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Jeff's Gameblog
Friday, 14 May 2004
Heroes on a Hill
Heroes Magazine 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, RuneQuest, 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 any corrections.

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 and Traveller.

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
Thursday, 13 May 2004

It looks like "Home Team", my Heroes Unlimited campaign set in 80's Marvel Manhattan, will be running tomorrow night. Paul Pomykala plans on dropping by. He doesn't know it yet, but I think I will ask him to guest star as Nomad. Of course, I'll need to stat him up and maybe alter my comic cover accordingly.

Posted by jrients at 3:15 PM CDT
Wednesday, 12 May 2004

I got to chat on the phone briefly with my buddy Pat today. It seems he picked up a copy of Jason Blair's new rpg Wyrd is Bond (review, official site) which has stirred up some interest over at RPG.net. Apparently its a game of magic-using hip-hop street gangs. With Aleister Crowley as the leader of one of the gangs. What?

Mr. Blair stirred up some controversy back in '01 with his dark rpg Little Fears (nine separate reviews in the RPG.net review section, Forge review, official website). Little Fears is a horror rpg in which all the PCs are children and the monsters in the closet and under the bed are all too real. Pretty creepy stuff, I've heard.

Posted by jrients at 8:56 PM CDT
Holes in the Pen & Paper database
The Pen & Paper database is one of my favorite online resources. However, it is not yet complete and basically relies on fan submissions to expand it. After some quick searches through the database, I discovered the following holes that I should be able to plug:

Boot Hill 2nd edition
Boot Hill referee's screen & mini-module
Gangbusters entire line
Lords of Creation modules
Gamma World 1st edition
Legion of Gold
Dawn Patrol
Dungeoneer magazine
various Judges Guild products
Transdimensional TMNT

Posted by jrients at 4:06 PM CDT

Good news! My two submissions to the Star Trek Star Ship Tactical Combat Simulator Millennium Update & Archive were included among the most recent massive update.

EDIT: fixed linky

Posted by jrients at 3:52 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 May 2004 3:23 PM CDT

Over lunch today I drove over the library. They had in The Falklands War 1982 by Duncan Anderson, part of Osprey's "Essential History" line. It a slim volume, covering the war in 92 pages. I wonder if Osprey has a book on the Franco-Prussion War? (EDIT to add: Yes, they do have an "Essential History" of the Franco-Prussian War. I googled up Osprey's website. Man, these guys are cool. They got 3 or 4 other books about the Falklands as well as lots and lots of other stuff.)

I also renewed Martin Gilbert's The First World War. I've only got about a hundred pages left to go and I'm dying to find out which side won. ;)

Posted by jrients at 3:01 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 May 2004 3:08 PM CDT
Speaking of the eBay...
Uncle Ted, one of the regular purveyors of rpg crap on eBay, is doing some grab bag sales. His ten random rpg products for a ten-spot looks like it might be fun. Even with s&h that's still less than 2 bucks a book.

Posted by jrients at 12:58 PM CDT

A quick glance at my BattleTech pages shows it to be too damn sparse. I need to write and post a Scenario #2. It's pathetic to have a single scenario and label it #1. I also need to work on my Ostroc variants and maybe stat out the Jester. Also, I think a brief overview of Proton Fire, the vaporware competitor to BattleTech, would be cool.

Posted by jrients at 11:58 AM CDT
PayPal is only optional if you're a moron.
I thought I had found a deal to buy a lot of four James Bond 007 rpg books of the eBay. The lot included the core book, the indispensible Q Manual, the For Your Information GMs supplement and an adventure. Certainly a sufficient amount of Bondery to kickstart a campaign. The min bid was $9.99 and the s&h was 8, not a great deal, but still less than 5 bucks a book.

But this dorkus won't accept PayPal. Game over, man. I use alternative payment methods when I really want a rare item bad, but 007 stuff comes up all the frickin' time. No PayPal is a deal breaker. When it comes to online shopping of any kind, I just can't make an impulse purchase without the PayPal. The extra steps involved in getting a money order or calling and giving some schmuck a card number just kills my consumer buzz.

Posted by jrients at 11:15 AM CDT
Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Home sick today, my sinuses are getting the better of me. I'm online long enough to check my eBay auctions and Game Courier games, and to send Don & Sue a note about playing my "Home Team" campaign on Friday night. Since I was already in front of the computer, I also printed out a few Gamma World articles from my Dragon CD-ROM.

Posted by jrients at 4:08 PM CDT

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