Although the trends were already in place earlier, this era of gaming was the beginning of not only new publishers, but also one of new editions. With this came new campaign settings that utilized pre-existing game mechanics. Much like so many other things in the ‘80s, the first half was one of indulgent growth, the second half was something akin to ‘the morning after’.
The Dragon magazine, published first as The Strategic Review in 1975, began publishing ideas centered upon the Forgotten Realms campaign setting in 1980. This setting was created by Ed Greenwood, who had been writing about the setting since his childhood, starting around 1967. In this setting, the concept of a “multiverse” where parallel worlds (including Earth) existed. Here was where all of humanities myths and legends were born. Thus, in 1975, Ed Greenwood’s Waterdeep and Shadowdale were included into his D&D campaign.
Tyr Games had published the Bushido RPG in 1979, but that title was re-published as a box set by Phoenix Games after Tyr’s demise in 1980. This game was unique in two aspects: first was the low level cap (level 6, maximum); second was the focus on social requirements as part of character advancement.
RuneQuest boiled down into the publication known as Basic Role-Playing, also released by Chaosium. This percentile skill-based system became the foundation rule set for most of the games published by Chaosium.
The Fredonian Aeronautics and Space Administraion (FASA) came onto the scene as a licensee for the Traveller RPG. In
, graduates from the UofV got together and created Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE). ICE created Arms Law, which was something of an add-on for other RPG systems that would promote greater detail to the games. Over time, the ICE “Law” books would be combined to create the first (and second) generation of the Rolemaster RPG. Virginia
Between the years 1976 and 1979, 10 adventures were set in the world of Greyhawk. From these modules, which allowed various glimpses into the Gygax home campaign, the first publication of the city itself was created in 1975 as ‘supplement I’. This book did not detail the setting, with its focus being upon the thief and paladin classes, as well as new weapon rules and spells. The setting of Greyhawk itself was published in August of 1980. The geography of the region of Oerik continent was limited to the northeastern region, due to the limitations of paper printing sizes; even though Gygax had the entire world plotted. This folio also contained the politics of the realm, setting the region up to be a chaotic, disruptive area that would enable Game Masters a place ripe with adventures.
Top Secret was produced by TSR in 1980 as well. It was a d10 system, with attributes and other statistics based upon percentile rolls; based upon espionage story settings. Also released by TSR was the Known World, which was a somewhat generic setting for some of the early modules of TSR. The world itself was known and published as Mystara, with the initial continent of Brun (as well as Skothar, Davania and Alphatia).
In November of 1980, the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) was created by Frank Mentzer of TSR, to promote quality roleplaying and enable D&D fans to meet and game together in a tournament setting. The focus was to have pre-generated characters that would adventure in a 4-hour ‘balanced event’. Membership in the RPGA was paid as a yearly fee, which included a subscription to Polyhedron magazine.
Steve Jackson Games was founded. Steve Jackson also released the game The Fantasy Trip this year through Metagaming Concepts. This game had evolved from the Microgames published in Melee and Wizard. It was released as part of the In the Labyrinth book and was based upon a point buy system.
Lastly, Space Opera was released by Fantasy Games Unlimited. It was designed to encompass the entire genre of science fiction. The core game was originally sold as a boxed game set. This began a theme that would carry into the following year.