D101-019 The Company

The Company

This one was OpenQuest Modern. Around the early 2010s, when OQ had been out for a while,  one of the regulars posted about using OQ mashed up with D20 Modern SRD to create a secret service vs Cthulhu game on our forum. I said nope on that one for many reasons, and I realised that I was enjoying all manner of Modern Day thrillers and had no roleplaying outlet.  So I put out the call for someone to turn the OQ SRD into OQ Modern, and Rik Kershaw Moore answered the call. About 12 months later, The Company was the result. Published on 13/04/2012, as a softcover/hardcover and pdf via Lulu.com

The game is centred firmly around a fictional UK Private Military Contractor, a modern-day mercenary company that recruit primarily from ex-UK Armed Forces and with a Royal Charter to provide military services in response to falling numbers of UK armed forces.

In many ways, the Company is my favourite of the early trio of OQ games, completed by OQ 1-2 (Fantasy) and River of Heaven (Sci-Fi). I ran some fun convention games. Operation Mudbrick, where operatives guard an archaeological team in the ancient city of UR post-Gulf War 2, and Operation Camphor, where the team reclaims a recording device left by a spy working for The Company that had been left in the Lockheed Sea Shadow, which was now floating inside the hull of a converted cargo ship in one of the US Fleet Arm fleets, moored off the coast of California. In many ways, the scenarios I ran for The Company, although based on real-life situations, were more fantastic and eye-opening than the weirdest fantasy adventures I’ve written.

While the Company was a good steady seller over the years, I never got beyond publishing the core rulebook, even though there was an adventure book and companion written because its principal author – Rik – suddenly left the hobby.  The main rulebook finally went out of print at the end of the OQ3 Kickstarter back in October 2020.

One day, I hope to bring back The Company for OQ 3, but it will be a slightly different set-up, with a different name (Modern Operations is the current favourite).

Update: Inspired by the nostalgia this post brought up, and with my interest piqued as a Game Designer, I’ve started working on the spiritual successor to the Company, Modern Operations.

Life and Death (D101-015)

I rounded off 2010, a bumper year of releases with Life and Death, a setting and adventure book for OpenQuest. I started writing about 2006, so it felt like an eternity when it finally came out, to relatively little fanfare. But I was happy and proud of it.

I already told Life and Death’s origin story in OpenQuest 1st Edition’s (D101-06) post since it’s so interwoven with that rule set’s beginnings.

It’s my fantasy love letter to George Romero Zombie movies, where a magical apocalypse was brought on by a proud, vain Lion Emperor trying to ascend to the Houses of the Gods. Instead, he ends up wiping them from existence along with the route to the afterlife, which was my rationale for all the undead folk hanging around. It was inspired by a Glorantha fan saying rather angrily on one of the Glorantha-yahoo-lists 1 that you couldn’t just wipe Glorantha’s Mythology and Gods out like erasing a Hard Drive. Which got me thinking, what if you could. I also knocked the idea that after the erasing of Mythology/Gods, the five city-states of the region the adventures were set in were magically isolated by force fields up to ten miles from their city walls.

It came in two versions. The initial release was in 2010, which had two adventures. A short one-shot introduced the setting called Dead Pot Country, where the characters investigated a missing merchant’s son in a land where a dead river civilisation, think Mesopotamia, buried its dead in large ceramic pots in ordered fields. Which the characters had to go tromping across, breaking the seals and disturbing the zombies. And the longer second adventure, which was Life and Death itself. In part 1, you go to a militaristic, xenophobic city-state in the grips of, you guessed it, a zombie plague and discover the culprit behind the Zombie apocalypse. In part 2, you go up into some nearby hills and find out the secret of why the path to the world’s afterlife is blocked, and make the final choice between Life and Death.

In 2014 an updated version of the book was released that had two new introductory adventures. Joining the Guild, where the characters run for their lives in an ancient city-state and end up joining the Adventurer’s Guild. Real basic stuff to introduce the setting and the system to new players.  Their new Guild’s first job is to teleport them to old ruin in the second adventure – The Dust of Eternity – overrun with guess what? That’s right, Zombies! But zombies that still half-remember their lives moan and groan and have behaviours based on that 2.

I have a soft spot for this, so it’s coming back in an expanded/revised version for OpenQuest at some point. BUT it was a pain to write due to various internal conflicts, which made every step forward hard-won. So I’m not in a great rush. When I do bring it back, I will have a clear head and write with joy. Perhaps I’ll get the other five books3 in the series that this was meant to be the first written too 3 😀

Notes

1. Remember those? Glorantha had at least two official Yahoo groups during the HeroWars/HeroQuest period, from 1999 to the early 2010s.  Faults aside, that’s where I first connected with the Gloranthan Fan Community.

2. I was big into playing the first Bioshock game at the time.

3. The plan was one book per city in the setting, including the ruined city of the Lion Emperor.

The Savage North (D101-07)

Aha, this one is definitely one of my favourites.

I realised quickly once OpenQuest 1st Edition came out that it needed an adventure/scenario pack which quite frankly showed how awesome it was. Life and Death was planned to do that, but I had descended into a pessimistic revise/rewrite loop which meant it wasn’t getting done any time soon. My friend John Ossoway had a series of old RQ3 Conan scenarios, which featured monsters from the  HP Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos, which he casually mentioned over a lunchtime meetup. Excited by the idea, I convinced John to let me release it as an OpenQuest adventure.

So the plan was.

For me to create a new setting. Which was faithful to the essence of Pseudo Vikings and a frozen North, fighting eldritch horrors in the wilderness, but didn’t include Howards or Lovecraft’s IP.  This led to the creation of the Savage North, which is made up of three kingdoms. The two kingdoms, the Drakkar, Nortland and Sonderland*** and the misty hill land of Bogdan.

To do editorial on John’s adventures, strip out the Conan + HP Lovecraft IP and convert it all to OpenQuest.  This led to many bloodthirsty demons replacing Lovecraft’s creations since I’m a bit of an 80s body-horror fan (Clive Barker, Chronenburg etc.). The adventures formed a mini-campaign, which took the characters up a glacier and through the underground dungeons that riddled it to face waking evil Serpentmen Priests. Then south for a spot of monster hunting while safely escort a Druid who was turned into a pig to a sacred grove to be turned back into a human. Finally, the campaign ended with a dungeon lair of a demi-lich on a remote island and a race against time to prevent the master from resurrecting as a full member of the undead nobility.   The whole thing was very Old School with dungeons and set-piece encounters along wilderness journies. John wrote one section of the first scenario to provide an excuse to replenish the party after it suffered a Total Party Kill.

John did all the internal art, including this map of the Savage North.

The Savage North map by John Ossoway

It was one of the most fun collaborations that I have been involved in, and that playful sense of fun translated into sales, with it meeting my expectations. One of D101 Games’ best sellers, it was a no-brainer when I did the OpenQuest 3rd edition that there should be a new version of the book entitled Saga of the Savage North.

I threw together this web comix from John’s art, and I think it sums up the sense of mischievous fun we had 😀

Notes:

*Drakar was a land of pseudo-Vikings, with a touch of the North East of England where I’d lived as a teen. There’s an Angel of the North, a massive statue that comes to life and crushes its enemies, a city called Newcastle, the twin river gods Way-Ai and Kan-Ai and Howay the Hunter God.

OpenQuest 1st Edition (D101-06)

In a way, I think I’ve said enough about OpenQuest recently, especially since I’ve been working on the third edition for over a year,  which is now out!

OpenQuest’s story starts around 2005. I was regularly going to cons, about every 3-6 months then, and well into writing adventures. Sick of me going on about it during TV time, my wife challenged me to write an adventure and release it. Drivethrurpg.com was a thing then, for pdfs anyway, and Mongoose RuneQuest (MRQ) was out with its OGL Systems Resource Document. So over several lunchtime writing sessions at work, the adventure pack that was to become Life and Death* started to take shape.

Then one day, it occurred to why not publish a ruleset to go with it?  As a long time RQ fan, I was amazed that no one else had seized on this opportunity**, and in a wonderful, joyous sense of naivety, I set about working on it on days I didn’t feel like going out into the grey rainy Manchester city centre.

By 2008 I had the core of the game, which was at that time called SimpleQuest. My design goal was to make something that was easy and straightforward to play, D100 games at that time, even the modern MRQ often descended into a mess of crunchy rules when the basic core is quite straightforward yet. I also wanted to make something that would be accessible to my friends on the UK con scene that used D100 as a default system. So I took a spirally bound printout to Continuum 2008 (D101-02) and ran an early version of Life and Death there.

So the rest of the year was heads down get it done time. I used a mix of public domain art and art generously done by Simon Bray, another D100 fan who got what I was doing with OpenQuest.  The game’s name got changed from SimpleQuest to OpenQuest in October of 2008, at the suggestion of Tom Zunder (who runs The Tavern BB) since it reflected the open gaming nature of the book.

OpenQuest’s 1st Cover by Simon Bray

So September 2009, it finally came out. As a free pdf and a paid-for low-cost Print on Demand book available from Lulu.com. This initial release went well, with something like 700 downloads of the free pdf within two months, but I was less than impressed with the sales of the physical book – which I needed to do more than beer money to pay for production costs of further OpenQuest supplements that I had planned. So I had a rethink after four months or so and started charging for the pdf. Suddenly the game was paying for itself!

The second big change was the cover art. It was nice that people cared about the game, but I got incessant calls to get a new cover. Initially, I was resistant, I like Simon’s cover to this day as a piece of vibrant art, but my publisher’s head won out in the end. Jon Hodgeson, who I was already in contact with to do Monkey’s 1st edition cover, was able to modify an existing cover to fit OpenQuest***. Sales then started to go up. Not in a way that was making me zillions, but away that showed that I had something to build upon.

OpenQuest’s 2nd Cover by Jon Hodgson

All in all, we had about five versions of OQ1 to fix typos and rules****, and I also played about adding extra content. This was fairly typical of indie-RPGs of the day, so I felt justified doing it. Plus, it was fun to grow the game this way.  I released two mini-settings with supporting adventures, the Savage North (D101-07) and Life and Death (D101-015), both in 2010.  While this was going on, I was getting more feedback from the fans, and it was obvious that a second edition was on the cards. So by summer 2012, OpenQuest 1st Edition had had its day, and OpenQuest 2nd Edition was upon IndieGoGo.com being crowdfunded. But that’s another story 😉

Next up The Savage North (D101-07)

Notes:

*Life and Death is currently out of print. The plan is to re-work it

** It became very clear why no one else seized on it later on. About five years later, Mongoose gave up the MRQ 1 license and released a second edition. At this point, the RuneQuest logo license, which, if you were saying “hey, this is compatible with RQ” was important, just disappeared. So you were stuffed if you had gone down that route. Cakebread & Walton, for example, took a year to redo their MRQ version of Clockwork and Chivalry game, moving it over to OpenQuest as a standalone game (so I guess it worked out well :D). But the rest of the more casual hobby publishers who used it were stuffed, and their supplements eventually disappeared.   The MRQ 1 Systems Resource Document hung around, and is still on the internet to the best of my knowledge, but was the subject of some dispute as revitalised new management at Chaosium pointed out that several Glorantha elements had been released in it without permission – which of course invalidates the whole thing. Today, as a result, OpenQuest is based fully on the successor to MRQ1, through MRQ2, Legend, which was released in its entirety as Open Gaming Content under the OGL. One of the reasons I didn’t release Life and Death under the MRQ Logo license was that I saw that it could be withdrawn at any time. Even though I checked with Greg Stafford just before release, he was ok with it and never had any of the disputed Gloranthan material in OpenQuest, which has always been a non-Gloranthan game. Still, I didn’t twig that the MRQ SRD was on shaky ground until much later. Wiser eyes would have seen this mess straight out of the box. If I had realised this, I would have worried myself to death and never have done OQ. So it’s good my publishing naviety won out here 🙂

***The (in)famous Halfling to Duck change.

**** OQ 1 had a car crash of a proof/editorial. In the case of one proofer quite literally, another had a major life-changing crisis that took him out, and I had the game over the situation of my second child being born, literally the month I decided to publish and be damned.   Part of me wishes that I had taken more time to squash the typos and clean up the rules mistakes. My rather happy punk rock attitude to getting games done in the early days of D101 gave us a reputation based on that, which some reviewers focused on and highlighted in their reviews. That made me very angry until I took practical steps to fix it and realised that they only said what they did because they cared about the books and wanted them to be better. But I stand by the decision to publish when I did. I don’t think I would have done it otherwise. My second child was a more bumpy ride than my first, which was effortless, and I think I would have lost the momentum of getting it out there. Plus, it gave me and a great many others, who told me in person at cons or via emails, a great sense of joy.

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 State of D101 Games 2019

The Last couple of years (2017-2018)

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.

Monkey cover by Jon Hodgson

Glorantha Fanzines

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.

HiG 6 cover by Stewart Stansfield

Tournaments of Madness and Death

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.

Tournaments of Madness and Death, cover by David M. Wright

The Road to Hell Kickstarter

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.

The Road to Hell, cover by Jon Hodgson

Conventions in 2018

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)

The micro Magic Stall at Grogmeet

2019 Plans

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.

Beyond Dread Portals (2nd April)

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.

Read more on the Sorcerer Under Mountain blog.

Beyond Dread Portals, Cover by Jon Hodgson

OpenQuest 10th Anniversary

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.

To the Stars, cover by Peter Frain

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.

Peter Town’s cover

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).

In conclusion

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 🙂

Hangout Games

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.

7 Hills 2016

So 7 Hills, the con that snuck up on me.

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).

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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.

If the wind changes...
Before Breakfast
After Breakfast
After Breakfast

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.

Myself and the esteemed Guy Milner snuck off to our usual Top Sekret Saturday Evening Tea time retreat to find that it had been significantly leveled up since we had last been there. Nom 🙂

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 😉

The Black Hack rules!
The Black Hack rules!

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 ZeroTHE 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 😉

The D101 Magic Bag!
The D101 Magic Bag!

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.

The State of D101 Games Address 2016

Gather round Ladies, Gentlemen and Wild Things of all ages!

Here is my annual State of D101 Games at the beginning of 2016, address.

2015 in review

As far as putting out books 2015 was a good year for Releases 🙂

  1. Reunion (River of Heaven, Jan)
  2. Last Witness ( River of Heaven, March)
  3. OpenQuest Adventures (OpenQuest, May )
  4. Hearts in Glorantha Collected (Glorantha, HeroQuest, RQ, May)
  5. Gloranthan Adventures #2 Red Sun Rising (Glorantha,HeroQuest, May)
  6. Hunters of Alexandria (Fate/Fortune, November)
  7. The Company (re-release) (Powered by OpenQuest, December)

Convention wise as well as my local cons, Furnace (which celebrated it’s 10th Year) and Seven Hills, D101 did  UK Games Expo, which is the nearest thing we have to US Gen Con, which was a huge success for us. We came out with a profit and had a great time meeting new people, catching up with old friends and generally bringing D101 to a whole new audience. To top it all River of Heaven came third in the new RPG category of the UK Games Expo Awards, behind the mighty Mutant Year Zero & Mindjammer RPGs from Modiphius Entertainment.

D101 @UK Games Expo 2015, L-R Guy Milner , Me n Kevin Kthulhu, and Graham Spearing (Wordplay Games)
D101 @UK Games Expo 2015, L-R Guy Milner , Me n Kevin Kthulhu, and Graham Spearing (Wordplay Games). The humongous Travelling Man stall was to our left in the photo, hence the TM banner. Photo by Julian Hayley.

Kickstarters, we completed the River of Heaven Kickstarter by March with the release of the pdf of The Last Witness, and in March I launched our most successful crowdfunding project ever for Crypt and Things Remastered.

Things for 2016

Crypts and Things Remastered is going to be our big first release of 2016. Its written and illustrated, and the additional content (never mind the revision of the existing 1st edition) doubles the size of it. Currently I’m at the stage of getting the main rulebook extensively edited and proofed. Once that’s done I’ve got a stream of  adventure modules ( 2 reissues, 1 conversion and 3 New) to release over the coming year. Then we move on to doing supplements for the game and “Oh what sights I have to show you” 🙂

We’ve Companion books and further adventures planed for River of Heaven and OpenQuest (see my earlier post for details) .

Monkey the 2nd Incarnation is coming along nicely. Its in playtest and writing phase, and I hope to make some form of announcement on Monday February the 8th which the start of the Chinese Year of the Monkey about its immediate future 🙂

Monkey by Peter Frain
Monkey by Peter Frain

Despite its low key release Hunters of Alexandria really did well. This is Paul Mitchener’s Monster Hunting in Ancient Alexandria game, using his Fortune rules which is a version of Fate siting somewhere between Fate Accelerated and Fate Core with influences from Jadepunk, which are simple and written straight to the point (the core rules are only 10 pages of A4). So I’m currently planing more Fortune  books for 2016.

The return of Wordplay! First off Project Darklight is currently being tweaked to fit in with Graham Spearing’s new Wordplay 2.0 rules (which will be out shortly via his Wordplay Games ). Then I’ve also got a Wordplay version of The Empire of Gatan (the setting that’s included with OpenQuest Deluxe) and Infinite Loop (an expanded version of Infinite War, which was last seen in Worlds of Wordplay) in the works. Both these titles will have a striped down version of the rules, which I’m dubbing Wordplay lite, and be self contained and pick up and play like Hunters of Alexandria.

Glorantha is Go! Hearts in Glorantha #2 (aka vol2 #1) is being assembled as we speak, Gloranthan Adventures #3 Defenders of the Dark is coming along nicely and I’m even planing a Mega Adventure for Gloranthan Adventures #4.

OpenQuest – Forward into 2016 and beyond

Just to let you know that after the last six months of wobbling about OQ I’ve made a firm and positive decision about its future.

Recent interactions with the fans on G+ have shown me that there is still a great love and more importantly from a publisher point of view, demand for new OQ books. Thanks if you had any input on calling me on this one. All I can say I was in a very low place and you prevented me from throwing away 8 years of work, both personal and collaborative.

Taking step back and looking at it that 8 years of work is very strong and something to be proud of. OQ in one form or another has been a consistent  steady seller, with a few peaks . So I think we have a market for it 🙂

So my plan in 2016 is to quietly get on with OQ.  Monkey and Crypts & Things are my priority, but there’s room for the odd bit of OQ in the pipeline 🙂

First off there will be no OQ3. I may be adding a bit of art to OpenQuest Basics – so its more appealing for direct sales at say UK Games Expo – but that’s as far as tinkering with the main books goes.

I ran two polls over on the G+ D101 community and over at BRP Central and the two clear winners for what people wanted to see were an OQ Companion and new adventure/setting books.

OpenQuest Companion – I’ve got a striped down “One Magic System” I wrote for my abortive OQ3 (I had some spare time at the day job before Christmas) and a few other house rules that came out of those writing sessions, which I’ll polish up as start for this book. This will be a slow burner of a book, which I’ll invite contributions to. Its focus will be alternative rules and extra bits of gamey stuff.

I’ll be writing and commissioning new OpenQuest Adventures, both the adventure/setting books and shorter standalone adventures (anything from 10 to 40 pages long).
On a personal note I’ve got lots of little fragments in notebooks of OQ adventures and setting ideas so I’ll be working on pulling those together as a break from Monkey/C&T (which are my MUST do things this coming year).

I’ve also got tentative plans to do a simple OpenQuest Living Campaign for Conventions/Online play – but that’s still formative in my head at the moment.

On the OpenQuest related games front, we’re currently working on a River of Heaven Companion and The Company is coming back into print 🙂

So in summary:

  • No new edition in 2016
  • New Adventures/Settings
  • OpenQuest Companion

So I’m reinvigorated on this one. D100 is in my blood 🙂

If you have any ideas for books, get in touch (newt@d101games.com)

OQ is GO!