So, what were we doing last year when we weren’t blogging? Apart from the obvious one, staying alive. We actually played a lot in 2020, more so than any year before including the old days. It was a great way to stay in touch with distant locked-down friends and take our mind off things. It was all over Zoom, which is nowhere near the table experience, but it was still nice to see everyone’s faces. Here’s what we played. (Next blog, we’ll talk about what we wrote.)
Fifth edition D&D games
Mark ran a lot of DnD. A lot. He ran Eberron for the nephews, played in a regular Acquisitions Inc game, and playtested the Barovian scenarios I have been writing for publication on the DMs Guild (more about those in a future post).
With our regular group he ran a scenario from the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (I think so that he could geek out over the Deven Rue map), and then we journeyed to the Menagerie Coast where he located The Sea King’s Malice, a seagoing scenario by Alex Kammer. This was a cracking salty sea voyage of a book and just the tonic for troubled times.
I created a new character for the campaign, Meddy the Plague Doctor. She was all moody and seeking answers in death, but the fresh ocean breeze, fighting off sahuagin and meeting that strange elf who wanted to weave his sails from the hair of heroes, saw her change her tune. She turned into Meddy the Salty Sea Dog Doctor and was last seen at 10th level heading off into the Elemental Plane of Water, in the name of Science. I believe she has discovered meaning in life.
We’ve finally left the dragons in their dungeons and the sahuagin in the sea and returned to our roots, playing RuneQuest. Mark is running the new starting adventures as we all squint sadly at the tiny, tiny font on the character sheet for our armour and hit points. We are old. New RuneQuest characters are a lot more kick-arse than old Runequest characters. I’m kind of worried about that. Also, an alarming number of relatives seem to die during character generation. However I am looking forward to building a big name off a lost goddess, assuming Argrath doesn’t get us all killed first.
Fun fact: in the 1990s I wrote a Gloranthan novel called The Widow’s Tale, and a short story collection called Eurhol’s Vale, published by TradeTalk in Germany. There’s even a nice article about them on El Rune Blog.
Those were our home games, but Mark’s been streaming stuff too for all the virtual conventions last year.
Just before things closed down, Mark run a Reign of Terror live game at Arcanacon in Melbourne. The scenario was Le Berger by David Harris, and bad things happened at sea in 1793. He got to use Arkenforge, fancy virtual tabletop software.
For Gen Con Online, he was invited to run the 1980s Australian convention scenario “Black as Coal” originally written by John Coleman, and which Mark wrote up and set in Poland for Zew Cthulhu, the Polish edition of Call of Cthulhu from Black Monk Games. (The scenario will appear in English sometime down the road.) His players were the crew from the Ain’t Slayed Nobody podcast, including Rina Haenze from Poland who was able to correct his pronunciation! Things started well but ended… badly.
Speaking of monsters, Mark moderated a panel for PAX Online, “Describing the Indescribable: Keeping Your Monsters Fresh”, with amazing panellists Mike Mason (Call of Cthulhu editor, of course), Amanda Hamon (veteran of Paizo, Kobold Press, and now at Wizards of the Coast) and Becca Scott (who has been running marvellous Call of Cthulhu live plays on her Good Time Society channel). It was a great discussion on making monsters surprising and horrible, every time.
Despite all that DnD this year, Mark’s real D20 love is Shadow of the Demon Lord, a darker than dark fantasy RPG by Rob Schwalb. He ran a session of Demon Lord for The Saving Throw Show with hilarious players Tom Lommel, Steven Pope and Jameson McDaniel. Sooner or later, somebody’s bound to lose a kidney.
Mark’s got the streaming bug now, so after laying in a new lighting and mic setup, he’s starting his first ever regular stream this week – he is running Beowulf, a new monster-slaying roleplaying game in Anglo-Saxon times with the interesting twist that it is for one player and one GM. Jackson will be playing the hero, who will hopefully be the stuff of an epic saga and not monster bait. Catch it on the Campaign Coins Twitch stream, and later on YouTube in digestible one-hour episodes – much as the monster will probably digest Jackson.