Welcome, and well met!

I'm a fan of pen-and-paper RPG's. That's what you are going to find on this site. Sometimes there might be a blurb about the Secret World MMO; but the focus here is my drifting through Wisconsin's gaming communities.

Links will be added as cons are visited, games are played, and authoring is published.

Wander around. Grab a tankard. Relax and immerse yourself into polyhedron geekness, Wisconsin style!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Era III: 1994; Science Fiction and Re-treads.

Publishing pulls back a little. Only about 2/3rd as many titles as the previous year. This year seems to be a time of settling into established story-worlds and concepts. Nothing too far out, other than a toe tipped into the steampunk genre…

TSR came out with the Spellfire CCG this year. It had a strong start, with a great appeal in its early sets with the D&D crowd. By the end of the run, the much-appreciated artwork was (and this is not a joke) replaced with photographs of poorly-dressed TSR staff acting out the card in question (some wearing blue jeans and Gen Con shirts). Power creep became the issue of the day as this attempt as the CCG failed.

OK, on the publishing side of things, SLA Industries, by Nightfall Games is bought out by Wizards of the Coast. Pinnacle Entertainment Group is founded by Shane Lacy Hensley.  Partizan Press, a publisher of military history books, opens its doors. Roughly around this year-ish, Kenzer & Company opens its doors in Waukeagan Il; with the campaign setting of Kingdoms of Kalamar (AD&D compatible). Although TSR had a reputation of trademark lawsuits, K&Co was never threatened. AD&D 3e’s OGL also enabled K&Co to produce official D&D products at this time. Dream Pod 9 splits off from IANUS Publications. Last Unicorn Games opens its doors around this time. Decipher Inc, already a decade old (and known for its How to Host a Murder), and releases the Star Trek: TNG CCG. Avalanche Press opens its doors as well. Last but not least, Digest Group Publications under Roger Sanger of Traveller appears, eventually publishing Traveller 4e in 1996.

As far as core books are concerned, here is the list: 

Masque of the Red Death by TSR. This game is set in the 1890’s Gothic Earth, as an add on to the Ravenloft line.

Chill 2e by Mayfair Games. Join the secret organization S.A.V.E. to combat the supernatural evils tucked away in the shadows!

MasterBook by West End Games universal rules system for their various lines.

The World of Indiana Jones by WEG. Just like it says on the can, folks. Get ready for some pulp, 1940’s adventure! Note that this is something of a second edition.

Bloodshadows RPG box set, West End Games. Noir supernatural. Get your gat and save your dame from the stuff that should’ve stayed in its box down that back alley.

FUDGE, by Wild Mule Games evolves out of 1992’s SLUG game system.

Nephilim 2e, by Chaosium. This version is the first non-French edition.

Castle Falkenstein RPG meshing steampunk and fantasy by R. Talsorian Games.

Allansia, using the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system by Puffin Books, Mass battle gaming outside of the dungeon and city. It also goes a little more in-depth into the three continents of Titan.

Tokyo NOVA is a cyberpunk RPG. 1st edition is published by F.E.A.R.

Nexus the Infinite city by  Daedalus Entertainment. Welcome to Nexux, where ancient Babylon is two blocks over from the lost city of Mars. Watch out for those centurions and dinosaurs having a turf war!

Heavy Gear published by Dream Pod 9. It uses the SilCore system. Set 4000 years in the future, you try to survive in a war zone world of heavy armament and fast-paced combat.

HoL: Human Occupied Landfill by Dirt Merchant Games. This Sci Fi space humor game is the antithesis of other games. Poorly written with no apparent attempt at quality or organization, this dumbed down game dis-allows typical gaming (no PC creation, only pre-gens). If you are looking for a night of anti-gaming, this is your book!

Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game is published as part of the Storyteller System by White Wolf Pub. Licensed RPG set in the Street Fighter video game universe.

Phase World: published by Palladium Games. Part of the Rifts universe, this is the first space setting that links the three galaxies to the trans-dimensional nexus city of Center.

Steve Jackson Games releases!

GURPS 3: Grimoire by SJG.
GURPS 3: Mage: The Ascension by SJG.
GURPS 3: Religion by SJG.
GURPS 3: Vampire : The Masquerade by SJG.
Ultima VIII introduced mouse controls as well as attempting to add precision jumping sequences reminiscent of a Mario platform game, though reactions to the game's mouse-based combat were mixed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Era III: 1993’s Big Theatric Extravaganza!

Big year for the game industry. LOTS of research on this year. Publishers and creators begin a buy-sell-buy-back cycle of intellectual properties. But first, trot out the lawsuits. Mayfair Games is sued by TSR for trademark violations due to similarities with the Role Aids publications. I think Madonna said something to the effect that “any press is GOOD press” around this time period. The Amazing Engine system used within TSR’s minimalist generic rules for the campaign settings of Bughunters, For Faerie Queen and Country, The Galactos Barrier, Kromosome, Magitech, Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega, Once and Future King, and Tabloid! is shut down.

Live Action Role Playing (LARP) had been around since Dagorhir (1977), focusing on fantasy battles. It evolved into the International Fantasy Gaming Society (IFGS) in 1981, then the Society for Interactive Literature (1982). The first recorded LARP was Treasure Trap. However, White Wolf Publishing releases Mind’s Eye Theatre in this year, beginning the run of the most commercially successful LARP. Also in this year, the FarEast Amusement Resarch (F.E.A.R.) is created. With this company is also developed the Standard RPG System based upon 6-sided dice.
With all of that, on to this years core rules!

Minds Eye Theatre is published by White Wolf. This LARP is played in the World of Darkness / Storyteller System game environments.

Mage: The Ascension is published as part of the Storyteller System.

Theatrix RPG by Backstage Press. This is a now-defunct near-diceless RPG using cinematic concepts, plot points, and ‘Distributed Directing’ role-play.

Millennium’s End by  Chameleon Eclectic Entertainment. The second edition of the system first released in 1991. Play a BlackEagle agent to work through techno thriller adventures set in 1999.

Underground by Mayfair Exponential Game System (variant). In the year 2020, genetically-engineered vets return home as social outcasts. They band together to become vigilantes…

DC Heroes 3e RPG by Mayfair Games and included the four variants of the Superman character!

The Whispering Vault by Pariah Press. A horror game, where once-normal humans are now ‘stalkers’ with supernatural abilities.

SLA Industries, by Nightfall Games. A game set in the far-flung future world of Mort, where “Mr. Slayer” runs his dystopian, Eurasia-sized city of Mort. Cannibals live outside in the blasted and ecologically ruined ‘sectors’.

Shatterzone by West End Games. This is a space opera that is very similar to WEG’s Star Wars.

Prime Directive RPG released by Amarillo Design Bureau Inc (formerly Task Force Games in 1993). Based upon the Star Fleet Battles wargame, this version allows players to adventure in an alternative Star Trek universe.

Macross II by Palladium Books. Transforming robots and spacecraft from the anime series Super Dimensional Fortress Macross.

Buck Rogers Adventure Game by TSR. This boxed game set allows players to adventure in the 25th Century that took place in the newspaper comics.

Elric! (Stormbringer) by Chaosium. A complete rebuild of the Young Kingdoms, but still a dark fantasy RPG. Considered to be the most polished of the versions.

Earthdawn, by FASA. This is the Age of Legend, where only heroes can stand against the astral Horrors set loose upon the Earth.

RuneQuest 3rd ed., by Avalon Hill, Publishing. The third, and accepted ‘final’ edition of adventures based in the world of Glorantha.

The Dark Eye / Het Oog des Meesters where you get to adventure in the fantasy world of Aventuria!

Risus: The Anything RPG is a rules light generic system. It is named for the Latin word for ‘laughter’, and is based upon the earlier GUCS: The Generic Universal Comedy System. It is officially re-released in 2001 as a 1.5 edition.

3D&T system, called Defensores de Toquio (Defenders of Tokyo) was a satire based upon the D&D system, produced in Brazil. It had a superhero flair.

From the depths of Steve Jackson Games rise…

GURPS 3: Aztecs by SJG.
GURPS 3: Atomic Horror by SJG.
GURPS 3: Arabian Nights by SJG.
GURPS 3: Creatures of the Night by SJG.
GURPS 3: Lensman by SJG.
GURPS 3: Operation Endgame by SJG.
GURPS 3: Vehicles by SJG.
GURPS 3: War Against the Chtorr by SJG.
GURPS 3: Werewolf: The Apocalypse by SJG.

Magic: The Gathering is released, and the CCG explosion begins…

The Fates of Twinion debuts as a graphical online RPG as part of the Shadow of Yserbius MUD. The seeds of blogging are found in web browser buttons and other such Internet forum sofrware, such as Genie, Usenet, BiX, Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and CompuServe.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Era III: 1992: Gods, Space and Universal Games Systems

I have a cold today. Not a lot of fluff. Just the facts.
A few new companies and games pop up in this year…

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) opens its doors, founded by Jolly Blackburn. Holistic Design Inc opens its doors, with the focus being primarily on computer games, but miniature games and an RPG will be in its future as well. On the subject of something old and something new, a handful of RPG’s were re-vamped and released this year:

Gamma World 4e is released by TSR this year.
Fringeworthy 3e is released by Tri Tac Games. Still set in 2013, still dealing with those alien and alternate Earths.
Warhammer 4e
Incursion by Tri Tac.
Cyberspace 2e is released by ICE. It uses the Spacemaster rule system.
Shadowrun 2e by FASA.

The new stuff that hit the shelves are:

Dangerous Journeys, Game Designers’ Workshop 1992, in conjunction with Gary Gygax’s New Infinities Productions. TSR immediately sues, buys the complete rights, and permanently shelves the project. Frank Mentzer leaves the business until 2010.
Galactic Conquest, a play-by-mail game as part of Agents of Gaming production design studio. Conquest of America (Continental Conquest) was also published.
The Primal Order, by Wizards of the Coast. Designed to be a deity system for virtually any RPG, this core rule set gave details about gods and how to convert them between systems.
FUDGE, by Grey Ghost Press. This is actually a self-published ebook that established the FUDGE rule system. Originally named SLUG (Simple, Laid-back Universal Game).
Werewolf: The Apocalypse by White Wolf is published as part of the Storyteller System.
Nephilim, by Chaosium. Become a demi-god, prophet, saint, magician soul stealer! The series had a revamp a few years from now.
Jovian Chronicles is released by Dream Pod 9. This is a Sol-centric mecha / space battle RPG released as Mekton RPG supplements, but will eventually become it’s own system.
Traveller: The New Era by GDW. This 3rd edition game moves the time frame beyond the rebellion to a point where the Imperium has been exhausted by a Rebellion-forged virus.
Over the Edge by Atlas Games. The game of surreal danger, secrets and conspiracies, set in the island nation of Al Amarja. Everything exists here, and they brought their friends and political factions… This game can be played diceless.
Amazing Engine game system is released by TSR designated to be a universal game system.
Dream Park by  R. Talsorian Games. Based upon the Niven / Barnes novels of a metagame environment.

This years Steve Jackson Games selection includes…

GURPS 3: Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by SJG.
GURPS 3: Bunnies & Burrows by SJG.
GURPS 3: Espionage by SJG.
GURPS 3: Fantasy GM’s Pack by SJG.
GURPS 3: Illuminati by SJG.
GURPS 3: Imperial Rome by SJG.
GURPS 3: Middle Ages by SJG.
GURPS 3: Timeline by SJG.
GURPS 3: Uplift by SJG.
GURPS 3: Mixed Doubles by SJG.

Along the same lines as the various SJG line, the Palladium Books line of core games is vast and varied as well. Founded in 1981 in Detroit, Michigan by Kevin Siembieda. One unique element of the various titles is that many follow what is known as the ‘Megaversal’ game mechanic. Although not a cut-and-paste universal game mechanic, the generalizations of many of the rules may be used between the majority of the books (each core line has unique elements and side rules that the others may not). Four core books that I missed are:

The Mechanoid Invasion: published by Palladium in 1981-1988
Valley of the Pharaohs: published by Palladium in 1983-1985
Heroes Unlimited: published by Palladium in 1984 1987 1998
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness: published by Palladium in 1985

Online RPGs include The Sierra Network: The Shadow of Yserbius. This MUD was a turned-based game allowing up to 4 people in a party. There were 30 rooms to explore and adventure through. Over time, 30 more rooms were added. Some of Quintet's action RPGs allowed players to shape the game world through town-building simulation elements, such as Soul Blazer, where you free towns via dungeon crawl adventures.

Friday, May 2, 2014

1991: The Time of Amber Dark: The RPG Spookiness.

A quick year, this year. I found only a handful of core book releases. So I put some extra sauce in the mix by looking back on Steve Jackson Games.
In the real world, this is the historic ‘end’ of the Cold War. The Gulf War rises. In the RPG realm, a new style of RPG attempts to take hold: Diceless. One commentator described the introduction of diceless RPGs in 1991, They went "diceless," creating a rules system where everything was worked out by the Game Master via numerical comparisons and other (non-random) techniques. Amber Diceless (Phage Press) created quite a stir, and the great diceless debate had begun in full force. A debate that, ultimately, the dice fans would apparently win, at least in the marketplace.

Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, by Guardians of Order and Phage Press. This system uses no randomization, although secret information does create uncertainty for players.

White Wolf Publishing opens its doors after a merger between Lion Rampant and White Wolf magazine.

Vampire the Masquerade, by White Wolf Publishing is published as part of the Storyteller System. The World of Darkness is born with characters playing vampires in a 1990’s setting.

Dark Sun by TSR. This campaign setting of the world of Athas was first released as a box set in this year. Set in a ‘dying earth’ genre and featuring widespread psionic cultures.

Dark Conspiracy, by GDW. Set in the near future, after a global “Greater Depression”, expanding city metroplexes are surrounded by various flavors of ‘outlaw lands’. Players take the roll of Minion Hunters, as killer cyborgs, vampires, and other horrors rise out of the outlaw lands.

The Swedish-based Target Games released Kult, based upon customized d20 game system and set in a world inspired by horror films and Gnostic philosophy. This particular game’s level of violence made it too controversial for Swedish toy stores to have it on their shelves.

Time Lord by Virgin Books This is the second attempt at a Dr Who game. It is known for little information about character creation, but included pre-canned characters for people to play (including the first 7 Doctor incarnations).

Last, but never least comes Steve Jackson Games. This powerhouse publisher rolls out new material for its various core systems yearly. Most of the below titles are environments for the GURPS editions, although other unique system core books will be mentioned as well. Starting from the distant past and moving forward, here are the release titles from the company, up to 1991.

Killer, using the generalized public domain Assassin game rule set (1982)

Autoduel Champions using the HERO2 system and integrating Car Wars and Champions. (1983)

By 1991, SJG’s GURPS system is in its 3rd edition. GURPS 1 encompassed titles such as:
Man to Man and Orcslayer (1985)

Autoduel, Fantasy, Horseclans, and Humanx (1986-87)

GURPS 2 (1987) was used in the titles:
Horror, Japan, and Space (1987-88)

GURPS 3 (1988) came out almost immediately after:

GURPS 3: Harkwood.
GURPS 3: The Old Stone Fort.
GURPS 3: Unnight.
GURPS 3: Conan. 1989
GURPS 3: Riverworld.
GURPS 3: Special Ops.
GURPS 3: Supers.
GURPS 3: The Prisoner.
GURPS 3: Ultra-Tech.
GURPS 3: Wild Cards.
GURPS 3: Witch World.
GURPS 3: The School of Hard Knocks.
GURPS 3: Stardemon.
GURPS 3: Tredroy.
GURPS 3: Zombietown U.S.A..
GURPS 3: Ice Age. 1990
GURPS 3: Aliens
GURPS 3: Cyberpunk
GURPS 3: Horror
GURPS 3: Martial Arts
GURPS 3: Swashbucklers
GURPS 3: Supertemps
In 1991, SJG released:

Toon Deluxe Edition by SJG. This is the second edition of the comical game.

GURPS 3: China
GURPS 3: Camelot
GURPS 3: Old West
GURPS 3: Psionics
GURPS 3: Robin Hood
GURPS 3: Scarlet Pimpernel
GURPS 3: Space
GURPS 3: Vikings
GURPS 3: Wild Cards: Aces Abroad
GURPS 3: Terradyne. A hard sci fi game set in the 22nd century of our local solar system, with a terraformed Mars, mining operations on Mercury, etc.

The first fully graphical multi-user RPG was Neverwinter Nights, which was delivered through America Online in 1991 and was personally championed by AOL President Steve Case. Square released Seiken Densetsu, also known as Final Fantasy Adventure or Sword of Mana in the West, for the Game Boy. Like Crystallis, the action in Seiken Densetsu bore a strong resemblance to that of Zelda, but added more RPG elements.

FSpace Publications is founded as Future Systems in this year, becoming rebranded as the Fspace Publications name in 1994.

At the end of 1991, WoC’s Richard Garfield created the prototype game Mana Flash, eventually changing the name to Magic: The Gathering, to separate the property from the still-pending lawsuit between WoC and Palladium.