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

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


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?


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

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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

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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

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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


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.


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


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INTRO: The GROGNARD files is dedicated to Greg Stafford (1948-2018)

OPEN BOX: Graeme Davis talks to us about the genesis of the 1st edition of WARHAMMER and some of the plans for the new edition. You find out more about his long and distinguished career in gaming on his website.

WHITE DWARF: The Daily Dwarf reviews the articles that appeared in White Dwarf for WARHAMMER, it’s a long list.

JUDGE BAZ RULES!: Baz Stevens from The Smart Party podcast (The UK’s Premier RPG Podcast… mmm?) joins us in the room of role-playing rambling to get deep and dirty into the rules.

OUTRO: Join our Patreon before the end of November to get a hard copy of the zine.

The last time I went to Leamington Spa it was in 1996, when I was on my way to a posh event at Lygon Arms, a nearby luxury hotel. It was ‘black tie’ and Mrs Dirk pointed out that I’d only brought my DM boots, so we had to call and buy some emergency shoes.

It is now the home of a mini-con for RPGs with the exotic title of ‘Owl Bear and the Wizard’s Staff’ which took place last weekend. It was hosted by the ever genial Asako_Soh who brought together this epic Tweet-Up. It was great meeting twitter friends and online gaming buddies who I usually see in a tiny window in my computer.

The venue was very good as it big enough to accommodate 10 gaming tables with up to seven players at each. When it isn’t hosting gaming conventions, it is a place where bands practice, so the acoustics were good. There was atmosphere, but the sound from other tables wasn’t distracting.

I’ve written about the game I played, and the samosas, so here’s some images from our trip.

I didn’t need my emergency shoes.

Thanks to  for organising a great event. 


The Proclaimers have let themselves go


A great logo by @MsGloriaSunset and dice tray by AllRolledUpUK


RuneQuest’s Back! @dimbyd – a RuneMaster, bringing Glorantha to the con scene


Warwick Spice 


Come, it’s time to keep your appointment …



Blythy taking his players to a place where time changes like the wind


Wayne Peter’s Savage World had props, craft and everything!


This lot look like they’re for the chop. The karate chop!



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 

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“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.


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?”


I made something up. MGF. Right?




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Intro: It has been a summer of love for the library – there’s too much on there!

Open Box: We’re in Port Street in Manchester reflecting on the campaign

The White Dwarf: Daily Dwarf goes Against the Giants.

Games Master’s Screen: What’s our favourite class?

Ed’s Shed: Ed decides to ‘bring out the Gimp‘ when he creates a dynamic, digital table top.

Outro: Find out more about the Patreon campaign and the next GROGZINE.

IMG_2335.JPGWork has commenced on the annual ‘zine that we put together as a ‘thank you’ to Patreon backers of the Podcast, who keep us going with monthly tips into the hat.

The previous two issues are available to Patreons on PDF as hard copies are extremely limited. The print run will be determined by the number of Patreons at the end of 2018, so if you want a hard copy, you’ll need to sign up before the end of November.

This time, we’re looking beyond White Dwarf and taking our inspiration from some of our old school, favourite ‘zines such as the peerless DragonLords.

Russ Nicolson is on board to produce another wonderful cover for issue three and GROGSQUADer Marc Laming will be reimagining Daily Dwarf again.

The content list for the main magazine looks like this so far:

Steel Hearts and Straight Razors – an epic WarHammer Fantasy Role-playing scenario from Rog Coe –

Lempfahle hurled himself into the undergrowth, sprang up the high boundary wall and jumped down the other side, before pelting into the dark city streets.

Minutes later, he paused for breath outside a workshop, despite the interruption he still had a decent haul safe in the bag at his side; he’d lost his tools, but he could buy more. He exhaled with relief, it looked like ‘Three Balls’ had pulled it off again.

It was then he saw the blue glow from the corner behind him and the skittering of barbed feet as a vision of chaotic horror raced shrieking toward him….

Author Niall Hunt goes in search of his past and the Midlands Role-Playing Club

There’s no school like the Old SchoolThe Old Scouse Role-Player, Neil Benson, provides an introduction to the OSR

Ramshackle – Nick Edwards looks back at the appeal of the Judges Guild

FRP Family Tree – FRP writer Sean Hillman looks at the different directions that d100 games have grown towards.

Still Golden? – Jerry Nuckolls found Golden Heroes 1st edition after hunting for it for thirty odd years, what did it reveal?

More content is promised from great the great GROGSQUAD talent pool: watch this space for more.

This year, depending on your pledge level, you’ll get a bundle which will include The Collected Daily Dwarf Volume 3, with essays on the Golden Age of White Dwarf about Judge Dredd, Paranoia, Golden Heroes and more.

For the first time, you can ‘own’ the dubious wisdom of Judge Blythy in his ‘Book of Judgment‘ where he hand-picks and analyses 10 of his favourite mechanics.


Not sure what you’ve missed in previous years? Thankfully, Pookie has provided his usual forensic analysis on his long-running, always interesting, Reviews from R’Lyeh.

All this is due to be released in January 2019. Keep watching for updates.

Hi everyone,

Hope that you have enjoyed your Summer. I was lucky enough to have a couple of weeks in the USA: a week in San Francisco, searching for locations from my favourite movies, admiring the Bay Area that provided inspiration for both Greg Stafford and Jack Vance; then a week in LA battling  the hoards in DisneyLand.

Like most holidays, it gave me a little time to do some navel-gazing, so here’s some fluff and lint that I found there:

GROGFRINGE– On Thursday 30th August, I’ll be making tickets available for The Old School GROG-FIGHT that will be taking place at Fan Boy 3. There are 20 places available for a classic bar-room brawl across four different locations, using four different systems. Ever wanted to floor an orc with a bar-stool using the rules of The Fantasy Trip? Now’s your chance. Neil Benson (the Old Scouser Role-Player) is hosting the event between 13.00 – 17.00 as a warm up for GROGMEET eve.

BLADES … after dark. You may remember thatlast year I GM’d a 24 Hour game of RuneQuest for charity. This year, I’ll be taking part again for 12 hours playing Blades in the Dark. Sponsors will be able to create a list of items, targets to be stolen or assassinated during the game. This year it for the benefit of MIND (which will also be the GROGMEET raffle charity).

RuneQuest Glorantha– if you have not played RuneQuest Glorantha and would like to, then let me know as I’m looking for players. Put your name in the comments. Game is likely to be scheduled for January next year, online using Roll 20 and will be for new RuneQuest Glorantha players only.

Smart Party – Our friends at What would the Smart Party Do? Podcast have recently interviewed Satine Pheonix, the community manager for Dungeons and Dragons (R). I always think their pod is worth listening to, but this is an extra special treat. A great interview that explores the differences and similarities between the UK and US gaming scene and is brimming with boundless enthusiasm. These are cooperative games, why does the scene seem so competitive? What can we do to engage more people with the hobby? Great, inspiring stuff.

Vintage – I’ve found a podcast that you might enjoy. The Vintage RPG Podcastfrom Stu Horvath and John McGuire looks at games from yester-year in an insightful yet unpretentious way. I’ve listened to the first couple and enjoyed their emphasis on playing and how the artwork shapes your imagination.

Vance – Next year we have some GROGPOD episodes planned that look at some of the influences that we had back in the day – a review of some of the media that shaped our imagination, Starburst Memories of such classics as Robin of Sherwood and, dare I say it, Lord of the Rings.

This is an advanced warning of one of the episodes, so you get the all important reading in before hand so you don’t get left behind. Next year, The Design Mechanism, producers of Mythras are producing a Lyonesse RPG. On my holiday I revisited the novel and managed to generate a few sides of adventure/ NPC ideas.

Never under estimate Vance’s impact on the development of RPGs. Check out this further reading recommended by Neil Benson about the impact of Vance on Dungeon Crawl Classicsand this one from Jon Hancock about how it could have been a RQ killer.

Adios amigos


Enthusiastic GROGSQUADer Dr Cowie is a frequent convention attendee and self-confessed Chaosium fan-boy who kindly agreed to file this after action report about this year’s GenCon event on the Streets of Indianapolis: Born to Game!

This year I attended GenCon for the sixth time, taking both my sons for the fourth and fifth time respectively. Why would anyone endure the predictably ghastly missed plane connections and jet lag over and over again?

Each year sixty thousand gamers descend on downtown Indianapolis, streets are closed off for parties with live bands, beer and food trucks abound, restaurants have custom menus, retail staff dress up and join in – even the airport has gaming tables set up in the departure lounges. It’s enormous (the Lucas Oil Football Stadium is only the third largest space), but incredibly friendly and relaxed.

Speaking of friends, the first time I attended GenCon I went on my own, and it was frankly a bit overwhelming. But apparently if you have tens of thousands of people in one place gaming and chatting and eating and drinking – turns out lots of them are lovely. And every year you know more and more of the people you bump into and it feels more and more heading back to a small town full of gamers where people know your name.

But of course, you are there to GAME! GenCon is a chance to play with incredible DMs and players (usually incredibly good, though sometimes…) Over the four and a half days the boys and I played Runequest, Champions, Pathfinder 2E, D&D 5E, various boardgames , a quick LARP session and finished with our traditional Call of Cthulhu on Sunday afternoon. Oldest Boy tends to go for at least one all nighter with Sith Yoga to perk him up in time for breakfast – easy enough if you have the stamina of a teenager and you’re below legal drinking age in the US.

Then there is the GenCon Exhibit Hall. You’ve probably seen the videos, but like so much about the convention it’s difficult to get your head round without being there. This year there were over five hundred exhibitors, many of which have large dedicated areas for demos (or queues!) or have several different locations because you just can’t get round the hall in one day. Everyone you’ve ever heard of in gaming is there, usually trying to sell you something but extraordinarily prepared to chat. Name dropping is almost pointless, if anyone attending the convention cares about a “celebrity” they’ve probably already spent ten minutes pestering them about gnomes in WFRP4E.

But everyone has One Special Thing* you don’t get elsewhere. In some ways GenCon is thirty or more different conventions simultaneously with a couple of thousand people at each. Do you love Magic the Gathering? Pre 70’s wargames? LARPs? Pathfinder? Miniatures? Cosplay? Virtually anything you can think of brings hundreds of excited people together – not really interacting with the other conventions but mixing in amiable (if sometimes slightly bemused manner) in the Exhibit Hall and across the city.

After all this; why am I not recommending that everyone grabs a ticket and heads over? Lots of reasons. It’s expensive – about £2,000 each all in for me and the boys (though you can save a lot of money by staying further away from the con). It’s huge and baffling the first time. There is a non zero chance you will spend over twenty four hours getting home, and lose your luggage while you’re about it. Most importantly – you can meet equally lovely people a lot closer to home at UK conventions (though the beer is more expensive at Expo).

But, even after all these warnings, if you’re ever thinking of going, give me a heads up. Over a pint at GROGMEET (if you’re going) I’ll tell you the tales we couldn’t print – and it would be great to have other GrogSquadders at GenCon next year!

*My Special Thing is stalking Chaosium employees. Luckily their huge generosity (or maybe poor security) has given me the chance to playtest a possible Dragon Pass remake with Chris Klug, and to play Gods War with Sandy Petersen. This year I’d like to thank Todd Gardiner for running the organised play, and Scott and Tracey for awesome Runequest and Call of Cthulhu sessions respectively. But ultimately – where but GenCon can Jeff Richard drag you through the Big Rubble and Michael O’Brien take you behind the scenes at the Second Battle of Moonbroth on the same day?


The crowds begin to gather

Jeff Richards reveals a Secret Shield (coming soon)

Thanks to Scott, our awesome @Chaosium_Inc GM who took us through the Broken Tower…

OK, competition time! Of which iconic picture is this a perfect reproduction? PS Thank you @Chaosium_Inc for loan of shield. PPS My son is being a lizard.

Escape from the Big Rubble, before Jeff Richard’s voice completely gives up…

But we got away with a Wyrm’s treasure. Well, a handful of it, anyway..

MOB uses his awesome antipodean acting skills to portray the misery of a tortured talking horse.

After being lost in transit: Triumph! Can’t thank you all enough for support with Divine Intervention!

Most important, @GraemeJDavis confirmed that Gnomes will definitely have a nonzero chance of appearing in #WFRP! (Not a guarantee)