Andy also sent along some memories not just of Heroes but of what gaming was like on the other side of the Atlantic in the late 70s and early 80s. With his permission, I've posted his memories below, both because I think they're interesting in their own right and because they provide another perspective on the history of our hobby:
The book itself is typed and mimeographed or photocopied, staple-bound with some awful art. The whole thing - production, erratic rules, bad art - reminds me very much of Arduin Grimoire, and it's obvious that the thing was a labour of love. And I've kept my copy for very many years.
On our side of the Pond, there seemed to be a very ersatz approach to gaming in those days around '80, '81, even a couple of years later. Most of the games we had were American ones, with relatively high production values, but the homegrown games - and the homegrown approach - were much more humble. The barrier to enjoying, and even publishing, your games seemed to be more one of passion and dedication than money.
The move of my friends and I into roleplaying was a natural progression from the pen-and-paper puzzle or challenge games we played in the back of class at school. Noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe to Americans), boxes (a kind of primitive version of go), battleships (a schoolboy pen and paper game long before the American commercial version) and a game we just called War - drawing a coastline, placing guns, and flicking your pencil across the paper to see if the lin it made hit one of your opponents guns - it occupied us on rainy days or boring classes. We did this for a couple of years.
Eventually we came up with a game we called Mazes. As far as I know, this was an original development by us. You drew a maze and someone had to navigate their way through it. Then we added traps. Then an item you could pick up to avoid a trap - you could get past the fire if you had a fire extinguisher, for example. Then monsters: we used Daleks. If you'd found the machine gun, you could kill the Dalek before it got you, and your exploration continued.
Each of us drew mazes, and each friend in the group (there were about hald a dozen of us) would attempt to beat each maze. They got bigger and more complex.
Then came the summer holidays, and one of the gang came back in the Michaelmas (autumn) term with a game he pitched as "Mazes, but better". It was the Holmes edition of D&D. And it was Mazes, but it involved dice, and characters with different abilities, and monsters that were thought or weaker than other monsters. I was hooked. We all were. I knew what I wanted for my next birthday, and I got it: a copy of the rules for my own. It was Moldvay by that time. This was late 1981; it was my 13th birthday.
But fantasy didn't scratch all my itches. I wanted science fiction. No problem. I sat down to write a science fiction version - horribly, horribly plagiaristic, of course. Level-based pilots, fighters, space pirates and the like, all written up in the nicest roundhand I could muster in a fresh exercise book. I even changed my handwriting to make it look more professional. Before I finished writing up my awesome science fiction game, Christmas came, and in my local Woolworths (remember those days when chain and department shops made sure they had some roleplaying games in stock), I found an unpreposeessing little black box with something about the Free Trader Beowulf. I bought it and gave up my plans to be a game designer.
Within a year we'd been invited through one of the group to join a local wargaming group. These were working men (bluecollars, I think you'd call them) with a passion. We were tolerated there, I think. They really wanted to get us into a real hobby, and we were encouraged to play wargames with them. I enoyed the few games I played; a couple of our group loved them and became wargamers - a passion fuelled further when the first edition of Warhammer came out.
Wargamers seemed to have an even more ersatz approach to rules and games than we did. There were three or four men who enjoyed a game of Ace of Aces (in 3D, fixing biplane models to chemistry clamps), but almost all the rest of the wargames used homegrown club rules, which used a playing card resolution system. The rules - often very detailed - were handwritten and photocopied and passed around. I hope that in a folder somewhere I still have a copy of the medieval variant.
That's the kind of environment that games like Heroes and Laserburn developed in. Maybe it was similar in those first prints of Chainmail and OD&D. I don't know. If that's the case then we seem to have been several years behind the US in terms of professionalism - except for Games Workshop. By that time, White Dwarf was most definitely a prozine, and they carried the UK printings of Traveller and Runequest.I find this all very fascinating, since it's at once similar and different from my own formative experiences, particularly with regards to wargaming, which I never really got into, even though I knew a lot of guys who did.
Thanks for sharing this, Andy!