British Fantasy TV influences

As well as the standard gaming influences (Fighting Fantasy, White Dwarf etc.), there are various British TV series that have shaped my gaming habits over the years.

Mr Benn is a kids animation from the 70s where a mild-mannered banker called Mr Ben visits a magical costume shop and is given a costume by the Shop Keeper, who sends him through into the changing room from where he has an adventure. If that isn’t the very definition of Roleplaying, I don’t know what is 🙂

Chorlton and the Wheelies. Not going even to try to explain it. Here’s the music intro/outro, which does a bloody good job. Vibrant, imaginative and somewhat unsettling.

Finally, on the animation side of things is Trapdoor, a claymation epic of a master and overworked servant from the late 80s.

In modern times, we have Yonderland. It’s sort of a kid’s TV program, but in the good old tradition of British TV, it has lots of knowing references and depth for adults. By the same team who brought us Horrible Histories.

This is Jinsy, one of Sky’s first commissioned comedies, although the pilot was shown on BBC. Made by a duo, playing multiple parts, and based on a weird and wonderful fantasy version of Jersey. Each episode is a whos who of British Comedy actors in supporting roles.

Alas, they only did two series, which only seem to be available on DVD these days. But the creative duo behind it have continued making music, which was an integral part of the show, as the Jinsy Boys.

From back in the old days (the late 80s) comes ITV’s Knightmare. Basically D&D on TV if you wore a bucket on your head and relied on your mates to guide you.

And if I’m going to mention Knightmare, it would be amiss not to flag up the Adventure Game, and of course, the Crystal Maze.

Finally, good old Monty Python was an influence on many a British gaming table in the 80s, courtesy of the films and a well-timed repeat on BBC 2.  I know some groups who had a swear jar to avoid references to the show swamping actual gameplay. This scene, for some reason, comes to mind whenever I player RuneQuest 😀

 

Five Flavours of Fantasy D100 gaming

This is my personal take.

Even though I’m the author of OpenQuest, which being one of D101’s main gaming lines takes up a lot of my energy (writing, developing and promoting), I like to play different styles of D100 Fantasy gaming

RuneQuest is the grand-old standard of D100 gaming. It’s where D100 has its start.  RuneQuest 2 (now sold as RuneQuest Classic) is my white box.  The new version RuneQuest Glorantha is an updated version of RQ2, with new rules, Such as characters now have their own Runic associations, which provide the basis of their magic, and Passions that reflect their relationships with their communities and their enemies. It’s a perfect match for Glorantha, not only for nostalgia reasons but because it’s been designed for it. But it does come at the cost that some of its systems are a bit clunky and a bit old school that sometimes you question whether or not you should just house rule the damn thing. Strike Ranks come to mind directly. But as a long time Gloranthan fan since the 80s, it is lovely to have an edition of the game which is easy to share with the players, both in terms of presentation, playability and clarity of setting.

Mythras on the other hand is the slick generic system I would have died for during my early RQ 3 period, when I was making up my own settings, in the late 80s. Now it’s here, it’s no surprise that with a complete all in one rulebook – sans setting and adventure – its spawned a series of setting books, some of which move outside the genre of Mythic Fantasy, and with the release of Lyonesse last year, its own standalone games. I need to get more hours in running Mythrasm get my own Isle of Death adventure/setting book out there and a series of blog posts about the various supplements that are available for the game is in order.

OpenQuest is my take on Fantasy D100 gaming, pairing down the subsystems to an almost minimalist “one roll then meaningful effect”. I was a big fan of the all in one rulebooks that Games Workshop released Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer as in the 80s – effectively they were the main rules + the companion set, that were boxsets in those days collated into one book, with new art and colour plates.  Stormbringer is my Swords and Sorcery gold standard and in many ways my favourite BRP game, but not one I’d play on a regular basis because I think it’s not balanced in any way shape or form 😀  So OQ is a tribute to that format, in so far that the printed version had a section of colour plates. Its also allowed me to explore and give structure to the rather rambling campaign structure of other D100 games, something as a fan of Basic/Expert/Companion/Immortal D&D which had a very clear view of where the characters were heading has annoyed me previously.  Since OpenQuest is close to my heart, I ramble on about it on its own blog on openquestrpg.com.

Skypirates of the Floating Realms, IS the minimalist D100 game that I’ve designed from bottom-up, keeping only the rules that are completely necessary for this rather light-hearted (think post-Monty Python films, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits etc) fantasy game. It’s always a nagging thought in my mind when I play other D100 systems, that my GMing brain is overburdened by subsystems and magic effects that I simply do not need. If you are familiar with the Black Hack (which is d20 fantasy-based), this is my attempt to downsize d100 into a short 6 x 9 format book. I’ve been playtesting it since spring of 2021 and our party of Argyll the Dwarf and Boris the Bear, Priest of and I’m aiming to get the game out to crowdfunding later this year.

The fifth flavour which I often forget – because I’ve not played it since the late 80s – yet has an immense effect on me are Gamesworkshop’s Warhammer RPGs of the 80s. This is basically Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st, which is the ultimate doorstop of complete RPG, and their Judge Dredd RPG, which is very much Warhammer lite. Broadly speaking both games have percentile skills as characteristics and talents which add bonuses to skill rolls, or allow you to do new things with a skill. Warhammer Fantasy complicates matters with a career system, which sees sewer-rat zeros progress to high-level heroes. Although I never got to the high-level characters, I suspect they play more like AD&D 1st characters, where low-level characters are charmingly scummy and more akin to Call of Cthulhu characters. One of the writers of the Enemy Within Campaign said as much, saying that his direction on the early parts of the campaign was effectively along the lines of go write D&D adventures mixed with Call of Cthulhu.  As much as I liked the Old World setting, it vibed off familiar British Grimdark sensibilities and played a good chunk of the highly impressive Enemy Within Campaign. Like Warhammer FRP, GW Judge Dredd comes with an immersive world which the rules support fully, the crazy post-apocalyptic near-future sci-fi of 2000 AD comic’s most popular character. It has a much simpler character structure, effectively it has four career types (Street, Tech, Med, Psi Judges) which you stay within for the entire course of your game, but where it jumps into the deep end is a complex Action Point system for Combat. It looks good on paper but fails apart as a solution to everything in play. I had a recent re-read of GW Judge Dredd, and actually remembered that it was my first d100 game, before even Call of Cthulu and RuneQuest!

 

Return to the Furnace

Just finished a very raw, very rough draft of The Furnace, one of the scenarios that is going to be the scenario book The Tournaments of Madness and Death, for my mate and esteemed Crypt Keeper Julian Hayley who will be running it on Sunday afternoon at UK Games Expo.

Its been a hard process, taking a scenario I ran as my return to D&D a good seven years ago. Pulling out of my brain, looking at the scraps of notes and scans of maps (which I dumped entirely as too fiddly), and trying to make something that to be honest ran much better in reality due to some cracking players (Tony Murray-Clay and the Leicester Lads) than the mess that was on the paper.

I’ve no doubt Jules will makes it his own and rock it hard, and I’ve learnt a lot from writing it up, with lots of ideas about what makes a Crypts and Things scenario tick and different from all the other dungeon crawl games out there. Ideas that will make it into The Tournaments of Madness and Death which is meant to have an article about writing/running C&T adventures for one shot conventions.

Glad to get it done, but man does it need a very hard edit before I let it loose on you uncivilized savages 🙂

If you too are feeling nostligic here’s the series of posts I wrote about the Furnace when I ran it at Furnace Convention (hence the name) in 2010.

Of Dragons Old & Original

Tim Kask writes on his blog of his involvement in the early days of Original D&D (Three Book) and how that transitioned to AD&D.  The following really struck home with me:

We all as DM’s created our own worlds in which things worked in certain ways. Don’t like psionics? Fine, they don’t exist in your world. Think that vampires as presented are too tough or not tough enough? OK, make them fit your world. Think something ought to work a certain way, or not work a certain way? No problem, they worked the way you felt “right” in your world.

I love this, I was an B/X & AD&D 1st kid brought up on early White Dwarf whose articles were originally written for OD&D (with the rather embarrassed note about how they had been updated for the new AD&D books), so it always struck me the early D&D stuff was a riot of fun, calmed down by the ‘you must do it this way’ attitude of AD&D. This article confirms that.

Read the full article here.

Old School Call of Cthulhu

The comes a time in any Old School Renaissance blogger’s career when one fondly looks at Call of Cthulhu. Especially relevant to me as a UK OSR blogger since back in the 80s it was one of the Big Four – D&D, Traveller, RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu. Those were the games that got regular coverage in White Dwarf, and I remember reading fantastic scenarios like the Watchers of Wablerswick.

I first picked up CoC courtesy of Games Workshop, who did a very nice hardcover which like their version of Stormbringer collated both the contents of the 2nd Edition Box Set and the Keeper’s Companion. This meant that it was absolutely chock block full of content. The rules themselves only took up 100 pages, the rest was all scenarios (about five including my favourite The Secret of Castanegro) and supplementary material (such as the section about tying the Lovecraftian Mythos to Mesoamerican deities).

I jumped right in playing it and that perhaps was my downfall. Inspired by author Sandy Petersen Keeper’s advice I created a series of scenarios which could at best be described as Old One in A Cave. This style of play has the characters turn up in a remote town/village/abandoned house, find out something is a bit wrong very quickly from the creepy atmosphere, then ask questions of the locals (Fast talk roll), consult the local Libary (Libary Use roll) before heading off to confront the monster with or without the required banishing spell. My players at the time being 15 and used to solving problems with violence would either die or run away 🙂 It was a fun and atmospheric play style which unfortunately didn’t go the distance. In all fairness we discovered RuneQuest next, which suited this style of play down to the ground.

Looking forward not back

The announcement of the  RuneQuest 6 Bundle of Holding really got me excited about running a RQ6 campaign. In fact everytime RQ6 gets a big burst of publicity I’m there notebook in hand scribbling away and dreaming up my ultimate RQ project. As an RQ fan boy I’d love to have an RQ Gateway project out there.  Ultimately I’d have to clone myself with the number of projects I’ve already got on the go. As a publisher if I do anything in the D100 arena I have to push OpenQuest and its spin off games.

Also there’s a dull thud of realisation that I would simply be retreading old ground. Because as much as RQ6 is a new iteration of the game, its RuneQuest. All the familiar structures are there, Cults, tactical combat, the four types of magic (even mysticism reminds me of the KI powers from Sandy Petersen’s RQ3 era Land of Ninja).   That to get the most out of it me and my players would have to commit to along weekly campaign, which due to my personal circumstances just isn’t going to happen. I get the same feeling from mainstream D&D, 5th Ed and vanilla Retro-clones (like Labyrinth Lord). Its a sinking feeling that it will be a long learning curve, working out that certain rules don’t work for us as a group, and involving heavy prep for me personally. These days I’m happier with rules light iterations of these games, which take me and my group in new directions at a much faster pace.

So sorry RQ6 you are going back on the shelf next to your old and glorious forebears. Nothing personal (you are a damn sexy game) just a bit too heavy and involved for my tastes these days.

Sandboxes

Double posted from the oringal thread over at the Tavern.

I used to be all over this style of play in my teen years. Mainly when I was playing Basic/Expert D&D and AD&D 1st ed. Heck I even wrote a three levels of megadungeon, which is imho the ultimate sandbox. Happy hours playing through Isle of Dread. Here’s a piece of hexpaper and off you go.

Problem was that I always felt the players missed all the good stuff. I started getting peevish about it. Ok so you are going to miss the Ancient Red Dragon in the Volcano which I’ve put in plan sight, I’ll put five in your way on my latest hex crawl :P Playing Griffin Island during the generic pre-Glorantha Games Workshop RuneQuest years was probably my last hurrah for Old School Sandbox play.

So eventually I tired of that and suddenly its the late 80s and we’ve gone all Railroady story telling. Rapidly got disillusioned with that and struggled through a Narrative wilderness (HeroQuest etc) in the early 2000s. Now blissfully back running more open ended adventures, with lots of potiential plot hooks and big cast list of interesting npcs. Are they Sandboxes? Not in the classic Old School sense (Hexcrawls/Megadungeons) and in comparison they are smaller and more tightly controlled in the sense I don’t put boring stuff in. Its all made of win because these days with my limited gaming time its time to GO LARGE OR GO HOME every session ;)

My current game FAE Cowboys & Dinosaurs is a Sandbox, that takes in the whole Hollow Earth, but the players are unaware of it. They are just hitting the trail and having fun times :)  Also I’ve got unfinished business with the Spires, the setting of which I revealled but a small corner of it the Blood of the Dragon for Crypts & Things (watch this space).

Lonewolf kickstarter

So John Dever and Cubicle 7 have teamed up to bring a new version of the Lonewolf RPG to market and they have a Kickstarter to bring it into being.  The initial goal, long pasted, was to create a box set suitable for beginning players, with subsquent supplements (already in the pipeline and available in the reward levels or as add ons) building on that for the more mature gamers.

The Lone Wolf game books were a big part of my gaming teens in the 80s, and while more story orientated than Fighting Fantasy they had a unique feel and tone to them which really set them apart.

An here’s one of the jaw dropping gorgeous maps that Cubicle 7 commissioned for the game.