This is the play report from last weekend’s RuneQuest marathon at The Owl bear and Wizards Staff mini-con held in Leamington Spa.
I took my players through not one, but two QuickStart adventures: firstly, in search of The Broken Tower, from the ENnie Award-Winning, Free RPG Day supplement, produced last year; then in the afternoon they explored A Darkness at RuneGate (as yet unpublished preview).
I’ll do a Scrap Book about the mini-con, until then, here’s the game report, delivered in the usual format. There are five highlights and a final fumble.
The day before the event, the physical books were finally available to purchase. The PDF has been with us for a couple of months, but there’s nothing like a rule-book appearing in the material plane to bring imagination to life.
Against this background of fevered anticipation for the new game I approached the two sessions as a ‘demonstration’. Most of the players had a very limited experience of the RuneQuest, so I decided to show-case its capabilities.
Rules lawyers, cover your ears.
I also went with the run of play rather than limiting proceedings with a pesky rule. The runic inspirations were enjoyable, so I wasn’t going to ruin things by saying ‘you can’t do that’. It’s called maximum game fun (MGF), I believe.
I must of done something right as one player bought the game using his phone before he left.
I had a bad case of ‘gamers’ back’ on the Sunday. Schlepping all of my gear in a ruck sack for two days took its toll. There’s just so much wonderful stuff for RuneQuest to share. I used my new Q-WorkShop, turquoise dice-set, complete with its hit location ‘left-leg’ bias. There are new ones on the way apparently, but I think it’s traditional for the left leg to be the first place hit. It always raises a cheer.
The Glorantha Source book was also useful to share with the players. During down-time it was an opportunity to flick through and admire the art and study some of the cult relationships. One of the players was well-versed in the cosmology of Glorantha. He was playing Sorala, the pre-generated character from the rule-book who is the scribe from Nochet, an initiate of Lhankor May. I was very grateful when he provided information about Dragon Pass at different points during play as it prevented a GM info-dump.
Last, but not least, it was the Strike Rank tracker from Infinity Engine what broke the gamers back. This is a beautifully engraved wooden strip with rules and a twelve phase gauge to keep a track of turn order. There’s also matching Rune tokens which can be used on the tracker and to mark ‘augments’ when characters have active ‘runic inspiration’.
It’s hard for an old dog to learn new tricks. In the thrill of battle, I forgot to refer to it, using instead my ‘keep it in your head’ system that I’ve used for years. That said, the tracker is a nice thing to have at the table as a talking point and useful for explaining strike rank initiative order rules.
The Broken Tower
This is the forth time that I have GMd this scenario: the first time was around the time of its release, the second was recorded for The Smart Party and the third was at UK Games Expo. This time the players really bought into the mythic setting and brought their own ideas and concepts to the scenes, there was more of an eerie quality to the journey through the bad lands.
They were certainly a single-minded party of adventurers who were determined to complete their task. Vostor, the Lunar exile, was particularly forthright.
The Grey Dogs never stood a chance.
Asako-soh was the genial host for the day and he looked after us throughout the weekend. The night before he arranged a meal at Warwick Spice, there were samosas for lunch and a GM goody bag containing a liquorice pipe.
Lunch was a time to re-group and say hello to podcast listeners.
The highlight of the weekend came from a couple of people who were grateful to the GROGPOD as they had started playing regularly thanks to listening. Like the samosa, they gave me much needed nourishment to get me fired up.
A Darkness at RuneGate
Thanks to Richard August, one of the members of the GROGSQUAD, I was given a preview draft of a new QuickStart that’s in development. Rich is one of the writers who designed the adventure. It was a real privilege to playtest something that only a handful of people in the world have played before.
If you know Rich’s work from such supplements as Three Faces of the Wendigo you’ll know that he has a real flair for the macabre. A Darkness … is no exception. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s an investigation with a pervasive stench of the horrific.
The players enjoyed the distinctive ‘The Wicker Man’ folk-horror elements as they encountered people of RuneGate who had embraced a new way of life, adopting a sinister, yet appealing serenity while those around them were in disorder.
RuneQuest fans new and old will enjoy the climatic encounter.
The pre-generated characters that appeared in the original QuickStart appear in the new rule book. I used the new ones as they are laid out over two pages which makes things easier to spot, however I failed my roll and missed the fact that there are some new features in the character sheets.
“How does sorcery work?”
I made something up. MGF. Right?
INTRO: I’ve got one of those blowers with a feather on the end to celebrate our anniversary and the release of RuneQuest RolePlaying in Glorantha.
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’.
ACTUAL PLAY: Gaz and Baz from The Smart Party podcast with Matt Hart from Steam Forged Games join Dirk in a Diana Jones Award winning segment of Actual Play. If you want to see more then head to their site.
OUTRO: There’s three months to go to join the Patreon campaign to receive a hard-copy of the GROGZINE 19.
In Episode 22 of The GROGNARD files our special guest, Michael O’Brien (MOB) the Vice President of Chaosium, discusses his formative experiences as a role-player in Melbourne and how he was motivated to revive Glorantha by producing new material for the game that could inspire new players in the nineties.
The supplements produced MOB, under the editorial guidance of Ken Rolston, over this period was known as ‘The RuneQuest Renaissance’. The first volume in the series of supplements was based on MOB’s house campaign set in Sun County: RuneQuest Adventures in the Land of the Sun. He describes it as ‘Spartans in the Wild West’ as it focuses on a highly civilised society trying to cope within the wastelands on the edge of Prax. It’s a cracking adventure packed with loads of interesting NPCs and exotic locations.
At the centre of it all is the Sun Dome Temple, a distinctive building which is the seat of religion and government in the Sun County. The book explains the day-to-day life of the Yelmalio (Sun) worshipers, it also describes some of the local features, such as the Retirement Towers that hold Yelmalio priests waiting in solitude for great insight from their god.
MOB hasn’t lived in Austailia all of his life. After a career in Higher Education, he went to live in the United Arab Emirates for 10 years, he came back in 2014. He had a job in a university there, as part of the senior leadership, which was, “an interesting, yet demanding and intense job. There was not much opportunity for gaming during this period, because I think my entire life there was like a live action roleplaying game.”
“There were many great things about living in the UAE, I really enjoyed my time there. I did have some gamer friends, Andrew Bean who helps out at the Chaosium booth many times. He lived in the UAE and his wife and my wife would play board games there quite frequently as well down at the British club; she talks about it in her women in table-top gaming interview.”
Bear in mind that this was over a decade later than the publication of Sun County: “One of the most bizarre aspects of living in the UAE; if I looked out of my window, across to the break-water there was a building, a theatre, that was the exact image of the Sun Dome Temple. I found it fascinating.”
He said, “In many respects the whole place there very much looked like Sun County. It even has watch-towers spread throughout the desert and countryside like the retirement towers you see in Sun County.”
“I must have been channelling all of this as the book was written way back in the early nineteen nineties. Back then, I knew nothing about the UAE, my first experience was going into work one day at the University of Melbourne and my boss asked, “how would you like to go to a conference in Abu Dhabi?” I said, “I’d love to do that, where’s Abu Dhabi?” I had to look it up.”
Now, that’s what I call sun-chronicity.
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.
OPENBOX: Chaosium’s Vice President tells the stories of his formative years in role-playing and how RuneQuest in Glorantha was so important to him. He was instrumental in keeping the flame alive as a fan as he wrote and developed Sun County, the first RuneQuest supplement produced for 8 years, following Avalon Hill acquiring the game in 1984. He wrote a report in the early nineties for The Tales of the Reaching Moon explaining how the game could be revived. This is a great chat about the nineties renaissance.
THE WHITE DWARF: A survey of RQ3 as it appeared (and disappeared) from White Dwarf, written by the wonderful @dailydwarf
JUDGE BLYTHY RULES! Dirk and Blythy pick over the bones of RQ3 and there’s a monster quiz!
OUTRO: Check out the RuneQuest Actual Play with The Smart Party . If you’d like the GROGZINE 19 and The Collected Daily Dwarf Vol 3 and Judge Blythy’s Book of Judgments — then please chuck us a tip in the beret and join the Patreon campaign
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 …
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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