When I first encountered roleplaying games in the early 1990s, the hobby was already about 20 years old. The first games I’ve played were Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition, West End Games’ TORG, and FASA’s Shadowrun. It was even later when I first played AD&D 2nd Edition. Back in the day, I didn’t know much about our hobby’s history. I had an idea who Gary Gygax was, but I knew next of nothing about older editions of D&D and the company that was TSR.
A couple of years back, Mongoose released Shannon Applecline’s Designers & Dragons, a huge book, containing our hobby’s history from the early 1970s to today. I eventually got a PDF copy of said book and I totally loved it. For me it never felt sufficient to play these games but also learn to know the people behind those games. Designers & Dragons is a great way to learn more about our hobby, the RPG industry, and the ups and downs over the last 40 years.
In 2014 Evil Hat Productions is going to release the first book of a new Designers & Dragons book series. Instead of releasing one tome they’ve decided to split Designers & Dragons into several volumes, each focusing on one decade. But they are not content with just rereleasing the old book in a new format. The material has been expanded upon and there’s new information that fills the gaps in what came before. The first book is expected to be released in mid-2014 but they are already releasing the TSR chapter from the 1970s book as a free 121-paged sneak peek. You can download the PDF from the official Designers & Dragons website. Enjoy!
This morning I finished reading “The Atrocity Archive”, a short novel by author Charles Stross, which has been released in the book called “The Atrocity Archives” which also contains the short story “The Concrete Jungle” also written by Stross. Although I had to struggle with Stross’ writing style a couple of times I had a blast reading the book. So what’s the Atrocity Archive about?
It’s the story of Bob Howard, an IT guy working for The Laundry, a UK secret government agency which protects the UK from all kinds of Lovecraftian horrors. It’s not set in Lovecraft’s world per se, but Stross was definitely inspired by it and he even mentions Cthulhu and Nyarlathothep among other things. Over the course of the story the protagonist transfers to active duty in the agency, has to deal with the insane bureaucracy of The Laundry, fight extrauniversal horrors, and deal with a threat that could very well be the end of our known universe. Whoah! I won’t get into more detail on the story here, because the story holds a couple of interesting surprises that I don’t want to spoil here. All this is accompanied by a healthy dose of a pretty dark British humor.
Stross’ writing style is fast, sometimes a bit overwhelming, but always fun to read and very cinematic. I am pretty sure the book could easily be turned into an exciting movie. Ah, I forgot to mention one important aspect of the fictional universe the story is set in: mathematics can be magic. There are certain calculations that open leaks to other, distant universes. Luckily the maths involved are very complicated and before the advent of computers it was very had to pull off certain spells. But nowadays you can run magic software on your Palm Pilot (or Necronomiphone). This is unknown to the world and everyone who stumbles upon this secret – cultists, mathematicians, the IT guy in your company’s basement – are either killed or recruited to The Laundry or similar agencies.
If you now think this would make a great setting for a roleplaying game then you’re right. There even is an official The Laundry RPG by Cubicle 7 using Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system. But if you prefer a system more suited to the pulpy style of Stross’ stories, you could probably run a game using Savage Worlds, Realms of Cthulhu, and Agents of Oblivion. Whatever you use The Laundry Files series for, inspiration for your Call of Cthulhu game or just for your entertainment, it’s definitely highly recommended to anyone who likes Lovecraftian horror, British humor, and has at least some familiarity with higher mathematics or working in IT.
Yesterday I picked up the latest Bundle of Holding containing 6 Hero System products, namely Champions Complete, The Hero System Equipment Guide, the Hero System Resource Kit, Fantasy Hero, Pulp Hero, and Star Hero. I have to admit I haven’t played any Hero System game before, but I own the Hero Basic Rulebook for 6th Edition which I leafed through a couple of times. While Hero System looks a bit crunchier than my regular fare (especially when it comes to character creation) I am interested to give it a try in the future.
But since I am no Hero System veteran some questions cropped up. Is the Basic Rulebook sufficient to make use of the books in the Bundle of Holding? How compatible is the 6th Edition to the 5th? Luckily the three bonus books in the bundle are not just Hero System sourcebooks but more like treatises of their respective genres. I’m sure I’ll get my money’s worth out of Fantasy Hero and Star Hero even without actually running a Hero System game.
Are there any Hero System experts among my readers? If so, could you please share your experiences with Hero System with me? What should I pick up in the future to being able to properly run a game using the system or should the Basic Rulebook have me covered? As always every comment is highly appreciated.
And if you haven’t done so, check out the Hero System Bundle. It’s an awesome value for the minimum price of just $6.95. If you’re beating the average price, you’ll get all the stuff listed above including the awesome Fantasy Hero and Star Hero.