RPG Retrospective 2014

Another “Year in Gaming” post! This time it’s the RPG Retrospective 2014! Almost as traditional as turkey, but possibly not as dry. This is my annual look at my gaming experiences over the year. As always, these views are my own and may be the result of my own warped perceptions. This year was very much one of highs and lows for me, both in gaming and in my personal life. I’m not going Emo, so I’ll focus on the gaming πŸ™‚

Edinburgh Gaming in General

In general, gaming in Edinburgh is going from strength to strength. We have a lot going on in this city. Where possible I try and keep my Edinburgh Gaming page up to date. Conpulsion is still running although I’ve heard that there’s fewer of the local RPGers going there each year. Hopefully, when I’m there (see below) I can rekindle some interest.

6s2Hit moved out of the Games Hub basement to their own premises on Bread Street nearby. Although there’s no RPGs, they’ve a substantial number of gaming tables in the venue. They’re also selling miniatures and scenery etc. which I know was always hard to find when I used to play WH40K. I’ve not been there yet though.

The Games Hub continues to be popular among many ORC GMs and for boardgames like X-Wing and Star Trek: Attack Wing. 6s2Hit‘s departure meant they’ve got their own shop now which also stocks RPGs and boardgames. The place has also been refurbished to a certain extent, and the place looks better for it.

Black Lion continues to provide a quality service to gamers, and hopefully the distribution problems that have plagued Europe and the UK will cease to be an issue for them. As always they’re happy to help RPGers and still remain one of the friendliest shops I know.

ORC Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Open Roleplaying Community (ORC Edinburgh) had something of a turbulent year. We used to run games in the Meadow Bar, but we discovered in the New Year it was closed indefinitely. It also came as a bit of a surprise to us that we accounted for most of their custom on the Saturday afternoons. It does go to show that having gamers in does not hurt your profits, especially if you’re serving food!

This was a bit of a blow to those of us running games there (and also the FAQ Boardgame society, who are now at the Southsider pub, I believe). Fortunately the wonderful staff at Peartree House gave us a new venue (big thanks to both Marc F and George F for this) and made us welcome. We also began gaming at the Kilderkin pub in the Royal Mile, which is also a good thing. Since then we’ve asked the Meadow Bar if we could use the room, but apparently they decided to show football there instead. Their loss.

We also had a large number of GMs step up and begin their own games. Some fell by the wayside, some are still going. My own games are still going strong, although I’ve hit a few hiccups with the D&D 5e game (see below!). I’m given to understand that a few more new games will be starting soon. Pathfinder is still popular, as is the new D&D 5th Ed, and the games are often over-subscribed as a result.

We also held a few more successful pub meets, and I’m pretty sure that people enjoyed themselves. Pub meets can be tricky to organise but I think they do encourage us gamers to be more sociable. A couple of my players are now in a relationship after meeting during one of my games.

As well as the obvious issues with venues, managing the ORC website itself was something of trial (and continues to be), although this is no one’s fault. I’ve managed to update and patch nearly the entire site. I’ve decided to make use of a system template rather than a generated one for when we have to move to Joomla 3 (the CMS). There’s also going to be an issue with Mediawiki when we move to the next version. There’s a software Bridge needed to link the Joomla user database to allow authentication, but it’s now outdated. I’ll deal with those issues later in 2015!

Over the years, ORC has attracted a lot of interest locally. Although we had a large number of old accounts I’ve since cleaned out, the site now has 300+ members, although it seems that a handful (maybe 50 or more folk) check the site regularly. This is no bad thing, but it sometimes feels like herding cats…

Personal Achievements

I’ve had a pretty busy year, all things considered.

I’ve actually managed to get to a couple of conventions this year. I actually managed to run three different RPG sessions at Q-CON on the same day (three 3-hour sessions), so I think I’ve passed the “Iron Man” GM test. You can read of my convention experiences of Q-CON and Dragonmeet. At both conventions I ran my Achtung! Cthulhu scenario, “A Prayer for St. Nazaire”. Looking back on it, if I run the game again, I’ll use Savage Worlds next time as a rule-set. It’s more accessible. Certainly it’s the impression I got from the games I ran – Call of Cthulhu is better for slow-burn (or creeping sense of menace) games. Plus the whole A!C world inspires PCs to sock Hitler on the jaw, very much in keeping with pulp – or Captain America/Agents of SHIELD! πŸ™‚

Speaking of demo games, I ran two very fun sessions at Black Lion to demo the new 5th Ed. D&D game, using the “Lost Mines of Phandelver“. It may have brought a couple of new people into the hobby, but I suspect there were more people interested in the 5e ruleset! Unfortunately, the European distributors had underestimated the demand for D&D (seriously? They must be the same team that cancelled Babylon 5: Crusade and Firefly) so there still aren’t enough Player’s Handbook available to FLGS.

Lost Mines of Phandelver” is actually a pretty good module in itself and worth getting. Not only is it an introduction to D&D 5e, but the adventure is actually pretty good. It’s non-linear and allows both GM and players a certain amount of freedom. You also get some decent characters, dice and a few handouts. Pretty much all you need to play. For less than twenty quid, it’s pretty good value. I actually rate it better than “Tyranny of Dragons“.

I’m also a Modiphius Silvershield, a gaming “evangelist” for their products. This has allowed me to run games for credit in their store. Achtung! Cthulhu is the game I’ve focussed on for now, and The Mutant Chronicles may be next. I’m not sure if this scheme will work out as I got in on both Kickstarters! Either way, it was good to meet the Modiphius team (briefly!) and volunteers at Dragonmeet. I do have a spiffy Modiphius T-shirt as a result. And I’m grateful πŸ™‚

Flowing seamlessly from one topic to the next, here comes the Kickstarter bit. For various reason, I cut back on my Kickstarter backings over the year, but that didn’t stop the previous KS stuff coming in. Deadzone from Mantic Games delivered, as did Adventure-a-Week‘s Rise of the Drow. Modiphius consistently delivered on the Acthung! Cthulhu Line, as did Evil Hat with FATE Core. Hopefully I’ll be getting Chaosium‘s “Horror on the Orient Express” and Frontier‘s “Elite: Dangerous” soon as well.

Special mention goes to the Shadows of Esteren team. Not only did they go above and beyond for their Kickstarters, they’re great to chat to at conventions like Dragonmeet. Their latest KS, for SoE is here. The art is great, and I’ve even been able to play a few games. It’s really worth a look.

On a campaign note, I finished my AD&D Temple of Elemental Evil” game. Sadly, illness meant I could give folks the proper send-off they deserved. Ahem. I had some fun times and so did the players…

What’s the one thing we know about bugbears? They’re dicks! – Euan R

It also lead to some PCs being nibbled to death by rats (sorry, Max!). The only reason I ended it was because of the fact that I realised I was running old systems and it wasn’t really engaging folk new to the hobby.

My WFRP (Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay) game has been a huge amount of fun to run (despite the system feeling a bit antiquated on occasion). We’ve managed to move from Death on the Reik to Power Behind the Throne and I hope my players are enjoying it as much as I am. I think it’s safe to say that both my players and I will remember a lot of scenes from this game – whether it’s the Merry Bande, or the bat-crap crazy stuff players come out with that I, as GM, choose to act upon. There’s a fair bit of improv required but it is fun!

Oh, and I started my novel as part of NaNoWriMo. It didn’t go well. I looked at the 3,000 words I’d written and thought it was drivel. So I’m my own worst critic. Still, I’ve got the ideas…

Plans for next year

I’ve a fair bit planned for 2014.

At some point in the new year I’d like to run the “Knights in Shining Armani” RPG, Corporia – I’ve been lax in getting around to it and I need to apologise for it.

I REALLY want to get this novel started, as well as the Cthulhu-based short stories. I’ve also got plans to try and get into the Black Library as a writer. I’ve a lot of ideas, and I’m somewhat hopeful that I can bring some personality to the often one-dimensional Space Marines of WH40K. It’s a challenge!

In a similar vein, I’m also looking at creating (or possibly revising) a Cthulhutech-inspired Battletech game pitting mechs against the forces of the Cthulhu mythos. If there’s one KS I regret missing out on, it’s the Cthulhu Wars one, which has some great miniatures. I’m personally starting to develop an antipathy towards miniature-based games, as they’re usually expensive. If all else fails, I should be able to use counters.

As a result of this, I’m also looking at trying to get more involved in the wargaming side of things. [elg] is just around the corner from me when it is on, so I may be considering that. As well as Battletech, I may also look at playing Deadzone, although I don’t like the miniatures (they do remind me of the old Airfix soldiers!). I know I said this last year but: Hey! Time is a commodity!

I’ve also decided that as a Modiphius Silvershield and local “Z-list gaming personality” (said ironically!) that I’m going to try and get to more conventions. I’ve not been to Conpulsion yet (seriously!), despite it being hosted in Edinburgh. I plan to remedy that this year. I had a great time playing Marc Farrimond’s ClichΓ© RPG where I had a huge amount of fun as a deranged psychopath known as the Artist. This should probably worry me.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Let’s find out… <snik> – The Artist

Either way, I’ll be back at Q-CON this year. It was an amazing experience, although social anxiety on my part didn’t help. I’ve since beaten that as a result, and all I can say is this – if you were there, you’ll know what I mean! I’m also planning to go to Dragonmeet again, although I hope to play in some games this time, and maybe actually go to the pub meet this time! I’m also considering going to the UK Games Expo as well. And I’m planning on maybe going to Gaelcon as well.

Games-wise, I plan to try and finish the WFRP: Enemy Within Campaign and also start Achtung Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis when it comes out. I’m also running a 5th Ed. Dungeons & Dragons game using the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. I’ve never run a game in the Forgotten Realms before so it should be interesting. There’s also Horror on the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu


So that’s my year. It’s been busy and I don’t think I’ve achieved anything close to what I’d planned last year. I’ll be at those conventions I reckon, as a GM or player. I definitely should try and get a few games in as a player at the Cons. Ultimately, though, I need to get better at either the writing or the proof-reading. I’m not the Jedi I could be…

Games referenced in this post.

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Published by Bill Heron

Wannabe game designer and would-be author. I've been playing RPGs for over 25 years and have recently started creating my own RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom. I also run a number of RPGs: Cthulhutech, Call of Cthulhu, WFRP, and D&D. I'm active in the Edinburgh RPG community at http://orcedinburgh.co.uk and regularly play RPGs.