1981 proved to be a somewhat calmer year in the game industry, with the publications focusing more on science fiction or popular published fantasy.
Mayfair Games was founded by Darwin Bromley. Palladium Books opened its doors, with The Mechanoid Invasion. Created by Kevin Siembieda and contributed by Erick Wujcik, it was centered upon a malevolent alien force of bio-mechanical beings from Gideon E that also introduced ‘minor magic and psionics’.
Grimoire Games’s The Arduin Adventure is published as a box set. However, this is also the final year for Grimoire Games. This system was based upon a cross-genre fantasy RPG created in the mid-70’s by David A Hargrave. Although primarily an medieval game, it also borrowed from historical fiction, horror, and interstellar war concepts.
Reaper 2e is the ancestor of today’s Warhammer world, published by Richard Halliwell and Rick Priestley.
Call of Cthulhu was commissioned by Chaosium earlier, but never published. After being contacted by Sandy Petersen of Doom fame; for an idea he had for a RuneQuest game set in H.P. Lovecraft’s world. The result was the first edition of Call of Cthulhe.
Champions, which would become the foundation of the Hero Systems game rule set, later to be published as its own entity in 1989. This was one of the first point-based character generation systems, based upon a super hero world. Character generation involved developing skills, friendships, and unique powers.
Stormbringer by Chaosium. It was a box set is created by Ken St. Andre. Set in the world of the Young Kingdoms found in the Elric books of Michael Moorcock. The system used is Chaosium’s Basic Roll-Playing.
Thieves’ World by Chaosium and FASA, the box set was produced in 1981, with FASA creating further adventures (T1-T4) in 1982 onward. Based upon the book series of the same name; where characters play within The Maze within the city of
. In this game, old gods battle on the streets for primacy; outside empires invade and control the city and region, bringing new races and threats. The initial story collection was created in 1978 by Robert Lynn Asprin. Sanctuary
Fighting Fantasy single-player role-play game books are published by Puffin (later Wizard Books). The original series, which would culminate in a total of 59 books by 1995, was written by
author Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (of Games Workshop fame). The first book in this series was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, based upon an earlier work titled The Magic Quest. UK
Moving forward to 1982; the RPG industry began to shift... sometimes in an unfortuneate direction.
books brought out Ace publications. Also this year, Avalon Hill hired staff from a bankrupt Simulations Publications Inc (SPI), forming the company Victory Games as a subsidiary. SPI was indebted to TSR, who completed a buyout over the course of the next year. Berkley
Role Aids books which were published by Mayfair Games and used as generic settings and adventures for various game systems. This publication line would include medieval characters being sent to near-present and even science fiction settings, standard ‘good verses evil’ story arcs, and at least one film adaptation (The Keep).
GangBusters, published by TSR and written by Rick Kerbs with Mark Acres. This adaptation of Kerbs’ “Bloody 20’s” game was set in the world of 1920’s gangsters. Players would take the rolls of cops, gang members, or professionals; with organized crime and political corruption being the primary themes. Its location was the fictional
. Lakefront City
Star Frontiers, also published by TSR was a space opera game set near the center of a spiral galaxy. Space travel is based upon reaching 1% light speed, resulting in the opening of The Void, which allows a kind of wormhole effect of travel. Five races (Dralasites, Humans, Vrusk, and Yazirian that would become featured in Spelljammer) as well as the Sathar had starfaring tech. Other, planet-bound races were included as NPCs. The system was a d10 percentile rule set.
Champions second edition came out this year, published under the Hero Systems rule set.
Star Trek 1e was released by FASA, and was based upon derived elements of the original series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. TNG will not release until 1987, which would result in a revamping of the game universe and overall cannon of the series.
On that same note, Starfleet Voyages was also released this year by Terra Games Co. It was focused on the unexplored planets in the United Federation. It was set in the first show’s universe, along with the animated TV series. References tended to be generic, and the rule set included character building as well as star ship conflict resolution.
Worlds of Wonder, released as a box set by Chaosium. This multi-genre game included the booklets Future World, Magic World, and Superworld; each based upon Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing rule set.
The Swedish-based Target Games released Drakar & Demoner, based upon the Basic Role-Playing game system mentioned above.
Simmering issues of social unrest began to boil as Mazes and Monsters was produced from the 1981 novel of the same name. A rise in anti-gaming sediments bloomed. Patricia Pulling creates BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons). This foreshadowed a turbulent time in the RPG industry…