At the time of writing, I’m about an hour away from publishing the dates for next year’s games at Oswestry Library, currently my most dependable source of income, and at this point places are so hard fought for that I am going to be disappointing more people than I will be entertaining… which is nice… I think.
By the time this article is published, this will already be plastered all over the local Facebook pages:
Here’s a quick rundown of the plans:
Wizards Only, Fools: January 11th, under 16’s D&D, and it’s an all-wizard party. Currently I’m thinking level 6 so we have lots of spells to play with but not so many that we’ll be overwhelmed. And of course with everyone playing as students of the arcane, something magic is bound to go wrong.
Bury Me Deep: January 11th, over 16’s D&D. An odd stipulation to find in someone’s will, a ten foot deep grave and a lead sheet over the coffin. Players will be a standard team at level five, and they might need a few extra magic items to get to the bottom of this mystery.
End of the World: A three session D&D game for the under 16’s, 8th and 22nd of February, and the 14th of March. Over three sessions a group of level 5 players will witness the beginning of the end, and maybe there’s nothing they can do about it.
Bear Hunt: A three session D&D game for the over 16’s, 8th and 22nd of February, and the 14th of March. Mighty hunters (level 4) will face a pack of bears that cooperate too well, fight too ferociously, and threaten a local settlement with complete extermination.
Sci-Fi Month, Era the Consortium: 11th of April, and yeah, I think April will remain sci-fi month for the foreseeable future. Another team of expendable mercenaries take up a job for one company in order to screw over another.
Night of Demons: 9th of May under 16’s systemless game. From the pit arise a new host of demons, insubstantial wisps of malice barely capable of influencing their surroundings, but bent on causing chaos however they can, in order to grow in power and return home stronger than ever.
The Train Heist: 9th of May, over 16’s systemless game. Flat caps a must, because a band of gangsters are hopping a train to lift something priceless on board. Screw this one up and you’ll end up on the wrong side of the next train going through, capeesh?
Dungeon: Now with Real Dragon! A three session D&D game, 13th and 27th of June, and the 11th of July. It’s a straight forward dungeon crawl for level 6 characters. Light on the story, heavy on the monsters and traps, possibly a dragon, I guess we’ll find out! You might even make it to the end.
Character Building Workshop: Twenty spaces in the morning and twenty in the afternoon, 25th of July. We’ll spend some time creating characters for roleplaying games, but easy on the rules, heavy on the roleplay, psychology, and creative writing.
Improv Month: 8th of August, D&D. Who wants to see me winging a whole game? Utilising some limited random writing prompts and a few suggestions from the players, I’ll be pushing my DM skills to the limit, with zero prep-time and all made up on the spot. Coherence is not guaranteed.
Dungeon Master’s Guide: Twenty spaces in the morning, twenty in the afternoon of the 29th of August. Ever wanted to do what I do? Good, everyone should at some point, you’ll finally appreciate how much furious paddling is going on behind the screen. Everyone will leave the room with an idea for an adventure, ready (or nearly ready) to run!
Weird West: 12th of September for both the over and under 16s, let’s dabble in Savage Worlds and the Weird West, a jaunt into a version of nineteenth century America, but we’re not just talking guns and gold. This frontier is crawling with stranger things than scorpions and bandits.
The Thing in the Ice: A three session D&D game for the under 16’s, 10th and 31st of October, and the 14th of November. Humans will raise a town just about anywhere, and while you’re stuck in a frozen port town in the middle of nowhere, strange occurrences surround the iceberg that’s floating in the middle of the bay. Characters should be 4th level.
Grave Dirt: A three session D&D game for the over 16’s, 10th and 31st of October, and the 14th of November. The death of a senior in the church hierarchy starts arguments about who is best to bring spiritual guidance to the people. Players will be required to keep the peace, as society begins to crumble during the “debate”. Level 5 characters most likely.
Christmas Special: 12th of December, another D&D game with a shameless seasonal theme because good goddamn I love Christmas and I love writing Christmassy games. Character levels tbd.
Now, I mention character levels for a reason, a lot of you have been asking about bringing your own characters. I’ve planned out as much of the year as possible because I’m usually happy for people to bring their own sheets but I rarely knew this year what I’d be running from month to month. If you want to bring your own character, talk to me first, I reserve the right to make alterations or outright veto a character but I’d still prefer you had characters that you really wanted to play.
And on the subject of reserved rights, a couple of important notes: All of the dates and game titles are subject to change and availability is extremely limited, in fact in the last hour and a half since I started writing this piece I’ve sold most of the under 16’s places for the year.
And Diary XIV
Last time I talked about life as a DM for hire was only July, but hotdamn have these last two months been full of stuff!
Insomnia 65 shortly after Gen Con, three games a day in which I had to shout over the e-sports stage about a hundred feet away with whooping and cheering Overwatch fans and the commentators talking over the action, it’s a hard life but ultimately worth it. Not only are the games booking out, but extra games are having to be laid on, and we’re in the process of inducting another GM to help ease the burden and get a few more people to the tables.
Huge thanks to the photographer who sent me some of pictures he took mid-game, some of your work will end up on a roller banner at some point in the future:
Following a short break in Machynlleth it was straight back to the library, and this week just gone, Staffordshire, specifically a charity event with the Staffordshire Wargaming Guild in support of PWSA for Prader Willi’s syndrome, and military charity SSAFA. I was invited by Harriet who I met very briefly at UKGE in June, and while my communication was slow over the busy summer, I went, I ran a couple of games, I did so far faster than I intended because my players proved to be ruthlessly efficient. Also, I apparently won some dice in the raffle! Thanks everyone, hopefully see you all again.
Ok, so, the future. I am most definitely up to something, for a start I have another Hallowe’en game in the wonderful surroundings of Whittington Castle, and the interest has already been so incredibly high that I’ve added a second day of play! The first event on the 30th of October, the second on the 1st of November (with obvious exception for Hallowe’en itself it being GeekOut Shrewsbury’s Bad Costume Party). In my last horror spectacular I killed everyone in the first hour… this time around, they’ll wish I had.
I’m not offering links for the event because at this point they look set to sell out some time this Saturday.
Finally, I’ve been up to something… I’ve been up to something for about three months, maybe longer, and I still can’t talk about it in full but much of it will be a continuation of the DMing 101 series from when I first started here many, many years ago, and requires learning how to turn all of this long winded rambling into vocal rambling, I ranted about this the other day, but now I can show you that it’ll look something like this.
By the time you read this I should… hopefully be on my way to GenCon (assuming you’re reading this on day of publish, I may already be there, I may have left). After a disastrous and costly mixup with the flights, the only thing I have to be nervous about now is being on my own in a foreign country… and everything afterwards.
I’m booked in to a hotel almost an hour’s drive away from the convention, and I missed booking to see Critical Role live. This journey has been problematic to say the least, but…
It’s quite possibly the biggest gaming convention in the world, with only Essen and UKGE to present any real competition. I’ve got chances to meet some of the most famous faces in the business, the same business that technically I’m now in. I’ll also be watching the Gamers perform live on Saturday, the only event I’ve actually booked a place at, for the rest of the event I intent to wander the con floor and see who and what I can find.
I plan to bring games, anyone who wants a quick D&D one-shot, I will be carrying a few on me, and I know it’s not too hard to land a game at GenCon, but that’s not going to stop me preparing. I’ll also be packing a couple of Magic decks, seriously, seek me out.
And while I’m trying to meet new people, anyone else going who DMs/GMs for hire? I’d love to meet other people in the same field, talk about your experiences and share some of my own. If any other pros are out there and want to chat, give me a shout in the comments, or on the Shropshire Dungeon Master Facebook page.
Otherwise, this ends my work at GeekOut for the next week or so… hopefully see some of you in Indianapolis.
So these are exciting times. Three people today have sent me an article about other professional DMs around the world (many of whom charge a damnsite more than I do), and this hobby that was just barely sticking its nose out from its niche back in the mid 2000’s when I was learning to play is suddenly an industry that’s riding the growing e-sports and game-streaming trend to prosperity and greatness, spurred on by the likes of us who dare to charge the uninitiated into the ranks of character creators and story tellers.
And it’s not just Bloomberg who have sat up and taken notice. (more…)
Hey Joel, you’ve published your articles a little late this week.
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…)