Welcome one and all!
Welcome one and all to the Knights of Trinity Annual General Meeting for 2020, the-year-that-shall-not-be-named!
This is usually provided by means of the Council standing up in the “Crow’s Nest” at Slains Castle and discussing our year with you all. For some reason – can’t think what – that isn’t really an option for us this year. So as a result, here’s that update, just not in the usual way.
I’ll warn you up front – a lot of what’s in here is very much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s been a lot of “not as usual” this year, and me sitting here saying that feels as dumb as it sounds. It’s currently deeply affecting everyone, of course – but for a hobby which involves sitting around a table talking with each other for several hours, I think it’s fair to say that our activities have been affected considerably more than others have been.
Let’s crack on – you’ll see what I mean.
Membership numbers! There are 98 members of the club right now who have an active membership. 30 members have chosen not to renew their membership with us this year, and 28 inactive members were removed from our records on the 31st of December last year as per our data protection policy.
As a reminder, the 30 currently inactive members will be purged on the 31st of December this year. We’ve made a facility available online for those who aren’t sure if they are on the inactive list to check their membership status, so that they can let us know and we can get things sorted out before their details are purged.
Games? Yes, we have had a few of those. Forty-nine to be precise, covering a wide selection of genres, from purely narrative and diceless epic fantasy, to fast action Hong Kong theatre, to tossing coins to your Witcher! Thanks to the GMs for running all these games for us, and to the players for making them entertaining!
It’s worth noting that the number of games we’re offering has dropped as a result of the move to online play. We were planning around 13 games in Slains at the start of the year (that’s 97 people at maximum occupancy); and we’re currently planning around 6 games on Discord at the end of the year (which is 42 people when full). There’s no doubt that online play can be a very different experience from in-person play, and these numbers do seem to back that up. We totally understand the position of those who aren’t fans of online play, and we hope that we’ll be in a position to bring back in-person play soon. For those who have joined us on our Discord server, we’d like to say thanks for helping us get a handle on how to support you all, and for helping us fine-tune our online play environment.
A quick segue into information governance issues just for a moment. These statistics all come from our digital and physical systems. Information relating to our members and the games that they choose to play are covered by the GDPR (the EU General Data Protection Regulations). However, as of the 1st of January, that changes, as we leave the transition period with the EU, and move to a UK-only copy of those regulations.
Initially, nothing will change; although we have taken steps this year to ensure that all the data that we work with is now held solely inside the UK, to avoid any difficulties moving forward. We’re aware that UK data privacy standards will fall with the implementation of the UK-Japan trade deal; and are monitoring that situation closely. Our primary concern here is the protection of your information, and if there is anything that impacts our ability to do that in the way we have up to this point, then we will of course bring that to you.
Despite the world grinding to a halt, there have still been things that have happened. Let’s have a quick review of the year’s events.
We’ve made quite a few announcements to the people directly affected by the Nationals vs. COVID situation this year, but for those who haven’t been in the loop, here’s a quick summary.
The UK National Roleplaying Competition was due to happen in April, but due to the pandemic breaking was postponed until September. When the impact of COVID showed no signs of abating, it was postponed again until Easter 2021. The venue of Sheffield hasn’t changed, just the dates.
Problems have arisen all the way along with getting dates confirmed by the university, and with the booking made for accommodation with Travelodge, who stand virtually alone in the UK in terms of their cancellation and refund policies.
We continue to hold our breath to see what will happen next in this saga, while we wait for confirmation from Sheffield as to what is happening – this isn’t just us, but our friends from other teams are asking the same questions that we are and meeting the same response.
We commend the Exiles ’20 team for their patience. The Council are all team members too, and are in exactly the same frustrating boat here. Special thanks needs to go to our Chief Cat Herder Kerry, who in the midst of everything else going on has continued to ask questions and try to get answers for us, despite entire university departments and company service teams disappearing due to furlough, dates moving back and forth, student and team representatives disappearing as they finish their university careers and so on. It’s an ongoing battle, and Kerry is showing tremendous grace under fire. With luck, as things settle down, the situation will become much clearer, and we’ll share that news as soon as we have it.
Merch in the Park
Despite the issues around the Nationals, however, there has been one good thing that came out of it. We spent an afternoon in Duthie Park, handing out the Exiles team shirts and hoodies, with as much social distancing as we could muster.
LGS even added some of his infamous chainmail gifts as part of a lucky dip. It was a fun afternoon, despite how bleak things were overall at that point in the year.
It was truly lovely to see everyone that came along – hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re all back and able to mingle properly again for real.
And in other news the club has now branched out to other virtual games – namely via our Steam group.
If you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially a small user group on the Steam platform which is used to buy & play PC games. It’s pretty easy to set up and join the group – just search for Knights of Trinity Steam on your search engine of choice and we should pop up.
We’re currently sitting at 21 members of the club having signed up – but there’s always room for more. We set up the group to give those who aren’t keen on roleplaying online another way to interact with the group (though everyone seems busy on Tuesdays for some reason….). So far, we’ve had some action in Among Us and a total friendly-in-no-way-competitive Blood Bowl Cup. We are always on the lookout for more game ideas – but more on that later.
Occasionally, we get the opportunity to help test the next generation of games, and this year saw us take on a couple of great ones.
Modiphius is releasing (and recently started a pre-order on) a roleplaying game based on the Dune universe created by author Frank Herbert to go along with the new movie franchise directed by Denis Villeneuve.
And a bit closer to home, is a made-in-Scotland game that we helped to test in its first edition incarnation, A-State. This dark urban dystopian game is back for its second edition, this time using the Forged in the Dark game system, and we’ve helped test that too.
Testing games is important – it gives the designers a chance to see if their games mechanics work in the way they expect, and occasionally gives them ideas around how to adjust them if they don’t.
We’d like to thank everyone who volunteered to help out with these testing programmes, even if they didn’t ultimately get a chance to play them at a table (which, due to our pandemic issues, ended up being somewhat more complicated than we expected).
One event, though, has passed us by this year, and it’s frankly a bit upsetting that we’ve not been able to do anything about it.
The year was 2001. For those who weren’t even born yet, for the previous ten years, the game Vampire: The Masquerade had left an indelible mark on the gaming community. Groups of gamers had become increasingly diverse, the focus had shifted from combat to storytelling (again!), and a burst of interest in live-action gaming had Vampire inspired games popping up all over the country.
Aberdeen was no exception – and in the top bar of the Illicit Still on Netherkirkgate, a group of players had just completed the main plot of a game called Nightwalker, created by the demonic duo of Steve & Steve. And they’d done so slightly earlier than expected, to be honest.
They asked the not unreasonable question – “so what now?”. We still had the booking for the bar, and being the end of November it was getting too close to Christmas to launch something big, so I stupidly said something along the lines of “well, I guess we could do some tabletop stuff just now, and then work on a live game for next year?”
The live game never happened – the Knights of Trinity were born instead.
In those twenty years, we’ve met hundreds of players, played scores of games across a thousand weeks (well nearly – we’ve had to miss a couple here and there) – at a VERY rough estimate, that’s over 30,000 hours of play. We’ve played in 10 different venues: The Illicit Still, Henry J Beans, RSVP, The Bassment, The Charlotte Bar, Korova, Kilau, The Wild Boar, and Slains Castle (with a week at Exodus when they were rebuilding stuff).
Most importantly to us though, is that we’ve created a community that has been consistently praised for its friendly, inclusive and welcoming nature. That can only come from the people in it.
We wanted to celebrate this year, but with everything that has happened, it’s just not been possible to do it justice. So we’ve decided to wait, and celebrate our 21st birthday next year instead.
At this landmark, though, we wanted to say thanks. To the venues who have hosted us, the gamesmasters who have provided week after week of entertainment, the players who gave us the enthusiasm and feedback that we needed to keep us going, and the members of the club who stepped up along the way to help out when things got tough.
We couldn’t have done this alone. Thanks to you all, and let’s get ready to party properly next year!
The Kerim Dickson Dice Shaming Award
Earlier in the year, as part of the plan for celebrations, we introduced the ability to nominate your worst dice roll of the year. We named it after a member of the club whose dice rolls passed into infamy.
So the Council have considered the nominations that were made this year, have independently scored them, and then I’ve compiled final results!
I’d intended to give you the runner up and the winner, but you’ll hear three, because we have a joint runner up.
So, first runner up (in no particular order) – a Call of Cthulhu game where Robyn’s character has 1 hitpoint left and rolls a 1 on the CON check to stay conscious. Naomi’s character rushes in, and rolls First Aid – 100, an automatic Fumble! James’ character tries too – and ALSO rolls a 100 for First Aid! Unsurprisingly, Robyn’s character does not survive the ministrations of their colleagues.
The other runner up takes us to 7th Sea. To try and recruit a member for their crew who was aiming to retire instead once their pig, Kevin Bacon, had won a pig fight, the party attempted to sabotage KB’s chances by getting it drunk, and slapping a rune on it to penalize it further. This took the roll from 5 keep three down to 3 keep 1, against its opponent, Hermione Hamhock, which had 4 keep 2.
When Kevin Bacon rolled, one of the d10’s exploded and exploded again, given Kevin a final roll of 29!
Hermione was badly mauled, as two hours of planning and play went up in tasty, tasty smoke.
And our winner. The game is Star Wars, the party are up against an AT-AT and things are looking grim. Stuart, the GM, warns the table, “The AT-AT has a bonus of 39, unless it rolls a 1 you’re not going to beat it”.
One of the truths in Star Wars is best summed up by Han Solo – “NEVER QUOTE ME THE ODDS!”. Stuart goes on to prove this to be true by rolling the dice. As the now-expected 1 clatters into view, we are reminded that tempting fate is never a good idea for a GM.
Congratulations Stuart – the Kerim Dickson Diceshaming Award for 2020 is well and truly yours!
At the end of March the Council had to make a difficult decision- to suspend the Club for a short period and see if the pandemic blew over, or to try and bludgeon on.
Turns out that we were onto something.
It’s been 9 months since we were all in Slaine’s – which has sucked for all concerned. We know many of you love meeting up on a Tuesday and kicking back for a few with friends and a drink and a good game. We also know how hard it’s been for those of you who’ve had to shield or do so for family members, for those of you who miss the social element of the club, and of course, for the staff at Slaine’s.
As such we were plunged into a frantic scrabble of setting up a Discord server and then arranging a schedule, so as not to cut short the initial Campaign block. It’s not always been perfect but, bar a few wheezes and hiccups, it’s managed to chug along quite well. Many thanks to our volunteer moderators (Scott and Tabitha take a bow) and to the rest of the Council for their work – either running, organizing or simply being there to give feedback and assist in the fine tuning of our system.
One of the things to change was our block system. Now, last year we spoke about how we would be investigating possibly changing the system, analyzing alternatives and how they would impact the club. To be honest all thoughts of that reform fell by the wayside and they have been very far back on the back burner. Once things get back to normality we hope to investigate these possibilities further.
Going forward, with the hope to get round tables in the future, we are going to be keeping the current 7/5 structure- that is 7 weeks of a Feature block and 5 of campaign block. This will be repeated 4 times in the year giving us 4 7 week features and a 20 week campaign.
However, those who are good at arithmetic (or are using a calculator) will note that’s a bit short starting at January 5th and ending 21st December- surely our sums are wrong.
Well not exactly.
Following each campaign block (bar the last- we’ll all be getting ready for that years Yule festivities) we will be having a ‘For One week only’ week. This is the chance for DM’s with a one shot to give it a try. It is also an ideal time for us as a club to onboard any new members- especially once we get back to Slaines. This stops newbies feeling thrown into the deep end of existing games or GM’s having to fit them into a Campaign at an awkward place.
Now sometimes there will not be any newbies or people wanting to run one shots- as such, in those times a campaign can be extended by an extra week. However, we are looking to minimize this- obviously online if there are few or no new members it is easier, but once we move back to Slaine’s we would be looking for people to utilize this week to allow those who usually don’t step forward a chance to shine.
This is, of course subject to ongoing review and, as we mentioned before we are trying to find the right balance between fulfilling games and allowing folks to mingle and experience new games and players. So, as the year progresses, we will return to the scheduling question. However, barring a catastrophe (or maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate there….) this will be our structure for the rest of 2020.
The Year Ahead
The Return to “Normal”
You might be thinking that putting a new block structure in place that covers both in-person and online play is all well and good if in-person play is there. But it’s not – well not quite yet anyway!
Like all good GMs, we try to plan for contingencies. With some sort of return to normalcy on the cards, we’ve been thinking ahead to what that looks like. While we haven’t got any finalized plans yet, there are factors that will influence our decisions. The reason that we don’t have any finalized plans is because we are very much at the mercy of government policies.
We’re also keeping in mind that members of the club may have specific health concerns related to either the COVID-19 virus itself, or the vaccine and their ability (or choice) to use it.
With that said, here’s the draft plan as we’re currently considering it.
Vaccines are now starting to roll out slowly, which is great. The pace of vaccination is expected to increase as supplies become available and reach GPs across the UK. That should increase the ability of people to socialize together and should see the COVID-19 levels for Aberdeen City and Shire lower. Currently, Scottish regulations won’t allow a group such as ours to meet as we were used to, until such times as we leave the Levels system altogether. Even then, there may be some limits applied to the size of groups that can meet. That will be driven, in part, by the rules that are handed to our in-person venue, Slains Castle. We’re reasonably confident that there will still be limits on how we can use the space in the venue that we can’t control.
To mitigate those limits, we propose the use of four main measures:
First: We will use a blended approach to play. Our Discord server will keep running, and some of our games will run online-only. We’ll identify which games those are at the advertising stage. If it should turn out that a game can be run offline once it’s filled (based on player and GM preferences) then we’ll consider moving it offline to allow for better use of the space in Slaines.
Second: We think that it would be wise to allow for more games by allowing a general reduction of the number of players in a game from the current default number of 6 down to 3 or 4 where that’s reasonable. Smaller games consume less space, allowing greater separation – although it would require more GMs being available to run them. That’s not to say that a 6-player game isn’t allowed; just that it wouldn’t be our immediate go-to.
Third: We spread our gaming across two separate nights of play. This was something we were considering (and had discussed in principle with Slains) in terms of club growth in any event, but it makes sense if it’s possible in these circumstances too. To maintain some semblance of separation, we would split the in-person club into two cohorts or “bubbles” of players and GMs. These cohorts wouldn’t be allowed to mix, at least initially, to create a firebreak and help Slains provide spread control.
Fourth: We introduce play material management protocols. These could include obvious precautions such as prohibiting the sharing of dice, pens, etc. where there is a risk of contamination, to ensuring that, where possible, digital play materials (character sheets, handouts, etc.) are used at tables. We appreciate that there are potential challenges inherent in doing that, given Slains notoriously challenging Wi-Fi and cellular reception, but there are a couple of ideas that could help with that being kicked around.
To make some of these options possible, it may be necessary to amend the list of pieces of data that we collect and hold on members (such as willingness to play online, cohort and so on). We may also be required to hold data by the government to allow us to meet (the subject of vaccine passports, for example, has popped up in the press over the last few weeks). As per our data protection policy, should this be necessary, you would be advised, and asked to consent to our use of this data on your behalf.
We think that this covers the widest set of possible futures, but will keep you up to date as we learn more about what’s possible.
We hope that as things get back towards normal, especially once we open up in-person play again, more folks will return to take part. That does mean that, yet again(!), we’d like to invite anyone who might be interested in volunteering to be one of our gamesmasters to get in touch with us.
This year, our GMs have been the glue that’s held the club together more than ever, giving players the opportunity to create memorable tales in the darkest times.
If you’d like to give it a try, let us know – we will give you all the support that we can muster to make your game a success. Ordinarily, at this point, I’d be talking about doing workshops if numbers were to allow, but I can’t guarantee that given the circumstances, although we’ll certainly try to do something if there’s a demand. I can point you at places like YouTube, where there are some terrific resources, including the “How to be a Great GM” channel – useful for new and old GMs alike!
One of the perks of membership is the Knights of Trinity library, containing games, supplements, scenarios, some card, board and dice games and other miscellany that has been donated to the club over the years. We had started a cataloguing exercise to verify the collection when lockdown happened. Since then, it’s not been possible to keep that going, so it’s been suspended until such times as government protocols allow the work to continue.
In addition, to make life as simple for us as possible, and minimize risks both to the Council and members, we’re also suspending borrowing from the library until further notice, to protect against the risks of community spread.
We’ll continue to review the situation regularly, and will reopen the library as soon as is practicable.
Now we come to the upcoming events portion of the AGM.
For 2021, we are, much like with everything mentioned previously, going to have to play it by ear- outdoor socially distanced events are fine on a lovely June day, not so much in Aberdeen February at -10 with the wind attempting to peel the skin off your face. However, if things go well Vaccine wise hopefully Kerry and Beth will be able to start organizing some meet ups or cinema nights. And, of course, as mentioned- should we get a Nationals update we will let you know.
So, as we head into 2021 our focus must be on virtual events- online Cons, markets etc. Should we hear of any ( or if you hear of any) we are keen to promote them and make sure our members can get involved and hopefully show some support to the Con organisers who, this year have had the rather smelly end of the stick.
Some Steam, punks?
The other kind of Virtual event will of course be via our Steam group. Currently our Blood Bowl tournament is ongoing- and I want to give thanks to Scott for setting that up. Once the inaugural cup is over we’ll be keen to start another- or possibly a league, if there is enough interest. If you are interested drop us a message in the Blood Bowl room on Discord.
We are currently looking into scheduling more games and games nights- and keeping an eye to the cheaper games since we know this time has been tough on a lot of people’s wallets. So, if you are interested in Mafia style action of Among Us or Ghost hunting in Phasmophobia, just sign up- a link will be provided on the Discord and there is one on Facebook.
The final way we are considering running Games night is with an MMO. A Knights of Trinity Guild would be a fun way to play together as well as something to do by yourself. However, we are wary that many of these are subscription based and, as said before, a lot of people have been hit hard in the wallet over the past 12 months. So, we would like to gauge interest in the idea of an MMO Guild and also to find out which MMO’s appeal to the group. We’ll come back to you all with some more about this once we’ve had a further look.
Other Virtual events are being investigated- with Beth currently checking onto the feasibility of organizing watch parties. Of what? Well it could be anything really, from the great to the awful to the so bad it’s good. However, the logistics of this are tricky but we’ll come back to you once we have a concrete idea of what is involved and that we aren’t getting tangled up in broadcasting rights issues.
So, there we have it! Another year under our collective belts. It’s been extremely challenging in every sphere of life, we know; and we also know that folks have turned to their hobbies to help cope with the difficulties that they face. Some hobbies like ours have been forced to completely change because of the pandemic and will be amongst the last to return to normal, if indeed that’s ever really going to be possible. It’s been a painful realization that our ability to get together and play games is so incredibly fragile; and if there was ever proof needed that those of us who choose to roll dice for initiative are nothing but antisocial? I think that’s well and truly put to bed as nonsense now.
The other members of the and I would like to sincerely thank every member of the club this year. Whether you’ve been a member of our online cohort, or tried it but decided that it wasn’t for you. Even if you knew it wasn’t your thing, but you continued to support our efforts to stay operational until we can get you back to a table again – thank you. Fellow clubs have been decimated all over the country – all over the world, but it’s only with the support – both moral and practical – of our members that we’ve managed to make it through these last 9 months.
We hope that it’s not too long before we can start delivering some good news about the club’s future post-pandemic, but in the meantime, we wish you the best of holiday seasons, whatever your circumstances, and a bright and prosperous New Year.
This is Big Beard Steve, Knights of Trinity President, signing off…