Ever since the introduction of Chainmail in 1971, there has been a plethora of role playing games. They are more popular than ever now and designers continue to find new ways to reflect reality or take the players into new ones.
Soon after the enormous success of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, designers started exploring more concepts for this new genre of game. They did so by placing players in new settings, inventing new ways of creating characters, figuring out ways to reflect those worlds in storylines, and how to make the rules and dice rolling follow suit.
This is a list of games from that exciting era of discovery and exploration. It is by no means a complete list, nor is it a top list. These are just a few that deserve a nod, and a second look by players today.
Boot Hill, TSR, 1975
Just a year after Dungeons & Dragons debuted, TSR released its second major game designed by Brian Blume and Gary Gygax of D&D fame. Boot Hill was a western-themed game and took a sharp turn from the style of its predecessor. While D&D placed you in a lurid fantasy setting where the possibilities were endless and the characters stood out as heroes among mere mortals, Boot Hill was grittier, more realistic, had a more lethal combat system, and made minions as powerful as players. These were what made the game unique, risky, and interesting, but it’s also why it did not catch on as strongly as D&D.
Traveller, GDW, 1977
With the release of Star Wars, fans looked toward space and Traveller was there just in time. Though several other sci-fi games were released the same year, Traveller captured the imagination the most with its realistic depiction of space travel and its open ended nature. The in-game universe was highly flexible, allowing players to make up their own worlds and even helped them do it with dozens of accessible and affordable booklets that were released over time.
Top Secret, TSR, 1980
Although Boot Hill did not take off like D&D had, its percentile dice system became a staple of TSR during that period. Also, its gritty realism was a breath of fresh air for some players who liked the challenge and the fact that any hit could take someone, even a player, down. Thus, they created Top Secret, the modern day (for the time) spy thriller game of espionage during the Cold War. Players felt like James Bond, yet a mortal one that could be killed any second.
Gangbusters, TSR, 1982
Much like Top Secret, Gangbusters used the percentile system and retained a feeling of realism where players were no more powerful than their enemies. Set in the 1920s, players could choose to be criminals or law enforcers, or even a reporter. Most notably, the game had a court system where a crime fighter had to not only catch the criminals, but make their arrests stick with evidence they found.
Twilight 2000, GDW, 1984
Set in the post-apocalyptic world after a traditional and limited nuclear war, the players take the role of survivors in the middle of an ongoing conflict. Twilight 2000 was embraced by players interested in the concept of what might happen if there was a nuclear holocaust and the fact that they could play characters with access to military weapons without having a rigid military structure was very appealing to many. The designers went on to expand the world, combining it with Traveller to create Traveller 2300 and 2300 AD where governments have escaped the devastated world to expand into the stars. Their predictions were, in some cases, correct to what has happened (minus, of course, the whole nuclear war thing).
Marvel Superheroes, TSR, 1984
Yes, there is a game where you get to create your own superhero in the Marvel universe. Why they don’t create a new edition today with the popularity of the series is beyond me. The customization options were spectacular, the combat system provided players with interesting choices, and the social system where popularity and resources made a difference was, well, marvelous.
There are many more games worth mentioning, but these are just a few worth checking out.
What are some nostalgic games worth mentioning that we haven’t listed above? What should people be playing? What should be reprinted or have no editions? Comment below!
Featured Image: TSR