Bean! amongst the Clouds!

Burton on Trent Town Hall, Beer and Pretzels 20-21/5/17

On the second day of the 28th Beer and Pretzels gaming convention, in Burton on Trent’s fantastic town hall, on 21st May 2017 CE, the TMG crew assembled for a session of Bean! This is the charming and eminently playable D2 role-playing game designed by our American associate, Mr Jeff Freels. The day’s adventure was conducted by our own resident BeanMaster, Dr Sid Orpin, and was adapted from a Dungeon Crawl Classics scenario. It was called: The Doorway Amongst The Clouds.

 

Each of the participant ‘beans’ (represented in Lego) woke from troubled dreams, compelled to meet a mysterious ‘blue lady’ on a distant cliff-top. There the stoney-faced lady and her novel collection of talking heads fed us dubious sweetmeats and promised us a rewritten destiny, if we would but rescue her caged ally from her prison in the sky.

 

Forward, beans!

Nothing daunted, we stepped at dawn onto an invisible bridge and headed into the heavens, maintaining a good speed to outpace the unseen edge behind us that dissolved unnervingly. Predators on leathery wings assailed us, but sinking one with an arrow showed the others for the ruthless scavengers they were, as they plunged to feast on their fallen comrade.

The long march high over the sea led us at last to a meandering but thankfully solid and visible road in the clouds; yet one of our number tumbled at the road’s edge and fell to his doom! Our progress down the road brought us to the attention of some unwelcome giant spiders, and then to the enormous doorway of a vast hall. Within, a titanic guardian slept, and over his monstrous belly hung a woven cage. But as we beheld this strange scene, from the rocks and rubble leapt a nightmarish many-legged pumpkin creature that assailed us with lunatic ferocity. This, not without exertion, we threw back into the shadows.

 

Begone, foul pumpkin thing!

A bold bean, a humble clerk in daily life, exerted his Spirit and managed to fly to the cage; but its deranged denizen kicked him away, and, in a shocking display of ingratitude toward the indulgently somnolent titan who broke his fall, our bean scribbled disrespectful graffiti on its helpfully rotund abdomen.

Wiser beans, after defeating a band of wizened starvelings in the grip of some desperate command, undertook more conventional explorations, and thereby discovered a rickety and dangerous stair that led us to our goal: a passage at whose mouth the cage hung. Following several attempts, a descent was effected, and thus was the long-imprisoned (and surprisingly bat-winged) princess released, to whirl and screech once more! – And to kill the pumpkin thing in short order.

Dizziness and wiggly air left us once more on the cliff-top, where the mysterious lady, with her latest heads, thanked us for our aid, and then, with powerful magicks, spun the wheel of destiny and rewrote history for each of us!

 

Beansters at play

Bean! once again proved to be a system that allowed us to get stuck into our strange adventure with laughably little fuss, and Dr Sid’s dictatorship was, happily, as benign as ever.

Lesser-known Statuary of Manchester

I had leisure to chase up a trio of monuments as I ambled around Manchester yesterday. The first I must have walked past dozens of times without realising who it was: Abraham Lincoln! Yankee blockades of Confederate states in the US Civil War kept cotton out of the mills of Northern England, causing a lot of hardship and unemployment. Nonetheless, there was a union vote to support the Union (if you will), and after the war Abe issued a thank-you to us Northerners. Apparently Lincoln’s son didn’t like this statue, as the placement of the hands suggests Abe has stomach ache! So even though it was destined for Liverpool, it somehow ended up in Manchester. (I didn’t entirely follow that bit.) It’s in Lincoln Square (duh!) – Brazenose (“bronze nose?”) Street in fact, just yards from a rather more prominent sculpture depicting Chopin. (I fear I may have hogged the camera a little on this one…)

The next is in Sackville Park. It’s the great Alan Turing, computer pioneer and Bletchley Park Enigma-code-cracker. Prosecuted for homosexuality, he was found dead with a bitten apple that it is thought was poisoned (though evidently no one tested it!) – hence the one in the sculpture. The statue sits happily between the science buildings of Manchester’s academia and the gay bars of Bloom Street, in a pleasant little park that is also home to the Beacon of Hope, the only permanent memorial (it says here) to victims of HIV/Aids. Turing’s sculptor buried his own Amstrad computer under the plaque at Alan’s feet. (Wise move.)

Finally, a few streets south on Granby Row I came across this one by accident. It’s a monument to Vimto, on the site of the building where the first ever mixture of those ingredients was made. The giant fruits and whatnot in this sculpture, however, are not genuine: instead they are made of oak.

International Tabletop Day

While flicking through some gaming related material on the internet a week or so ago, I spotted that March 30th had been designated international tabletop day. A day to get down to some good old fashioned gaming. Since the nearest organised event was some distance away we in the Darrgh T household decided to have our very own event. Whether it could be described as organised I would hesitate to suggest. We decided what games we were going to play and then got right on with it.

To warm up we got stuck into a couple of our favourite dice games: Zombie Dice 2 from Steve Jackson Games and Martian Dice by another TMG, Tasty Minstrel Games. Myself and my children William and Isobel played both and to say it got competitive would be something of an understatement. I came away with the spoils for Zombie Dice while William snatched victory from his sister with a last minute scoring throw of truly epic proportions in Martian Dice. With Isobel managing second place in both games, we were all three of us equal on points going into the next event.

 

From dice games we moved onto a classic 80s combat board game: Battlecars by Games Workshop. This really has a special place in my heart as I used to play it with my friends when I was in my first year at University. Back then we all used to strive hard for victory and our game was no different. My wife joined in this one, though like me, she was quickly reduced to limping around the board in a no-tyre wreck while trying to avoid further attacks from the kids. After gunning me down as I fled my vehicle for the cover of nearby buildings, she too was sent to the great scrapyard in the sky leaving the final shoot-out between William and Isobel. Finally, with both their cars immobilised it was reduced to a running gun battle. They both ran out of ammunition and so the contest was declared an honourable draw.

Having decamped  to my in-laws for dinner, we decided to move onto the fabulous card game, Braggart from Spiral Galaxy Games, a company based here in the UK. Many a fine boast later and with all participants scoring well, it was once more Isobel who emerged triumphant. It had been quite a long time since we had played this game as we’d managed to misplace it, but having decided this was the game for us, we spent a considerable amount of time searching it out from the corner in which it had been hidden. I’m so glad we did as we had a really enjoyable session of play.

And finally, to some role-playing. It was getting a bit late by the time William and I got out the Tunnels & Trolls and decided to run a couple of new characters through a solo or two. Mark Thornton’s (Khaghbboomm from Trollhalla) ‘Pressure Drop’ and David Ullery’s (I cannot remember his Trollhalla avatar, sorry David) ‘Tower of Terror’ came down off the shelf.

Dave’s solo is a large one at almost 300 paragraphs and somewhat reminiscent of the classic Ken St. Andre offering Deathtrap Equaliser Dungeon where you can take on just a single encounter or, for the truly heroic types, attempt all the individual adventures in order. After almost coming to grief at the hands (should that be jaws?) of the tower guard dogs our character went on to ignominious defeat shortly afterwards. Next time we’ll take someone a bit tougher in.

Mark has had an amazingly productive 2012/13 with lots of solos and the odd GM adventure appearing. We played using his recently released omnibus for last year. In Pressure Drop, your character is shrunk down to microscopic proportions and then plunged inside a living being to explore and attempt to survive in a totally alien environment. It’s all very reminiscent of classic scifi films such as Inner Space; I must ask Mark if that was his inspiration. Our dwarf warrior, Dercott Relander, struggled from the outset failing CON rolls and suffering battle damage. Finally, having been ensorcelled with the horrible ‘Dreaded Lurgy’ spell, his strength failed and he became just another newly created character to die in the name of adventure. Though we didn’t get to see much of it, it was a fun solo and we’ll definitely be trying it out again.

And so, our table top gaming day was over. We had a great time as a family and really must make the effort to do this more often.

Delving deep into Andy’s mind…

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Andy Holmes wrote a dungeon.

Deep Where The Liche-Lord Dwells - front cover

This was no ordinary dungeon: three snarling orcs, two raging trolls and a unicorn in a pear tree. No, this was a dungeon that went down and down and down; a dungeon with a liche at the bottom like Judas lying in the ninth circle of Hell; a dungeon darker than ink spilled in a cave at midnight onto a panther’s fur; a dungeon so big and tough that it should have its own MR! As if conscious of its diabolical nature, this dungeon had never seen the light of day. But we here at Tavernmaster Games were determined to fix that.

First, however, the beast needed some grooming. Life, which ever conspires to distract us from gaming, has been busy for Andy recently, so I undertook to edit the thing. The first order of business was to compose a title; yet so consummate a perfectionist is Andy, so much the inspired artiste – so, frankly, busy and distracted – that I had almost finished with the dungeon before these few choice words were settled. The dungeon would do exactly what it said on the tin: it will be called Deep Where The Liche-Lord Lies: A Descent Into Horror.

It is no spoiler to reveal that the players begin by exploring an old mausoleum. It was something of a spoiler, though, to discover that Andy hadn’t included any description of this building, preferring to hurry on to the main event. I felt a little detail was needed to commence the journey in style, and wrote in a little extra passage.

The delver-cruncher exciting adventure was written with 5th edition in mind, so one of my tasks was to make adjustments to render it suitable for version 7.5. Stats for NPCs were expanded, saving rolls were tweaked, references to particular spells were considered and amended appropriately. The result is ready to go with the latest edition of Tunnels & Trolls, while hopefully remaining true to the author’s intentions.

Andy’s writing is more expansive than mine, but it’s his dungeon, so I largely resisted the temptation to tweak things to my own style and restricted myself to correcting grammar and polishing the odd bit of clumsy phrasing. (Sometimes he seemed to have left puzzles for me: “The wall is covered in smile.” Recognising the transposition took me a minute or two…) Still, there were many places where elaboration or clarification seemed called for, and so the text is substantially revised, though only to better convey what was already present.Sample pages from the dungeon

The presentation of the adventure needed to comply with our ‘house style’: we aim for consistent yet appealing formatting so that our customers feel at home and can readily understand and digest the material. Although much of this can be taken care of with judicious use of word-processing features like paragraph styles, page headers, duplicating tables and so forth, the process was nonetheless leavened with a goodly number of hearty curses yelled at the screen by your correspondent… Software is not always the editor’s friend!

Andy had used a third-party package to design very attractive maps, but some adjustment was needed to ensure that they would be equally informative in black-and-white printing as in colour. Fixing an accidental anomaly on one map led to the inclusion of a new and amusing detail in the text: if you’re interested, keep an eye out for faecal matter… (Good advice on any occasion.)

When I reached the end of the dungeon, I found that the rewards for successful adventurers were as great as they were superfluous (for there is precious little chance of anyone surviving to claim them); yet they were arbitrarily dispensed, to wrap up the playing session quickly. At this, my rational mind rebelled, and so I indulged in a little tidying up, adding detail and contrivances to justify the available boons.

As I worked, my appreciation for Andy’s imaginative vision increased: each level of the dungeon has its own theme and identity, with its own set of ever greater challenges. This is not one of those lily-livered 6-page affairs, with “Suitable for characters of levels 1-3” on the front: this is a substantial saga of 30,000 words, almost a whole campaign under one roof, and it calls for an elite party of delvers. Dig out all those characters lying fallow in your file because they’ve grown too tough for novice adventures. All dressed up and nowhere to go? Go Deep Where The Liche-Lord Lies!

I was not the only horrified midwife at the birth of this gargantuan scenario: Jeff Freels provided wonderful illustrations that serve now as frontispiece to each level of the dungeon, while Simon, as usual, did superb work on the cover. But finally, just as Frankenstein alone was to blame for the monster, so this dark epic is ultimately Andy’s creation. Buy it at your own risk…

Print version available on Lulu.com.

All Things BEAN!

Into every life a little rain must fall, or so said the man in the corner shop when I was a lad! Well, it seems to me that a little too much rain has fallen on the lives of our great mate Jeff Freels and his partner Raquel Salinas; both of them now have kidney disease meaning they have to have dialysis 4 times per week. They are both warm and caring human beings and very creative too. We hope that they will both receive transplants in the fullness of time and be able to return to a more ‘normal’ lifestyle.

East of FabasseaIn order to have the medical treatment they need, they require some financial support which we at Tavernmaster Games have been pleased to try to help supply. The profit from some of our T&T projects goes straight to them and we have even done sponsored events and asked for donations when we’ve been at gaming events. Jeff himself, even with his health failing, has continued to come up with various creative projects to help swell the TF (‘Transplant Fund’) as he calls it. They can all be seen at his website Jeffwerx but perhaps the best of them, in my mind at least is the fabulous rules lite D2 role-playing game that is BEAN!

The Tomb Of TokirahRecently, there has been a great deal of activity as far as BEAN! is concerned. To add to the second edition BEAN! rulebook, there is now a supplement called World of Bean – detailing Terrafavus, the planet where the beanfolk live, full of ideas and maps to get the aspiring Beanmaster’s (BEAN! GM) creative juices flowing. In addition, I have written a new solo, East of Fabassea, the sequel to my first project Cellars of Castle Cassoulet plus Mad Roy Cram has created a new GM adventure, Tomb of Tokirah. As always the artwork from Jeff himself is spectacular and even if I say so myself, the quality of all the BEAN! material is first rate. If you like gaming, and would like to help my friends, as well as adding a super new game to your library then visit the RPG Now website and download some of the material. It’s only a few dollars, some bits are even free, and you would be giving two really great people a much needed helping hand.

Sid Orpin
December 2012