Gigantic eagles circle the bay, plucking seagulls clean from the sky, as the gangplank is run out from the Merchant Knave. You push your way past the rushing deckhands down to the complex network of piers and jetties stretching out from below the bluff, that spirals up to the height of the city. As you step down you can hear the hollering of people in the simple armour of guardsmen, calling out in a variety of languages, and in a few moments you find one shouting over the crowd in a language you understand:
“Welcome to Meadsbridge! While within the confines of the city you will abide by the following laws…”
It’s something I’ve considered doing for a while but I’ve never had the recruitment power for it, a world big enough, and so full of adventure that it could support multiple groups. A couple of years ago, before resolving to be a DM for hire, I watched a video about a particular style of gameplay, The West Marches that put better form to the idle thought, and now I have a way of reaching new players.
Adventurers are centred in a single area, a point of civilisation on the brink of wilderness, within which lies adventure. There can be dozens of players, all gathered in the city of Meadsbridge, talking, communicating, sharing what they’ve found, recruiting for expeditions in the great green beyond to learn more and more about their surroundings, and follow rumours about some of the plot hooks that I have seeded throughout the small-nation sized space mapped out beyond… my map, they’re not allowed to see it.
Of course you may not want – or be able to share information, some players have already landed themselves far from Meadsbridge in one of the outlying settlements with no easy way to communicate with the larger settlements nearby, and have already got a couple of secrets they’d rather not share with everyone… but they’ll soon learn that without friends, they’ll find themselves in fatal situations with no one to depend upon for help.
The players will need to keep their ears out for rumours and plot hooks, not just from one another, but also the citizens of the cities and settlements, and the wandering caravans beyond. Wandering into the wilds will yield some results, but the true treasures must be sought, rather than stumbled across.
Every hex on the map (built in hexographer if you’re interested) works out to roughly half a day’s travel on foot, about fifteen miles, and for every half-day of travel there is an enormous random encounter table, with changing regional effects, different possibilities depending on the intent of travel, some fixed landmarks that can help with navigation, such as the estuary or certain distant forests, ridges, and settlements. The region is awash with bandits, gnolls, incursions of demons, hidden enclaves of halflings, dwarven mines, hives of serpentflies, nests of manticores and griffons, and the spawning lakes of whales. There are about a dozen side-quests, dungeons, and wandering monsters to pursue with more being added constantly, and amidst all of it a hidden story, scattered like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle between the people who set out from that single point of light and into the darkness.
Which sounds grandiose for a project that is little more than a Facebook community page, but as the first dozen players are starting to scratch the surface, now felt like the time to share the ridiculous scope of the Meadsbrdige wilderness.
For this MMTTRPG I’ve made the process of character creation a guided affair for two reasons:
The first is to try and keep things fair. Players still roll dice to determine their statistics, but those rolls have an inverse effect on your character choices later on. Points are used to buy things like the ability to choose your race and class, or to start with a magic item, or a map, or additional information, and the better your stats, the fewer of those points you receive. A player with bad stats can choose to start at second level rather than first. It makes people whose dice rolls have turned against them feel a little more empowered.
And second is to create something a little more unique and immersive. Four human nations, a twist on the subraces of both halflings and dwarves, a little more personality granted to elves, and four different human nations. Additionally I have traded the classic exotic races (dragonborn, gnomes, half elves, half orcs, and tieflings) with a collection from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, aasimar to reflect that the world is young, and the blood of gods still flows in mortal veins, goliaths and firbolgs, as giants are prolific across the world, and kenku and lizardfolk from far-off lands to lend some mystery to the world at large.
Once a character is made each player gets a short .pdf with all the information they need to get started, and a hefty chunk of lore that they can dive into for inspiration. Any character options, like their magic items, extra rumours, or anything else they might have chosen gets added to this file. After a few levels of play, players may want to retire their character, because doing so yields more options at character creation, with additional points depending on the successes and deeds of their last character, and the positive behaviours of the player.
The Shropshire Dungeon Master IX
So this is kind of a business diary, because this grand idea of mine (that I stole) currently has thirteen players, of which only seven have played, and four more at the weekend. recruiting isn’t too difficult, as interest is always high, the problem will be finding venues for games as most of the groups will eventually be strangers to one another (to start with) and will want to meet on neutral ground, at least for their first few sessions. Pubs are often busy, and most private spaces require a fee – usually more than my margin, thus negating the point of running games as a living.
As regular readers know – especially if you read my old DMing 101 series – I do not like playing online, it’s fine for some, and has some amazing benefits, but I find it hinders the enjoyment of the game and as my players now pay to be at the table, I want them to have the best experience possible.
I have been working on this project for months and it is so gratifying to roll it out to real players, but I knew there would be pitfalls and problems, and there’s a certain amount of fun to be found in overcoming those problems, but when your players are your customers it’s always better to be on top of the minor issues so that the game is the focus of the experience, not the days spent finding a table at which to play.
This April I will be disappearing a long way north for a week to run a long game of D&D at the Wargaming Nationals that I attended last year, and then shortly thereafter at Insomnia in Birmingham. Additionally in June, I have a table at Comics Salopia and upcoming celebration of Shropshire’s deep connection to the comic book industry, the wealth of local artists and writers, and I will be raising by geeky standard and running games for anyone who comes to see.
About a year or so after meeting Alex from Thors-Kin Podcast, inviting him to a GeekOut Shrewsbury Meet, even having him join us at a couple, and repeated invitations to join in the podcast and talk about GeekOut, who we are an what we do, I finally got time and opportunity together to join in with Alex and Tom to talk GeekOut, Shropshire Dungeon Master, and… other subjects. (more…)
2018 has been a year in which Joel and I have worked exceptionally hard – And I think every single one of you will have had a similar experience. You’ve all likely done something, or something happened to you in this year, which has changed you or changed the way you do something. This year hasn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs all the time, but it’s also not exactly been a bad year for us. I’ve got some fond memories from this year, which I hope to use to propel us as a website, us as a group and even myself as a creator further. Today, we’re just going to share what we think we’ve achieved this year – and hopefully you’ll be as proud of us as we are of the work we’ve put in.
Last GeekOut Shrewsbury of the year, last GeekOut meet of the year altogether, and not a bad send off if I say so myself. It also marks our twenty first Shrewsbury Meet, so there’s a pointless little landmark for you. Merry Christmas everybody, whether you celebrate it or not, whether you enjoy it or not, Merry Tuesday at least. Here’s how we sent off the year…
Thank you to the Boiler Room, you guys have seen us through a disproportionate number of pre-meets. Cake, coffee, and environment are always welcoming, and you always seem prepared for us even when numbers are unexpectedly high.
Among this month’s more entertaining pre-meet moments, losing Murray for half an hour as soon as Harley put the Binding of Isaac card game on the table, followed shortly by his amassing a frankly insulting amount of health in a Magic game. We also introduced new-ish member Richard to Love Letter, along with a few other games this month.
But moving on…
What a wonderful way to “wrap up” the year, and the puns were no better on the day! There may have been some minor HDMI issues, because I did not bring mine, and many people were trying to hook up a Nintendo Switch to the projector. Turns out if we want to try that again we’ll need to fetch an extension cable too, the distance is too long to safely stretch from the projector and to the mains ports, and we need both. Ah well.
The pub was busy, and at times a little crowded, but it never slows us down. I brought Robo Rally at Harley’s request, and so lost her and a few others to a game that only lasted for a short while. Also this thing:
At the request of a few of our regulars, I held a short character building workshop, during which Sod’s Law prevailed. I have a collection of quick-start guides to throw together first level characters easily, and of course three members of the party were classes missing the sheet in my folder! Here I thought I was so well prepared. Characters were all created for the setting I am working on for regular play, using a system in which players roll their abilities, and the worse your stats are the better your starting bonuses. So, going around the table:
Alfie will be playing a wood elf ranger, a bit cliche but he randomly rolled the class.
Nicole is a high elf rogue. Her stats were low enough to start with that she could buy an extra level and a magic item, but not a good one.
Jardel is a bard of The Ormud (a human nation), born to the winter caste. He will be playing a failed jester with a mallet that honks.
Hannah rolled so well she had no choice in race or class, and is now a kenku cleric to goddess of the moon, Nuren’Ue. She has already acquired the nickname “Buff Bird” for being crazy strong.
And Kim is a god-born halfling (aasimar) rogue. I owe her a magic item too, and I owe them all some extra information to help them get started in the campaign.
Hopefully this group will gather on the pier at Meadsbridge some time in the new year…
Thanks to those of you who joined in the Super-Secret Santa, pretty sure everyone walked away pleased with what they got, although I have no idea about Julia who accidentally walked away empty-handed. Not to worry, it’s on its way to you, and thanks for the cornflake wreath too, it was delicious.
And thank you Harley and Vinni both for the handmade additions to the Shropshire Dungeon Master accessories, the dice tray from Harley will be making a few future appearances at games, the coasters from Vinni I think will be staying home for the most part, that’s where they’ll see the most use.
January folks! A lot of you (more than I thought actually) committed to some geeky pledges for the new year! I know that at least one person (not me) managed to stay true to theirs, and if you were at January’s event have a look at the cards that were pulled from the box. How did you do? I failed! Although I did have a very productive year either way, so… maybe I’ll get a comedy skit out next year? Along with a Pokenomicon, a book of item enchantments for 5e, and a whole bunch of other projects that are jamming up the proverbial pipeline.
There may be some changes in format next year! Monty’s Tower have other plans in the works that may prove either a boon or a hindrance to us at GeekOut but they want us to keep coming along, so will work with us to keep our events every bit as fun as they are now, and I don’t know about you guys but I’ve certainly been enjoying myself.
As it stands, the next event is booked for the 31st of January, a whopping six weeks away, and provisionally entitled “The Frozen North”. We hope to see you, all of you, more of you, there. And Merry Christmas or whatever.
When was the last time I did one of these? Ok, nothing since September, a fair amount has happened since then. Around the middle of October there was an incident that slowed progress a little, and with Christmas on the way there hasn’t been a great deal of time to advance a few projects that are in the pipeline – in some cases since July – but there has at least been notable progress. (more…)
It’s been a couple of months, and I was waiting on a few more things to come about, but there has been a great deal of progress made in the last eight weeks. It’ll be a short update, but let’s start with…
Ok, so what has taken place since last I talked on the subject?
I also have an interview I must transcribe from UKGE, seems like an era ago at this point. I found that a lot of people with whom I discussed the matter were actually very interested in the idea of a GM for hire, not just prospective future customers, but RPG companies curious to see what suggestions they could offer on how to further the idea and how I might diversify my genre portfolio. Expect more sci-fi from me in the future, I’m starting to toy with some ideas using Era: The Consortium rules and lore, at least one game of Honey Heist.
A rather substantial number of my business cards vanished from me over the weekend, so a new design is required. On the subject…
A New Logo
Tim worked closely with me to produce a logo for the company, coming up with a core concept that I liked the sound of, and working with me to develop something to which I could refer. The coat-of-arms like template has been toned down from the initial vision which included swords and dice bags, both to keep it simple as a good logo should be, and to make Tim’s life easier as my own graphic design skills are rather lacklustre.
Then, opportunity arose for a professional graphic designer to produce a logo for me for free. So I sent along an abridged version of the conversation with Tim, his original design, and the font he found. This was what I got in return:
Still waiting on a higher-resolution version, and I’m definitely keeping both on hand. There’s no reason why – if everything goes well – I couldn’t commission variations of the logo for various genres, and dare I say animations? I do. I do dare say it. Either way, expect new business cards.
“But Joel” I hear you shout, I have rather spectacular hearing and can hear people shouting my name from great distances. “Where can I get one of these wonderful new business cards?”
Ok, well, first of all, they haven’t been printed yet. Second, that’s a weird thing to want, but… fine, I guess? And three, CoxCon! CoxCon is a convention for YouTubers and Livestreamers running from the 21st to the 22nd of July at the International Centre in Telford, that is itself Livestreamed on Twitch. I anticipate the standard array of traders, stage shows, meet and greet opportunities and the like, but I also expect to be surprised, paradoxical as that may be. If you’re going to be in Telford on the 22nd I will be there too, either hastily cramming in games and some casual advertising, or walking around enjoying myself and chatting to folks. I might see you there in some capacity or other.
This will be crammed in between GeekOut Shrewsbury on the 19th, Amecon on the 26th, and shortly followed by…
The Oswestry Library
This was originally going to be advertising, but two of the four games I will be running are all but full.
On the 4th and the 18th of August I will be running pay-per-head games, from 9:30 – 12:30 for the under 16s, and from 13:00 to 16:00 for ages 16+, hosted by and in cooperation with the Oswestry Library. If all goes well it might become a regular event, and I’ll be taking the idea to libraries around the county. If you would like to see me in your local library, and if you’re interested in getting a game in, ask them to get in touch via my Facebook page.
Side note: In addition to the thanks I already owe the Library, thanks too must go to 2-Minute Table Top, who is content for commercial use of his maps and art packs so long as he gets proper accreditation. This is it, thanks, love your work.
Now, the under 16s games are not attracting the interest I would have hoped for, although I admit there was a serious delay on my end getting posters prepped and ready to go into schools in the local area. I’m hoping that my recent tour of town might raise some business on the day, but still, I remain optimistic about the future of the endeavour as a whole.
And by “whole” I also mean this entire endeavour. The push to turn my hobby into a job is taxing, and fraught with the possibility of hating the driving force of my life. As it stands, I’m remaining hugely positive. But all of this merry banter is not finishing the write-up for A Parade For Thieves.
See you all soon.
So, it’s a busy week at the moment, and not looking likely to get quieter for some time. Part of the mad dash has now been and gone as of this Saturday, Dungeons & Dragons played at the British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry, in support of Hope House and Severn Hospice, a pair of local healthcare charities.
This is an event I’ve been working towards for some time, in fact there have been a lot of elements of setting up the business that have rather fallen by the wayside alongside the preparations for this, this week’s GeekOut Shrewsbury meet, and UKGE, and fighting off the classically bad-timed mental health episode. Interest in the event was incredibly high, although actual engagement was low, and attempts to fill up the table for the day were tough, and while a few people who secured spaces were sadly unable to join us, those who played were truly fantastic. (more…)
This is about as close as I may ever come to an actual diary, this catalogue of my efforts in attempting to turn my hobby into something productive, something that entertains and educates, and allows me to make a living and leave a lasting mark on the RP community.
A little of the future and a little of the present, while I work on tomorrow’s GeekOut… (more…)
Would you believe that’s the shorter title?
Shrewsbury has just had a busy weekend, pouring into the growing geeky community we have played host to a Steampunk festival for which I rearranged some booked holiday time to ensure I’d be free to attend, and then I foolishly organised an all-day Dungeons & Dragons marathon for the sake of advertising the new business on the same weekend. So I squeezed a couple of hours out of the festival on the Saturday before D&D on the Sunday, let’s talk about that one first.