GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN (with Ian Marsh): Ian Marsh returns to talk about his editorial-ship at White Dwarf and his involvement in Games Workshop. He also talks about Dr Who and his TimeLord game, before bringing us up to date with his latest endeavours.
DAGON (with @dailydwarf): @dailydwarf gives his usual insightful analysis of literary criticism covered in Dagon ‘zine.
ATTIC ATTACK: Blythy joins me in the attic to talk about ‘zines and comments provided by listeners. I mention Monster Man, a new podcast that is being developed by James Holloway, check out progress at his site.
OUTRO: We’re making a ‘zine – sign up at Patreon – before the end of September 2017 to get a copy.
Thank you to all our Patreons for your continued support; without you, we would not have been going for so long.
If you would like a PDF of the last GROGZINE you can get it at Drive Thru RPG and The Complete Daily Dwarf too. All proceeds will go to YSDC to support the community there.
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.
When I was preparing Ep. 11 TOP SECRET, I was desperate to play the game again. I was keen to understand how the rules worked in play, as they’re paradoxical: a class and level game, that doesn’t really use class and levels; a neat character attribute generator that doesn’t tell you how to use them; a system of intuitive D100 mechanics peppered with clunky ‘outcome tables’.
I said in the GROGPOD: “It’s a narrative game trapped in a simualtionist rule-set”.
Is it really? Was it really a game of understated genius, or was it as Judge Blythy said “a bit weird.”
The only way to find out is to play the game, so the online GROGCLUB opened up for business last week to play the TSR module: Operation Fastpass (Code Name: Puzzle). It’s a scenario set in the Cold War era complete with ‘straight of central casting’ KGB agents.
The set up goes like this:
CLASSIFIED: Administrator – Priority A
SITUATION: Andrei Lerekov, a communist code expert, has sent a secret message indicating his desire to defect. Lerekov is the author of several military codes and has information of vital importance. He will be the guest speaker at the European Puzzle Editor’s Conference in Budapest.
OBJECTIVE: Help Lerekov to defect and ensure of his safe arrival in a friendly country.
AUTHORISATION: Administrator and Agents will operate under the authority of Section Mercury, ISB.
MISSION: Agent team will infiltrate the conference suite under cover, locate Lerekhov, neutralise enemy security, and get Lerekov out of the country. Security forces may include hostile agents.
Team personnel are authorised to use any means necessary to accomplish this mission.
CODE NAME: Puzzle
Here’s 5 highlights and a lowlight from the first session.
The Setting The pitch that I made to the players was that it was going to be Man from U.N.C.L.E. with eighties chic meets Ocean’s 11. I realised when preparing the session that this was best viewed as a period piece. Although the agencies involved were the ‘real’ KGB and GRU unlike THRUSH or SPECTRE, for example, there’s an absurdity to the scenario now that we know more about the actual state of Soviet intelligence. They’re pitched as ruthlessly efficient, but it is probably better to see them as comic caricatures, because that what they seem like now.
I like how TOP SECRET equips the players with the Spy-fi gadgetry which allows this tongue-in-cheek approach possible.
The Characters The players had great fun selecting actors from the period to represent their characters and they all adopted code names from a pack of cards, as they were known by the ISB as ‘The Lucky Deck. Once shuffled they were deniable assets installed behind the Iron Curtain.
KING of Clubs – Technician – Lead, Field Agent
QUEEN of Hearts – Assassin – Second in command
Diamond JACK – Infiltration
The KNAVE – Infiltration
The ACE of Spades – Investigation
JOKER – Technician
The Tourist The adventure is constructed as a Hotel Dungeon, with rooms of interest designed for exploration and encounters rolled on tables at various points of the action. There’s enemies, allies and traps … that’s right … traps … for the player characters to discover as they search for Lerekov.
I re-engineered the scenario so that it was suitable as a shorter, more action focused, session, but I’ve retained some of the encounters, such as the spy fiction enthusiast who has been keeping an eye on the ‘Ruskies’
He’s an American Industrialist, looking to make contacts, but also adding to his interest in the world of espionage by watching the comings and goings in the hotel. There was a great ‘side-scene’, almost ‘off-camera’ as the hapless ‘cobbler’, the KNAVE, sought his papers so that he could get the team out of Hungary. He wasn’t quite ready to tell the King that he wasn’t ready..
The Trade Craft
The best aspect of the session was seeing the players getting into the mode of thinking like spies. The KING and the JOKER did a sweep of the room to dry clean it before the rest of the team arrived to share their humint on the movements within the hotel. They found a bug in the light fitting, so they used a Fusion Jazz LP to turn their discussions into white noise.
They also used an elaborate bug system that dangled out of the window to listen to the room below, where they hear talk of the sinister myasnik, an infamous GRU general.
There was also a great scene where the Diamond JACK and the ACE of Spades exchanged a vital piece of information in an audacious ‘brush pass’ under the noses of the goons in the lobby filling with puzzlers.
The Imposter In a ludicrous piece of plotting, it turned out that there were TWO Lerekov ‘s at the event and they need to use a code word to determine which one one is which, unless the QUEEN gets them all killed first.
Roll 20. The only downside is the increasing flakey behaviour of Roll 20. In recent months, it seems that the platform struggles with more than 4 in a game. We soldiered on, because peace and freedom was at stake… Although, there was one agent, willing to take matters into her own hands …
The online GROGCLUB is one of the many benefits of being a PATREON of the GROGNARD files Including a chance to determine the subject of the end of the year podcast. The nominations are open this week, with polling taking place next week. There’s RuneQuest and Gangbusters planned later in the year. To find out more, on the page.
Following an emergency meeting at Dirk Towers, the time has come … to create a The GROGNARD files fanzine.
Last week, I ran on of those infernal twitter polls in a fit of beer fuelled excitement in a bid to understand if there was interest out there. 41 people voted to say that they would read a fanzine … so we’ve agreed to do one as a PDF and as a hard copy (if we can generate enough funds to support it).
To help to create something interesting and collectable we have launched a Patreon campaign. If you want to throw some pennies in the hat to support our endeavour, then we’ll be very grateful.
We are offering various goals, that you’ll see on the link, the first is a PDF ‘zine, but what we’d really want to do is to produce a real ‘zine with ink, paper and staples. It will have a flavour of the old school ‘zines, even their distinctive smell.
If you have been following my twitter feed on @theGROGNARDfile over the past few days you will have seen that I have taken delivery of a bundle of IMAGINE magazines.
TSR UK published IMAGINE magazine from 1983 – 1985 with Don Turnbull at the helm and Paul Cockburn as the assistant editor.
I used to subscribe to it back in the day, despite it’s coverage of AD&D, a game that I didn’t Games Master and only played occasionally. It was an interesting companion piece to White Dwarf as it struck a very different tone to the Games Workshop magazine. Dare I say it, but on reflection, the resources it provided were of a superior quality. PELINORE, its collectable game world, was notable for it’s richness and wonderful maps that could spark a hundred scenarios without really trying.
It lacked the general consistency of White Dwarf, for every Pelinore supplement there was a weak and confusing scenario or waffely article about the minutiae of nothing in particular. In the podcast I have described White Dwarf as a kind of analogue social media – connecting our experience of role-playing with the wider community. White Dwarf did this tacitly through its small ads and letters page, Imagine on the other hand, was more explicit in its support of the fan culture. In the back pages there was a regular ‘zine section and in later issues a series of articles entitled FANSCENE which was an attempt to reach out and encourage gamers to become more active participants in the hobby.
In the mid-80s, there was something of a boom in the world of RPG ‘zines. Many of the second generation RPGers had gone to college, so applied all of their new found freedom to knocking out these little magazines.
I lost all of my fanzine collection in The Great Clear-out of ’92 when it contributed to landfill. They’re building on it now. Under the foundation of those closely-packed semi-detached houses, there will be the remnants of DRAGONLORDS, LANKHMAR STAR DAILY, DAGON, and IMAZINE. Unlike other artefacts from RPG’s past, it’s extremely difficult to recover those lost ‘zines as they rarely appear for sale on the internet. Not surprising, given the extremely low print runs.
All that remains is the distant memory of their content, which was irreverent, packed with ‘in’ jokes and references, quirky scenarios and pitch-battles between readers who were arguing over the latest controversial issue affecting the world of gaming. I enjoyed that sense of a conversation going on, even if I didn’t get all the references.
I have ‘zine’s in my blood. At the time, I was active on the PBM scene and had a ‘zine newsletter of my own ‘THE NATIONAL KOBOLD’ (my life in PBMs will be covered in future Podcasts). I was also contributing to ‘zine’s too, notably DRUNE KROLL where I began a BROOKSIDE RPG PBM (no takers, pity because my Damon Grant whodunnit scenario was brilliant).
In the early ’90s I created an anthology of Science Fiction stories in a collection titled THE PSEUDO-NYMPH, notable for it’s wonderful illustrations. In the mid-to-late 90’s Blythy and I edited PROP, a small press, literary magazine for 10 issues (really!).
We are both excited at the prospect of producing a ‘zine because it will allow us to explore avenues that are impossible in the podcast. We plan to include some of the usual features, but with additional ideas, that we’ll preview here over the coming months.
You can have your very own cut out and keep ridiculous shrine to Caroline Munro. Chuck a few coins in the beret and make it real.