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.
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 and on-line, and with gamers I’d not met before at clubs I’ve been part of over the years, but until 2016, hadn’t offered a gaming slot at an organised convention.
My first experience came at the kind invitation of @paulbaalham to run a game at the UK D&D Tweetup, held at The Dice Cup in Nottingham in March. I’ve not played an awful lot of either D&D or Pathfinder, and Paul kindly let me offer a game of 13th Age, and I ran the excellent Free RPG Day adventure Make Your Own Luck , by the great Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. I really enjoyed running this and was pleased that my players were people I’d met on Twitter. I should also thank Pelgrane, Wade Rockett and Cat Tobin for the stuff they sent to help me run the game. 13th Age remains my favourite level/class-based fantasy RPG.
So after my first experience, I was keen to do some more and offered up two games at the UK Games Expo in June. I decided to go for a game I’d not had a lot of experience of and offer Shadow of the Demon Lord and an old favourite, Legend of the Five Rings. For the former, I had a chance to playtest with some local gaming friends, to try and figure out if it was practicable to run both a ‘starting’ and a ‘novice’ adventure, with levelling up in-between, in a 4-hour session. This turned out to be do-able so I ran a double bill of The Slaver’s Lash and The Demon’s Wet Nurse at the Expo.
For Legend of the Five Rings, I ran another Free RPG day release, this time Legacy of Disaster . This latter session began a little badly – it was a Saturday morning and I’d dashed over to the Chaosium stand in the tradehall (7th edition CoC selling out!) and returned only five minutes before the start time, and two of my players gave me some grief for not being there at least 10 minutes before the start time (as specified in the instructions to GMs, apparently). However, we recovered from this slightly rocky opening and had a great session – not least because a couple of the players knew the setting really well, and the others were new to it, and it was fun to see them getting into roleplaying honourable samurai with tough choices.
In addition to running, I was able to play in three excellent games too. If my love of L5R doesn’t quite give it away, I very much enjoy Wuxia RPGs and was able to play in @gspearing ‘s game of Qin, and @boreders game of Symbaroum (of which, more later). Finally, I was able to get a session in with players with whom I game on line with most weeks – we were all able to get tickets in on a 7th ed Call of Cthulhu game, run by Tim Evans. This was one of my best RPG experiences ever, not only because of the game, the players, and the GM, but due to the Twin Peaks elements of the story.
The next convention I attended was The Grand Tribunal in Cheltenham in August. This originally was an Ars Magica convention but seems to have broadened to include other RPGs from Atlas Games too. Here I didn’t run but managed to play in a couple of sessions – one of Ars Magica and one of Feng Shui, run by the excellent @dimbyd . I didn’t really understand the freeform LARP which opened the day (I just wandered around aimlessly, being confused, until I decided to attack stuff – my tried and true RPG tactic), but it was a wonderfully friendly meeting, with a great raffle, and fish and chips. Very grateful to @CJR23 for the warm welcome. Here’s the link for the next Grand Tribunal 2017 .
The final Con was the fabulous Grogmeet in Manchester in November, organised by Dirk the Dice from @theGrognardfile and the other Armchair Adventurers. Dirk kindly let me run the old West End Games d6 Star Wars RPG and I used the adventure ‘Rebel Breakout’, from the 1987 1st edition of the game, and created an opening crawl.
Here’s a fab video of the day from Dirk (Grogmeet 2016) showing some of the games happening at this very friendly event, and my own reflections on the game written for the Grogzine, which Patreons can download here . I really enjoyed this day – it was great to meet the Adventurers in the flesh, enjoy a couple of pints afterwards, and a good chat on the train back with @doc_griffiths. Looking forward to Grogmeet 2017 and thinking about Ars Magica, Marvel Super Heroes, FASA Star Trek RPG or 1st edition Legend of the Five Rings.
Since meeting Tamsyn (@xtamsynx) and Craig (@craigpbrown) IRL at the 2014 UK Games Expo, we’ve been playing online most weeks – together with Col (@dampscot), Paul (spookshow71), Blakey (@Burekeii), and initially, Liam (@Evoroth). This continued throughout 2016, despite busy lives, and we’ve played a wide variety of games including Call of Cthulhu, Far Trek, Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea, Solomon Kane, Rippers, Dresden Files Accelerated Edition, The One Ring, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Dragon Age, City of Mists, Monsterhearts, and a Fate Accelerated version of Nights Black Agents.
Far Trek RPG is free to download here and gives a super experience of playing in the Star Trek TOS setting. I was pleased to get a game of City of Mists in and I ran the free starter. It seemed to go well and gave me the chance of running a ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ game – looking forward to the full game being released.
I’ve also been playing a regular on-line game of Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG with @chimpy20 and @chrissyspill and others. This took place most weeks, except for a bit of a gap when Matt was moving house during which I ran some of The One Ring. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG has been the game I’ve played most of over the year – because of the weekly on-line game and that we’ve been playing it too in our face to face tabletop group. I’ve really liked the gradual character progression (with Xim Chamra now being a rather dangerous gunslinger and assassin), the flexible choices available, and, if you wish to get into it, the modifications the PCs can make to their ships and equipment. The game’s mechanics keep every roll interesting and give the players a key role in generating narrative. The game feels very dramatic with lots high action and I hope to play more in 2017.
In addition to these more regular games, I was very grateful to @dimbyd for inviting me to an ad hoc game of Feng Shui on roll20 and to @chimpy20, @rpgkitchen, @zos93, and Dave, from our tabletop group, for getting together at short notice to try the first playtest for Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures (sign up here) .
RuneQuest 2 (or ‘Classic’) has a rather special place in my heart. Not only did I play it ‘back in the day’, but when I moved to Warwickshire, and joined a local gaming club, it was the first RPG I got invited to join after a hiatus of about 12-13 years. Hence, I was delighted by Chaosium’s kickstarter to republish this edition and to join a game of RQ2, ‘The Sea Caves’ (part of the Old School Resource Pack), run by Dirk the Dice (@theGrognardfiles). We played as Humakt Ducks, with me as Mal Hard. The screenshot below shows Eddy checking the fumble rules as he lost his left leg – yet again. Dirk has kindly written up the session here and here’s a link to another RQ2 game that Dirk ran for the RPG Academy crew just the other night.
There’s a lot of Glorantha on the horizon, not only Heroquest Glorantha (which I picked up from the UK Games Expo) but also 13th Age Glorantha and a new edition of RuneQuest (with design notes found here at Chaosium’s blog).
Games I’ve Played Tabletop
In addition to games on-line and at Cons, there have been those I’ve played around a kitchen table. The year started well with a one-shot Pathfinder session. Sadly, I can’t get to the Gaming Club I mentioned above at present (due to week day commuting) but we got together for a RPG session of ‘We Be Goblins’. This was rather a hoot, but the amount of prep did surprise me. Here’s the infamous Goblin Song and the free PDF of the adventure.
My main tabletop group meets every 4-6 weeks and we’ve had a good year. We began with Keltia, run by Stef, before moving into Star Wars Force and Destiny, run by Matt (@chimpy20), and then moved the same PCs into an Age of Rebellion game run by Jimbo (@jimbohawkins). This has been a great contrast to the on-line Star Wars game – more moral challenges and my PC, Minerva Voight (a seer/Makashi duelist) is much less combat-focused than Xim, having spent XP on developing her more supportive and divinatory force powers.
Stef and I have also met up with our families on a couple of occasions and played Hero Kids with the children. Hoping to get another date together soon to try No Thank You, Evil!
I’ve also become part of an occasional Sunday morning group – we first met to try the new Conan RPG quickstart (available here free), but it was also where I tested out my plans for Shadow of the Demon Lord in preparation for the UK Games Expo. Since then, we’ve tried The Strange, playing the highly recommended Eschatology Code and are now working our way through The Copper Crown campaign for Symbaroum. I’ve been really impressed by Symbaroum – I had a great time playing it at the Expo, and found it smooth to run. Easy rules, players roll all the dice, and a very rich and evocative setting, with magic in the game being inherently corrupting.
Finally, I was lucky to get to a session of Dungeon Crawl Classics, run by @leejneilson, at a FLGS in Rugby, together with @doc_griffiths. We played through the surreal and dangerous funnel adventure, The Hole in the Sky, getting to the end but with a rather reduced party of PCs. Hoping to do more – for a fun, gonzo, dungeon crawling experience, DCC is hard to beat.
Final Thoughts and Looking Forward
Looking at the above, I’m rather amazed at the amount of gaming I have got in over the year, despite work, family commitments, the need for sleep etc. What is clear is that in terms of hours it has been the Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games which I have played most of, being both a tabletop and on-line game for this year. On-line gaming has really opened up opportunities – it is much easier to play on-line for a couple of hours in the evening after work, than arrange a 4-hour session face to face. Plus, you don’t need to go out, and can raid the fridge for beer. It has also meant that people I have met on-line or at Cons are now people I can game with.
At the end of the year, it is playing Symbaroum and reading the beta of Coriolis that are at the forefront of my mind. I think 2017 will be a year where I hope to play more Swedish RPGs, including Mutant Year Zero and Tales from the Loop. I also think that the RPGs being put out by Modiphius, using the 2d20 system will feature highly – I’m a huge fan of Star Trek and hope to do more of the play-testing and pre-order Star Trek Adventures in January, in advance of release at GenCon. Several of us backed Conan, so that too will feature.
I like games of occult and magic, so hope to play Unknown Armies and Kult, and am always happy to play or run the excellent The One Ring, and I want to run some more Cthulhu (whether Trail or Call). I hope to try HeroQuest Glorantha (still sad to have missed @dimbyd’s Dragonmeet game) and gain some more experience of ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ games – perhaps try Monster of the Week. Of course, if I can find players that are up for it, the Rokugan of Legend of the Five Rings or the Mythic Europe of Ars Magica are also always waiting, and still want to play in any of the Worlds of Darkness. I’ve just finished off character creation for a PBEM game of King Arthur Pendragon, to start in the new year.
Finally, and thinking of the next generation, I’ve recently met the dad of one of my son’s friends. He is a gamer too, and he and his son have been playing some Dungeons and Dragons 5e. We’re all meeting up for some boardgames soon, but we both hope that may develop into some RPG sessions with our boys.
This has become rather longer than planned. Apologies for wittering on and, if nothing else, the links may be useful. I hope everyone has a wonderful new year and best wishes for 2017. I hope the dice land well for you and that we all get some good games in.