#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 Past. Present. or Future? When is your favourite game set?

Well, my favourite game in Coriolis, that that is set in the future. But there is more to talk about here. I would assume that, given the prominence of D&D, and fantasy gaming in general, that “the past” would be the expected most popular answer. But are fantasy games set in the past? Just because they use mostly medieval technologies it doesn’t mean they are historical. Indeed some, like Numanera are explicitly set in the far future.

I have already said that fantasy settings are my least favourite, but historical settings can be fun. Again, I have already said that I am less keen on supernatural elements in those historical settings, but Vaesen is a favourite, because the supernatural elements are not necessarily the antagonists. Indeed they are often a symptom of human activity in the area. For this reason, if I had to have magical elements in the past, Vaesen would be the game I choose.

I am more relaxed about supernatural elements in present day games. My favourite present day game though, is Unknown Armies, where the supernatural is broadly all the fault of normal, broken, people trying to make the world a better place. So it’s still not externalised, it is still all about people. That said I also love Night’s Black Agents where it is clearly all the fault of vampires. And I am looking forward to giving Rivers of London a try.

But the future is where most of the games I play find a home. Be it Traveller, 2300AD, Firefly and now Coriolis. The beautiful thing about sci-fi is that it can be influenced and product of the past and the present.


Why will she like this game? Longtime readers met my wife on Day 1. I told you how I was hoping to introduce her to TTRPGs. But I also told you that the game I planned to use was not the one I recommended on Day 2.

Now I reveal that plan to use Nights Black Agents: Solo Ops. And I think she will like it because it is a 1 to 1 game, designed for one player and one GM. Sue has agreed to play a game with me because she wants to spend time talking to me. I don’t think she wants to wait her turn, or shout louder than the other players, especially if there were more experienced players around the table.

When we were enjoying those lockdown walks we had structured conversations. And what is a TTRPG if not a structured conversation?

#RPGaDay 26: The Dracula Dossier

“Which RPG provides the most useful resources?”

Is it the core sets that provide the most useful resources? Or is it on-line services, supplements, campaigns etc? After-sales as it were? There are all sorts of ways I could answer this question, but I’m going to talk about published campaigns. And my current favourites are the excellent publications coming out of Pelgrane Press. 

You might think that my definition of “resources” is hand-outs, and indeed the handouts for The Dracula Dossier are splendid. Take, for example, Dracula Unredacted, this hardback edition of Bram Stoker’s novel isn’t like any you can find in your local library. Passages from earlier drafts are reinstated, and indeed new passages are inserted, purporting to be bits that British Military Intelligence redacted from an after-action report of actual events before publication as a “novel” as part of a mis-information campaign. This particular copy though has marginalia written in three different hands, made as agents used this original proof as a source in their own investigations.  

You can also get The Hawkins Papers, a variety of handouts in PDF form, including the letter demanding the redactions of Stoker’s novel. A particular favourite of mine (one page of which is illustrated above) is the letter detailing experiments upon children which keen readers with recognise as the Walkers and Blacketts from Swallows and Amazons, and the Pevenseys from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The PDF document is great, and some lucky (and high spending) Kickstarter backers got hand-made movie quality prop versions. But actually, hand-outs? Schmand-outs! 

These are not the resources I am talking about. 

Rather, the resource that I really value in Pelgrane’s supplements is research, knowledge and thus the appearance of being a shit-hot GM. The Dracula Dossier, and the first published scenario pack I bought, The Zalozhny Quartet are so well researched, by Gareth Rider-Hannrahan and the god-like Ken Hite that there are chock-full of real history and real facts about the real world that GMs can constantly amaze their players. Just throw-away an aside and it will turn out to be, not just important to the story being created but also, when they back up their in-game research with Google on the mobile, it seems the real world has changed to fit the story they are experiencing. 

Case in point: one of my players is a University Professor of Music, to be fair, one who concentrates on 20th century musical theatre. I mentioned that the opera house in Vienna was running “Heinrich Marschner’s Romantic Opera Der Vampyre (1828)” and he went “Marschner didn’t write a Vampire opera, did he?” –goes away and consults whatever university lecturers consult (I assume Google, like the rest of us)– He DID!” My musicologist credentials were assured! 

And again: one of my players serves in the Royal Signals. When they featured in an adventure, all the details were correct to his satisfaction (apart from the fact that he doesn’t get to work in a vampire related listening station). When the characters found a store of guns and ammo in the same place, he was about to complain that they would never be stored that way in the real military, just as I recounted the justification for the basic error that the authors had already supplied me. Boom! I’m a military expert!

One adventure (from The Edom Files) used pre-gens that, we later realised, where real people from the period. Shazam! I appear to be a contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography!

Not only that, they manage to arrange all these elements in a way that makes the adventure the most sandbox-y published adeventures I’ve ever used. The NPCs in The Dracula Dossier all have three description, for example, so you can decide whether being an innocent, and agent of Edom, or a vassal of Dracula on the fly. 

These are what I call “useful resources”. 

#RPGaDay 2017 What do I wish I was playing right now?

This is so easy. No question, no doubt. What published RPG do I wish I was playing right now? Nights Black Agents, and more specifically, The Dracula Dossier, the amazing improvised campaign from Ken Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

I must make an admission here, for years I ignored Nights Black Agents, spurned and despised it in fact. I remember it being proffered to me on DriveThru and reading the description "… it turned out you were working for vampires." I yawned, vampires again? The nineties called and they want their game back.

I moved on.

It came back to my attention when I was researching the Fate Core campaign I'm now close to finishing. My players and I had run a "create the game session" and ended up with "damaged first world war vets vs. an alien conspiracy." I had though it might develop into an "early days of military intelligence" type story, so I was researching that, and something drew my attention to the (then) upcoming Kickstarter for the Dracula Dossier. The idea that Bram Stoker had not written a novel but rather, edited the after-action report of a British intelligence agency's attempt to first recruit, and then destroy, Count Dracula, was interesting to say the least.

I kicked in at a digital level that included a PDF of the core rules too, and that was my first experience of the GUMSHOE system. I fell in love with the system and the setting. My initial scorn at the vampire theme was misplaced – these vampires were definitely the bad guys. I really REALLY wanted to run this. I upgraded my pledge to physical editions, and splashed out for the facsimile edition of Dracula Unredacted too. I ran a campaign for my mid-week group. The improvised structure of the campaign means I won't be spoiling anything by saying that that story ended with meeting Dracula on Eyjafjallajökull, to be told that their destruction of a vampirised Quincy Morris was all part of his plan. I've since run a couple of scenarios out of the Edom Files. And I've got to play it once to.

But its not been enough. I don't care if I'm running or playing. If I could be doing anything right now, it would be Nights Black Agents.