The year of 2020 was an unusual one, and I was hoping that 2021 would see things get back to normal, but it’s pretty much turned out to be the same. All our gaming has continued to be online on Roll20, and we haven’t had a physical game now for almost two years. However, despite that our gaming has continued.

At the beginning of the year I was running two games and playing in two. Our monthly game of Traveller came to an end due to many players not being regular attendees. It had been a challenge for everyone – with one player in Texas and one in Australia the time difference for some of the players was awkward to say the least. It had been fun and interesting to run things for a completely different group of players, but in the end I called an end to it in April after another no-show by three out of five players. Everyone was insistent that they had been enjoying it, and that it was simply due to life and time complexities getting in the way.

Our game of Zweihänder also came to an end in February, but that was due to the campaign reaching its climax rather than any real-life issues. Zweihänder had turned out to be quite a fun game – very low fantasy and mostly urban based adventures. The game system, based on Warhammer Fantasy RPG, definitely had some downsides from my perspective. Though I liked my character, Eva Saraiva, she was quite limited in what she could do. I had wanted to go down the spellcaster route, but using magic is so dangerous in that game that I hardly ever actually tried to cast spells. Even a simple light spell has a risk of blowing up and blinding you.

The ending of this game cleared Monday nights for a return to Pathfinder Strange Aeons, continuing at chapter 4. Our Pathfinder games have had a habit of being split up by chapter. With six chapters to an adventure path and each chapter taking several months to play through, we’ve taken to playing a chapter then switching to something else before returning to continue. The GM had been using Roll20 to manage this even though this had been an in-person game, so moving the players to Roll20 was relatively trivial. We decided to try and get this game finished, so not only did we complete chapter’s 4 and 5, we’re now about half way through chapter 6, so should be finishing it early next year.

Whilst our other Pathfinder games were relatively vanilla in terms of character classes, this one has a range of non-base characters. I have a Spiritualist, plus we have an Inquisitor, a Swashbuckler, a Shaman and an Arcane Archer. In my mind, a lot of these classes are broken compared to the base classes, but they are quite different from the vanilla classes so it’s been interesting to see how they play out.

The other Pathfinder game that just sneaked into 2021 was Serpent’s Skull. This was a six year monthly campaign that finished at the end of January, and saw us saving the world from the serpent god Ydersius.

The final game of the year is our weekly Traveller game, which is now based around the Deepnight Revelation campaign from Mongoose Publishing. This game started as a Roll20 game, and has continued to be run in Roll20. During the year, we lost one regular player (she may join occasionally as time permits) and gained two. One of those additions was someone we’ve gamed with before, the second was a new member. For the first time ever we decided to reach out to try and find another player to bring our regular player count up to four. Just to complicate things, they joined just before our break for Christmas, but hopefully they’ll be returning next week when we pick up again.

For me, the game of the year has been Traveller. I started it back in 2020 to give it a try, and it has been going for about 18 months so far. It’s been good to have a break from fantasy, especially a real science fiction game (unlike something like Warhammer 40K or Star Wars, which are as much fantasy as they are science). Traveller isn’t as hard SF as I’d like, but it’s good enough – and probably more gameable than really hard SF. As much as I’d like to run/play some Eclipse Phase, coming up with good adventures for them seems so much like hard work.

So where does that leave things for next year? Traveller will continue – probably well into 2023 if nothing unexpected happens. The Deepnight Revelation campaign could take a long time to run through, and I’m thinking of trying to abstract out bits of it to make it go quicker. I am concerned about burn out for this, and I don’t want to get to a point where I’m no longer interested in finishing it. Given that it’s a long expedition, there’s plenty of places where parts of the journey could be skimmed over rather than playing out every single star system.

Mongoose Traveller has become my “just buy it” game, with me automatically buying any supplement that Mongoose puts out for it. Their editing kinda sucks, but the high level quality is good. I might even pick up 2300 AD when it gets physically published next year.

We expect Strange Aeons to end in the next few months, which will mean a replacement for that will be needed. One of the players that was with us at the start of the campaign moved to Scotland so we had to continue without them for the middle chapter. When we moved to being online due to lock down, we were able to bring them back in, so we’ve definitely going to finish the campaign online so we can keep the whole group together.

After that though, we may return to face to face gaming (depending on the state of the world). There has been talk of someone running Ars Magica, which would be cool, but nothing is confirmed so far. For our group, it tends to come down to whatever someone is willing to run.

There are other complications on the horizon as well though. I’ve started to take a look at FoundryVTT as a replacement for Roll20. I’m not sure how much that will affect things next year, since Pathfinder is definitely not going to change platform. Whether I switch Traveller or not I don’t know – I’ve started working on a Mongoose Traveller specific character sheet for it, and I have plans to try running a one-off Delta Green game in the next week to give the platform a try.

Other things that I want to look at include Savage Pathfinder and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, both as potential replacements for Pathfinder as a high fantasy system. Given that I’m going to be running Traveller all year though, that’s unlikely to actually happen.

The final thing worth mentioning that happened in 2021 was that I finally got around to publishing some RPG supplements for real, under the Traveller’s Aid Society branding on DriveThruRPG. I’ve got three products published now, and I’m reasonably happy with how things have gone. It was mostly an experiment, but one I intend to continue next year with the second instalment of A Traveller’s Dozen.

I’ve also been playing with Blender a lot to try and improve my art skills. They’re good enough for providing some handouts to players, and adding a bit of art to my published works. Since I’ve also started using Dungeondraft for drawing maps, I’ve also taken to adding some assets for that to try and plug the hole which is modern and SciFi assets. We’ll see how much time I get for that though.

So gaming for 2022 will continue with Traveller and Pathfinder. There might be the opportunity to try out some new tools (Dungeondraft and Foundry), and we might even get back to in-person gaming, but I’m not holding my breath.

Samuel Penn