1D6 UK GAMES EXPO ’18 exposed

I think I’m just about coming back into the real world. Entering the UK Games Expo is like entering a liminal space where everyone is at ease with themselves and their place in the Universe.

Why can’t every day be like Expo?

Last year, it was about playing story games and understanding what had happened since we left the hobby back in the early 90s.

This time it was about running games.

After several anxious days preparing (I’m convinced that RPGs are part of a conspiracy to sell more printer ink), plus significant pre-match nerves the GM muscle eventually kicked in …

Judge Dredd

IMG_1435.jpg

I ran Better Living through Chemistry, the scenario developed by @dailydwarf for the GROGZINE ’18 (soon to be available on DriveThru RPG). It’s an entertaining ‘Judges on patrol’ adventure littered with witty asides and incident to provide an amusing three hours in Mega City One, capturing the golden age of 2000ad perfectly. This was the third time I’d run the game. Similar to the other occasions, I felt that the system creaked a little. It was a less deadly this time, but no less frustrating for the players who found themselves missing rolls when they needed them the most.

IMG_1428.jpg

There was some clever play from the Judges along the way, chaotic scenes and an hilarious interrogation involving a pedicure, astrology and surgical tape.

At one moment, words failed me, I wanted to describe a “golden fountain” but ended up saying “shower” despite myself. I don’t think anyone noticed.

HeroQuest

IMG_1442.jpg

Chaosium’s Ian Cooper is a terrific Games Master. If you get chance to play HeroQuest at a convention with him, then take it, you won’t be disappointed. He works hard to create an imaginative, immersive experience to compel you to engage with the story.

The adventure was a whodunit set in Forint, in the southern continent of Pamaltela. The wonderfully drawn pre-gens were members of masarin Jamader’s household in Garduna, a city of ragtag islands joined by bridges of different design. Blythy was a haughty Agimori sorceress and the rest of us were house slaves in her thrall. The relationship between the characters made for intriguing moments of interplay as we explored the city following a trail of clues.

Forint is to be developed as a future book for HeroQuest, which will allow players who are worried about imposing upon the canon of Glorantha publications: a chance to develop adventures within an exotic swords and sorcery setting. In the theatre of my mind it was Meereen twinned with Camorr written through the lens of Gene Wolfe

A great session. Don’t take my word for it, here’s Neil Benson’s view.

Nights Black Agents

IMG_1447.jpg

1984, Leeds, England. The miners strike is intensifying, the British Government have recruited deniable assets to pull off a black bag operation: wiring the room where a branch secretary of the National Union of Mine workers is planning a rendezvous with his counterpart from Transylvania, who has promised cash in exchange for … something … something mysterious.

IMG_1449.jpg

This is the third time that I’ve run Operation: GroundWorm and it’s one of those that has matured the more it has been played. There were some cracking scenes: a chase through the streets of Leeds, ending on the roof of Dolcis, punching the lights out of each other; a great bit of disguise fast-talk, squeezing information from a reluctant community; and finally Harry Reeves, the leader of the crew, finishing off the enemy, while smoking a Benson.

This was one of my high-points of the weekend and provided some food for thought for the forthcoming Episode 21.

RuneQuest

IMG_1461.jpg

I played The Broken Tower, the QuickStart adventure that was released for Free RPG Day last year. The new RuneQuest Glorantha PDF dropped on the Friday, so I felt a real burden of responsibility to inspire these players to get into the new game. There was a mixture of experience around the table, complete newbies, others who last played the game in the 80s and others who had loyally followed the various iterations.

IMG_1456.jpg

This was the first time that I had used the shaman. I was a little concerned that the complexity of the character (with its llama mount, baboon fetch and spirit combat rules) would distort the party, but it actually added a great deal to the weirdness and intensifying horror.

I wanted to at least inspire one person to run their own game of RuneQuest: Achievement Unlocked!

Losing a D8 

I lose a dice at every convention. This time it was a D8.

We had a list of stuff we while we were there: buying stuff, demoing some board-games and having a proper meal somewhere. The bucket list ended up being a ‘feck it’ list because when were weren’t playing RPGs we were having a really good chat with people we met on the way to doing things.

It was a great weekend, great people and over much too soon.

Next: Expo ScrapBook

 

Now&Then: A GROGNARD’s Guide to Roll20

Hot on the heels of Virtual GROGMEET, we started two simultaneous, online games of TWO HEADED SERPENT (the world-spanning, two-fisted, Pulp Cthulhu adventure) last night. Playing online has revolutionised our gaming over the past couple of years. We are often asked “how do I get started on Roll20?” 
Thankfully, Steve Ray (@OrlanthR on Twitter) has come to the rescue with some useful tips and his experiences of thawing out after the deep freeze.
DbTHWCnW0AEUfIb.jpg
All that remained after The Great Purge. Even with the few new additions, it’s a wretched sight.
My emergence from carbon freezing was triggered by a request from my daughter that I run D&D for her over the Christmas holidays. I’d gone into the carbon freezer, Han Solo-style, over 16 years previously. Before that, like most Grognards, I’d gamed with the people I’d grown up with but time had its way and RPGs fell out of favour. In the years since, I’d done a lot of wargaming but never thought of once of picking up an RPG.
In response to my daughter’s request, I remembered that I still had an old copy of RuneQuest second edition in the attic and I decided to use that rather than buy 5e. As soon as I held the book in my hands, the memories came flooding back and I knew I had to play again. My daughter had of course lost interest immediately as teenagers do, so my rediscovered enthusiasm had no outlet. Searching for podcasts to feed my craving, I found the first Grognard files episode and that was it; nostalgia had me in its grip, and I was hooked.
Of course, I now needed someone to play with. I determined to start small by contacting some old friends to see if they were interested. But their lives had moved on too, and I wasn’t able to lure them in. Deflated, I was stuck with rereading old rulebooks and buying far too much stuff on pdf than I’d ever be able to use. Whilst working through the Grogpod back catalogue, I came across the discussion between Dirk and Blythy regarding Roll20.
That was three months ago; I’m now running a fully-fledged short RQ classic campaign and fully intend continuing to play online. As Dirk says, “play’s the thing’ and whilst face-to-face play is superior it’s better to game online than not at all. If you’re reading this and are thinking about taking the plunge into online play (Roll20 or otherwise), I’ve put together some thoughts that may help you (or prove to be complete bobbins; you can judge)
DbqTatEWkAQtmZW.jpg
Strange things are afoot in the Starfire Ridges, and our Heroes are none the wiser thus far….but they have found the stolen cattle!
 • Get into an online group as a player: as with so many things in life, the best way to learn is to watch someone else. Finding a game to play in on Roll20 is dead easy, particularly if you plump for 5e or a similarly popular system. If you can, pick a GM who has lots of experience on Roll20 (next to the GM’s name will be a number showing how many hours they’ve played for; my first GM had over 1000 hours of play under his belt) . Whilst you’re playing, take some notes as to how the GM uses the Roll20 interface (tokens, handouts, maps, combat, etc). For example, I struggled with the concept of showing pictures to the players (on the desktop or via handouts?) until I saw someone else do it.
 • It’s still role-playing: Don’t worry too much about the bells and whistles to start with. Some of the things that virtual tabletops are cool, but you can spend ages learning to do something that you’ll never use (trust me, I’ve done it). Instead, focus on some basics and run the rest as you would any other RPG. Most importantly, do the preparation that you would for any other game (cool story, NPCs, etc) and the rest will come with time.
 • Use Twitter to find a group: This was one of the brilliant benefits of online play compared with live play that I didn’t expect. With my mates in the ’80s, I was really stuck with playing the sorts of games they wanted to play. Now, with the internet, if you really want to play that obscure game that almost no-one has heard, of you’ll probably find two or three players somewhere in the world. As long as they’ve got the hardware and the connection, you’re good to go. Twitter has been great for this; there’s a thriving and not-too-grumpy group of old school gamers that have congregated around The Grognard Files on Twitter, so that’s a good place to start.
 • Be clear about what you’re offering: Along with finding the niche gaming experience you’re after, it’s a good idea to be up-front about where you’re coming from; ‘managing expectations’ we call it when we’re at work. In my case, I said that I wanted to run a version of Classic Runequest that was going to be very relaxed, run about every two weeks and that I was a GM returning after 16 years (so no Critical Role level gamesmastering!). This way, everyone goes in with their eyes open.
 • Start small: Related to the above, start with just a few players (two or three) and commit to running for a few sessions to start with. I said I’d start with six sessions and we’d review once we got to that point. Again, it means you have the chance to bow out gracefully if you find online play isn’t for you after all.
 • YouTube is your friend: as with everything in life, YouTube full of videos about Roll20. There are some really good tutorial videos out there, and can really help to solve problems as well as to show what’s possible. I’d recommend Roll20’s own channel for the basics, as well as as the ‘Taking 20’ channel for some of the funky stuff.
So that’s it. If you do decide to give Roll20 or another online platform a go, hopefully the above will give you some pointers. For me, as I travel a lot for work the opportunity to run and play games when away from home certainly beats the prospect of sitting in another identical hotel room watching TV. I expect to play more this year than I ever did back in the 80’s, and most of that online. If you’d like to ask me any questions or share your experiences of online play, please feel free to get in touch via Twitter on @OrlanthR
Good luck!
Steve Ray
DbqJglyWkAACXr9.jpg
Enter a caption

Now&Then: WoD to MoM to OSR

An occasional series of posts from members of the GROGSQUAD telling their story of getting back into the hobby following a ‘real-life’ imposed freeze. This time, Neil Benson, The Old Scouse Roleplayer himself, talks about how rediscovered the past.
It seems odd now that for 20 years or more I didn’t think once about tabletop RPG’s. House, kids and work kept me occupied and World of Warcraft was enough to scratch my gaming itch.
A game of Mansions of Madness at the end of 2014 stirred the flames for tabletop gaming; it felt so fresh and exciting after decades of video games.  The banter, rolling dice, the gorgeous physical components, puzzle solving, strategising, decision making and the elation of surviving were a thrill.  I was hooked. like an old addict giving into their habit, feeling that rush, the realisation that I had 20+ years of gaming to catch upon.  Most of 2015 was spent exploring board games; I didn’t have a gaming group and so tried a few solo games and watched a few videos, but everything felt very much under control. Funny thing was that during this time, although I thought about RPG’s I never once considered playing them.
Early 2016 a old gaming friend (let’s call him Steve, seeing as that’s his name) offered to run Trail of Cthulhu on this Roll20 thing. Steve lives in San Diego, but said that it would be like playing in the same room. It turned out I was the only player in that first game, but decided to give it my best shot.  Within half an hour I felt like I’d hit the mother lode… screw boardgames, this was the good stuff.  Ohhh yeaaah…
That game still stands out, the Gumshoe system was perfect, the game perfectly paced, the outcome highly satisfying.  I wanted more, and so Steve ran a few more adventures – our heroes moved from the mysteries of Bletchley Park to the horrors of occupied Paris.  Great stuff.
IMG_3678.jpg
Neil, sending his players ‘Round the Bend’ using Hero’s Journey
Over the next few weeks I became obsessed with the idea of GMing myself, I’d always thoroughly enjoyed running games back in the day.  When I turned my attention to DTRPG and Kickstarter I was overawed by how much things had changed in the past 20 years, but was also drawn in by the basic premise still being the same.  Technology has made games far more accessible, and the number of games available has increased a hundredfold at least, but it’s still about people, stories, characters, adventure and kickass rules.
Overwhelmed by choice my first purchase was a game that even now just sits on my shelf gathering dust: The One Ring. A beautiful tome of a book, I reasoned that my love of Tolkein’s work would make this my perfect game. But it was too complex for me back then, I needed something simpler.  Having played TOR recently at DevaCon I found the game fairly simple and intuitive, maybe I need to give it another look.
My quest for games with simpler systems started with Barebones Fantasy, a modern d00 based game with some clever mechanics. I ran a few games for my old gaming buddies on Roll20, but found it wasn’t for me.  I went through others, including following a dead end into PbtA territory with Dungeon World – I still can’t make sense of that game. Ultimately my path took me back to the game that really kicked it all off, D&D (my first game was Tunnels & Trolls but it was D&D that made sense).  Or more accurately the retroclones; Basic Fantasy, Tombs & Terrors, Swords & Wizardry and my current favourite, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I only tried last year being put off by some of the negative press it received).
Along the way I overcame some of my old prejudices; I had a strong dislike of RuneQuest based on past experiences. But a stab at the RQG quickstarter adventure with Dirk, Judge Blythy and Eddy started to win me over; then a 24 hour game of Borderlands with Dirk as GM drew me further in. I’m now playing in a fortnightly game with @Orlanth_Rex and thoroughly enjoying it.
Con’s have played a big part in meeting fellow gamers as has The Grognard Files and all the events around it – one off games, Grogmeet and vGrogmeet. A friendly, welcoming community has made this whole journey incredibly rewarding and I feel I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.
Perhaps the best thing about my RPG revival is that I’m not obsessed like I used to be, I’m fully in control, honest.  Now excuse me while I just pop on over to DTRPG…
Neil Benson
Follow Neil’s blog: Old Scouser Roleplaying. The RPG mutterings of an old school roleplayer, to read his play reports, reviews and views.

A year on the GROG 2018

cropped-page_14.png

It’s that time of the year when I’m blasting out the e-mithers to all and sundry to wrangle them into gaming action. This year the GROGPOD is exploring Games Workshop’s booming RPG period (in the mid to late 80s), the planned games over the next couple of months will help us get into the GW zone.

I’m running The Judge Dredd RPG at Spaghetti ConJunction and UK Games Expo, which I’m very much looking forward to. @dailydwarf has furnished me with the counters and floorplans he prepared for GROGMEET to replicate the mean streets of Better Living Through Chemistry (the scenario he wrote for the GROGZINE). It has investigation, hard rain, muties and a series of stunning set-pieces; a perfect one-shot.

Golden Heroes was supported by a couple of great scenario packs. The people of twitter selected Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail by Marcus Rowland for my 7 hour slot at ConVergence in Stockport on 10th March. Simon Burley will also be at the event, running his new game Manifold, so I’d better be on my best behaviour.

The Patreons voted last year for us to do a podcast about PARANOIA, so I’m planning a one-shot in the next couple of weeks. Looking at the rules, I’m as baffled by it now as I was back in 1986. Thankfully, I’ve asked for help from none other than Paul Baldowski, who assures me that the computer is not *that* bad.

Last week, I ran a game of RuneQuest for the on-line GROGCLUB which is open to Patreons (play report to follow) and there’s a game of GANGBUSTERS planned for next week (I’ll be running Keehar’s game from GROGMEET ’16). The first ever Virtual GROGMEET was also unleashed. There will be games from the GROGMEET GMs available to play 13th and 14th April. More information will be available next month; follow Patreon for details.

We’ve also been invited to a meet up in Leamington by the Midland’s Massive in September (more details will follow).

CAMPAIGNS

Blythy continues his ongoing commitment to the Ninth World with a continuing adventure of Numenera planned for our monthly face to face game. He’s also coming along to Birmingham and running a game at Spaghetti ConJunction and UK Games Expo (assuming the government manages to hold itself together).

There’s quite a bit of D&D on the slate too. Storm King’s Thunder is coming to its climax as we’ve discovered the location of King Hekaton, so we’re off to recover his glory, restore the Ordining and collect the gold. A walk in the park, when you say it like that. My sorcerer Himo is becoming more emboldened and teleported into the middle of the fray after months of skulking at the back sipping on his hip-flask.

The Wednesday, fortnightly group is now well established after a couple of years, so we’ll probably continue playing together. Blythy has a copy of Tomb of Annihilation, which I bought from Bonhomiegames.uk when they visited GROGMEET. It looked like something that I wanted to play rather than GM, so I handed it over to him.

There’s something attractive about the big-book campaigns available for 5e. They’re rich with encounters and incident, even if the overarching stories are a little flakey. Over at Ed’s Shed, he’s got Curse of Strahd on the night-stand and has promised to unleash it at some point during the year.

I’ve resolved to abdicate from the role of The King of The One-shot and GM a campaign too. In April, I will be kicking off the Two Headed Serpent, Pulp Cthulhu campaign. It’s a terrific, world spanning adventure that will be available to the online GROGSQUAD. Two parties of investigators adventurers will launch simultaneously with Doc RPG (Ian Griffiths) as a second Keeper of Arcane Knowledge. Looking forward to running that for a couple of years!

From the very moment I began the GROGPOD, listeners have been asking “when will you cover Woof-Rough”. I had no idea what they were on about. Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing (WHFRP) passed the Armchair Adventurers by … it looked like too much of an investment at the time and we were locked into RuneQuest set in our home-brew world, drinking home-brew. I’m going to run the first couple of instalments of  The Warhammer Campaign for Eddy and Blythy, so we can see what all the fuss is about.

NEW HOTNESS

The Smart Party salivate over the ‘new hotness’ in their podcast. I’ve been introduced to new concepts and ideas over the last 18 months, we need to pushing into new corners of the hobby, to explore all those areas that we missed when we stopped playing for nearly 20 years.

I’ll be running the Night’s Black Agents scenario set in the midst of the British miners’ strike in 1984 for UK GamesExpo. I need to up the stakes (through the heart) following the playtest on GROGMEET eve, it needs a bit of work, but the context of the strike and the ‘Ken Loach meets Jason Bourne’ approach worked well.

Also, Blades in the Dark was my favourite discovery of last year and I’d like to keep the momentum of what we started, I’m keen to see if the Lamp Blacks deduce Phin the Thin is the murderer of their boss. The greatness of the game is that as a GM, I don’t know; I’ll be discovering what happens at the same time as the players.

I’ve bought a gift to myself, Vurt The tabletop Role Playing Game, which is a licensed product using the cypher system (similar to Numenera). Its filled with some fantastic artwork and background information to recreate the post-cyberpunk experience of Jeff Noon’s vision of a near-future Manchester. It’s been fun reading the rule book, not least for its depiction of Bolton of the future as some power-house of respectability. I need to plan in a game at some point in the year.

FATE captured our imaginations, but other than a Jerry Cornelius one-shot, we haven’t taken advantage of its clever resolution mechanics. Blythy has been promising a Robin of Sherwood game using the system, maybe this year we’ll get around to doing it.

There’s lots of old is new projects in the pipeline from various publishers. It’s difficult to tell which will grab our attention and take the traditional ‘August experimental slot’.

 

As for GROGMEET 18, well last year we had a terrific meet up in Manchester. We’re going to do it again this year on the 10th November. Details are being finalised, but watch this space. Super heroes, there’s going to be super heroes. Bigly.

Another busy schedule for The Armchair Adventurers, but play is the thing.

Dirk the Dice

January 2018

 

Episode 17 – Review of 2017 in RPGs

IMG_4104.jpg

Download Episode

Intro: For this GROGPOD, we take a break from the usual format, instead of concentrating on a single subject, we are looking back at some of the experiences that we have had over the year.

Thanks to Phil the Dice Mechanic for his review

Groggies Pt 1: Our annual awards are determined by the random subjects written on the spurious envelopes. In this section we look back on the year in games mastering – some of the highs and lows – we award the Messianic Megalomaniac award for the year.

The Trial of RuneQuest: Earlier in the year, Dirk took the RPG Academy to Apple Lane. This is an edited extract. You can find the full version here and the you tube video here (if you really need to).

Groggies Pt 2: This is the Olive Kinnisberg Memorial Award for players, playing and players and the games that we play. There’s a mention of UK Games Expo, The Heroes Journey and Star Trek Adventures.

Postbag Pt1: Mark Hides has written a memoir of his experiences of RPGs in Sheffield. You can get his book here.

Groggies Pt 3 There have been lows as well as highs

Postbag Pt2 Rog Coe and Wayne Peters are regular correspondents to this site.

Groggies Pt 4 The new game that we have been playing and some of the hopes for the new year.

Outro: Thanks to Patreons and you’ll find details about the Spaghetti Conjunction here 

1D6 No sleep ’til Five Eyes!

I think my ‘old-timer’ body clock is almost getting back into synch after last weekend when I participated in the 24 hour RPG charity event.

This is the fourth time that the event has been run, but the first time I’ve taken part. I was kindly invited by Tim from the Old Scroats, (see the UnEarthed Arcana part of the D&D podcast episodes.)

WarGames, the huge games store that can be found on swanky Lords Street in Southport, UK, were the generous hosts for the event.

If you’ve listened to my appearance on The Smart Party podcast, you’ll know that I originally intended to run the new RuneQuest rules in Dorastor, however at the last minute, I decided to make things easier for myself and keep it old school: I ran the BorderLands campaign using the Classic RuneQuest rules.

I can run those games in my sleep, which is just as well as the plan was to run the game from noon Saturday to noon on Sunday.

The whole experience was tremendous fun and for a good cause too. So far, with the Just Giving account and cash collected, the event has raised a whopping £2281. Thanks to all the participants and the generous pledgers.

You know the format … 5 highlights and a fumble.

1.Once more, with character …

IMG_3882.jpg
Fresh-faced at noon on Saturday

Rather than turn up with a fistful of pre-gens, we created the characters at the table (a session zero, if you will). The process took a little longer than I anticipated, but it allowed me to do a quick prima on Glorantha as well as the rules.

In the end, I think it was a good idea for the players to create their own characters as it allowed them to establish relationships and rivalries with the other players. There were a couple of siblings, for example, which meant that they looked out for each other more (jumping in the river to rescue a brother in distress), or they had deep rooted antipathy towards each other (“You are a coward brother!”).

IMG_3883.jpg

 

2. RoneQuest

IMG_3891.jpg

A party of six mercenaries gathered at the fort of Raus of Rone, ready to tame the wild lands and broker deals with the local beast-riders and other nomad tribes in the region. The fusty old Lunar Duke-in-exile plans to create a new colony of settlers from the North, but first, order needs to be brought to bare on new frontier.

The episodic format was perfect for the 24 hour long session as it was straight-forward, “go there, do that” mission based with a punitive contract that encourages the party to break the rules.

One of the players was a veteran of the BorderLands campaign, so he became Gerontiios, the right-hand man of Daine, the Duke’s sergeant at arms, (the lapsed Humakt Rune Lord and stoical NPC confident for the players.)

Gerontiios was bold, leading the unruly sell-swords, around the wilds of the Zola Fell valley. They encountered High Llama riders, dinosaurs, chariot-raced with Morokanth, battled with crocodile riding ducks and much more.

3. Gift from the Gods

IMG_3893.jpg

This being RuneQuest, there were limbs flying and fumbles galore, but I gave them a little advantage. At the start of the game I gave them a packet of wine gums. This was their luck pool. They could use the sweets to reduce their roll so that a near miss could be a hit.

In addition, some of the players had been given extra rolls thanks to sponsorship donations. They came in handy at some crucial moments.

3. Multiverse

IMG_3900.jpg

There were other games being played: Numenera, StarFinder and D&D 5e.

The GMs agreed beforehand that we would have a common theme of “an evil presence, breaking through the dimensions, aided by acolytes in the different Universes.”

An obscure symbol would unite the campaigns, to identify the influence of this cosmic evil as it attempted to penetrate the different realms of the multiverse.

IMG_4008.jpg

Using ‘whats app’, we shared elements that had escaped from our games. Ethan sent “500 tonnes of rock and dirt from a plane,” from Numenera which manifested in Glorantha as a rain of silt which formed into a congregation of Whirlvishes – a vortex of sand.

I followed Baz & Gaz’s advice and had a group of rival mercenaries tormenting the PCs. The Sartarite bandits led by Rattle Poisionknife, a Sartarite bandit who had a tattoo of the symbol on his arm and was leading some of the locals towards his sinister faction, who were intent on awakening the dormant Nosferal.

At midnight, Gerontiios was sent on a HeroQuest to another table. He ended up in a dimension of sound in Numenera.

A nano from the Numenera game manifested as a purple duck at our table. He taught the Flintnail masonries how technologies of a ‘lifting device’ to help them in the construction of the Duke’s Fort. He defied being tied by a Waha rope by reversing his temporal existence.

Delirium began to set in at this point.

5. Five Eyes

“Avoid Five Eyes Temple,” Gerontiios commanded. Once they eventually went there, he was hit in the face with a manticore stinger and left for dead. Thanks to Divine Intervention (and a couple of wine gums) the Red Moon goddess revived him.

The River Horse temple had been taken over by the revived soul of Nosferal. The Newtlings were now undead servants in his thrall.

Despite his depleted power Gerontiios explored the far corners of the river caves and was possessed by a disorder ghost, who unleashed Nosferal from his tomb!

IMG_3918.jpg

6. The 4am Wall (fumble)

IMG_3917.jpg

By 4am, the esprit-de-corps was breaking down somewhat. 16 hours of play and things started to fray. They struggled to motivate themselves to reach the lofty heights of Condor Crags.

“What the hell are we doing this for? Why are we here?” they exclaimed. I’m not sure whether or not it was in character.

“We are all of us!” declared Gerontiios, rallying the band together to make the final push.

As dawn broke, the players found a second wind, an Orlanthi wind, which blew them towards a final confrontation with Nosferal, Rattle PoisonKnife, and the zombified bone-dragon Kerrang!

Their enemies were defeated thanks to the cypher recovered to Numenera (water from the River Styx) and a few remaining wine gums.

IMG_3919.jpg
Noon on Sunday!

 

Twenty Four Hour Total Party-Kill

I’m honoured to be taking part in this year’s Charity 24 hour RPG organised by Tim from the Old Scroates. On 18th November from 1pm to 1 pm the next day there will be an RPG endurance test at WarGames in Southport, featuring Numenera, StarFinder and D&D 5e.

The event is in aid of a very worthy cause: Alder Hey Children’s Hospital; a specialist unit  that has touched the lives of many families in the North West region. Players will pledge a donation and the top 6 bids will ‘win’ a place at the table.

If you can’t attend, but would still like to support the players in this test of an old man’s ability to think straight for longer than 3 hours, then please donate at the Just Giving page, where you’ll also find more details about the event.

RUNEQUEST

IMG_3303.jpg

I will be offering a table of RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha, using the GENCON preview version. You’ll roll characters using the new-improved immersive rules, before heading north, from Dragon Pass, to forge a new life for you and your clan in the Dorastor region. A new life awaits you in the Land of Doom.

IMG_3366.JPG

MAKE A PLEDGE

If you would like to play any of the games, simply send an email to kinoandhermes@gmail.com with your details, which game you’d like to play and your pledge amount.

You don’t have to pay anything at this stage. The bidding closes 1st November.

 

1D6 RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha QuickStart

I went on a HeroQuest on Free RPG day on 17th July 2017: to get hold of RuneQuest QuickStart.

There was such a great anticipation of the new RuneQuest, I knew that there would be competition to get hold of the 10 copies available. In my imagination, there would be a crowd of anxious gamers banging on the door of FanBoy Three, Manchester’s newly refurbished FLGS.

It was a tricky job wrangling the reluctant family to get there before the opening as they’d had a late-night the day before. I piled them into the car, bleary-eyed, “come on kids, I know it’s your birthday, but this will be fun!” They didn’t appear convinced.

Various roads in the city centre were closed, so I had to weave in-and-out of the one-way-system, while my 8 year old son thought it would be hilarious to play the theme from Mission Impossible on Spotify …

DUM … DUM … dum … dum … DUM … DUM … I abandoned the car and walked quickly in a parkour over walls and bollards to get to the Northern Quarter. DHAnnnnaaannnn!

dcg10vhxcaaljmy.jpg
Someone on FaceBook said “I’d totally play RuneQuest with Elvis Costello.” I don’t get it.

I was the first one there. The only one to collect a copy. I’d destroyed all-comers.

While I was flicking through it, a PathFinder GM came over and said, “read this, on page 2, “If the highest rated participant in an opposed resolution has an ability rating in excess of 100%, the difference between 100 and their ability rating is subtracted from the ability of everyone in the contest … ” PAGE 2, page 2! And that is why we don’t play RuneQuest any more.”

He’d picked the wrong guy to have that particular argument with, so suffice to say, he left the store with his MathFinder slide rule and logarithm book in a place where Yelm doesn’t shine.

There was a demonstration game planned for later in the day, but I had to defer my gaming as there were kid’s parties to attend on command of the Fun Prevention Officer.

I finally got chance to run THE BROKEN TOWER at the new café gameshop in Bolton. At Slice and Dice, Tuesday Night is RPG Night, and this was a first outing there for the Armchair Adventurers, we were also joined by GROGSQUAD member Neil Benson, who travelled from Liverpool for the experience.

It’s been reviewed by both Pookie and Bud, but what’s like to play? The usual rules apply, five highlights and a fumble.

THE BROKEN TOWER 

I liked the scenario very much. Packed with atmosphere and great set pieces that were a joy to stage-manage. Chaosium’s core audience are Call of Cthulhu players, and there’s enough here to entice them into another setting. There is a mystery to uncover and moments of spine-tingling tension. I like my fantasy with mud and blood, so I cranked up the gore even more than suggested in the game. This is Dragon Pass, red in tooth and claw.

COMBAT 

(at the beginning of the first date with Annie, Alvy Singer asks her to kiss him)

And-and … uh, there’s gonna be all that tension. You know, we never kissed before and I’ll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we’ll kiss now we’ll kiss now and get it over with and we’ll go eat. Okay? And we’ll digest our food better.

Annie Hall, Woody Allen, 1977

The combat is familiar from RQ second ed. with a couple of notable additions. I applied the ‘Annie Hall’ GM tip – get the dice rolling around the table so that everyone can settle down and digest the rest of the scenario. I reshuffled the encounters to allow for a fight in the opening minutes of the session, so that the players had a chance to get used to the character sheet and feel comfortable with what was possible. The veterans around the table raised thier eyebrows at the parrying weapon depletion, which I liked on reading as it means that a critical parry is not wasted, but suspect that in play we’ll forget to keep track of it all.

Combat was covered briefly in my write up of the Play Test at UK Games Expo. Suffice to say, once again many left legs were struck in anger.

RUNES AND PASSIONS – lots of character

There’s a lot of character information packed into the character sheet. Character generation intricately entwines Dragon Pass mythology and history into the fabric of the character. The pregenrated characters have plenty of interesting yet intricate involvement with the various conflicts that have shaped the political landscape for the barbarian clans. There were conflicting loyalties and associations within the party, which were well played out during the scenario.

The characters’ associated Runes and Passions are expressed as a percentage and are mechanically invoked by attempting to augment skills by rolling an appropriate Rune or passion to influence the result. Neil’s character invoked his passionate loyalty to the clan to rescue their cattle – he succeeded, so could add 20% to his skill. The cows didn’t take a blind bit of notice; he still failed his Herd roll.

I suspect, for veteran players, these elements will be the most significant change to the foundational rule set. There’s also rules around conflicting Runes and passions, and an interesting idea where the Rune may compel a character towards a particular course of action.


MAGIC 

Regular GROGNARD files watchers will know that magic in RuneQuest has been something of an obsession. Glorantha is incredibly magical yet the RQ 2ed Magic seemed mundane and mechanical. Thanks to the introduction of the Rune affinities, it works much better in this latest version as it allows characters to access Rune Magic associated with their own culture.

After 35 years of Rune Magic being something of a rarity in our games, the players were a little over-excited at the potential spectacle contained in their new tool-kit, so much so, that they forgot to apply the simple but effective spirit magic that has served them well over the years.

An Air Elemental provided the stunning effects, but it was the good old ‘Befuddle’ that meant the difference between life and death.

REDEFINING SUCCESS 

The RPG Academy recap following the Trial of RuneQuest  concluded that they didn’t like percentage based mechanics, because they were supposed to be heroes, and they only hit 55% chance at a time. In this new edition, the characters start off in a much more powered up position than those farm-boys we had back in the day. Also, the chance to augment abilities means that very often, characters will have over 100% chance of success.

Failure is still possible and at key points of the adventure, the dice let the team down. Personally, I prefer the edge-of-the-seat potential of jeopardy that is created by RuneQuest as I like my fantasy to be more precarious and risky than the high fantasy of most F20 games. This introductory scenario is great at introducing the relativism of Glorantha where the moral certainties of high fantasy are complicated by passions, motivations and drives that come from the character’s place in the world.

The resolution to this adventure is far from clear-cut. Running away could be the most honourable action. RuneQuest Adventures in Glorantha continues BRP’s mission to redefine the nature of ‘success’ and heroism in role-playing.

IMG_2700.jpg

NOISE: THE GATHERING

Slice and Dice is newly opened and has only recently moved its RPG nights to a Tuesday. A few Magic players were gathered because they’d missed the memo. The rigorous tapping, occasional bellowing, intermittent yelping provided a hostile background for our nuanced roleplaying. I was struggling to be heard in parts, which meant I resorted to an impromptu LARP as I lay on the floor before standing up quickly to reveal a disquiet spirit. The players joined in to augment the summoning with dancing. Rubbish dancing. They rolled badly.

When the background  noise is this bad, it’s as difficult as a glichy online game. Extra effort was required to keep everyone engaged.

The search for the perfect, public gaming location, continues…

 

 

1-D-6 RuneQuest Glorantha (Play Test)

This weekend I attended my first ever UK GamesExpo in Birmingham, now confirmed as the third biggest games convention in the world. One of the many highlights of the experience was the opportunity to participate in a game of RuneQuest Glorantha using the play-test rules. Andrew Jones (AKA @dimbyd) was working from a PDF, in draft format, of the core-rules to create an adventure for 5 brave warriors wishing to enter the Hero Wars.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 15.46.26

Before I give a brief play report, there’s a couple of things to bare in mind:

I haven’t read the rules. I gave them a cursory glance in the bar, and it went something like, “what have they done with the sorcery rules then?” before Andrew took it away and said, “There’s no bloody sorcery in the game we’re playing.”

My perspective is from the point of view of a player and my thoughts on some of the key points that came out during the game and from my character.

Also, the adventure we played was one of Andrew’s own devising, and not the Quick Start scenario that’s due to hit participating FLGS on Free RPG Day 17th June ’17. I managed to speak briefly with Rick Meints on the very busy stall on the Saturday; he confirmed that 7000 copies of the Quick Starts have been printed. The PDF will be available from 1st July. I saw a copy and it looks a very smart, well presented production, that recalls some of the classic products from back in the day.

I missed the seminar talking about the release of the game, but it looks like the it will be available before the end of 2017.

So, in the usual format, this is five highlights and a final fumble.

The Adventure ‘Into the Upland Marsh’ was based on the notes found in ‘Dragon Pass and other adventures’, a collection of unpublished material by Greg Stafford, with notes from Sandy Peterson. Thanks to strange chaotic encounters we were urged by the Storm Kahn to venture into the Upland Marsh to the place known as The Howling Tower to break the source of the disturbances.

IMG_5480

The handouts provided were maps drawn by Greg and the original type-written manuscripts, which added to the feel of an old school, new school mash-up.

The Characters The characters were enhanced by a rich biography which was generated during the character creation process. The rules weave the character background into key events are constructed around their personal heritage such as the activities of their grandparents.

The core attributes are the same however the character’s association with runes are significant and expressed as a percentage also, the formative experiences of the characters shape their passions. The level of devotion, hatred, and loyalties, for example, is also expressed as a percentage.

It’s possible to invoke passions to modify certain situations and enhance your chances. It can have an effect on the choices you make too. We encountered a fleeing Lunar war-band, the passions of some of the party meant that we HAD to attack, when a more tactical avoidance may have been more appropriate.

Combat The very first encounter was a horrific zombified broo which we set upon with relish. Within moments one of the characters, Mirava ‘no-nose’, had been hit hard in the left leg (yay!) and fumbled parrying, so hit herself in the face with her shield.

Many of the elements of combat remain much the same – blow-by-blow, descriptive and lethal.

Old school pedants may be interested to note that Defence modification is replaced with ‘parry’ being a catch-all term that covers the ability to avoid being hit, but strike rank is much the same as RQ 2e.

The broo unleashed a SIZ 70 Giant through a warp hole.

Ducks! Andrew didn’t have a copy of the bestiary, so the encounters were taken from various sources (including FANGS), which confirms its backwards compatibility. We headed to Duck Point and encountered the Death Drake named Cracked-Beak.

It was at this point that the player who had never played in Glorantha before, crinkled his forehead permanently.

Cracked-Beak was a great NPC who was willing to help with advice in-between revealing his obsession with finding and destroying a zombie Killer Whale known as Moby Duck.

Magic It was the application of magic that was the most significant difference. Healing is more readily available for one thing, which is much better than depending on someone learning Healing 6 to reattach limbs.

All characters had access to Rune Magic and were able to use elemental runes to enhance situations. There was a pick list of spells that could be used as long as they were associated with your character’s Rune.

In the giddy excitement of choosing something interesting, I forgot to apply the old faithful ‘BladeSharp 4’. It didn’t matter, as I rolled a crit at the crucial moment when the zombie Wyverns were attacking.

Thanks to my enhanced damage from my blessed sword I managed to do double-double damage. I know! It was an incredibly satisfying moment.

From what I’ve seen, magic feels magical and very Gloranthan in this new edition.

IMG_1031

Sneezes A big thank you is due to Andrew for running the game, especially since he had been cursed by Malia and was ill in the run up and during the Expo.

I’m not so grateful that I rolled a CON fumble and now have a stinking cold.

1-D-6 UK Games Expo 2017

Flat-cap? – CHECK 

RPG Tees? – CHECK

Polished Docs? – CHECK

Freshly stocked All Rolled Up? – CHECK


All I need is a travel pack of Hob Nobs and I’m on the road, heading to the land of Slade and motorways to experience the biggest event in the UK gaming calendar: UK Games Expo 2017.

Running over 3 days, it’s truly epic in scale and vision, and much bigger than anything else I’ve experienced. If my bulging email spambox is anything to go by, there’s a ravaging hoard of traders about to decend upon on the National Exhibition Centre hungry to devour my money in exchange for their latest offering. 

Half way through the year and I still need to make progress with my resolution to learn more about story-games and the innovations that occurred in the 90s and 00s during my RPG deep freeze. I’m using this as an educational field trip to help fill in the blanks. Here’s 5 highlights from my itinary… and a potential fumble:

Kong Island Rangers Simon Burley, of GOLDEN HEROES fame, is hosting a game featuring his lightweight rules for Anime/Manga based adventures. THE CODE OF SHOJO AND SHONEN was the subject of a kickstart that didn’t make its goal earlier in the year. It’s a shame because what I’ve seen, it’s narrative character creation and simple 2d6 resolution mechanic, deals with the quirks of the genre perfectly. Who can resist travelling to a mysterious island in the middle of the ocean with the promise of encountering a magnificent Kaiju?

HeroQuest Glorantha “If you ever get chance, play HeroQuest with Ian Cooper, he unlocked it for me,” suggested Big Jack Brass when I complained that my grognardy old brain couldn’t get round HeroQuest; it looks like there’s fun in it, but I’m not sure how to get it out. I have chance to find out the secret code for the combination lock as I’ll be joining Ian to play Cold Hard Iron: dwarves, Iron and Telmori, what can go wrong?

World of Darkness Apart from a guest appearance in an online game, I’ve never played WoD despite it’s overwhelming popularity. I really enjoyed the experience of playing a Spectoral NPC, so I’m looking forward to this scenario from the other side of the equation as I’ll play a sophomore heading to a cabin on the lake. Sounds harmless enough.

RuneQuest: Glorantha It’s not all about eating my RPG vegetables, there’s some old school goodness to feast on too (albeit a partially reheated new recipe). I’m very excited to get a sneak-peak play-test of the new RuneQuest by playing a rare Greg Stafford scenario facing undead in the Upland Marsh. 

Tweet-up! I want to meet, shake hands and chat with as many people as I can while I’m there. When I’m not gaming, I’m going to mingle and tingle.

Time out. My only concern is running out of time. My carriage awaits early Saturday evening. My old man homing beacon will switch on at noon. After that, my concentration will fix on catching the train. I need to get a hard copy of The Two Headed Serpent. I need to mootch around the trade hall …. at some point …

If only to justify getting all that spam.