One-D-Six – 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!

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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.

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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…

 

 

Episode 14 (Part 1) RPG Fanzines (with Ian Marsh)

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INTRO Welcome to the world of fanzines.

OPEN BOX (with Ian Marsh) The first part of an interview with Ian Marsh, who was the editor of DragonLords fanzine and went on to become the editor of White Dwarf.

DAILY DWARF For one episode only @dailydwarf becomes the Daily Dagon as he looks at Dagon and why he thinks is was such a special zine.

OPEN BOX Another one? This time it’s with Blythy as we look at our experience in the world of PBMs.

OUTRO: Thanks to Shop on the Borderlands for providing a copy of DragonLords issue 7 for discussion.

Let us know your favourite ‘zine and send us pictures for discussion in the next episode.

Why not show your love for the podcast, and join the activities of the GROGSQUAD by becoming a Patreon?

 

One-D-Six Operation Fast Pass – Part 2

Since Episode 11 was released in March, there has been something of a revival of Top Secret RPG. Pookie has done a retrospective review that examines its nuts and bolts, there’s been Save for Half podcast giving a very insightful overview of how the rules work, and a Kick-Starter for the All New Top Secret: New World Order  (which is much better than the working title of CODE NAME: ACRID HERALD, I mentioned in the podcast, which was play-tested early last year). By all accounts, the new, updated system by Merle Rasmussan is very different from the original first edition that we played.

The Patreon GROG Club, also known as The Lucky Deck, reconvened this week to continue the adventure Operation: Fast Pass. In the previous write up (I recommend you read it first) I posed the question: is it genius or weird?

Finally, I think I have the answer … with 5 points and a fumble.


Quality of the Scenario

I adapted the module to fit within two sessions of two hours. I tried to compose them as episodes of a 50s/ 60s Spy TV show.

The actual scenario is based around a timetable that carefully places the NPCs in and around the hotel at various points of the adventure. It is also constructed with three acts: the first section is a surveillance mission, gathering information about the NPCs and their movements; the middle section is a room by room exploration of the hotel to find the defector; finally it’s an escape from the country, through the Iron Curtain with a rip-roaring fire-fight as the PCs join a resistance movement in Yugoslavia. The hotel is fully populated, complete with traps and challenging, unlikely encounters, very like a dungeon.

The scenario’s attention to detail is actually a little dull, but the core idea is great: reach out to a potential code-breaker, Lerekov, who is visiting a Puzzle Convention in a Budapest hotel and get him to a safe-house outside of the country.

I cut to the chase by GumShoe – ing and providing the intell up front. I hand picked some of the NPCs and encounters that I found interesting, such as the American tourist who is obsessed with spy novels. There’s was great fun to be had with the ‘hoax’ Lerekov too. The players were very engaged so they were able to cover a lot of ground, by using a quick pace to pack in the action.

Fame and Fortune

When the bullets were flying, it became very random and unpredictable with a combination of low rolls to hit and high rolls for damage. The scale was all over the place. The Knave took a bullet in the leg in the final moments of the cliff-hanger first session. At the beginning of this session, I allowed him to spend a FAME point to rewind the scene. The fame and fortune points were a ground-breaking idea that foreshadowed Indy ideas like ‘FATE points’.

It was a worthwhile spend as the scene transformed from a potential disaster to shift the balance towards the players.

Tables, tables, tables

The lack of universal mechanic was confusing for the players as each situation seemed to have a bespoke resolution. Take the NPC reaction table, for example, it’s a wonderful idea – pitching the primary traits in opposition to the target contact and checking the result on a table. However, the same results seems to come up every time, which meant that most of the NPCs were very cooperative.

Hand to Hand Combat

In the podcast, I mentioned that I found the Hand to Hand combat rules appealing, describing them as ‘rock paper scissors devised by Steven Hawking’. I like how the turn structure privileges hand to hand combat and ‘possession combat’ to disarm or get an advantage over an opponent. It’s not realistic, but it does emulate film and television spy thrillers. The defender is able to pick defensive manoeuvres which are compared to the attackers move. The choices are revealed at the same time and the results compared on a table. It seemed a little clumsy in practice, but did produce one of the most satisfying moments of the session: the face-man killed the imposter Lerekov with a single blow to his chest.

Gadgets

As a team of agents, the Lucky Deck were well equipped with various gadgets: the night vision contact lens gave them advantages driving and swerving to avoid bazzoka attacks; rear-view specs spotted ‘The Butcher’, the GRU asset, hot on their trail; and smoke bombs and truth serums were deployed. The most satisfying application was The KING using his magnetically charged wrist-watch to snatch the pistol from the KGB agent – from the other side of the wall!


Overall, is it genius or is it weird? It’s weird genius. The kind of eccentric old uncle who’s great company for a few hours, but you wouldn’t want to live with for a longer period of time. My opinion has changed a little. The crunchy tables do add narrative colour, but they also generate results that are duller in play than they are to read. That said, both sessions were tremendous fun thanks to the players, but the rules and the scenario had a role to play in making the fun possible. I’ve made my pledge for the new edition. 

Roll 20
I can see us having a falling out with Roll 20 as it was a battle to maintain a connected conversation for most of the session. I’m going to explore options for future Patreon club outings. It’s a mumble – cut out- warble and fumble at the moment.

GROGMEET 17 – The Fellowship is complete

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Tickets have sold out for this year’s GROGMEET in Manchester on 11th November. There’s still chance to join the waiting list (worthwhile, as there were a few last minute cancellations last time). If you haven’t got a ticket, then you’re still welcome to come along to GROGMEET EVE, the details are explained below.

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, then doors open at 9.00 for registration and sign-up. There’s no pre-booking this time, it will be a case of scrambling at the start. Let’s begin the day with a fight.

These are the games that are scheduled. More details will follow soon:

RuneQuest, Adventures in Glorantha – The Howling Tower

RuneQuest 2nd ed, – Balastor’s Barracks

ShadowRun – Food Fight

Judge Dredd – Better Living Through Chemistry

Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing

Paranoia – Get Back to Where You Where You Once Were Habitually Familiar

Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes – The Liver Bird has Landed

Cthulhu Hack – Prairie Dogs

Traveller – Blake’s 7

An exclusive miniatures spectacular – God Emperor’s Trial of Champions

Round the Bend (the classic IMAGINE scenario)

Mike Mason with an unplayed Call of Cthulhu scenario

Attendees will be sent the details in the next couple of weeks, so they can sharpen their elbows in preparation.

GROGMEET EVE

The all-new FANBOY 3.5 will be hosting the Nu-Skool spectacular the night before the main event. Tickets will be made available on 15th July. They’re free, but we’re asking people to sign up so we can get an idea of numbers. We hope you can make a weekend of it. Games start at 18:30 and will finish around 21:30 ish.

World of Darkness 

Night’s Black Agents

Numenera 

If there’s sufficient demand, we’ll make more games available. Manchester is a great city, so we hope that you make a weekend of it and enjoy the huge-Christmas Markets.

Adios amigos,

Dirk

 

 

1-D-6 Expo Exposed

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My one and only Twitter ‘Expo-Bingo’ capture – @spookshow71

The last time I was interviewed, it was for a corporate video and I was cut out for “being too boring”. My latest is with Kalum from The Rolistes Podcast. I feature in the first part of his UK Games Expo episode. We coincidently met each other at the gaming table for the first session of my UK Games Expo experience. In the interview, I explained that I treated the convention as a field trip to learn more about game developments that occurred during my ‘deep freeze’ during the 90s and 00s, so what did I learn?

If you want gonzo – then manga is a perfect setting

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The first game on the slate was THE CODE OF SHOJO AND SHONEN, An Anime Role-Playing Adventure Game. A rules-light system that recreates the stories familiar from Japanese entertainment. It was GMed by the game’s creator Simon Burley, better known to us GROGNARDs as the designer of GOLDEN HEROES.

The scenario involved the group travelling to Kong Island and various randomly generated plot points provided motivations for the journey, such as, “following the course of a previous wreck”, “in search of a missing sibling” or in the case of Kalum’s character, a chance to rebrand his Korean pop star ‘Bum” for a global audience. Not quite Fay Wray.

Character creation was simply done, around the table, based on three abilities: SHOJO – the feminine aspect, SHONJEN the masculine aspect and SENSEI the non-conflict description of the character’s role in society. My character was Belemy Fudge a botanist with superior strength who was a scientist in search of a cosmic truth. “Aren’t we all?” suggested Simon.

The narrative structure is familiar from Power Rangers where human characters escalate to super heroes, then to super heroes in giant mecha, then to super heroes in giant mecha joined together to form a really, really giant mecha. The multiplication mechanic works quite well as the characters progress through the story, but we found the hooks, quirks and plot lines a bit awkward and contrived at times. The result ended up being fun, but a bit barmy.

By the end of the session, I’d discovered my long-lost brother riding on the back of a giant spider, I’d turned purple, developed a ‘force push’ and climbed up a volcano in a giant orangutang suit and renamed Henshin FUDGE CRUSH!

HeroQuest is has great potential

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I wanted to try and unlock the ‘fun’ from HeroQuest, a game that I’ve read and never understood. According to Ian Cooper, the GM, it’s a game that is better played rather than explained, which is fitting given its roots in oral story telling. During the course of the game I began to understand the concepts of contests, extended contests and setting out the stakes, more clearly.

The adventure was based in the Glorantha setting that Ian created in his home game and has been published in the Coming Storm supplement. We were members of the Red Cow tribe who were requested to accompany seven Mostali as they sought mines in Telamori lands. The characteristics of the dwarves were distinct from those familiar from Tolkien as they represented the extreme rational weirdness of a race that perceives the world differently to surface dwelling humans.

I played a rattle-born Orlanthi. The rattle-born are so called because they are infants in the cradle who have accelerated growth when the clan is in need of warriors. A magical rattle creates a fighter who is physically developed as an adult, but emotionally intellectually immature. Not sure why I gravitated towards that character.

Playing the character gave a licence to make irresponsible decisions such as throwing snowballs (thus introducing the alien concept of “fun” to the Mostali patrons) creating magical snowshoes for the dinosaur beasts-of-burden and eventually stabbing myself repeatedly with an iron spearhead when attacked by a ethereal wraith-like being. “Not everything needs to be slapstick,” suggested Jon Hancock, who was also playing.

Ian Cooper, the line editor of HeroQuest for Chaosium, is a fantastic Games Master. If you get the opportunity to play with him, I recommend it unreservedly as he is great at scene-setting, establishing the characteristics of NPCs and balancing game with story. I immediately felt inspired to have a go at GMing the game myself. The mechanic is very scalable and would make a perfect engine for Super Hero games.

There’s more to horror than Cthulhu

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I realised that the only horror game I’ve ever played has been Cthulhu. Earlier in the year, I was the special guest NPC in an online one-shot of World of Darkness. I appeared at the climax as a crazed spectre.

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The D10 dice pool mechanic caught my attention when we played online, so I wanted to see how it worked with the story elements around the table. A Whole New World was GMed by Amy Williams with a casual, controlled aplomb as she gently twisted the elements of the game to crank up the horror. The set up was creepy as it played on cinematic archetypes: we played teenagers about to head for college, we were about to party at a house by a lake. I was a plucky cheerleader with a pistol in my purse. A group of guys from the North East were playing and they really got into their characters and I rode along with their role-playing. It was a great, memorable session with a stunning climax.

I need to look into World of Darkness much more.

RuneQuest

You know I played RuneQuest, don’t you?

Mingling and tingling 

The format says I need a final fumble: I didn’t really have much time for meeting and greeting, but I did bump into a number of listeners and say hello.

I spent a couple of fruitless hours wandering around the tradehall trying to locate people. Everyone looked the same. Each with the a faded expressionless glare into the middle distance as we tried desperately to work out why we were wandering around staring at things. Everyone looked like they were disappointed that they weren’t enjoying the consumer experience quite as much as we thought we would.

Wandering aimlessly did manage to yield a hardcopy of HeroQuest Glorantha, so it wasn’t that bad.

In case you had any doubt – I had a fantastic time.

 

I urge you to listen to Kalum’s back-list too. He’s warm, quietly persistent, funny and presents an eclectic mix of subjects in a vérité style. I think his interview with Ken Hite is the best of them all, as he manages to poke around in parts of his gaming past that don’t get aired very often. Recommended.

 

Episode 22 (Part 1) – The Rolistes Go To The UK Games Expo

You can hear me droning on at the beginning of this – otherwise skip to the bit about the My Little Pony RPG

The Rolistes Podcast

The Rolistes Podcast_Episode 22 Part 1

Here it is, our very first episode recorded at the UK Games Expo! Thanks again to the fans supporting the show via Patreon for unlocking that $30 goal.

In this first part, we headed with Haqadosch for Birmingham, where we made a handful encounters (Spoiler Alert!).

Please let me know if you enjoyed that episode through reviewing it alongside the show on Podchaser (using the key “rolistes”)…

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Episode 13 – Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes (with Jon Hancock)

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INTRO 00:05

By a strange quirk of fate, Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes has suddenly become available as a PDF from Drive Thru RPG.

We’ve had another five star review on iTunes, this time it’s from Baz, of The Smart Party podcast.

OPEN BOX 05:30

Dirk returns to Whartson Hall to visit Big Jack Brass, our Flying Buffalo correspondent. He talks about his twitter hash tag #overlookedrpgs and provides a potted history of MSPE.

STARBURST MEMORIES 30:00

Following the Top Secret episode, we’ve had some correspondence from DM Mike from the new old-school podcast Save for Half.

Dirk talks about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Blythy introduces Spooks.

BIG JACK BRASS, RULES! 01:00:00

Wearing the wig this episode is the locum Judge Big Jack Brass, looking at the ins and outs of the MSPE rules.

OUTRO 01:23:00

Jon will be appearing on Desert Island Dungeons very soon

The GROGNARD Files 2017 annual fanzine and The Collected Daily Dwarf are now available on Drive Thru RPG.

Dirk gives news of the next ‘zine and thanks new Patreons. Why not join.