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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.

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