Thursday, 29 November 2012

Whatever happened to Golden Heroes?

An early cover of WD!
Back in the early days, when I was still at school and playing Dungeons and Dragons, I picked up a copy of White Dwarf at the newsagent. Big mistake. It opened up a whole world of RPG opportunity for me. While I was most interested in anything to do with D and D (most of it was AD and D, so still a bit intimidating for me at 15), it was the Dwarf's articles on Call of Cthulhu that first led me to buy that game, a game that would dominate much of my RPGing in the 1990s.

Interestingly, if you look back at the White Dwarfs published in the 1980s, particularly when I was a regular reader (from about #65 to #100), there were very few games covered, simply because there weren't that many in print. To begin with, it seems to be AD and D, Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest and Traveller. Games Workshop then acquired the license to a number of other RPGs and republished them. These games also received coverage, including Stormbringer and Paranoia. There was cursory writing for the likes of Bushido, Pendragon and Rolemaster. GW published a Judge Dredd RPG off its own bat to seemingly mixed success in about 1986.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay debuted in, I think, 1987, and subsequently this continued to get regular articles until elbowed out by all the wargaming. This was a GW in-house system, mind you, so not surprising really. And then there was MERP, or Middle Earth Role Playing for those born after the Berlin Wall came down who have no idea what I'm talking about, which seemed to be more popular than Rolemaster.

Angus McBride helped to define MERP
I stopped subscribing to the Dwarf round about 1988. I didn't have the money or the space to play miniatures games (I've only really begun collecting miniatures since I came to Brighton), and I also had my A-levels to worry about. Of all the RPGs mentioned above, however, only MERP is not back in print (and it could be argued that AD and D never went out of print). Some have evolved more than others - today's WFRP from Fantasy Flight is very different from Rick Priestley's creation of 1987. MERP, being a licensed property, is a goner, although here you could argue that The One Ring from Cubicle 7 is a worthy successor.

But, although we have seen WFRP earn thousands of fans around the world, and it is still played by my gaming group today (albeit in the Black Library edition), there is one game missing here, and that's Golden Heroes.

GH was GW's superhero RPG and it DID get plenty of space in White Dwarf, around the 60s and 70s in terms of issue chronology. It was first published in 1982 on an amateur basis, and then republished by GW in 1984. A number of supplements also came out. Although I never played it myself, I hear veteran gamers liked it because of its UK-centric approach and the random chargen process. It fell off the map in about 1986 as GW began focusing on Judge Dredd and other RPG properties.

There seems to be a move at the moment to resurrect it. GW, however, has issued a cease and desist order on the first effort, by Simon Burley, but another edition, called Codename: Spandex has emerged with many of the copyright protected elements stripped off, and is being made freely available on the Internet. I'm curious about GH as I never got around to playing it as a schoolboy, but CS aspires to deliver much of the mechanical system of the game without using the art or adventures published by GW. I'll be back with more once I've had a chance to read this in more depth.

Looking back at the period 1985-90, I was playing Dungeons and Dragons fairly solidly. I never really got into RQ or Traveller, never played MERP before it died a death. I've since had the chance to play or GM many of the systems that GW published during my school years, but some games have continued to elude me: I've never played Traveller or Bushido for example. And Golden Heroes has been way off the radar, partly because it never really returned to print. While I realise that superhero gaming is not for everyone, I remain curious about GH, if only for nostalgia's sake. I'm also a fan of random character generation systems, simply because they're so old school and can end up producing more entertaining characters than today's optimised combat monsters.


  1. Ah yes, Games Workshop's odd approach to product ownership strikes again. I played Golden Heroes once, many years ago, and I don't remember much about it except that it had a weird and complicated initiative system.

    I'm shocked that you've never played Traveller. Even I've played it, although it was the horrible, crunchy The New Era version. I wonder if Ben will let us play it?

    As for Bushido, I've not played it either, but you can buy the pdf from Fantasy Games Unlimited if you can navigate their wonky site.

  2. Oh, and the new version of Squadron UK -- the revamped Golden Heroes in other words -- is available here in pdf or print.

  3. Unfortunately Squadron UK is rife with typographical and grammatical errors and is just not a very well done game. It's not Golden Heroes; a lot has changed for the worse. Sad but true as I was very excited when I heard of Squadron UK.

    Bushido is a fantastic game and the FGU site is quite easy to navigate.

    Well almost, the Scenarios have been turned into a surcebook. which includes the unpublished "LANCELOT CAPER"

    A Superhero sourcebook for the United Kingdom. Based on the scenarios of THE British Superhero game of the mid 80’s.

    Back in the day, there was a superhero RPG published in the UK. It was originally an A5 printed booklet, then a box set with two supplements, a couple of boxes of lead figures, some articles and scenarios in a certain gaming magazines. Its name is own by a third party so cannot be mentioned, let’s just say some of the Heroes were Golden

    Well that was 30 years ago, and we still have a soft spot for the original game. Which is where Legacy comes in. [Redacted]* was a superhero game set in the UK, what Legacy does is, to take those original scenarios and articles, update and expand on them and create a coherent universe, where the UK is the predominated place for superheroes.

    These are the old scenarios used to create a universe for British Heroes.

    Crossfire (an Alien Exchange) Legacy of Eagles
    Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail
    The Lancelot Caper (unpublished)
    American Dream
    Peking Duck
    Pilcomayo Project
    Contagion, Coincidence & Confusion

    The goal for this project is get enough money to pay for proofreading and editing. Nothing too ambitious. Nice and simple.

    This is Legacy, a sourcebook for roleplaying superheroes on the streets on the streets of the UK. The book which currently stands at 140 pages will have background material on why some people are superpowered and other aren’t, it will have details of various Villains old and new, there is an origin scenario which is an update of the Pilcomayo Project.

    The book will also contain: stuff on Time Travel, parallel dimensions, the source of both magic and superpowers, there is a chapter America, the EAGLES (from Legacy of EAGLES), a vast array of background information , The book also includes a century of Heroes, a year by year almanac of heroes since 1900. And details of the Official British superhero teams since 1899. Including the Queens own Shadow V.
    All in all, it is everything you might need to run a superhero adventure in the United Kingdom.

    This Sceptered Isle has called. Its time to talc up the spandex and get pledging: