Looking back over my previous posts, there have been times where I have started a project with the intention of seeing it through to its completion, only to falter and end up doing something else instead. In other words, sometimes I’m a bit crap.
However, today is not one of those days. The Golden Heroes Players Book is now complete and you can download the PDF of this now!
The majority of the text is as per the original rules, but I have taken the opportunity to tidy it up a bit, as there were a few errors in the published game that obviously were missed at the proofreading stage. I have also added supplementary information gathered from other official and unofficial sources, mainly in regards to additional options for existing powers that were published after the main rules came out.
The spot illustrations used in the rules are, for the most part, from officially published Golden Heroes articles or supplements, but there are a few that I have slipped in which I thought suited the rules and were of obscure comic book characters that only the most well-read comic book aficionado would recognise.
As I’m not one to appropriate others’ work and claim it for my own, I have credited everyone’s work, which was simple in regards to the writing, but not so simple in regards to the artwork, as whilst White Dwarf did credit its artists, unless they had initialled or signed the relevant piece of art, it wasn’t always easy to work out who did what.
The current download is JUST the Players Book, so only contains those rules that the players would need to use, but does cover character generation, superpowers and the majority of the combat rules. However, you will need the Supervisors Book in order to actually run a game, which is in the process of being put together as we speak. The Players Books does not yet have a cover, as I am intending on doing a new one for it, but does have a contents page and index. There may be a few typos, and if you spot one, let me know, as sometimes these things slip through the net.
I am open to any feedback or questions, but for now, enjoy!
If you’ve come her expecting to see monsters, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Whilst I DID (with the best intentions) say I’d be taking part in Keith’s annual Monster May(hem) challenge, here we are, 22 days into May, with absolutely nothing to show.
To be honest, whilst I do have a lot of unpainted figures (as do we all), not a great deal of them are ‘monsters’, so trying to find something suitable to paint proved somewhat problematic. As my eldest has just bought his first house and I’ve been drafted in to provide my minimal DIY skills, quite a lot of my ‘free’ time has been spent stripping walls, sawing wood and chiselling out cavities for new sockets, so whilst I have been doing some manual stuff, no paint brushes have touched my hands in months.
Now, there may be some out there who may be concerned that this may impact on me hosting and taking part in the annual Forgotten Heroes challenge, but rest assured, I WILL still be doing this next month.
For new readers, Forgotten Heroes is a challenge that started way back in 2016 and has, without fail, taken place every June for the last 7 years. It’s a relatively straight-forward challenge and is open to anyone who wishes to take part – all you have to do is state in the comments that you want to be involved and provide details of where you will be showcasing your work and I’ll add you to the blogroll.
The rules, such as they are, are pretty simple – during the month of June, you must produce a figure of a hero (or villain) that either has not yet had an official or unofficial figure made for it yet or, if it has, you are making your own version. This may be as simple as repainting an existing figure, such as a Heroclix Blue Beetle as Goldbug, an pretty obscure Spider-Man villain, to converting an existing figure to a completely different character or, if you talents lie in that area, sculpting a figure from scratch. If the base figure you are using is an unofficial version of the character, such as the myriad versions of Indiana Jones that exist out there, then you can’t use it. The same applies to those 3D printed figures that are obviously Marvel or DC characters, just with the names changed to prevent the big two from sending the boys round to have a word…
Other than that, you can choose whatever scale you want and whatever subject, be it a comic book hero or villain or a costumed character from a TV show or movie. Your first post should provide an image of the character you are seeking to create, with a bit of background on them, and a picture of the base figure you are intending on using, so we all know what you’re aiming for.
Over the last seven years, I’ve produced my versions of Stegron the Dinosaur Man, Rom, M.O.D.O.K. and the Spot from Marvel Comics, Super-Soldier from Amalgam Comics, Bananaman from the Dandy, the ‘Quantum Quartet’ of Mystery Incorporated from Image Comics and the 8th Doctor from Doctor Who.
I will naturally be doing another costumed superhero and as I love those obscure characters that no-one has ever heard of, I have got a character than I can almost guarantee no-one has heard of.
Now, whilst I may not have touched a paintbrush or figure for a while, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t had the opportunity to some hobby stuff.
Those who’ve been following my recent series of posts will know that I’ve been working on republishing the Golden Heroes RPG back from 1984 on a non-professional, non-profit basis – mainly for my own use, but also to allow anyone else who may be interested in trying out these rules.
Now, the game was designed to be fairly generic initially, so that it could be used for any superhero setting, but certain published scenarios for the game do add snippets of background for the ‘Golden Heroes Universe’, so whilst working on the Supervisors Book, I’ve collated as much of this information as possible to try and provide an overall coherent backstory/framework for this universe.
However, sometimes the information provided is a little sketchy, so I’ve been using my knowledge of comic books to fill in the gaps. Case in point is American Eagle. The only reference to him is the following from the scenario The American Dream – “belonged to the WWII hero American Eagle. Since his death in Korea, no one has been able to make the sceptre manifest its power.” Other than a later description of what the sceptre is capable of, that it requires a traumatic experience to ‘attune’ to it and the below picture in the hands of its current wielder Miss America/Renegade, that’s all you get:
If American Eagle is a renowned hero of WWII, then we surely should have a bit more information about him, right? And at least an image of him…
So, I got a little creative.
There have been several published heroes with the name American Eagle, including one from Marvel Comics, but the interesting one, as far as I’m concerned, is the one that appeared in America’s Best Comics #2 in September 1942, because he kind of falls into a grey area in regards to ownership. According to the Public Domain Super Heroes website, although he has been used by a number of different publishers without lawsuits from Warner Brothers, who sort of ‘own’ the rights to the character, this kind of means that anyone is free to use the character and it’s original likeness without issue.
As I can’t imagine that Warner Brothers will be coming after me, I’ve used the image below for the Golden Heroes version of American Eagle, along with the revised background below:
“In 1942, Tom Standish was assisting Dr Wolfe’s experiments with a strange device that had been recovered from the wreckage of ‘something’ shot down during the Battle of Los Angeles earlier that year. Whilst conducting a series of tests on the metallic rod, Standish realised that it appeared to have some kind of advanced (for the time) circuitry built into it and went to find Dr Wolfe to advise him of this. However, he discovered that Dr Wolfe was a fifth columnist with Nazi sympathies, who was intending on harnessing whatever properties of the rod to undermine America from within. Tearing the rod from its stand, he fled into the night, chased by Wolfe and his conspirators. The Nazis cornered Standish and opened fire. However, the trauma of the event somehow formed a mental link with the rod, allowing him to harness some of its powers. The resultant energy blast levelled the laboratory, killing everyone. However, Standish later discovered that Wolfe had survived and was continuing in his nefarious plots. Realising that Wolfe would recognise both him and the ‘star sceptre,’ Standish fashioned a patriotic costume and disguised the rod, and thus was born the American Eagle.
After fighting fifth columnists at home, the American Eagle was asked by his country to join the fight abroad, and was seen alongside the Patriot, John Bull, and Howitzer in Europe. As Standish was not formerly a soldier, unlike his allies, he was less effective in the field. However, his ego refused to recognise this, and he jumped at the chance to prove himself when the United States took part in the Korean War. Unfortunately, his overconfidence was his downfall and during the Battle of Osan, the American Eagle, along with 180 other American soldiers, was killed. While his body and eagle sceptre were recovered, no one had been able to make the sceptre manifest its power, until it was claimed by Susan Martin, who now goes by the name of Renegade.”
So, this gives a brief taste of what’s in store when the ‘new’ version of Golden Heroes is finally released.
As always, I will continue to shine a (Golden) light on those four-colour heroes lost, overlooked and forgotten. If you want to join me in this endeavour, Forgotten Heroes 2023 will launch on 1st June.
As my last few posts have detailed, I am currently typing up a revised version of the Golden Heroes superhero RPG rules. This was something I had planned on doing for a while, mainly because I like things complete – probably an OCD thing. However, it also occurred to me that as it’s a good system, it might be worthwhile to present this to a new generation or to those who missed out on the game the first time around.
Now, I’m not the first to think this was a worthwhile exercise. However, the chap who launched a Kickstarter back in January 2015 to create a sourcebook based on the Golden Heroes universe for use with Squadron UK (the game which replaced Golden Heroes, as GW still retain the rights to the name and system) as well as the Icons RPG has apparently failed to deliver this as yet. I mean, it’s only been 8 years…
Having looked at the drafts he HAS released on the Updates page of the Kickstarter, I’m not… enamoured with some of his decisions, so feel completely justified in doing my own version. As I’m not intending on or seeking to make any money from this project – I suppose you could call it a vanity project – I don’t feel that I’m stepping on anyone’s toes regarding this, so hopefully no-one will come knocking on my door telling me to stop or throw their toys out the pram.
Anyway, the reason for this post, as hinted at by the title of this post, is to do with the names assigned to both the example characters and those that appeared in the rogue’s gallery and published scenarios.
Whilst we have to bear in mind that the main rules and the articles and scenarios were published in the mid-eighties, and I am intending on preserving the default setting in the same decade, I am one of those people who believes in internal consistency within a game setting. I appreciate that the author’s selected names that they felt were appropriate at the time, but if you have a Native American hero whose backstory does state that he fights for the rights of his people, as well as combatting super-powered crime, would he really take the moniker ‘Redskin?’ I think not.
So, as this is effectively MY version of these rules, I have made some minor adjustments to a few of the character’s names, as I felt they did not reflect the backstory’s presented for the characters. If you’re a highly intelligent super-scientist, who has developed a cybernetic implant containing the skills and abilities of an Olympic gymnast and a prize-winning boxer, would you really name yourself ‘Fistfighter?’ I very much doubt it.
These represent very minor tweaks, not through any form of ‘political correctness’ or censorship (which I object to if it’s unnecessary – the recent spate of ‘updates’ to various authors works, such as P.G. Wodehouse, Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming being a good example of this), but to maintain internal consistency within the setting.
If Marvel Comics can change a villain’s name from ‘Paste-Pot Peter’ to ‘The Trapster’ (for an internally justified reason), then there’s nothing to stop me doing the same.
Now, as we are in the month of May, that does mean that Monster May(hem) has started, hosted by Keith over at Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging, this does mean that the next few posts will probably be my attempts to complete the necessary monster before the end of the month. This will require a rummage, as I don’t currently have a subject for this challenge, so watch this space…
Those of you who read my last post on the 40-year old superhero RPG, Golden Heroes, especially those of you who reside in countries other than the UK, may be wondering why you’d be interested in a game which purports to be a British superhero RPG. If the game is Anglo-centric, it would be of limited use AND interest to anyone hailing from somewhere other than the UK, surely?
Well, having reviewed every article and scenario that was publicly released for the game AND having run several games using this ruleset, I can confidently state that this is not the case. The main rules (other than referring to the currency used in the game as ‘Golden Pounds’) do not assume that your game is set in the UK. And whilst some of the sample villains have backgrounds that suggest a UK origin, this can be easily tweaked so that the villains hail from other shores.
The same applies to the scenario included with the main rules and most of those published in White Dwarf. The settings are generic enough that they could take place in ANY city in any part of the World, as long as they have the necessary locations (such as a park, street, secret base of a multinational intelligence agency, isolated research facility, etc). As all of these adventures were written and published in the 1980s – the ‘Modern’ day at that time – they also would need a few tweaks to reflect the improvements in technology, if they were to be set in the present.
The two main exceptions are the adventures that were directly published by GW as supplements to the game. The first, Legacy of EAGLES, deals with the reason behind the disappearance of a superhero team of the 1950s/1960s, who haven’t been heard of since 1964. The background suggests that this was the pre-eminent team of this era who operated Worldwide, but were based in Britain and made up of British heroes. However, as the final location of this adventure is the ‘lost’ undersea base of this team, the location of which is never specified, background details can be altered to reflect wherever you wish to place the events of this scenario.
The second adventure, Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail, however is firmly set in the UK. This scenario assumes the player’s are a team operating out of Britain and are predominantly British. The hook for the adventure relates to the British Royal family and mines deep into the folklore of Britain, and even though the team take a brief trip to New York in the middle of the scenario, the locations for the rest of the adventure are quintessentially British and the finale takes place in a well-known London landmark. It could be revised for an alternative non-British setting, but this would take a lot of work and would take away the heart of the adventure, in my opinion.
Simon Burley, the main author of the rules, has always given the advice that you should use your own town or city as the setting for your superhero adventures, as this familiarity with the setting allows for a more immersive experience. If you live in Chicago, for example, your players are more likely to jump at the chance to fight Doctor Anarchy if he is threatening to blow up the Willis Tower (which was called the Sears Tower when I visited many moons ago) because they know it.
One of the games I ran using these rules was set in Reading, Berkshire, which is where I live. As the players were all locals, I didn’t need to describe the locations in any great detail, as everyone was from Reading and knew where the Butts Centre was, that there were railway arches off Portman Avenue and that the Atomic Weapons Establishment was just south of Reading in Aldermaston, which was where the main villain of that particular scenario was heading in his giant robot to acquire some nuclear weapons.
They did succeed, but the results of their final battle closed the eastbound M$ motorway for several days, as the authorities cleared up the wreckage.
I also ran a campaign set in the world of Marshal Law, which underlines the flexibility of this set of rules.
For those of you not familiar with this character, Marshal Law started off as a parody of superheroic conventions and was written by Pat Mills and illustrated by Kev O’Neill, in 1987. He was an American ex-supersolider, genetically engineered by the government to fight in “The Zone”, an unstable area of South America filled with Communist insurgents. Once this conflict was over, he and all the other super-soldiers created to fight in this war, returned to the USA. However, whilst the procedures used to create these super-soldiers gave them incredible powers, the majority of them returned mentally scarred by the war and formed super-powered gangs in San Futuro, the semi-wrecked remains of San Francisco after ‘The Big One.’ Which is where Marshal Law comes in. He is a government-sanctioned hero-hunter, a super-powered ‘cop’ whose job is to protect the normal folk from the excesses of these super-powered surplus heroes, sometimes with lethal force.
The series was characterised by extreme graphic violence and nudity, which may seem commonplace now, what with series such as The Boys, etc. delving into super-powered folk who appear to be heroes, but are anything but, but was new and edgy back in 1987.
As some of the ‘heroes’ in this world were explicitly over-sexualised, I gave my players carte blanche to create whatever characters they wanted, as long as they ‘fit’ into this World. I ended up with; Blitzkreig, a superstrong, flying Marshal Law wannabe; The Dribbler, who manifested cosmic mucus which he could use in a number of ways; Major Organ, who could increase his size and strength and carried a throwing baton which he dubbed his ‘love truncheon’; his kid sidekick, Private Parts; who had detachable exploding testicles and Gravity Girl, who could fly, manipulate gravity fields and, as she herself stated every time she introduced herself, “my breasts defy gravity.” (NB: The last was played by a woman, so no sexism here).
As you might gather, my players did commit to the setting and although the game may sound less than serious, it did involve these disparate heroes attempting to discover who had been murdering the members of the pre-eminent team of the time, The Justice Squad, before they too were targeted by the same shadowy foe. Not all of them survived.
So, if I can use the Golden Heroes rules to run a game in a dystopian future overrun by less-than-super heroes, without any great additional work on my part, I think that proves that these rules can be used to run a superhero game in whatever setting you want.
I’m currently working my way through all the material I have and will be making the three final ‘books’ available to any who want them. There will be a Players Book, a Supervisors Book and an Adventure Book. The default setting will be the Golden Heroes Universe, and I will expand on the ‘official’ background to explain why the UK seems to have the greatest amount of super-powered folk, rather than the US. The underlining reason makes sense and is based on real-World events, but I’ll say no more at this point.
However, you will be free to disregard this setting and use it for whatever type of superhero game you want to run. Remember, the best sets of rules are the ones that inspire you to make them your own.
When I first started posting online, under my original blog ‘Carrion Crow’s Battlefield Buffet’, way back in February 2014, the main content was related to superhero skirmish gaming, as that’s what my focus was back then. The content still exists on there, all 7 posts, and is worth a look, as some of the stuff is still relevant today.
As I was having issues with Blogger, I switched to WordPress and thus Carrion Crow’s Buffet arose from the ashes of the original blog and here we are, 8 years later, with rather more than 7 posts on the newer iteration.
However, I want to take you back in time a bit further than 2014, back to 1984, and the first original RPG that Games Workshop ever released – Golden Heroes.
Golden Heroes has written by Simon Birley and Pete Haines and was originally released in an amateur way in 1982 by these two Birmingham-based games designers. However, Games Workshop were in the process of licencing various properties to release in the UK and were speaking to Marvel Comics, in order to release a RPG based on their characters. Whilst these talks were ongoing, they contacted Burly and Haines, looking to use their rules for this proposed game. However, TSR managed to secure the licence and this resulted in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG game being released by them in 1984, followed by the Advanced game two years later.
However, rather than binning off the work that had already been done, GW decided to release the rules as stand-alone anglocentric superhero RPG and thus Golden Heroes was born. It was also released in 1984, hitting the shelves a week after TSR’s MSHRPG, but due to being focused on British heroes and villians and having limited release in the US, did not fare so well on the other side of the pond.
Which was a shame, as it was and still is, a solid superhero RPG. I’m not going to do a full review of the game here, as there exist several decent ones online, but will go into the parts of the game that I feel bear finer scrutiny.
Now, as I was only 15 in 1984, I didn’t really appreciate some of the innovative aspects of the rules at the time. The four main stats that define characters in GH are Strength, Vigour, Dexterity and Ego, so no Intelligence stat. Having come to GH from 1st edition AD&D, I was slightly confused by this, as how could your character know stuff if they had no Int stat? The idea here was that it was down to the Player to come up with ideas, rather than relying on a randomly generated statistic to work out whether they had noticed an essential clue, etc. Basically, writing into the rules what players actually did anyway.
And whilst Combat was in Rounds, these were divided into Frames, representing a set number of actions that a character could take. Most PC heroes and major villains received 4 Frames per round, whereas minor villains only received 3 Frames and ordinary folk received only 2 Frames per round. This was the first game to limit supporting cast and minor villains, making them less capable in Combat than the heroes themselves, thus reflecting the comic books that the game was based upon.
However, these were relatively minor aspects of the rules. One of the major innovations and also one of the most fun aspects of the game was the Rationale phase. Powers for you hero were generated randomly by rolling percentile dice on a table. This included the powers you would expect, such as superstrength, flight, invisibility and energy attacks, to such things as having an advanatageous background meaning you were rich, or heightened senses of various types. However, once you had all your powers, you had to provide a plausible rationale as to how your character gained these powers and the GM (in GH known as the Script Supervisor) would then assess your rationale and any that he deemed were inconsistent with your rationale would be discarded.
The rules give an example of this, generating 7 random powers and then giving 8 separate rationales to explain how these powers were gained, each of them very different. This process encouraged the player to come up with the origin story for their character to justify their powers, forcing them to think about who and what their character was before play even began, thus providing a built-in background for the character. As most roleplayers were coming from fantasy RPGs, where their main motivation was to accumulate treasure and kill ‘monsters’, this was little different to what they were used to.
Another interesting and innovative part of the rules was the Campaign Ratings. These were a set of ratings that determined how the hero was perceived by the public (Public Status), how effective the hero was at gathering information (Detective Points) and the general mindset of the hero themselves (Personal Status). If you were running a long-term campaign, rather than a one-shot slugfest, these would fluctuate with the actions of the heroes. If they had been publicly defeated at the hands of a superior foe, then their Public Status would go down, whereas a successful romance in the hero’s civilian identity could potentially increase their Personal Status. This also reflected those parts of the source material that were absent from a lot of the other Superhero RPGs available at the time. If we take Spider-Man as an example, whilst he was an effective crimefighter, he was still considered a vigilante most of the time, with J Jonah Jameson vilifying him in the pages of the Daily Bugle. Furthermore, Peter Parker regularly worried about his elderly Aunt May and initially was not particularly successful in romance. All of these aspects could be reflected in the character’s Campaign Ratings and they could actively seek to increase these by taking part in activities that boosted their scores.
The final real difference from other superhero games of the time was the background. It was solidly set in Britain, with the provided rogue’s gallery being British villains and no real look beyond the shores of the Sceptred Isle. However, this did not really impinge on the actual rules themselves, so there was nothing to stop you from using the rules for superhero games in any country.
Only three supplements were released for the game – the Supervisor’s Kit, which provided a GM screen and full-colour quick reference cards for the rogues gallery; Legacy of Eagles, an adventure where the player’s discovered the final fate of a previous team of British heroes who went missing in 1964 (with a beautiful cover by Brian Bolland) and Queen Victoria and the Holy Grail, an adventure where the heroes are tasked by the ghost of Queen Victoria to retrieve the Holy Grail from a supervillain before it is used for dire purposes. A third adventure – The Lancelot Caper – was planned, but never released and apparently exists in some form out there in the world, but I’ve bben unable to locate a copy online, so have no idea what the plot was.
To support the game, several articles and short scenarios were published between 1984 and 1987 in White Dwarf, when it was still a gaming mag, rather than figure catalogue, which I own all of. A further scenario outline was published in Imagine magazine, but whilst I managed to get the text of this, I couldn’t find out which issue this came from, so don’t know if I have the full details. Some of these expanded the world beyond the confines of the British Isles, introducing American and Canadian heroes, villains and teams.
Simon Burley, one of the original authors, released a revised version of the rules which he renamed Squadron UK, until GW sent him a cease and desist, stating that they still owned the copyright for these rules. He re-released Squadron UK with a different set of rules to get around this, essentially making it a completely different game.
Now, the original rules ARE available to download online, as well as the two released scenarios and, if you don’t physically own those copies of White Dwarf with GH content, you can locate a PDF that collates all these article/scenarios in one – if you have my level of Web Fu.
However, a while ago I was toying with the idea of collating ALL this material (or at least all the material I had) into a single document, tidying it all up and expanding on it where necessary, and I have finally made a start on this. It will retain the 1980’s setting, reflecting the era in which it was written and when comics were a LOT less complicated, and may incorporate scenarios that were not originally written for these rules, but fit this world. I will make these available to anyone who’s interested.
So, rather than looking rosy, the future’s looking Golden…
Another post in the same week? Bloody Hell, I must have too much spare time on my hands…
Anyway, in this post I’d thought I’d share some images I’ve managed to successfully create used StarryAI for the Rushlight rules. I seem to be getting the hang of using this software, although sometimes the prompts you put in don’t always bring back what you intend, but DO generate an image that can be used.
The FAQ’s for the App states, “You are the copyright owner of your creations as long as you have the right to use any initial images used in generating the creation.” As all the images I’ve generated have been via the App without using a base image, I am assuming that this means the below belong to me – which is quite cool.
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to a couple of important NPC’s for the World of Rushlight, as well as the gods that were mentioned in my last post.
This is Sir Gideon, current Master of the Knights of Helios in Mourne. A straightfoward and somewhat humourless man, Sir Gideon is a master combatant, although those who face him sometimes underestimate him, due to his age.
This is Lord Eldyn, the current ruler of the city-state of Port Eidyn, which whilst physically located on the east cost of Norland, is not actually part of Norland. In Port Eidyn, anything can be bought or sold… as long as you have the coin. Lord Eldyn oversees the running of this port city, ensuring that it remains neutral in any conflicts. It is alleged that he has formed a pact with a Storm Hag to protect the port from those who would plunder its wealth. Whilst no proof of this exists, the number of hostile vessels that have been wrecked off its shores does lend some credence to this rumour…
As you might have guessed, tis is Helios, Lord of Light, the primary deity worshipped in the civilised lands.
And this is his sister, Selen, the Silver Princess, goddess of the moon and patron of those who hunt the evils that stalk the night.
Next up, the four rebellious deities that were banished by Helios and became known as the Whispering Gods.
This is Cyrene, Muse of Ruinous Obsession, Goddess of Forbidden Knowledge.
Kaustos, Lord of Fiery Destruction, God of Slaughter.
Mavia, Lady of Discord and Insanity, Goddess of Madness.
And finally, Morbus, the Plague Lord, God of Pestilence.
The two mortals were one of the four images initially generated by the program, but the initial images generated for the six gods were almost but not quite right. What I did with these was to choose the best of the four initial images, then use the ‘Evolve’ function, which generates a further four images based on the image chosen – so kind of like variations on a theme. The images above were the ones that I felt best represented the deities concerned.
As I’ve been beavering away on the background for this setting, I thought I’d share a little more of the history of this world, events which occurred prior to the current age. Let me know what you think!
Many centuries ago, a civilisation arose, centred on the Aurassic Islands to the North of the Isle of Mourne. It was a civilisation of great scholars and brought forth an age of great prosperity and learning.
The primary deity worshipped by this civilisation was Helios, the Lord of Light, and the people of this civilisation called themselves Solarians, in honour of their god.
However, the volcanic islands that the Solarians occupied were not blessed with much in the way of natural resources and as the less civilised lands to their South were inhabited by warring tribes of barbarians, trade with these lands was all but impossible.
Aurelian, leader of the Council of Sages, proposed that as the barbaric people of the South refused to trade, and did not realise the benefits this would garner them, perhaps their resources should be taken by force.
This did not sit well with the Council, as they had always promoted the idea of diplomacy over aggression, but Aurelian’s arguments began to sway the more power-hungry members of the council.
Whether Aurelian was influenced by one of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon, whispering in his ear as he slept, is unknown, but Aurelian plotted behind the scenes and began to subtly discredit those who opposed his views. In cases where this was not successful, he employed more direct means and a spate of ‘accidental’ deaths occurred, until his will was unopposed.
Aurelian then declared himself the first emperor of Solaria and thus rose the Solarian Empire, borne of blood and violence.
The Rise of the Solarian Empire
The Solarian Empire spread southwards from the Aurassic Islands, initially occupying the Isle of Mourne and imposing its rule on the peoples of this land and taking their resources as their own.
However, this was not enough for Aurelian, and his eyes fell upon the greater continent of Ortania.
As the soldiers of the Solarian Empire were highly trained, dedicated and many, bolstered by the conscripts from the lands it had conquered, the Solarian legions invaded Ortania, slowly but surely increasing their hold on the lands of men, until most of the continent was under their control.
The Seeds of Destruction
The Solarian Empire held sway for many centuries, occupying Mourne and much of Ortania, ruled by a dynasty of emperors from the capital city of Heliopolis, on the largest of the volcanic Aurassic Islands.
However, trouble was brewing.
Emperor Magnus had stated that the sun would never set on the Solarian Empire, as it was blessed by Helios himself, and therefore the worship of any god other than Helios was declared heresy.
As the emperor’s word was law, there followed a period in which the worship of gods other than Helios was brutally suppressed.
Whilst most of the populace bowed down to this, the worshippers of the moon goddess Selene merely removed themselves from public view, continuing their worship and practices in secret.
Some of the lesser gods of the Solarian pantheon approached Helios, arguing that this monopoly of worship was unfair and would diminish their powers. Helios listened to their pleas, but was proud of what his worshippers had achieved.
‘Look at what my followers have created,’ he said, ‘An empire that spans the World. What have your followers done of note? Nothing that compares to this. Had you been less afraid to employ you godly might, you might not now be in the position of losing it.’
Kaustos, Lord of Fiery Destruction, gathered together a group of disaffected lesser gods, stating that unless something was done, they faced extinction, as their powers would dwindle as their worshippers turned away from them. As the Solarian Empire was the seat of the Church of Helios’ power, he reasoned that its destruction would break Helios’ hold, allowing the populace to worship whichever god they chose.
Whilst many of the gathered gods balked at such extreme measures, a handful were swayed by his rhetoric – Mavia, Lady of Discord and Insanity; Morbus, the Plague Lord; and Cyrene, Muse of Ruinous Obsession.
Realising that Heliopolis was not only the wellspring of the Church of Helios, but also the lynchpin that held the Solarian Empire together, they chose this as their target. As Helios kept a careful watch upon his favoured city, they knew that they must be subtle with their machinations, starting small, to ensure that once Helios eventually realised what was happening, it would be too late to prevent it.
Morbus descended upon the continent of Ortania, infusing part of his essence into the smallest of agents – the humble flea. Thus, the plague known as the Yellow Death began to spread across the land, carried unwittingly to other shores on the backs of rats.
Cyrene then began her part, posing as a well-travelled scholar returned from distant lands, carrying with her ancient tomes of arcane knowledge – knowledge that she speculated may hold the cure to the Yellow Death. Of course, this was merely a ruse, as the books contained forbidden lore, lore that corrupted those that read it, causing them to believe that the ends justified the means, no matter what the cost.
Mavia manifested as a courtesan, whose ethereal beauty caught the eye of the Emperor, and was soon sharing his bed. She shared the supposed rumours and gossip that she had overheard, causing the emperor to become paranoid and fearful that those he considered his trusted advisors were plotting to overthrow him.
And whilst these individual strands began to weave together, Kaustos laboured beneath the ground, using his powers to reignite the long-dormant volcano that cast its looming shadow over the great city of Heliopolis.
The Fall of Heliopolis
Disease ran rampant through the Empire, finally reaching the streets of Heliopolis, where the dead lay where they fell, their bodies covered with weeping yellow sores.
The emperor, having dispatched assassins to rid himself of his perceived enemies, had finally succumbed to madness and locked himself away in his palace, refusing to acknowledge that any problems existed beyond its walls.
Those sages who had searched within the forbidden texts, believing they had discovered a cure, rashly performed a sorcerous ritual to restore those who had perished to life. And the dead did rise, as unliving abominations who stalked the streets, preying on those who still drew breath.
And above the city, ominous clouds of smoke rose from the mountain…
The priests of Helios cried out to their god, asking why he had forsaken them. Helios looked down, shocked not only by what he saw, but also that he had failed to notice it sooner.
Realising that these occurrences were not of natural origin, Helios descended from his throne into the city that bore his name.
Extending his senses, he caught the scent of godly power, and stalked through the streets, seeking those who had wrought this damage.
The three conspirators, sending his presence, retreated beneath the mountain, joining Kaustos in the fire-lit chamber.
Helios confronted the rebel gods below the mountain, entreating them to end their destruction, but was rebuffed.
Tremors shook the city of Helipolis, as the gods unleashed their powers upon one another, seeking victory. However, the mortal plane was not meant for such displays of godly might, causing the now-active volcano to erupt with such magnitude that it not only destroyed Heliopolis, but most of the island on which it stood, leaving nothing behind except for a smoking caldera.
The Retreat of the Gods
Whilst Helios had emerged triumphant, much of his godly might had been expended in the battle.
However, realising that his own pride and hubris has caused this chain of events, he made a vow that he would protect his people, his world, from these rebel gods for eternity. He gathered the remnants of his power about him and banished the rebels gods outside of existence, imprisoned forever more beyond the realm of Man.
This took a heavy toll on him and he returned above much diminished, no longer able to manifest upon the mortal plane.
These rebellious deities – Kaustos, Mavia, Morbus and Cyrene – whose names were soon lost to antiquity, became known collectively as the Whispering Gods.
They wait beyond the walls of existence, sending dreams through cracks in reality, to those minds receptive to their will, their only goal to escape from their prison and wreak dire vengeance upon the world of Man.
Strangely, two of the blogs I follow have both recently posted regarding the use of AI generated artwork – namely Harry over at War Across the Ages and Dave Morris (he of White Dwarf, Dragon Warriors – amongst many other things – fame) at Fabled Lands.
Now, whilst I do consider myself a “reasonable” artist (i.e. things I draw usually look like what they are supposed to), people won’t be banging down my door for an original Winstanley.
Having seen what could be achieved utilising an AI art program, and based on Harry’s recommendations, I decided to download and give StarryAI a try, as the rules I’m currently adapting could do with some artwork.
What you have to remember is that StarryAI is a computer program, so the more ‘prompts’ (i.e. instructions) you give it, the closer to what you want you’re going to get.
For example, if you put in ‘Medieval pirate port city,’ which I thought was pretty straight-forward, you get this;
Which, whilst cool, wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
However, one you get the hang of what kind of input the program needs, you can get closer to what you want.
So, in the Rushlight settting, the Whispering Gods can imbue mortals with some of their power, creating avatars that can act on their behalf.
The avatar of Kaustos, lord of fiery destruction, for example, is known as the Burning Knight.
Now, as I ideally wanted a medieval style illustration, my prompts were ‘evil burning knight, medieval illustration, woodcut, Gustav Dore.’ Of the four pictures I got back, the one below was the best;
Having seemed to have got the ‘prompts’ right, I tried for the Avatar of Mavia, lady of discord and insanity, more commonly known as the Pied Piper. Of the pictures the program returned, the one below struck a chord, although the piper doesn’t appear to be piping;
As I said to Harry in the comments on his original post, whilst I can see the utility of using such programs, I can’t see it ever replacing human artists. An AI can compare various pieces of artwork accessible on the web and create art that apes this, but lacking imagination or a human perpective, they’ll always be something not quite right about it.
However, if you’re writing a Call of Cthulhu adventure and what some unique and slightly disturbing artwork for free, StarryAI has got your back;
For those who regular visit this humble blog, you will have noticed that my last post was on 1st November 2022. Now whilst some (I’m looking at your, Keith) may be of the opinion that my absence relates to battling Tharks in the skies over Barsoom, clad in little more than a a leather posing pouch, this is not the case.
Yes, I may have been on board a ship during the month of December and yes, at one point I did have a sword in my hand, but this was on the Atlantic and there were no green entities on board (other than those people experiencing mal de mer as we traversed the Bay of Biscay).
And no, it wasn’t a pirate ship either…
And no, I wasn’t starring in a period crime drama, where a well-dressed, middle-aged man solves supernatural crimes, using his extensive library, no matter what the picture below would suggest.
I was actually cruising around the Canary Islands for the Christmas and New Year period, a a guest of my father-in-law, who had decided to take us all away for the holidays.
Prior to leaving for this long-anticipated break, my daughter was involved in a car accident, the end result of which was that the insurance company wrote it off as a total loss. Fortunately, she was uninjured, but the car, not to put too finer a point on it, was fucked. Whilst I was provided with a hire car, a hideous Citroen C3 that drove like a brick, due to the upcoming holiday, sourcing a new vehicle and gathering the necessary finances would have to wait until I was back in the UK in the New Year.
Understandably, hobby-time was limited, hence that lack of posts.
However, I haven’t been completely idle when it comes to hobby-related pursuits. Although no paints, brushes or miniatures have been touched so far in the New Year, I have been busy adapting the Romance of the Perilous Land rules to a different setting. As the author of these rules had posted various addendum to the published rules on his blog and Osprey had issued an errata sheet, I decided to consolidate ALL of this information into one typed-up document, then alter the setting to one that suited me better.
The original setting for Romance of the Perilous Land, as described in my review here, is a fictionalised version of “folkloric Britain” where both Robin Hood and King Arthur exist side-by-side. This mash-up, whilst interesting, didn’t quite do it for me. My initial thought was to adapt the rules for the Ravenloft setting, but this proved problematic, as new rules would have to have been added to take into account the genre of the setting, as well as the addition of flintlock firearms, as a fair few domains of the Core are Renaissance level, whereas RoPL is firmly medieval in flavour.
As RoPL also has no direct analogue for the Christian church, as the occupants worship gods derived from Celtic mythology, those scenarios that feature large religious institutions such as abbeys, monasteries and the like could not be used, as these do not exist within the Perilous Land.
So, in order to utilise my existing catalogue of medieval-flavoured scenarios culled from various gaming magazines over the years, I decided to create my own setting, which is a fictional version of medieval Europe, with analogues for the major powers around at that time. However, as with most things I do, there is an element of lurking darkness, represented by the Whispering Gods.
These entities were once worshipped as gods by denizens of this world, but were banished to the spaces ‘beyond’ by Helios, the primary god of this world, after their machinations caused the destruction of the Solarian Empire, the primary centre of Helios’ worship.
But whilst they are imprisoned and their power diminished, they seek to return to the mortal realms and finish what they started. Their dreaming forms inveigle their way into the minds of susceptible folk, promising them power, riches, whatever they want, in return for helping them to break the chains that imprison them. Should they secure their freedom and walk the land, this would result in an apocalyptic event of unprecedented proportions.
Whilst I am still working on the minutiae of the setting, I thought I would provide the Introduction I have typed for this setting to give some flavour. Enjoy!
A lone piper plays in an isolated shepherd’s hut, surrounded by swirling female dancers. As they turn, their skirt hems lift, revealing the cloven hooves of deer. The piper prays to his god for the strength to continue playing until dawn, as if he falters, he knows the baobhan sith who surround him will claim his life…
A black-clad figure stealthily creeps through the dim interior of a chapel dedicated to Selene, eyes focused on the silver chalice resting on the altar. His movement ceases as a grinding noise reaches his ears and he raises his eyes to the rafters, starting in horror as the gargoyle carved into the pillar slowly turns its head towards him, then begins its slow descent to the ground…
An armoured knight pauses in a shadowed glade, as furtive movement in the bushes surrounding him catches his attention. Drawing his sword, the knight prepares for battle as several stunted forms, armed with a variety of gore-encrusted weapons, emerge from the undergrowth, each one wearing a pointed red cap…
A lone robed traveller, walking the rolling hills of Cambria, rounds an outcropping to come face-to-face with the scaly bulk of a wyvern. As it stalks forward, tail whipping, he carefully reaches into the pouch at his waist, using the stick of charcoal to inscribe a rune upon his palm. After a swift incantation, fire blooms in his outstretched hand, ready to be cast in the face of the oncoming threat…
The is the world of Rushlight, a place where magic can be wielded by those who know how to tap into the Weave, brave knights ride across the land upholding the oaths they have sworn themselves to, and crafty thieves slip through the shadows seeking to fill their pockets at the expense of others.
But whilst it is a land of adventure, where those who hear the call can ascend from lowly beginnings to become a hero whose name is on the lips of all across the land, perils both mundane and supernatural lurk in the shadows.
The fey denizens of the Otherworld regularly cross into the mortal realms, sometimes merely playing mischievous pranks on those whose paths they cross, but on other occasions spiriting away their victims into the Otherworld for reasons known only to themselves.
Brutish ogres, vicious redcaps and wizened hags lurk on the outskirts of civilisation, preying on those villagers who fail to take the necessary precautions when venturing into the wild.
And those who have been seduced by the veiled promises of the Whispering Gods seek to free their imprisoned masters, not realising the implications of unleashing these unnatural alien beings upon the world.
These are the threats that face the common folk of the world of Rushlight and it takes a particular type of hero to stand against them. For those who take this calling, the rewards are great, but so is the danger they face.
Do YOU have what it takes to stem the tide of darkness that threatens the land?
His name was Weaver and he claimed that he was merely a travelling herbalist.
However, certain members of the party had seen him perform minor acts of magic and his pet crow appeared to be somewhat more intelligent than normal, so they believed him to be a mage…
Other members of the party had witnessed him slipping through the shadows, to suddenly materialise behind a sentry, and, after a brief struggle, leave the guard dead on the ground, eyes glassy and green foam dripping from the corner of their mouth. These party members assumed he was some kind of assassin…
Whatever the party believed, as Weaver would either launch into an elaborate tale that was clearly made up on the spot or merely smile, they learnt that if they came across an intricate, elaborate puzzle or trap, Weaver was the best person to deal with it.
Weaver was actually a 2E Bard, who’d taken the Riddlemaster kit and spent 2 additional slots on the Herbalism Non-Weapon Proficiency to allow him to brew some low-level poisons (with the agreement of the DM). He never used his bardic inspiration, because he was a bit of a self-serving, mercenary git. However, he was great fun to play and, unlike some of the party, when facing a rampaging red dragon, did not stand in the open on a stone bridge… so was able to tell the tale afterwards.
I recently came across his character sheet when having a sort out and thought it might be a fun exercise to see if I could recreate him using the Romance of the Perilous Land rules, as it does share some similarities with AD&D. However, as the RoPL Bard class features are all about performance and provide buffs for allies, debuffs for foes and minor healing (for some reason), the Bard class is not the best choice for recreating this character under this ruleset.
But if you select the Thief class, this gives you access to the full set of Thief class features (Sneak Attack at 1st lvl, Trapfinder at 3rd, Critical Stike at 5th, Disguise at 7th and Deadly Strike at 9th), a choice of Acrobatics, Bluff, Perception, Stealth and Thievery (choose 3 of 5), light and medium ranged and melee weapons and light and medium armour. Plus you automatically get a dagger, leather armour and set of lockpicks.
Now, if you combine this with the Assassin background from the Heroes of Avalon supplement (available for a very reasonable $2.00 here) you get Nature and Stealth skills as bonuses and get access to 5 talents that are only available to Assassins, including Poison Crafter, which allows you to “spend 10 minutes creating one poison with a single use” (there is a list of 5 poisons with specific effects within the supplement). However, if you take Magic Initiate at 1st level, rather than an assassin talent, this allows your character to “cast spells up to level 1,” which gives you the minor spellcasting ability that you would associate with the 2E bard.
So, we now have a 1st level Thief, with the Assassin background, who can cast 0 and 1st level spells, and when he hits 2nd level, will be able to craft his own poisons. This is basically what the concept of Weaver was when I tried to shoehorn him into the AD&D 2E rules, so RoPL actually made it easier to create this character. And there’s more…
Because the rules give an overview of each of the eleven kingdoms, based on my concept, I can easily slot him into the game’s background. So, Weaver (if that’s his real name) is from Lyonesse, and was trained by the Night Ward, a secret organisation of assassins that dispose of spellcasters in that land. Whilst King Meliodas officially denounces their actions, he privately appreciates their work (as he fears all spellcasters) and fails to crack down on their activity. However, when Weaver discovered his own spellcasting ability, he realised that if this talent was revealed, he would be the next victim of the Night Ward, so ran south. Finding Eastland to be a bit too lawless, he fled further south and ended up in Ascalon. Unfortunately, this was where he was caught and rather than compete in Hykaria’s death pits where criminals fight to reduce their sentences, is now working off his debt as an indentured ‘servant’ to Lord Talbot.
Now, once you have a character you want to play, you then start casting about for a miniature to represent them and having heard good things about HeroForge, I decided to see if I could translate the image I had in my mind’s eye of Weaver into an actual miniature.
So, this is the closest I could get to Weaver from my mind’s eye, so what will HeroForge charge me for having my own custom-built miniature? Let’s have a look…
$19.99?! And that doesn’t included shipping?!
Well, whilst it’s a nice idea, I think that’s a little out of my price range. However, as I am the Master of Web Fu and can generally find a figure to represent anything I want, I’m sure we can do better than THAT…
So, Dungeons & Dragons Critical Role Unpainted Miniatures Hollow One Rogue and Sorcerer Male, from Wizkids. Approximately a fiver (£5.00) for both figures, so I get a figure to represent Weaver for £2.50 and a weird sorcerer chappie to use elsewhere. Result!
And to be quite honest with you, I prefer the figure I found to the one I actually built, as it looks more like what I think Weaver should look like. AND I happened to find that my FLGS had one pack in stock, so I didn’t even have to pay shipping!