Isn’t the real Welsh flag the best fantasy-related flag of all?
I will tell about our Welsh campaign after I left Judges Guild. A JG fan asked about it because I think he saw mentions of it in my history of my buddy, Bob Bledsaw, the Judges Guild plus our time together as wargamers clicking here for the Amazon Kindle or Print on Demand version (buy both for a lower package rate). Please note that my booklet is not great literature but my breezy view of wargames from the 60s up until when Bob died. I just realized that he died 10 years ago and 40 years since I left Judges Guild. So the weakest point of the story is how little I remember of either Bob’s campaign or Judges Guild. The strongest point is the many photos and pictures of gaming stuff that I’d managed to keep.
My own D&D Campaign set in Cymru or Wales
Technically I had judged a few games in Bob’s campaign when he was getting overwhelmed and needed a break. As I remember it, I was the Mirkwood Judge and so when the players went there, they were welcomed by my Giant Spiders. Craig Fogle and Marc Summerlott (at least) had other areas but I really don’t remember anything. It could be that the reason we had so few games Judged by erstwhile players was that we didn’t have the background, experience of joie D&D vivre that Bob had… so players didn’t go to those areas because they were borrrring!
So when an Acaeum member asked 10 questions about my time judging a game in Wales, I struggled to answer several. If you think I answered as well as your least-favorite politician, then there’s another explanation besides avoidance: like me maybe has no clue! (Click here for the link to that forum page.)
An Acaeum forum member, GameDaddy, asked “about your first D&D Campaign. I just learned last week that you had run games in your own campaign setting, set in ancient Wales, and I’d be super interested in learning a bit more about that, …so much so, in fact, that I wrote up a list of ten questions that I’m hoping you’d be willing to answer for me (and everyone else here too!);”
“Ten Questions for Bill Owen on his original D&D Campaign.”
1. Okay, so It was mentioned that one of your very early D&D campaigns that you ran was a Welsh campaign. Was that primarily historical, or more fantasy… did you allow players to play all of the early D&D character classes including Wizards as well as D&D style Clerics?
My answer– It was a fantasy game in the usual D&D style but using some Welsh overtones and a map that I had drawn of Wales for the campaign area. My interest in Wales comes from my Welsh surname and family oral tradition of our ancestor having come out of Wales with Henry the VII as “Blacksmith to the King” (indeed of all my tools I miss my dad’s big anvil the most and pounding on and shaping metal for some particular purpose).
It turns out that we got some possible support for this story when National Geographic ran a story about the restoration of the Mary Rose, a ship that flipped to the annoyance of Henry VIII, who probably blamed his Armorers “brothers Owen who built this bastard” (the word for cannon) for making the cannons “too heavy” rather than his choice of “too many”. Anyway they found those words cast on a cannon retrieved from the mud.
2. Do you happen to have any of your old campaign or local game maps from the Welsh Campaign that you would care to share with us?…
My answer– I sold the maps and materials while I was in Belize in 2013 and I think that there are a few photos either in the JG books or on line [I will post some below]. It was the last of 500 auction lots I put up on eBay as they represented original and my most personal items.
I had drawn the map with those wonderful artistic markers that were so easy to find back then. Now that the average kid has a computer and color printer, those supplies have become hard to find—at least in Uruguay. I had to go into 10 stores including in the capital city before I found just the right color maker the other day to re-color some ID chits on my Mini Markers post on this blog post.
3. Was that it’s actual name, or did you just call your campaign world Wales?
My answer– We either called it Welsh campaign or, phonetically Cumree, Cymru (which is Welsh for for Wales). In just checking myself I heard a trilled R sound that I don’t remember knowing about—so more like Cumr-r-r-ee.
I learned how to say Merry Christmas in Welsh this year! “Nadolig Llawen” pronounced Nadoughleeg Clowhen) (learning Welsh) How to say Merry Christmas in Welsh – YouTube.
My wizard’s name in Bob’s campaign was Llangewellen which I probably warped from the town of Llangollen and had seen in the travel agency when looking at a map of Wales. I just now looked in Google for the name Llangewellen and instead of finding millions of results, Google has exactly one web find for Llangewellen, on Tapatalk.com referring to my JG nom de plume. So the name does not exist elsewhere in nature and hasn’t caught on! We never pronounced the L’s properly but it would have been fun teaching the rest of the party how, if only I had known myself!
4. Did Bob Bledsaw ever play in that campaign? If so, what kind of characters did he like playing?
My answer– No, Bob never played. He was busy with the Guild and really leaving JG was difficult for me—not his fault. But it took time for that loss to heal and it was a major life delight that we got back together again and spend time together. I did use some materials that we both had made but never got published (so far as I know) since some were originals and not copies. He would doodle lovely drawings of knights etc. There was a Tarquin Manor which was a knock-off I made of Tegel Manor.
5. Was there any large scale battles?… i.e. where the player characters were only in a small part of the Battle?
My answer– No battles. It really started small and stayed very small.
6. What was the most common monster found in that campaign world?
My answer– Hmm. I can’t remember if there was any Average Joe Monsters coming from central casting.
7. What was the most exotic monster in that campaign world that the players encountered?
My answer– No recollection. Although there was a squonk magic item, Girdle of Giant Strength, that turned out to be a Girdle of Femininity that blew one player out of the tub. He said he didn’t quit the campaign because of it. Maybe it was just a good time to waft away.
8. Was the world in any way connected to the Judges Guild/ Wilderlands Campaign Setting? Like Portals, or gates and such?….
My answer– No connection. It mostly took place in southwest Wales near the town of Carmarthen (which is a real place) and Haverford West. [See map at bottom] Oddly enough I am thinking of including a place around there in next year’s WargamerTour. This year we have a tour staying in Wexford across the Irish Sea.
9. What was the favorite thing that you created, and included, for this campaign world?
My answer– The two guys and one girl had a lot of fun “there”. But then, I don’t take credit for that creation. I just sort started the boulder rolling down the hill. True, I had all sorts of wonderful Judges Guild materials to use! Made more special by being the first off the press with the printers’ thumbprints on them. I suppose some of the sheer excitement I enjoyed in assisting with their publication may have rubbed off on my Judging style.
10. Is there anything else you would care to share about that first campaign world?
My answer– You know, I doubt that it was my campaign prep, the D&D rules, nor JG materials, but rather the magical interaction of the people involved. And finding that is rare and to be treasured.
Sorry there’s really little here but my bombast. I wish I remembered more.
The Welsh Campaign Area
The whole campaign took place in an approximate 3×6 hex area. While I really enjoyed the barony building phase of Bob’s campaign, it is apparent that I either didn’t encourage that or the players had no interest in it.
The inset map at upper left shows the whole of Wales and the played campaign area was less than the zoomed-in area of southwestern Wales.
A view from the other side of the Judges Shield
I asked for my friend’s impression of the campaign & anything at all about how we did it:
I’m afraid I don’t remember a whole lot of specifics. Tom D, Mary and I were the players I think. I think you had some kind of shield around what you were doing and that you rolled dice behind it whenever we had an encounter with any of the characters. I think we kept track of what spells and gear we had so we would know what to use in combat.
My most vivid memory was that we ran into and fought some giant ticks once and wiped them out. To raise some cash, we roasted them and wanted to sell them as “ticks-on-a-stick”. After you rolled a bunch of dice, you told us we could and we sold them all. I’m glad that there was no medieval FDA around.
I believe we kept track of combat in our heads or on paper, because we had no figures. It seems like you had a general map drawn up that we could use to navigate around the countryside. My impression of the game was that you could do whatever you wanted and that it was addictive especially once you started building your character up.
I could get too engrossed in my character and get really burned out if something bad happened to it, and the whole thing was imaginary to boot! It was a great way to just start playing a game with people who don’t play games.
I “rolled a bunch of dice”
This reminds me of closely the players followed the stirring of the Toad Balls in GRT. It didn’t take long before that sound of tumbling Toads represented hidden gun fire on their tanks. This was heightened by how the defending players were whispering in the room with the sand table and the attackers were banished to the next room with anxiety.
A bunch of dice… I rolled to determine how this Tick on a Stick sales effort would go. This makes me realize one thing that we took for granted. Indeed this is possibly very different than other judges’ approach to role-playing. Regarding the role of the Judge, Bob and I saw D&D as a game and so the judge was one of the players. Which meant that we encouraged player involvement and did not dispense summary justice for crazy ideas. We rolled for it. And if the roll was neutral, we’d negotiate some more until we got a positive or negative roll and it was off to the races. We’d chase that rabbit out across the fields with the players. This could mean that our assumptions about current campaign power structure or possible directions could be (and was) upended. To me it made it more delightful.
I should add that just because this “consensus” was my impression from Bob about how to play the game. It is very likely that he had a more nuanced approach than how I have described it. I do not remember seeing where we got the Positive, Negative and Neutral roll from. With Summerlott and Fogle there were some long-time wargamer grognards and so we were frequently making variants for D&D areas that were weak or bogus. So what was the roll? It was a simple 2D6 roll where the score of 2-5 was Negative with the closer the number was to Snake Eyes, 2, could involve an active assault and battery on the players, 6-8 was Neutral though one could color the response a bit negative with a 6 and positive with 8, then 9-12 being the Positive and Box Cars being wildly so. There may have been an accelerating bonus or minus as one rolled 8 or 6 respectively.
But we never told them the roll number! That would break the spell like going from right brain feel to a left brain analysis. Instead we’d dream up a rationale to explain some of what happened.