The British Old School Revival (B-OSR)

OHT

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Ha, forgot about Dragonroar. I always wanted to fight the killer penguin!
 

Simlasa

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Or the wonderfully named Steve Jackson's F.I.S.T. (Fantasy Interactive Scenarios by Telephone)

It was the world's first (and only?) “interactive telephone role-playing game”.
Mention of F.I.S.T. reminded me of this old comedy skit:

I assume this was referencing some real show on TV?
 
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Ladybird

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This, I’ll wager


Recently revised as a stage show with audience participation. A retro clone RPG game show!
Knightmare was awesome, and brutal. A show about kids, being sent on a D&D adventure, but it pulled no punches

Of course, if you want an example of televised DM'ing, you want Richard O' Brien in The Crystal Maze, who pulls off just the right mix of encouragement, scene-setting, flow, and giving absolutely no fucks whatsoever when the players mess it all up.

(I think Richard Ayoade is good too, in the modern version, but he hosts the maze rather than runs it and the distinction is clear.)
 

Séadna

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Of course, if you want an example of televised DM'ing, you want Richard O' Brien in The Crystal Maze, who pulls off just the right mix of encouragement, scene-setting, flow, and giving absolutely no fucks whatsoever when the players mess it all up.
He was great, such flare! :heart:
 

dokel

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There were some bloody terrifying kids' T.V. shows in the UK in the 70s. As well as Doctor Who going through its 'gothic' phase I also remember...

Escape Into Night (an adaptation of Catherine Storr's novel Marianne Dreams later made into the film Paperhouse).




King of the Castle - described by one of the writers as "Kafka for kids".



Children of the Stones - rural horror, sort of The Wicker Man for kids. The theme tune alone was the stuff of nightmares.


I think grimdark is just part of our cultural dna :smile:
 
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Black Leaf

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Knightmare was awesome, and brutal. A show about kids, being sent on a D&D adventure, but it pulled no punches
As a kid that's why I loved it. No patronising "impossible to fail" bullshit. The kids who won that show had something to genuinely feel proud of.

Although my favourite contestant was this one.

 

Mankcam

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John Blanche is an amazing fantasy artist, right there alongside Erol Otus. Did anyone own Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World book?
I had a tattered old copy of Titan: The FF Worldbook, as well as the FF Dungeoneer Corebook and the FF Out Of The Pit Bestiary. Absolutely loved the artwork, it made the setting come alive. I loved the folkloric flavour, with liberal dashes of Brian Froud, Terry Pratchet, and a touch of Fritz Lieber.

I packed them away when I went away to Uni, and my parents thought they were my 'childish things' and cashed them at a second-hand bookstore when they moved house!
I have since bought the Arion Games reprint versions, and have introduced my kids to roleplaying through Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

I totally love the World of Titan, in much the same way as others have fond memories of the World of Greyhawk.
The artwork was essential to the FF line, and fit like a glove to the setting material.
I love how Titan feels very fable-like, yet doesn't take itself seriously.

Great stuff :thumbsup:
 
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Brock Savage

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I packed them away when I went away to Uni, and my parents thought they were my 'childish things' and cashed them at a second-hand bookstore when they moved house!
Oh gawd that's a shame. I think a lot of us have terrible stories about parents getting rid of gaming stuff. I've got a doozy. My mom sent me away to a week-long religious camp when I was 13 where they fucking burned my 1st edition D&D books while I was in the woods making out with a girl camper I met. Even though I was a streetwise kid I never saw that one coming; I hauled those books damn near everywhere to stave off boredom. Needless to say, it made an apostate out of me.

I totally love the World of Titan, in much the same way as others have fond memories of the World of Greyhawk.

The artwork was essential to the FF line, and fit like a glove to the setting material. I love how Titan feels very fable-like, yet doesn't take itself seriously.
I'm American but even as a kid I thought Titan was way cooler than Greyhawk. I mean come on, look at the artwork!
 

Mankcam

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Oh gawd that's a shame. I think a lot of us have terrible stories about parents getting rid of gaming stuff. I've got a doozy. My mom sent me away to a week-long religious camp when I was 13 where they fucking burned my 1st edition D&D books while I was in the woods making out with a girl camper I met. Even though I was a streetwise kid I never saw that one coming; I hauled those books damn near everywhere to stave off boredom. Needless to say, it made an apostate out of me.
Oh man, the 'satanic panic' must of hit your neck of the woods quite hard.

We got a lesser version of it down here in Australia, but the horror stories I keep hearing from people who were young teens at the time really show how bad it was in some parts of the States.

Glad you guys survived to keep the hobby alive!
 
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Dumarest

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Whereas my parents figured it was a great way to get kids to read and do math voluntarily and stay out of trouble, and could not have cared less about drawings of devils and lists of make-believe spells. I think my dad thought it was a pretty goofy way to spend time and that we should have been pretending to be El Cid or the Cisco Kid instead. :eat: The nuns at Catholic school also had no issue with AD&D in my neck of the woods. :devil:
 

Mankcam

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This, I’ll wager


Recently revised as a stage show with audience participation. A retro clone RPG game show!
Oh wow, I remember when ABC Australia ran some reruns of this little BBC gem.
I think this shows that the 'santanic panic' hysteria wasn't big in the UK, otherwise BBC wouldn't have ran a game show emulating the fantasy rpg genre.
Great stuff :thumbsup:
 

Brock Savage

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I think this shows that the 'satanic panic' hysteria wasn't big in the UK
Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
 

Black Leaf

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Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
This is dangerously near to politics so I'll be a bit careful, but yes and no. On one hand we have a state religion, on the other it's Church of England who tend towards being wooly rather than fire and brimstone.
 

3rik

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Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
I often get the impression anywhere in the west is more secular and religiously moderate. But I'm sure reality is a bit more nuanced.
 

Mankcam

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There were some bloody terrifying kids' T.V. shows in the UK in the 70s. As well as Doctor Who going through its 'gothic' phase I also remember...

Escape Into Night (an adaptation of Catherine Storr's novel Marianne Dreams later made into the film Paperhouse).




King of the Castle - described by one of the writers as "Kafka for kids".



Children of The Stones - rural horror, sort of The Wicker Man for kids. The theme tune alone was the stuff of nightmares.


I think grimdark is just part of our cultural dna :smile:
I love the 60s/70s british sci-fi shows, they all had this touch of horror or coldness to them that you didn't see in other many other shows at the time. I think the closest analogy from the States may have been 'The Twilight Zone' or 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'.

But the Brits really did gothic grimdark quite well (despite the budget constraints), very much so with films, but it also poured over into many 'family television' shows as well.

I guess this was all fertile ground for the rpgs to come, stuff like WFRP etc
 
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Voros

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Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
The UK had its own irrational panic in the form of the Video Nasties scare. And unlike rpgs it actually led to some people going to jail just for distributing horror films, most of which are far tamer than the average episode of TWD.

Canada was barely touched by the D&D end of the Satanic Panic, at least in my neck of the woods.

But role-players got off easy compared to the innocent men and women falsely accused of ritual Satanic abuse and jailed for decades before being found innocent and released.
 
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Mankcam

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Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
In Australia the predominant Christian faiths are Anglican (CoE), Protestant, and Catholicism; with lots of other stuff as well. Evangelism on the rise as well as non-Christian faiths. A reasonably large number of people wouldn't identify with any faith, or may prefer to keep their beliefs to themselves.

It all seems much more subdued than how it is expressed in the States, so perhaps that was a factor when it came to the D&D hysteria in the 1980s. The 'satanic panic' was certainly present , but it wasn't all that big down here. I think it hit from 1985 to1986, then it all just faded away rather quickly.

Friends from the UK told me it hardly noted a mention over there, they had lots of other stuff going on that was more pressing in the media. Lot's of social upheavel, anti-Thatcher riots etc. Fantasy rpgs with demonic antagonists weren't seen as much of an issue of concern for the youth.
 
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dokel

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Please correct me if I am wrong but I have always imagined the UK as distinctly more more secular or religiously moderate than "The Colonies" since the Restoration.

Edited for grammar
Something of a process, beginning with the Reformation. However it wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution that God was finally declared dead.
 

Edgewise

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Any love for Crypts and Things? Ages ago I wrote a review where I identified a lot of callbacks to classic British RPGs of the 80s, and the product description explicitly states as much:
from the blurb said:
Crypts and Things (C&T) is a Swords and Sorcery Roleplaying game based upon the Old School Rules of the 70s/80s. It also draws upon the British fantasy games and game-books of that period to bring a distinctly dark and dangerous feel to the game.
 

Mankcam

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Lots of love for Crypts & Things!

I'm just not a huge TSR D&D fan, so the S&W retroclone thing isn't a high priority for me.
However if I find that people want to play a D&D OSR game, then Crypts & Things is definately one I would go for, primarily for it's classic british sword & sorcery flavour.
 
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Ladybird

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John Blanche is an amazing fantasy artist, right there alongside Erol Otus. Did anyone own Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World book?
There was an interview with a new GW artist in one issue of White Dwarf, and he was lamenting how hard it was to work with Blanche. You spend all day drawing a picture of a Space Marine, and it's pretty good, you can be justifiably proud of it. Then you look over and see John, and he's drawn a Space Marine, along with the entire Siege of Terra in the background.

Friends from the UK told me it hardly noted a mention over there, they had lots of other stuff going on that was more pressing in the media. Lot's of social upheavel, anti-Thatcher riots etc. Fantasy rpgs with demonic antagonists weren't seen as much of an issue to the youth.
There's a distinct satirical grimness to quite a lot of british 80's sci-fi and fantasy stuff. In particular, I've always felt that SLA Industries (Which misses the time period, but was wrote by people growing up in it) and Paranoia have quite a lot in common, as takes on the seeming futility of everyday life.

Oh wow, I remember when ABC Australia ran some reruns of this little BBC gem.
I think this shows that the 'santanic panic' hysteria wasn't big in the UK, otherwise BBC wouldn't have ran a game show emulating the fantasy rpg genre.
Great stuff :thumbsup:
Knightmare was ITV (One of the two free-to-air commercial stations at the time), not BBC :smile: The BBC's kids TV stuff was a lot "safer" and "boring", generally inconsequential game shows with gunge tanks at the end.

Channel 4, of course, had Countdown, as they have always done; it wasn't really kid's TV, unless you had a crush on Carol Vordermann.
 

Mankcam

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Knightmare was ITV (One of the two free-to-air commercial stations at the time), not BBC :smile: The BBC's kids TV stuff was a lot "safer" and "boring", generally inconsequential game shows with gunge tanks at the end.
My mistake, we Aussies often automatically assume anything on the Australian ABC that comes from Britain must of been a BBC production!

My apologies :grin:
 
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Simlasa

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There were some bloody terrifying kids' T.V. shows in the UK in the 70s. As well as Doctor Who going through its 'gothic' phase I also remember...
Ghostwatch is another good one, maybe not intentionally aimed at kids but it did stir up a bunch of controversy for scaring the snot out them.
 

dokel

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Oh gawd that's a shame. I think a lot of us have terrible stories about parents getting rid of gaming stuff. I've got a doozy. My mom sent me away to a week-long religious camp when I was 13 where they fucking burned my 1st edition D&D books while I was in the woods making out with a girl camper I met.
There does seem to be an upside to this story :smile:
 

AsenRG

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Nerdy pursuits are much bigger in the UK than anywhere else I've seen - you get surprisingly big wargaming tournaments in really out-of-the-way places and are a lot more traditional 'nerd' pursuits like model railways or historical re-enactment societies. Only in the UK could a company selling wargaming miniatures establish a huge chain of high street shops in the way Games Workshop has. In the 15 years or so I've lived here I don't think I've ever lived more than a few miles away from the nearest GW shop. If he-who-shall-not-be-named ever calls upon me to to sacrifice a virgin it's not going to be hard to find one.
Well, it's sometimes hard to tell nerdiness from eccentricity!

That said,
finding a willing victim might be easier than expected, finding one that's also a virgin might be somewhat of a challenge:devil:.

Oh gawd that's a shame. I think a lot of us have terrible stories about parents getting rid of gaming stuff. I've got a doozy. My mom sent me away to a week-long religious camp when I was 13 where they fucking burned my 1st edition D&D books while I was in the woods making out with a girl camper I met. Even though I was a streetwise kid I never saw that one coming; I hauled those books damn near everywhere to stave off boredom. Needless to say, it made an apostate out of me.
Hey, that was nasty! And also shows why drastic measures backfire...

My parents had always been threatening to throw my gamebooks* out, but that was because they believed I was spending too much time and money on them. But in return, I've always warned them that this would mean me stopping to study my lessons for school** until I manage to recover my collection in pristine condition (i.e. not out of the garbage cans). They quickly realized that that would be months at best, what with some of them being out of print...and that was during the three years when every student here needs to keep his grades as high as possible:evil:!


*Gamebooks were huge at the time in Bulgaria. Even today new ones are being written and printed.
**I've always been a big believer in the principle of "hit where it hurts".

Any love for Crypts and Things? Ages ago I wrote a review where I identified a lot of callbacks to classic British RPGs of the 80s, and the product description explicitly states as much:
Well, I'm a backer. And I liked it enough to be glad I backed....unlike, may I add, a couple*** other KS campaigns.

***Though a couple out of dozens is not a bad success rate:grin:!


BTW, the title of this thread gave me an idea about the way I should advertise my next "public" campaign.
Namely, I think I should call them Bulgarian Old School Silliness (B.O.S.S.):shade:!
 
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Folks, this is really brilliant stuff, thank you for all your input / memories! I've got plenty of things to chew on here.

If I can add one other ingredient to the mix (and this was something that the Fighting Fantasist brought up in his blog post about the British Old-School): British computer games.

Back in the 1980s, because of how expensive imported games from the US and Japan were (not to mention the hardware to run it) and because slapping together a game was relatively cheap (compared to the multi-million-dollar budgets of AAA games today), there was a thriving cottage industry of British video games. I missed the 8-bit microprocessor era, so my memories are all PC vs Amiga, but I'm sure lots of people here have memories of things like The Lords of Midnight (1984) or Chaos: The Battle of Wizards (1985).

My own memories of British video gaming come from things like Shadow of the Beast (1989), Syndicate (1993), Cannon Fodder (1993), and UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994). I remember finding the art style in stuff like Shadow of the Beast very weird (and a bit disturbing). Definitely evoking the same fantasy art style from the FF gamebooks.
 

Black Leaf

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Folks, this is really brilliant stuff, thank you for all your input / memories! I've got plenty of things to chew on here.

If I can add one other ingredient to the mix (and this was something that the Fighting Fantasist brought up in his blog post about the British Old-School): British computer games.

Back in the 1980s, because of how expensive imported games from the US and Japan were (not to mention the hardware to run it) and because slapping together a game was relatively cheap (compared to the multi-million-dollar budgets of AAA games today), there was a thriving cottage industry of British video games. I missed the 8-bit microprocessor era, so my memories are all PC vs Amiga, but I'm sure lots of people here have memories of things like The Lords of Midnight (1984) or Chaos: The Battle of Wizards (1985).

My own memories of British video gaming come from things like Shadow of the Beast (1989), Syndicate (1993), Cannon Fodder (1993), and UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994). I remember finding the art style in stuff like Shadow of the Beast very weird (and a bit disturbing). Definitely evoking the same fantasy art style from the FF gamebooks.
One of the interesting things about The Lords of Midnight or Chaos: The Battle of Wizards was those games really did show how a lot of the same people making ZX Spectrum games had grown up on wargames and RPGs. They were pretty much direct attempts to recreate that in a video game format. (And Games Workshop published the latter. Because everyone was publishing Spectrum games back then. Even British Telecom had its own publishing wing and was surprisingly good at that).

This is probably partly me refighting the old playground wars on this, but I never got the same vibe from the Commodore 64. It was more powerful and more impressive technically. But it was decicedly where you went if you just wanted to play home versions of the arcade games. The eccentric, the visionaries and the downright weird all flocked to the Spectrum instead.

American posters almost certainly won't have experienced the Spectrum so I advise picking up a copy of the emulator Spectaculator (free on a trial basis for 30 days) and heading over to World of Spectrum to pick up some games. To get a good overview of the kinda stuff British RPGers were playing back then play the aforementioned Lords of Midnight and Chaos, plus Skool Daze, iD, Everyone's a Wally and Rebelstar.

Spectrum fans are fortunate as we have one of the only legally emulated machines around (the rights holders gave permission on a non profit basis). And World of Spectrum go out of their way to make sure that the game creators don't mind. It's why the Spectrum archive is one of the best preserved around.
 
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Indeed! GW published a bunch of Speccy games back in the day, including Journey's End, Runestone, Tower of Despair, and Hero Quest (the latter being the only one I actually played myself, albeit the DOS port).

I also remember the old Space Hulk (1993) game on PC being so terrifying I couldn't get through it.

I think I'm going to have to grab myself that emulator you linked to and have an explore...
 

Black Leaf

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Indeed! GW published a bunch of Speccy games back in the day, including Journey's End, Runestone, Tower of Despair, and Hero Quest (the latter being the only one I actually played myself, albeit the DOS port).

I also remember the old Space Hulk (1993) game on PC being so terrifying I couldn't get through it.

I think I'm going to have to grab myself that emulator you linked to and have an explore...
Play Journey's End. The first part is ok, the second part is amazing and the third part is a bit weak.
 

CRKrueger

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Whereas my parents figured it was a great way to get kids to read and do math voluntarily and stay out of trouble, and could not have cared less about drawings of devils and lists of make-believe spells. I think my dad thought it was a pretty goofy way to spend time and that we should have been pretending to be El Cid or the Cisco Kid instead. :eat: The nuns at Catholic school also had no issue with AD&D in my neck of the woods. :devil:
My experience, and that of people I’ve asked who are old enough, is that the Satanic Panic was generally a Fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestant thing, and when Catholic’s bought in, it was more regional and rural, where priest’s quoted the OT rather than the New.

These days, I hear that D&D is classified along by some along with Tarot cards and Ouija boards, as a an opening to the occult that can lead to demonic attachment, but most priests I’ve talked to that aren’t completely ignorant about RPGs say it’s hogwash.
 

ffilz

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What surprises me a bit is that from my memory of White Dwarf, it covered relatively little of the unique UK RPGs, focusing mostly on D&D, Traveller, and RuneQuest with dabbling in other games. But maybe I just skimmed over some articles and don't remember them (happy to be pointed to specific issues, I have a complete collection from issue 1 to 60 or so).

Frank
 

Ladybird

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What surprises me a bit is that from my memory of White Dwarf, it covered relatively little of the unique UK RPGs, focusing mostly on D&D, Traveller, and RuneQuest with dabbling in other games. But maybe I just skimmed over some articles and don't remember them (happy to be pointed to specific issues, I have a complete collection from issue 1 to 60 or so).
You mean, the ones that GW were selling themselves and thus had a somewhat vested interest in supporting? :smile:
 

Black Leaf

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What surprises me a bit is that from my memory of White Dwarf, it covered relatively little of the unique UK RPGs, focusing mostly on D&D, Traveller, and RuneQuest with dabbling in other games. But maybe I just skimmed over some articles and don't remember them (happy to be pointed to specific issues, I have a complete collection from issue 1 to 60 or so).

Frank
Advanced Fighting Fantasy was well after the glory days of the Dwarf. Its coverage of Dragon Warriors was very sparse and I don't remember it ever covering Maelstrom.

The games actually published by Games Workshop (WFRP, Golden Heroes, Judge Dredd) were so heavily covered that they got complaints.

For the period we're talking about, I think most of your White Dwarfs are actually a bit earlier, before most of the classic Brit rpgs were released.
 

ffilz

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Advanced Fighting Fantasy was well after the glory days of the Dwarf. Its coverage of Dragon Warriors was very sparse and I don't remember it ever covering Maelstrom.

The games actually published by Games Workshop (WFRP, Golden Heroes, Judge Dredd) were so heavily covered that they got complaints.

For the period we're talking about, I think most of your White Dwarfs are actually a bit earlier, before most of the classic Brit rpgs were released.
Ah, well then that would explain it. I definitely miss the early magazines. And now there's so many different fanzines, and my budget is limited...

Frank
 
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