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.
The second part of memoir and ‘zine scrap book. If you can help Nick find some of the ‘zines that he worked on, (Runestone, Iron Orchid and Manic Depressive) then please let me know and I’ll pass on the details. If you have a collection or a story to share then get in touch, we’d love to hear it.
At some point, I either threw out or sold all the games and zines (including copies of my own zines), or had them thrown out for me by my mum.
That was that, until about 2004, by which point I had a career in business journalism and then general management in publishing.
I was ill in bed with some kind of horrible virus and in a kind of comfort food kind of thing, re-read Lord of the Rings over a couple of days. It was a reconnection with the past, and a revelation; the new film had just come out so that may have contributed.
At the same I was in a very bad marriage and my Dad was dying. In retrospect escapism was what I needed!
Over the course of some months, I gradually dug back into the past. I rooted out some stuff in my parents’ garage which had escaped the 80s purge – some White Dwarfs and some games.
I rooted round on the internet and found a blog by someone calling himself hyperbear which was a writeup of a Call of Cthulhu campaign in Delta Green universe. I was amazed how gaming had moved on since I had been away – it was dark and gritty with really good stories. I bought the Delta Green sourcebooks on ebay (really expensive) and read them like books. I started reading yog-sothoth.com (everyone seemed much nicer to each other these days).
Then I went crazy on ebay and basically bought everything I had ever owned and more – all the games from the 70s and 80s, a pretty much complete set of WDs and whatever zines I could get (sadly I wasn’t able to find any of mine – clearly the market had voted on the need to keep them for posterity!). I got the original white box D&D set, the first edition of Call of Cthulhu, obscure things like Metamorphosis Alpha, Land of the Rising Sun, Bunnies and Burrows etc. Just like when I was 14, I bought many more things than I could ever play or even read.
THERE, AND BACK AGAIN
Round about 2006 I started actually playing again. A friend (ex boss in fact) used to play D&D with his brothers decades before and was still into scifi/fantasy/Lovecraft so was open to discussing Delta Green. In fact we did the first session in the bar of the Groucho Club (the show biz private members club in Soho) without dice or paper based on an idea I had been knocking around set in modern Britain and using the Pisces section of the Delta Green campaign. Over the course of the next few years we ran through a sprawling campaign with a session once a month (which I wrote up in a yog-sothoth blog) mashing up DG scenarios, my own stuff, an old WD scenario from Marcus Rowland, bits stolen from different campaigns and then culminating in a present-day version of Beyond the Mountains of Madness. It was pretty messy and I am not the best games master but I was pleased with it overall – I seem to remember one of the characters ended up making the ultimate sacrifice at the end (if you have ever done that BMOM campaign you will know what that entails) which was satisfying. By this time we had a group of five players and since then I have run a number of games: a couple of shorter Delta Green campaign, a Cthulhu-esque thing set in the far future, some rule-light adventures set in Lankmar, and most recently the Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign for 13th Age. I started going to Dragonmeet again (and am going to UK Games Expo for the first time in June).
So now almost 40 years after first opening the red box Basic D&D set, I am happily married with three boys (12, 8 and 3), living in South London and managing about 130 commodities analysts for my job.
Despite all of this responsibility, a part of me will always be 14. I basically like all the things I liked when I was a kid but just have more money to indulge it. And my Christmas lists these days? Last Xmas my mum bought me a Mansions of Madness expansion pack which pleased me greatly.
INTRO: Warning, there’s an unnecessary David Bowie impression in this bit, as the Judge Dredd Board Game appeared in Labyrinth.
POTTED HISTORY: (00:05:00) A brief publication history of Judge in RPGs and news of the forthcoming game from EN Publishing.
OPEN BOX (with Marc Gascoigne): (10:44) We are joined by a giant in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing. He tells stories about his time editing DragonLords fanzine , working with Games Workshop and designing Judge Dredd.
DAILY DWARF: (00:48:24) @dailydwarf writes an introduction to some of the great material that appeared in White Dwarf, before the sun set on its coverage of RPGs.
ATTIC ATTACK: (01:07:00) Blythy joins Dirk in the loft to reflect on 2000ad and how it influenced our play.
Fenris Games is the creation of Ian and Jo Brumby, also known as The Brothers Brum: the home of incredible miniatures and table-top modelling sculptures. Before they found fame, perhaps not their fortune, in the world of model-making, they created WyrdWorld, the world base for a play by mail (PBM) in 1987/88.
Manual PBMs need a lot of effort to make them work. In Episode 14 I talked about my descent into madness trying to keep up when the turn-rate and the level of detail seemed to grow exponentially. My paltry efforts are nothing compared with the herculean campaign worlds created by Fenris.
They ran other Play By Mail games (Children of the Morning Star, MMCII), but it’s WYRDWORLD that has captured my imagination. Inspired by the Alan Dean Foster Spellsinger series of books, the players become humanoid animals. The animals have become people with fur and claws and teeth, “Fancy playing Conan the Barbary Ape? Then this is the game for you.”
The rule book reveals a story based approach that was way ahead of its time with indy sensibilities: Magic? Tell me what you want to do and the effects, and we’ll work it out from there.
Ian has sent me some of the turn reports that he completed, they’re like mini-novels as they are full of inventive verve. Thankfully some of the essence of the PBM can be found in their Prachettesque novel Genesis (well worth reading, available from Amazon)
The characters of WyrdWorld Inspired some of their greatest miniature creations, including the menacing SNUURG himself.
The independent model-making trade is a tough business, the amount of effort to produce fabulous, finely detailed, expressive miniatures, is rarely rewarded with sufficient income. If you want to learn more about the trials and tribulations of the business, I recommend listening to Ian being interviewed on GMS Magazine podcast. It’s worth listening to, just for the sound of the dog’s ears flapping with vigour every so often.
They have some ideas about developing WyrdWorld in the ‘some-day-maybe’ tray (perhaps the power of the GROGSQUAD can tempt them). Until then, here’s a glimpse into peoples and magicks of Urth.
As promised in the last GROGPOD this is the first in a series of blog posts featuring samples from RPG zines from back in the day.
Long, long before he directed a cast of thousands of Lannister extras to their death, Graham Kinniburgh was a very young Tolkien enthusiast. He has provided some sample pages from his ‘zine for the GROGSQUAD to enjoy:
A short note on Tasarion – a Tolkien Fanzine
GROGPOD listeners will had a gateway author (or perhaps a game) that will have introduced them to world of geekdom. For a small group of friends in Greenock in the West of Scotland at the very dawn of the eighties, that author was the undisputed Lord of Fantasy Fiction himself – JRR Tolkien.
And having fallen on love with the world and works of Middle-Earth, it was perhaps only natural that we would seek out other like-minded souls in the wider world. Of course the internet wasn’t around back then, but an organisation calling itself ‘The Tolkien Society’ did advertise its existence in the back pages of some of the (many) Tolkien related paperbacks that we bought. Letters via snail-mail duly exchanged, and parental cheques dispatched and cashed, we were soon ‘officially’ ‘The Hobbiton Smial’ – ‘smials’ being the name for the various local clusters of Tolkien Society members dotted round the country. What’s more, we were soon in receipt of ‘Amon Hen’ – the Society newsletter, and ‘Mallorn’ its intimidatingly erudite ‘scholarly’ publication.
‘Amon Hen’ contained news of society meetings (aka ‘moots’) and events, articles, short fiction, poetry, artwork and other Tolkienish tid-bits and through its pages we learned that some of the other ‘smials’ were producing their own newsletters too. I’m not sure if we used the word ‘fanzine’ at the time, but that’s what they were and it was only natural, despite the fact that we were only 12 (!!) that we would want to have a stab it too.
Thus was born ‘Tasarion’ our humble little offering to go alongside those other more grown-up publications The production details are practically lost to memory but I do recall struggles with such archaic tech as be-ribboned manual typewriters, pritt-stikk, tipp-ex and ancient photocopiers (issue 2, now seemingly lost to history, was cranked out on something called a Gestetner – which I remember being as hideous to use as its name sounds tripping off the tongue). However, our surviving issues are in surprisingly good condition so we must have done something right and am pleased to notice that the quality of the issues did improve so that they did look a lot more like ‘Amon Hen’ etc by the end.
As for the content, well please bear in mind our age. While we may squirm a little (ok a lot) reading them back now, we do so also rather pleased and proud that we made the effort to give vent to our fledgling imaginations and creativity.
Tasarion lasted for a grand total of 6 issues. Like a young band just hitting its stride with some decent material beginning to sell, we ran into ‘creative differences’; as we hit our moody teens we decided to re-imagine ourselves – no longer the Society’s young ‘halflings’, we wanted to be the bad guys of Middle-Earth and, as inevitable as acne, we re-branded ourselves as ‘The Dark Crown’ (it is for you to decide, dear listener, whether the sight of certain young goth ladies dressed as leather- clad ‘Brides of Sauron’ at the Society’s Oxonmoot in ’82 had anything to do with that decision !).
In short, things other than fanzine production occupied our time – sadly I cannot report that it was the sex, drugs and black-magic infused rock & roll that we craved – but probably even MORE of an obscure little game we’d been playing called Dungeons & Dragons
GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN (with Ian Marsh): Ian Marsh returns to talk about his editorial-ship at White Dwarf and his involvement in Games Workshop. He also talks about Dr Who and his TimeLord game, before bringing us up to date with his latest endeavours.
DAGON (with @dailydwarf): @dailydwarf gives his usual insightful analysis of literary criticism covered in Dagon ‘zine.
ATTIC ATTACK: Blythy joins me in the attic to talk about ‘zines and comments provided by listeners. I mention Monster Man, a new podcast that is being developed by James Holloway, check out progress at his site.
OUTRO: We’re making a ‘zine – sign up at Patreon – before the end of September 2017 to get a copy.
Thank you to all our Patreons for your continued support; without you, we would not have been going for so long.
If you would like a PDF of the last GROGZINE you can get it at Drive Thru RPG and The Complete Daily Dwarf too. All proceeds will go to YSDC to support the community there.
The GROGNARD Files 2018 Annual ‘zine is taking shape ready for its launch at GROGMEET on 11th November. Here’s a taste of what it includes
Monsters! Monsters! Monsters! Contributions from Ken St Andre and Liz Danforth
Deva – setting Pendragon in Chester from Kehaar
A wonderfully out-of-joint Call of Cthulhu scenario by Roger Coe
Better Living through Chemistry – a Judge Dredd RPG scenario from @dailydwarf
A short story from Justin Hill
What happened to Nic Novice? A collaboration with Paul Cockburn and Wayne Peters
The GROGNARD character class from Phil ‘the Dice Mechanic’
Frozen. A further chapter from The Armchair Adventurer’s memoir
A special Open Box with submissions from GROGMEET GMs and GROGSQUAD listeners
The podcast is free, but the overheads and additional projects, such as the ‘zine, are funded through the generous support of Patreons. All Patreons will be sent a hard copy, wherever they are in the world, after the launch. The printing will be limited to the total number of Patreons at the cut-off of 30th September plus 35 for contributors, GROGMEET attendees and review copies.
If you pledge at $3.50 level and above, you’ll also get a hard copies of The Complete Daily Dwarf Volume 2 which includes essays about Fiends, Dagon, Langford, and RuneRites.
PDFs will be available for Patreons joining after the cut off point.
The ‘zine produced last year is now available for download on drive thru RPG on a ‘pay what you want’ basis.
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