The GROGNARD Files

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

For the past 4 years I’ve had a crack at the RPGGaDay challenge and by the 10th day I’ve usually burned out. In previous versions there has been a series of very specific questions that invariably got to to a question that I had no opinion about.

This year there has been a more ‘word association’ approach that I’ve indicated in caps. Although some of them lent themselves to a potential portentous statement, I’ve tried to avoid it by being as personal as I can. For example, the word “VAST” lends itself to platitudes like “the human imagination is vast and I intend to explore it through RPGs”.

I’ve done it every day in August on twitter, and for those of you who don’t use it, here are my entries:

1. Four years ago, the FIRST podcast was published featuring the first RPG we’d played: RuneQuest #rpgaday2019#RPGfirsthttps://thegrognardfiles.com/2015/08/07/the-grognard-files-rpg-episode-1-runequest/…

2.The greatest thrill of playing one-off convention RPG games is that every experience for every player around the table is completely UNIQUE. Never to be repeated. #rpgaday

3. It’s been great to ENGAGE with the GROGSQUAD for White Dwarf Book Club – sharing memories and our attitudes to it now #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

4. I really love seeing other people’s gaming stuff. It’s one of my favourite aspects of social media: Gamers get to SHARE their stuff. #RPGaDay2019

5. The last, regular SPACE adventure I participated in was The Traveller Adventure 4 years ago. I’ve enjoyed our occasional Star Trek Adventures with @Asako_Soh but I need more SPACE in my life. #RPGaDay19#RPGaDay#RPGaDay2019

6. ANCIENT settings are my personal favourites. I’ve always wanted to be Jason thanks to @Ray_Harryhausen RPGs such as RUNEQUEST have let me realise the dream (albeit with no left leg) #RPGaDay19#rpgaday

7. One of my all-time favourite characters was Azir Voon who had an homunculus FAMILIAR (I *did* say that RPGs are just a means of putting me in Ray Harryhausen films) #rpgaday #RPGaDay2019

Avir Voon and friend

8. I have a load of GM Screens to OBSCURE my secrets from the players, but I’ve never found the perfect one … perhaps I should treat myself to one made by @cognitivemerch (here’s @OrlanthR with his at GROGMEET18) #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

9. We’ve had a CRITICAL comment about the GROGZINE content “it’s just not nostalgic enough”. Excellent. It’s finally a *real* 80s ‘zine with a readers’ letters page pointing out how things have gone downhill. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

10. Big run of convention games coming up. Going to FOCUS on creating some characters while on holiday. #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday#OBaWS@24hr_rpg

11. I still get twitchy at the point when players need to EXAMINE the clues. I dropped the handout bomb for Two-Headed Serpent. I need to learn GM patience. #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

12. FRIENDSHIP – a small ad in White Dwarf in 1983 brought the 3 of us together and we’re still playing and creating great new friendships along the way! @sjamb7@Edinthesand#RPGaDay2019#RPGaDay

13. I’m on holiday. New places are filled with MYSTERY, waiting to be unlocked; what’s the story behind this Deep One carnival masque? What’s lurking in the murky green Venetian lagoon? #RPGaDay2019 #RPGaDay

14. There’s YouTube, Game Store Demos and clubs to GUIDE you into RPGs now. Back in the day it was articles in @STARBURST_MAG that showed us the light! #RPGaDay2019#RPGaDay#rpgaday

15. The DOOR is the GMs’ best pacing friend. Stick a door in it and it’s either an encounter, a brake or an accelerator (see also, a box) #RPGaDay2019#RPGaDay (here’s a Roman Door – what would you do with it? A Magic Mouth for riddles? An impenetrable seal? A teleport?

16. My DREAM? One day, I’ll all have all the time in the world to retire to a house of gaming. A place lined with shelfies, with many comfortable rooms filled with friends, drink, music and games. Welcome to DunGroggin’ #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

17. ONE on one play happened all the time when we couldn’t get a group together. Recently @sjamb7 played in a ‘link up’ adventure for the Two Headed Serpent it seemed both awkward & dangerous! @PelgranePress are supporting Solo Ops with Gumshoe; what about you? #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

18. I once thought a gaming session once a month was PLENTY, now I get withdrawal if there isn’t a game once a week. How much is too much? #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

19. When I want to make things SCARY for players, I think of the things that made me scared as a kid. They’re all wrapped up in one book: A Pictorial History of Horror by Denis Gifford (Conrad Veidt in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS … shudder…) #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

20. One of my favourite and most enduring characters from bitd was Marcus Mendusor, a NOBLE Gladiator. You can read about him in the first GROGZINE. Submissions needed for GROGZINE20 too. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

21. On the site of The Boar’s Head in Bolton, there was a pub for students known as Varsity, but @sjamb7 named it The VAST Empty Space-we were often the only people in it-at the top of the stairs in Nipper’s Corner, making plans “let’s write a RPG memoir” #RPGaDay2019

22. LOST at conventions over the past 3 years: D8 purple translucent D4 lime green D4 solid black D20 Red Notebook dry wipe pen Return in exchange for 10,000 xp #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

23. I suppose, with all this ‘health and safety gone mad’ and the woke ‘player agency’, it’s frowned upon to SURPRISE your players by killing them all. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday From Grimtooth’s traps:

24. Battlecars was fuel for my imagination in the eighties. @Edinthesand and I added RPG elements, with scenarios and reoccurring characters, such as, The Bean and his opponent, Rooster Rotten and his souped up TRIUMPH T-100. #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

25. A RPG session can survive any CALAMITY apart from one: A forgotten character sheet I made me and @sjamb7 two hours late for an all day D&D session because I had to go home for my character. Anything else can be improvised, but you need your character, right?#RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

26. I never thought that I’d abandon my notebook of scrawl that I take everywhere, so that when an IDEA strikes, I can catch it. I’ve gone digital by using EverNote, where I can keep clippings and scrawl in one place. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

27. I’m really enjoying running the Pulp Cthulhu campaign and emulating a pulp serial to create SUSPENSE with a cliff-hanger at the end of every session. #RPGaDay2019 #rpgaday

28. I LOVE creating my characters for RPGs, so why do I find creating pre-gens for convention games such a chore? #RPGaDay2019#RPGaDay

29. When it comes to Gygaxian naturalism I’m on the fence. Should Monsters EVOLVE with a ‘realistic’ logic, or be completely fantastical? #RPGaDay2019 #RPGaDay

30. “Crew Members Required” It’s 4 years since we made CONNECTION with the online, Wednesday, fortnightly group. @oilpainting71@rumleech@BenBgalvin@Edinthesand@sjamb7@DailyDwarf and Hal #RPGaDay2019#rpgaday

31. This is the first time that I’ve completed the RPGaDay Challenge – I hope it isn’t the last!

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INTRO: This time we are looking at Blake’s 7 and its influence on our gaming.

GROGGLEBOX: Eddy joins us in a noisy Port Street Beer House in Manchester to discuss ‘Project Avalon’

ACTUAL PLAY: Thanks to Andrew Cousins of lending me his copy of the rules to play. Blythy as Avon, Doc Con Cowie as Blake, Andrew Cousins as Vila, The Welsh Wizard Michael Hobbs as Jenner, and Mark Kitching as Cally.

FIRST, LAST and EVERYTHING: Guy Milner of Burn After Running blog.

THE GM SCREEN: Just how much of a fan is Blythy?

OUTRO: News about the GROGZINE 20

Another GROGZINE, another magnificent Russ Nicolson cover creation!

The next GROGZINE which will be published in time for virtual GROGMEET next year.

I’m looking for submissions from the GROGSQUAD.

This time I want to make a bit different.

Previous GROGZINEs have featured articles and useable content like scenarios and reviews that were a homage to White Dwarf, Imagine and 80s ‘zines.

This time, I want to create a ‘peoples’ history of RPGs’, looking back at some of your home-brew creations from back in the day.

What were the worlds you created?

Who were your favourite characters?

What happened in your epic campaigns?

What were the conventions that you attended?

Who were you playing with and how did you get together?

I’m looking for articles, features, scenarios based on the ideas above: please let me know if you want to be part of the project.

It will have all the same illustrations and look and feel, but this time it’s all about your experiences. What about retro-fitting your favourite characters from back in the day to bring them into the 21st century? Or redesigning your favourite scenario to make it playable now? Or sharing the photo-scrapbook of your favourite session?

If you have an idea, or want to crawl up into the loft to discover your lost treasures, then contact me at the usual address: Dirk The Dice At Gmail dot com.

I would like to finalise content before the end of January 2020, so please contact me as soon as possible to discuss your idea.

Join us in a collective memoire of the 70s, 80s and 90s heyday of RPGs!

Dirk the Dice

Patreons who have recently joined since March will start to receive a hard copy of GROGZINE19, until they run out. Watch your doormat during September!

Running with the Gamers

It’s August, it’s the GROGNARD Files, it’s time for an update from GenCon!

Those of you who have read my previous update know the score :enormous, expensive, extraordinary.

So, let’s cover the Big Four, and, heck, let’s rate them out of ten to give this update some sort of tension and excitement!

Stuff! 

“Ho hum, time to pack…. Not sure whether to laugh, or cry, or cackle triumphantly…. Probably cry to start with #FirstWorldGenConProblems

Let’s begin with everything you will have already seen on the interwebs – the cavernous Trade Hall, the New Releases, the Gen Con Limited Editions, the queues, the crowds, the credit card bills… 

Those of you who know me will already have guessed I enjoy this – we had a record haul this year with over 200lbs of games and paraphernalia.

There’s a reason I bring my sons, and though I obviously love the bonding, it’s mostly the luggage allowance.

Top priority this year was unsurprisingly the Chaosium stand, where I ended up bringing back six of the twenty sets of preview Runequest books available for sale (sorry, rest of the world). 

The Trade Hall is almost Vancian, everything you can imagine and a lot more. Twisting and packed pathways through a bazaar lined with entreating booth merchants, bardic music, extraordinary and impossible sights – even the mysterious and forbidden…er… “delights” of the Cosplay Deviants gazebo! 

Have a look at the picture if you want to see what else I managed to find. Ultimately half of this pile was stuff for other people, so this is another reason I’m so keen to tempt you lot along – maybe someone else can share the fetch quests next year? 

9/10

Favourite Purchase – May the Lord above forgive me (because my bank manager won’t) I got a Beadle and Grimm Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh… 

Favourite Paraphernalia – the Oddfish Games Adventure Scents. Sadly looking at the site online doesn’t really capture a good sniff at “Fetid Swamp”or the other extraordinary perfumes…

Food! 

18oz Cowboy ribeye with horseradish and gorgonzola butter. Come on, come next year, you know you want to….

Well, people seemed a lot more interested in pictures of food than anything else I tried to communicate about my trip, so I thought I’d better put it in. There is a lot of good food in Indianapolis – I’m not pretending it’s necessarily the hautest of cuisine, but they really do comfort food incredibly well and in the quantities you’d expect. There is everything you’d hope for – and the huge numbers of food trucks have a ridiculous amount of variety with (usually) short queues. 

8.5/10

Favourite Meal – the legendary horseradish shrimp cocktail, epic steak and gigantic bread pudding at Harry and Izzy’s.

Entirely Coincidental Weight Gain – this year 6kg. Perhaps I need to walk around the Trade Hall a bit more

Games!

The Pathfinder Room. The PSi World Room was twice as big (obvs)

Perhaps the one area where Gen Con doesn’t excel. Companies are always short of people running their games, and are happy to stump up con passes to those who run large numbers of sessions. Unfortunately this sometimes affects quality control, and the boys and I always have at least one really tepid game that reminds us how important a good GM is, and how lucky we are usually. 

The Fight In The Skies Society play Dawn Patrol all GenCon every year – Mike Carr is the only guy to have been to every GenCon…

This isn’t the norm, though; and on the flip side you have games you just can’t get anywhere else – epic Pathfinder games with fifty tables working together, demos of the new hotness, escape rooms, huge wargames; and, of course, you can find yourself playing with the designer of your favourite game if you get lucky….

But seriously, if you just want high quality and reliable quality games, DMs and fellow players, stick with Expo, or even better – Grogmeet :- ) 

7/10

Favourite Game

The outstanding “Flaming Star” by the “You Too Can Cthulhu” team – complete with sixties airplane LARP, video screens and *MILD SPOILER* the near thermonuclear destruction of America

People!

This is really the most important thing for me, and obviously the most personal.  It’s certainly why I go every year, and every year it gets better, as you meet up not only with your friends from previous years but also find new ones. The Trade Hall is a great place to meet and chat with game designers both great and small, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars with reliably good beer to continue the conversations. 

9/10 (would have been 10 – but, dear reader, you couldn’t make it)

As always, Gen Con is amazing, but don’t get too much FOMO. Conventions are 80% the people who attend them, and I’m sure everyone gets as much joy from their regular gaming group, or the local conventions they attend. 

On the other hand – if you ever want to give it a try, give me a shout, and I’d be delighted to go over the inside scoop…

Doc Cowie

Friday 08:11:2019 13:00-17:00

Now open for registration, a spectacular OSR event featuring ENnie Award winning MOTHERSHIP, hosted by very good friend Old Scouse Roleplayer at FanBoy3. If you are signed up for GROGMEET, you should have had confirmation that registration is open.

GROGMEET eve games and the main event will be available for sign-up in October.

The research vessel USS Arkhangelsk is at the start of it’s return journey back to Earth following an exploratory mission to the planet Goloka in the Ivaldi system. The ship’s course has been set, autopilot engaged; prior to entering stasis the crew gather in the cargo hold, the largest single room on the ship, before heading off to their cryo bays. Commander Scott Gorman addresses the crew, commending them on a job well done; the scientific mission was a complete success with the sample in storage being a real coup for the company. Better yet, the reports of a xenomorph presence in the area have been wildly exaggerated. 

A toast is made; champagne would have been nice but would hardly sit well during statis. Standard pre-cryo protein rations are eaten.  All is well and as the crew feel the anti-statis drugs kick in they head to their bunks, drifting into a deep sleep for the long haul, secure in the knowledge that the ships’ androids will see them safely home.

The 7th August is our 4th Anniversary.

The Podcast is entering the 5th year of production. There’s been 51 podcasts, over 50 blog posts, 3 GROGZINEs, 3 Volumes of The Collected Daily Dwarf, 3 GROGMEETs, 2 virtual GROGMEET, and over 500 hours of online play with Patreons supporters.

We do this for fun and we’ll keep doing it while it stays fun.

The GROGSQUAD patreon campaign

We have a Patreon campaign to support the different projects and incentivise us to get better at what we do.

Thank you to all the people who have come and gone and, especially, those who have stuck around over the years. In the current uncertain climate and with the ever-mounting portfolio of micro-subscriptions nibbling away at your income, it’s very much appreciated that you give us a tip every month.

Over the coming months we have more podcast content planned, including interviews, GROGGLEBOX, actual play samples, as well as the usual bobbins from Blythy and Daily Dwarf.

I’m sending out the final batch of GROGZINE19 to people who have joined us since March, so look out for them arriving soon. For GROGZINE20, I have a new idea, which I will share with you soon.

NEW GOALS

GROGSQUAD locker: A private space for fanzine PDFs and other shared resources. 
Monthly One-shots: Every month a 2 hour one-shot held on a Sunday evening between  21:00 – 23:00 online will be hosted by Dirk and Blythy on alternate months. 
Happy AP: Record and release raw recordings of the Monthly One-shots on a separate channel to the GROGPOD.
‘Zine Book Club: A monthly discussion about a zine from back in the day loaded into the GROGSQUAD locker. 

Thanks for your support.

Dirk and Blythy.

The Armchair Adventurers were only getting together sporadically in August 1987; our relationship with the hobby was in the throes of the freeze (we went to Games Day in London, advertised in this issue, then our regular games stopped).

There’s some interesting material in this issue that largely passed me by at the time.

The Book Club is taking a break while I’m away. Back in September.

Look forward to your comments.

December 1983, we all huddled in the school library to watch the Thriller video, Chris Foy had taped it off Channel 4 the night before. It was so good, we watched it twice.

Yes were in the pop charts with Owner of a Lonely Heart, as was Roland Rat. On the TV we were scoffing at A Day After Tomorrow, it looked like a walk in the park compared to A Guide to Armageddon, the QED documentary that had rattled our heads the previous year.

Strong on content this one: assassins, The Lone and Level Sands, Demons, Goblin Cults and a daft Giant game. Looking forward to seeing your views…

Mike Brunton: a tribute

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Mike Brunton, our special guest for Episode 29, suddenly passed away on 18th July 2019. This is the interview in full, released as a celebration of his gaming career. It also features Paul Cockburn adding a tribute to his old friend and colleague.