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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.