12 Days of the UK OSR Day 3: Fighting Fantasist

Lazy post this one.

The US D&D OSR has Grognardia.

We have Fighting Fantasist and his companion tumblr blog which serves up images of old 80s White Dwarf/Games Workshop art.

Then of course there’s his classic declaration of what the UK OSR is;

Coopdevil is much more eloquent at rambling on about the history and joys of the UK OSR, and he usually gets there first.  Witness his masterful review of all that is good and wonderfull about “What is Dungeons and Dragons?” , a book put out by Penguin/Puffin in the 80s from which I pretty much learnt how to play the game.

So do your self a favour at his blog to yer list 😉

12 Days of the UK OSR Day 2: BRP Rome

BRP ROME COVERFor my first UK OSR review, I’ll be looking at Basic Roleplaying Rome published by Alephtar games for Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying Game, by UK author Pete Nash.

The first half of the book gives a full comprehensive guide of the Roman Republic from its foundation to the its end with Augustus’ establishment of the Empire.  There’s a lot of info here, that is peppered with pull out boxes of gameable info. You could argue that by picking up the right selection of history text books you could produce a similar guide, but the genius of BRP Rome is that it does this heavy lifting then peppers it with gameable nuggets (such as some rules for Chariot racing) in highlight boxes scattered throughout the text.

The second half of he book gets down to business giving rules for Character gen, distinctive Roman Magic and Creatures. Finally there is a selection of Adventure seeds and biblography.

Why this book is important to the UK OSR?

Despite being published by an Italian company (which is very apt 😉 ), its by a British Author ( Pete Nash – one half of the Design Mechanism that are now working on RuneQuest 6). It is a break out product that shows that UK RPG writers can get international acclaim.  Without any reviews it got a Silver Ennie, an awards ceremony infamously dominated by 3.5 D&D product.

Apart from the core rules, its very much a solid all in one book. UK game books in the 80s were very good at craming as much gameable material in between the covers, and this continues that tradition. In many ways it could have been released as a series of White Dwarf articles back in the day. “Ancient Rome using RQ”, with parts 1-3 coveriing the setting material, whille 4-5 covering the rules specific chapters (chapter 6 would have had to have been a Fiend Factory special 🙂 ).

To my mind it sets the bar high, of what a UK style book can achive in today’s crowded market as well being a bloody good gamebook which can run a wide range of Roman games out of the box.

12 Days of the UK OSR : Introduction

Ok so if you are going from day 1 of the 12 days of XMAS being Christmas Day, I’m one day late but hey according to Wikipedia some traditions start it on Boxing Day and besides I was busy on XMAS day 😛

So onto business. Seems like some folk still need an education about what us UK gamers consider Old School, I’m looking at you narrow minded Yanks here with your love of an Original D&D that never was.  One US OSR fanzine editor noted that in his recent trips over to Dragonmeet & UK Games Expo he hadn’t seen any evidence of OSR publishers….he obviously hadn’t looked at the Cubicle 7 stand , who publish a fine selection of UK OSR games. If you think the UK OSR is just about D&D clones, read on.

For us Brits the Old School is anything that we could have picked up from Games Workshop from the late 70s to late 80s. Sure there may have been other games shops lurking in backstreets of our cities but Games Workshop was the important one, it had a big high street presence in all major cities, and that’s were everyone got their games. They published White Dwarf that was sold in mainstream newsagents, like WH Smiths. The end point of the UK Old school can be very neatly when GW, who had merged with Citadel Miniatures a couple of years previous, dumped RPG support in 1988, quite literally overnight. There’s a reason why RuneQuest is so big in the UK, its because you could pick up GW’s RQ3 hard covers dirt cheap from the bargain bin when they decided to concentrate on miniatures games.  Others took up the retail side of RPGs, notably the games sections of Virgin megastores (where a young Lawrence Whitaker was employed in the Leeds branch), and over time the network of games shops we have today grew up; but it was never on the scale of the halcyon days of 80s Games Workshop.

But in a sense these games never really left us, mainly because of geographical proximity of gamers in this country its easy to find someone playing old school games, and because its a shared gaming heritage amongst UK gamers of playing : D&D*, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 1st Edition, Games Workshop’s Judge Dredd Roleplaying game, Golden Heroes,  Dragon Warriors, RuneQuest*, Stormbringer*, Traveller* and Call of Cthulhu*  (* all these games although not developed by GW had GW editions at some point in the UK).

So its no surprise that with the resurgence of RPG publishing that has occurred over the last decade, that some of these games have re-emerged in new editions or games that have directly been influenced by the fine standards set by those 80s games.

Over the next twelve days I will be quickly reviewing what I consider the highlights of the UK Old School Renaissance 🙂

Age of Shadow PDF bundle

The excellent OQ powered Age of Shadow is up for a XMAS sale, over at DriveThroughRPG.com

Here’s the blurb

For a limited time you can grab all three of the current booklets from the Age of Shadow Range for just $5. These include:

The Age of Shadow RPG – a complete fantasy role-playing games based upon the OpenQuest System.

The Age of Shadow Campaign Guide – an introductory booklet that deals with the specifics of the Age of Shadow setting.

East Eyre Fortress Map-pack – more than 40 maps depicting one of the great fortifications of the Northern kingdom.

Crisis of multiple RuneQuests!

“Arrrgh my leetle brain can not handle it” is what some of you will probably be thinking when you contemplate the number of RQ like systems that are available now or in the near future.

This time next year there will be at least :

Renaissance* (Black powder era flavoured RQ)
BRP with the Magic supplement
and of course

RuneQuest 6 itself.

(Systems marked * are OGL)

RQ 6 of course is the 400lb gorilla in the room. If you are a 3rd party publisher who is focusing on the sales you want to go that way. Lawrence & Pete are excellent authors, who I know are polishing and fine tuning the work they started with with MRQ2 into something that will be slick and awesome, that will have a solid schedule of support supplements which will have the same level of care and attention paid to them as the core rulebook. Pete n Loz’s legacy of MRQ2 and work they did on other systems during their short stint at Mongoose (Traveller – Judge Dredd and Strontium Dogs were ably pulled together by Loz, while Pete worked on the Lone Wolf multiplayer for example) speaks volumes.  The’ve also partnered with Moon Designs as a publisher, who are in turn distributed by Cubicle 7.  MD have successfully resurrected the fortunes of Glorantha and HeroQuest, making them playable and accessible to new players, without compromising the artistic vision of either, and been able to support books of a very high page count with large amounts of art and stay in business. With C7’s powerful distribution behind them, it means you’ll be seeing MD books in your local gaming shop.  The HQ Gaming license is simple to follow (no standalone games, page references to the rules with a very simple approval process to make sure that nothing obscene like a HQ F.A.T.A.L gets released). I speak from experience here and RQ6 will have a virtually identical license.

So where does this leave OQ? Well I must confess that when I heard Loz n Pete were going to be doing RQ6 I thought “Oh Funk that’s the end of it” and nearly gave up there and then. Then I remembered all the lovely OpenQuest fans, who regularly say nice things about the game and egg me on, how Rik and John have poured their hearts and soul into The Company (Modern OQ) and River of Heaven (Sci-fi OQ), to mention how much fun I’ve had with OQ and quickly realised that quiting was not an option. I’m also very hopeful that supporting OQ financially is a viable option as well, since people say repeatedly they like the simplicity of OQ over the other interactions of D100. OQ sells steadily enough to support itself. In other words OQ has its niche. With The Company & River of Heaven its quite a solid “Fist of Fun” too 🙂

I’ve always held that D100, like D&D, is a shared gaming language and that its worth keeping it alive. 2012 is going to strength the options that D100 players both old and new have and I hope that the community of gamers see this as a positive thing, taking what they like form the various releases to run the most fun game of D100 they can. This is certainly the case in the D&D OSR and I hope this something D100 fans learn quickly rather than descend into arguing the merits of their favoured system. Early signs ,from the various forum discussions that have sprung up around the release of Legend, seems that this is the case 🙂