Now & Then: Diary of an RPG Gulliver

Now and Then is an occasional series of blog-posts from members of The GROGSQUAD, sharing their stories, hints and tips and images from their ‘thawing out’ after the Deep Freeze. First, is Rog Coe, who you may recognise from the ’18 GROGZINE, he laid out and illustrated the scenarios in the distinctive White Dwarf style, he also wrote the Call of Cthulhu adventure. Find out about his return to gaming:

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“Draw The Blinds on Yesterday –  through the lens of The Professionals: Cultists and the desperate battle it out with shotguns blazing, while Fire Vampires fly, and in the shed a combine-harvester fires up…”

The realities of real life seem to slowly cripple your gaming over the years.

It’s like being an RPG Gulliver, slowly pinned down by ropes, hammered in by little people; and not just your children; partners (no matter how easy going) work and responsibilities, all cause that time-destroying mallet to swing.

Gaming changed from 90’s Traveller sessions of 8 players round the kitchen table all weekend, down to 3 player D&D games in the 20-teens, crammed in the man-den once in a blue moon; and ultimately to nothing.

Until all you can do is lift a hand clear of the ropes to read an old supplement or click on a certain Bolton-based podcast.

‘Play is the thing’

Like an activation code for a sleeper agent, the Grognard Files’ steady drip of ‘newstalgia’ re-ignited my urge to play. The first ropes snapped, and the idea for the ‘RPG Club’ was born (catchy name I know).

It would have to involve new blood as well as the few old regulars, be in a venue that everyone could get to easily, and (at least until it was fully fledged) involve one shots, so it would feel light and fun, and if people didn’t like a system one time, (especially the first time players), there’d be something new the next.

Most importantly other people would have to step up and run their own adventures after my initial run of four, after 30 years of always being the GM I’d finally get a chance to play again. Grogmeet had whet my appetite.

And it’s worked so far, very well, we’re three games in, and everyone’s having fun.

We meet on the 1st Friday of the month, (be there or miss out), in a stylish games café, (full of everyday people of both sexes, all ages, all gaming), with good food and drink, and in reach of a disreputable pub (for post-game analysis).

We’ve got a core of up to 8 potential players, with a couple of super subs in reserve so there’s been a good number round the table for the first games, and likewise the number drawn to the pub after is increasing, people whose Venn diagrams might not coincide have an excuse to get together to game and beyond. I rolled in at 1.45 after the last game; don’t judge me, there was a lot of adrenaline to counteract!

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“Albuquerque Starport Rebooted: Lazarou the Carrin appears, destined to die from a beak full of Force Axe – but not before a missile from his ‘lil friend’ cracks the concourse dome, pouring sand and sand sharks into the finale mix.”

Games I’ve had sitting on the shelves and never played are being dusted down, there’s fun to be had mashing up, retrofitting and adrenalin-pumping old scenarios, ‘Pimp My Module’ if you will. Like an awful singing show on TV – if they do well as a one shot a glittering campaign may await next year.

I’ve stretched new muscles GM’ing, after playing in a different style to long campaigns, it’s a lot of prep work each time, yes, and more of a workout because of the pace, but the results are worth it. Pre-gen bios for the players for instance, a new thing for me, have led to much fuller interaction, players are bringing relationships and grievances to the table.

And as the one shot is not so daunting for first time GMs there’s more than one player now reading rulesets and putting together a scenario. It’s not just a re-awakening of the group, it’s an evolution, into a many GM-headed beast.

My initial stint is up after our next game, (Marvel Superheroes RPG does Strikeback), and a new GM has the next game ready: ’55-ish Days At Peking’ where we’ll be playing troops of the colonial powers holding out against hordes of Boxers.

“Are we the baddies?”

I cannot wait. Rog Coe

4 thoughts on “Now & Then: Diary of an RPG Gulliver

  1. I remember Draw the Blinds… fondly – i stitched some of it into a modern campaign a few years ago. And I agree (I think) with your point that players find it easier to get into character with pre-gens than with characters they have created themselves. There is a sense of being given permission.

    1. Thanks Wayne, i’ve been mostly converted to ‘theatre of the mind’ play now, but I like to have a map done for big fights and/or the finale. Although for Marvel Superheroes next, it seems to mostly be scrapping, so i’ll probably need a few. Cheers.

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