#RPGaDay2022 Where is your favourite place to play?

I want to let my British readers (or those that can travel) in on a little secret. D&D in a Castle is all very well, but for the price of that event, you can play all sorts of your favourite games in lots of evocative locations. The Lamdmark Trust a conservation charity saves builds ing by turning them into holiday cottages.

On my fiftieth birthday I ran Nights Black Agents for a group of friends at Goddards, an Arts and Crafts house in Surrey. This is one of the most popular houses on the list and phenomenally expensive. A once in a lifetime experience. But other places are cheaper, especially in winter. They are not to cold and many have huge open fires to play games by.

Manor Farm is cheap enough to be an annual occasion for us. But there are other places too and I have just selected few that are big enough to rub games in.

A Victorian fort that I stayed in for an earlier birthday. Lots of tunnels to explore.

Woodspring Priory is another place I stayed in. We didn’t play an RPG there but being of a certain generation, but we did run around playing “war”, shooting each other with finger guns. It also has loads of hiding places for the best game of hide and seek ever.

A lighthouse on an island I didn’t stay here, but in another place on the island. It’s cheaper in winter, but they discount is offset by having to go there by helicopter. None of the places below are places I have stayed, but if you want to play D&D in a Castle, or Horror on the Orient Express in a railway station these are places you might consider.

A 13th Century Fortification

A Castle

A Tudor gatehouse

A Scottish castle

A railway station

Another Castle

Another Castle

#RPGaDay2022 Who Introduced You?

I already mentioned my Mum, who handed me that newspaper magazine article. But she didn’t help me find my first game.

I has saved up for ages, and cycled to the local Department Store, when the books section was selling the D&D boxed set. I bought it, strapped it to the bike rack and cycled home. I inviting my best friend from my old school round to play. We simply didn’t understand how. I was .… disappointed.

It wasn’t until about a year later that I jo8ned the “Wargames Club” at school. There I played my first game. And to be be honest I can’t recall who was running that game and who else was playing. But I will hazard a guess that my co-host’s brother, Tony, was there. And probably John Learner, amd I am pretty sure one of the was Mick Rowe. These then are the people I will say introduced me to playing RPGs.

But I can remember very clearly one moment. The party was attacked by skeletons or something. I looked at my character sheet and noticed my characters was equipped with a Ring of 50 Fireballs. “Can I use that?” I asked “the room is ten by ten, how many fireballs do you want to use” said the DM.

I replied “Fifty?”

#RPGaDay2022 When were you introduced to RPGs?

1977. Games Workshop published a local edition of the first D&D Basic Set in the UK, and of course backed it up with a marketing campaign. I remember we were staying my my grandparents, “Nin” and Granddad, in their cottage in Grafham, West Sussex. It was Sunday and my Dad had bough some newspapers, including the Sunday Times. My Mum handed me the Magazine supplement, open to a page which featured a quarter page article on D&D, with a colour picture of one of Citadel Miniatures’ Dragons (and some other out of focus figures). Only the magazine featured colour print in those days, and the editors obviously thought the dragon picture was worth a place in the magazine. The article was very short, it didn’t say much. But my Mum thought I would be interested.

And I was.

I didn’t get to play though, until the following year.

#RPGaDay2022 What is a great introductory RPG?

The obvious answer here is D&D, it has always been D&D in whatever edition is published at the time. Why? Because that’s the game a new player is most likely to find. It’s the game that has the most groups running. It’s likely to be the game a friend plays. And if not, a complete stranger can walk into any Friendly Local Gaming Store and sign up for a game. Until very recently I co-ordinated Adventurers’ League at my local store and every Saturday, we had five to eight tables of people playing D&D. It is “great” because it is big. But it’s not the game I have introduced new players to RPGs with.

When my kids got their introduction it was with Fate Accelerated Edition. They were arguing over a story they were inventing around a Lego town they were building, and it was getting to the “trashing the town” stage of anger. So I explained that “grown ups” setting such arguments in let’s pretend with a robust set of rules and some dice.

I was running a “Great War veterans vs Body Snatching Aliens” campaign in Fate at the time, so I explained Fate dice to the kids, and very soon, Lily’s Princess Leia was working with Tom’s Cowboy in an Ape MechSuit to rob a train. family fun for all. But Fate isn’t a great introductory game either. It uses a lot of words to explain simple concepts. It works with kids, who aren’t going to bother reading stuff, but grown ups?

No, what grown ups need is Alien. The RPG that I helped write. (I love saying that). Seriously, it’s a great introduction because even people who have not seen Alien have a “folk-memory” idea of what it’s about. And people who are nervous about “acting” a character are helped with the character’s agenda. That agenda also helps players expecting with the concept of “winning” a game get used to the idea of a game where you win only by having fun, in a setting where pretty much everyone not played by Sigourney Weaver loses.

I am not blowing this trumpet theoretically. This comes from practical experience, and from anecdotal evidence. Alien has attracted a lot of fans who had no previous experience with RPGs and even encouraged sone of them to start running games before ever playing in them. The simplicity of the system helps in that regard – as far as Year Zero Engines go, this is one of the simplest. (Not the very simplest, Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood are simpler still.) So it’s a lot easier to learn to run Alien that it would be to learn D&D.

Players like the simplicity too. Throw a bunch of dice to see of you get a six, if not don’t you can though them again adding a stress die to your pool. Watch out for ones on the stress dice. That’s all the rules in a nutshell. The push mechanism is fun possibly the most fun of any Year Zero Engine game – and feels so right for the story. Try harder and get better, more likely to succeed, until you panic.

I have recently introduced three neophytes to tabletop roleplaying with this game, and they all loved the experience.

Chapter 2: The Evening Watch and Quiffel Soup Part 1.

Zee perched on the edge of the rock face. He could hear the distant sound of the people of Yeigroth City going about their afternoon business. He had been tasked with watching the Follg pass, a large, naturally occurring staircase which led for miles to the surface world. It was first found by Glendora the betrayer, a cruel necromancer of legend who used it to sneak to the surface and strike a bargain with some daemon lord who nearly eradicated the race of man. Or so the story went, as Zee had been told it. Ever since that day the city elders feared mighty armies of men would march on their precious underground haven in search of revenge. ‘Why would they?’ thought Zee. Surface dwellers did not dare venture this far down for fear of getting captured and fed to giant Tunnel Naga or being cooked alive by some savage Dark Elf. Zee laughed quietly to himself at the thought. He was quite happy for them to have these ridiculous impressions of his race as he liked that men left his people alone. Besides, he had no intention of leaving the city Yeigroth. He had unfinished business and a mystery to solve.

For the watch Zee had brought his light-weight, custom carved crossbow and wore dark brown leather body armour under a long grey cloak. His naturally obsidian skin was the perfect camouflage in the murky caverns of the Under-dark however, his ash white hair had to be tied back as to stop it standing out like a beacon in the shadows. This particular duty was not a favourite of Zees, he was only here as a punishment because of his sister Lilly. The head of the Yeigroth Garrison, Captain Edyrm, had found stolen rations in her bunk and Zee had taken the punishment in his sister’s place. However improbable, today could be the day the armies of man come and he felt a duty to put her in as little danger as possible.

Lilly was the younger of the two siblings by 3 years. She always had sweet intentions but often got the two of them into trouble and this time she had been caught stealing Quiffel mushrooms. ‘Probably to make stew’ thought Zee. It was a simple dish but he knew it reminded her, just like him, of home and the last meal he, Lilly and their parents had together. That was the last happy memory Zee had. The next day their parents departed on a simple trade job but disappeared without a trace and both their lives were thrown into dismay ever since. After a sloppy, half-hearted investigation was conducted by the tunnel road company which turned up nothing, they were sent to live with their aunt in Niffren. Now, ten years later, they had returned to Yeigroth and enrolled into the Garrison Guard. Zee hoped to secretly investigate their parents’ disappearance and find answers but thought Lilly was too kind hearted and immature. Because of that he had been hard on her these past few years but Zee considered it their family duty to solve the mystery and find their parents.

“Zee” a familiar voice whispered. It was Lilly. Zee was known for having the best sense of smell and hearing in all of Yeigroth Garrison. He claimed he could tell you how many legs a Dwindler Spider had from placing his ear to the ground and focusing on its movement from more than a mile away however, his sister was equally as talented in the art of stealth. She had once snuck past several guards, stolen Edyrms personal duty ledger and replaced it with a fake just to get them out of morning shifts. Together Lilly and Zee made the perfect team but he did despise her ability to sneak up on him.

“Old Edyrm didn’t manage to find them all” Said Lilly as she produced a small metallic pot and wooden spoon from her cloak. “Happy birthday brother” she said with a smirk on her face. He looked down as she twisted the lid open to reveal a still steaming Quiffel Stew. ‘His Birthday?’ he thought, ‘She got him in trouble over his birthday?’ A look of anger flashed over Zee’s face for a moment until the smell hit his nostrils and filled his mind with memoires of him and Lilly and their parents. He then remembered how sweet his sister was and how she was only trying to do something special for him, ‘perhaps he had been too hard on her’ Zee thought. He looked up and smiled at his sister, “We will find them sister, I promise you”.

The two sat together, shared the Quiffel stew and reminisced about happier times. Zee couldn’t remember the last time he and his sister spent time like this together and when the next guard came to take over Zee sent him away in order to spend more time with his sister. Hours passed and Lilly, after much conversation, had fallen asleep on the grey cloak Zee had placed down for them to sit on.

Slowly the distant noise of Yeigroth City faded signifying the end of the working day. Zee was just about to wake his sister up when he noticed shadows moving in the distance by the entrance to Follg pass. He quietly and carefully reached for his crossbow and crept towards the crest of the shadowy rock they were hidden behind. He let his eyes adjust for a moment to the dark and peered out looking for any sign of movement. ‘It couldn’t be Dwindler spiders again? It wasn’t the season for them’ Zee thought. Suddenly he saw the shadow move again. Zee concentrated for any sound he could make out. “I’m telling you now missy, this isn’t the way! You’ve had me trudging through these dam mouldy caves for days. Contrary to my looks I much prefer the skies you know!” said a gritty male voice. Into view came the silhouettes of two figures that stopped at the cave entrance. One tall, one very short. “Well if you hadn’t been so insistent on taking the tunnels then we would have arrived here with plenty of sand left in the hourglass. I don’t think I need to explain that we don’t have much of that sand to spare so next time just let me teleport us” Said the second voice. It was female but Zee couldn’t tell which voice belonged to which figure. “No magic! You know I don’t trust the stuff” Said the male voice again as the short figure pointed toward the tall one with what looked like an axe. Zee didn’t know who these people where but he had orders to stop any non-Dark Elf coming from Follg Pass and that short figure was definitely not a Dark Elf. Zee levelled his crossbow at the figure and placed his thumb on the leaver trigger. He took a deep breath in then exhaled slowly. Without a second thought he let the bolt loose towards the unsuspecting target.

Coming very soon – D&D fiction

Fêhc, my elvish barbarian character, rendered in Lego form by my son

I’ve just finished playing in a great D&D 5th Edition campaign. I joined a local group a couple of years back to play Feng Shui 2. One of the group’s number was away at the time, but when he returned and we’d finished the Feng Shui, he volunteered to run an campaign. The setting was Taldera, a world of his own creation but with most of the standard D&D tropes in place.

Apart from one session just after 5th ed at come out, I had not played D&D since my school group had spurned D&D for the “far superior” (as we decided, with all the confidence only a bunch of 12 to 14 year olds can have) systems of Runequest and Traveller. But that one 5th ed session I’d played in had encouraged me to buy the players handbook and I liked what I read, so I was very pleased to participate when he asked me to join.

I have to take a moment here to praise my fellow players, Jase, Tom, Thom and (before he left for university) Ashley and (when she joined for the later chapters) Sophia. You couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of weirdos-you-only-know-through-your-local-games-shop. Together we played D&D as it should be played, tackling monsters, exploring catacombs, solving puzzles and risking our (characters’) lives with just the right level of silliness. We started off in the traditional manner, using maps and figures. But none of us had the traditional fantasy miniatures (it really hard to find “naked elf barbarian” in any manufacturer’s range), we used everything from tiddlywinks, through sculpted Blu-Tack to Lego. And as the scope and scale of the campaign grew, we dropped the floorplans for more of a “theatre of the mind” style of play. Only two characters survived from beginning to end. I won’t say who, because “spoilers”.

You see, the real star of our little gang was the DM, Jamie Lubbock, who took every decision we made in his stride, and shaped the world and the story around us. It was a great campaign, so good in fact, that its inspired Jamie to fictionalise it. Starting this evening Jamie plans to publish a chapter a week, on this very blog.

These won’t be session reports, but rather a work of fiction, authored by Jamie, inspired by what we did as players, but building on the story, not sticking strictly how the events played out at the table. I’ve had a preview of the first chapter, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Well, I know where it goes of course, I was playing. But I excited to see how it gets there.

So, please welcome Jamie Lubbock, the very first author who isn’t me FictionSuit.

#RPGaDay What have I played most in the last 12 months?

I've played more D&D in the last calendar year than I have ever played in my whole life.

I ought to clarify. D&D was my first RPG. I bought the GW boxed edition back in 1978, I think during the summer holidays before going to secondary school. But my first attempt at playing it was a disaster. I recall inviting my friend John around and us trying to get our heads around the rules. We failed – I particularly remember being stumped by a paragraph that explained how you'd get your party together by putting a notice in a local tavern and seeing who responded.

So we ran around the garden instead, shooting each other with pointed fingers. (No kids ever play "War" now – have you noticed that? Its probably a good thing.) When I got to school however, I found a "Wargames Club" that introduced me to D&D (actually it was AD&D, causing me to ask for all those hardbacks for Christmas). But we only played a few sessions of that before somebody brought Traveller into the room, then there was RuneQuest, Toon and a whole bunch of others, and those AD&D books I got for Christmas turned out to be a waste of various family members money.

We developed a sniffy attitude to D&D, with its levels and lack of skills. Traveller and RuneQuest (actually Call of Cthulhu) were the thing. And then when they brought out a second edition we were able to blame TSR for wasting our money on those unplayed AD&D books, and turned our backs on them.

I never played another game of D&D. (Actually I remember taking a school team to Reading University for a D&D competition(!) at GenConUK. We were hammered, out in the first round.) So I missed out on all the "edition wars" of third, 3.5 and fourth. But I was invited to join a campaign (which was actually reaching its last session when I finally managed to get there) using the then newly published fifth edition rules. No longer relying on grandparents to buy my D&D books I bought the Players Handbook on a whim. I'm glad I did, because every other player at the table, including the GM, had pirated PDF copies of the books.

I really liked fifth edition, levels and all, and even though that campaign was finishing as I joined, I got in on the first session of a new, weekly, campaign last year. These regular sessions are such great fun, and totally outnumber all my other sessions with other systems. My elf barbarian is fifth level now, and has recently discovered the pleasure of wearing clothes (much to my fellow players' relief).

It's not the ONLY game I've been playing though: I joined that particular group because they were playing Feng Shui 2, and my somewhat irregular get togethers with my oldest group have involved L5R, Song of Ice and Fire, Pendragon, Nights Black Agents and Coriolis. I've even been on line to run a session of The Warren (more on this in a later post).