Reflections on RPGing in 2017

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 RPG, the excitement of hearing about Star Trek Adventures, and discovering Swedish RPGs and beginning playing Symbaroum and reading Coriolis. Some of these themes have continued: we’ve finished a Symbaroum and Star Wars campaign, and I’ve run and played a fair bit of Trek.  A new and surprising feature has been the amount of D&D5e played.



Three conventions this year.  I was sad to miss The Grand Tribunal in Cheltenham, a celebration of RPGs from Atlas Games  but it clashed with family holiday but did get to UK Games Expo, Grogmeet, and Dragonmeet.

Expo, as ever, was great.  This year given the price of rooms, and the difficulty in finding one, I commuted for the three days – not too bad for me from Warwickshire – either driving or getting a lift.  The Expo was a great three days in gaming, and after going for several years, I’m getting to find the right balance between running games, playing games, and having time for ‘mooching’ – wandering around stands, chatting with friends, grabbing a beer.


Shiny happy people

I’d run a few of the Star Trek Adventures play-test adventures in the latter part of 2016/early 2017 so when submissions opened for the Expo I offered to run a session of Trek.  I was surprised to see how popular it was and that it speedily was over-booked, so ended up offering a second session so that could accommodate the bulk of players who wanted to try it.  I enjoyed both these sessions and hope the players did too.  I was delighted to get to the Modiphius stand during the Con too and take part in a play-test with Nathan Dowdell @N01H3r3 , writer and designer for the game, and all-round good guy.


In addition to trying the Star Trek Adventures play-test, having time to wander the main halls allowed me to try out games at the Chaosium stand, to try Starfinder with the Paizo team, and to meet Twitter chum @nucaica



I was delighted to catch up with Adam @RPGKitchen and try out his fun XPd8 system.  I’d booked into a Mage game on the last day.  I’d missed out on RPG’s in the bulk of the 90’s and early 00’s so White Wolf games have largely passed me by, so this was a good way to get a feel for the setting and mechanics of the game.  One of my hopes for 2017 was to play or run Coriolis.  We haven’t managed this in either an on-line or face to face group, but was very pleased to get into @RemiFayomi ‘s game at the Con.


I managed to do some shopping, picking up some bargains for 7th Sea, Fate, MERP, and Shadowrun.  Honoured to be interviewed, alongside @kb98 and @richgreen01  by @rolistespod after his interview with Rick Meints of Chaosium.  For a listen to our ramblings, try here .


And after what felt like a long summer, Grogmeet in November.  Although, I couldn’t manage to hang around in Manchester until the Sunday (and enjoy a visit to Salford Lads Club), I did manage to get to the Con on the Friday and hence take part in Grogmeet Eve.  This is the second such event the Armchair Adventurers (@theGROGNARDfile , @sjamb7 and @Edinthesand ) have arranged.  This is a great meeting and I strongly recommend anyone who can to try and attend.  On Friday night, I was fortunate to get into an excellent game of Numenera run by Judge Blythy and on the Saturday I ran the first part of the Enemy Within Campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e.  In the afternoon, I achieved one of my 2016 and 2017 gaming ambitions, and got to play HeroQuest Glorantha with none other than  @ian_h_cooper ,  with @mikemason looking on from his CoC table next door.  The WFRP seemed to go down well – chaos and deprivation on display, and got through the scenario in the allotted time.  Great to hear that C7 are going to be re-releasing the excellent Enemy Within for their new version of WFRP.  HeroQuest was fab – I got to play a ‘social justice warrior’ and enjoyed being an irritant to the other players and Ian helped me get my head around HeroQuest.  One of the nicest things about Grogmeet is the people and the chance to have a good chat in the pub after the games.


I failed to get to Dragonmeet last year due to a family emergency.  Enjoyed my attendance this year.  I was surprised by how small it seemed – I think because the Expo has been the convention I’ve attended the most often, that this has set my expectations, so in my head Dragonmeet was going to be like Expo, ‘but a bit smaller’. It felt a very different affair but also more relaxed and gave me more opportunities, given the scale, to bump into people and have a chat.  Booking into RPG sessions was rather chaotic – had no chance of getting on a morning game despite having arrived shortly after opening, but did get onto a session of Unknown Armies in the afternoon.  Being linked to a room, the other players, and the GM seems to involve having to join a scrum and be shouted at for a period of time.  Not terribly pleasant.

Alongside the game of Unknown Armies, I enjoyed getting to the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff panel, and the Chaosium Glorantha panel.  Other highlights were meeting Gareth Hanrahan @mytholder (and hearing that he was working on Moria for The One Ring!), and Kai from @wizardonthewynd , in their embodied existence (Wizard on the Wynd has been a big part of my listening in 2017, an awesome podcast and highly recommended).  I was also lucky to chat to @grahamwalmsley and for him to kindly sign a copy of his Cthulhu Dark.  I picked up some funky dice for the kids from @DnDiceUK and saw a printed copy of the excellent Spy Master from @symatt and @GMCarlplus5 .



On-line games

I’ve really enjoyed playing Pendragon RPG as a PBEM this year, very skilfully GM’d by @DissectingWrlds . This has been a wonderfully rich experience but I’ve been a bad player as tend to post erratically – I think the idea of reading and responding to text online reminds me too much of replying to paper and grant reviewers!  I’l try and be better in 2018 – Sir Aneirin has a crone wife and two kids to protect!  

I’ve been lucky enough to play in two Grogsquad games – one of Nights Black Agents run by @kinnygraham and the other Top Secret, run by Dirk for those who support the Grognard Files podcast.  I can’t claim to be much of an expert at espionage games, or the genre, but had a great time.  I’m probably not enough of a tactician and planner to be a good covert operative but very happy when the gunfight starts.  Here’s the write up of the first session from Dirk.



It’s hard to think of 2017 without thinking about Trump, North Korea, Brexit, and the UK government.  But the biggest geopolitical upheaval was Theresa May calling a surprise election to produce a strong and stable government (PM’s plans, like those of GM’s, tend to go awry when meet their voters (or players)).  This meant that Steven @sjamb7 was unable to attend the UK GamesExpo (I think he is Conservative Chief Whip or something) and hence was unable to join the game of Star Trek Adventures he’d been down for.  So I suggested to run Star Trek online, with Steven and with other Trekkies – @pedr ,@Seren_Silver , and @ThisIsNotIain , together making up the crew of the USS Thunderchild, and having our own twitch stream and twitter account @STBestOfTimes . We’ve been playing through a combination of the Living Campaign (starting with Convoy SE-119 by @scribe_ineti ), adventures from These are the Voyages (Biological Clock by @trek_lug ) and some home-brew sessions to bring out the backstories of the PCs.  Looking forward to more in 2018. Blythy and Dirk very kindly discussed this game and the rules of Star Trek Adventures in the Grognard Files review of the year here


In parallel to running Star Trek Adventures, I’ve been able to be part of a game, playing Captain Senek of the USS Stan Lee with @pilky ,@tallulahmaait , @MissJenHart , and @tarasis.  The next session will be my first game of the New Year – interested to see if Senek has recovered from the his sick bed after being battered by zealots!

Face to face

In addition to the Con games, I’ve been part of four tabletop groups – one is an erratic weekend evening group, meeting every 4-8weeks, where we’ve played the Star Wars RPG and Masks, a Sunday morning breakfast RPG club (with @Chimpy20  @giryan @Er0_0  @doc_griffiths and others), where we finished off the Copper Crown campaign for Symbaroum and have since been playing The Strange RPG, a fortnightly D&D 5e group, and a ‘dads and sons’ D&D 5e group.


Running Symbaroum has been one of my best experiences as a GM and I think for 2018 I should go back to running or playing more of this game – I’ve submitted a session to UK Games Expo and I’ve been backing the instalments of the Throne of Thorns campaign on Kickstarter.   The evening group has been continuing with Star Wars with @jimbohawkins running a fab Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny campaign. In my prior EoTE game, I’d played Xim Chamra, a gunslinger who was great fun.  In D&D terms, Xim was a ‘glass cannon’, a striker or a sorcerer, capable of dealing out a lot of ranged damage but being rather fragile.  He also wasn’t too bad as a backup pilot and as the face of the team – a Han Solo if you like.  Minerva in the AoR/FaD game was very different – a mystic seer who was more of a Cleric or control wizard – I pumped my XP into talent trees, force powers, and force rating such that rather than being involved directly in combat, she supported the team by her divinatory powers, battle meditation, and healing. 

The influence of Critical Role in pulling in new people into the hobby seems to have reached Warwickshire.  Together with @Chimpy20  and @doc_griffiths ,  I attended a ‘meetup’ in a local coffee shop of people who wanted to try D&D after watching Matthew Mercer and gang.  This led to a fortnightly D&D group which has been great – have a Tiefling Wizard and a Dark Elf Monk I am playing, and together with my Human Druid in the game I play with my son, means that 2017 has been a year of three new D&D PCs and perhaps has made D&D the game I’ve played the most!

A managed to squeeze in a one-shot between Christmas and New Year – my friends keen to try the Star Trek Adventures Quickstart, which allowed me to try out my tokens, funky dice, and GM screen.


Looking ahead

I’ve mentioned a few hopes for the new year – to continue as a player and a GM with Star Trek Adventures, and to go back to Symbaroum.  I’d like to run some Pendragon and spent 2016/17 trying to pick up a few e-bay bargains.  D&D will continue – hopefully with @Chimpy20 ‘s Amberscar game, but also with my son, his mate, and the other dad.  I’m also thinking of exploring the game more as a GM than just as a player.

I’d still like to play or run Coriolis and given that 2018 is going to be the year of Glorantha, I’d like to play/run each of RuneQuest in Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha and HeroQuest Glorantha .  I’d also like to run or play some of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.


Another goal is to get back to running The One Ring, one of those games where setting and mechanics fuse perfectly , and I hope to play through the Rohan-based Oaths of the Riddermark adventures with @dampscot , @spookshow71,  @xtamsynx  @craigpbrown and @Burekeii .

Although correlation is not causation, I note that I ran Star Wars D6 RPG from West End Games at Grogmeet 2016, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition at Grogmeet 2017, and that 2018 will bring a release of the Star Wars RPG 30th anniversary edition from  Fantasy Flight Games and a 4th edition of WFRP from Cubicle 7.  Hoping these new releases will bring new players to the games who missed them first time around and other gamers back to them who may have forgotten how good they are.  I’d like to see both games features at cons or in my groups.

For many years I’d been hoping for a new Star Trek RPG and 2016 granted that wish with the news of Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius and its release in 2017. 2017 brought the news of a 5th edition of Legend of the Five Rings, my favourite RPG.  As can be seen from this post and that from last year, I like the system that underpins FFG’s Star Wars RPG and am an admirer of @lindevi as a writer and game designer, so am confident the new edition will be great – the beta can be found here.  Hope to play this in 2018 and have already began thinking about how to convert Asako Soh to the new system.


To close, those of us who are Twitter-active Warwickshire RPGers (me, @Chimpy20 @doc_griffiths @jimbohawkins @LeeJNeilson ) are hoping to arrange a one-day mini con locally in September.  Be great to see you!

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