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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Heroes (1979) revised

Left: Holmes Basic UK version (Dec 1977); Right: Heroes RPG (1979). Cover art for each by John Blanche.
     There's a new version of the long out-of-print 1979 non-fantasy medieval RPG Heroes available here (be warned, it's print only and expensive, particularly if you are outside the UK). It's been partially revised by the original author, Dave Millward. I don't really know much about the game except that the cover art was by the UK artist John Blanche, just a few years after he did the cover for the UK version of the Holmes Basic rulebook (above, left). He's gone on to do all sorts of art for Games Workshop products. The new version is absent his art on the cover, unfortunately. I don't know whether they wanted something fancier (i.e., color), couldn't afford to use his art now, or just wanted to distinguish the two versions. I've also learned that similar to the UK Basic rulebook, Blanche only did the art on the cover. The original Heroes had interior artwork "by an art student called Aiden which David explains, cost him a couple of pints" and this "is reproduced in the new version, alongside art by J.C.B.Knight. All very atmospheric" (geordie, OD&D Discussion forum).

     The first post in the OD&D thread is a capsule review by geordie from 2010, which Millward now has quoted in on the website:

"The bleak landscape of late-70's Britain (strikes, powercuts, social disorder, bombing and the cold war) wasn't ever going to birth a shiny happy RPG.

Before Warhammer, Dragon Warriors and Maelstrom, there was the ironically-titled Heroes, written by Dave Millward (with 18 months playtesting), with art by John Blanche (artist responsible for the UK Holmes D&D cover).

A roleplaying game set in the Dark Ages, 80 pages cover character creation and background, professions, equipment, combat, social interaction and advancement, scenario creation, religion, gambling, crime and punishment, political wrangling, land holdings, piracy, naval campaigns, commerce, raiding, medicine and healing. There is also a European-style setting, the Ouesterlands, included.

...No fantasy, no magic, just blood 'n' snot brawling with percentile dice."

This was followed up by an interesting post by one yoda, who explained its origins:

"Dave was my History teacher back in the late 70's, and the school wargames club which Dave ran were, together with the Birmingham Wargames club, the playtesters for Heroes. Most of the dedications at the front of the rules were for our personas.

We had 00's of hours of fun with this game, remember there was little or nothing in the market at the time and Heroes also made a good background for some skirmish wargames. It helped that Dave, with his Birmingham cohorts had access to beautifully painted wargames figures by the ton.

I managed to take my Character, a Polish mercenary type, through all the playtesting, and was the Captain of the City Guard in waiting. I was just waiting for deadmans shoes, which I was trying to arrange by raising finance to facilitate the incumbents 'retirement'. In the pursuit of which i got killed in a raid on a monastery - I suppose that was gods wrath, but the monks definitely needed to be relieved of a shipment of the emperors gold that was en route.

Wow, memories. I think I'll get Dave to go for a reprint. The basic rules set allowed you to make use of, or develop, your love of history, no spells or monsters as you say, just good old fashioned bar room brawls and swordplay. sometimes simple is best."

(As a fan of simple rules, I found the bolded bit interesting - it makes me ponder a simplified D&D Basic with no spells or monsters)

 And then earlier this year, a post by Millward himself:

"Hi… first, please allow me to introduce myself… I am Dave Millward, author of the original Heroes RPG.

I am currently engaged in reviewing the original rules for Heroes, with a view to initially publishing Edition 1.1, together with a set of Combat rules. If this is a success, I am thinking about a 2nd Edition and various expansion sets.

If you are interested, please drop me an e-mail and let me know what you think…"

Version 1.1 eventually morphed into version 1.2, as explained on the website.

There's more discussion of the original game here on Dragonsfoot.

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