It’s taken us 50 podcasts to dedicate an episode to White Dwarf. It was the centre of our RPG lives when we were teenagers.
In this episode Mike Brunton tells us how he got into RPGs and worked with TSR UK and Imagine magazine. Next time he will be relating his experiences as editor of White Dwarf and working for Games Workshop.
Neil Hopkins provides his First, Last and Everything. He created solo adventures for Quasits and Quasars
Eddy tells the story of the fateful night when he answered a small ad.
We are encouraging everyone to sign up to become a King of Dungeons (because it is awesome).
Blythy joins me for a run through some White Dwarf bag issues and to talk crisps.
I’ve spent the weekend packing and addressing envelopes stuffed with the GROGZINE19 (and associated extras for Patreon backers at different levels). If you live in the UK, you can expect to receive it around the weekend.
This year we have designed the zine as a homage to the golden age of UK RPG zines from the early to mid 80s. One of the favourites from the era was Quasits & Quasars. There were 10 issues, including a team-up with DragonLords, and it is the latest to appear in the sluggish, Fanzine Festival.
“Played once, never again”
Edited by David Hulks, supported by his friend and GROGSQUADer Neil Hopkins (he’s done a great First, Last and Everything for Episode 29 of the GROGPOD), Quasit & Quasars was more about good content, rather than fiery exchange of opinion, by providing scenarios and other GM resources for both fantasy and SF genre games.
Unlike many others, it also featured solo games, Neil recalls carefully cutting and pasting the paragraphs together, using real scissors and glue, when composing the adventures.
From the three copies that I’ve studied (on loan from Doc Con’s Marc Gascoigne wing of his extensive RPG library) there’s a certain bias towards Tunnels and Trolls, which split opinion on the letters page. It was protected by the editors, promising a feature every other issue; as for Gangster! well, Gangster! got hit!
Dirk the Dice
The covers represented their coverage of the fantastic and the futuristic
One of the great aspects of the Golden Heroes podcast is discovering players around the world who have a fondness for the game. Jerry Nuckolls from Texas, for example, was impressed at the sight of the original, self-published edition, so I sent it to him. He’s going to write a piece for us, comparing the original rules with the Games Workshop version, until then, here’s a short video:
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.
Another entry in the Armchair Adventurer’s archive. GROGSQUAD member Nick Edwards was an active collector, contributor and correspondent to the British ‘Zine Scene back in the eighties. He contacted me about helping to fill gaps in his collection, specifically Runestone, a ‘zine he was involved in. He very kindly agreed to share some of his collection and his experiences to add to add to the expanding Armchair Adventurer Library.
I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when I was in primary school, aged 9 or 10 in 1980 – by my older brother who played with a couple of friends in the pub over the road (the landlord’s son was the DM).
Playing in a pub was great as we were allowed the amazing treat of a free coke each. It’s also why the smell of stale beer that you get in old pubs always reminds me of childhood. Pretty soon I bought my own gear (the shop in Bristol was Forever People which made up the entirety of my Christmas list for a number of years) and in those first few years we ran D&D (then AD&D), Traveller, Bushido, Gamma World, Golden Heroes, Boot Hill, Aftermath and a few I can’t remember. Pretty soon I was keener on DMing than playing.
For AD&D, we played through Tomb of Horrors, the Giants series, the Slavers series, Queen of the Demonweb Pits and so on. Call of Cthulhu came along and captured my imagination, as did creating my own scenarios and even games. I remember running Order of the Silver Twilight from one of the early campaigns and the lack of combat was eye opening. This was a time when the hobby was reinventing itself regularly as games and gaming became more sophisticated – from the dungeon to the wilderness to the city to story-driven and looser adventures. Through senior school I continued playing with a couple of other friends although it had largely petered out by the time I was 15.
At the same time, I had started getting into the fanzine scene. I answered ads in the back of White Dwarf. Dragonlords was the early one that everyone has heard of but I remember Acoloyte, SEWERS, Beholder, News from Bree, among others. The early ones were largely about the mechanics of the games themselves and written by students but Dragonlords seemed to start a move towards more general.
Being at school, living in the countryside and not knowing anyone who had ever been university, I found this completely engrossing. Fanzines were a major thing when they came through the post. It was a glimpse of a different kind of life, more intellectual, more challenging and with better music (I liked heavy metal at the time and my musical taste today remains an odd combination of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Smiths, Joy Division and Talking Heads – basically everything I liked between the ages of 13 and 17 but mixed together.
I started writing letters to the zines and meeting some of the people at conventions like Games Day and the weekend one at Warwick. Presumably I was quite annoying – sorry guys. New fanzines came out with a fairly clear split between Dragonlords generation who had since graduated and those edited by schoolboys. The latter had a higher chance of being pretty lame but everyone was fairly understanding.
I started by co-editing a fanzine called Runestone by a guy called Bill Lucas – I can’t remember how it came about but a belated thanks to Bill (I was probably too self-absorbed to be grateful at the time).
Following that, I did my own thing called Manic Depressive (why I chose that name is beyond me – I wasn’t) which, I seem to remember, was a collection of mini-zines by other people (there was a term for it which I now forget). Then I did maybe half a dozen issues of Iron Orchid, which was all me and which I have fondest memories of – I was experimenting with design, politics, music and the gaming had largely disappeared (at this point the cool zines were largely devoid of actual gaming which was fine but there was a bit of a whiff of embarrassment about RPGs). And finally I co-edited (or perhaps I was more of a contributor) of some more occasional fanzines by Jez Keen, called Love in the Garden (his other zine was Next Stop Jupiter). He was more talented and older than me – so again I am grateful for the hand-up. The whole thing was a lot of fun but then the scene began to fracture – there were more cliques, more anger and feuds. Looking back some of it was just bullying. There wasn’t a lot of empathy or compromise – people with poor social skills are attracted to roleplaying after all (I count myself in this). People started to publicly drop out, closing zines in protest. I remember being sad about it at the time though I probably took my share of sides.
By the time I went to university (Warwick – chosen largely because some of the best fanzines were produced there a few years earlier). I was largely out of the scene and had certainly stopped being interested in the games. (to be continued)
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
In the latest GROGPOD we discuss ‘zines in general and DragonLords in particular. Our guest contributor Ian Marsh edited the zine with his friends Mike Lewis and Marc Gascoigne and was remarkable for its irreverent coverage of the hobby. Its self-deprecating tag line “Yet Another Fantasy & Sci-Fi Roleplaying Magazine” reflected its satirical tone that earned it the reputation of the Private Eye of RPGs. There were 22 issues published with short print runs so it’s difficult to get your hands on copies. A dedicated collector like Ed in his Shed would turn his nose up at prices of £50 to £150 asked for on sites like eBay. The final issue is difficult to find as it had a short print run. Ian says that it was particularly eccentric and wild as he knew it was the last one.
You’ll find PDFs and copies of the covers if you search long enough, but I thought it would be good to feature some illustrative content, provided by Ian, to support some of the discussion we had on the GROGPOD.
Warning high nipple content. This was Dragon Lords after all!