This is the 80th GROGPOD and there is a sense of celebration in the air. We are delighted to have Marcus L Rowland as our guest. He was a stalwart of Whit Dwarf during its hey day. Cthulhu Now! Green Horizon, To Live and Die in Mega City One and the Fear of Flying, his contribution to our gaming imagination back in the day is inestimable.
@DailyDwarf provides a retrospective of his work in White Dwarf.
The first ever Patreon of The GROGNARD Files was Sam Vail and he reveals the first game he played, the last game he played and the game that means everything to him in a lifetime of gaming.
Blythy joins me in the Room of Role Playing Rambling to answer listener questions in the Thunder Phase!
The last time I played GOLDEN HEROES was in 1986 and it was the worst experience of my RPG life.
I’ll recount the story in Episode 20 of the GROGPOD (due in April, 2018), but it was that bad that I stopped playing RPGs for a while afterwards. ConVergence 17 provided a cure for my GMitis that I experienced at the beginning of last year, so I was confident that it would have a similar restorative effect on a deeper, more profound RPG wound.
I don’t mind admitting that I was pretty tense in the run up to the game. Memories of that ’86 experience kept resurfacing as I read through the rules. My anxiety wasn’t helped on the day by rail-replacement providing a similar nightmarish journey that I’d experienced on the way to Spaghetti ConJunction last month. I was 45 minutes late. Welcomed to the gaming table by slow hand-clap.
I needn’t of worried. I was amongst GROGSQUADers and they totally bought into the game and brought their own imagination and gaming insight to the adventure. It was cracking fun and I have a new found love for super hero games.
Here’s the play report, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for the scenario as I may run it again at a convention near you…
The usual format : 5 peaks and one bum-note.
Anyone who has played GOLDEN HEROES will know that part of the fun of the game is its random character creation. Although more modern games allow you to pick your feats and abilities, with GH, you have to spend points to get a roll on a ‘table of powers’ or on an ‘advantageous background table’ to generate your hero.
I didn’t want to lose this element of the game so, I created a card deck of powers and advantageous backgrounds and let the players to draw at random. They had 8 counters to spend on drawing from either deck or they could re-roll one of their initial attributes (which were strictly 3d6), or enhance an existing super power.
The character generation process was slick. Within 40 minutes we had seven heroes. The Players managed to pull together interesting and convincing origin-stories for them all too.
I provided a back story: they were part of a secret army that the monarchy had retained following the formation of Parliament. King Charles II secured this clandestine army and deployed them to protect the Empire and latterly the Commonwealth.
In a secret medical hospital in a remote part of Dartmoor, the King Charles Academy was founded, to enhance the army through experimentation and future tech..
One of the players coined the excellent team name:
Intangible Man: a rich industrialist whose molecular structure was displaced through years of self-experimentation. His gravity manipulation was decisive in the final scene, preventing the Holy Grail plummeting into the depths of Hell.
Sub-Opitmo: A psionic grifter who inadvertently stole some of the future tech developed by Intangible Man’s company. The stolen glider was activated at the most opportune moment.
Mercuria: a wily, silver-skinned, indefatigable, super-fast agent who had adopted the properties of a super car that she’d stolen. Her ricochetting ‘steering’ wheel weapon was hurled at vital battle scenes.
Catalyst: Dr Colin Jervis a highly accomplished Chemist who was a director of the King Charles Academy. Probably better known for his years at Eaton, using molecular chemistry to enhance his right-hook in boxing. His famous ‘Sunday Punch’ is delivered with a cry of ‘It’s time for your Chemistry test!”
Captain SpyFly: Connected and ‘connected’ with a cyber-super-brain of valves and switches, the best that the sixties could offer. He was an agent in active service thanks to his chameleon ability to slip into the shadows.
Newton Einstein III: A psi-onic expert who provided temporary super powers to the team at their hour of need, but most notable for his phenomenal strength,
Professor Penn: Affected by his encounter with a Tibetan mystic and demonologist, he has insight into ancient ways and used his powers to conjurer fantastic beasts to do his bidding.
The Armchair Adventurer rule is that every session needs to start with the characters hitting the ground running; in medias res. The adventure had a fairly conventional ‘you meet a wizard in the tavern’ opening (albeit the wizard is a cryonically persevered corpse of Queen Victoria and the tavern is the vaults in Buckingham Palace).
Therefore, I devised a scene ‘twenty one years before’ in 1963 where the Imperials are asked to stop a run away postal train, heading to London. The train is carrying high value packages and is being robbed by thugs ‘Buster’ and ‘Ronnie’ helped by Skyrider and Beacon (characters that come with the starter set).
It was a fun knock-a-bout encounter that they resolved through clever application of their powers and gave us all a feel for how the game works.
Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail was the second scenario pack published by Games Workshop and was written by Marcus L Rowland. It has a both a dungeon AND a dragon, but its old school credentials do not stop there. The scenario is on rigid tracks on a rail road so defined that it inspired the pre-credit sequence. There are many instructions to the Scenario Supervisor along the lines of “under no circumstances allow …” or “the players will not be able to do …”.
However, it does have a cracking set up, a great villain at the centre of it, some creepy elements, and a couple of cracking set pieces. Once things were loosened up a little, to meet modern sensibilities about player agency, it worked well.
What about jeopardy? That’s the issue with super heroes. That’s why the third act Marvel movies are so eye-poppingly disorientating – crash! bang! wallop! this has GOT to hurt!
The joy of this scenario is that the final scene is a dramatic climax, on the top of a famous London landmark, and it worked really well with all the characters having a decisive impact on the story.
Newton, a character that had been relatively quiet throughout, punched the dragon repeatedly with decisive blows. The villain was pushed into the very flames of Hell (even though the scenario said that she shouldn’t be killed). A very satisfying conclusion.
Spyfly’s cybernetic brain was working overtime attempting to decode the clues to unraveling the conspiracy behind the events. It would have been better deployed trying to calculate the division of damage. Divide it by eleven?
During the course of the six hours, I developed ‘mental arithmetic’ as a super power.
That said, overall, the rules played much easier than they read: fun, loose, the potential to send characters to the brink of incapacitation (in exciting ways) and emulated the genre very effectively.
Another ConVergence triumph. Thanks to Snowy and Kris for organising and to the players (Amy, Neil, Steve, Conrad, his mate Martin, Ian and Blythy) for making it such great fun. The GROGNARD file on GOLDEN HEROES will be released in April.