I just realized that I used the term „generation“ in a tweet referring to roleplaying games, just as if it were an existing concept – well, it actually is, although possibly only in my mind. I think it might be of interest if I gave a short summarization of how I tend to categorize roleplaying games (mostly subconsciously so far, but I’m about to change that with this very post) into those generations. Continue reading “Generations of Roleplaying Games – a Personal Categorization”
While I continue to spend a lot of time doing stuff related to my favorite hobby (roleplaying), my attention has been too much over the place recently to lend itself to deep, meaningful, well-researched posts like my analysis of Warhammer Fourth Edition, or my roleplaying history series. (I’m actually almost too ashamed to mention how long it has taken me to convert all my roleplaying related jpg maps to pdfs…)
Still, I should update this blog from time to time, and having no world-shattering thoughts to share, I will simply use this opportunity to help my (few) readers to get better acquainted with me, and with my roleplaying preferences. For that reason, I have assembled a list of roleplaying games (or settings) which I would like to GM or experience as a player over the next couple of years. If someone takes the time to look these lists through, they will find that I have on one hand pretty broad preferences, while on the other hand I clearly prefer a certain approach to my favorite hobby. Of course, only people already rather familiar with roleplaying overall will recognize the majority of those names – but if these lists happen to provide an incentive to look up a bunch of previously unknown games, so much the better! Continue reading “Roleplaying Games I’d like to GM or play (as of now)”
First Pages and General Remarks
This is supposed to be a somehow in-depth critique of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fourth edition core rulebook. It assumes that you are at least superficially familiar with that game. For context, you might want to know that I am a big fan of both the first and second edition of this game, and for that reason I will often compare its newest edition to those. (Yes, there was also a third edition, but the less is said about that, the better.) Please note that I will say a lot more about the few things I don’t like than about the many I do, because I want to explain my reasoning and offer alternatives. This should not mislead you into thinking that I am mostly critical of 4e – quite to the contrary!
The very important first impression I get from thumbing through the book (and by this I now finally mean using my actual thumbs, and turning the pages of a material book): Its visuals are fantastic!
Admittedly, there aren’t a lot reasons to review this 12 years old book by David Bishop now, but one is enough: I just finished reading it for the first time.
I generally do not expect a lot from novels in roleplaying settings, and my expectations usually get fulfilled. Thus, I primarily read them to get a better feel for the game world they’re set in. If the writing or the story is actually good, that’s a plus. Sometimes, however, they’re so abysmal that it hurts.
A Murder in Marienburg isn’t one of those novels which hurt to read, but it is also not one I would enjoy if it wasn’t set in a favorite game world of mine (the Old World from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, in case you’re not aware). Its title promises a murder mystery plot, but the story doesn’t really deliver. Instead, it focusses on how bleak and brutal everything, and how currupt and calleous everyone is – yes, I get it, the world of Warhammer is grim and dark (and that’s one of the reasons I love it!), but the events portrayed feel like the author is fulfilling a quota, and stretch the believability of the setting. Especially the end seems downright schematic and completely unrealistic (yes, it’s a fantasy setting, but even fantasy needs internal consistency), and is the most disappointing part of the book.
On the plus side, the novel delivers what I hoped it would: An atmospheric description of (a part of) the largest port in the Old World, bringing it to life in a way that the roleplaying supplements cannot quite achieve. I also like (most of) its characterizations, even though they do not always fit the narrative organically. As for the writing style: It starts out a bit doggerel, but either improves in the course of the novel, or I got used to it.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about one of the greatest roleplaying settings, I strongly recommend A Murder in Marienburg to you. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for a good fantasy novel, you should better look elsewhere.
The change of the year’s tens-digit always suggests some fundamental shift: We talk about the 70s and 80s as separate entities instead of artificial divisions, pretending that the first and last years of a decade have more in common with each other than the last years of a decade with the first of the following. That is obviously not the case, and yet we are used to that concept so much that we tend to warp our memories to accomodate it, and interpret information so that it fits the larger story of its decade.
Thus, this blog entry is about the roleplaying games of the 1970s, largely ignoring the fact that RPGs from 1979 naturally had more similarities with those from 1980 than with those from 1974 to 1976. The overarching themes of the 70s roleplaying industry are lack of definition – because everyone was still busy figuring out what roleplaying games exactly were, how they differed from other games, and what kind of products this hobby needed – and lack of professionalism. The latter is painfully obvious if you look at almost any roleplaying publication from that decade. While semi-professionalism would still be a good term to describe the state of most of the industry deep into the 80s, in the 70s most publishers struggled to get even that far. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hardcover core rulebooks from 1977, 1978 and 1979 were important milestones for the industry, pushing its standards away from the „stapled photocopies of typewritten pages“ style it had inherited from its hobbyist roots. And from 1978 on, AD&D’s line of adventure modules consolidated the trend away from only rulebooks towards game aids and supplements – yes, Judges Guild had broken the ground, but it was the market leader TSR who made this direction obvious for everyone.
Let us also not forget the Egbert case, which brought an unprecedented amount of publicity to roleplaying games in the US in late 1979 – negative publicity, true, but nonetheless publicity, and in its wake RPGs boomed more than ever before! Looking at those developments, a reasonably sharp delineation between the 70s and the 80s even makes some sense. Where the 80s were the decade when RPGs had found their place and had become big game, the 70s were the time when they had… not yet.
In my overview, I will mention those games from this era that I deem the most important from two different points of view: Continue reading “The 1970s in Roleplaying – Overview”
When I wrote the German version of this entry, I was at a loss for an explanation why the number of published roleplaying games in 1979 significantly decreased from 1978, before majorly increasing again in 1980 – why would there be such a dent during the industry’s early booming years? After doing more research in the meantime, I now know the answer: There was no dent (at least not a big one). It just happened that my primary information source at that time, the Wikipedia Timeline of tabletop role-playing games, featured a couple of errors and omissions (which I have corrected since), incidentally clustering around 1979 and creating that apparent slump. It seems, though, that many games from this year have become rather obscure: 1979 is the year where I was unable to hunt down the most games published in it so far – I have only seen myself the first two of the nine new games I discuss here.
One thing I originally noted which remains true, however, is the conspicuous lack of new science fiction roleplaying games, although those had outnumbered or at least tied with new fantasy games during the three preceding years. While the SF genre would return in strength in the 80s, it would not make up a similar proportion of the market again until its invigoration by mecha- and later cyberpunk-themed games. The fantasy genre also fell off a litle bit, but was still going immensely strong with the success of Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (and has up to today never not been). It was now being complemented by games from a variety of different RPG genres, though.
In 1980, The Space Gamer published the results of a survey among its readers about the best games in various catagories. They called them “1979 Game Survey Results”, but the actual survey had been included in that magazine’s first 1980 issue, while on the other hand – at least as far as RPGs were concerned – the newest games polled were from 1978. So, I guess this is something of a snapshot of the state of roleplaying going into 1979, and for that reason I thought it a good idea to discuss that survey in this entry. Roleplaying games were separated into two different sections. Ratings were on a 1-9 scale. I typed those lists out for you: Continue reading “1979 in Roleplaying”
This is the third time I paused my little series about the history of roleplaying games to do more research, but this time I am confident it’s the last.
The first time was when I realized that I was able to look at PDFs of most of the games I wrote about, and decided that this was a great idea. The second time was when I realized what Designers & Dragons was, and that I could read that too, and decided that doing so was also a great idea. The third time was when I realized that I was also able to browse the majority of old magazine issues which make up the bulk of quoted sources in Wikipedia articles about RPG, and… well, you get it.
When I originally started my series, I was vaguely aware that this meant quite a bit of work, but I never intended to be as thorough as I have been in my research now. I couldn’t help it – while I never did (and still don’t) aim for the standard of a scientific publication by a long shot, I found that I wasn’t satisfied as long as there was more available info in my reach that I knew of. This is no longer the case now. Undoubtedly, I will still unearth additional sources of information in the future, but it seems unlikely that it will be such a large batch again.
I will thus take the opportunity to be a bit clearer about where I get my info from (but still without attributing every statement I make to a specific source). Essentially these sources can be catagorized into four types: Continue reading “My Sources for Roleplaying History”