Monday, June 12, 2006

Two Games for the Role Playing Game Historian

During my nearly daily viewing of the RPGNow online Roleplaying Download website, I found two good buys for those interested in the history (and the future) of the roleplaying hobby.

Roleplaying games, in their current form, have been around for a little over thirty years. During that time many good games have come and gone, as have many very bad games. One of the problems any market is that when it is no longer profitable for publishers to do new print runs of a game, they stop doing print runs of the game. Sadly, some products don't sell as well as their quality deserves and they fall to the wayside lost to the dustbin of history. The same is also true of games that aren't particularly good, in and of themselves, but have historical importance due to the subject matter and or systems innovations they attempt to bring to the milieu.

The games I located at the RPG Now site were the republication of Games Workshop's Golden Heroes, under the new name Squadron U.K. Golden Heroes was one of those games that wasn't a particularly good game in and of itself, but has historical importance as an attempt to expand the genre covered by the hobby. It also sought to create new mechanics in its simulation of superhero activities. In the early 80s, many of the games published had mechanics that were highly derivative of the D&D and AD&D mechanics. Surprisingly, many of the exceptions to that statement were published by TSR, the creators of the D&D roleplaying game. Golden Heroes was one of the games that made sufficient modifications from the D&D system, largely because of the subject matter it dealt with. Though Villains and Vigilantes did use a D&D inspired system, and Super Squadron (an Australian game) was almost an exact duplicate of Villains and Vigilantes. Hero Games' Champions was better than Golden Heroes, with regard to creating entirely new mechanics, but Golden Heroes did have innovations like Level-less character advancement. Golden Heroes is also important because it is one of the few times that Games Workshop published a roleplaying game, even more remarkable in this case because the mechanics didn't use Games Workshop's popular miniature rules as a foundation. Games Workshop's other "comic" RPG Judge Dredd did use the Warhammer miniature rules as a foundation.

The other game is far more recent, much better, often overlooked, and linked to the history of the hobby. RPGnow has a well priced bundle of Dying Earth RPG products. One of the things that makes the Dying Earth RPG so important for the RPG historian is that it is an attempt at a direct translation of a series of stories that were themselves inspirations for the creation of the Dungeons and Dragons game. The Dying Earth RPG is a licensed RPG which has as its source material the works of Jack Vance. Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories were extremely influential in the creation of the Dungeons and Dragons game. In fact, the "cast and forget" magic system used by D&D is called Vancian because of the Dying Earth influence. Robin Laws does a wonderful job of adapting the Dying Earth source material to RPG form without being D&D-ish. Most remarkable is the way Laws wrote the game in a tone similar to the writings of Vance.

Interesting stuff for those who want to know.
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