The GROGNARD Files

Table-top RPGs from back in the day and today.

As an addendum to Episode 35 and our guest Paul Fricker’s interview, this is a quick overview of Demon’s Drawl, the fanzine that first gave him his lucky break.

First launched in July 1983 Demon’s Drawl was produced for a couple of years before transforming into Telegraph Road. The energy behind the zine was editor Jeremy Nuttall who was based Congleton in Cheshire and it originally emerged from the Chaos Tribe Fantasy RPG Club. Overall, it has the appearance of a collaborative effort with ‘a team’ of contributors who are diligently acknowledged in each issue. The list of participants include some familiar names: David Robinson and GROGSQUAD regular Nick Edwards.

The overall tone of the zine is ‘sensible and committed’ as it lacks some of the fripperies that marked the zine-scene of the time. The resources for its campaign world of Galadra are serious minded, inviting contributions from the readership to create “a consistent, good and believable” world.

At its peak, it had a print run of 400 copies with 80 subscribers, which confirms Nick’s theory that this represented the entire active fandom in the UK at the time and that one in four of them were producing their own ‘zine.

The tone of the ‘Let us talk’ letters-pages debate about ‘Classless Systems” is representative of the general earnest approach: “what happens if I don’t want to play a character who falls within this strict categorisation?”

Most articles were inviting participation by adopting a conversational rather than an authoritative tone. It’s a great example of where the RPG gamers who wanted to push the boundaries of what they were playing could have a space to share ideas.

The editors clearly had an eye for talent too – they must have spotted something in Paul’s contribution: subtle shades of cosmic horror and a precise articulation of the human condition.

* If you want to see more, check out the Patreon only GROGLOCKER at the end of next week.

Dirk the Dice

by Paul Fricker

11 thoughts on “Fanzine Scrapbook: Demon’s Drawl

  1. @mangozoid says:

    Now this is a title I definitely remember – it was far and away one of the biggest and most popular fanzines of the time, and I remember feeling chuffed when my own fanzine(s) got reviewed in here, and whenever I appeared in the letter column… I was a very different animal, back then, I think… lol It all seemed to go Pete Tong when it became Telegraph Road and it seemed like Jeremy had ‘discovered’ religion… Regardless, it was a very impressive production, with great readership figures for the time: anything above 200 was generally considered “doing well”… 🙂

    Alex Bardy

    1. Kevin Mantle says:

      Alex, did you live in North London? I remember ‘killing’ a fanzine editor on his home doorstep in a game of Killer. C. 1986

      1. Alex Bardy says:

        Yeh. Guilty as charged. Although I don’t remember anything about a game of Killer, sorry! I do remember playing a lot of PBM games back then: Vorcon Wars, It’s A Crime!, Tribes of Crane, Crasimoff’s World, etc. I do also recall that Demon’s Drawl’s campaign stuff was actually really good, and even recall nicking one of the locations and setting up a scenario around it. Back then, I started to get much more into Paranoia, CoC (Dagon was awesome), and various Superhero RPGs, before discovering Traveller, 2300AD and Space Master which consumed my RPG interests… Jeez, feeis like a lifetime away, now!

  2. Nick Edwards says:

    Great to see these. I have a couple of copies of DD picked up in last few years on eBay but not these. By mid-80s I seems to remember the atmosphere in fanzines getting quite negative and snippy (I am sure I was no innocent…) in contrast to those parts of the hobby I interact with now. Social skills learned I guess.

    1. Dirk says:

      I like your interventions in the great Irving wars of the 1980s:

      “Oh, Mr Bowen you are so superior to those awful Irvings aren’t you? Firstly, age has nothing to do with it; I’ve seen 21 year olds play like morons and 12 year olds who show a lot of intelligence. Secondly, D&D is not Irvingism, and C&S roleplaying and it makes me very angry when somebody acts if they are above all that. Everybody was an Irving once.”

      I may put “Everybody was an Irving Once” on a Tee-shirt.

      1. Nick Edwards says:

        That’s a quote from me? Oh Gawd. I suppose it could have been worse (and undoubtedly was, many times)

    2. Jeff F says:

      ‘Negative and snippy’, couldn’t agree more. In fact, the reaction to Jeremy’s declaration of his christianity was a pretty good example of that I think. If I remember rightly, one of regular contributors to Rob Nott’s LSD subsequently contributed an article to Demon’s Drawl attempting to do a ‘Dawkins’ on him. Jeremy seemed to take all the abuse with pretty good grace.

      1. Nick Edwards says:

        I agree the reaction to his religious views (which were and are not my views but nothing to get excited about) was a typical example. It all got very factional (as I say I was no less so than anyone else I’m sure) in 85 and 86. I don’t know if it would be less so now – the podcasts that I listen to seem so much more supportive of each other.

  3. Kevin Mantle says:

    Not only did I subscribe to Demon’s Drawl, but I was published in it. I had a CoC scenario, ‘The Will’, if I recall rightly, published. I also did a mini article on coins for the campaign world, and got roundly criticised in the next issue for my lack of metallurgical knowledge. Which was true. I think it was Dave Robinson who spun off his own fanzine, after Jeremy turned it into Telegraph Road.

  4. Brette:) says:

    I’m missing the first 4 issues of this.. alas…

  5. Kevin Mantle says:

    February is zine month on Kickstarter https://creators.kickstarter.com/zine-quest/#lp-pom-block-1327

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