Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Assault of the Ogroids

It's 1987. You, teenaged ZX Spectrum owner, are reading Sinclair User (possibly while waiting four to six minutes for a game to load which is probably about to R Tape Loading Error anyway) with the nagging feeling that the magazine is just a crappier copy of the far superior Speccy gaming mags Crash and YS(*). This is a negative, but the positive of it being the 1980s is that Basic D&D and FF are hugely in the public eye so that Spectrum magazines(**) keep having articles on tabletop gaming.

And here's one in that very issue of Sinclair User by the blog's favourite-gamer-artist-who-isn't-Russ-Nicholson, Gary Chalk (Lone Wolf/Red Wall/Talisman etc.) that I didn't know existed until yesterday when I found it looking for something entirely different and now totally forgotten.

Assault of the Ogroids is a strange mix of boardgame and random encounter table-driven sandbox. As can be seen if you read the scans (SUBTLE HINT), the idea is to pick a route across a gridded map and reach the other city in the 30 hours time limit. Each square has a terrain type which is keyed to a random encounter table, some of the entries of which are themselves keyed to random encounter subtables which should be manna from heaven for OSR sandbox haven't-a-fucking-clue-what-is-going-on-in-my-own-campaign enthusiasts (SUBTLE HINT).

There is a computer-moderated element to this, but you don't need an 1982 vintage home computer in order to play it - all it does is book-keep and generate d% and d8 results for you. It's going to be less hassle to just do it yourself with paper and dice.

Yes children, once upon a time we actually had to type in the source code ourselves if we wanted to run the thing. And then debug our typing errors. And then debug the typesetters typing errors. And then debug the coders errors. Upon such things men were built.

A couple of simple mechanics might arouse the interest of OSR sandboxers. Firstly, each terrain type has a time cost to cross it, meaning that the player has to balance crossing mountains with going around them and decide which is quickest. Secondly, the players stats detoriate with each square crossed with hard, fatiguing terrain costing more. Thirdly, you can run from any encounter but then you will "scatter" from the space which may put you in harder, slower terrain you didn't want to be in.

P.S. Any game in which your character token is represented as a man running away frit is Old School in my book.

(*) Sinclair User started off as a hobbyist magazine for early ZX81/Spectrum adopters but went downhill when the audience changed to a younger, games playing demographic.

(**) Maybe C64 magazines as well but who gives a fuck? Amstrad? Did they make computers?

(Scans from

Friday, 26 August 2011

This Is Megadungeon

On the grounds that the real thing is even more awesome than you could ever imagine...

The Rumble Room, Tennessee. Click them all to embiggen (well worth it).


Monday, 22 August 2011

The Lichway

The Lichway - Albie Fiore's classic scenario from White Dwarf 9, Oct/Nov 1978. The first of the great scenarios that WD became known for.

The trouble with posting about The Lichway is that I'd feel a fraud talking about it as I wasn't there Back In The Day so can't really offer an opinion on it's influence. Older and wiser heads would just shake sadly. Instead I'll just leave these here so you can appreciate it yourself.

POP QUIZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - For whom does The Lichway directly lead to a knighthood? I mean a real one, in the real world with the Queen and a sword and everything - answer is below...

Our later-to-be-knighted-pop-quiz-question-answer was once invited by a neighbour to play in some strange new American game called Dungeons and Dragons and the scenario the DM neighbour was running was of course The Lichway. Instantly made a fan of D&D, this individual decided to take up the DM's mantle himself and created a world full of slightly off-beat creations.

One of his creations was a in-game justification of the "Vancian" one shot magic system of D&D. In his gameworld, spells were effectively demons that took up temporary residence inside your brain and exited once cast, memorizing the spells in the first instance being a process of encouraging the sentient spell to leave the page of the spellbook and climb inside the MU's head.

His campaign also involved luggage made from sapient pearwood, an upside mountain and the whole thing was flat, disc-shaped and carried on the back of four elephants, who were themselves atop a giant turtle swimming in space.

The Lichway was massively influential upon Britgaming, but even more influential upon the stock lists and future profits of WHSmiths.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


We regret to inform those whom it may concern but the Boy Coop has temporarily run out of words. Until suitable words can be found again please accept, by way of recompense, pictures.