Heroes on a Hill
was Avalon Hill's house organish magazine for its johnny-come-lately roleplaying line. (Gygax and crew had offered the original D&D manuscript to the boys on the Hill and got shot down. If you want to know why Hasbro now owns AH, I think the answer may go back to this one bad call in the early 70's.) As I recall AH rolled out 4 different RPGs, which Heroes
was intended to support: Powers & Perils
, James Bond 007
, and Lords of Creation
. Each of these games are interesting to talk about in different ways. I've never looked at a copy of Powers & Perils
or Avalon Hill's version of Runequest
, so the information I pass on is totally second had. Please email me
P&P, according to my sources, was an old school game involving dragons and dungeons and what-all. I've heard conflicting reports on P&P's playability. Some maintain that it was an unplayable mess. Others says that the game worked, but it was complicated and suffered from piss-poor organization. As I look back on it now I am struck by how naive the folks at AH were. D&D had its own cartoon and kiddie merchandise, for crying out loud. Taking on the 900lb gorilla of the rpg world with a direct competitor gets you nowheresville, man. Of course, I'm leveling that criticism through the lens of 20 years or so hindsight, where I can see that it took Vampire
to put a real dent in D&D's leadership position. Either way, I've never had more than passing interest in P&P. By the time it came up on my radar my group already had 3 or 4 versions of D&D and maybe MERP and/or Rolemaster
. We didn't need another game involving swords and spells. For chrissakes, we had way too many already by 1983.
Back then my initial reaction to Runequest
was much the same. "Oh look! It has trolls! And magic! Gee whiz. Whoop dee friggin' doo." We were just a bunch of dumb kids and had no idea what Glorantha was. The Hill didn't seem too confident that we would care about Glorantha, since it sold some non-Gloranthan supplements for its edition of RQ. It didn't help. "Hey, the campaign world if so cool
they'll sell you alternate settings!" For that matter Avalon Hill sure wasn't making it easy on themselves by trying to sell 2 fantasy games side-by-side. Prior to the OGL explosion you just couldn't get away with shit like that.
(Failing to get into one of the deep settings of the 80's (Glorantha, Jorune, Tekumel, etc.) may have been one of the great missed opportunities of my gaming youth. We played MERP but never really got into the setting. It was just D&D with kewler rulz. The other boat we missed was Star Wars
. I still don't understand why we didn't try West End's Star Wars
rpg. Maybe it had something to do with action figures. Or dice pools. I'm not sure.) James Bond 007
has been hailed as one of the great games designs that successfully married setting with system. Unfortunately, like most licensed properties, it suffered a premature death. (Each side says the other expressed an interest in letting the license drop.) The system itself is so smooth that people still speak well of it today. Game guru Gareth-Michael Skarka looks to the 007 rpg as mechanical inspiration for his hopefully-forthcoming-someday 80's neo-pulp rpg. You can find on the net people who use the Bond system to replace game mechanics for Space Opera
I owned the Bond basic set and the Q Manual
back in the day. We never did much actual gaming with it, even though we all acknowledged that it was incredibly cool stuff. It had guns and girls and gadgets. What else did it need? We went through all the usual ritual behavior associated with owning but not playing a well-loved rpg: making characters, pawing through the equipment book, etc. I think two factors kept us away from actual play. First, the two chart system, while smooth, is about one chart too many for a junior high gamer. Second, we had no idea how to write a decent espionage adventure. Twenty or so years later I'm still not sure if I can write one. That's why I'm looking into getting the official modules.
I have no memory of Lords of Creation
making any sort of impression on me as a kid. Certainly I saw the advertisements in the Dragon
magazines of the era. It wasn't until college or not long thereafter that I became interested in the game. Somewhere along the way I heard that one of the sample universes in the back of the LoC rulebook was based upon the visionary poetry of William Blake. Now I own the boxed set and all three published modules. That makes Lords of Creation
one of the few complete sets in my gaming collection. For a "more than complete" set I would also need, among other things, all the published magazine articles.
Which brings us back to Heroes Magazine
. Like many gaming magazines Heroes
didn't last very long. Of the ten issues published (Volume I went to six issues, Volume II to 4), seven of them contain LoC articles. Two more have no LoC, but contain 007 material. That leaves one issue (Volume II, number 1) with no stuff of direct use to me. It's my uderstanding that the issue in question is chock full of RQ.
Posted by jrients
at 10:56 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, 14 May 2004 12:45 PM CDT