Episode 20 of the GROGPOD is coming later in April and is all about GOLDEN HEROES: a very smartly produced game that had a dramatic appearance, so I’ve made a short film to demonstrate the material.
I was very lucky on eBay. For £22, I managed to get everything that was produced by Games Workshop (in very good condition too), including all of the counters for all of the scenarios.
The piècesderésistance was the un-billed inclusion of the original A5 rules that were published by Simon Burley and Peter Haines. They would schlep these rules around the convention circuit back in the early eighties where they gathered a strong reputation for the ability to replicate scenes from popular Marvel and DC comics.
The game caught the attention of the Armchair Adventurers thanks to the great Brian Bolland cover for the first scenario pack LEGACY OF EAGLES. I ran the game with disastrous results (listen to the podcast for details). At ConVergence recently, we revived the game and had tremendous fun.
The podcast will be released in soon, until then, enjoy this short film.
I’m not sure if it’s the case that the RPG hobby has a complete downer on supers, but it is a niche within an already niche hobby that needs to fight its own corner against the opposition of the available alternatives. This activism probably accounts for the longevity of GOLDEN HEROES in the hearts of its fans; despite it’s relatively short shelf-life, there are enough supporters out there to ensure its continuation in the form of it’s most recent, wholly rewritten iteration Squadron UK.
Since producing the podcast about GOLDEN HEROES, I’ve become aware of the enthusiastic fans that have been the driving force behind sustaining active interest in the game, for example, Steve Race and Kevin Rolfe host a podcast SQUADRON CHATTER which is the unofficial podcast of Squadron UK. It’s currently on an hiatus, but episodes are still available to enjoy. There’s examples of actual-play as well as progress reports on Kevin’s ambition to revise and update the supplements for GOLDEN HEROES. They also tell the story of a mythical project that was promised but never produced: “The Lancelot Caper” is mentioned by Pete Tamlyn in passing in a White Dwarf article but disappeared until it was uncovered by Kevin.
Steve and Kevin’s interest was maintained through Yahoo Groups, which connected them to others who still had an interest in the game and developing a ‘back story’ and rationale for the GOLDEN HEROES universe. Back in the eighties, Simon Burley encouraged a like-minded team of Super RPG fans to develop scenarios and articles for his fanzine Superhero UK. He produced the first few before it had a life of its own and continued for 20 issues.
It’s thanks to the fans that the game continues to Sunday Punch above its weight: “It’s Clobberin’ Time!
Thanks to Duane Woolley and Graham Kinniburgh for sharing some sample covers and pages from their collection.
Hot on the heels of Virtual GROGMEET, we started two simultaneous, online games of TWO HEADED SERPENT (the world-spanning, two-fisted, Pulp Cthulhu adventure) last night. Playing online has revolutionised our gaming over the past couple of years. We are often asked “how do I get started on Roll20?”
Thankfully, Steve Ray (@OrlanthR on Twitter) has come to the rescue with some useful tips and his experiences of thawing out after the deep freeze.
My emergence from carbon freezing was triggered by a request from my daughter that I run D&D for her over the Christmas holidays. I’d gone into the carbon freezer, Han Solo-style, over 16 years previously. Before that, like most Grognards, I’d gamed with the people I’d grown up with but time had its way and RPGs fell out of favour. In the years since, I’d done a lot of wargaming but never thought of once of picking up an RPG.
In response to my daughter’s request, I remembered that I still had an old copy of RuneQuest second edition in the attic and I decided to use that rather than buy 5e. As soon as I held the book in my hands, the memories came flooding back and I knew I had to play again. My daughter had of course lost interest immediately as teenagers do, so my rediscovered enthusiasm had no outlet. Searching for podcasts to feed my craving, I found the first Grognard files episode and that was it; nostalgia had me in its grip, and I was hooked.
Of course, I now needed someone to play with. I determined to start small by contacting some old friends to see if they were interested. But their lives had moved on too, and I wasn’t able to lure them in. Deflated, I was stuck with rereading old rulebooks and buying far too much stuff on pdf than I’d ever be able to use. Whilst working through the Grogpod back catalogue, I came across the discussion between Dirk and Blythy regarding Roll20.
That was three months ago; I’m now running a fully-fledged short RQ classic campaign and fully intend continuing to play online. As Dirk says, “play’s the thing’ and whilst face-to-face play is superior it’s better to game online than not at all. If you’re reading this and are thinking about taking the plunge into online play (Roll20 or otherwise), I’ve put together some thoughts that may help you (or prove to be complete bobbins; you can judge)
• Get into an online group as a player: as with so many things in life, the best way to learn is to watch someone else. Finding a game to play in on Roll20 is dead easy, particularly if you plump for 5e or a similarly popular system. If you can, pick a GM who has lots of experience on Roll20 (next to the GM’s name will be a number showing how many hours they’ve played for; my first GM had over 1000 hours of play under his belt) . Whilst you’re playing, take some notes as to how the GM uses the Roll20 interface (tokens, handouts, maps, combat, etc). For example, I struggled with the concept of showing pictures to the players (on the desktop or via handouts?) until I saw someone else do it.
• It’s still role-playing: Don’t worry too much about the bells and whistles to start with. Some of the things that virtual tabletops are cool, but you can spend ages learning to do something that you’ll never use (trust me, I’ve done it). Instead, focus on some basics and run the rest as you would any other RPG. Most importantly, do the preparation that you would for any other game (cool story, NPCs, etc) and the rest will come with time.
• Use Twitter to find a group: This was one of the brilliant benefits of online play compared with live play that I didn’t expect. With my mates in the ’80s, I was really stuck with playing the sorts of games they wanted to play. Now, with the internet, if you really want to play that obscure game that almost no-one has heard, of you’ll probably find two or three players somewhere in the world. As long as they’ve got the hardware and the connection, you’re good to go. Twitter has been great for this; there’s a thriving and not-too-grumpy group of old school gamers that have congregated around The Grognard Files on Twitter, so that’s a good place to start.
• Be clear about what you’re offering: Along with finding the niche gaming experience you’re after, it’s a good idea to be up-front about where you’re coming from; ‘managing expectations’ we call it when we’re at work. In my case, I said that I wanted to run a version of Classic Runequest that was going to be very relaxed, run about every two weeks and that I was a GM returning after 16 years (so no Critical Role level gamesmastering!). This way, everyone goes in with their eyes open.
• Start small: Related to the above, start with just a few players (two or three) and commit to running for a few sessions to start with. I said I’d start with six sessions and we’d review once we got to that point. Again, it means you have the chance to bow out gracefully if you find online play isn’t for you after all.
• YouTube is your friend: as with everything in life, YouTube full of videos about Roll20. There are some really good tutorial videos out there, and can really help to solve problems as well as to show what’s possible. I’d recommend Roll20’s own channel for the basics, as well as as the ‘Taking 20’ channel for some of the funky stuff.
So that’s it. If you do decide to give Roll20 or another online platform a go, hopefully the above will give you some pointers. For me, as I travel a lot for work the opportunity to run and play games when away from home certainly beats the prospect of sitting in another identical hotel room watching TV. I expect to play more this year than I ever did back in the 80’s, and most of that online. If you’d like to ask me any questions or share your experiences of online play, please feel free to get in touch via Twitter on @OrlanthR
An occasional series of posts from members of the GROGSQUAD telling their story of getting back into the hobby following a ‘real-life’ imposed freeze. This time, Neil Benson, The Old Scouse Roleplayer himself, talks about how rediscovered the past.
It seems odd now that for 20 years or more I didn’t think once about tabletop RPG’s. House, kids and work kept me occupied and World of Warcraft was enough to scratch my gaming itch.
A game of Mansions of Madness at the end of 2014 stirred the flames for tabletop gaming; it felt so fresh and exciting after decades of video games. The banter, rolling dice, the gorgeous physical components, puzzle solving, strategising, decision making and the elation of surviving were a thrill. I was hooked. like an old addict giving into their habit, feeling that rush, the realisation that I had 20+ years of gaming to catch upon. Most of 2015 was spent exploring board games; I didn’t have a gaming group and so tried a few solo games and watched a few videos, but everything felt very much under control. Funny thing was that during this time, although I thought about RPG’s I never once considered playing them.
Early 2016 a old gaming friend (let’s call him Steve, seeing as that’s his name) offered to run Trail of Cthulhu on this Roll20 thing. Steve lives in San Diego, but said that it would be like playing in the same room. It turned out I was the only player in that first game, but decided to give it my best shot. Within half an hour I felt like I’d hit the mother lode… screw boardgames, this was the good stuff. Ohhh yeaaah…
That game still stands out, the Gumshoe system was perfect, the game perfectly paced, the outcome highly satisfying. I wanted more, and so Steve ran a few more adventures – our heroes moved from the mysteries of Bletchley Park to the horrors of occupied Paris. Great stuff.
Over the next few weeks I became obsessed with the idea of GMing myself, I’d always thoroughly enjoyed running games back in the day. When I turned my attention to DTRPG and Kickstarter I was overawed by how much things had changed in the past 20 years, but was also drawn in by the basic premise still being the same. Technology has made games far more accessible, and the number of games available has increased a hundredfold at least, but it’s still about people, stories, characters, adventure and kickass rules.
Overwhelmed by choice my first purchase was a game that even now just sits on my shelf gathering dust: The One Ring. A beautiful tome of a book, I reasoned that my love of Tolkein’s work would make this my perfect game. But it was too complex for me back then, I needed something simpler. Having played TOR recently at DevaCon I found the game fairly simple and intuitive, maybe I need to give it another look.
My quest for games with simpler systems started with Barebones Fantasy, a modern d00 based game with some clever mechanics. I ran a few games for my old gaming buddies on Roll20, but found it wasn’t for me. I went through others, including following a dead end into PbtA territory with Dungeon World – I still can’t make sense of that game. Ultimately my path took me back to the game that really kicked it all off, D&D (my first game was Tunnels & Trolls but it was D&D that made sense). Or more accurately the retroclones; Basic Fantasy, Tombs & Terrors, Swords & Wizardry and my current favourite, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I only tried last year being put off by some of the negative press it received).
Con’s have played a big part in meeting fellow gamers as has The Grognard Files and all the events around it – one off games, Grogmeet and vGrogmeet. A friendly, welcoming community has made this whole journey incredibly rewarding and I feel I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.
Perhaps the best thing about my RPG revival is that I’m not obsessed like I used to be, I’m fully in control, honest. Now excuse me while I just pop on over to DTRPG…
Last year, we reached a tipping point where we realised that most of our Armchair Adventuring was taking place online. Our never-ending quest to get more people to play games with continues. To support our endeavours we created virtual GROGMEET to complement the annual event in November.
Some of the GROGSQUAD wanted to discover online play for the first time and have the opportunity to play with the GMGMs that make GROGMEET in Manchester such a distinctive experience.
Squadron members from all over the UK plus others from British Columbia, Australia and North America were joined games of Numenera and Maelstrom and others listed below.
Of course the curse of online play bedevilled it with glitches and interventions from real life, but it was an enjoyable event by all accounts.
Hopefully, new gaming connections were made during the event and this is the beginning of more groups forming, because “play’s the thing”. Dirk
November seems such a long time ago now, but I still have great memories of games played and people met at Grogmeet 17. Organised by Dirk the Dice, host of the Grognard Files podcast, this is an evening and full day RPG meetup in the heart of Manchester. For those who were unable to attend Dirk arranged Virtual Grogmeet, an evening and day of gaming taking place this weekend over Roll20.
The event was arranged well in advance with lots of time to consider what adventures to run. I had thought of running something Pulpish, but ultimately decided to stick to my favourite system, offering to run one of the published Lamentations of the Flame Princess scenarios Forgive Us. Yesterday evening I was joined by Andrew, Graham, Howard, Steve and Tom as they set out to recover a green porcelain demon mask from the Tenebrous Hand.