Hearts in Glorantha 1,2 and 3 (D101-03 to 05)

Hearts in Glorantha (HiG) was a big part of my publishing life for a good decade-plus. It ended just under a year ago, something I’ll cover when I do posts about the later issues (7 & 8).   I remember the first three issues fondly because they just got done to the bi-yearly schedule that I set myself, and they were, on the whole, well-received.

My early years of running convention games were running Gloranthan games, first RQ3 in the dying light of the system’s popularity in the late 90s, and then a rapid succession of three editions of HeroQuest. I organised a group of demo referees, the Ring of HeroQuest Narrators, which warped into the semi-official Masters of Luck and Death before imploding. Monkey and my own efforts were on my mind, but I still lacked the impetus to actually get down and publish it. That impetus came unexpectedly one morning just before I set off to work in  May of 2008 as I sat and read a 30 page + thread on RPG.net where an obvious sockpuppet called Angry Agarath attacked everyone involved in Gloranthan publishing from Rick and Jeff at Moon Design (who had just taken over from Greg Stafford’s Issaries Inc) to the fan publishers over the lack of urgency on the publication schedule. AA really riled me up, and after spending 45 minutes reading every post, I thought I could have a go at filling the void and Hearts in Glorantha was born. A quick check with Jeff Richard, who greenlit the fanzine, and I was off on a crash course learning InDesign, emailing potential contributors and artists.

Three months later, Hearts in Glorantha issue 1 (D101-05) was released to many happy Glorantha Fans at Continuum 2008 in Leicester.  I’ve always followed the Pink Faries mantra (via the Henry Rollins cover version) of DO IT, so this, in my mind, is the official birth of D101 Games.

HIG 1 was a real hodge-podge of what I ever could pick up at short notice.  But it worked, and I was happy with it. It had a gaming background, fiction, a couple of Stewart Stansfield’s infamous Duck articles and a very quick adventure by myself.  But that’s how I wanted it. It was a magazine, not a supplement in disguise. I also set the Editorial policy, which lasted for the magazine’s entire run, where I resisted setting a theme, so authors could be lazy and write to order, because I wanted folk to come up with inspirational pieces that had just lept into their imagination. The feature for each issue was whatever came out from what was submitted. For issue 1, it was the very appropriate Mythology.

Hearts in Glorantha 1, cover by Darran Sims

HiG 2 (D101-03) and HiG 3 (D101-04) came along according to schedule. It debuted our consistent look and feel, with John Ossoway creating a new logo, doing the cover (which he would do for the next three issues), and setting up the layout templates. HiG was also the Creature Feature, which saw Dragonnewts, Chaos Elves from Dorastor, Jack O Bears, Harpies rub shoulders more of Stewart Stansfield’s Ducks.

Hearts in Glorantha 2, cover by John Ossoway

HiG 3 was, amongst other things, an Undersea Feature, which featured a write up of an all Mostali (Dwarf) mini-campaign, We All Live in a Brass Submarine, by Richard Crawley, as well as material from a never-released HeroWars era Men of the Sea second book by Nick Davison.  I also got in there with an OpenQuest Scenario (the only OQ Glorantha adventure) based on the premise of WHAT IF the Big Rubble was in Dara Happa, and it was Solars vs the Lunars? To my knowledge, this was the biggest stretch of YGMV (Your Glorantha May Vary) ever published (Fan or Official) and I’m quite smug about that 😛

Hearts in Glorantha 3, cover by John Ossoway

Worth noting, as well as articles by Gloranthan Luminaries such as Mark Galeotti and Jeff Richard, each of the first three issues had a one page bit of fiction by Greg Stafford himself based upon the three approaches to Gloranthan Magic.

In many ways, HiG 1-3 is where I learnt the hard way how to publish, and while Monkey and OpenQuest, my first two RPG releases, got put to one side they were both the better for what I learnt from doing HiG 1-3.

Part of me cringes when I look at the sloppiness of the layout, and my editorial. The whole thing was part of a learning curve and I was still in a happy fan publishing punk rock frame of mind, which helped me overcome some pretty crippling “omg, omg, I can’t believe I’m allowed to do this” self-disbelief.

I’m also very proud that I used HiG to get other authors work out there, and into the hands of fans.  It’s the reason why to this day, D101 Games is not an exercise in pure self-publishing, that I have other people write and draw for it.  HiG was especially good as a recruiting ground for many artists that would go on to illustrate other D101 releases.

Next up: OpenQuest 1st Edition (D101-06)

D101-02 D101 Games at Continuum 2008

My local gaming cons have always been important to me. It gets me out of my home and lets me try out ideas with other roleplayers. Most D101 Games releases have had an outing as a convention game at some point.

Continuum 2008 held at Leicester University, was a medium-sized gaming convention of about 200+ attendees, held over the Summer.  I’d been going since 1998 when it was called Convulsion and was a Gloratha/Call of Cthulhu/Chaosium convention. At some point in the early 2000s, the organising committee resigned en-masse, leaving Lawrence Whitaker as chair of a new convention, that was really just the old one continued with a new committee. Hence the name Continuum.

“My attendance at Continuum 2008” was important in the D101 scheme of things and why it is counted as a release for the following reasons.

  1. I spent a lot of time talking to people and promoting the idea that I was doing D101 Games.
  2. I was running the early version of OpenQuest, which was known as Simple Quest Zero Edition, for several of the games I was running over the weekend.
  3. I took along a box of forty copies of Hearts in Glorantha Issue 1 that sold out!

I also wrote a longer review for this blog just after returning.

Here’s a quick gallery of photos.

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D101-01 The Website

The first release is not actually a game or a book, but this website.

Let me explain.  When I first moved to the Greater Manchester area and worked in Manchester city centre, I became quite obsessed with the history of Factory Records. How they ran their business along anarcho-syndicate lines, and how some their of releases weren’t actually records but ventures important to the label’s owners. So, for example, Fac 01 is a poster advertising a club night that they used to run, where various bands associated with the label played. Similarly, D101-01 is this website (and associated blogs), and D101-02 is my convention attendance at Continuum 2008 (which I’ll cover in my next blog post in this series).

The start of D101’s web presence was a Livejournal.com* blog, which I started when I started planning what D101 Games would be and, more specifically, what Monkey, which was going to be my first release, was going to look like.

In 2008 as things got more serious with books actually being for sale, being a web developer/programmer as my day job at the time, I signed up with a hosting company. I created a WordPress Multi-Site – which is still the bedrock of the site** and hosts all the sub-blogs (including this one) and domains like openquestrpg.com.  This multi-site approach has let me blog about various games and themes (for fantasy, see my long-running The Sorcerer Under the Mountain blog), which is a good marketing tool and a bunch of fun to boot.

Other big changes to the website over the years

Changing to D101Games.com. Being proud of being a British Game Designer and because it was cheap as chips, the original release of the website had a .co.uk domain name. But business sense prevailed, and since the .com domain gets much more views, I eventually about 2009 moved over.***

Div Theme. I’m not a graphic designer, so Elegant Theme’s Div for WordPress gives me all sorts of nice responsive layout controls, so it works with mobile devices and tablets without me doing anything, and a nice inbuilt page builder so funky page layouts are a breeze.

Woocommerce. An Open-source and free shopping cart for WordPress. This has allowed me to run my own web store quite profitably and do direct to customer sales, which before 2016 I could only do at conventions.

Mail-Chimp. I use the free version of this, and it lets me build up email lists to announce new releases/Kickstarters etc.  This is why I don’t have to do Farcebook to promote what I do with D101 😉

Having a well functioning and well-constructed website has been a core business activity from day one.  More important than having a Facebook page. It’s also a focus. So much of what I do is through the web, from producing the books through print on demand sites like Lulu.com. So in retrospect its only fitting that this site is D101’s first release 🙂

Notes:

*To my great surprise, my d101 games blog still exists over there, but I won’t link to it because Livejournal.com, which was a happy little internet start-up that began as a bunch of friends running it off a couple of servers in San Fransico, has long gone down the toilet as it was sold on.   All the content was migrated over here long ago.

**D101 Games is hosted with a Manchester company called 34sp.com. They are a great little outfit with great service, and although they don’t officially support WordPress Multisite, they have gone out of their way to do so over the years.

***once I stopped using d101games.co.uk it was quickly snapped up by a company that holds domain names that have been used in the hope that someone will pay them zillions of dollars. At one time, rather worrying, it had a mock site that was all about gambling and poker. Not sure why? In the hope that I’d buy it to stop them damaging my business’ image? Or simply to attract purchasers with the whole “games” thing. Oh yes, and having “games” in my URL gets it banned via BT’s Strict parental controls.

 

 

D101 Games at 60 (releases)

So OpenQuest 3rd Edtion is now out.

You can go grab it here, from my web store in both pdf and print/pdf bundle.

Also, the new edition of OpenQuest is my sixtieth release, or to give its stock control number is D101-060.

That’s right D101 Games is 60 releases old. Which keeps up with the fact that it’s been up and running since 2008, and roughly put out five releases a year.

Some of the copies of OpenQuest as seen in the hands of Kickstarter backers

So I’ve decided to celebrate the fact we are now an elderly games company, I’ll be doing a series of blog posts here about all sixty releases.  Although some of them may be grouped to save time :).

Rarrrrr here comes Grogzilla!

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The Making of D101’s fanzine

OK as with most D101 projects this one started with a mad jolt of excited energy, a flash of inspiration a couple of weeks before Grogmeet 2019, at Fanboy 3 in Manchester where I was appearing as a trader. “Hey I’ll do a fanzine, Chris (of Dirk the Dice fame) likes Fanzines!”. So cue five days of frantic throwing articles and art together. Peter Frain graciously, or should that be gleeful, got on board with both the cover art and the interior art of the four versions of Grogzilla within the zine. Which I’m not previewing since they are flippin’ awesome (hint: buy the zine to see). The physical output was less than impressive, since my colour printer doesn’t do multiple pages very well, and I managed to struggle to put together six or so hand made copies. These sold or were given away to the lovely chaps who put on Grogmeet on the day.

So fast forward to ZineQuest 2, which is Kickstarters annual winter promo held every February. I had participated in the previous year’s event, to great success with From the Shroud #2, so it was a no brainer to give Grogzilla a second chance of a wider audience.  This time however I wanted a proper printed version, and Glynn Seal (of Monkey Blood Publishing fame) pointed me in the direction of Mixam print, who he uses successfully for his Midderlands Zine. I really wanted to use it as an excuse to do something using a proper printer rather than being reliant on either Lulu.com or Drivethrurpg.com’s Print on Demand service.   I wholeheartedly recommend it as a service, it was simple to use their web site to price up and upload files for production, and at a vastly lower price and improved quality than POD.   The Kickstarter funded quickly, so much so that not only was I able to put in another three articles, I was able to fund another zine, Skyraiders of the Floating Realms Zero Edition, as a stretch goal.

As well as a mad creation, that matured into a more fully rounded 50-page zine, that allowed me to do a non-POD print run, Grogzilla is an excellent showcase of where D101 is heading. There’s a good mix of material for existing games.and previews of books in the works.

There’s a very limited quantity in print + pdf for £5, and when they are gone they are gone, and its also available as pdf only for £3.

The Great Escape

I keep on putting off my State of D101 Games 2020 address. The short version is, we are doing well. New stuff is getting out there via the Kickstarters, and we’ve got some great things in the pipeline.

But there’s the stuff that hasn’t got done. That has been hanging around my neck like a millstone preventing me, and in all honesty, going forward.

So I’m currently looking at all the outstanding work from various Kickstarters I’ve run over the years. Stretch goals that have got overlooked and periodically forgotten, as a one band I’ve tried to struggle on regardless.

So given the current Lockdown, I’m using this as a golden opportunity. To get my head down and get all these bits done and out there. I’m calling the whole project “The Great Escape”, and my aim is to have everything done and published and in backers hands by the time Lockdown is lifted here in the UK (which I reckon will be mid-June).

Last year I got To the Stars! the long-awaited River of the Heaven companion out by being bloody-minded about it. So I learnt what I needed to do to bring these long-overdue stretch goals back from the dead.  Which basically boils down to three steps.

  1. I’m injecting the fun back into a project that has become “that thing I have to do as work”, remembering the thrill and excitement that I felt when I first felt when I came up with the idea and explained it to backers.
  2. Working out a sensible, achievable plan, and getting my head down and doing it.
  3. Not feeling afraid to reach out to contributors and asking for help. But at the same time only working with people who will understand the need to get the work done and not put their own spin on it.

If you’ve backed something I’ve done with outstanding stretch goals, you should have received an update explaining what I’m doing and will continue to get updates until it’s done. If you haven’t for a particular project its because I’m still working out a plan to get things done and waiting on collaborators to get back to me 🙂

 

A Quick Update in These Strange Times

Like everyone else its strange times here at D101 HQ at the moment. I went on holiday to the lovely isle of Lanzarote back in mid-march and came back to the UK on lockdown. The schools closed, so I’ve now got the 24/7 company of my children and my wife is now working a six-day week at her hospital, which involves getting data from the Intensive Care Unit where they are treating CONVID 19 patients (!).

Last week I made a concerted effort to get back into D101 work, but I’ve been largely distracted having to look after my family. So its mainly been admin tasks, catching up after the holiday. Good news got some playtesting in for Skyraiders of the Floating realms, and ran Defenders of the Dragon Empire – a Wuxia Kung Fu hack based on Monkey RPG, via online games using Google Hangouts.

OpenQuest 3rd Edition is back on track this week, after being put to one side and possibly abandoned, but I’m envigourated with it once again. Its also eased me back into heads-down writing, with a nice bit of tinkering-fiddling writing blowing up in my face and solidifying into a new finished chapter about how organisations (Religions, Sorcery Societies etc) work in OQ3.

My big task next week is to work out timescales for delivery of games and updating Kickstarter backers.

Overall the virus has been a punch in the gut, but I’m quickly getting up off the floor and getting back into the mighty work that is D101 Games 🙂

 

River of Heaven at Winter Con 2020

I got to play River of Heaven, the Guns of Olympus Mons, at Winter Con 2020 at Fanboy3 in Manchester last weekend just gone. On a personal level, it was great to play in a game with Jon Ossoway, a man who knows his Sci-fi troupes inside out. As a publisher of River of Heaven, it was great to be playing the game with John and seeing exactly how it ticks with the author playing it.

The set up was simple and direct. The Renoucers, a sort of Fascist Luddite paramilitary movement who are out to stop the rise of AI, had taken over a military base on Olympus Mons, which a huge extinct volcano on Mars. Since said base controls the planet’s defence grid, our team of Marines were going in hard and fast using drop-pods to take it out. So cue a fast-paced military-techno-thriller, with much sneaking about, hacking into systems, taking out guards from a distance, as well as the all-out firefights you’d expect. John had included some hooks in the character’s backgrounds which led to some great roleplaying from the players, so it wasn’t all grunts-n-gunplay. I had fun ‘weapons-testing’ the power armour and a quite frankly scary array of guns and grenades our characters were equipped with. My favourite one was the Smart Grenade, which can be programmed to have a delayed explosion (“Hey Google, set explosion for 30 seconds after impact”) and to only go off when near actual combatants, not say, civilians :)

The best thing of all was that it felt like we were in a distinct Sci-fi universe, not a cheap knock off Star-Wars, Star Trek or Aliens.

7 Hills 2020

7 Hills is among one of my favourite cons, and certainly one I won’t hesitate to sign up straight away. Its wall to wall RPGs for two days over five slots, in a warm, cosy and historic venue (the Garrison Hotel is an old Napoleonic barracks). It’s an RPG con that’s actually all about the RPGs. not some guest speaker, or some trade hall that shoves the games into the periphery, or a big LARP that sucks all the attendees in leaving GMs to twiddle their thumbs in the bar. Five slots, 10 or so tables

But it will fill up fast, especially the onsite accommodation at the hotel itself (tip ring them) and the slots for gming. So if you’ve been fancying going to a Garrison con, give it a go 🙂

Here are my games for this convention.

All Systems Gone
System: Reboot

Seven years ago the mega-corporation Stirling INC left the colony of New Oldham. It pulled all VIP personnel off-world to the Corporate HQ on Westminster, to consolidate assets during the Galactic War. As soon as they shut their Tower in the financial district the planetary economy went into recession.

A whole generation came of age during this time. Most enjoyed mass employment by joining various street gangs. Others found in jobs with the only other growth sector, Corporate security. A small minority, the Cyberpunks, set their sights higher on actually creating a fairer system for the people on-world, rather than a small number of investors off-world.

Now the Galactic War is over, and there are rumours that Stirling Inc is coming back. The lights are on at the Tower, and mystery money is buying up cheap stock on the local stock exchange. The Cyberpunks realise that must they either get their plans for planetary revolution off the ground, or they will get hunted down by the returning Corporate Executives.

All Systems Gone uses a hacked version of the Linimal system, called Reboot. It’s a direct and straightforward set of rules, using a unified 2d6 mechanic. Reboot uses a modified ruleset to stimulate the high-octane worlds of 23rd Century Cyberpunk in Space.

Holidays in the Sun
System: Savage Worlds

London Calling!

It is 1984 and five years since the glorious Punk revolution here in the United Republic. Our anarchistic methods toppled the monarchy and their cronies. Now it’s time to use the same techniques to bring down the Dictator of a banana republic in the south seas tropical island of Lalonde.

Will there be fast cars? Yes!

Will there be explosions? Yes!

Guns and Guitars? Hell yeah!

As well as the usual mob of homegrown anarchists, you’ll be assisted by our allies in US Scene who have expertise in disrupting CIA backed governments from their time enabling regime change in Central America.

SO KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHERFUCKERS!!!

Cmdr Joe Strummer.

At last a game that is Punk! Not SortaPunk, or NotVeryPunk, or Idon’treallyunderstandPunk or even fucking TolkienPunk!. Using the Savage Worlds system because there will be lots of guns and shooting and stuff. Don’t sign up if you are of a gentle thoughtful persuasion, who dislikes swearing. Because there will be f**k all of that type of playstyle in this game!!

Great British Kickstarters

I love Kickstarter. Its a great way of letting fans of small creators help them get over the financial hump of having enough funds to create their dream niche RPG product.  Here’s a selection of British created Kickstarters that I’ve backed in the last year or so. (Links to the KIckstarter pages in the titles).

Liminal. Masterminded by my frequent collaborator Paul Mitchener, this one funded waaaaaaaaaay back in February of 2018, but as well as the main core book for this game of British Folklore set in the modern day it funded a whole line of supplements and sourcebooks (city and racial). Full disclosure I’m writing an adventure book for it.  Close to final release.

The Black Hack Second Edition. I loved the 1st edition of this popular lightweight take on modern D&D through an OSR lens by David Black. The second edition makes it more of a proper self-contained game you can play on its own and considerably tightens up on both presentation and rules.

Troika!  This one has just landed with backers, it could be lazily described as Fighting Fantasy on Acid, but there’s more to it than that.  This is Daniel Sell’s psychedelic fantasy, which distorts and warps expectations at every step. I’m still absorbing its wonder.

The following Kickstarters are current at the time of writing being funded on Kickstarter.

Bite Me!  Who wants a game of Powered By The Apocalypse Werewolves by Becky Annison?  You do? Then get over to Kickstarter now and get your pledge in. Focusing on pack politics and the game promises a focused look at the Werewolf genre.

The City of Great Lunden. This one is the inevitable colossus of that is Midderlands Setting Trilogy by Glynn Seal.   This book details the capital of the Havenlands (which were described in part 2, MIdderlands Expanded)  where the green-hued  Midderlands (which was the first book) is but a region.   Although you don’t need previous volumes to make use of this book, which uses the freely available and readily adaptable Swords and Wizardry ruleset, you can pick them up as part of the campaign add-ons.  The whole Midderlands setting brings back nostalgic memories of the 80s while being their own thing. It’s evident from the previews on the Kickstarter page it’s carrying on the fine tradition of such settings as Pelinore (of Imagine UK magazine) and Middenheim City of White Wolf (for WFRPG 1st ed).

Honourable mention, because it’s a card game, goes to Bang and Tang, Jon Hodgson’s and son’s Rory and Ben’s sequel to their totally charming Forest Dragon card game.  This one recently delivered on time a high-quality gem of a game. Worth following Jon’s Handiwork Games imprint, since they’ve got some killer RPGs coming up.