Dragonroar (1985)

By the mid-80s, most wargame publishers were experimenting with RPGs.  In the UK, Standard Games got in on the action with Dragonroar (1985), which somehow beat Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay to market to became the second British-created fantasy RPG (the first Brit RPG in general was the small press superhero RPG Golden Heroes, 1982, the first fantasy one is Fighting Fantasy, 1984).

Dragonroar is absurd, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth celebrating. The system is simple, more of a stripped down tactics game; there are no mechanics for anything outside of combat. That combat is clearly intended for play with miniatures (the back cover features a photograph of the miniature line in a diorama mimicking the action of the cover). It’s firmly for beginners and provides a solid, if martially inclined, introduction. The tone is light and cheerful, the explanations clear. There is an audio cassette; the first half walks you through the book’s contents, the second half narrates the solo adventure that seems both mortifying and helpful in equal part. The book contains a more traditional GM-led adventure. There are character chits and environment floor plans. All this is fine: you could do a lot worse for an introductory RPG box in 1985.

War hedgehogs, though. That’s a war hedgehog on the cover, right there, under the decidedly un-aerodynamic dragon. “These are giant intelligent hedgehogs,” says the book. “They normally stand 8’ tall. They do not wear armor as they are well protected by spikes…Most prefer to be warriors, using giant double headed axes.” It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and it could only exist because of RPGs. No other media would suffer something so goofy to live. And while they aren’t featured on the cover, the game’s listing for killer penguins is equally amazing. “They live mainly on fish, but some groups that live near shores or major shipping routes like to supplement their diets with manflesh.” They affix metal blades to their beaks. The hell with orcs, give me a fantasy world full of homicidal mutant penguins and hedgehogs any day.

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