The first episode had a painful birth, but I eventually managed to squeeze out the Runequest file on 7th August last year.
My internet presence began as a lauded Anonymous Work Blogger who lost out on a prestigious Guardian Award (judged by Bruce Sterling, no less) to a prostitute in 2003. Since then I have had various projects that come and go, some more successful than others. When began to seriously to get back in to the hobby in 2010, I held the desire to translate it into something…
Originally we had conceived an e-book of our memoirs of playing games back in the day. I don’t really have a voice for radio, I’m a hesitant, low talkin’ slow talker, but I love listening to podcasts and have been listening to them for a long time, so I really wanted to make one of my own.
My podcast inspiration came from RPG Gamer Dad who was a fellow gamer from back in the day who was trying to rediscover the hobby that he left behind. His podcast is currently on an extended hiatus, but the candle that burns twice as bright, burns half of long, and I urge you to go back and listen to his back catalogue. He has a sense of wonderment and excitement about the hobby that I can never hope to reach. Thanks to RPG Gamer Dad, I was introduced to the rigorous approach of Mr Jim Moon’s Hypnogoria, a podcaster who takes care to research his subjects and present them from the position of subjective authority. Finally, the most important influence on theGROGNARDfiles is the late, lamented Word Podcast, hosted by Mark Ellen and Dave Hepworth who are veterans of the UK Rock magazine scene, who adopted the tone of two old duffers in conversation, sharing anecdotes and opinions on how the world of music was changing.
Of all the crazy projects that I’ve initiated, the podcast has been the most rewarding as it has put me in touch with so many great people, a whole network of gamers that I never really knew existed. The greatest element is getting feedback and the stories of people going up into the attic to recover the games they used to play back in the day.
CURATING THE MIASMA
Our Patreon campaign has reached another goal which unlocks something for backers only: a fortnightly digest of media consumed by The Armchair Adventurers. This was an idea directly stolen from Ken and Robin Talk Quickly About Stuff as it is a feature that they offer, however it’s going to be more like the “Something for the Weekend” e-zine that Word magazine circulated weekly, pointing out interesting corners to explore in a world where you are constantly bombarded with ‘push notices’ and links.
The Armchair Museum is a newsletter that handpicks 5 – 6 interesting, entertaining and unusual things that catch our attention, with pithy comment from us. Pith, we have a lot of pith.
Books, films, music, magazines, TV series, adverts, apps, stationery, and anything else in an eclectic mix tape made just for you.
The first one will be released in September and in a ‘try before you buy’ it will appear here. The rest will be for Patreon backers only.
BEYOND THE FIRST YEAR
I’ve been asked a number of times “What’s your plan to keep going in the long term?” The number of old games is finite, so the format we’ve adopted has the potential run out of steam. Don’t worry, we have enough fuel in the tank to keep us going at least for the next 12 months. We’ve got interviews, campaign specials, DVD commentaries and lots more games to come. The podcast will keep coming while it’s still fun and not a chore.
Thanks for backing, commenting, reviewing and plain old listening over the past 12 months… here’s looking forward to another 12! Dirk
I’m 46 Live in Southport not far from Bolton and like you we used to play rpg’s from the age of 12 many years ago through those long summers.
And have recently got in touch with the old gang & are doing a 5th ed d&d ‘old scrote’ once a month session. Would you like to join sometime ?
1st Jan, 2016 – Ric Gillett
It was an offer we couldn’t refuse. On the very first day of this year we were invited to join the ‘Old Scrotes’ club in nearby Southport. After a few exchanges of emails, it seemed a perfect opportunity to learn more about 5th edition D&D.
We have played an online opening game of Mines of Phandelver from the D&D Starter Pack, which starts at 1st level and works up to 4-5, but how do the new mechanics handle adventures at a high level?
Blythy and I made the journey through the endless fields of sprouts towards the quaint seaside town of Southport that’s known in Bolton as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, as it is the place where people of the North West gravitate towards to retire.
The Old Scrotes Club very generously invited us to join in their quarterly game, where they congregate from all corners of the North, to gather for a mammoth 12 hour session. They have an ongoing campaign in the Under Dark titled ‘The Steam Dwarves’ as the party are all Dwarves. In previous adventures, they have mastered huge Iron Suits with fire and water elementals bound into them that give them steam-powers and flame-throwing abilities.
I’ve interviewed Ric and Tim (the Games Master) for the podcast and will be appearing soon, where they’ll talk about their experiences back in the day and how they have found playing 5th edition D&D.
It’s all good stuff, but in the mean time, these are my top 4 highlights from the session and one low blow.
We were to play gnomes. Deep gnomes. Svirfneblin (bless you.) At first we thought it was some kind of joke. They are after all borderline scousers, so we thought it might be some way of cutting the Woolly Backs down to size.
Using the 5th Edition, it is possible to create characters of different fantasy races with colour and interesting detail. Blythy played a druid (almost a boring cleric, but the daisy chains make all the difference) and he studied the spells very, very carefully ahead of play, waiting for the dramatic moment when he could transform to an elemental. Erky Ningle kept a scorpion in a box too, ready for the moment when he could make it giant, (cue endless debate over it being ‘Gnome Giant’ or ‘Giant’).
I was to be rogue with slippers of spider climb, hence he was known as Nackel ‘Sticky Foot’ Bilge, friend of the druid who accompanied him from recently destroyed Gnome Market to seek assistance from the Dwarves.
2.THE DWARVEN COUNCIL
Tim the DM carefully wove a back story for why we were making contact with the Dwarves, who had successfully secured a fortified keep in the Under Dark. Drow, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Dwarves and Gnomes had all begun to behave strangely, as if in the grip of a madness. The gnomes had seen an Intellect Devourer escape from the brain of one of their clan who had been affected. They were keen to seek help to destroy the Illithid hive and put an end to the madness, so the Gnome Market could open once more.
Now. We have a small group, which usually means doubling up characters, so we have got into the habit of using reported speech, “well, I’ll say this in a harsh manner etc.” and tend to avoid to getting into ‘acting out’ the scene. We use it occasionally, at key moments, to crank up the tension.
The Old Scroates were masters at speaking in character, for the first hour Tim the DM went for a fag, while the players engaged in argument and counter argument in Scottish accents. The wizard believed that their small army should revive the Gnome Market and win the hearts and minds of the people of the Under Dark (a post-Iraq option), while the Cleric and Ranger believed that a recon mission, with force, should seek out the Illithid hive and neutralise it.
It was very absorbing. I felt like I was actually there, cowering before Cherry, the buxom member of council, pleading for assistance to free capital within the Under Dark.
The discussion was interrupted by green smoke emitting from the vaults below the keep.
3. UNLUCKY STICKY AND THE EVIL DICE
Once in the underground vaults of the keep, exploring the haunted crypts, the Cursed Dice Cup managed to confound the Old Scroates as I managed to roll a row of successive ones.
At one time, when I had ‘the advantage’ I rolled a one and a two. My D20 was sealed in a small box that once stored baby rusks. It was banished there until it could learn to behave.
There followed an experiment where the dice was ducked in water to prove it had a bias … a bubble inside … or a witch …or something.
4. UNDEAD ARMY
What does 5th edition do at high levels? Well, I don’t want to steal our podcast thunder, but it has the capacity to provide ‘the spectacular’. After creeping carefully through the crypt we were tormented by a Necromancer/ Litch type creature who was entering our heads, imploring to leave the place.
Evidence was everywhere that he had been attempting to zombify creatures and soon, we made the encounter – 200 plus dwarven zombies with wraiths, zombie beholders and ogres thrown in for good measure.
Spells were cast. Axes were swung in whirlwind attacks. The Cleric cried ‘turn again zombies, turn again’!
Meanwhile, Sticky Foot was on the ceiling, sneak-attacking with a bow and dodging disintegrating rays from the Zombie Beholder like Lionel Richie with a ferret down my pants. One of them hit too.
5. BRING IN THE TANK
We had late-coming Old Scroate. We had been missing a much needed fighter, but fortunately in the late afternoon he’d turned up when the rest of the party were exhausted and with his assistance the dwarves and gnomes thrashed through a zoo of zombies, including a Medusa, Gelentious Cube, a Grell and a rust monster.
OUT OF STEAM
6.WHERE DID THE TIME GO?
The only downside was that it seem to come to an end so soon. Time is transcendental as well as physical. Those 11 hours seemed to pass so quickly that it came to an end before had chance to realise the extent of the destruction that the Slaadi caused.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have hit the lid off that bottle.
Following an emergency meeting at Dirk Towers, the time has come … to create a The GROGNARD files fanzine.
Last week, I ran on of those infernal twitter polls in a fit of beer fuelled excitement in a bid to understand if there was interest out there. 41 people voted to say that they would read a fanzine … so we’ve agreed to do one as a PDF and as a hard copy (if we can generate enough funds to support it).
To help to create something interesting and collectable we have launched a Patreon campaign. If you want to throw some pennies in the hat to support our endeavour, then we’ll be very grateful.
We are offering various goals, that you’ll see on the link, the first is a PDF ‘zine, but what we’d really want to do is to produce a real ‘zine with ink, paper and staples. It will have a flavour of the old school ‘zines, even their distinctive smell.
If you have been following my twitter feed on @theGROGNARDfile over the past few days you will have seen that I have taken delivery of a bundle of IMAGINE magazines.
TSR UK published IMAGINE magazine from 1983 – 1985 with Don Turnbull at the helm and Paul Cockburn as the assistant editor.
I used to subscribe to it back in the day, despite it’s coverage of AD&D, a game that I didn’t Games Master and only played occasionally. It was an interesting companion piece to White Dwarf as it struck a very different tone to the Games Workshop magazine. Dare I say it, but on reflection, the resources it provided were of a superior quality. PELINORE, its collectable game world, was notable for it’s richness and wonderful maps that could spark a hundred scenarios without really trying.
It lacked the general consistency of White Dwarf, for every Pelinore supplement there was a weak and confusing scenario or waffely article about the minutiae of nothing in particular. In the podcast I have described White Dwarf as a kind of analogue social media – connecting our experience of role-playing with the wider community. White Dwarf did this tacitly through its small ads and letters page, Imagine on the other hand, was more explicit in its support of the fan culture. In the back pages there was a regular ‘zine section and in later issues a series of articles entitled FANSCENE which was an attempt to reach out and encourage gamers to become more active participants in the hobby.
In the mid-80s, there was something of a boom in the world of RPG ‘zines. Many of the second generation RPGers had gone to college, so applied all of their new found freedom to knocking out these little magazines.
I lost all of my fanzine collection in The Great Clear-out of ’92 when it contributed to landfill. They’re building on it now. Under the foundation of those closely-packed semi-detached houses, there will be the remnants of DRAGONLORDS, LANKHMAR STAR DAILY, DAGON, and IMAZINE. Unlike other artefacts from RPG’s past, it’s extremely difficult to recover those lost ‘zines as they rarely appear for sale on the internet. Not surprising, given the extremely low print runs.
All that remains is the distant memory of their content, which was irreverent, packed with ‘in’ jokes and references, quirky scenarios and pitch-battles between readers who were arguing over the latest controversial issue affecting the world of gaming. I enjoyed that sense of a conversation going on, even if I didn’t get all the references.
I have ‘zine’s in my blood. At the time, I was active on the PBM scene and had a ‘zine newsletter of my own ‘THE NATIONAL KOBOLD’ (my life in PBMs will be covered in future Podcasts). I was also contributing to ‘zine’s too, notably DRUNE KROLL where I began a BROOKSIDE RPG PBM (no takers, pity because my Damon Grant whodunnit scenario was brilliant).
In the early ’90s I created an anthology of Science Fiction stories in a collection titled THE PSEUDO-NYMPH, notable for it’s wonderful illustrations. In the mid-to-late 90’s Blythy and I edited PROP, a small press, literary magazine for 10 issues (really!).
We are both excited at the prospect of producing a ‘zine because it will allow us to explore avenues that are impossible in the podcast. We plan to include some of the usual features, but with additional ideas, that we’ll preview here over the coming months.
You can have your very own cut out and keep ridiculous shrine to Caroline Munro. Chuck a few coins in the beret and make it real.
On the break of the new year, we had a Twitter conversation inspired (ripped-off from…) The Gamers’ Table Podcast. I can’t pretend to understand what’s going on and the odd relationships between all of the participants at Gamers’ Table, but I do enjoy the idea that they set a series of resolutions and challenges for each other in the first episode of the year. Our commitments are at risk at being buried in a Twitter timeline, so I have knocked up this post to remind the other Armchair Adventurers exactly what they’ve signed up to for the following year:
Over the past few years, our monthly meetings have been worked out on a month by month basis, as if we dare not commit to a regular session in case it begins to seem like a chore. When a session comes to an end and we are gathering the empty ‘non-alcoholic’ beer bottles, we tentatively flirt around the dates of the next session like its some kind of Japanese courtship ritual – we don’t feel safe on committing to a date there and then in case it offends some unwritten etiquette. This year, we have promised to: have at least one session a month PLUS one session virtually using Roll 20.
After the brilliant January session (playing Runequest’s Borderlands ‘The Condor Crags’) we were still dithering …
In 2014 we were all captivated by the potential of RUNEQUEST 6, but by our own admission, when it comes to Runequest, we are a little ‘vanilla’ when it comes to magic. In RQ 2nd edition the magic is as best ‘mechanical’ and at worse ‘a bit boring’. The RQ6 rules seem to offer a bit of pep and vim to the notion of magic with interesting, dynamic rules for different orders of magic. Therefore we set ourselves the task of: understanding the rules of RQ6 to make our settings infused with magic.
Last year, inspired by the brilliant Mark Barrowcliffe book THE ELFISH GENE, we began writing the memoir of The Armchair Adventurer’s Club with a view of releasing it as an e-book. We were 20 thousand words in when, as usual, we came to a pause and stayed there. In 2015, we are going to revive the project with the aim of getting some or all of it out there for the world to read, in the meantime we’ve pledged to complete the memoir for our own amusement. A curry in February has already been planned so we can pick up the pieces.
Finally, the most ambitious (therefore improbable) resolution is for us to attend this year’s Dragonmeet Convention. Yeah, right … like the collective Fun Prevention Officers are going to agree to THAT one!
Blythy sacrificed his eye-sight in 1982 to painting 15mm Traveller miniatures (or minis as Gamer’s Table might say). They were a labour of love and enhanced our experience of playing Traveller back in the early 1980s. Traveller was the most prominent planet-hopping game in the UK back in the day, so it was one of our main systems. We would pour over the articles provided by White Dwarf to try and make sense of the worlds, to no avail, but as time went on, the scenarios in White Dwarf had moved-on at the same time that we had moved-on and weren’t playing Traveller as much. Therefore 2015 is a year that we will play a one-off Traveller scenario from WHITE DWARF using the fabulous minis.
Eddy was our ‘go-to’ Keeper, for Choasium’s prolific supplements in the 80s. He led us through many of the greats from the period as he is the most enthusiastic lover of all things Lovecraft. Since the reunion of the group he’s been running Runequest … he is going to run a Runequest 6 game in 2015 in addition, he promises to run the Cthulhu campaign THE SPAWN OF AZATHOTH.
DIRK THE DICE (@armchairadvent)
I have always been totally obsessed by post-apocalyptic narratives. Back in the early 1980s, there were four posters on my wall: Madness – Sugg’s daft face gurning above my bed; Altered Images – Claire Grogan’s wonderfully pretty face gurning above my bed; the Starburst poster for Excalibur; and a poster of Mad Max walking along a desolate road with his dog. I really wanted the Fantasy Games Unlimited rules for AFTERMATH, but I could not afford it, besides Blythy was already running Gamma World. Now that I am older and have the capacity to indulge, I bought myself a copy of the AFTERMATH rules for Christmas. This year, I intend to run a one off game of AFTERMATH even though the rules seem incredible complex.
So, there you have it. This time next year, you can judge us!