Fenris Games is the creation of Ian and Jo Brumby, also known as The Brothers Brum: the home of incredible miniatures and table-top modelling sculptures. Before they found fame, perhaps not their fortune, in the world of model-making, they created WyrdWorld, the world base for a play by mail (PBM) in 1987/88.
Manual PBMs need a lot of effort to make them work. In Episode 14 I talked about my descent into madness trying to keep up when the turn-rate and the level of detail seemed to grow exponentially. My paltry efforts are nothing compared with the herculean campaign worlds created by Fenris.
They ran other Play By Mail games (Children of the Morning Star, MMCII), but it’s WYRDWORLD that has captured my imagination. Inspired by the Alan Dean Foster Spellsinger series of books, the players become humanoid animals. The animals have become people with fur and claws and teeth, “Fancy playing Conan the Barbary Ape? Then this is the game for you.”
The rule book reveals a story based approach that was way ahead of its time with indy sensibilities: Magic? Tell me what you want to do and the effects, and we’ll work it out from there.
Ian has sent me some of the turn reports that he completed, they’re like mini-novels as they are full of inventive verve. Thankfully some of the essence of the PBM can be found in their Prachettesque novel Genesis (well worth reading, available from Amazon)
The characters of WyrdWorld Inspired some of their greatest miniature creations, including the menacing SNUURG himself.
The independent model-making trade is a tough business, the amount of effort to produce fabulous, finely detailed, expressive miniatures, is rarely rewarded with sufficient income. If you want to learn more about the trials and tribulations of the business, I recommend listening to Ian being interviewed on GMS Magazine podcast. It’s worth listening to, just for the sound of the dog’s ears flapping with vigour every so often.
They have some ideas about developing WyrdWorld in the ‘some-day-maybe’ tray (perhaps the power of the GROGSQUAD can tempt them). Until then, here’s a glimpse into peoples and magicks of Urth.
On Saturday, February 10th, 2018, Simon Burley, James Mullen, and Pookie will be hosting Spaghetti ConJunction 2a, the twice a year one-day roleplaying in Birmingham city centre. Held at the Geek Retreat cafe, less than ten minutes’ walk from each of Birmingham’s three train stations, the event starts at 10 am and finishes at 7:30 pm and will include two four-hour gaming sessions, a charity raffle with some great prizes, and good company.
With games as diverse as I Love the Corps, Firefly/Cortex+, Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, The Code of Sword and Wizardry, and Tremulus run at Spaghetti ConJunction 1b, we want to offer just as many and just as varied games to provide you with a choice of genres, systems, and playing styles. So we are looking for Game Masters as well as players, so if you have something you want to run on the day, please let…
Where to start… perhaps with overall impressions and then a bit more of a detailed breakdown. Personally, job-wise, I’m in a better place that I was this time last year when I was uncertain as to how my post might be configured in 2017, and how my role might be changing. Getting a new position early in 2017 has helped remove a lot of anxiety and am enjoying the role since having started in August. This has also cut down on commuting and on-call duties, but can occasionally be busier with longer days, and trips away for conferences.
From a gaming perspective, I feel like I’ve done a little less than in 2016. This perception is most likely due to the fact that two once-weekly on-line gaming groups weren’t as active this year, but there have been other opportunities. Themes from 2016 revolved around playing lots of FFG Star Wars…
These newsletters have not been as regular as promised. My original intention was to provide recommendations for the GROGSQUAD based on my ‘consumed media’, however since I began late last year, my intake of media has reduced dramatically thanks to the imposition of other demands on my time. It isn’t likely to get any better until I retire from work, so it is best to see them as occasional treats for the next 16 years.
The chaps at Dissecting Worlds have hung up their headsets. I appeared on there as a frothing at the mouth RuneQuest zealot late last year. Keehar wants to spend more time gaming and donning his pads and box to play more cricket. In their final episode, Matt and Kehaar select their Desert Island podcasts. Keehar kindly took the GROGNARD files on board his ill-fated cruise ship alongside the evergreen Hypnogoria from the phenomenal Mr Jim Moon.
I’m always looking for new podcast to take with me on my daily commute. I thought that I would add a handful of my own recommendations based on my listening habits over the past 12 months.
In my pod box there are the gaming staples:
The Good Friends of Jackson Elias: I think that this year, this podcast has matured into something very special. The quality of the content is second to none. I wholesomely recommend their recent episodes about Religion and Cthulhu: a challenging, thought-provoking and inspiring podcast encouraging CoC players to think more about the motivations of NPCs based on religious compulsion. This year they also had an episode dedicated to the World of Darkness universe which I found very informative. It was entertaining too as host Matt Sanderson tried to negotiate the minefield of the current licensing arrangements. Every episode plants the seed of an idea: highly recommended.
Cthulhu Breakfast Club: There’s something reassuringly English and jolly about this podcast produced by the fine folk of YSDC. Paul is an amiable host and there is joy to be found in his guests trying to avoid him descending into audio-quakery. The guests are plucked from the YSDC actual play stable, Finn and Val as well as TV’s Marty Jopson and HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast’s Chris Lackey. Sometimes the banter is lost on me and the “G and P numbers” debate (how many steps are you away from playing with Gygax or Peterson) out-stayed its welcome. However, most of the time it’s like being with friends exchanging views over tea and cakes. Subjects covered always have a Lovecraftian theme, the chat is light and knowledgable and it’s worth going beyond the paywall just to spend time in the company of Paul.
Monster Man – a new podcast with a very appealing concept – host James Holloway going through The Monster Manual from beginning to end. Funny, full of suggestions and informative. They’re short, so subscribe!
Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice: I was pleased to finally convince Mike Cule to contribute an article to the latest GROGZINE. In this podcast, he and his co- host, Roger Bell West, have maxed out their wisdom score applying their experience in gaming to elucidate such subjects as tech levels, inspirational music and the RPG a Day. It appears like clockwork on the first day of the month, I measure the passing of my life by its appearance in my box.
You know about all those though, don’t you? What about the others that I always listen to?
This was the year that stopped listening to Mark Kermode’s film review. I don’t know why, possibly because my viewing habits have been changing over the years. There was a point this year where they were amusing themselves by playing the podcast at a slower speed and I thought that they’d reached peak ‘self-indulgence’ (note-to-self).
Big Mouth During ‘the naughties’ my favourite podcast was The Word magazine, co-hosted by supreme music journos Mark Ellen and David Hepworth. When the magazine folded, they continued the podcast sporadically as recordings of live interviews at The Islington pub. The recent one featuring Danny Baker is filled with his usual joie d vie, however I miss the knowledgable vibe and general hoary old chat from the original format. Producer Matt Hall and erstwhile The Word editor Andrew Harrison have attempted to restore the newsy feel in Big Mouth, a podcast that reviews the week’s cultural highlights. The tone is uneven as it is very much guest dependent, but it’s worth tuning in for Andrew’s turns of phrase and Matt’s inspired recommendations. As a starting point, I’d go for the most recent, and work backwards. You’ll be listening to St Vincent and buying comics in no time.
Thinking Allowed I know that there are many people who love In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg’s weekly history-thinking programme on Radio 4. I tend to pick and choose topics, but I make a point of listening to Laurie Taylor’s consistently interesting Thinking Allowed. Start with Mafia – Organised Crime.
SMERSH Pod One of my recent discoveries, following the James Bond RPG episode, is SMERSH Pod, presented by John Rain and a special guest each episode which goes scene by scene through Bond movies. I’ve been working through the back catalogue and it is, without doubt, my favourite podcast of the year. It’s hilarious. As a starting point, try Moonraker with special guest Al Murray. It’s not all Bond, there’s a few Side Specials too: try out The Wild Geese.
Hopefully there’s something in this list to pique your interest. Please let me know your recommendations in the comments.
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
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 …
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!”).
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
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.
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.
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!
6. The 4am Wall (fumble)
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.