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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ear II, Part 4: Big Brothers, Big Sisters...

The year is 1984.

On a personal note, it was on this year that I graduated high school. My final school project was a report: The History of Gaming. The word arduous comes to mind. That word could also be cast at the mindset of Gygax in having to manage TSR in this year. Internal issues between Gygax and the Blume brothers came to a head this year, after the Blumes drove TSR into more than one million dollars debt. Working with Flint Dille, Gygax arranged a meeting with Dille’s sister Lorraine Williams; who eventually came to manage TSR, after the Blumes were released. The Blumes sold their (majority) stock of TSR to Williams, who now became the leading stockholder over the company. Although a financial planner who found a great deal of potential in the debt-laden TSR, it was reported that Williams was also a non-gamer who considered gamers to be ‘beneath’ her.

DOAH!!! Things that I missed!
Aftermath! Published in 1981 by Fantasy Games Unlimited. Where players explore a post-apocalyptic world (usually a scorched earth, but virtually any ‘world’ may be used).
Archworld by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1977 was a campaign strategy battle simulator.
Bunnies & Burrows inspired by Watership Down and published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1976.
Flash Gordon (1977)
Villains and Vigilantes 1979 first ed, 1982 second ed. 2010 third ed (Monkey House games faced litigation).
Space Maries (wargame) by FanTac Games 1977 and then Fantasy Games Unlimited 1980
Swordbearer 1982 by Heritage Games

…and now back to our story.
Greyhawk slows down, as internal issues with both TSR publishing and Gary Gygax’s efforts in Hollywood making production of new products too much of a challenge.

Marvel Superheroes, TSR, based upon a custom system using two primary game mechanics. First was the ‘column shift’ when someone is doing an extremely hard or easy action. The second element was the ‘colored result’: white = failure, green = general success, yellow = favorable success, and red = extremely favorable result.

Dragonlance saga by TSR, written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. This world fulfilled TSR’s feelings that they had ‘plenty of dungeons but not enough dragons’. TSR backed the Dragonlance world as a full franchise.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones by TSR was an RPG where players chose from one of 8 pre-gen’ed characters and played out in one of the established adventures based upon the films and comics. It utilized a custom percentile-based system. Current copies of this first edition games have been removed from the market and destroyed, for all intents and purposes.

West End Games moves away from the board game world, and publishes Paranoia, a game of dark humor set in a dystopian future, where an insane computer network rules the masses living in Alpha Complex. The players get to design characters that have objectives set by the computer, and their (illegal) secret societies. It is a winner of the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1984.

Chill Pacesetter Ltd, first ed, horror themed RPG based upon the writings of Poe, Shelley, and Stoker. The Star Ace RPG also produced by Pacesetter Games. The tone of this space RPG sets it apart. It is much more free-wheeling and swashbuckling concerned more with action than hard science. It also takes place in a unique universe with over 8,000 planets, a central Empire and all the juicy corruption that comes with it. It’s rules allowed for fast character generation and was based loosely upon a percentile system. The Timemaster RPG by Pacesetter Games focused on adventures through both time and alternate realities as members of the Time Corps of the year 7192. In this game, the primary antagonist are the Demoreans from another dimension who shape shift and are bent on molding time.
Battle Tech (originally Battle Droids, until Lucasfilm raised litigation for the copyrighted name). Is introduced in the video and board game market.

Mekton RPG is published by R. Talsorian Games. This white box game is a tactical war game involving anime mecha elements.

Flashing Blades Fantasy Games Unlimited, set in the era of the Three Musketeers.

Ringworld by Chaosium and based upon the Larry Niven novels. The players are explorers and scouts from Known Space who come to Ringworld. The game is not a space game, being focused upon the exploration of Ringworld itself.

Justice Inc. that was set in a 1930’s pulp fiction-esque universe of organized crime and the supernatural. It used Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying System.

Game Designers Workshop was in existence since the mid-70’s, but it wasn’t until the mid-80’s that they ventured into the RPG market. Twilight 2000, was GDW’s post-war adventure, set in the aftermath of WWIII (the “Twilight War”) where a global conventional war that was resolved with a limited nuclear war. The characters have adventures in the ruins of the aftermath.

Rollmaster 2e by ICE resembled the previous Spell, Arms, Claw Law books, but also introduced a new Spell Law book. The Vog Mur campaign setting and precursor for the Shadow World, which was Loremasters original setting. Spacemaster by ICE is a sci-fi game using the Rolemaster Fantasy system. MERP, Iron Crown Enterprises using a streamlined version of the Rolemaster System. Unlike the Tolken stories, this environment was magic-heavy. The rules system was not for ‘beginner’ players.

Tales from the Crypt RPG  by West End Games. This game used West End’s Masterbook system.

Red Fox publishing under the Random House publishers produced Lone Wolf game books.

Champions third edition incorporated the Hero System and was published by Hero Games

Toon by Steve Jackson Games. This parody of RPG’s was a game where players could never die, showed back up in the next ‘scene’, and freely breaking the fourth wall.

Glorantha with Avalon Hill, In this third edition, the connections with RuneQuest are further loosened. The evolution of Glorantha blossomed, set to become tied to the Pendragon RPG in the upcoming year.

Warhammer 2e is released one year after the first edition. The trait rating is still based upon the percentile system. Also tha year, Golden Heroes is published by Games Workshop, previously a local title. Published in 1984 in a box set. The characters are created with randomly rolled powers / abilities, that must be foretold in an origins story.

The Dark Eye / Het Oog des Meesters by Schmidt Spiele. Germany’s most popular RPG, surpassing even the sales of D&D.

The Swedish-based Target Games released Mutant, based upon the Basic Role-Playing game system and was set in a Gamma World-styled setting.

In the real world, BADD’s Patricia Pulling’s legal accusation that gaming incites suicidal behaviors is countered by Michael A Stackpole (who cites that gamers have lower suicide rates than non-gamers).

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