episode with the AD&D ones that are on the way. Imagine was published monthly by TSR UK between 1983 and 1985 ‘for the players of Dungeons and Dragons game’. I’ve written about how Imagine reached out to active gamers through it’s coverage of fanzines. It also had a policy of covering at wider genre features through it’s reviews of film, television and books. Occasionally it would dedicate the magazine to a particular author and through the magazine I discovered Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright and science fiction author Bob Shaw, amongst others.


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The Moorcock edition had a striking cover by Rodney Matthews, with the organic, angular shapes that makes his art so distinctive. It is a cropped version of a wider canvas titled EARL AUBEC OF MALADOR, depicting the incarnation of the Eternal Champion under pressure from insect-like creatures. Look closely and you’ll spot his cat companion, who detects danger with a preternatural instinct. Aubec is the subject of the scenario authored by Michael Brunton and Moorcock himself, who provided the story-treatment for the scenario.

The adventure is designed for one player who adopts the role of Aubec, with the option of another player taking the role of the ‘Companion to Champions’ Jhary A Conel, who appears in a number of Eternal Campion stories.

In the scenario, the players are seeking the Horn of Fate, which will ultimately be blown at the End of Time by Elric. Aubec is a champion that exists in an earlier period of the Young Kingdoms, when Melniboné is still a powerful force. He is seeking revenge after his lands are seized by his wife’s half-brother.

The Lords of Law wish to seek and find the Iron Galleon to recover the Horn of Plenty so it can be held in safe-keeping until the time is right.

Altogether, it’s a good one shot adventure notable for transforming AD&D alignment to deal with Chaos and Law as defined by Moorcock’s multiverse. Also, it adopts ‘Luck Points’ – a ‘spend’ mechanic that is familiar now, but innovative at the time – allowing players (and NPCs) to influence the results. The Luck Points can create results such as ‘ a death blow’ or ‘Hit Point recovery’.


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There’s also a short story (The Last Enchantment) which features Elric making a portentous encounter in with the Lords of Chaos. It’s slim pickings, but it does serve as a useful introduction to the cosmology:

‘Only the Greatest Power, of which we know little more than humans, can create fresh conceptions. The Greatest Power holds both Law and Chaos in perpetual balance, making us war only that the scale will not be tilted too far to one side.’

The Moorcock interview is interesting in the context of his literary career. This was prior to the publication of Mother London (1988) and it’s possible to see him becoming increasingly weary of his ‘fantasy Romances’. There is a sense where he is seeing the genre as moribund and ‘increasingly debased’ in the face of increasing infantilisation (cf Wizardry and Wild Romance). He wants to be taken seriously.


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A rare acknowledgement of the gaming hobby by Moorcock

Thanks to Patreon backer and active supporter of the Podcast, Sam Vail, I’ve been introduced to Paul Cockburn, who was on the Imagine editorial team. He said of the Moorcock issue:

I met Michael as we planned that issue. It was a big thrill. Unlike the majority of my gaming peers, Tolkien never was my thing. But I love imaginative fiction, and that’s obvious from my stewardship of Imagine magazine, plus what was going on in the background before I left Games Workshop. So, getting to hang out with Michael, talk about fiction and where it might influence games, that was a big thrill. My time on Imagine and at GW gave me license to have some great conversations with the big authors of the 80s, and that was truly amazing for me. So yes, I wanted Imagine to show that you could draw on the inspiration provided by great writers and great writing, and game in those kinds of environments.

There’ll be more from Paul and more about Imagine in a future podcast. He will also feature in the forthcoming 2016 theGROGNARDfiles Annual. Join the Patreon campaign to support the podcast and to ensure you get a copy!

Stormbringer – In discussion with Ken St Andre


“The task of a game like Stormbringer is to transcribe the essence of someone’s imagination into numerical and descriptive form so that it can be easily manipulated in the form of rules. The task of the gamers is to take those numbers and flesh them out in their own imaginations, to recreate the storytelling experience in their own minds while playing.”

— Ken St. Andre, Heroic Worlds (1991)

I promised in the podcast (Stormbringer Episode 5 (Part 1)) that I would provide the transcript of the Twinterview  (as no-one is calling them) that we had with Ken St Andre that was used in the ‘Potted History Section’ of the episode. It was a very enlightening exchange, where we couldn’t help gushing towards this legendary figure in the world of gaming. He showed great humility in the face of our giddy excitement.


The conversation was brokered by @dailydwarf (DD) who invited Blythy (JB) and myself (Dirk) to join in with The Trollfather himself … Ken St Andre (KsA).

DD: My 13 year old self just exploded. I’ll start with the obvious question – did you have any contact with Michael Moorcock prior to starting work on your game, or during development?

KsA: No. I’ve never met Michael or even talked to him or corresponded with him. I just liked his sword and sorcery books, especially Elric.

Dirk: I really admire your work, because your games always remind everyone that games are meant to be fun, not difficult, which had a positive influence on how we played. What came first? Chaosium’s licence or were you playing in the Young Kingdoms in your own games?

KsA: Back about 1974 I went to graduate school at the University of Arizona, and roomed with a guy who was Diplomacy master; he ran games for other players. Fantasy variants of Diplomacy. A year later when I got back home I grew interested in running fantasy diplomacy variant games of my own. One of the first that I created was a Young Kingdoms variant. It may be on file in a diplomacy bank somewhere, I don’t have it any more.

Then Chaosium got the license to do a game based on Elric. I heard about that and wrote to Greg Stafford with my proposition for how the game should be done. Chaosium accepted me, and I started work on the game by rereading all the Elric stories I had–there were only 2 slim volumes back then–Stormbringer and The Stealer of Souls.

I loved the Elric stories almost as much as Howard’s Conan stories. Still do. I identify with Elric much more than with Conan.

JB: How hard was it to collaborate designing the game? How did the collaboration work?

KsA: Originally I wrote the complete game by myself with Steve Perrin assigned to be my editor. In the process of finishing the document, Steve added significant contributions dealing with religious alignment and the information about various gods of the Young Kingdoms. I thought his contributions were enough to warrant listing him as a co-author instead of just an editor, so that’s what we did.

Dirk: Were Chaosium precious about the BRP mechanics being part of the game? You do an excellent job of making Moorcock’s vision work as a game. What aspect of the Young Kingdoms presented the most challenges for the games design?

KsA: Thank you for the compliment.

I’m not sure what you mean about “precious” for Chaosium. They pretty much insisted that the basic game mechanics come from BRP, but let me go ahead and modify it into a true D100 system instead of D20.

You know that in the early Elric stories Moorcock gave only the vaguest description of how magic worked. It looked to me like everything he did involved some kind of summoning of external, supernatural forces, and so I decided to go with magic based on summoning and subduing demons and elementals. That was, I think, the trickiest part of the game design.

I was kind of proud of the whole combat/skills system. As for sorcerers, they are meant to be insanely powerful and deadly–every single one that I saw in MM’s stories fit that pattern. Any wizard who was incompetent would have killed himself early.

DD: Was there anything you wanted to include in Stormbringer but didn’t, for reasons of brevity / time?

I actually wanted to make the game more complex than they allowed me to. Because of the strong implications of Chaos in the Moorcock books, I wanted to base things on the number 8. So the copper coin was the low currency, the silver coin was worth 8 times as much as copper, and gold was worth 64 times as much as silver. That isn’t actually very far from the ratios of their values on Earth. The Melnibonean Wheel would have been worth 500 times as much as gold coin. Too complicated said Charlie Krank and the Chaosium editors. Multiples of 10 said they. Grrr said I, but they were the publishers. Aside from that, I pretty much got my way with what went into the rules.

stormbringer interior


JB: Have you ever played Elric?

KsA: Have I ever played their successor (to Stormbringer) game? No. Don’t know anyone who has, actually. Really only played Stormbringer half a dozen times or so back when it was a new release and I would demo it at cons. 95% of my roleplaying is just Tunnels and Trolls for the last decade or so.

JB: I meant did you ever play Elric as a player in stormbringer? We never have out of some strange sense of reverence.

KsA: No, I never played Elric himself in any game I ran or was part of. That would take a lot of hubris.

DD: I agree about not playing characters from the stories. It felt redundant; those stories had already been told, and the Young Kingdoms was such a rich backdrop I was eager to tell new stories. (Moorcock’s characters might be referenced as “off-screen” NPCs, but that was it.)

KsA: We feel the same way about playing actual characters from the books. And that is why there are no stats given for Elric, Moonglum, Rackhir or any of the others.

DD: The thing I really liked about Stormbringer was that, because I’d read the Moorcock  stories, I had a “way in” to understanding and developing the backdrop, crucial to making games exciting and fun. This was in contrast to how I felt about Glorantha at the time, which just seemed overwhelming in its level of detail.

KsA: With an extensive fictional background for a rpg, the game should feel like it has more depth than just some made-up frpg off the shelf. I’m sure that’s why Forgotten Realms was developed for That Other Game; also why so many licensed products from fiction have appeared over the years. Middle Earth, Conan, Elfquest, etc.

JB: Thanks for answering our questions and for your huge contribution to games we love.

KsA: I’m happy to help, guys.


I also contacted Steve Perrin for his memories of the creative process for Stormbringer, he added the following:

I was attached as a sort of developer early on in the process. I started the process as a freelancer/contractor, but by the time we were done I was a full-time Chaosium employee.

What we had initially was Ken’s description of the Young Kingdoms and Melnibone and notes on how demons and elementals would work.

I okayed the idea of randomly determined armor and made sure that Ken didn’t take us on a journey too far away from BRP (which had not been written yet). He chose the idea that all the magic was elementals or demons.

I also invented the Virtuous weapons and armor, as some kind of counterbalance to the Chaotic powers of demon weapons.

– Steve Perrin

I’ve been curious about the movement away from Stormbringer and towards the rebranded rehash that was Elric!. There was also an interesting shift away from the concept of an ‘Eternal Champion’ series of RPGs in the mid-80s (Hawkmoon and the promise of Corum) back towards more Elric related material.  On the internet there have been reports of a public dispute between Moorcock and Choasium towards the end of their relationship with each other, although this has been mainly expressed as opinion rather than based in facts.

I contacted Rick Meints, President at Choasium, to help piece together these gaps. He wasn’t around when the decisions about Stormbringer were being made, but he offered to help clarify some of the missing pieces in the story. He confirmed that Moorcock didn’t participate in the creation of the Stormbringer material, nor did he even review/ approve most of it, although review copies were sent via his agent. Moorcock couldn’t have been too unhappy along the way because he not only renewed the licence with Chaosium twice, but he also extended the range of material they were allowed to publish. That said, towards the end of the licence they did have a disagreement and the reason for this depends upon who you ask, “Chaosium folks and Michael Moorcock tell very different stories.”

It seems that one of the problems was dealing with intermediaries who were not great at passing things on to Moorcock. The extra filter caused a breakdown in communications. Chaosuim has been in contact with Moorcock’s agent to check the status of the licence and to ensure that outstanding royalties have been settled.

I’ve also written to Moorcock to get his side of the story, I’ve not heard anything back yet, I’ll share it here if I do.

The intellectual property rights for the worlds and characters are with Moorcock. The RPG material copyright is owned by Chaosuim. It would require both to agree in order to kick start a reprint. There’s no sign of that happening at the moment.

If I draw an octagon on the floor. Incant some words. Perhaps, with Arioch’s aid, we’ll make it happen.

Thanks to Ken, Steve and Rick for their help and interesting contributions.

Dirk the Dice

In other news: Thanks to the support of our Patreons, we have hit the first goal to produce a PDF fanzine later in the year. The podcasts are free, but the Patreon will help us to seek out interesting stuff to cover and support additional projects like the fanzine. If you’d like to participate and chuck some coins in the beret, you’ll find it here:


Putting the FAN back into Fantasy RPG

Following an emergency meeting at Dirk Towers, the time has come … to create a The GROGNARD files fanzine.

Last week, I ran on of those infernal twitter polls in a fit of beer fuelled excitement in a bid to understand if there was interest out there. 41 people voted to say that they would read a fanzine … so we’ve agreed to do one as a PDF and as a hard copy (if we can generate enough funds to support it).

To help to create something interesting and collectable we have launched a Patreon campaign. If you want to throw some pennies in the hat to support our endeavour, then we’ll be very grateful.

We are offering various goals, that you’ll see on the link, the first is a PDF ‘zine, but what we’d really want to do is to produce a real ‘zine with ink, paper and staples. It will have a flavour of the old school ‘zines, even their distinctive smell.


Imazine Fanzine

If you have been following my twitter feed on @theGROGNARDfile over the past few days you will have seen that I have taken delivery of a bundle of IMAGINE magazines.

TSR UK published IMAGINE magazine from 1983 – 1985 with Don Turnbull at the helm and Paul Cockburn as the assistant editor.

I used to subscribe to it back in the day, despite it’s coverage of AD&D, a game that I didn’t Games Master and only played occasionally. It was an interesting companion piece to White Dwarf as it struck a very different tone to the Games Workshop magazine. Dare I say it, but on reflection, the resources it provided were of a superior quality. PELINORE, its collectable game world, was notable for it’s richness and wonderful maps that could spark a hundred scenarios without really trying.

Journal of the Senseless Carnage Society

It lacked the general consistency of White Dwarf, for every Pelinore supplement there was a weak and confusing scenario or waffely article about the minutiae of nothing in particular. In the podcast I have described White Dwarf as a kind of analogue social media – connecting our experience of role-playing with the wider community. White Dwarf did this tacitly through its small ads and letters page, Imagine on the other hand, was more explicit in its support of the fan culture. In the back pages there was a regular ‘zine section and in later issues a series of articles entitled FANSCENE which was an attempt to reach out and encourage gamers to become more active participants in the hobby.

In the mid-80s, there was something of a boom in the world of RPG ‘zines. Many of the second generation RPGers had gone to college, so applied all of their new found freedom to knocking out these little magazines.

Out of the Mist 'Zine

I lost all of my fanzine collection in The Great Clear-out of ’92 when it contributed to landfill. They’re building on it now. Under the foundation of those closely-packed semi-detached houses, there will be the remnants of DRAGONLORDS, LANKHMAR STAR DAILY, DAGON, and IMAZINE. Unlike other artefacts from RPG’s past, it’s extremely difficult to recover those lost ‘zines as they rarely appear for sale on the internet. Not surprising, given the extremely low print runs.

Red Fox 'zine

All that remains is the distant memory of their content, which was irreverent, packed with ‘in’ jokes and references, quirky scenarios and pitch-battles between readers who were arguing over the latest controversial issue affecting the world of gaming. I enjoyed that sense of a conversation going on, even if I didn’t get all the references.


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I have ‘zine’s in my blood. At the time, I was active on the PBM scene and had a ‘zine newsletter of my own ‘THE NATIONAL KOBOLD’ (my life in PBMs will be covered in future Podcasts). I was also contributing to ‘zine’s too, notably DRUNE KROLL where I began a BROOKSIDE RPG PBM (no takers, pity because my Damon Grant whodunnit scenario was brilliant).

In the early ’90s I created an anthology of Science Fiction stories in a collection titled THE PSEUDO-NYMPH, notable for it’s wonderful illustrations. In the mid-to-late 90’s Blythy and I edited PROP, a small press, literary magazine for 10 issues (really!).

The National Kobold

We are both excited at the prospect of producing a ‘zine because it will allow us to explore avenues that are impossible in the podcast. We plan to include some of the usual features, but with additional ideas, that we’ll preview here over the coming months.

You can have your very own cut out and keep ridiculous shrine to Caroline Munro. Chuck a few coins in the beret and make it real.

A glitch you cannot scratch …

An introduction to playing table top games online and a call for tips.

This weekend was the first ever Saturday Morning Grog Club. These are occasional online games that I’ll be running to help support the Podcast. They’re intended to help us refresh our memories about how the games work in play. This weekend was the turn STORMBRINGER, ready for the podcast due later in February, which I last played 33 years ago.

It also included my first ever meeting with @dailydwarf … I virtually know him now.

I’ll be reviving old school games online at irregular intervals. Look out for a ‘call for players’ on this site over the coming months. AD&D or Tunnels and Trolls is likely to be up next.

It’s all part the 2016 strategy of packing in as many sessions as possible into every hidden corner of the week. Since we revived our interest in the hobby five years ago, it has been frustrating attempting to find the time for us to be around the table. Every planned session has been foiled by the demands of ‘the toad’ work and family life: “sorry I can’ t do Wednesday, its parents’ evening … Etc.”

The availability of online platforms like Roll20 has increased the potential of playing more game sessions as it reduces the palaver of getting in the same physical place at the same time. On top of its convenience, it has many features to enhance the game-playing experience, including the facility to load maps and reveal them as places are explored and animated dice to recreate the full experience of rolling across the table. There are features on the application that we haven’t used yet, for example, we’ve been using off-line PDF character sheets, Roll 20 has the facility to create interactive character sheets which are more accessible during the run of play.

This month, we have managed to play an unprecedented four sessions, only one of them being face-to-face around a real table. Remarkable.

In addition to the extra sessions, the online game has introduced us to more players, with all the richness and excitement that bigger parties can inject into a game. There are only three of us usually, so we have to double up character sheets and scale down pre-written campaigns to suit smaller groups. Having 5 and 6 different players with different perspectives and experiences has enlivened our approach to the game.

Following the last two sessions however, I’ve been struck by a troubling realisation: I talk too much. When I’m GMing online, I feel a constant need to keep going, keep the pace up, fill in the gaps with wiffle and waffle.

My usual style of Games Mastering consists of throwing forward a situation, sitting back while the players explore their ideas, only adding the occasional dramatic poke when the momentum drops. I’ve realised that when I’m GMing online, I’m doing twice the amount of talking that I would normally do at the table. Why? Why does the online experience cause me to become so voluble?


Some of this can be accounted for in the conditions imposed by playing in ‘stolen moments’. Our regular Traveller session is a continuing campaign (The Aramis: Traveller Adventure), but it is designed in an episodic nature, hopping from planet to planet, with an over-arching plot that seeps into the episodes. These are 2 hour sessions (we have been remarkably strict in sticking to this timescale too). I have tried to achieve the dramatic beats of a continuing TV drama, with the action packed into the final third, and some tantalising cliff-hangers.

We’ve managed to achieve a sense of rhythm in play and the recent session was a scene of riotous fun as a planned rescue of a crew member from a church where he was being held captive, turned from genius to ridiculous by turns.

Despite the fun we’ve had playing the individual episodes, I have no idea how much the players are engaging with the overarching plot. There’s a conspiratorial narrative in the background that they’ve touched on and it will become increasingly important as time moves on, but at this point, I don’t know whether they’ve picked up on the elements of story, or the whether they’re even interested in pursuing it further. This could be down to the design of the adventure itself as it is written with lots of exposition, which I’ve tried to translate into action. I can’t help feeling that if we were playing around a table, I would be able to judge it better. As a consequence, I feel like I’m trying to over-compensate with information outside of the game, usually lengthy write ups on the Roll 20 forums.

The Saturday morning game was an adapted version of THE FANG AND THE FOUNTAIN from THE PERILS OF THE YOUNG KINGDOMS for Stormbringer. The next couple of podcasts will be all about the game, so I won’t steal my own thunder here. The structure was adapted to suit a one-shot:

  • Keep it simple
  • Have a big opening and an even bigger finish that calls back to the opening
  • Make sure the characters know their objectives and know why they’re there and their relationship to the others
  • Start the action as late into the story as possible
  • Make sure that every character has a chance to shine
  • Don’t kill the action with rules

The session worked well, with dice ‘virtually’ rattling around the screen, with death and destruction and body horror and demons and everything … but, it was hard-work, too much like hard-work. I don’t think it was down to injecting the scenario with usual energy that’s needed for a one-shot/ convention-like game, I think it was down to the channel … I was over-compensating for something lacking in the online experience.


I don’t blame my players for this lack of engagement, they’re all intelligent, love RPGs, witty and want to get the best from the experience as possible. My incessant talking comes from the limitations of the online experience.

Firstly, even the reliable Roll20 can be a glitchy experience, because you are depending on many factors: the speed of broadband, individual wifi arrangements, the processing speed of your computer and the performance of the servers. If this is multiplied across 6 people, there are many opportunities for it to fail.

This usually manifests as warble from the sound, or a player web-cam disappearing momentarily.

Secondly, most people tend to stare blankly at the screen.

Combine these two elements and it results in me becoming like Lee Evans on speed. My internal monologue is going like this: “Have they heard me?” “Has the screen frozen again … he hasn’t moved for 5 minutes” “If I keep repeating the same thing … they’ll get it … I’ll say it again just in case”

In the last Traveller session, the conditions worked well because the party had split and were talking to each other by communicators. However, there was a point on Saturday, where I described a scene where a man was ringing a bell. A mist emerging over the beach, with children running towards the sea, the bell ringing intensified … the children screamed within the mist!”

Players confer, followed by … “We’ll go and talk to the man and ask why he’s ringing the bell.”

but … “The children are SCREAMING!”

As I say, I don’t blame the the players, it’s something to do with online playing. It’s the strange way that staring at each other in little inch by inch windows on computer screens, renders normal human discourse inert.

It’s really difficult to encourage players to engage with each other. Normally, around the table, there are visual clues of when to take a turn to speak, or gestures of encouragement when someone has had a good idea. Online play seems to eliminate these clues of interaction that we take for granted.


Online tabletop games are a relatively new phenomena and I’m new to it, so like anything involved with RPGs, it will improve through playing more and players sharing tips and experiences with each other. I’ll get better at it as I do more of it because I’ll naturally want to get better.

I’m really enjoying the online gaming experience. I’ve really enjoyed meeting new players and had loads of fun during the sessions so far, but I know that it will get to the point where I’ll want more … I’ll want more of an engaging experience … more role-playing and discussion between players.

I’ll just want to stop hearing my own voice.






A year on the Grog

I’m sat in the den, packing away the tinsel for another year, because Dirk Towers is saying farewell to the festive period. I’m back at work, serving The Master in return for food tokens, so I’ve begun to console myself in looking forward to 2016.

The first 6 months of the new year look like a veritable feast of gaming with an unprecedented 20 sessions planned between now and June. We haven’t done this much RPG since those heady days of the early 80s.

If we pull it off … if we pull it off … if …


The next episode of The Grognard Files podcast will be about Games Conventions in general and Dragonmeet 2015 in particular.While I was there, I got a (signed) copy of Nights Black Agents and I’ve been reading it ever since. The hardback is packed to the brim with resources and enough inventive ideas for you to shake a stake at, but I’ve had a difficultly getting my head around it. I suspect that there’s less to the Gumshoe system than meets the eye. It’s an example of what my English lecturer, Chris Baldick, used to refer to as ‘periphrasis’, in other words, a lots of words to say something very simple.

That said, when I’ve watched actual play demos, it actually seems workable, and I’m looking forward to being the director of a Bourne-meets-Buffy type extravaganza because I think it will suit my style of Games Mastering perfectly.

There’s a great demo-game available for download that will get them into the pace of the action in media res with an exciting car chase emulating the high-powered super-spy genre with great panache.

Night’s Black Agents is an improvised story game that uses the idea of ‘spending’ resources to improve the chance of success for your actions. Numenera uses a similar principle and for most of today, in between nursing a sick child, I’ve been preparing my character, because we’re going to start playing next month with Judge Blythy as the Games Master (or whatever irrelevant variant on the GM title Monte Cooke Games have devised).

It’s ages since I’ve enjoyed creating a character as much as I did making the choices for the Numenera. It’s relatively simple and allows a great deal of flexibility for the player to use their imagination to develop someone that they want to play, rather than being at the mercy of dice rolls.

Zadie Zenokey IV (or Zen 4) is a nano (a kind of Numenera magic user) with the descriptor of ‘Mechanical’ which gives her a great insight into the ways of the Numenera magic. Her focus is flesh and steel, the source of her magic is through ports in her spine and cables under her skin to a cpu on the right-side of her brain and her cybernetic left-arm. Her back story concerns her ancestors who were all but wiped out by a virus, the survivors and subsequent generations developed mechanics to cope with their mutations. Zen 4 has developed a secret order who are seeking the remaining Zenokey so they can reunite.


It’s not all about the new stuff. Some of the highlights of the coming months include the continuing campaigns of Fungi from Yuggoth (CoC) and the Aramis campaign (Traveller), keeping it old school.

In February, I’ll be opening the Grognard File labelled STORMBRINGER, Fantasy Role-playing in the world of Elric. Over the past few weeks I’ve been rediscovering Moorcock and hitting e-Bay, filling the gaps in my collection of supplements. I’ve been overcome with an impulsive desire to consume souls, however it seems unlikely that I’ll be sated, therefore I’ve decided that I’ll run a game instead. We have one scheduled for the end of the month.

In the coming months, the Runequest classic bonanza will be released from Moon Design’s epic Kick Starter campaign, marking the celebrations of 50 years of Glorantha. In the podcast we have talked about our group reviving some of the classic Choasium games, so I’m going to continue this endeavour by resurrecting another OSR classic for my group.

On top of all this Armchair Adventuring, we’ve been invited to a marathon session of D&D 5th edition, which is very exciting.

So, as I plug myself into the collective unconscious of work, facing minor disappointments with stoic indifference, I can console myself that there is an escape pod available. As long as the Fun Prevention Officer gives me the key.