Lashings of Ginger Beer: Retrospective

Before “kids solving mysteries” (a genre made popular again by TV series “Stranger Things”) was a common indie RPG theme as it is today, there was Beyond Belief Games‘ “Lashings of Ginger Beer” (hereafter referred to as “LoGB”). However, rather than emulate the popular American 1980’s style of “Goonies”, “Explorers” or “Super 8”, LoGB seeks to capture the spirit of 1940’s British Enid Blyton children’s stories like “The Famous Five” and their contemporaries.

LoGB takes place in “Idyllic England”, a land that never existed but was the setting for many of these “kid’s adventure” books. The first edition’s opening words say it best:

“You are a 13 year old kid living in Idyllic England (a fantasy land set in the same sort of unreal versions of England that appears in such works as Swallows and Amazons, Famous Five and The Secret Seven). In Idyllic England, the time period doesn’t really matter, suffice to say that kids ride bicycles not BMX’s, they read books such as ‘Bumper Boys Own Adventure’ since there is no such thing as Nintendo or Sega, and most importantly they do not swear and are only rarely rude to grown ups.”

LoGB was first made available as a short article in the March 1995 issue of gaming magazine “Valkyrie Magazine”. Author Simon Washburn had several “mini-RPGs” like this published (including the equally fun “Babewatch”) but LoGB would be the one that got subsequent standalone editions. These editions are unnumbered but I will refer to them as such by publication order:

Editions

  • 1st Editon: Valkyrie Magazine article (March 1995). Download a scan.
  • 1.5 Edition: early standalone pdf using stock clipart (2001); released for free.
  • 2nd Edition: standalone commercial pdf (also had a limited print run); currently available via DriveThruRPG here (2003).
  • 3rd Edition: new artwork; limited print run on LULU, not sure when/where this was sold in pdf form; sadly not available as a standalone anywhere.
  • 3.5 Edition: part of the “Kids & Critters” compilation pdf; similar to 3rd edition with some formatting changes; currently available via DriveThruRPG here (2008).

As a kid, I loved the Famous Five books, as well as the more “naughty” adventures of Just William. The Magic Faraway Tree books (also by Blyton, now only available in heavily censored-for-political-correctness-reasons versions) were also a huge part of my literary childhood. Also, some of my favourite TV shows as a small child were “kids adventure” based (the ultra-obscure “Fatty & George” – which also involved sci-fi elements – being one of my favourites). Thus, I have a lot of nostalgia for the kind of setting and stories LoGB lets gamers experience.

The rules are very lightweight, and there are only three “classes” (kid types) to play, but it’s a fun and fast-paced game that really captures the spirit of the source well. The skill selection is spot-on and the rules emphasize that although danger lurks, nobody ever gets really hurt. After all, the villains you’re dealing with are typically art thieves and smugglers, not child murderers! The added beauty of the game though is that it can be played totally “straight”, or as a satire on the genre like Comic Strip’s infamous “Five Go Mad in Dorset“.

It’s a shame there have never been any expansions for LoGB, as Simon mentioned a few times about planning to write some (in particular, a Narnia-like magical setting sourcebook). The popularity of Harry Potter a few years ago would have made a similar setting (“magic school”) a no-brainer, I would have thought, and even though it strays from the source, a nostalgic 1980’s sourcebook would likely greatly increase interest in the core game these days. With a little work, the rules could easily be adapted for playing slightly different kinds of “kids’ adventures” too, like teenage super-sleuths, encounters with aliens or the supernatural, or even just playing a gang of delinquents.

I did tinker with a few “expansion” ideas myself years ago (including a boarding school setting and a playable dog class for “boy and his dog” adventures). I will post them here if I can find them.

I’m sad to say that I’ve never had the chance to actually play this RPG, though. It’s pretty niche, even by indie game standards, and most of the target audience with nostalgia for the subject matter aren’t the kind who make up modern gaming groups today, most likely.

Regardless, if you love “kids having adventures” games but are getting tired of riding around on BMX’s in the neon 80’s listening to bubblegum pop while sling-shotting government agents in the crotch, why not travel further back for a change of pace in a more wholesome time and spend your summer hols in Idyllic England…?

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