Remembering Nexus: A Bridge Between History & Adventure
  • Remembering Nexus: A Bridge Between History & Adventure


    In the late 70s and early 80s there were a large number of magazines running around that talked about gaming in general and role playing games in particular. Of course most people are familiar with Dragon Magazine or the early White Dwarf, but I wonder how many remember the gem from Task Force Games that did as much to broaden my RPG horizons as either of those. That gem was Nexus Magazine and it began in 1982 talking about of all things, what is a role playing game.


    Before we get there, I want to skip ahead a little bit to Nexus #5, published in March-April 1983. Specifically, I want to talk about that issues editorial. The editorial, by (I assume) Mike Joslyn (the editor) is a well written piece of commentary on the changing face of gaming back in 1983. In fact, I suspect it had changed quite a bit before 1983, but Joslyn was writing in that year. The piece mentions numbers of role players, three million, and how they are almost exclusively adventure gamers. It does not put down adventure gaming at all, but merely laments that historical reality, such as it is, is giving way to fantasy and made up worlds. The editor suggests that historical gaming is worth your time and seems to prefer the reality of the historical board game to the fantasy of adventure gaming.

    Which must have been an interesting point of view to have considering Nexus #1 has a great deal of role playing game coverage in it. Right off the bat is an article by Eric Goldberg (Eric was a designer on Dragonquest for SPI) titled ďBut... Is It Role Playing?Ē(Nexus #1, pg.2) Mr. Goldberg talks about many role playing games (D&D, Runequest, and the Fantasy Trip to name a few) and whether the rules ofthose games encourage actual role playing. In several places he is critical of the games for focusing so much on the rules and only giving bare nods to the ideas and needs of actual role play. This is a discussion we are still having three decades later. Neil Randall wrote a response two issues later (But Is It Role Playing? A Second View, Nexus #3, pg. 36), which was one of several role playing related articles in that issue as well. In fact, to my surprise, role playing games make a great showing in articles, reviews, and advertisements through the early days of Nexus magazine.


    Of course, Nexus was known for being the house magazine of Task Force Games and as such talked about their games most of the time. This included articles on their historical games and eventually their own role-playing game, like Delta Force, which was designed by William H. Keith. Eventually, two games came to dominate Nexus, Starfire and Star Fleet Battles. In fact, the latter is how I got turned onto Nexus magazine in the first place, though sadly near the end of its run. Starfire of course was at the time designed by David Weber (you may have heard of him) and eventually turned into a series of novels. Some of that early work can be seen in the pages of Nexus.

    How influential was Nexus magazine at the time? I know it was a big deal for me and for those who were heavily into Star Fleet Battles, Starfire, and the historical game scene. Recently, Amarillo Design Bureau, publisher of Star Fleet Battles, has started posting PDF copies of Nexus up for sale on DriveThruRPG. Eventually the entire run of the magazine will be available. I cannot recommend enough that you give it a look.


    contributed by Sean Hillman
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Charles Dunwoody -
      Great look back at gaming in the 80s. Another game company that has been around for decades and is still publishing games.
    1. Ed Laprade's Avatar
      Ed Laprade -
      I picked up some of the early issues, but dropped it because of their focus on games that I didn't play, like SFB and Starfire. (I didn't start reading Weber until he started the Honor Harrington series, and didn't make the connection with his name until I eventually found the older Starfire books he wrote with Steve White.)
    1. devincutler's Avatar
      devincutler -
      I was a dedicated SFB player back in the day and always enjoyed Nexus magazine. Go Hydrans!
    1. practicalm's Avatar
      practicalm -
      I love playing Starfire and Starfleet Battles and I have every issue of Nexus.
      Starfire Design studio is doing some interesting work with the Starfire licensing working on a great 4X game that has a lot of flexibility. Building an empire and exploring the universe is a lot of fun.

      I haven't played SFB in a long time but there are a lot of good memories especially in tournaments.
    1. dragoner's Avatar
      dragoner -
      As much as I played Starfire, I never picked this up, I did read friends copies though, I might pick up, thanks.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charles Dunwoody View Post
      Great look back at gaming in the 80s. Another game company that has been around for decades and is still publishing games.
      Technically, no, TFG is gone, has been for about 2 decades. (in the 1990's, New World Computing killed it, as it was floundering.)
      ADB wasn't a publisher until after the fall of TFG; they were a design house, not a publisher, until that point, in a locked-in contract with TFG.

      ADB was writing games from the late 1970's onward, but wasn't a publisher until the late 1990's.
    1. Charles Dunwoody -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      Technically, no, TFG is gone, has been for about 2 decades. (in the 1990's, New World Computing killed it, as it was floundering.)
      ADB wasn't a publisher until after the fall of TFG; they were a design house, not a publisher, until that point, in a locked-in contract with TFG.

      ADB was writing games from the late 1970's onward, but wasn't a publisher until the late 1990's.
      I meant ADB but I wasn't clear.
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