Episode 4 – RPG Games Cons Dragonmeet

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In a break with the usual format, The Armchair Adventurers are at risk of disappearing up their own fundament.

It’s too short to break in two, too long to listen in one go, so disappointing either way. Take your time, pause a little, as you listen to the blow by blow account of our big day out.


It’s 30 years since we last went to a Games Convention. We went to Dragonmeet ’15 in December, this is a reflection on what we did when we were there and how things have changed in gaming in the meantime.

This introduction includes a A brief potted history of Dragonmeet, with extra bits of information provided by Modiphius.


The morning of the day before, Judge Blythy joins Dirk as we plan the trip and reminisce about Games Cons of the past.


Everything comes back to White Dwarf and it’s coverage of Games Conventions back in the day were our way of enjoying them vicariously.

There’s a quote from Scott Dorwood who reviewed the podcast.


Some general reflections on our observations while we were there as well as a blow by blow account of some of the experiences we had.

Under discussion:

Call of Cthulhu Dreamlands using 7th Edition

Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 rules distilled into 52 pages

How the market has changed, stuff we bought, and the apparent controversy around the benign Chaosium seminar.

We attend seminars featuring Ken and Robin Talk Quickly About Stuff and the “Is there too much Cthulhu” debate between The Good Friends … and The Smart Party.

While we were there, we interviewed Mike Cule, star of the stage and screen, and the author of RUMBLE AT THE TIN INN (amongst others) and one of the hosts of Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice.


Eddy, the resident bargain-hunter in chief, shares his Dragonmeet haul and takes on the 20 quid challenge.


Listeners share their convention experiences.

Normal service will be resumed next time when we discuss STORMBRINGER.


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

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.

1d6 – The Great Ones Undercover

You should never judge an RPG by its cover, for that way madness lies. Fail your SAN roll and you can end up spending your hard-earned pocket money on something completely rubbish. I’m still falling into the trap of impulsive purchase due to great cover art (combined with eBay and red wine).

Over the past week, I’ve been sharing tweets of some of the best covers for Call of Cthulhu supplements.

Naturally, I have a fondness for the early Choasium covers that managed to be both evocative of the scenarios that they contained, but also inspiring in their own right. One of the difficulties for early players of CoC was getting our heads around the concept (which was markedly different from other RPGs) and the Lovecraft mythos.

The wibbly, scrunchy and indescribable alien monsters that feature in the game are, by their nature … indescribable. The early covers helped to illuminate embryonic Keepers and players on what the monsters looked like as they slowly went insane.

1 – CRITICAL HIT – The Original Cover of The Masks of Nyarlathotep


There is something about the intensity of this image that is utterly mesmerising. It also features Nyarlathotep in my personal favourite of his many forms: Python-faced Hulk.

2 – Shadows of Yog-Sothoth


The first supplement that I got and I chose it purely on the basis of the cover. I struggled to understand how to run CoC when I first bought the game. I assumed that it was fantasy-horror meets tommy guns and brown derbys; this supplement introduced the idea that the game was about encountering alien strangeness in the distant corners of Earth.

3 – Fungi from Yuggoth


Dubbed “The Poor Man’s Masks …” by Eddy in our group. He originally was the Keeper for the campaign back in the 1980s and I’m very excited at the prospect of returning to it in the coming months. This cover captures the unique sense of adventure and creepiness intrinsic to CoC and has been shamefully redone with a rubbish cover in later editions.

4 – The Second Edition Cover Art


The haunted house. The graveyard. The glow of a lantern. The b-movie sensibility. The subtle curl of a tentacle. I’m sold.

5 – The Sixth Edition Cover Art


This later edition captures the essence that Shadows of Yog-Sothoth does so well … alien strangeness. The blue glow and the foreboding presence towering over a ship gives the sense of the insignificance of the human race.

6 – FUMBLE – Atomic-Age Cthulhu


A decent supplement let down by a lurid cover. The fall-out over shadowed by people falling out with axes. It fails to capitalise on an enticing proposition … genuine Mad Men!

Year on the GROG 2015

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!