GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN (with Ian Marsh): Ian Marsh returns to talk about his editorial-ship at White Dwarf and his involvement in Games Workshop. He also talks about Dr Who and his TimeLord game, before bringing us up to date with his latest endeavours.
DAGON (with @dailydwarf): @dailydwarf gives his usual insightful analysis of literary criticism covered in Dagon ‘zine.
ATTIC ATTACK: Blythy joins me in the attic to talk about ‘zines and comments provided by listeners. I mention Monster Man, a new podcast that is being developed by James Holloway, check out progress at his site.
OUTRO: We’re making a ‘zine – sign up at Patreon – before the end of September 2017 to get a copy.
Thank you to all our Patreons for your continued support; without you, we would not have been going for so long.
If you would like a PDF of the last GROGZINE you can get it at Drive Thru RPG and The Complete Daily Dwarf too. All proceeds will go to YSDC to support the community there.
… down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.
He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it.
He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
Last week, we played Judge Dredd the RPG, published by Games Workshop back in 1985, co written by former Dragon Lords editor Marc Gascoigne with Citadel supremo Rich Priestley. When I trailed this on twitter it generated a great deal of interest – more than any other tweet I’ve ever written in fact – so this is a follow-up play report for all those people who were interested in finding out what happened.
@dailydwarf came out of GM retirement, after a 35 year freeze, to deliver his own scenario Better Living Through Chemistry, as a online, dry-run ahead of its appearance at GROGMEET. It was a chance to stretch some of those muscles that have been dormant and to familiarise everyone with the rules. The scenario will also be appearing in the GROGZINE, so I’m going to avoid any spoilers here and concentrate on some of the experiences of playing rather than the details of the story.
Despite the usual setbacks that inhibit the gathering of grognards – including holidays, family commitments, the under-funding of public services creating staffing shortages, and dodgy online-gaming platforms – we managed to straddle our LawMasters to dispense justice on the streets of Mega City One.
“You’re not very good with your d6s are you?” complained @dailydwarf as I fell short on yet another zinger. Roll one on this table, five highlights from the sessions and one fumble.
“Be careful out there …”
In many ways, Judge Dredd is the perfect RPG set up: you are given missions to resolve, your motivations are straight forward, the setting is rich yet flexible and there’s plenty of opportunity for mystery and investigation. Every session begins with the report sheet of perp activity in the sector, packed with warnings, leads and specific tasks for your patrol as it hits the streets.
There were reports of an air-ship seen in the sector featuring costumed individuals, shouting about treasure … hang on, isn’t that our cast of characters from Storm King’s Thunder?
Very quickly, we felt like Judges, and adopted our roles very diligently, as we headed out into the wasted areas of sector 170. The scenario was set in the period after the Apocalypse War when the city was coming to terms with the devastation. Our judges were clearing through the wreckage of partially destroyed blocks. It felt like coming home, as this was the classic period of Dredd stories which generated nostalgia for both the game and the comics of the early 80s.
Unlike many licensed settings, the backdrop didn’t feel constraining. The city has been generating stories for 40 years and is richly populated with characters, perps, and imagery that provided instant immersion. @dailydwarf also used a slide-show of specially adapted elements from the strip to illustrate scenes and NPCs we encountered, which made it feel like we were part of a Prog.
Get me back to TEK
Each of our Judges had a role in the team: the grizzled Veteran, the giddy rookie, the hotshot, and I went for the Judge who had been reluctantly redeployed to the streets from TEK division. He was keen to impress upon his fellow judges the capabilities of their kit. In the first encounter he gave an impressive display of ‘high-ex’ bullets from his LawGiver to bring the ceiling down on perps. This was followed by a less impressive display as a close-ranged ricochet bullet hit one of his team members. Whoops, sorry ‘Holy Cremola!’
I’d forgotten about the levels of back up available to Judges and how they can get you out of trouble. There’s always Pat Wagons available to pick up perps, Clean-up squads, Meat Wagons, Med-squads and forensic support for those tricky investigations.
We traded one-liners as the incidents piled on us, we had some great fun with Chemical Brothers lyrics too: “Hey, isn’t that another one of those block bustin’ beats?”
@dailydwarf provided his “Dredd-Hack” cut down version of the core mechanics. Most situations are resolved through attribute based percentile checks. Depending on your Judge’s speciality, you may have some Special Abilities that allow for some additional investigative or combat edge over the perps. The combat is crunchy, and goes something like this: roll to hit, roll location (d100), roll for armour coverage if appropriate before rolling for damage. Perps are at a disadvantage as they’re not as souped up as the Judges, but they have the opportunity to strike first with their wild-fire. Judges have to be more measured in the their approach as they need to be able to pass sentence rather than shooting indiscriminately.
There’s a reference list in the Dredd Hack, providing advice on general sentences. I thought 20 years for illegal Boinging (R) was always too steep.
Why does it have to end?
Normally, when it comes to fumbles, I always complain about the interference of the online glitches (1-D-6 passim). I’m not going to this time. Sure, it was a right-royal pain in the arse for some of the time, but most of the time, it worked fine and the confusion, over-talking etc added to the experience as it felt more immersive.
The only fumble about this experience is when it came to an end. It felt like it should be the beginning of an epic campaign. Mega City One is a great setting, the rules are serviceable, the players were switched on, so it was one of those great RPG moments when you wanted to carry on with the characters and have more adventures.
“Hey, Grim, let forever be.”
As for @dailydwarf, his inert GM skills are now awakened, we’re all in for a treat. He’s a natural.
Welcome to Episode 223 of the Meeples & Miniatures Podcast
The Meeples & Miniatures crew get together once again to talk about what they have been up to, which this week includes The GROGNARD Files podcast, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, Operation White Hot and Ninja All-Stars
For the feature part of our show, we chat with rules author Mark Lewis about the fantasy version of his excellent Sword & Spear big battle rules – Sword & Spear Fantasy
The GROGNARD Files 2018 Annual ‘zine is taking shape ready for its launch at GROGMEET on 11th November. Here’s a taste of what it includes
Monsters! Monsters! Monsters! Contributions from Ken St Andre and Liz Danforth
Deva – setting Pendragon in Chester from Kehaar
A wonderfully out-of-joint Call of Cthulhu scenario by Roger Coe
Better Living through Chemistry – a Judge Dredd RPG scenario from @dailydwarf
A short story from Justin Hill
What happened to Nic Novice? A collaboration with Paul Cockburn and Wayne Peters
The GROGNARD character class from Phil ‘the Dice Mechanic’
Frozen. A further chapter from The Armchair Adventurer’s memoir
A special Open Box with submissions from GROGMEET GMs and GROGSQUAD listeners
The podcast is free, but the overheads and additional projects, such as the ‘zine, are funded through the generous support of Patreons. All Patreons will be sent a hard copy, wherever they are in the world, after the launch. The printing will be limited to the total number of Patreons at the cut-off of 30th September plus 35 for contributors, GROGMEET attendees and review copies.
If you pledge at $3.50 level and above, you’ll also get a hard copies of The Complete Daily Dwarf Volume 2 which includes essays about Fiends, Dagon, Langford, and RuneRites.
PDFs will be available for Patreons joining after the cut off point.
The ‘zine produced last year is now available for download on drive thru RPG on a ‘pay what you want’ basis.
Please download and donate as all proceeds will go towards the YSDC church roof fund.
Yog Sothoth dot com provide a vital fan-function and we want to play our small part in keeping it going: so please help us raise some money to sustain the forums, podcasts, stationery coverage, odd-things recorded on obsolete formats and innovative YSDC activity for years to come.
Over on Twitter and G plus, we’ve been celebrating the 2nd anniversary of the launch of the GROGPOD by asking listeners “what has been your favourite Episode so far?”
If it’s good enough for Ken and Robin, then tireless self-promotion must be ok for us humble souls, right?
It seems that we peaked too soon with RuneQuest in Episode 1. The enthusiasm and passion that I had for my first RPG love seemed to hit a chord with those that have listened. It’s good to know that the podcast struck the right note early as it took long months of experimenting, researching and ‘find a voice’ before that first episode was released on SoundCloud, where no one could find it.
Creating the Podcast has put me in touch with great people who have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge to reeducate me in gaming, to bring me up to speed with the developments of the hobby and to remind me about all the great stuff I’d forgotten about. It’s good to know that many people turn to the Tunnels and Trolls episode, where John Hancock proselytised about the game and its potential for putting fun back into your game.
For some listeners, they liked the last Episode the most, as they found Ian Marsh’s stories and my experiences with Postal Gaming interesting; fanzines and PBMs is an area of the hobby that is not usually explored in podcasts.
I’ll stop blowing smoke up my fundament in a moment, but until then, I want to talk more about PBMs. In the first GROGZINE I wrote a piece about The Gladiators Gazette, which was a PBM ‘zine that used the rules of RuneQuest, Tunnels and Trolls, D&D, and DragonQuest to create a gladiatorial arena where it was possible to create a gladiator to compete in a fight against a bunch of mercurial NPCs. The ‘zine developed over time so that the interaction between the participating characters became more important than the battles. In the piece, I wrote about how this experience of connecting with other players across the country was remarkably influential in my formative years. I even managed to track down the Games Master and the producer of the ‘zine, Jan McManus, to find out about why it came to such an abrupt end.
The most rewarding element of producing the podcast has always been hearing the stories of people rediscovering their love of the hobby. During the past couple of years there’s been tales of new RuneQuest groups, getting the old gang back together, or Traveller players, dusting off their little black books to play with strangers online, and there’s been a spin-off World of Darkness campaign thanks to bringing players together through the Patreon games that I’ve run. Keehar, from the Dissecting Worlds Podcast, as connected with listeners to produce an epic Pendragon campaign set around Chester; gritty, magical and wonderfully detailed (he’s written a great piece about it for the next GROGZINE, make sure you don’t miss it, sign up to the Patreon today!)
However, this weekend, the best legacy of the past two year’s efforts has arrived. BONES OF THE LOST GOD is a PBM ‘zine directly inspired by The Gladiators Gazette. The first issue is now available. The action takes place in an arena where you can play combatants spurned into battle by patrons, guilds and shadowy organisations. They’ll fight in the area defined by the bones of the Lost God’s Avatar, where his giant ribcage forms the stage for the bloodsport. The ‘zine offers places for the players to interact (The Frog and Bone Inn) to catch up on gossip and the manoeuvrings of the various factions within the arena. The opening issue gives an indication of some the underlying tensions in and around the arena, with Myxile throwing up the gambling odds and gossip (a wonderful homage to the original Ulmus Grabb in the original Gladiator’s Gazette). If combat is not your bag, then there’s potential to play different characters or parties exploring different areas in the town and engaging with the population.
This is the splendid work of Phil Cooper (@rumorsmatrix) who is using Labyrinth Lord and Solo Heroes to run the game. Please, please, please show your support by getting in touch with him and supporting this fantastic project at patreon. There’s room for more players if you get on board soon.
This could see the return of Marcus Mendusor, the grizzled noble from the original Gladiators Gazette, who I played until his in untimely incarceration in Lord Hendrick’s jails.
KEEP ON, KEEPING ON, ‘TIL SOMEONE SHOUTS FISHFINGER
As we enter the third year of the GROGPOD, with GROGMEET and the latest GROGZINE in planning, its great to know that there’s people out there still interested in what we’re doing.
We went to our occasional podcast production meeting at the Las O Gowrie in Manchester this week and, in-between conversations about the pressing matter of “which was the best ever Bond opening scene”, we sketched out the programme for the next 12 months. We have some really interesting games and guest contributors in the pipeline.
You’ll let us know when it gets boring, won’t you?
The first GROGZINE will shortly be available on Drivethrurpg on a ‘pay what you want’ basis. All proceeds raised from Drive Thru RPG will be donated to YSDC to help support all of the great work that they do to enhance Call of Cthulhu fan activity.
The next GROGZINE will be launched in November. All Patreons who are registered before the end of September will get a copy, wherever they are in the world, after that there will be a PFD version available for new Patreons joining after the 30th September cut-off.
More details about the content will be posted shortly.
In the latest GROGPOD we discuss ‘zines in general and DragonLords in particular. Our guest contributor Ian Marsh edited the zine with his friends Mike Lewis and Marc Gascoigne and was remarkable for its irreverent coverage of the hobby. Its self-deprecating tag line “Yet Another Fantasy & Sci-Fi Roleplaying Magazine” reflected its satirical tone that earned it the reputation of the Private Eye of RPGs. There were 22 issues published with short print runs so it’s difficult to get your hands on copies. A dedicated collector like Ed in his Shed would turn his nose up at prices of £50 to £150 asked for on sites like eBay. The final issue is difficult to find as it had a short print run. Ian says that it was particularly eccentric and wild as he knew it was the last one.
You’ll find PDFs and copies of the covers if you search long enough, but I thought it would be good to feature some illustrative content, provided by Ian, to support some of the discussion we had on the GROGPOD.
Warning high nipple content. This was Dragon Lords after all!
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!
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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…