The GROGNARD Files

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

We don’t normally promote stuff on the GROGNARD files, but there’s always an exception to prove the rule.

I implore you to pledge to The King of Dungeons KickStarter, before it’s too late.

One of the most articulate and engaging commentators on the RPG scene past and present is Baz Stevens, from the What Would the Smart Party Do? podcast. Along with his co-host Gaz, he has always been incredibly supportive of the GROGNARD files and has contributed to several episodes. Over the years he has challenged and informed my thinking about RPGs and made me a better player.

He’s written an RPG rules set within a framework that imagines “Adventuring as a career” in a way that is flexible enough to fit in any setting. What would your obligations be to your guild? How would the clauses a contract be negotiated? How do you compete in a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is chasing the same gold piece?

At GROGMEET this year, the game is being set in both Glorantha and the worlds of Earthdawn.

The rules are based on 13th Age but stripped down to the essentials, so there’s a familiar old-school feel to how the rules operate. The character creation is great fun (you’ll spend evenings just generating interesting player characters with quirky features) and the resolution is quick but puts drama first.

The rules are written in a disarmingly chatty style that is like a mate, enthusiastically explaining how to play while drinking a pint.

Many GROGSQUADers are supporters of the campaign already, but in case you missed it, this is your alarm call. The best adventurers always have an eye on the prize.

Dirk the Dice

I’m an RPG addict. I can feel it every waking moment and I can’t resist the impulse. Maintaining a constant feed of the habit requires scheduling. Here’s an up date on my plans:

Here at the Armchair Adventurers, we like to have a broad thematic approach to our gaming. When I say ‘broad’ I mean that we feel free to ignore the theme if it doesn’t quite fit. This year we are exploring some of our influences from when we were playing in the eighties. You’ll notice from the recent GROGPOD episodes with the introduction of the GROGGLEBOX segment, we are revisiting some of the film and television that informed our imagination as we were discovering RPGs.

Now that I’m at the half-way point of the year, with great games behind me, I’m looking forward to what’s coming and the theme is still ‘broadly’ influencing what I intend to run as a GM and play as a player.

I’m pleased that we have managed to get the momentum behind continuing serials of games as well as one-shots. The Two-Headed Serpent campaign continues to surprise and impress me with its inventiveness. This is Cthulhu gaming at its most adventurous and, following over a year of play, I don’t feel any sense of ‘campaign-fatigue’; the central conundrum that the players are trying to negotiate is still an intriguing premise after 16 plus sessions. It helps that there is a great group of players who have really got into the pulp spirit of their characters.

Our fortnightly D&D 5e group has been dabbling in the sandbox of WaterDeep during Dragon Heist, with a cast of thousands. We’ve been playing factions against each other to progress our reputations in the city and to deal with the sometimes contradictory motives of the player characters. It has been fun being a Teifling-Monk landlord of a hostelry, but we have hit the next act, which is going to involve some old fashioned dungeoning and dragoning.

We’ve also enjoyed more sporadic campaigning in the Old World of Warhammer, the final frontiers of Star Trek and Glorantha HeroQuesting in Dragon Pass.

1. Ed’s Shed

Last year, we experienced the ‘Eddy Corrective’ when Eddy slammed the brakes on our endless ‘pursuit of the new’.

He suggested that we should stop, reflect on what made us excited about coming back into the hobby in the first place and rediscover the old school magic. Instead of delving the depths of The Curse of Strahd D&D 5e style, we went back to the relative simplicity of RuneQuest 2nd editon (The Rainbow Mounds) and OpenQuest in Hårn.

Now we are playing Monster of the Week.

I know. It sounds like the Eddy Corrective has gone off the rails. I never thought that Eddy’s negative response to the new games in our repertoire would end with us playing PBTA, AND really enjoying it, but that’s what’s happened.

However, the ‘corrective’ was more about a return to simplicity than about ‘keeping it old’ and Monster of Week is perfect in that regard as it is both simple and focused in a way that suits our gaming group.

Following our recent White Dwarf Book Club, I’m going to use The Black Hack to resurrect Troubles at Embertrees over the summer with a view to running the StarStone adventures from The Northern Sages. I have an idea of how the story could continue and the elegant design of The Black Hack will suit it perfectly. I think.

2. Blake’s Seven

On the Kanban board, the next row that is being attacked is ‘Blakes 7 – the Role-Playing Game‘ using the fan-made rules from Horizon. Andy Cousins has created the crew and I’ll sticking the the first season as I’m not a mega-fan like Blythy. I hope that I can recreate the TV episode experience with the same aplomb that Blythy managed with FATE for Robin of Sherwood. All being well, you should hear the results in a forthcoming episode of the GROGPOD.

3. Vurt

For Owlbear and the Wizard’s Staff, I’m preparing a one-shot game of Vurt: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game from Ravendesk games.

I’ve always been a fan of Jeff Noon’s vision of Manchester as Utopian cityscape, where it’s possible to slip into a consensual dream space and encounter the weird and wonderful in experiences that may impact on your circumstances in the real world. It seemed the perfect fit for an RPG, so when it was available for retail last year, after a successful Kickstarter, I bought it.

It is based on the Cypher System devised by Monte Cook games and it fits the setting really well as the feathers that invoke the dreams, act like one use cyphers.

I have an idea for an adventure that explores some of the weirdness of Bolton’s past and some of the characters that you might encounter in my home town. I can feel an epic production coming on.

4. Legend of the Five Rings

The annual charity RPG event held in Southport, is earlier than usual (the week after Owl Bear on 28th and 29th September. There are a couple of 24 hour games available, but like last year, I’m going be a wuss and offer 12 hours.

It’s a perfect opportunity to complete a campaign in one sitting, the time flies while you raise money for charity (this year the chosen charity is Galloway’s Society for the Blind)

When I went to UK GamesExpo, I really enjoyed the Legend of Five Rings session, so I’m planning on running one of the pre-written adventures at the charity event.

If we can understand the results of dice at the end of the 12 hours, we will have succeeded.

5. Wednesday Game Day

Blythy and I have managed to squeeze in some time during the week to visit a local gaming coffee shop. We’ve been trying out some card-based games. We really enjoyed Miskatonic University Restricted Collection. KeyForge, not so much (it’s already gone on eBay). We’re going to continue to experiment and extend our range (perhaps some Nights’ Black Agents Solo Ops?).

6. I’m ‘peak gaming’ yet I still can’t get enough. Following all the White Dwarf chat, I’ve started to pine for Traveller.

The addiction continues.

This week, the dice have revealed another gem from The First Golden Age of White Dwarf, as defined in the 7 Ages of White Dwarf by Daily Dwarf (more about that in the next GROGPOD).

So True, funny how it is, Spandau Ballet were top of the charts in May 1983. It was a month where Polish people demonstrated against military rule in a show of Solidarność and the retro-virus we now refer to as HIV was discovered to be the cause of AIDS by two independent research groups

The Return of the Jedi was released in the US (we would have to wait until the Summer to see it).

I was on holiday on a campsite in Morecambe, reading novelisations of The Professionals into the night using my torch (my mum got them off one of those racks spinning in the wind next to the fishing nets, refusing to get me a Gor novel). I was also reading the Five Eyes Temple scenario for Borderlands as we were about to spend weeks in there (hard to believe that I eventually did the whole campaign in 24 hours 34 years later).

If you’ve listened to the GROGPOD 29 you’ll know that Blythy refers to a couple of items that appear in this Issue. Have you played The Snowbird Mystery? Is anyone else surprised at the amount of Car Wars we’ve seen in the issues so far? Did you encounter Phil Master’s Inhuman Gods? What did you think of Oliver Dickinson’s Grisselda stories? Yay, finally, I can use the disc as a weapon in D&D! Plus, Another amazing cover!

May 1984, I was supposed to be doing my exams, but I was staring out of the window looking forward to a state sponsored summer of RPGs.

Duran Duran knocked Hello by Lionel Richie off the ‘top spot’ with The Reflex. In the cinema Indiana Jones was getting a second outing in The Temple of Doom. As I was hitting 16, so was Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (one of my favourites from the year) and Spinal Tap hit the road.

A strange issue this one as it followed an ‘on boarding’ point where the magazine was relaunched to appeal to newcomers to the hobby who were playing Fighting Fantasy. Many of the articles are ‘part 2’ of a series.

A great cover. What do you make of this issue?

This book club will continue for as long as there is interest. Please comment and pass it on. Thanks, Dirk.

GROGSQUAD, pay attention, the next issue to study is this one from June 1986.

I’m not sure what you were doing in that month, but I was at the Milton Keynes Bowl watching Marillion at The Garden Party. It wasn’t a concert, it was an event. Jethro Tull, Gary Moore, Magnum and Mama’s Boys performed too in a brilliant day.

It was held on the same day as the Wham! farewell concert and our coaches met at Watford Gap. Two tribes. Us in our black Assassing! tees with long-hair and the Wham! lads in dressed in white wearing straw hats.

Nazis in Bolivia, boeing (R) in The Meg, life after death and Cosmic Encounter cards … what did you make of it?

Download Episode

It’s taken us 50 podcasts to dedicate an episode to White Dwarf. It was the centre of our RPG lives when we were teenagers.

In this episode Mike Brunton tells us how he got into RPGs and worked with TSR UK and Imagine magazine. Next time he will be relating his experiences as editor of White Dwarf and working for Games Workshop.

Neil Hopkins provides his First, Last and Everything. He created solo adventures for Quasits and Quasars

Eddy tells the story of the fateful night when he answered a small ad.

We are encouraging everyone to sign up to become a King of Dungeons (because it is awesome).

Blythy joins me for a run through some White Dwarf bag issues and to talk crisps.

Why not support our Patreon?

White Dwarf helped to shape the ‘zine scene in many different ways. Usually, it provided something for upstart teenagers to push against. Often challenging the orthodoxies of the war gaming luminaries such as Lew Pulsipher: DragonLords is notable for its mockery of the authoritarian views on ‘how to do D&D right’ in the early editions of White Dwarf.

Others were happy to ape its style and content to create their own unique variations on the themes that circulated in those early years. The Beholder is an example of this approach, seeing itself as a resource for AD&D Dungeon Masters. Edited (and mostly written by) Michael G. Stoner (Mike) and Guy Duke who tried to pitch their zine ‘to everyone, from the rank amateur to top-class pro.’

It’s hard to date stamp these issues, but it seems that they appeared monthly from about April 1979, featuring reviews, new spells, tips on how to make encounters more interesting and scenarios with a ‘significant’ map presented in the centrefold.

They also included lots of monsters, Fiend Factory style, which they had ambitions of spinning out into publications in its own right; a ‘mini-Monster Manual’ is suggested in the editorial. They are neatly produced, efficiently written and still retain a sense of purpose as a quirky addition to the more professional DM resources that were emerging at the time.

Were you a subscriber or a contributor to The Beholder? Did they spin out and create other publications? Have you confronted any of these beasts?

‘Thin Giant’ … can’t be seen side-on
Time travelling rats that have come from the future ‘to see what it’s like’

Thanks to Doc ‘Con’ Cowie for the loan of these ‘zines from his collection

A random roll on the d100 as thrown up 37 (4 issues later than the first one) which was dated January 1983. The magazine had started to get into the stride as a monthly publication after years of coming out every two months.

This was the month that wearing a seat belt became compulsory in the UK, despite protests from people bemoaning their loss of the civil right of being thrown through a windscreen. BBC launched its Breakfast Time programme with Frank Bough jazzed out in his jazzy jumpers and the Green Goddess preened in green.

ET won the Golden Globes for film drama (with Tootsie winning the comedy) and Hill Street Blues won the TV awards. Steve ‘interesting’ Davies won the Snooker Classic in St Helens. Superman: The Movie is shown on TV for the first time.

Let’s look at this together: What did you make of the cover? Did Alan E Paul’s FAERIES appear in your games? Did you learn your Traveller referring ropes from Andy Slack? Some classics appear in Open Box … did you play Crasimoff’s World? Vampire tables! Don Turnbull is getting cross on the letters page… How did you make use of issue 37?

A new feature recommended by the GROGSQUAD. A weekly White Dwarf Book Club, so we can read the same issue together and talk about some of the features, scenarios, reviews, adverts, letters and other aspects of the magazine.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. If this is popular, I’ll roll on a d100 every Tuesday and post it here. This week, let’s begin when I begun, issue 33.

Dirk

Download Episode

This is a GROGPOD extra, made possible thanks to the generosity of the GROGSQUAD patreons. This is a Newstalgia podcast talking about the things we are playing now.

It is focused on the preparations for the RPGs played at UK Games Expo: Savage Worlds, PSI World and Lyonesse.

Here are some links mentioned in the pod:

Role-Play Rescue: Che Webster’s GM Journal inspired the approach to this podcast

Keehar’s Blog: An occasional blog where Keehar shares his preparation and play reports.

The Smart Party: Listen to the full seminar ‘How to GM at Conventions.

Bud’s RPG Reviews: I met the man behind ‘the hands’ check out his channel.

The Design Mechanism: Follow them to catch the Lyonesse preview when it comes available