The next chunk of idea debt in my Binders of Lore is technically titled The Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings Intergalactic Tour Guide or some such nonsense, but I’m going to stick with “Groovin’ Zed” because I don’t have all day. To properly appreciate Groovin’ Zed, you have to understand that Leighton Connor and I have an unhealthy fascination with writing about musicians that don’t exist. For example, you can still visit the shitty website for ANkST & ANkHS, a band that we made up for a Dragon*Con mock flyer contest in 1996 (we won) and later created a geocities-o-licious website and elaborate backstory for. My first publication as Brainfart Press was a book called Obscure Early Bluesmen (Who Never Existed), a catalog of fictional blues greats. The point is, Leighton and I waste a whole lot of time making up information about bands that don’t actually exist.
Groovin’ Zed, like many Hex releases, was spawned from the super-hero game Leighton ran in college, which over the course of a few years turned into a big shared universe of interconnected games about whatever weird shit a player wanted to run a game about. There’s a lot of material and game ideas scattered throughout Hex products that originated in the game we called “The Ficton.” In fact, you can think of the Hex Ficton (the world where Hobomancer, M-Force, Fort High, Colin Thomas Presents Rasslin’, and many other Hex products are set) as kind of a reboot of the original shared universe from Leighton’s game.
Anyway, one of the newer players, Eddie, decided one day that he wanted to run a game in the Ficton. I think he intended it to be a sort of X-Filesy conspiracy game (this was the 90s), but Eddie was young and new to GMing and made the serious error of telling us that the game was set in the 70s and that we should make characters who would know each other from the same bar. As soon as someone said, “we could play the band!,” any chance of Eddie running a game that required the PCs to be anything but a bunch of stoned morons went up in smoke faster than a bag of weed at Tommy Chong's house. Eddie either didn’t fully realize this or decided to bravely persevere. We only played a few times, and I don’t remember if the PCs ever actually got abducted by aliens or not, but that was the ending that eventually stuck. Later in the various games set in the universe there would be an occasional reference to the shitty band that disappeared in the 70s or their “hit” song “Peyote” (which we usually assumed sounded like “Berserker” from Clerks).
At some point, we decided to make a Groovin’ Zed game where they became wildly popular in outer space despite their lack of talent and toured the galaxy getting into wacky adventures with their loyal hound Reefer. So pretty much Josie and the Pussycats in space, but with more drugs. Groovin’ Zed made its first appearance in QAGS Second Edition, which even featured an awesome drawing of the band by one of our favorite artists, Gary Bedell. We even included ads for it at the back of a book or two in the post-QAGS era. Unfortunately, the actual game turned out to be vaporware.
Everything started out great. We decided to go with the tour guide conceit, which meant we got to write a bunch of dumb background information about the band. We wrote about the band’s history, we wrote an interview with Groovin’ Zed himself (“we're bigger than Elvis! You, uh, don't know what that means, do you?”), we even wrote a little bit about the famous Love Ship, where the Jefferies Tubes double as the galaxy’s biggest bong. And of course we created the Groovin’ Zed discography, because Leighton and I love creating discographies for bands that don’t exist, complete with critical commentary. I’m going to include the whole “Albums” section in its entirety, because it's my blog and I love our dumbass discographies.
Though many only know Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings from their hit singles, the albums are where the band unleashes its full creative genius. Shortly after the Roller Kings signed their contract they released their first album, Those Are Some Really Fucked Up Tentacle-Things on Your Head. It shot to the top of the charts, and deservedly so – the Roller Kings’ trademark sound was there from the beginning, and no one had ever heard anything like it before. But in retrospect, Tentacle Things sounds confused, as though the band still didn’t know what to make of their new life.
With You May Call It Ssnoorupool, But I Call it Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Roller Kings released their first masterpiece. The songs reveal a band finally coming to terms with their change in locale, a band reflecting on their newfound status as intergalactic superstars. In “Look at Me Now” Groovin’ Zed mocks his friends, parents, high school English teacher, and various others who criticized him earlier in life. When Zed bellows out, “You said I’d amount to nothing/But look at me now!” you can hear the triumph in his voice. But there are other emotions on display in Ssnoorupool. Zed shows his range with the touching “It Ain’t Easy to Rock,” a song that explores the difficulties of superstardom.
Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings have continued to release albums, and the level of quality has remained the same. One particularly notable work is Zed’s solo project Grllxxgaloelslfffly. Unbelievably, Zed recorded the entire album over the course of three hours. Even more amazing, rumor has it he composed the songs there in the recording studio. Though not Zed’s most polished work, Grllxxgaloelslfffly gives a unique insight into his creative process.
Another of the band’s most ambitious efforts is the rock opera Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings Save Christmas. Christmas is, apparently, some sort of winter festival on the Roller Kings’ home planet. While we don’t understand exactly what Christmas is, we’re certainly thankful that Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings have saved it.
Those Are Some Really Fucked Up Tentacle-Things on Your Head
“Damn! We're in Space!”
“Those Are Some Really Fucked Up Tentacle-Things on Your Head”
“Cheetos and Coors”
You May Call it Ssnoorupool, But I Call it Rock 'n' Roll
“Look at Me Now”
“I Don’t Need a Universal Translator (to Say I Love You)”
“It Ain’t Easy to Rock”
“Come On Baby”
“You May Call it Ssnoorupool, But I Call it Rock 'n' Roll”
“Is This On?”
“All Kindsa Colors”
“Everything is Love”
“Nobody Appreciates Me”
“Seriously, I Think I’m Going to Throw Up”
Groovin' Zed and The Roller Kings Save Christmas
“Groovin' Zed and the Roller Kings Save Christmas (main theme)”
“They've Never Even Heard of Christmas”
“Gimpy the Sad Little Elf”
“Santa Needs Some Action”
“Nuclear Christmas Nightmare”
“Roller Kings to the Rescue”
“Ebeneezer Scrooge vs. Frosty the Snowman”
“Groovin' Zed and the Roller Kings Save Christmas (reprise)”
The largest (complete) section of the book is a mostly-complete catalog of the planets that Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings will be visiting on their upcoming “Good Shit” tour. Here’s a sample entry:
World Overview: A thousand years ago Frngl Splb ran a hugely profitable casino on his home planet Bzzkll, until the moralistic rulers of Bzzkll shut the casino down. Frngl barely escaped with his life. He made his way to Quartank-Zeta, an unoccupied desert planet conveniently located between the borders of Bzzkll and Qlarisia’s empires. Free to do what he wanted, Frngl rebuilt his casino. Over the years he expanded, making his establishment more and more elaborate. After he died his descendants continued the expansion. Eventually the casino covered the whole world and Quartank-Zeta became a thriving planet.
Despite its origins, there’s more to Quartank-Zeta than the casino. There are also hotels, bars, restaurants, brothels, and spaceports. Quartank-Zeta has more spaceports, per capita, than any other planet in the known galaxies. This is partly because the economy is based on tourism, but mostly because the people of Quartank-Zeta produce no food or goods and are entirely dependent on imports.
Notable People: Hrgl Splb is the planet’s current manager. If you find yourself in Mr. Splb’s office, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
The Show: Groovin’ Zed and the Roller Kings will be playing in the eastern wing of the Quasar Center, taking the stage after Crimson Carella LaCronk and her Cosmic Carnal Contortionists.
Accommodations: Quartank-Zeta boasts a staggering array of hotels, from tiny hovels with dirty sheets to extravagant palaces of pure luxury. Depending on your luck at games of chance, you may have the opportunity to visit both extremes.
Charming Local Customs: If you see a knife fight break out in a parking lot, it is customary to bet on the outcome.
Don’t Forget: Money, and lots of it.
Make Sure You Visit: The brothel district. Wanting to check out some of those famous establishments, but you’re stuck with the kids? Not to worry! Most of Quartank-Zeta’s brothels provide licensed childcare services. Drop off the kids and have a good time. You can pay by the hour, by the day, or (best value) by the week.
Make Sure To Try: Plrngno, a game of skill and chance that seems to involve cards, dice, precipitation, body modification, and animal wrestling. The rulebook runs over 700,00 pages and experts estimate that, at any given time, only 4% of the players have any idea what they’re doing. Who knows–you might get lucky!
Remember when I mentioned that projects often turn into Idea Debt when they start feeling like Real Work? Looking at what we’ve got written, it’s obvious that’s what happened with this. Once we finished making up dumb shit about an imaginary band and making up stupid planets, we lost steam. The “game” section (theoretically the point of the whole thing) is kind of an outline with a few lists and a couple of sketchy ideas. Leighton and I* occasionally added to the document over the years, but it was usually to add more nonsense about the band or another planet entry. The game section hasn’t grown much. The file I’ve got (which never even made it to Google Docs with most of our dead projects) was last modified in April of 2009, so it’s pretty far off the radar.
Looking over the file (which is just under 9,000 words), I could see how we could easily use the “plug and play” adventure format we used for things like Fratboys Vs. and Sharktoberfest to turn Groovin’ Zed into a releasable product without a lot of work. The problem is that it’s such an old idea that it’s hard to get excited enough about to look at more than once every 8 years, much less actually work on, especially when there are so many other, newer projects that we want to work on. I’d love to see it finished, but time is limited and there are other things I’d rather work on. Maybe we can just skip the game part and publish all the stupid nonsense as a Brainfart book instead of a game.
*Mostly Leighton. There are a lot of sections I couldn’t tell you which of us wrote (or if we wrote them together), but the recognizable ones are mostly Leighton.