I was already aware of the Old School Renaissance, which was in full swing in the 2010s, due to its fans in the OSR blog-sphere taking a liking to OpenQuest.
I was very impressed with Swords and Wizardry’s tight presentation. So I basically took this OGL Systems Resource Document and mixed it with a bevvy of Swords and Sorcery inspirations from my 80s British Gaming History.
Old White Dwarf. A whole slew of adventures (The Lichway, and The Hall of Tizun Thane for example) and rules ideas (The Barbarian for example, Using CON as physical hit points , while HP become quickly recharged energy) was lifted from the early days of this classic British TTRPG publication. The mid-80s was the cut off date.
Early Fighting Fantasy, we are talking about the first six books, where the authors were obviously riffing off their D&D games, not the expectations of what a FF book was.
Early Slaine from 2000 AD, when it was black and white and short and punchy. None of the epic Simon Bisley era stuff.
Savage Swords of Kull. I got the first of the two graphic novel compilations put out of the Marvel comics from the 70s/80s and was instantly in love with the slightly acid-tinged brooding proto-Conan.
Art fell into place nicely with a fantastic cover by Jon Hodgson and the rest of the artists of illodeli.com, which was a small art collective run by Jon, that was selling fantastic stock art. This was a resource I liberally plundered, with my mate John Ossoway filling in the gaps with a piece here and there.
It was playtested at great speed and enthusiasm, which bemused my regular circle of RPG buddies, who were more into modern RPGs like FATE and HeroQuest at the time.
First time I used crowdfunding, indiegogo.com, which was successful although modest at indiegogo.com
The resulting book that was released in 20??? was 150 pages of old school O&D goodness, with a distinct flavour, in a nice slim hardcover from Lulu.com. For some strange reason, I never got around to putting the POD version on drivethrurpg.com.
And by thunder, it sold well. After seeing OpenQuest’s sales crawl along, and Monkey fails at Drivethrurpg.com (but strangely sell out when I was selling in person at Conventions) it was lovely to see it outsell both titles. Partly because it’s a version of D&D, but also because it struck a chord with older gamers who fondly remembered its British Fantasy 80s roots.
If you are a regular follower of D101 Games you’ll have noticed the last State of Address was back in 2016, and that things have been a touch wobbly since then. Monkey was kickstarted in the first couple of months of 2017, followed by its mega-adventure the Mandate of Heaven, which was a great payday for D101 and put enough money aside to get the books done. All plain sailing from here you would think. In June I left full-time employ to go full time with D101 working from home (cynics would say that I was becoming a House Husband 😉 ). All good and I was just settling in, when the wheels came off the bus. In July my mother in law was suddenly hospitalised and did not get home until the end of the year. During which time my family, was my priority and D101 became an occasional concern. It wasn’t until almost April 2018 that things had settled down at home and I could seriously work on Monkey, other outstanding books (see below). All in all, I lost a good year of work and pay. If you bought a book or supported me with kind words during that period, you have my thanks for helping me through that difficult period.
2018 in review
I spent much of last year playing catch up with Monkey, the last of the add on adventures for Crypts and Things Remastered Kickstarter and making steady progress with the long overdue River of Heaven Companion, To the Stars. It was also the year that after a five-year hiatus Hearts in Glorantha made a reappearance.
Monkey the RPG
After a wildly successful Kickstarter in 2017 the main rulebook and the free Pdf Quickstart was released in towards the end of the first half of the year. This was an auspicious and fantastic moment for me, since its very much a niche game, as far away from D&D’s troupes as you can possibly get, and a project that is very close to my heart. So it was awesome to see it out in the wild, and hold the hardcover, crammed with lovely art from Peter Frain and Dan Barker.
I’m now catching up writing the supplements; the mega adventure the Mandate of Heaven (which is at first draft stage), the short mini-campaign The Ministry of Thunder (which is the final stages of writing), The Golden Book of 101 Immortals and the Monkey Companion (a book of extra rules and adventures), all of which I’m getting out this year.
Two issues of Hearts in Glorantha were released in 2019. Issue six was the resurrection issue after a five year hiatus and issue 7 was our tenth anniversary issue We featured scenarios and articles for all the published systems; Guy Milner provided his Beard of Lhynkor Mhy for 13th Age Glorantha, Stewart Stansfield provided an Anti-Hero Lunar Duck for RuneQuest Glorantha and I wrote a duo of RuneQuest Classic adventures Duck Hill in issue 6 and The Temple of the Golden Gorp in issue 7.
It was heartening to see the surge in interest in Hearts in Glorantha, due to the availability of new Gloranthan games and material from Chaosium Inc, and new names alongside the familiar contributors to the magazine.
On a sad note Glorantha Creator Greg Stafford passed away at the end of the year. Greg was a firm supporter of Hearts in Glorantha, who contributed a few one pagers on magic (featured in HiG 1-5 collected) in the early days as encouragement, and his warm words of support will be missed.
Want to try out Crypts and Things in a quick 3-4-hour scenario? Have your adventurers race to save the world of Zarth from a great evil? Then this book that came out in September, which features two such scenarios and a guide of how to write C&T convention scenarios is what you want.
In the last quarter of 2018, D101’s coffers were in need of filling and I struck upon the idea of doing a quick Halloween Themed adventure, and the Road to Hell (which was previously an OpenQuest adventure published in OpenQuest Adventures) was 80% of the way there, bar conversion to Lamentations of the Flame Princess (a horror-themed OSR game based of B/X D&D). Currently, it’s in fulfilment to the backers, but will soon be available to preorder via the D101 Web Store. Best way to know when its out Is to subscribe to the D101 newsletter.
Despite being free of the concerns of leave allowances, I cut back on my convention attendances. I made a conscious decision not to go the trade shows that require outlay up front, so UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet were dropped from my schedule.
7 Hills (April) and Furnace (October) at the Garrison Hotel in Sheffield continued to be a ton of fun as ever. This year they were also joined by new kid on the block Northstar in May, a small convention dedicated to Sci-Fi RPGs. Outside of the Garrison cons, there was Continuum (Leicester) in July which I’ve not been for a good six years due to family holidays, and it was a good show to launch Monkey upon the gaming masses. I also made an appearance at Grogmeet 2018 here in my home city of Manchester, were I ran Crypts and Things and the D101 Games Magic Stall made its most minimal appearance ever (see the photo below)
Catch up of outstanding books
As noted above I’ve a good chunk of Monkey books to release, and the Great Crypts and Things Campaign aka Under Dark Spires to get out. Rest assured while I work and release the new shiny things I’ll be announcing
Talking of which…
Coming to Kickstarter in 2019
I have two firm dates for your diary.
Into the Shroud #2 (now until Feb 25th)
On Kickstarter now at time of writing until Feb 25, as part of the ZineQuest initiative. This is your chance to get both the new second issue, which has been gathering dust on my hard drive for a year or so, and the first issue in print. Its already funded, and the first stretch goal (10 new monsters) has also been met.
This is Paul Mitchener’s post-D&D game of fantastic exploration of a series of dimensions by inhabitants of the Empire of Ys. This one has been in development for a couple of years now and it’s a true gem of a D20 game, whose system we’ve christened the Beyond 20 system. Well be getting the whole pool of recent D101 artists on board to illustrate this book, and Glynn Seal (aka MonkeyBlood design, 2018 Golden EnNie Award winner for Cartography) will be doing the many maps that show the worlds that Empire interacts with.
OQ is ten this year in September. I’m currently playtesting a new version of the game, and gathering a host of talent to illustrate the 10th Anniversary edition, which I want to be the best illustrated version I’ve put out. Once the main rulebook comes out I want it to be quickly supported by a regular release schedule of adventures. Tentatively the Kickstarter to fund OpenQuest 3 will this coming summer Jul/Aug.
River of Heaven, To the Stars!/Revised Rulebook
The long-delayed Companion book is done and to go with its release I’ve revised the main rulebook slightly to take into consideration the small but significant system changes I made to the OQ system in 2016’s OQ Refreshed Edition and another proof-read. Both of these should be out the end of this month or by mid-march latest.
Hearts in Glorantha/Gloranthan Adventures
After last year’s return to Glorantha, I’ve got more than enough enthusiasm to carry on. Call for contributions for HiG #8 will be made soon, with the aim of getting two more issues out this year. Also one or two issues of Gloranthan Adventures, including Defenders of the Dark (GA #3). I’m currently assessing how to do this given 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest Glorantha are now out.
The Further Adventures of Dr Dee’s Associates
I’ll be doing more adventures set in the Jacobean Period, and the sequel to The Road to Hell has already been partially written (look out for it
Blue Skies Development Department
These are things that I’m either thinking about doing or have a rough outline or even a partial draft, but they are not 100% done yet.
Project Darklight will return, as Reboot. Not 100% on the system yet (strong contenders are Fate or Yin/Yang or even HeroQuest OGL) . At some point, I’ll be sitting down and working it out.
I shall be doing something with the soon to be released HeroQuest OGL SRD, starting off with a self-contained version of the Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Fantasy (which was made up of two pdf releases Dungeoneering and Monsters).
Beyond Monkey. Once the backlog of supplements coming out of the Monkey Kickstarter is done and dusted, I’ll be doing something more with the Yin/Yang system that features in the game. Front runners are The Water Margin, but that requires me to sit down and do a TON of research so don’t expect anything more than a con game this year, or something else Kung-Fu/Wuxia related.
Some thing for D&D 5th. I’ve recently taken the plunge as a 1st Ed/Basic/Expert D&D Dungeon Master and run the game and liked it very much. It’s straight forward for me to run, and even at first level there were lots of fun things for the players to do with their characters. I’d go as far as there were points where the players were running the game themselves!
Isle of Death for Mythras. I’ve long been a fan of Design Mechanism’s D100 game Mythras. I’ve now got a framework for releases using that system, and a starter adventure that is full of drama and action. When I sit down to do this, I’ll be previewing and gathering my thoughts on the Sorcerer Under Mountain blog.
Crypts and Things. After Under Dark Spires is out I’m going to have a pause and look at what/where I’m going with Crypts and Things. There’s still a lot of adventuring to be had on Zarth 😊
The return of Fortune. This is our small Fate variant for which we released two-pickup and play small RPGs (everything you need in about 100-150 A5 books) Hunters of Alexandria and The Hollow West. Me and principal author Paul Mitchener have started discussions/planning to get the other various game books we have on our hard-drives out into the wild, and the (strong) possibility of an expanded Hunters of Alexandria.
Convention appearances for 2019
The Magic Stall shall be materialising at…
7 Hills (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield)
Northstar (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield) – A science-fiction rpg con that I’ll be running River of Heaven
Furnace (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield)
Grogmeet (Fanboy 3, Manchester). Get on the Grogpod and you’ll get an invite to this awesome one-day event at the end of the year.
GoPlayManchester (Fanboy 3, Manchester) – this is a monthly meetup I run in Manchester @Fanboy 3. While I’m not trading as D101 there, I do run and run D101 stuff there.
I may add more to that list as the year goes on, but the above are dead certs.
Others flying the D101 flag are:
Neil Benson (aka OldScouseroleplaying on twitter) is running The Road to Hell at UK Games Expo and at Deva Con (Chester).
The D101 Games Newsletter
Stay up to date with all the new releases and news from D101 Games, by signing up to our monthly newsletter. Also, I’ll be running regular competitions, prize draws and giving discounts (this month there’s a code for Hunters of Alexandria).
I’ve weathered a rough patch over the last couple of years, and D101 Games has proven surprisingly resilient despite me feeling stretched thin at times. This is in no small part due to our supporters and contributors. You have my thanks.
Now that I’m refreshed expect a more frequent and aggressive release schedule as the year goes on 🙂
Taking inspiration from erstwhile D101 Colleague Paul Mitchener who dumped his wish list of games he’d like to play over hangouts soonish the other day, here’s my list. Some of it less navel-gazing, because they are D101 releases that need playtesting, some of it is.
Monkey! I’ve got to figure out a way of adapting/streamlining Monkey to run over hangouts. At the moment the card based mechanic really shines at the table, because you get to see the opposition’s cards laid on the table before you draw yours. This is especially relevant when you are facing down multiple extras (mooks) and their bad ass boss, and you have to decide which cards in your hands are getting played where. BUT once that crease is ironed out I reckon it should shine because its already fine tuned to be a quick action packed fun fest with most adventures lasting a single 3-4 hour game session. I reckon I should be able to pack lots into a 5-8 sessions campaign. I reckon the Ministry of Thunder, a
OpenQuest: Green Hell. I want a weekly/bi-weekly game of OpenQuest like some folk run D&D. Good old classic FRP, but finely tuned to cut out the time wasting. OQ already does it Face to Face (it was my go to when my kids were very small and I only had 3-4 hours dead to run game), no reason why it shouldn’t online. I want to immerse myself in the setting I’m putting together for the adventure book Green Hell, a big bad ass Fantasy Swamp. Aspirant pseudo-Medieval Knights and Wizards vs spiky plant based horrors sounds good to me 🙂
River of Heaven. I’ve run a couple of RoH games at conventions and always had a good time. Now I want to do a short campaign. Either a continuation of the Starshine adventure , which is basically “you are fugitives on the run with your own ship, GO!” or a short focused sand boxy campaign on ‘Red Mars’, with the the characters being on the wrong side of both the Imperial Chinese and the US Military who both have colony’s on the planet.
Crypts and Things: Underdark Spires. This is one of the adventures I’m spitting out as part of the C&T Kickstarter as an addon. I’ve played bits at conventions, and I could easily playtest the remaining bits as standalone, but I want to stress test it as a whole. I want to see characters ground into the dust, driven mad or warped by corruption. Or (more likely) see a clever bunch of players heroically overcome all the weird madness this mini-campaign chucks out at them.
Moving onto games that I don’t publish, to show I’ve got a bit fo depth to me 🙂
Tenra Bansho Zero – run once, played once at conventions. Would love to explore this gem some more. It hits my dials for batshit oriental Gonzo, plus the play framework of startup-scenes-intermission-more scenes + simple d6 system really hits my sweet spot for game design too.
Dungeon World: Megadungeon Ran this as my first series of Hangout games, and for a while, it was my go-to hangouts game. Then suddenly it stopped and I didn’t play via hangouts until my recent game of Beyond Dread Portals a game written by and run by +Paul Mitchener (look out for this one when D101 publishes it later this year). I was running the mega-dungeon I wrote when I was 15-16 from memory and it was working out most excellent, providing great improvisational nuggets under DW where it never really holds water for as an overly complex logical AD&D adventure.
Feng Shui This is more of a wish list game, one I’d possibly like to play, but that lovely 2nd Edition sitting on the shelf gathering dust needs to get some use and be made part of my gaming landscape once more.
HeroQuest Glorantha I’ve been away too long. HQ is a great pick up and play game, quick flavoursome character generation, and is the ideal way of running zero to EPIC hero in about dozen of more adventures. I know HQ Glorantha is quite a niche game, but I may seriously look at this as being my first game to run via hangouts.
Everytime I looked down at the clock, I was suddenly much closer to 7 Hills held arround Easter time annually. The fact that Easter was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay early this year and I was focused on other stuff (getting Crypts and Things Remastered the damn deal done and the recent OpenQuest Bundle of Holding) meant that my sense of time was completely off on this one.
So boosch I’m in the car with the esteemed John Ruddy driving me through Manchester commuters rushing to go home for the weekend, the misty tops of the Pennines and then all too soon into the land of 7Hills, Furnace and Sheffield Wednesday Football club, Hillsborough Sheffield.
We arrived early about 5 ish, gassed much to the huddle of other early people and then I ordered the traditional Veggie Burger n chips. Then talked in to the evening and drank too much as usual (but don’t worry God lets me get away with one night of excess 😉 ). Highlight of the night had to be Declan bequeathing Neil the “Box of stuff” that had been in the attic……(see the pictures below to see why).
After shaking off any hint of hangover over a fresh and frank breakfast which included much chat about the state of RQ/Chaosium/CoC 7th Ed/OpenQuest I was off to get my stuff together for the first slot of the day.
Which for me was me running the New West, for two players (Malcolm and Tom). This is a game of Cowboys and Indians (and occasionally Dinosaurs) at the centre of the Hollow Earth, using Dr Mitch’s straightforward and streamlined Fate variant Fortune (see Hunters of Alexandria for a published version of this rule set). We had a great time, the small number of players allowed me to focus on the loud and rawkous action that this game tends to produce. The stars of this Saturday Morning Cowboy, survived a ride by shooting, an assassination attempt during a ballroom brawl (that’s right they kicked off during tea time in the 1st class restaurant) on the steam boat that they were travelling up river on, narrowly avoided an Undefeated regiment of Confederates armed with maxim guns and cannon by use of Egyptology, before facing off with the ancient guardian of an ancient technology that controls the weather (and more). All good fun 🙂
Lunch was the predictable Cheese and Onion pasties, but I was 80% close to getting a salad (honest), from Morrisons just across the road from the venue. A quick set of stretches to fight off fatigue and then back to the main gaming room….
…to find my afternoon game of OpenQuest: The Last Retreat had received no sign ups. Nada, zero, natch. Which to be honest doesn’t surprise me. I’ve over twenty years experience of GMing at conventions and I’ve seen systems I’ve run come and go as player interest waxes and wanes. I suspected that OQ (which to be honest plays on the simple joy of D100 fantasy) had outstayed its welcome and this confirmed it. I’ve run it numerous times and its now got many more sexy looking competitors, so this time even my energy for it (rejuvenated by the recent success of the OQ Bundle of Holding) wasn’t going to magically manifest players.
So I took the afternoon off and perused the many shiny books being sold by Jim of Patriot Games, and had a good natter about the state of the UK RPG Industry.
The it was time for my last GMing session of the weekend: Sorcerer Under the Mountain, my OSR tribute to the Fighting Fantasy Dungeons of my youth like the Warlock Of Firetop Mountain. System wise I choose The Black Hack, a very simple cut down version of D&D that effectively uses the best rulings from a number of its incarnations and cuts out the chaff to give a complete version of the game in about 20 pages. I playtested it at home with a mix of curious & grognard players, and had pretty much the same here. Both times it went down a storm 🙂 At some point soon The Sorcerer Under the Mountain will be on D101’s release schedule, so look out for it if you are interested 😉
I wasn’t going to risk God’s wrath so virtually no booze and an early night on Saturday (11pm!) so I can be up bright and early for Sunday’s shenanigans.
Breakfast was pleasant (and filling) but far less controversal than Saturdays. A quick freshen up and check out of the room (which was as usual very pleasant and homely for my stay) and then it was back to the venue for slot 1.
Which was Neil Smith’s epic rendition of Tenra Bansho Zero –THE HyperBlast Asian game. TBZ for those of you who’ve not come across its gentle charms is a Japanese Roleplaying game lovingly translated into two thick graphic novel sized books – one setting introduction and the other the rules. The setting is mad as a box of frogs – in that its full on Manga Sci-fi meets Samurai Action Flick. The rules straight forward ( a very clever dice pool system ) with a strong framework of play that allows fast character driven action and plot development. Neil was using the more sedate Ruined Empire setting, that is less maximum metal turned up to 11 than the default Tenra setting but perhaps better suited to the political game of intrigue he had us six players embroiled in from Scene Zero (the opening scene, were each player plays out a quick intro to put their character into context of the adventure to come). I’m still not convinced it is something that I run as a con game, despite my rather giddy proclamations in the post-game-glow. I’d probably have to run a successful run at home first. But I enjoyed it immensely. Unlike some other games where it’s all about the collective story of the party, I could tell you six stories about each of the characters as a result of that game.
Quick spot of lunch, then the traditional Raffle! What’s in the D101 Magic Bag? You’ll have to ask Thomas Lock who was first out of the hat and picked it as his prize 😉
Last game of the con was Guy Milner’s 13th Age tribute to Village of Homlett. I say tribute because Guy played hard and fast following the scenario as written. But hey that’s ok because 13th Age is written to do that, with its narrative cunning and its clever and fast mechanical bits that work to uplift the bits that tend to drag in normal D&D. A very good game, which had all the players engaged and laughing in what can be a difficult slot due to player fatigue.
Maximum thanks to the organisers Paul Mitchener and Graham Spearing. Thanks to every one who I played or talked to.
Already looking forward to next year’s installment which has the theme of Urban Legends.