“Moby Dick as a Slasher pic” Paul Fricker talks to The Great Library of RPGs Book Club about Full Fathom Five for Call of Cthulhu.
INTRO: Welcome to another Book Club Extra. We take break from the usual format to give you a little something extra. The Great Library of RPGs Book Club meets on the first Sunday of the month between 9:30 – 11:00. You can join at the Bookclub app if you are interested and follow developments on the discord server (contact me for an invite).
Actual Play (46.16) If you are a Patreon of the GROGNARD files, you can take part in the monthly one-shot club. This is a bit of sample play of Full Fathom Five. The rest will be released on The Patreon feed later in September.
GROGGLEBOX (56:23) Blythy and Dirk talk about The Thing (1982)
Tale of the Manticore advert (1.32)
I’ll Get mi Coat 1.32 – The end of one campaign and the start of another.
My favourite FLGS, host of GROGMEET eve, FanBoy Three has a small collection of vintage RPG stuff for sale in a discreet corner of the store. I often dip in to see what’s on offer, as it’s usually at a reasonable price and often some real treasure can surface.
Normally, I can curtail my irrational impulses to buy things in a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ shop as I’m browsing with the default setting of “do I really need this” which usually short-curcuits my desire to buy things for the sake of it.
Last month was an exception. I went to Manchester with my good friend Judge Blythy and had a good old drink. After a few pints of Neck Oil we went to visit the vintage corner of FanBoy Three; It was like an analogue version of a Sunday late at night when I hit eBay after the bottle. The normal rules did not apply. I filled my real-life basket with old copies of White Dwarf, a couple of Citadel Companions with their covers missing, a dog-earred copy of Champions and, most interesting of them all PSI World.
There was something compelling about the title. “PSI World” sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?
Blythy kept repeating “are you sure” over and over; but he always does and the Neck Oil was drowning out his Jimothy Cricket advice.
The Armchair Adventurers are not collectors, we are players: if we get it, we play it. Them’s the rules.
PSI World was released by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1984, written by Del Carr and Cheron with artwork by Bill Willingham and Matt Wagner. It feels like this was their home game that has been transformed into a commercial publication. The main rule book doesn’t offer much about ‘setting’ focusing instead on the convoluted character creation and the barmy combat. The authors encourage you to create your own ‘near future Earth’ setting where there are people with PSI powers and the ‘norms’ who feel threatened by them.
It’s a shame that they didn’t have more confidence in their own setting which is given more detail in the ‘The PSI World Adventure’ included in the box set. It details the history of the emergence of the PSIS and how they have become persecuted in a stratified society. It’s possible to play characters from different sides. The same setting is used in some of the other supporting material that was published for the game; all currently available for download at drivethru.rpg.
The rules are not crunchy, they’re clunky, (there’s a skill for riding a bicycle for goodness sake) but there are elements in here that I like and with a bit of work, could be entertaining.
I have an idea that has been insipired by Wild Wild Country, a documentary currently playing on Netflix about the Indian guru Bhagwan Shee Rajneesh (Osho) and his community of followers, that could work in PSI World.
Maybe it will surface in 2019. Maybe it’s the Neck Oil talking.
MOB RETURNS: MOB talks about all the different ways that you can play in Glorantha: 13th Age, HeroQuest, but especially RuneQuest. Here he talks about how RuneQuest appeals to the gamers from back in the day, through its legacy supplements and how it can appeal to new gamers who have discovered Glorantha through The King of Dragon Pass. He also talks about some of the new releases, such as the Bestiary and 6 Ages as well as some of the fan initiatives such as Encounter Role-Play. He also reveals the plans to create a site for Glorantha fan material using a similar model as The Miskatonic Repository.
JUDGE BLYTHY ROLLS: We discuss ‘how to get started in Glorantha’ with an emphasis on ‘play’s the thing’.
INTRO: Three years of GROGPODing and Forty Years of RuneQuest seems like a great point in time to revisit the game that we played the most back in the day. RQ3 contributed to us stopping playing, so this is a chance to revisit the game and see what happened when we stopped playing. The sound is a bit haywire on this podcast, hope it doesn’t spoil things too much.
Episode 20 of the GROGPOD is coming later in April and is all about GOLDEN HEROES: a very smartly produced game that had a dramatic appearance, so I’ve made a short film to demonstrate the material.
I was very lucky on eBay. For £22, I managed to get everything that was produced by Games Workshop (in very good condition too), including all of the counters for all of the scenarios.
The piècesderésistance was the un-billed inclusion of the original A5 rules that were published by Simon Burley and Peter Haines. They would schlep these rules around the convention circuit back in the early eighties where they gathered a strong reputation for the ability to replicate scenes from popular Marvel and DC comics.
The game caught the attention of the Armchair Adventurers thanks to the great Brian Bolland cover for the first scenario pack LEGACY OF EAGLES. I ran the game with disastrous results (listen to the podcast for details). At ConVergence recently, we revived the game and had tremendous fun.
The podcast will be released in soon, until then, enjoy this short film.
The last time I played GOLDEN HEROES was in 1986 and it was the worst experience of my RPG life.
I’ll recount the story in Episode 20 of the GROGPOD (due in April, 2018), but it was that bad that I stopped playing RPGs for a while afterwards. ConVergence 17 provided a cure for my GMitis that I experienced at the beginning of last year, so I was confident that it would have a similar restorative effect on a deeper, more profound RPG wound.
I don’t mind admitting that I was pretty tense in the run up to the game. Memories of that ’86 experience kept resurfacing as I read through the rules. My anxiety wasn’t helped on the day by rail-replacement providing a similar nightmarish journey that I’d experienced on the way to Spaghetti ConJunction last month. I was 45 minutes late. Welcomed to the gaming table by slow hand-clap.
I needn’t of worried. I was amongst GROGSQUADers and they totally bought into the game and brought their own imagination and gaming insight to the adventure. It was cracking fun and I have a new found love for super hero games.
Here’s the play report, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for the scenario as I may run it again at a convention near you…
The usual format : 5 peaks and one bum-note.
Anyone who has played GOLDEN HEROES will know that part of the fun of the game is its random character creation. Although more modern games allow you to pick your feats and abilities, with GH, you have to spend points to get a roll on a ‘table of powers’ or on an ‘advantageous background table’ to generate your hero.
I didn’t want to lose this element of the game so, I created a card deck of powers and advantageous backgrounds and let the players to draw at random. They had 8 counters to spend on drawing from either deck or they could re-roll one of their initial attributes (which were strictly 3d6), or enhance an existing super power.
The character generation process was slick. Within 40 minutes we had seven heroes. The Players managed to pull together interesting and convincing origin-stories for them all too.
I provided a back story: they were part of a secret army that the monarchy had retained following the formation of Parliament. King Charles II secured this clandestine army and deployed them to protect the Empire and latterly the Commonwealth.
In a secret medical hospital in a remote part of Dartmoor, the King Charles Academy was founded, to enhance the army through experimentation and future tech..
One of the players coined the excellent team name:
Intangible Man: a rich industrialist whose molecular structure was displaced through years of self-experimentation. His gravity manipulation was decisive in the final scene, preventing the Holy Grail plummeting into the depths of Hell.
Sub-Opitmo: A psionic grifter who inadvertently stole some of the future tech developed by Intangible Man’s company. The stolen glider was activated at the most opportune moment.
Mercuria: a wily, silver-skinned, indefatigable, super-fast agent who had adopted the properties of a super car that she’d stolen. Her ricochetting ‘steering’ wheel weapon was hurled at vital battle scenes.
Catalyst: Dr Colin Jervis a highly accomplished Chemist who was a director of the King Charles Academy. Probably better known for his years at Eaton, using molecular chemistry to enhance his right-hook in boxing. His famous ‘Sunday Punch’ is delivered with a cry of ‘It’s time for your Chemistry test!”
Captain SpyFly: Connected and ‘connected’ with a cyber-super-brain of valves and switches, the best that the sixties could offer. He was an agent in active service thanks to his chameleon ability to slip into the shadows.
Newton Einstein III: A psi-onic expert who provided temporary super powers to the team at their hour of need, but most notable for his phenomenal strength,
Professor Penn: Affected by his encounter with a Tibetan mystic and demonologist, he has insight into ancient ways and used his powers to conjurer fantastic beasts to do his bidding.
The Armchair Adventurer rule is that every session needs to start with the characters hitting the ground running; in medias res. The adventure had a fairly conventional ‘you meet a wizard in the tavern’ opening (albeit the wizard is a cryonically persevered corpse of Queen Victoria and the tavern is the vaults in Buckingham Palace).
Therefore, I devised a scene ‘twenty one years before’ in 1963 where the Imperials are asked to stop a run away postal train, heading to London. The train is carrying high value packages and is being robbed by thugs ‘Buster’ and ‘Ronnie’ helped by Skyrider and Beacon (characters that come with the starter set).
It was a fun knock-a-bout encounter that they resolved through clever application of their powers and gave us all a feel for how the game works.
Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail was the second scenario pack published by Games Workshop and was written by Marcus L Rowland. It has a both a dungeon AND a dragon, but its old school credentials do not stop there. The scenario is on rigid tracks on a rail road so defined that it inspired the pre-credit sequence. There are many instructions to the Scenario Supervisor along the lines of “under no circumstances allow …” or “the players will not be able to do …”.
However, it does have a cracking set up, a great villain at the centre of it, some creepy elements, and a couple of cracking set pieces. Once things were loosened up a little, to meet modern sensibilities about player agency, it worked well.
What about jeopardy? That’s the issue with super heroes. That’s why the third act Marvel movies are so eye-poppingly disorientating – crash! bang! wallop! this has GOT to hurt!
The joy of this scenario is that the final scene is a dramatic climax, on the top of a famous London landmark, and it worked really well with all the characters having a decisive impact on the story.
Newton, a character that had been relatively quiet throughout, punched the dragon repeatedly with decisive blows. The villain was pushed into the very flames of Hell (even though the scenario said that she shouldn’t be killed). A very satisfying conclusion.
Spyfly’s cybernetic brain was working overtime attempting to decode the clues to unraveling the conspiracy behind the events. It would have been better deployed trying to calculate the division of damage. Divide it by eleven?
During the course of the six hours, I developed ‘mental arithmetic’ as a super power.
That said, overall, the rules played much easier than they read: fun, loose, the potential to send characters to the brink of incapacitation (in exciting ways) and emulated the genre very effectively.
Another ConVergence triumph. Thanks to Snowy and Kris for organising and to the players (Amy, Neil, Steve, Conrad, his mate Martin, Ian and Blythy) for making it such great fun. The GROGNARD file on GOLDEN HEROES will be released in April.
Another entry in the Armchair Adventurer’s archive. GROGSQUAD member Nick Edwards was an active collector, contributor and correspondent to the British ‘Zine Scene back in the eighties. He contacted me about helping to fill gaps in his collection, specifically Runestone, a ‘zine he was involved in. He very kindly agreed to share some of his collection and his experiences to add to add to the expanding Armchair Adventurer Library.
I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when I was in primary school, aged 9 or 10 in 1980 – by my older brother who played with a couple of friends in the pub over the road (the landlord’s son was the DM).
Playing in a pub was great as we were allowed the amazing treat of a free coke each. It’s also why the smell of stale beer that you get in old pubs always reminds me of childhood. Pretty soon I bought my own gear (the shop in Bristol was Forever People which made up the entirety of my Christmas list for a number of years) and in those first few years we ran D&D (then AD&D), Traveller, Bushido, Gamma World, Golden Heroes, Boot Hill, Aftermath and a few I can’t remember. Pretty soon I was keener on DMing than playing.
For AD&D, we played through Tomb of Horrors, the Giants series, the Slavers series, Queen of the Demonweb Pits and so on. Call of Cthulhu came along and captured my imagination, as did creating my own scenarios and even games. I remember running Order of the Silver Twilight from one of the early campaigns and the lack of combat was eye opening. This was a time when the hobby was reinventing itself regularly as games and gaming became more sophisticated – from the dungeon to the wilderness to the city to story-driven and looser adventures. Through senior school I continued playing with a couple of other friends although it had largely petered out by the time I was 15.
At the same time, I had started getting into the fanzine scene. I answered ads in the back of White Dwarf. Dragonlords was the early one that everyone has heard of but I remember Acoloyte, SEWERS, Beholder, News from Bree, among others. The early ones were largely about the mechanics of the games themselves and written by students but Dragonlords seemed to start a move towards more general.
Being at school, living in the countryside and not knowing anyone who had ever been university, I found this completely engrossing. Fanzines were a major thing when they came through the post. It was a glimpse of a different kind of life, more intellectual, more challenging and with better music (I liked heavy metal at the time and my musical taste today remains an odd combination of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Smiths, Joy Division and Talking Heads – basically everything I liked between the ages of 13 and 17 but mixed together.
I started writing letters to the zines and meeting some of the people at conventions like Games Day and the weekend one at Warwick. Presumably I was quite annoying – sorry guys. New fanzines came out with a fairly clear split between Dragonlords generation who had since graduated and those edited by schoolboys. The latter had a higher chance of being pretty lame but everyone was fairly understanding.
I started by co-editing a fanzine called Runestone by a guy called Bill Lucas – I can’t remember how it came about but a belated thanks to Bill (I was probably too self-absorbed to be grateful at the time).
Following that, I did my own thing called Manic Depressive (why I chose that name is beyond me – I wasn’t) which, I seem to remember, was a collection of mini-zines by other people (there was a term for it which I now forget). Then I did maybe half a dozen issues of Iron Orchid, which was all me and which I have fondest memories of – I was experimenting with design, politics, music and the gaming had largely disappeared (at this point the cool zines were largely devoid of actual gaming which was fine but there was a bit of a whiff of embarrassment about RPGs). And finally I co-edited (or perhaps I was more of a contributor) of some more occasional fanzines by Jez Keen, called Love in the Garden (his other zine was Next Stop Jupiter). He was more talented and older than me – so again I am grateful for the hand-up. The whole thing was a lot of fun but then the scene began to fracture – there were more cliques, more anger and feuds. Looking back some of it was just bullying. There wasn’t a lot of empathy or compromise – people with poor social skills are attracted to roleplaying after all (I count myself in this). People started to publicly drop out, closing zines in protest. I remember being sad about it at the time though I probably took my share of sides.
By the time I went to university (Warwick – chosen largely because some of the best fanzines were produced there a few years earlier). I was largely out of the scene and had certainly stopped being interested in the games. (to be continued)
Once you have signed up, your email details will be sent to the GM to contact you to make arrangements for your session. The slots are for guidance only.
Here’s the line up so far …
Title: Shattered Hope (introduction adventure)
Number of Players: 4
System: Dark Heresy (1st ed)
Brief description:Make ready your chainsword, strap on your bolter, and say a prayer to the God-Emperor, for Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy. You as the the closest ‘Inqusitor’ agents are sent to a world to deal with a particular problem. – this quick start is for those wanting to learn the system and explore the dark universe.
Beginner level …. there will be blood shed.
GM: Jon Dawson
Title: Forgive Us
Number of Players: 5
System: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
1625 was a plague year in Norwich. History tells us that it was an outbreak of the Black Death. History is wrong.
Hired to retrieve an item from the Tenebrous Hand, a powerful criminal gang in the city, our players may well find out what really happened. Or die trying…
GM: Neil Benson
Title: “..and the dragonewts are dancing..”
Number of Players: 4
System: Heroquest Glorantha
Brief description: Dancing dragonewts have been spotted not he edge of the Tula and you have been asked to investigate. Buried memories of your initiation resurface and you find your self reliving that very odd experience.
GM: Andrew Jones
Title: Enemies Within
Number of Players: 4
System: Night’s Black Agents
Brief Description: “…the miners are the enemy within” 1984, deniable assets required for active measures: suppressing subversion in Leeds, UK. Industrial relations are about turn nasty. Late Ken Loach meets early Tarantino.
GM: Dirk the Dice
Title: Sabeurs & Savants
System: Cthulhu Hack
Brief description: 1800, Napoleon has invaded Egypt intending to become a new Alexander the Great. Accompanied by scientists, he also intends to uncover the secrets of this ancient land. He’s despatched the player characters a mixed bag of scientists and soldiers to uncover an artefact from the desert sands….
Brief description: In the aftermath of the Apocalypse War, life is hard in Mega-City One, even for the Judges in Sector House 170. Widespread desolation, mutie incursions through the Cursed Earth Wall, and a scarcity of resources are making it hard to uphold the Law. But new teams are being put together to ensure the citizens are kept in line, and that law and order are maintained. While fighting crime on the mean streets of the Mega-City, the players will need all their skills and cunning, but can they also find… better living through chemistry?
GM: Alan Gairey
Title: Dr John Dee’s Crows
Brief description: Join the original Men and Women in Black protecting Queen Elizabeth’s England from Threats Corporeal, Magickal and Supernatural.
GM: Ian ‘Doc’ Griffith
Title: Who wants to live forever?
Brief description: The Queen of the red fleet pirates seeks immortality. She hasn’t aged for decades. Some say it’s just an illusion. Others think she found the Drowned City, a place legend says holds ancient secrets that can bestow immortality. Maybe you’ll find out the truth when you meet her to discuss a special and secret task.
Title: Mistaken Identity
Number of Players: 5
System: WarHammer Fantasy Role Playing
Brief description: Wanted! Bold Adventurers…
His Excellency the Crown Prince Hergard von Tasseninck of the Grand Principality of Ostland hereby gives notice that he is currently resident in Altdorf and wishes to engage the services of a party of skilled adventurers as soon as possible, for an indefinite period.
Would-be applicants are forewarned that they shall be required to undertake a most perilous mission into unexplored regions of the Grey Mountains. The matter is of the utmost delicacy and absolute discretion is required.
No laggards, cowards, or dwarfs need apply.
Mistaken Identity is the first adventure in the Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition and due to to be revised and re-released by Cubicle 7 for their new edition.