Episode 3 (Part 2) Traveller RPG Micro-Grog Pod


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In this episode, we return to Traveller, and look at some of the supplements for the game. When it comes to politics, we are as woolly as John Stewart Mill riding a sheep and wearing cardigans, so we examine our attitudes towards the politics of the Imperium.

Games master’s Screen: Judge Blythy enjoys the benefit of High Passage, as his status demands, however he is less enamoured the concept of the D66.

The usual memories and discussion around the selected supplements take place.

Postbag: There’s been much interest in Traveller including a game description by Andrew Cousins. I also reflect upon the recent Runequest Classic kickstarter.

Numenera – a grognard’s guide from Blythy


I recently acquired the Numenera core rules. I’d heard a lot about it and it thought that maybe an old grognard like me should enter the 21st century or, to be more precise, the ninth age, the time in earth’s future when Numenera is set. The ninth age is a billion years into earth’s future and while the setting is essentially pseudo medieval fantasy (humanity has slipped back to that kind of era) there have been eight great civilizations that have risen and fallen. These civilisations are mysterious and unclear in their nature. However, some weren’t human and some had interstellar and even inter-dimensional travel. This means that there’s lots of technology lying about to be found and used by the human population. Moreover there are strange and mysterious energies in the atmosphere that some humans (Nanos) can harness and use rather like magic. That’s the basic setting but it’s important not to think of this as some post holocaust RPG – Aftermath or Gamma World. Yes, there will have been holocausts perhaps that brought down the previous great civilizations but this isn’t some post nuclear primitive world where the players will unearth a machine gun or an old iphone. It’s much stranger than that and much more like science fantasy. In literary terms I think the creators of the game have mentioned Gene Wolfe’s book of the new sun series. Another comparison could be Moorcock’s Hawkmoon books.


When I first got into RPGs in the early 80s one of the great advertising lines of RPG publisher’s was that to run fantastic adventures for your friends, “All you need is this book.” But it was never quite true. Dungeons and Dragons meant you had to buy three rule books at least (Player’s Handbook, DM’s Guide and Monster Manual), Runequest meant you really needed at least Cults of Prax and Cults of Terror. But with Numenera it really is the case that you only need the core rules. There’s masses of background for the setting, lists of artefacts, and monsters, all with full colour illustrations. Yes, you’ll want to buy the supplements (I’ve already bought the Ninth World Bestiary) but you don’t have to. I honestly think you could play regularly for several years with just the core rules.


The rules to Numenera are pretty straightforward and slick, deliberately so given that the game wants to encourage action and story rather than crunchy simulationist stuff. For a BRP grognard like me, I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity and logic of the central concept. In the same way that BRP reduces every action and task to a percentage, Numenera reduces it down to a score out of 10. Sometimes the score is determined by the rules (monster and NPC combat being the best example) or by the GM. What’s appealing is that it’s easy to conceptualise degrees of difficulty. How difficult something is on a score out of ten isn’t far removed from the way people think in ordinary life. For example, the players have to climb a rock face. The GM says it’s pretty difficult and gives it a 5 out of 10. The 5 is then multiplied by 3 and to climb the rock face, the players must each roll a 15 or more on a d20. Now I imagine that some of you are ahead of me at this point and have seen the obvious problem with such a system – anything given a difficulty level of 7 or more is literally impossible if multiplied by 3 and rolled on a d20. Well, yes it is because tasks like that are pretty difficult. For example, suppose that rock face had been made from some strange alien glass and covered with ice. The GM may have said it’s a 8. So a 24 or more on a d20. This is where skills, artifacts and stats come in. Your character might have a climbing skill and so he/she can reduce the difficulty  two grades (now a 6) and then spend some points from their agility stat poll (more on that later) to reduce it by another grade (now a 5). So the roll to climb is now a 15 or more. Now difficult but do-able.


For grognards like me and my group, the most unsettling thing about Numenera is the stat pools or “spend system” element of the game. I know these type of systems are out there and nothing new these days but old timers like me are used to stats  (STR, INT, DEX etc) being fixed and the only stat that goes up and down is hit points or maybe power in Runequest or SAN in Call of Cuthulhu. Numenera has three statistics – Strength, Agility and Intellect. As described above, the player’s use these stats as points to spend to achieve certain tasks or combat rolls. To go back to the example above of climbing the sheer glass wall. To reduce that 8, your character can spend three points from, for example, an agility of 12 to knock the difficulty down. Thier agility is now 9. Points replenish throughout the game, but it’s an odd concept on first reading when you’re used to fixed stats that give bonuses or penalties. I think this is the element my group might struggle with, especially when you consider that the stat pools also operate as hit points. It’s a big leap to ask players to consider using points they might need to soak up damage later to achieve tasks.


That said, I can see how the spend system ties into the idea of a more narrative form of RPG, which is one of the things Numenera wants to achieve. Imagine a point in the game where the villain raises his sacrificial dagger to strike and your character wants to knock it from his hand with a well placed arrow. A difficult shot but wouldn’t it look great in the film? Spend some stat pool points and you have a better chance of achieving it. The spend system allows the players to influence that narrative and events in a more dramatic way.


There are other elements of the system that also play into the idea of narrative and giving everyone the things they want from the game. There’s the idea of GM “Intrusions.” these are points in the game when the GM can offer experience points for giving the players a chance to accept a challenge. For example, maybe the players go into some ruins and have a map of the area. The GM may suggest that the map turns out to be wrong and useless. The players can accept this intrusion and earn experience points. It’s possibly the strangest element of the game and it remains to be seen how it will work out when we play. However, I can see how it could be the GM’s equivalent of a stat pool. While the stat pool’s allow the players to decide what they think is important to achieve, intrusions allow the GM to develop the story in ways that they players will enjoy. Moreover, the intrusions idea taps into another key these in the design of Numenera and that is that everyone should have fun and play the kind of game and character they want to play. The character creation system is a good example of this. Rather than roll dice, you describe your character in a phrase from a list of words in the rules. So for example you may choose to say your character  is a Clever Glaive (fighter) to fights with two weapons. This then generates points and skills in line with the chosen words. Worth noting as well that that’s one of the more pedestrian descriptions available. You can be a shape changer who “howls at the moon” or a mutant with a “halo of fire.”


Again, for us grognards this seems a bit odd. But ask yourself this – how many times have you wanted to play a strong warrior and rolled a low STR score? Or a clever thief and rolled a low INT? That can be dissatisfying and resolving the problem by allocating points can lead to power gaming and min/maxing. Numenera offers players the chance to be what they want but without allowing them to power game the stats.


There are lots of other interesting elements of the system. The idea that the GM never rolls a dice is a very unusual idea. The monster and NPC stats are very easy to create on the hoof, which give the GM lots of flexibility.


It remains to be seen how Numenera will work in play. I’m still wading through the detailed setting. I think my group will find it a challenge in some ways but not in a bad way. If things get tricky when I’m running it I may just have to spend some intellect points and lower the level.


Episode 3 (Part 1) Traveller RPG

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Introduction – The origin of the game

Section One – Open Box – reliving the memories of playing the game for the first time with Blythy, who was our referee back in the day. We introduce ‘the prime directive’ and Blythy has a black mark on his wall.

Section Two – White Dwarf – @dailydwarf talks about his early experiences of playing Traveller and makes a selection of an article, scenario and ‘Starbase’ column from the pages of the UK’s best gaming magazine.

Section Three – Judge Blythy Rules – Listing three great mechanics and one that doesn’t quite work, the resident rules-lawyer goes ‘under the bonnet’.

Section Four – An invitation to listeners to contribute their stories of playing Traveller. What’s your favourite supplement?

Look out for a Micro Grog-Pod (Traveller – Part Two) coming soon featuring a list of our favourite Traveller supplements and a current online pricing guide.

Episode 2 (Part 2) Call of Cthulhu RPG Micro-Grog Pod

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This is a supplement to the Second Episode of The GROGNARD RPG Files – Call of Cthulhu.

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Behind the screen I have a table of Call of Cthulhu supplements. I’m joined by Judge Blythy who rolls the 1D100 to select 5 for detailed discussion.


Ed, The Armchair Adventurer’s Chief bargain-hunter provides an e-Bay price index for the supplements under discussion.


A selection from listener comments, including a fascinating look at The Lovecraft Variant – an early Cthulhu adaptation for Tunnels and Trolls.

Follow me on Twitter @theGROGNARDfile

Episode 2 (Part 1) Call of Cthulhu RPG

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Introduction – The origin of the game

Section One – Open Box – reliving the memories of playing the game for the first time and the faltering start.

Section Two – Judge Blythy Rules! – The Armchair Adventurers’ Resident Rules Lawyer discusses the finer points of the rules and style of play. We also speculate on what horrors have faced British Prime Ministers.

Section Three – White Dwarf – @dailydwarf talks about his early experiences of playing Call of Cthulhu and selects his favourite item from the pages from the halcyon days of the UK’s best gaming magazine.

Section Four – An invitation to listeners to contribute their stories of playing Call of Cthulhu in the early days.

Look out for a Micro Grod Pod coming soon featuring a list of our favourite CoC supplements and a current online pricing guide.

Episode 3 will feature TRAVELLER RPG

Runequest RPG Ep. 1 (Part 2)

The second part of Episode 1 of the GROGNARD files which covers the potted history of the games.

In the second episode of the GROGNARD files podcast, Dirk the Dice looks at the history of the game, where did it come from and where was it going back in 2015.

Potted History: Glorantha was the glorious creation of Greg Stafford. This is the story how his creation became a fantastic role-playing world and spawned different editions of RuneQuest.

Post Bag 27:00: People were actually listening to the first part of the episode. Dirk reviews some of the responses to the discussion about RuneQuest and the ‘duck’ issue.

ReMaster Refelction 37:00 looking back on the first episode, eight years later.

Support the GROGPOD on Patreon.

Current Vacancies: Crew Members Required

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I’ve been preparing for a future podcast about TRAVELLER RPG and have found myself falling into a vortex of reading and re-reading the material that I once knew so well. I rarely refereed the game back in the day, but I was an enthusiastic player. I loved the potential of world-hopping: encountering the weird and the wonderful and being stuck with them in Low Passage for a week.


Even the die-hard, rose-tinted fan will admit that most of the published adventures produced by GDW, in the little black books, were a bit weak. They provided a sketchy plot, a little local colour and a couple of plans and expected the referee to busk the rest while on the fly. If you were being generous you could describe them as a ‘framework’ for your gaming group to build upon. If you were being honest, you’d have to admit that they were a bit of a swizz.

There was an exception that proved the rule in the form of THE TRAVELLER ADVENTURE, which was the first real attempt at creating a ‘role-playing’ campaign pack, all the others seemed like deck-plans for a table-top SF skirmish, war game.

I played the adventure twice, and both times it was completely different, because of the style of play by the referee. The first time was brisk and combat heavy. The second was bureaucratic and talky. Both versions were wrapped in an intriguing plot.


I’m going to play it again… this time as a referee in an online game, and you are invited.

I need a crew for THE MARCH HARRIER, a 400 Ton subsidised merchant that serves the worlds of the ARAMIS TRACE. The subsidy is owned by a blind trust based on Regina and the crew will have a broad discretion in selecting cargoes, destinations and charters, providing basic financial and contract obligations are met.

THE MARCH HARRIER has been running the assigned route for over five years. It’s built up a credit of 80 weeks can begin operations outside of the ARAMIS TRACE at any time.

Presently the ship is in dock at the space port in LEEDOR the capital of ARAMIS …

The game will take place fortnightly in short sessions (in the style of a space opera serial!) online.

‘Session Zero’ will commence on Wednesday 23/09/2015 – Google Hangouts, using the Roll 20 app. Commencing at 21.00 until about 23.00 – a chance to meet your fellow crew members and to walk through the decks of THE MARCH HARRIER.

If you are interested … then please let me know and I’ll get you on the roll call … join me – it’s going to be a blast!

Runequest RPG Ep. 1 (Part 1)

This is where the GROGPOD began. We started playing RPGs with RuneQuest, so we start with the podcast with a history of the game.


It was a steep learning curve, but this was where the GROGPOD first began. This is a remastered version of the original recording. Nothing has been re-recorded, but the levels have been balanced, some light editing of pauses, and chapters added.

In this first episode, I open up the Runequest GROGNARD file, as it’s the game that we first played all those years ago.

Open Box – revealing the content within the 2nd edition box set produced in the UK by Games Workshop

The White Dwarf – @dailydwarf selects the best Runequest feature from White Dwarf magazine.

Judge Blythy Rules! – @sjamb7 our resident rules lawyer talks through some of the finer points of Runequest and argues the toss over Ducks.

Games Master’s Screen – Five Runequest supplements randomly selected using my Grognard table with a buyers guide from @Edinthesand

Coming soon, a Micro Grog Pod containing the Origin Story  and complete history of Runequest. Until then – enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Vicari-Con 2015

Thirty years ago I went to Dragonmeet Convention in that there fancy London. I’d only just turned 17, so it was a big deal that I’d managed to organise the trip myself. My parents were surprised, given that I was struggling with the most rudimentary tasks, such as “picking up socks from the floor.” Planning the journey involved travelling to Manchester to buy the tickets from Games Workshop – there was no online agent – I handed over the cash to the guy at the counter with an air of sophisticated superiority, as if I was joining a private members club. He explained that there were no spaces on their specially chartered charabanc so I would have to arrange for my own transport. No one else from our group was able to come, for various reasons, so it meant I had to travel alone. In order to keep the costs down, I arranged to travel overnight on the National Express with the safe assumption that I would sleep in my seat, ready to wake refreshed and ready to explore the delights of the gaming delectation that would await me in the Royal Agricultural Hall.

It didn’t work like that. I spent the whole night sat next to an over-weight, old fella, who rubbed his inside legs constantly during the entire journey. The combination of the rasping friction noise and the fear that he would make a move on me while I slept, meant I stayed ‘on watch’ all night. When I arrived bleary-eyed in London at 5am, I wasn’t sure what to do, the convention didn’t open for 5 hours and there was nowhere to go.

I decided to head to Hyde Park and have a lie-down on a park bench. I hadn’t been settled down for long before a police patrol car, cruising through the Park’s pathways stopped. “Where have you come from pal?” asked the copper in a friendly manner, clearly believing that I was a runaway (my sandwiches wrapped in a spotted hanky on the end of stick were an obvious give away.) I did the sensible thing and explained that I’d come to the capital to “Role-Play”. They exchanged glances.

They left me alone, with a few warnings about talking to strangers, and not sleeping on park benches, in case I was taken advantage of in my sleep.tumblr_mz3lumyKsh1r1g40zo1_500

At the convention itself, I spent the entire time in a sleep deprived delirium, walking between tables and stalls in a confused haze. After all the effort of getting there, I wasn’t sure what I was meant to do. It wasn’t like Northern Games Day, that I’d gone to a couple of years before, it was ten times bigger. At Northern Games Day, I’d managed to get into a game of Runequest with an enthusiastic Games Master and 6 other players. I’d never played the game outside of our group (when I say a group, it was me and friend). Playing with other people, for the first time, I realised that we had interpreted some of the rules incorrectly.

There were no games available, so just wandered around, in slow circles with a fixed grin on my face.

In the afternoon, I’d arranged to meet up with a group of players of a PBM, The Gadiators’ Gazette, including the Games Master who had drawn a t-shirt using felt-tip pens, so he could be identifiable in the crowd. Once we’d exchanged stories, we talked excitingly about Call of Cthulhu which was beginning to gain popularity. None of us had managed to bag a game, so we decided to run an impromptu game of CoC off the hoof, with no characters, dice or story. I sat in a corner, drifting in an out of consciousness, while the voices around me merged into a Charlie Brown’s teacher’s drawl.

I’ve been thinking of these Dragonmeet memories over the past few days thanks to the social media coverage of GENCON. In the comfort of my own armchair, I’ve been watching twitter friends meeting up, like I did with my PBM friends. I’ve enjoyed the cos-play, the live play beamed by periscope, and the seminar feeds (particularly the exciting announcement about Moon Design’s take-over of Chaosium).

The Armchair Adventurer’s club are heading south again at the end of the year to Dragonmeet 2005. I’m looking forward to recreating the experiences that I’ve enjoyed vicariously this week.This time, I’m taking no chances and getting there the day before so I can have a good sleep.

If there’s an old fella rubbing his legs on the train, Eddy can sit next to him.