Grogmeet 2017: the Liver Bird has landed 

Kehaar of The Dissecting Worlds podcast developing his pitch for his #GROGMEET … sounds great! (11th November – Mad Lab – Manchester – tickets available in April) – Dirk

A.L.F.I.E.S Antics

I am once again honoured to be running a game as at Grogmeet 2017 the annual convention run by the excellent Grognod Files podcast.

This occasion I am going to revisit my roleplaying version of Solway Minatures Very British Civil War 1938 background. Edward VIII has refused to abdicate and appointed Oswald Moseley his Prime Minister. Amongst the forces opposing this unconstitutional government is the Liverpool Free State.

The player characters are spies and commandos of the Amagumated Liverpool Free Intelligences and Espionage Service (ALFIES.) There are plenty to choose from.I will add some female potential PCs too in addition to Maria the cleaner.

In the convention game ‘The Liver Bird has landed’ (OPERATION LADYBIRD) the players mission is to rescue George Formby who is being held prisoner by government forces in Peckforton Castle.


The entertainer is not only an inspiration to the Resistance but also knows about rebel…

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I fought the Law and the Law won

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What if I’m no good at Games Mastering? How do you know when you’re doing it right?

Now, I’m not going through a crisis of confidence, nor am I fishing for complements; it’s an inevitable period of soul-searching that every GM reaches at some point when they’ve been playing for a while . When I posed this question to Judge Blythy (the co-host of the GROGNARD files), he inevitably confirmed that I was wonderful … “one of the best” and that I should stop worrying and just get on with it. He would say that, wouldn’t he? We’ve been playing together for years. He doesn’t know any different. When we counted how many GMs we had actually played with, we realised it was only 8 different people.

“Know your Players” is the first of Robin’s Laws of GamesMastering. Robin D. Laws provides a systematic process of how to tune your games to make everyone around the table have fun. The truth is, I know my players too well. Like long term lovers, I know how to press their buttons, how to tease them, how to get them to a climax in a satisfying manner. It may not be a spectacular climax, but it does the job.

Over the past 12 months I have played with more players than I’ve ever played with before. Thanks to the podcast, I’ve become more RPG promiscuous and have run a campaign and a series of one-shots with different players; people that I don’t know in ‘real’ life. Many of these new virtual friends have not played since back in the day, so they’re flush with the excitement of rediscovering the hobby.

Now that I am practising my tried and tested technics on new players, I’m using my tabletop ‘love-making’ with people who are able to judge me against others. What if my finely honed pleasure-making talents are not compatible with other players?

I AM THE LAW

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Last month, The RPG Academy posted their Actual Play podcast of the RuneQuest game that I ran for them. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of AP podcasts – they’re not something that I enjoy listening to (with a couple of notable exceptions) – but, as it’s the first time I’ve seen myself GMing. Hence the reflective mood.

The Academy guys were very appreciative of my GMing in the recap episode, which was very generous of them, given they were resistant to the idea of percentile games. They didn’t like RuneQuest much, but they had fun, so in their own words, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.”

Robin Laws makes a similar Golden Rule in his book of advice: “Role-playing Games are entertainment; your goal as GM is to make the game as entertaining as possible for all participants. If you and your players are having fun, you are a good GM.”

There you go. Blythy is right, I am wonderful.

Hang on, before I get carried away with blowing smoke up my own fundament: there’s always room to be better, maybe there’s more fun to be had, if only I was a better GM.

I know my strengths and I play to them. Fortunately, I’m a naturally laconic person, so I’m not the kind of GM who hogs the game. My instinct is to get the players talking and working as much as possible. I foster cooperation and participation at the table and players naturally seem to want to work together towards a common goal. I also have the ability to ‘sell a scene’. I take a lot of care to describe the action with a cinematic eye combined with other sensory details like smell, sounds and taste.

I’m an impatient player and that translates into my GM style. Sign up to my game and you’ll expect pace and action to keep things moving. I like to make sure that PCs are absolutely clear on their options, so they don’t waste any precious time prevaricating.

Don’t waste any time… there’s the problem … there’s the blindspot.

LOSING CRUNCH

When I listened to the play back of the RPG Academy podcast, I couldn’t help but cast a critical eye towards my deficiencies as a GM. I sometimes get so keen on driving the story forward that I’ll wave away the rules.

I know that there’s a general feeling that GMs should give a ruling rather than consulting the rulebook however, there’s merit in precision, there’s a delight in making a rule work for you, a triumph in turning the tide by the tight application of a spell. Too often, I’m guilty of waving things through because they suit the moment, or help the narrative progress.

Blythy has been running Storm King’s Thunder (D&D 5e). He has a much tighter style than I have (he’s not the rules lawyer for nothing) and I can see how the power-play of the rules draws out more player engagement. The participants are enjoying the thrill of building their character meticulously and applying their esoteric feats at the most opportune moment. Blythy has shifted the balance by saying, “get the Player’s Handbook, understand your character, make it work, because I’m not doing it for you.”

In Robin’s Laws, crunchy rules hand power to the players, as they are shifting the balance away from the GM and activating their ability to change the outcome of a game.

I like crunchy rules, but with the players that I’ve been playing with over the past 12 months, I’ve known the rules better than the players. I’ve encouraged them to get on with the story and leave me to worry about the rules. Ultimately, this has allowed me to have more control over the outcomes and the players flailing around at increasingly mad cap schemes to turn situations in their favour. They don’t know the rules, so they’ll give anything a punt, and I’ll let them run with it!

That’s where I went ‘wrong’ with The RPG Academy guys. If I’d taken more time with their character sheet ‘on screen’ rather than sending them a brief summary over e-mail, they’d have been able to work the crunch in their favour and applied a more tactical approach.

Similarly, with The Traveller Adventure, which was a tremendously entertaining experience, if I’d have taken the time to explain the rules more fully, a more rigorously tactical approach may have been adopted. My vision was to have an earnest version of Space 1999, in the end it was more like Red Dwarf meets Dark Star: “I want to pilot the launch into the enemy ship and eject prior to impact,” could have been, “I will deploy my Tactics – 2 and ascertain the space-craft’s vulnerabilities.” Maybe.

TIME-SHIFT

My next assignment is Luther Arkwright at ConVergence. It’s a reprise of The Fire Opal of Set that originally appeared in IMAGINE using Mythras rather than Traveller. I’m going to look over my shoulder, check my blind-spot, and take some time to familiarise the players with the rules, so they can understand their powers, to understand the influence on the game.

Thanks to Robin’s Laws I can spice up my well practiced RPG-life and make things fifty shades … player.

-Dirk the Dice

There are still tickets available for ConVergence at Stockport on 18th March. Why not join myself and Blythy and see if I reach the peak of GM enlightenment.

 

 

Episode 10 (Part 2) More RuneQuest RPG (with Rick Meints)

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INTRO Blimey Charlie! This is the twentieth podcast!

1:53 GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN Rick Meints, President of Chaosium, joins us once again. This time we roll on a special ‘plunder’ table to search his fabled collection as he recounts past adventures from back in the day.

42:08 OPEN BOX Borderlands is Chaosium’s classic campaign from 1982 – we’ve played it twice, once in ’83 and again in ’13 – find out why this is very much our ‘foundational document’.

1.25 POSTBAG We’ve revamped the Patreon campaign – join now and get access to the ‘zine PDF  – also, you can join the Valhalla agents at Convergence

A year on the GROG – 2017

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“You’re so rock n’ roll!” declared @oilpainting on Twitter. This was following my RPG Academy all-nighter, as I was on my way to work, bleary-eyed after the excitement of the night before.

“I’m only doing this because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen,” I replied, echoing President Obama.

I operate the Armchair Adventurers much The Boss operates the E-Street Band: old friends who enjoy playing together under the control of a benevolent dictator. At this point of the year, my messianic megalomania kicks into overdrive as I fill up everyone’s diaries with the plans for the next 6 months of gaming. There’s method in this madness, as when it comes to negotiation with the fun prevention officer (FPO) it’s essential that you declare your intentions on the family calendar because once it’s on there, it’s happening.

Last year was such a remarkable year. The number of games we played and the hours that we managed to commit was at levels not seen since the 80s; it’s going to be hard to sustain. I’m moving house for one thing. Dirk Towers has moved in its entirety to a half-way-house until the new site is ready. It was a difficult and exhausting exercise. We’ve already filled hundreds of boxes and have barely made a dent on the years and years of accumulated stuff.

Thankfully, the ridiculous home-made shrine to the actress Caroline Munro has been diligently bubble-wrapped.

STONKIN’ THUNDER

Judge ‘Little Steven’ Blythy has been on hand to step into the GamesMastering duties for the Wednesday Night Roll20 group. The old gang is together once again after the triumph of Old School The Traveller Adventure, this time joined by none other than the Daily Dwarf, to take on the revival of Against the Giants in the New School Old School D&D 5e STORM KING’S THUNDER.

The first session was hit by some technical glitches with video and audio, but the kit provided by Roll 20 for the campaign works really well. This is the first time that we’ve used ‘miniatures’ for years. Normally, we talk through locations and relative distances, but having the characters on the screen represented by tokens on a gridded map, brings a new dimension to the game. I was frantically trying to pick a spell that would have enough range to hit the goblin who was firing arrows at my Sorcerer.

A great start to what promises to be an exciting campaign.

The Armchair Adventurers – MONTHLY SESSIONS

The monthly sessions are sacred. There’s a change this year as we will be changing location. We’ll be moving from Eddy’s shed and heading for the FLGS in Bolton, Portcullis War Games Emporium. If you live in the area, get in touch, you’re welcome to join us. Sessions are on the first Tuesday of the month 6pm – 10pm, the first is on 7th Feb. Let us know if you’re coming, we’ll have a character ready for you.

When it comes to planning these, there’s always a tussle between on-going campaigns and one-shots. We alternate Games Master responsibilities, so we’ve found it difficult to have a really good run and develop a momentum. This year we intend to have a longer run to get to the end of  Fungi From Yoggoth, the campaign that we began in the Autumn of 2015. It has been a great campaign, shredding through characters, and illustrated by Ed’s sumptuous hand-outs. Ed is currently retro-fitting the final sections to fit with 7ed, so we can experience the differences.

Blythy has just concluded an episode of Numenera that left our adventurers fleeing the alternate planet of Star Swarm to find our way back to the Ninth World. It will be back later in the year, as will Nights Black Agents. We ran several sessions of excellent Zalozhniy Quartet last year, but I’ve decided to rest it for a while. Of all the games we played, it was the one that suffered due to the loss of momentum as we ‘GM-switched’. I’m keen to run the Dracula Dossier, but I think we’ll work out a way that we can do it over a sustained weekend of several sessions. It needs to be compact and have a certain dramatic intensity to work.

KING OF THE ONE-SHOTS

For my GM duties, I’m going to be the King of the One-Shots, starting with a couple of Mythras games in the Luther Arkwright setting. I’m going to have a play-test at the session mentioned above, to get me ‘match-fit’ for the session at Convergence – which is set to be a 7 hour epic, based on the magnificent ‘Fire Opal of Set’ which appeared in Imagine #14. Please sign up if you can come … so far it’s me and Blythy.

Also, I have a commitment to deliver a ‘one-shot’ for the Patreons. I’ll be polling them soon on a date and game. I’ll also be running Top Secret and GangBusters online soon too.

In our plans for the next 6 months is a trip to Southport with our Gnomes, to join the Steam Dwarves, with our friends The Old Scroates and believe it or not, we’ve been given a press pass for UK Games Expo.

This town rips the bones from you back. Baby, I was born to roll.

Sorry.

Episode 10 (Part 1)More RuneQuest RPG (with Rick Meints)

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INTRO We’re back for more podcasts in 2017! We’re returning to our origins and looking again at the game that we began with back in 1981.

OPEN BOX 4.31 – the only President from the USA who really matters is the President of Chaosium, Rick Meints, who joins us to open the box on his early years of play and to talk about how he transformed from a player and collector of Chaosium games, to running the company.

WHITE DWARF 36.50@dailydwarf examines my favourite department of White Dwarf – RuneRites with its new creatures, magic and rules for combat.

JUDGE BLYTHY RULES! 50.00 – RuneQuest 6 has been rebranded as MYTHRAS . Ahead of Dirk running his Luther Arkwright scenario at Convergence in March, Blythy casts his critical eye over the rules.

OUTRO: I’ve been appearing on various podcasts as a RuneQuest zealot – Dissecting Worlds and the RPG Academy as well as appearing wild-eyed on Twitch.

The Patreon campaign is being reviewed and renewed for 2017.

Reflections on a 2016 of gaming

An interesting review of 2016 in gaming from one of the most wonderful people we’ve connected with via the GROGPOD!

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It does seem a little narcissistic to write anything about my own RPGing over the last 12 months and apologies in advance, but I hope it is of some interest.  However, at least it will serve as a record to me of my RPG  activity and of my impressions at the end of the year. I’ve thought of a few themes that have stood out for me: GMing at Cons, gaming on-line, and what the actual games are I’ve played most of over the year. Despite the geopolitical horrors of the year, it’s been a good one for gaming.

Conventions

So, I think over the year I’ve managed to get to four gaming conventions and I was registered for Dragonmeet but sadly couldn’t attend in in the end. One of my goals for 2016 was to run some games at conventions.  I’ve run RPGs for groups, both face to face…

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RPG Academy – RuneQuest on Trial

From midnight to around 4am last night I was holed up in the Den under the stairs as I was a visiting Fellow of The RPG Academy. Their ENNIE nominated podcast includes a ‘Trial’ series, where they reach out, beyond their usual fayre of D&D and Pathfinder, to discover new systems. They invite ‘an expert’ of a game that interests them to GM for them. No expert was available, so I agreed to GM RuneQuest.
Thanks to a twitter poll, Gringle’s Pawn Shop was to be the scenario and I decided to use the Pre-Gens that had been road-tested for The Sea Caves (and GROGMEET… just call it my contribution to recycling). Playing Ducks would allow them to see at first hand some of the uniqueness of the Glorantha setting and think differently about their characters.
I adapted the scenario by taking elements of the original and blended in story elements from the Sartar Companion to make it more interesting and twisty.
Michael surprised me but saying that the actual play was to be streamed as well as recorded for their audio podcast. You can watch the results now at their You Tube channel. Later, they will discuss and dissect their experience and their thoughts on the rules.

I’ll probably share more of my thoughts on actual play once it has been broadcast. I enjoyed the experience. It was fun. In retrospect, there are a couple of aspects that I’d do differently. I missed not having virtual table top to scribble on so the characters could locate themselves. Also, it would have been good to have had a session zero to orientate the players within Glorantha, to give them an overview of the setting and telling them why ‘Jeffery’ is a rubbish name. A session zero would have given an opportunity to trot through the character sheet to point out different elements. The players had to rely on my quick-start notes. Maybe explaining the combat rules in an overview would have made them a little more cautious… “you’re running into a hail of arrows …. Again?”
Overall, as a knock-about, fun, one-shot adventure, it was entertaining to play.

Your Quack John will vary – mine certainly did.

Let me know what you think.