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Shadows of Esteren

Dragonmeet 2014

So, after Q-CON earlier this year, I decided to try and make it to Dragonmeet, a gaming convention held in London’s Earls Court. I had a pretty pleasant train journey down from Edinburgh, although London rush hour is not a favourite of mine now. I was staying with my sister in Hackney so, accommodation-wise, things were OK. What follows are my perceptions of the Convention as a first-timer to Dragonmeet. Were you there? If so, shout it out!

Dragonmeet is currently a one-day convention (focussed primarily on RPGs), and this year was being run by Chris Birch and Modiphius Entertainment for the first time. Before I continue I should point out that I’ve backed a lot of the Modiphius Kickstarter Campaigns (Achtung! Cthulhu and the Mutant Chronicles, so far!)  and I’m also a Modiphius Silvershield so there’s a certain bias on my part.

Like in my Q-CON review, I’ll also add a few tips in. As usual, most are common sense, really.

The Con

Getting There

I was staying in Hackney and could take the District underground to Earls Court from Mile End. As it was a Saturday morning the trains/buses weren’t too busy, but I left a little later than I’d planned (10am, with the convention starting at 9am). With my usual unerring ability to land myself in it, I managed to exit Earls Court station from the wrong damn exit. This lead to me taking a huge unnecessary detour before I arrived at the somewhat underwhelming-looking ILEC Conference Centre. I got there about 11am, so had missed the lines at least. I got my programme and red band fairly quickly as I’d pre-registered, but the entrance to the convention seemed a bit cramped to me. There were big hoardings up all over the place, each detailing the games that were going on, along with the sign-ups.

TIP: It’s pretty warm in the hall (not uncomfortably so) and crowded, so make use of the free cloakroom to stash your coat and/or jumpers.

The hall is vast. It is huge. There were 1,600 people through the doors I heard later, and there were a colossal amount of games going on. A lot of the UK gaming scene was there in the form of trade stands, with quite a lot of stock. And there were guests!  I wish I’d brought my “YOU ARE THE HERO” book by Jonathan Green, and my Lone Wolf RPG book. Joe Dever (Lone Wolf gamebooks) was there signing books, and so were Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (Fighting Fantasy/Games Workshop etc.) and the artist Tony ‘H’ Hough. Next time, I’ll pay more attention to the guest list.

TIP: My Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (or bro-bag!) worked well for the books (and dice and adventure notes) I was carrying. However, I also carried a small Reisenthel fold-up rucksack (like the ones here) that proved very useful. These fold down to approximately 4″x6″x1″ and easily fitted in the A!C bag. This proved useful later on!

Demo Games

I was there to run three demo games of Achtung! Cthulhu, so I introduced myself to the folk at the Modiphius stall and made myself known (pics here) and scouted around the hall.  It was a bit cramped in the demo areas and I was slightly worried that I’d have trouble hearing during my game. I was needlessly worried as it turned out – the hall must have some form of acoustic dampening installed. However, I did have trouble hearing any announcements – maybe a big screen would have helped?

TIP: if you’re running multiple games, make sure you’ve got some Strepsils or throat lozenges. You’ll be a bit hoarse by the end of the day.

Throughout the day I ran three games of Achtung! Cthulhu. I used the Prayer for St. Nazaire scenario I’d used for Q-CON, split into three parts. I had full sign-ups for all three games (4 players), but only had a full table for the second game. Running a 1-hour demo game is harder than you’d think – it’s pretty exhausting, especially when you’re trying to give people a good experience.

TIP: If you’re running a Demo game watch the clock, but make sure your players get a great ending, Start building up to a finale in the last 15 minutes. It may not be what you had planned, but give them something to remember.

This was the second time I’ve run “A Prayer for St. Nazaire” using Call of Cthulhu rules, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s the wrong system for the adventure. I’m looking at Savage Worlds for next time. It makes no difference to A!C as it uses both systems.

One of the GMs running the Mutant Chronicles Demo had one of the game’s original developers in his game, so no pressure there! He’d come down on the night train from Plymouth and still managed to run games and help out.

TIP: If you’re a GM running a Demo, get yourself in place on time and make sure you’re prepared. The players shouldn’t have to wait on you.

 I’d brought both the GM and Player’s Guide for Achtung! Cthulhu and they were eagerly examined by ALL my players. The attention to detail in the books really helped get across the whole concept of the WW2 theater of operations. For one of my players, it was “Quite an insight into WW2”.

Dragonmeet – Bill at large

When I wasn’t running, I used the rest of my time to wander round the hall, looking at the stalls and games. There were a lot of stalls selling miniatures, but the majority of games going on were RPGs (Pathfinder Society and D&D Adventurers League included) and board games going on. Dragonmeet is still very much an RPG convention – there’s not really a huge amount of space set aside for wargames or CCGs. Personally, I think this is a good thing – many gaming Cons marginalise the RPG play areas. I can understand why they do (so they have quiet), but ultimately an RPG con should focus on RPGs in their main areas!

I also got a chance to meet the Shadows of Esteren crew, who produce some fantastic-looking games (Shadows of Esteren for one!) and great Kickstarter campaigns. Their display looked amazing and they gave me a Christmas card when they found out I was a backer of their Kickstarters :). It was great to meet both them and the Modiphius Crew (and other some of the other Silvershields!). I also now have a Modiphius T-shirt (ho ho ho).

I also bumped into some former members of ORC Edinburgh – Peter, who was running a Svavelvinter game (I’d never heard of this game until Peter talked about it at ORC), and Dee (who’d nearly forgotten Dragonmeet was on!). If you’re reading this: Hi guys!

 TIP: if you’re a vendor trying to flog stuff, engage anyone actually taking the time to look (within reason). If a sale means listening to them talk about their character so be it. But don’t let them bogart you! A signature/notation in a book costs nothing really if you’re the writer/developer. At the very least that customer will walk away feeling special… that’s what happened with Sopio at Dragonmeet ; and at Q-CON; Laurence “@LarboIreland” Donaghy and Folk’d (NSFW!).

Here comes the swag bit…

Loot!

More than a few folk at Dragonmeet were there to pick up their Kickstarter Pledges. As a Keeper of Terrors KS Backer for Achtung! Cthulhu I already had the PDF versions of much of the books but I picked up the books themselves on Saturday. These were the Achtung! Cthulhu Guide to North Africa and Guide to the Pacific Front and the artwork is amazing by Dim Martin. I also finally managed to get my hands on Mindjammer – I’ve both the FATE and Starblazer Adventures ones now. I also picked picked up the Sopio card game, the basic set. And, because (!), Lamentation’s of the Flame Princess – I picked up their FreeRPG scenario.

Ze Low Point

The worst thing about ILEC was the pub. The Dragon and George is one of those awful IBIS pubs that charge you a fortune for a pint. The seats were those stupid 6-seater ones that no one ever uses because there’s only two of you. That’s not Dragonmeet’s fault – it’s the venue. Plus, there wasn’t enough staff. If the queue at the bar  waiting time is >= 10 minutes there’s something wrong. I’d originally planned to go to the Pub-meet that Dragonmeet holds on the Sunday. But trailing across London for a sub-par pint wasn’t something I was prepared to do. Plus it was cold and wet. I ended up checking out 221b Baker Street (a bit expensive for what it actually is), and the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at Museum of London  instead. Worth a look. Its called “The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die” and is on until  April 2015.

Summary of Dragonmeet 2014

Dragonmeet is a great convention if you live in London, but could be a bit pricey if you’re not local. London prices for accommodation and food aren’t cheap. For a one-day convention there’s a lot to cram in and they are considering making it a two-day event next year. Having said, that it was fun – the people I talked to were friendly and the convention ran pretty well. The only criticisms I have is that it was quite cramped and the bar obviously wasn’t equipped to deal with the volume of requests. The games I ran were well-received and hopefully got more people interested in Achtung! Cthulhu. As always for me its good to meet new people, and add another convention to the list! Will I go back? Yes. However next time I’ll likely stay over the weekend in the hotel and actually play some other games too! There were a lot of industry people there and I did feel a bit of an outsider initially, but that wore off later.

RPG retrospective 2013

RPG retrospective 2013 is the latest in what has become something of an annual tradition for me. I’ve let the GMs and players over at ORC speak for themselves on the ORC website, but its been quite a year for me.

Personal achievements

I’ve not written so much on this blog this year, as to be quite honest I’ve not had time. What content I have put up has hopefully been of some use to anyone using the site. I hope to try and blog more over the next year, but will try to include more quality content, both specific gaming content, and otherwise.

Games I’ve been running this year included PathfinderAD&D and WFRP, and Wildfire’s new RPG, The Void (part of the Cthulhu Saga, a review of the game can be found here). The Pathfinder game I ran was part of the Ronin GM idea I had. I used the Sands of Time setting I made up (some of the places are detailed on the ORC wiki here), an Egypt-meets-Cthulhu, style setting. I only ran it for five or six sessions and although it proved a lot of fun to run, I didn’t really achieve aims I had for my role as  “Ronin GM”, although a few people that had never played RPGs or Pathfinder got the experience! I’ve described the Void RPG elsewhere, but it has potential.

AD&D has been something of a cathartic experience. It’s nice to have a simple dungeon bash that doesn’t challenge GM and players yet remains considerable. I’ve run it using AD&D before and its surprising how easy it came back to me, and even new players find it fairly intuitive over 3.5/4e. It also had the first PC fatality I’ve had in a game for quite a while. The group has finally got a full complement after a few folk dropped out during the year, and the new mage seems to even the score a bit. Expect a more detailed description on how I’m running the mega-scenario “The Temple of Elemental Evil” in a future post, or posts.

WFRP has gone from being bleakly grimdark (and po-faced) to something that hopefully has been fun to play and run – after my mistakes running Shadows over Bogenhafen (detailed here), Death on the Reik has been a joy to run. A number of fantastic experiences have been had by the players and the Queen of the Reik (under Captain Priscilla) now feels like home to the party. Heart of Chaos and Legacy of Praag were two of the encounters I came up with to spice up the adventure. I’ve chosen to skip “Something Rotten in Kislev” after Power Behind the Throne, choosing to run Drachenfels instead. SRiK isn’t a good module, and I got bored just reading it.

EDIT: I also ran Fires of Perdition, and, although it ran for a short time, was immense fun to both run and play. This was a mash-up of the Only War rules with the PCs as members of the Adeptus Arbites. Set in the Hive city of Perdition, on the world of Crucible, it was pretty much a knock-off Judge Dredd setting (more info on the setting here). If I ran it again, I’d definitely try to be little less epic – the players said they enjoyed playing a “street level” judge without the whole Chaos-warp-doom that pervades so much wh40k.

Other achievements? My freelance work on demons (and the artist’s interpretation) finally appeared in the supplement: Fragment 1: The Way of Tree Sword, & Flame, working alongside designers such as: George Strayton, Logan Bonner, Tony Reyes, Thomas Reid, Bill Smith, Ptolemy Slocum, Ron Corn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Curtis, John Adamus, Steve Winter, and Jim Ward. I recently appeared on Hazard Gaming’s Penny Red podcast, as part of their “Inside the Roleplayers Studio” series. I was recently interviewed by playbymail.net about my part in the Nova Games PBM partnership, for Issue 2 of the new PBM magazine “Suspense And Decision” (yet to be published).

I’ve backed a lot of RPG Kickstarters over the year (and other games). I’m especially looking forward to getting Deadzone setup and running (although I’ve a few gripes about the mini construction). Also the “Horror on the Orient Express” boxed set for Call of Cthulhu and “Rise of the Drow” Pathfinder campaign are due for release next year.

RPG plans for 2014

As well as running WFRP and AD&D, I’d like to get cracking on my novel idea. I’m not having troubles with ideas of the plot, it’s the actual linking them together and getting the words out of my head 🙂 .I’ve also decided to run a game session on Sunday evening called Survival Sunday; where we play Shadows of Esteren, The Void (the Stygian Cycle in all likelihood), CthulhuTech, and of course, Call of Cthulhu. Once “Horror on the Orient Express” arrives I’ll be running that.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

William Heron’s 40, ‘K?

It was my 40th birthday earlier in the week. The last twenty years seem to have passed so quickly, but its quite a long time when I think about it. In that time I’ve changed careers form Audiovisual to Computing – I probably wouldn’t have been the best AV guy anyway given that I was diagnosed with a sensorineural hearing problem. I’d probably had it for years, perhaps when I had the mumps or a fever as a child. Basically, it means that I can’t hear mid-range frequencies like human speech as easily a normal person, but the rest of my hearing is pretty good. I’m definitely not the same person I was 20 years ago. Hard times make for hard lessons, but I’ve managed to stay upbeat over the years. I’ve stayed relatively healthy, although I think my sanity has undergone a stress test occasionally. All things considered,  despite a few bumps in the road recently, I’m pretty good. Plus I still have all my hair – and also 100% free of preservatives, colourings, or additives.

I’ve travelled around a bit. I’ve never felt the temptation to go backpacking, but I do like arriving in a new city, and more often than not getting lost in it. I’ve been to both sides of the Pacific,  but never crossed it. I’ve been to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Tokyo, Antigua, Prague, and Rome so far; and I’d love to visit more, in the EU and elsewhere. As usual, as is so often the case, its expensive!

Speaking of new experiences, I’ve done a lot more gaming in recent years, as this blog illustrates. I’ve not been much of a console gamer, but do own an X-box 360, although that’s largely consigned to running DVDs these days. I prefer the cooperative kind of game, where you can work together – or short arena games with friends, like Left4Dead or Halo. Loved Batman: Arkham Asylum too. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t want to play Batman…

Ironically my two RPG campaigns that I’m running these days are from the 1990s. The Enemy Within campaign for WFRP, and also AD&D 2nd Edition. You’ll find some of my suggestions for running these elsewhere in my blog, too. Its ironic that these games still work well for modern players, despite today’s insistence on catering for munchkins and power gamer style games. In the last ten years I’ve run a lot of other RPGs too: D&D (both 3.5 and 4e), Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhutech, Marvel Superheroes, Pathfinder, the Wh40k RPGs, and Star Wars (both D6 and Star Wars). Some I’ve enjoyed more than others, some my players enjoyed more than I did!

The biggest problem I find these days is time: I’d love to run games like Shadows of Esteren, The Void, Eclipse Phase, Star Wars Edge of Empire, Werewolf, and 13th Age. I’d love to play these too, but as well as the time, its often the case that I can’t find someone to run. It takes a time commitment to be a GM, and to be honest, not many folk can do that. I’ve seen it happen a lot at ORC unfortunately. Someone starts a game, then can’t find the time, or they find themselves over-committed. For this reason I try and tell folk to keep to 1 or 2 games a week, be they a player and/or a GM.

I’d hoped to start writing a novel this month, but although I have a notebook of ideas, and hoped to start using the Scrivener software to get it organised. I’ve failed to begin NaNoWriMo again! Having said that, some of my stuff has been published, in THE SECRET FIRE RPG, and the first supplement, THE WAY OF TREE, SHADOW, AND FLAME. That was also the first time I did some proper freelancing. I also did some voluntary proof-reading for ACHTUNG, CTHULHU! from Modiphius Entertainment. Proof-reading maybe the way forward for the time being, as the time needed to develop my own games just ain’t happening. If I can get the custom, it might also be a good earner.

I’ve no idea what the next few years will be like. There’s nearly always something for me to do. There’s likely going to be a few DEADZONE, BATTLETECH, and possibly even BURNING SUNS games in the pipeline. I’m not much of a boardgamer, but reckon I should be able to get into those games without too much hassle. WH40k is too expensive! I suspect I’m going to be busy over the next few years, so things are going to be interesting! I’ve been a gamer for over 25 years now. Gonna keep rolling those dice for at least another 25 with any luck 🙂

Ronin GM! Getting a new group together

As a GM I’ve got a lot of games that I want to run and my time is pretty much limited. If I ever won the Lottery, I’d likely spend my time running or preparing games for my various gaming groups. The biggest frustration is often finding players for them – I’d love to run Cthulhutech, Shadows of Esteren, and the new RPG from Wildfire, The Void. However way you look at it, Pathfinder and D&D are usually the first RPGs that many new tabletop RPGers play. Consequently that’s what they want to play. Pathfinder and D&D are a staple (or junk food to carry the metaphor), and they often feel they encourage the “munchkin” perspective of players. We have a generation of players who have “grown up” killing other PCs online and taking their gear. As a result, many new players can often become adversarial with a GM (particularly when the GM pulls a surprise twist that the rules don’t cater for). It’s also all to easy for some new players to forget that there are others in the game, and sometimes they are indulged by new GMs (who perhaps fail to notice that no else in the group has had a chance to get a word in edgeways for the last half hour). My advice is to make sure everyone has a chance to speak, perhaps even asking more loud-mouthed players to shut the hell up (or words to that effect) so that your GM can hear…

Anyway… I’ve noticed that there are fewer GMs running basic entry level games like Pathfinder and D&D. I kicked off a thread on the ORC Edinburgh forum (you’ll need to register to see it), and we’ve pretty much come up with a few reasons why. One is GMs don’t want to run Pathfinder or D&D – they’ve moved onto other systems, and have their own RPG likes. Another is a lack of experience among those who would like to run games but up until now haven’t had the chance to play (as a GM or player). A lack of venue or players is another. Timing can be tricky, players can be fickle as well. Also a campaign is very hard work, even if it is a published one – there’s still a fair bit of work for a GM!

With that in mind, I’ve considered what might help us at ORC Edinburgh. My idea is to become a ronin GM (or roaming GM anyway). I run a few games of Pathfinder and D&D hopefully with those wanting to go on to running the games, possibly sort of mini-campaign or something from one of the Adventure Paths. They get a bit of experience playing an RPG, then I move on – “My work here is done” – starting again with a new group. Hopefully I’d be leaving some new GMs behind to continue with that group. Like the D&D Encounters series, but with a view to passing on GM skills and to give confidence to new GMs. It might also help new groups to form as a result.

This will be an interesting experiment to say the least, and would likely help the community to grow as a result. I’ll see how it goes.

RPG retrospective 2012 – Edinburgh Gaming

In what’s become something of an annual tradition, I’m taking a look back over the year in a RPG retrospective. By that, I mean to talk about stuff that happened over the last year in various RPGs I’ve been involved with over the year. And events at ORC Edinburgh of course.

I’ve had little chance to do much PC or Xbox gaming this year, although I loved the free mod of Half Life‘s Black Mesa (which has a cracking remixed soundtrack for free too) and played through it. It recreates the original Half Life game but with new graphics, audio and game-play. Worth a look – the next part Xen will be worth the wait I reckon. Still no news on Half Life 2: Episode 3 either. I’ve also backed the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter (see below), because I loved that game so much on the BBC micro (and, yes, I did reach Elite status).

Edinburgh’s tabletop gaming scene got itself a new venue in August – the Edinburgh Games Hub. Their Tollcross basement has become something of a Mecca to all kinds of tabletop gamers – CCGs, boardgames, war-games and of course RPGs. I myself can be found there on Thursday nights, continuing the adventures of Diogenes “Basilisk” Valexos in our Rogue Trader RPG. I’d have provided a link but their website has been hacked and shows no sign of getting fixed any time soon, but you can find them on FB at https://en-gb.facebook.com/GamesHubEdinburgh. They also have a boardgames and miniatures shop in the basement, 6S2Hit.

As well as Rogue Trader, which I didn’t make it to half as often as I would have liked, we started the year off playing on the Dresden Files RPG on Wednesday nights, followed by the Pathfinder (Isador) game. My workload hit nightmare levels though and I was forced to drop the Wednesday night games.

Yet again, I didn’t make it to Conpulsion, the Edinburgh RPG convention run by Edinburgh Uni’s RPG club, GEAS. I really must try and make it there. I’m considering running my eBranch game there as a one-off next year. It uses the Call of Cthulhu rules, and features physic spies and Brian Lumley’s Wamphyri vampires. It is set in the New Forest, close to Southampton where I was born.

ORC Edinburgh – RPG Retrospective

No RPG Retrospective would be complete without me mentioning ORC – Edinburgh’s Open Roleplaying Community. ORC Edinburgh saw many new faces and also a number of new games, and we had a lot of fun at the pub meets throughout the year. This gave us a chance for many of the community to socialize outside of scheduled games and actually lead to the creation of at least one group. However, the last one wasn’t quite so well attended and the venue let us down somewhat.We’ll need to think about an alternative next time.

We definitely need more GMs at ORC – we had games running at the Meadow Bar, the Games Hub, Illegal Jacks and also Cafe Renroc. Unfortunately these were often on the same day – many of our GMs are also players too, but some of us (like me) rarely get the chance to play. This is partially my choice, but some of the other GMs would love a chance to kick back and let someone else do the work (and so would I really). And of course anyone wishing to try their hand at GMing should feel free to do so.

Call of Cthulhu was definitely popular this year at ORC. We had two home-brew campaigns running (and one still is) and the also Cubicle 7’s Shadows of Scotland campaign – which was over-subscribed at one point! I’d thought about running my Arunstoun setting, but didn’t need to in the end. It did feature in Cthulhutech though! I considered running Masks of Nyarlathotep, but it has significant flaws and pretty much suffers what I call Cthulhu Syndrome where the PCs get drawn to a remote location for a minor reason and the players just know the Mythos is involved.

I put my Cthulhutech game, Through the Looking Glass, on hiatus (to give me a break really). The Dark Edinburgh setting really worked and I’ve been looking forward to getting my mitts on the new Burning Horizons supplement. With Pacific Rim out in 2013 (Guillermo del Toro‘s new movie featuring giant robots – mechs or mecha), I can see there being a few mecha-based games turning up in the future (Cthulhutech or otherwise). Wildfire, the makers of Cthulhutech have had a bad year with distributors so I hope things pick up for them in 2013!

Pathfinder was also popular this year at ORC and continues to be a successor to D&D. The campaign paths of Jade Regent, Raging Swan, Carrion Crown, and Kingmaker all put in an appearance, along with Dee’s Critical Missions home-brew. Nuno’s Shapes of Grey home-brew setting returned in Pathfinder form too. For those of us looking for an alternative to 4th Ed. D&D, Pathfinder provided the necessary fixes it seemed.

This naturally brings me to 4th edition D&D (4e). Oft-requested by players, yet only a handful of people were willing to run games. I’m not going to go in a debate about the version wars, as I’ve posted about that elsewhere. EmbraCraig continues to run Perils of the Nentir Vale at the Games Hub fortnightly, but Jill has wrapped up her War of the Burning Sky game. Radonir’s Scales of War continues to run, although he had some early recruitment problems with players.

At ORC, I began running the WFRP Enemy Within Campaign. As campaigns go, its tough to beat – there’s a lot of background info, not fluff for once, and I’m enjoying running it immensely. I’ve a good bunch of players to work with too, most of whom are enjoying themselves immensely I hope. I started recording the sessions but they’re such a large size that I’ll need to work on compressing them down to a manageable size.

However, my biggest disappointment of the year was Marvel Super Heroes (the original set from the 80s). We had a full session of character generation, but a third of the group then dropped out. As a result I (somewhat petulantly, I admit) decided to cancel the game in its entirety. I’d planned to run the Nightmares of Futures Past storyline, having fond memories of when we played it back in the late ’80s.

We even had a game of Vampire: The Masquerade scheduled to run at ORC at one point. For one session. Then the GM involved disappeared. VtM is one of those games that seems to be something of a Macbeth for ORC RPGers! Every time someone mentions they want to run it something happens, and the game only lasts a few sessions. Many of hose who liked the original VtM have now moved onto the Embraced and Isle of Darkness LARPS (I’d never be able to suspend my sense of disbelief for LARPS – I’d continually have to bite my tongue). I’ll possibly be running Werewolf: the Apocalypse in the future so who knows? Maybe we will get a proper Vampire campaign at ORC too!

And of course there’s D&Dnext, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Surprisingly there’s not been much interest in the Playtest packs at ORC. I think that everyone has largely adopted a wait-and-see attitude, possibly brought on by the whole 4e debacle. There’s a couple of games going on, but no one is seriously participating right now.

We also ran a few pub meets that I’ve mentioned  elsewhere – these have rapidly proved to be a great way to meet other players in a non-RPG setting. So that’s the year at ORC really. Here’s to another year of great RPGs there!

Kickstarter

2012 for me was the “Year of the Kickstarter”, or more likely “Year of the Stretch Goal”. Also “Year of the Stretched Bank account”. I backed a number of Kickstarter campaigns, some of which are still ongoing.

So that’s it. My RPG Retrospective. Sorry if I rambled on a bit, but it has been quite a year. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

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