The GROGNARD Files

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

At the end of February we closed our HeroQuest competition. We asked the GROGSQUAD to “show off your stuff ” the home-made enhancements that made you proud.

Our friends at bonhomiegames.uk have been reviewing the submissions and you can see the runners up and their work below. Scroll to the bottom to see the winner.

Jo: “Thank you to The Grognard Files for allowing us to sponsor your HeroQuest RPG competition, and thank you to all the entrants for your many and various ingenious table top inventions. Yes, even the cocktail umbrellas.”

“@Roll_a_one – for the most edible looking table top creation”
Andrew Cousins – “for the gaming-and-beer shed that I would most likely lose Cris in for a week”
Dimble Nackle the Gnome’s character portrait: “@oilpainting71 – whose funky Bowie Gnome created a literal squeal of delight and laugh-out-loud that I had to explain to my poor confused children when I first saw it.”
@Andy Hemming – turning the cover of a D&D book into a game setting
But – the winner is – (drum roll please) @wayne_peters – for the steampunk airship.  As well as being an engineering marvel, this one really spoke to my own love of things steampunk, and is clearly the tabletop setting most like to have both the players AND the characters enjoying tea and digestives at the table and in the story.  And yes, I’d even allow for an in-game Hob Nob or two.

In April virtual GROGMEET, the online version of our annual meet-up, will be in full swing on the 12th and 13th. Patreons are currently signing up, remaining places will be made generally available next week.

To celebrate the event and the release of GROGZINE 19 we will be having a celebration of 80s fanzines here on the blog and the You Tube channel. I’ll be browsing through the collection of Doc ‘Con’ Cowie to unearth homemade GOLD.

The third edition of GROGZINE features a new and exclusive cover created by Russ Nicolson: I’m looking forward to revealing the spectacular, extremely dramatic and detailed image when the zine is released.

Added to the GROGSHOP, with permission from Russ, you can get merchandise featuring the covers from the first two issues. Keep your eyes peeled for offer codes. All proceeds from the ‘mark up’ on Redbubble’s costs will go to Russ, so it’s a great way of showing your appreciation to a treasured old-school artist.

Be a hit on the Summer Convention scene with ‘zine tee!

Three years ago I had my debut running a con-game at the first ever Con-Vergence in Stockport. The event will always hold a special affection my heart, and last year I hosted Golden Heroes, which was one of my personal gaming highlights of 2018.

This year I could only get there for the Saturday afternoon, so I missed some of the other games that were on offer as I flew in and flew out. It was great to catch up with gaming buddies who I normally only see in a small square window online or at other conventions.

I ran my Savage Worlds of Strontium Dog game. I’m doing it at Uk-GamesExpo on the Friday evening, so forgive me if I’m a little coy about the details in this play-report: no spoilers.

As usual, 5 highlights and one fumble.

  1. Role-Play Relief: Simon “Iron-GM” Burley was there this time to offer a full complement of games for every session (he’s done one of his comprehensive review of the Con). It was good to catch up with him briefly as it’s 12 months since I interviewed him for the GROGPOD. He had copies Role Play Relief that he has edited and published to support Comic Relief. It comes in two volumes: Beginners and Expert. I bought both as I simultaneously know nothing and everything about Role-Playing Games.
You’ll recognise many names from the British gaming scene contributing to these books.

2. Character Class: This was a Savage World game that used the Mongoose supplement written by Loz Whittaker for Traveller. I rolled on the mutations tables provided in the supplement and translated them into Edges and Hinderances. The resulting crew of Strontium Dogs pre-gens are both interesting, varied and down-right weird.

3. Play’s the thing! I’ve been messing about with this adventure for a number of weeks now. I’ve even run it online for a play test prior to it appearing here. These characters don’t really come alive until they have a player imagining their reactions to situations. There were some really entertaining moments as the players came up with mad-cap plans: “All clear *squark!*”

4. Le’ go of the Lego: This was the game where I was experimenting with ‘stuff’ to enhance the game. I didn’t go as far as miniatures, but I did use my son’s Lego collection to build up a scene using the whole of the table. We had to improvise with empty bottles of HobGoblin beer standing in for buttes in a magnificent canyon. I’d forgotten my battle mat and tape measure so my phone was used to make the measurements. I’m not sure how much the lego added to the enjoyment of the players, but it created a talking point for people not actually playing

This was the moment that Harpi Harry was gliding to cover while under fire from a hail of gun fire.

5. Pat Mills would be proud … At the start there were a couple of people playing who had never heard of Strontium Dog and didn’t really like westerns. I was concerned that this game wouldn’t be right for them. Thankfully, they seemed to come along for the ride as everyone else seemed happy to recreate the mad cap action scenes from the comic. There was a great moment when Brightman Rock chucked a plasma grenade in the range of another character who whacked it back with his Happy Stick; the bomb exploded on Brightman’s calcified head.

Overview of Stump Canyon

6. The little hunt! On reflection, I’ve realised that there’s a couple of issues with the scenario that need to be ironed out before the next session. There are a couple of important skills missing from the pre-gens, for one thing, “You’ll need to roll ‘shooting'”

“I don’t have it!”

Most significantly, because of the time restraints, it didn’t work out as a ‘hunt’ as I had planned. The opening set up ended up being so compelling that the action came to the location, rather than the players going looking for it.

Above all, it was entertaining, and I had fun playing it. Not sure I convinced everyone that “Westerns are not *that* bad.

Dirk the Dice

Thanks to Kris and Snowy for organising the event.

The auditorium was massive!
Call of Cthulhu Actual Play (with How We Roll and Scott Dorwood)

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I attended the first ever PodUk Convention in Birmingham and appeared in a live show. How We Roll podcast hosted a live, actual play, with Scott Dorwood (from The Good Friends of Jackson Ellias) as the keeper.

Hope that you enjoy listening to The Necropolis.

Robin of Sherwood (with Graham Staplehurst)

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INTRO: In this episode we are continuing our exploration of the context of gaming in the eighties, by looking at one of the TV series that influenced how we played.

POTTED HISTORY: This is a quick summary of how the programme came to be made and a bit of background about Richard Carpenter. If you’d like to know more, I recommend the wonderful, comprehensive books by Andrew Orton 

OPEN BOX: Graham Staplehurst talks about his writing in fanzines, for MERP and his role in bringing Robin of Sherwood to life in RPGs. He mentions Other Minds magazine and the audio dramas available from Spiteful Puppet.

GROGGLEBOX: A new feature. Blythy and Ed join Dirk to do a commentary on The Seven Poor Knights from Acre episode.

OUTRO: A quick update on our latest projects. Also a shout out for The Lost Art of Ray Willner: The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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There’s still time to submit your photos of the supporting material that you’ve made for your games.

Handouts, minis, floor-plans, counters, character sheets, improvised props or anything you’ve produced to enhance a game. Send it before the end of the month and the best, selected by our friends Jo and Cris from bonhomiegames.uk will be sent a copy of HeroQuest Glorantha as a prize (kindly donated by them).

Send them to me at dirk the dice at gmail dot com, or by twitter, or me we, or on the Facebook page.

We’ll show a selection of the images on here in a scrapbook.

The competition is inspired by the preparation that I’ve been doing ready for Convergence.*

Last year was an incredible learning experience as I managed to get loads of time playing with different people in one-shots at conventions. For years and years I’ve played with a small circle of people who know what to expect from my games (and I know what to expect from them as players). Playing one-shots with people that you don’t know or only know as gamers presents a number of exciting challenges that ‘up your game’.

Famously, when it comes to prep, when I play with the Armchair Adventurers, it usually amounts to a few scrawled notes on post-its and, if they’re lucky, I’ll sketch a map in front of their very eyes using my trusty note-board and dry-wipe pen. Chutzpah, ‘barrelling on’ and a sense of humour manages to pull me through the * deepens voice * Theatre of the Mind.

I ran @dailydwarf ‘s rather brilliant Judge Dredd scenario A Better Living Through Chemistry on a couple of occasions last year. Thanks to the artistic efforts of Roger Coe, it came with floor-plan maps that really enhanced the experience.

Playing in other people’s games have really given me clues on how to manage and track elements of the game in interesting ways. At GROGMEET I played Price of Freedom which was more like a tactical war-game than I was anticipating. The experience of play was helped by the visual bits-and-pieces used to support the descriptions. Not just floorpans and miniatures, but all of the equipment was presented on cards with the stats and a photograph: my Judd Nelson character looked cool with an Uzi open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun.

In a Dying Earth game, the illustrated cast of characters were displayed to the players as they were introduced which made sure everyone knew who the NPCs were and could refer to them (by pointing at them) without having to remember their names.

There’s advantages to having physical stuff at the table.

Gaz from the Smart Party said on Me We, “They instantly make your game better. Having character names on the table, maps with places on, Termination Warrants with the mission writ large… All provide more texture. Plus, lazy players are reminded of details they couldn’t be arsed writing down or memorising. Attentive players are rewarded with cool artefacts to mess about with.”

I really admire these trappings in other people’s games, but generally I find them hard work to create with minimal returns. For the Strontium Dog game, I’ve thrown myself into making Warrant Cards, equipment cards, character sheets and customised counters. It seems that having a generic game like Savage Worlds encourages the GM to create home-made stuff.

I’ll post some of the stuff I’ve made when we’ve played the game: If you show me yours, I’ll you mine.

 

* Convergence in Stockport 9th – 11th March – a great, small, friendly convention that first got me into running games for strangers. All of those strangers have become friends.

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INTRO: This is an unusual GROGPOD as it was recorded live at GROGMEET 18. Ian Cooper talks about HeroQuest and there’s a chance for you to win a copy of the game thanks to our friends at bonhomiegames.uk

Show us your favourite handout, character sheet, floor plan, prop, mini or any other physical item you’ve produced for your gaming before the end of Feb to be in with a chance of winning.

INTERVIEW: Ian Cooper talks about his formative years in gaming, oral story telling, Greg Stafford, HeroQuest and his Coming Storm campaign.

GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN: Blythy joins me in the Room of Role-Playing Rambling to talk about generic systems. Want to know more about Judge Dredd in the world of GUMSHOE? Then check out Steve Ray’s play reports.

OUTRO:  Patreon thanks, the latest news about the GROGZINE and the plans for the next episode.

IMG_0149.jpegI’ve been making the plans for 2019 game. Mrs ‘The Dice’ took one look at January and said, “that’s a game twice a week, isn’t it?”

“Well,” I said, “some of them are shorter than others, so don’t really count as full sessions.”

She gave me the eye-brow raised, eye-rolling combo followed by a “oh yeah, I forgot about the ‘short ones’.”

It has been a project four years in the making, but once again, gaming is my everything and I’m saying: “it’s a good thing”

GROGPOD

I’ve scheduled in the programme of podcasts for the next year. We’ve at least 12 months material to keep us going. I was concerned when a long time listener complained that there were too many interviews, but I think it’s talking to others from back in the day that keeps it interesting and draws new listeners to the GROGPOD, so I’m sticking with the format.

We have some great guests lined up too. They’ll be helping us explore our (very) loose theme this year: what were the influences on our gaming back in the day and how can they continue to inspire us?

The long promised episode featuring our musings on Robin of Sherwood is in production and will debut a brand new feature. GROGGLEBOX will be Eddy, me and Blythy talking about Seven Four Knights from Acre (season 1, episode 4). Do your homework before mid-February.

In the meantime, why not vote (classes 8th Jan) for us and the rest of your favourite podcasts in a new poll hosted by EN World.

 

INFORMATION SUPER-HIDE-AWAY

As much as I enjoy putting the podcast together, it’s only a means of finding more games and more players. I have some regular sessions continuing into the new year which is scratching that campaign itch that I’ve not been able to reach with one-shots. This has been thanks to online play, which allows me to disappear in my den for a few hours and be transported to other multiverses, while the rest of the family are waiting for a Hollywood handshake on The Great British Bake-off.

I’m looking forward to continuing the ongoing games as I’m playing with really great people. We’re currently in the dustbowl of Oklahoma in The Two-Headed Serpent for Pulp Cthulhu. All of the chapters are atmospheric, but I really like this one as it has a different mood that some of the others we’ve done. I really hope that we can sustain the momentum to the end of this campaign as every session has been both richly interesting and edge-of-the-seat exciting. There’s more adventure to come, I only hope that the game can continue at the punch and pace we’ve achieved so far.

The HeroQuest Glorantha Coming Storm campaign is getting to an interesting point in the story. Our Red Cow convoy as stopped off to make trade in Jonstown. Although our crew are mocked by the tribe as ‘Generation Cow Jumpers’ due to our disastrous initiation, we’ve chosen our sides and started a black-market of weapons for the Free Sartar movement, and it feels that we are becoming more important and valuable.

The one-shot that couldn’t be contained is continuing for Warhammer 4e. Hopefully you’ll have enjoyed the actual play recording of Lady Magdelena and her rag-tangle entourage as we try to make our way through the Old World. Gaz has offered to keep things going while they’re still interesting as we are loving playing the characters and discovering a game that completely passed us by 30 years ago.

We’ve also got further travels on board USS Thunderchild for Star Trek Adventures. I’m not a trekkie and the 2d20 system seems over-engineered for this ship’s engineer, but its really good fun because the players are great to be with and I’m enjoying playing a Tellerite with Vulcan tendencies.

Can I really squeeze in another regular online game? Turns out that the Wednesday night crew are back for one, last job in the form of D&D 5e Dragon Heist. I’ve decided, the time has come for me to play a monk.

On the 12th/13th April we’ll be hosting virtual GROGMEET (more details very soon) which is a great chance to learn online play and to get the GROGMEET experience if you can’t make it to the live event in November.

WHITES OF THEIR EYES

Online play is great, especially now the technical issues are minimised through practice and improvements in the platform, but it’s a synth-substitute to the real thing. Nothing beats the table.

Our sessions around Eddy’s table in his humble shed is one of the highlights of the month. It’s not the game or the cups of tea, it’s just great catching up with the three of us, doing what we’ve been doing for years. Eddy is enforcing his ‘corrective’ and making sure that we do not stray from ‘the old school’ by running Classic RuneQuest scenario set in Judge’s Guild Duck Tower. I’m looking forward to it as it will be the first time that I’ve been a player character in RQ since we finished playing Borderlands three years ago.

I’d been scheming with Neil Benson about setting up an irregular session in Manchester when Newt Newport announced the re-opening of Go-Play Manchester: a monthly club of one-shot games at Fan Boy Three. I’ve no doubt that having a regular game club on our door-step is going to feature heavily in our gaming experiences in the new year.

We’ll be on the road again too. We are heading for UK Games Expo. I’ve submitted some games to GM. On Friday evening I’m running my ‘The Savage Worlds of Strontium Dog’; Saturday Afternoon is an adapted version of FGU PSI World (I love it. 1980’s nostalgia for the 1950s riddled with teenage angst and nuclear anxiety) and Sunday morning is Lyonesse, The Design Mechanism’s stand-alone game based on Mythras, which won’t be out, but I’ve been promised a preview to share.

We’ll also be attending Convergence, The OwlBear and The Wizards Staff as well as hosting GROGMEET 19.

ZINE SCENE

I’m behind with the layout and preparation of the GROGZINE, so I will be turning my attention to it over the coming weeks. I also have an idea of a side-project that will start to appear in Spring. On the You Tube channel, I’ll be showcasing a scrapbook of zines from the British scene in the 80s. This is Doc Con’s collection that will be archived for the nation.

I have loads more plans and schemes, but I need to put them to one-side while I perfect the manipulation of time and space, before Mrs The Dice’s eyes turn from a roll to a permanent spin. Dirk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In this episode we review our year in gaming and dish out our GROGGIE awards.

It also features WFRP actual play, hosted by The Smart Party.

Subscribe to their feed to catch the rest of it, when it is released.

Podcast recommendations: How we Roll, The Chimpions, Vintage RPG podcast, and Appendix N.

We never played WARHAMMER Fantasy RolePlay back in the 80s, so we’ve been making up lost time over the past few weeks to catch up on what we missed.

The WARHAMMER Grogpods have been produced with the help of The Smart Party podcast. Baz joined us as a locum judge in Part One to dissect 1st edition rules: we managed to play using the rules with Asako Soh (from twitter).

The co-host of The Smart Party, Gaz, has been touring the autumn cons (including GROGMEET) with his WFRP 4e adventures. We played “Here comes the Prince!” set in an Empire backwater of his own design.

Here’s the play report from those sessions. Five highlights and a fumble.

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1 The Enemy Within – Asako Soh revived ‘Mistaken Identity’ for last year’s GROGMEET and this year’s virtual GROGMEET. From the start of the session when we answered the call of a proclamation, it felt like we were in the throes of a classic.

It starts off simply enough with a straight forward across country journey, but an encounter with vile chaos sends the adventure spiralling into warped direction.

The adventure is cunning as lures the players into a tempting get-rich-quick scheme that quickly becomes complicated.

Phil The Dice Mechanic made the observation that the skills are very  well considered in the 1st’ed as they quickly establish the character and their place in the world. He also observed that the critical tables are very lurid and colourful but at the top end of the tables, the descriptions are likely to reoccur. Never mind ‘hit left leg’ we had many ‘shattered pelvis’ results.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session, as it was full of sardonic humour as well as the gross-out pestilence. The scenario is smart too, probably a little rail-roady for modern tastes, but it never felt like that in Asako Soh’s hands.

2. Game for a laugh?

“I know that it’s a darkly comic game, are we playing it that way?” asked Matt.

“No, we’re playing it straight as games played for laughs are annoying,” said Gaz, carefully framing the scenario, “if comedy emerges then we’ll go for it, but otherwise it will seem forced.”

We solemnly nodded, before Gaz went into a description of our Lipsensnout Sausages and mash served by a man with sausage-like thumbs – we’d had wurst.

3. Get thee to MittleburgScreenshot 2018-12-17 at 23.53.36.png

The marriage of Ines von Horgen to merchant’s son Frederich Friccen is rumoured to have been brokered to inject cash into the ailing fortunes of Baron von Horgen’s house, while elevating the common, yet wealthy, Friccen household to minor nobility. Scandal enough, but a week before the impending nuptials, Frederich has ridden off to Mittleberg for seven days of Volksfest revelry and a Junggesellenabschied to remember (or forget).

Our small band of ‘resourceful and discreet’ souls were sent to recover Frederich and treat him to ‘hair of the dog’ to get him back to fulfil his duty.

Mittleburg was packed to the jowls with grotesque NPCs who were brought to life with great gusto creating some memorable encounters.

Encounters such as Cunz Gunther, the sausage chef at The Boar and Truffle, or Juergen Schmidt who was abducted from a palanquin by our group, and forced to pay debts to the brothel in a wonderfully ‘Richard Lester’ Three Musketeer moment.

The setting in both editions is really rich.

4. Pre-Generation of the next generation

The character sheets were a little more complex than the 1st edition, but no less colourful.

Blythy was Magdelena von Horgen, an impatient, duellist of lesser nobility, who was easily distracted by her desire to seek out and confront her rival Marx Tuschman. She was guarded by her man-at-arms, who had seen better days, Hans Maiger (played by Mat Hart from Steamforge games).

Helping us to find out way around the city was Grete Vesars, a well connected racketeer (played by Dan, one of the original Smart Party).

I played Elspeth Voltz, a taciturn, single-minded Thief Taker who was more used to tracking down less salubrious characters. She is the impatient side-kick to the more deliberate Barold Loffen, an investigator, a literate and learned locator of missing persons (played by Baz).

5. Something wicked, this way comes …

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Before long, we realised that there was something more pernicious at work. Rather than a stag-do that had got out of hand, the infiltration of chaos, symbolised by a dance-of-veils featuring a costumed sex-worker with a lobster hand and an exposed breast.

The final confrontation was satisfyingly horrific. The mechanics work differently than the first edition as it employees ‘degrees of success’ where oppositional tests are compared on a scale of 1 – 10 depending on the ‘tens’ rolled on percentage dice. There’s no example of combat in the rulebook, which means some of the finer points of ‘advantage’ are difficult to work out in play.

The comparison of scales of success means that if you fail less than your opponent, it is still possible to succeed: a rule that proved to be decisive in the final confrontation.

6. Corrupted files

We attempted to record the sessions for use as podcasts. When it came to playing the tapes, the file was ‘corrupted’, which was fitting, but frustrating. No one will hear of Mat Hart’s character dressed for a masked ball wearing a costume that made him look like he was riding a griffin, a la Bernie Clifton.

You won’t hear Phil The Dice Mechanic recreating Benny from Crossroads playing Werner, “SPEAK UP. YOU’RE VERY SHUSSHY.”

Fortunately, Gaz blessed the third attempt by Tzeentch, and it will appear in Episode 25 of the GROGPOD and followed up in a Smart Party bonus episode.