North Star North Star 2018 Con reports


The Guvnor
Staff member
Friday. Got into Sheffield on my Megabus and Supertrammed to Hillsborough.
Met up with Amanda and Massive. Andy Lily of BITS joined us. Then more and more. I drank quite a lot of cloudy IPA. Hey, what could it hurt? Sent to bed very happy.

Saturday. OUCH! Oh that's what it could hurt! Still rehydration powders, paracetamol and a Garrison full English with poached eggs and I was fine.. honest.
First game: Dom's game, Fall of House Atreides, Conspiracy of Shadows. Oops. I read the first book at Uni so there was a lot of rapid assimilation as I tried to absorb the setting and also the fact that I was the traitor and yet the game seemed to be predicated that we were all meta gaming to trigger our room: the fall of the aforementioned house. I think I did it right, and the House *was* pretty effed after all my machinations. Everyone seemed happy but it made me think "this just be like playing one of these pointy elf games for a Muggle".
Second game. Darran ran a truly great Firefly Cortex+ game. Not only does Darren have all the props, he uses them so very well. I loved the game. It confirmed my growing love of Cortex+. It made me love Darran even more!
Third game. Stuart ran "Testing Times in Tarsus", a classic GDW boxed set. Tarsus is in District 268, major export Nobble meat, and is one jump to Collace.

Sunday. Graham ran Infinity 2d20. Gosh this was great. Crunchy but rewarding, with a driving back beat, and a melody of momentum and heat. Matrix style action in a near future setting with echoes of Eclipse Phase, Altered Carbon and Cyberpunk2020. If this is the crunchiest 2d20, bring it on!
Graham ran 66Suns with Genesis. 66 Suns is a system agnostic setting. Genesis is the FFG funky dice system. I *loved* 66 Suns. I grokked Genesis. Fun fun.

Summary. I am on my Megabus home. I loved the con. I love there being another great SF con, the other being Travcon. I loved the 30-40 people format. I loved seeing new faces for the Garri-cons. My growing love for Cortex+ was confirmed. I have been shown that 2d20 plays great at the table. I shall print and peruse my copy of 66 Suns. Ill be back next year.
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Northstar 2018 (x-posted to Tavern and NS FB Page)

Garrison Hotel, Sheffield

The Con:

My first Garrison con, I have to wholly recommend it as a small, well run, easy going, civilised event to attend.

Whilst it took time to adjust my usual running time to the different slot lengths, the longer breaks in between were a god-send. Whilst all the services are on site it still takes time to get food, socialise (yes I know actually talking to people, how quaint in these digital days) and unwind before the next game. Knowing you have 90 mins to do so is just great and the pressure was off compared to other cons.

The quality of the organisation and informal approach was excellent. The big win was the noise levels, which whilst spiking now and then as yet someone else rolled a critical fumble, they were low and unobtrusive. I hate noisy environments when running as a) my hearing suffers and b) my accent still confuses those South of the Wall on occasion.

Hotel is 3.5 to 4* though I would hate to be disabled as stairs abound everywhere in what are the old Army Barracks @ Hillsborough. Rooms adequate but I don't think you could swing an adult Aslan in them. Location is central though for free parking, main routes, superstores and cheap petrol! Bar prices very sensible.

The Games

Great choice of games in this sci-fi themed event. Lots I wanted to play but I still prefer running games these days as to playing.

Skyrealms of Jorune powered by FFG's Genesys

Ran reasonably well though less players next time as the game is background heavy and that's a lot to explain to six players in three hours. A scenario will be getting written as it was a one-off as the PC's became the unintentional cause of the The Warp-Flash of 3475 as they found out what lies in The Heart of the Darkness.

Great group and an introduction to the new Genesys system. Jury is still out on whether I will ever use it that much but the system is definitely narrative focused and I had to stop myself asking for skill roles so much as the game lends itself to more dramatic moments. Got the knack of the dice though. I am going to write up a Jorune Genesys conversion document though as I will use it for future games as a con special.

Masks powered by Mongoose Traveller 2e

5 players really got into the religious themes of this scenario and the new re-written version worked a treat. Experienced group ran well and they successfully completed almost all the goals except marrying off the single PC but "there's a war on you know."

Stars Wars d6

A "Teddy Bear Hunt" mission on Endor. I was knackered and didn't really engage much but apparently we killed Paddington Bear. Simple system and lots of me channeling Vasquez from Aliens - who needs cover when you have a machine gun. Fell asleep in bar apparently so clearly that was all a dream.

In the Name of the Dawn powered by Mongoose Traveller 2e

Hat off to the GM for an interesting scenario with little layers of detail as we played monks in a monastery. Very engaging and felt fresh from many of the staple star ship adventures out there. Highly recommend catching this if you get a chance to play it. No spoilers.

All in All a 5* Con.

Thanks to the committee for a great event.

Will be back in 2020 if it is still a feature, next year being more about travel than gaming.
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Staff member
North Star 2018

We started North Star on impulse, from a discussion about whether we should set up a TravCon North. Along the way, the scope grew beyond SF RPG’s granddaddy, Traveller, and expanded to be any SF related game. We found 39 other interested players, and suddenly we had another Garricon.

Preparation was smooth; the one significant error we made was only posting the pre-booking announcement to the Facebook page. Subsequent to that we have used a forum on the Tavern and will contact via the emails that people provide when they register for all of the conventions that we organise. Sorry to anyone affected by this, we will get better.

Arrived Friday night early enough to drink a little too much in the bar (before the North Star Ale was on too) while I caught up with friends, including the gang from BITS, many of whom were attending their first convention at the Garrison. It was nice to be able to give Andy Lilly the chance to not have to organise the event.

First session I was running an old scenario of mine using the now-defunct Conspiracy of Shadows RPG to depict ‘The Fall of House Atreides’ in the events covered in the first Dune book. The scenario was a ‘blood opera’ which consists of very deliberate player vs. player action. Overall, I think it went okay although it was a bit tight with the 3 hour slot. I’d previously had this out with thirty minutes more play time. I think that one of the players may have suffered a little on getting themselves engaged into the game as a result. Alternatively, perhaps I should have run the game out with 5 players because it would have increased spotlight time for the group as whole.

Second slot saw me playing in Darren Sim’s excellent Firefly game. This was great fun; I got to be a leaf on the wind as Wash, and surprisingly the crew managed to come out ahead for once. Darren’s turn as Badger was inspired. Great GM and players.

Third slot saw me playing Dr Mitch’s Star Trek Adventures with the Baldowskis and Steve Ellis. It was a fun scenario. Somehow I was first officer on the USS Yorkshire, operating what seems to be a training academy for the weaker parts of Starfleet. Borg, Black Holes, and Badlands. What could go wrong? Our junior crew member (Fil’s character ‘Tilly’) suggested a manoeuvre that would result in our narrow escape from certain assimilation and will forever be named after our Captain. It’s a shame that it was done on a deeply illegal and deniable operation and will be undoubtedly classified. If your ship computer ever references the Somerville Manoeuvre, you should know you’re in trouble! I had enough fun that I won’t be selling my copy of STA, which I had been considering.

Sunday started with me running another older scenario of mine - ‘In a strange land’, a Wordplay game set in the Utopia setting which I really need to actually publish some time. Dr Mitch had asked me to run it and we had three other players. I had a lot of fun doing this. One of the players described it as ‘Paranoia played straight’ which I think nails it on the head. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and Wordplay rocked, as ever.

The afternoon brought my mash-up of Delta Green and Stranger Things. It was my first time out with the new Delta Green and I really enjoyed how the system worked. It faded into the background except for the time when Pete Ellis’ character decided to ram the Demogorgon with a car. That led to a minute or so of fumbling to find the right reference, but no one seemed to mind. The scenario was perhaps too ambitious for a four hour slot, but we brought it to a nice conclusion.

The demogorgon was gone; ultimately Will Byers would be rescued but with Martin Brenner still alive, so will Eleven be safe?

I had a great bunch of players, who all showed a love of the setting and fun characterisation. The approach was often unorthodox, but always entertaining. Fil won a prize from me at the votes of the other players for the way she took her Vietnam Vet over the edge into a full Rambo. Sadly, the character will forever be officially remembered as a domestic terrorist who killed ten people from the Hawkins National Laboratory. But Delta Green knows the truth. We observed that the shift to the 1980s threw people for a bit, as many of the routes that you would use in the twenty-tens to find information don’t yet exist, and the lack of mobile phones is awkward. Enjoyed this a lot.

And that was that. North Star 2018 concluded. North Star will return, once we’ve studied the convention calendar to try and get some more blue water between ourselves and other conventions.


Level 7 Blingmaster
So a good journey to the Garrison Hotel with very little fuss.

Got there in time for the opening speech at the start of slot 1.
I was running Star Wars Edge of the Empire called ‘Nerves of Steel on Dantoonie’.

So I had four players signed up on the day, the pre-booked players didn’t show up, and only one of them had played this system before.
They selected their characters so we had the Wookie, Saljacca, whom was dangerous not only at close quarters but at long-range too as he had a plasma-slug sniper rifle. Next up was Freya Farthen, the genius mechanic, who could fix and repair anything. Then there was Nash Doorna the smuggler, cocky and overconfident and oozes charm. Then finally there was Moria Sunfell, the sassy pilot who always carries her trusty pistol.
They started stranded in the Dune Sea of Tatoonie next to the smouldering crater and the shattered remains of the ship they just
raided. They had their prize, data crystals with a wealth of information on future tech and two grav-sleds, neither of which were functional. One grav-sled had its chassis wrecked but its engine was relatively intact. The other sled was structurally sound but its engine was
splintered. Of course it would take all of them to work together to swap out the engines and get a fully operating grav-sled between them.
Then they decided that they would take the longer but safer route back to their spaceship, rather than the direct quicker but more dangerous route back.
So they managed to escape the dessert without incident (other than some poor flying by the pilot), and also traded with some Dessert Jawas for so drugs for Saljacca and a new Astromech droid they named RAVE-2. Psychedelic!

They got to their spaceship without incident and were off-world, past the Imperial Blockade, and away to their homeworld, Ord Mantell. There they cleverly arranged to sell their prize to the highest bidder from amongst the most dangerous organisations in the Galaxy.
The auction would take place on Dantoonie, in the old rebel base there. The characters would only get a day to set up the place to receive their guests from the Black Sun Crime Syndicate, an ambitious Imperial Officer, a Republican Senator, and Teemo the Hutt!
They managed to cunningly hide their spaceship very close, get the shield generators to work to protect the base form orbital bombardment, set up the separate viewing rooms, and primed the whole base up with explosives.
After a bidding war between all the interested parties there was the inevitable betrayal and double-cross. After a furious fire-fight our
heroes managed to escape in their hidden spaceship, leaving the squabbling factions behind.
They got their loot, their lives and their ship all in one piece. Now of course they are a mighty fine target for every single criminal group in the Galaxy!

It was a trip to the salad bar at Morrison’s for lunch and a catch up with some of the con-goers.

Slot 2 was another of my games I was running, Firefly ‘No Power in the ‘verse!’.
I had six players signed up for this game so I got straight down to the player character selection. So the characters Inara, River and Simon didn’t make the selection. We had Jayne the hired ‘muscle’, Zoe the second officer, Wash the pilot, Book the shepherd, Mal the captain, and Kaylee the mechanic. I got the players to read through the character sheets and add a couple of Specialisations to their skills whilst I headed off and changed.

I hastily dressed up as Badger, one of the criminal bosses from the TV show, with a waistcoat, flamingo badge, a tie but without a shirt, and a bowler hat. I returned to the table in full character, proclaiming in the worst Cockney accent ever, that “I was in ruttin’ charge, I was the gorram boss and that I had a shiny job for them!” From that opening everyone was on board, with big grins across their faces, and we started the role-playing session in the full Firefly flavour. I stayed in character for the most part, only dropping out when I took the players through the rules as they rolled their dice during conflicts.
The job was a simple one, get a couple of high-value items from the Auction House on Persephone that would lead to the location of the missing legendary spaceship, Far Horizon. Everyone knows of the Far Horizon the first survey scout starship of the ‘verse, made famous by the comic-books, laser-vids, halo-films, and cortex screenings of its adventures in space! If found it would be a mighty fine prize. It would contain the raw survey data of the whole of the ‘verse revealing the as yet untapped resources that Parliament has kept secret over the centuries. Also the value of the ship as an historic object could also be beneficial and there would be, no doubt, more valuables on the craft that could be sold off too.

Of course the crew had to get hold of the obsolete data crystals that were up for auction as well as an antiquated data crystal reader. Now they just had to come up with the right ‘caper’ to get hold of the items before the rival crews did!

What followed was a series of calamity events with consequences growing as the crew went through multiple plans, each one getting more
and more outrageous, to complete the caper. Of course in the end it was the simplest plan (with the luckiest dice roll) that got the goods
for the most part.
The climax was the trip out into the black to the revealed location of the ghost ship and the discovery of the huge secret that would change the ‘verse for ever.
A magnificent game with the players pushing their characters as well as putting up with Badger himself sitting in the Serenity, getting far too involved in their plans. A great deal of fun.

A pre-booked meal in the Garrison bar with a couple of pints just hit the spot before I headed into my third and final game.

‘Testing Times on Tarsus’ a Traveller scenario run by Dr Moose.
This was my first foray into Traveller (apart from some games when I was in the 6th Form where the GM did all the dice rolls for the
players behind his GM screen) but all the other players were familiar with the game system.
We were trouble-shooters for a corporation tasked to check out the security and integrity of some of the corporation’s holdings on the
backwater planet Tarsus. Our boss, Rev Landfill, had instructed us to get the layout, staff structure, and copies of the contents in the safe whilst testing the security ‘quietly’. Of course the job goes south almost straight away and there was some bloodshed.

Our boss fires us from the job and we do our upmost to track him down and deal him appropriately. More dead-ends and things going wrong meant that we were struggling to get
anything achieved at all. By the time we earnt our spaceship we were definitely floundering and it was only by being the bait ourselves that we managed to draw out our old boss, Rev Landfill, and capture him with some help of some Imperial Shock Troops. A fun game with role-playing our desolate cause.

With that I headed back home on the train, forced to stop in Chesterfield and continue my journey home to Derby in a taxi due to engineering works on the railway lines. Grrr!

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
Our inaugural North Star was lots of fun and it was great to play a wide range of SF RPGs throughout the weekend with a nice crew of rufflers.

Saturday Morning - Genesys Jorune - oh my yes. A rare treat to return to this setting with a nice mix of characters and the freeform narrative funky dice system. Richard did a good job with the setup and running of this game and we all had a lot of fun with it. Genesys seamlessly worked for me and continues to confirm as a probable game of choice for quick adaptations and free flowing play.

Saturday afternoon had me reading the Infinity RPG amnd enjoying the buzz in the main room. I got an earful of Darran's excellent Firefly game and even got to interact with Badger as he prowled the table. Cortex+ was doing its thing and the players were engaging with the system and using it to good advantage.

Saturday night took me to some freeform jazz odyssey Traveller, courtesy of the inestimable Dr Moose. This was old school operatives bouncing around LAW LEVEL 0 Tarsus, stuffed with cash, access to a starship and much blundering about in a comedic ineffective fashion. I think we won, but not via any of our plans or actions. I enjoyed playing my urbane and slightly detached noble ex navy ensign, whose speciality was arranging picturesque ortillary strikes.

Sunday was my GM day..

Sunday morning was the aforementioned Infinity RPG, which I had largely mastered and set out to wring as much of the moving parts as possible with some dialogue, encounters and then a staged fight in a warehouse. A crunchtastic system that I appear to have mastered and t was good to see the players getting into the action and enjoying the thrills and spills.

I enjoyed running the game a great deal and has convinced me that it is, after all, a system and setting that I will have a lot of fun with. I'm supposed to have moved on to loosey goosey, but it looks as though you can go back if it is good. I've invested heavily in Conan and Infinity on kickstarters, so there was a lot of emotional will to succeed. Good stuff.

Sunday afternoon took me to the 66 Suns setting, a freewheeling and highly inventive systemless space opera set out in the very far future in the Magellanic Clouds, with Genesys seamlessly providing the game. Comparatively light and simple, I enjoyed the game and a very thin slice of one conflict in the Wolfram Deep Octant. I'll be going back.

Good times and thanks to all.

I'm off to find a weekend next year to do it all over again...
Before memories fade too much further, and a week has been ample to recover, here's my North Star 2018 convention report. It was lovely. I really like the smaller Garrison conventions where everything is in the room upstairs. It was friendly and lovely, and I enjoyed all the games. There were plenty of familiar faces and a good few new faces.

First game was me running Bulldogs! (and the exclamation mark is part of the game name). It was over the top Guardians of the Galaxy-style fun, and it all came together nicely, with our "heroes" just about barely doing the right thing, barely triumphing amidst chaos and big explosions and lots of in-character bickering. Major thanks to my players Elaine, Lynn, Fil, and John, who even more than usual absolutely made the game. It was a lovely start to the convention, and tempts me to bring out Bulldogs! and the heroes of the Slumming It for another convention. Once it's repaired that is...

Then came Newt's River of Heaven where we were pulled around in time travel shenanigans. We survived some tricky situations, learned the solution of the underlying mystery, and I got to invent the Time Police through an artful bluff when my dice luck finally started to improve. It was a good time. And it reminds me that I really should do more with River of Heaven. Yay!

Saturday evening rounded off with me running Star Trek: Adventures, where the heroes dealt with a vulcan scientist developing illegal weapons, learned of a borg incursion coming, shocked the only Cardassian in the Federation, but triumphed thanks to the cunning plan of luring a borg sphere into a black hole. After this I have mixed feelings about Star Trek Adventures for a convention game, but it worked, and the Momentum mechanics are fun. Thanks to Fil, Paul, Steve, and Dom for playing.

Then Sunday and I got to play again, this time in Dom's Utopia game (which I had requested over on Facebook when he offered to run a game in slot 4). I'm not sure a quick one paragraph write-up can do this game justice; there were notes of horror and paranoia, out of control bureaucracy, personal politics, significant character-driven play, and yes, moments of humour, all developed in a hard science fiction framework. I enjoyed this immensely, and it's definitely something I want to return to.

And to round things off, I ran another game, Mindjammer, this time with just two players Steve and Glenn. But when the players are completely proactive, and have the resources of an engineer who loves high tech toys along with a sentient starship behind them, only two were needed. Mission accomplished on the nasty fascist planet, and the resistance helped, but only a partial triumph as the attempt to completely overthrow the planetary technological infrastructure was something of an overreach. More Mindjammer at conventions is definitely something I should do.

Super duper thanks to the convention organisers for putting together something unique and special, and apologies for running away with the convention badge. I should know better...
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