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Roleplaying Games of the 1970s (and very early 80s)

Jd Smith1

Adventurer
1979-83, at university: Lots of Original D&D and AD&D1e. Little bits of Traveller, Universe and RQ2. Some DragonQuest and En Garde.

I also started in '79, on Traveller, which was bigger in our area than anything else. Basic D&D (brown book), and 1st edition Gamma world came in second and third.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Hmmmm...early RPGs?

I had AD&D and Basic in 1977. As I recall, I got into Traveller in the next year or so, but didn’t own the books until some decades later.

Next came the MicroGames Melee, Wizard and the RPG that spawned from them, The Fantasy Trip/In the Labyrinth. I also picked up a host of other MicroGames/Steve Jackson Games- O.G.R.E., G.E.V., Car Wars, Helltank, Hot Spot and others. plus similar mini games from TSR and Task Force Games. Star Fleet Battles and Starfire also joined my library, along with a few Avalon Hill games. Somewhere in there, I picked up the card game, Nuclear War.

I picked up Champions as soon as it hit the shelves, and bought every edition after that (except Fuzion). And I got the first edition of Stormbringer.

And that was pretty much it for a decade or so. I bought revisions or expansions of the games I owned, but didn’t continue to expand my horizons.

Then I kinda went RPG crazy 1990-1994, adding to the collection quickly and broadly. Eventually, the collection hit over 100 RPGs, dozens of board games, and M:tG (plus a couple other CCGs),
 

TerraDave

5ever
At the time, knew of the TSR games, Runequest, Traveler, Rolemaster (sold as a D&D supplement), Arduin, a few others. But D&D, in its various versions, certainly was the king.

But...
 

TerraDave

5ever
There were so many:


 

TerraDave

5ever
Continuing from two posts above, I can't believe I left off Call of Cthulhu. Actually played that, Start Frontiers, Gamma World, Arduin. (And some of the "semi-roleplaying" games like Car Wars).

EDIT: AND Fasa Star Trek and Palladium Fantasy (but played it later). Also the TSR Marvel one and Twiligt 2000, but those are more mid 1980s.
 
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I just realized I forgot to mention that I was aware of Boot Hill and Gamma World in 1981 - due to the conversions in AD&D - but wouldn't actually see a copy of either until the 1990's.
 

There were so many:


Some of the posters could use a trip through to get their dates correct...
Such as having AD&D in 77? not possible unless you worked at TSR... or only had the MM, as only the MM was released in 77. PHB was 78, and DMG 79... I do recall looking through the MM and PHB in 1978 at the Ft. Rich commissary... My mother said no... (but I grew up with books of mythology and archaeology as bedtime reading...)
 

John Dallman

Explorer
I just realized I forgot to mention that I was aware of Boot Hill and Gamma World in 1981 - due to the conversions in AD&D - but wouldn't actually see a copy of either until the 1990's.
Likewise for awareness, but what I could figure out about them from the conversions didn't motivate me to seek them out. I've never seen a copy of Boot Hill, and while I had a look at someone's copy of Gamma World at some point before 1983, it confirmed me in the view that I wasn't interested. Metamorphosis Alpha was a little more interesting as a concept, but I could see where ideas had been lifted from Aldis' Non-Stop and other generation-ship stories, and they didn't seem to have been integrated well.
 

Likewise for awareness, but what I could figure out about them from the conversions didn't motivate me to seek them out. I've never seen a copy of Boot Hill, and while I had a look at someone's copy of Gamma World at some point before 1983, it confirmed me in the view that I wasn't interested. Metamorphosis Alpha was a little more interesting as a concept, but I could see where ideas had been lifted from Aldis' Non-Stop and other generation-ship stories, and they didn't seem to have been integrated well.
When I borrowed a friend's 1st ed Boot Hill, let's just say it wasn't exactly looking like an RPG. Oh, there were concessions to RP, but not strong ones. 3rd is much more clearly an RPG. If you didn't know how D&D was played, BH 1e won't get you there.
 



chaochou

Adventurer
I started playing in about 1978-79. I remember the release of the DMG and the combat tables being in White Dwarf beforehand. I was going to a gaming club at the time, and there was a table of D&D with younger players and always a table of Runequest with older kids. Then ad hoc games - I remember playing Boot Hill, Yaquinto's Swashbuckler, Chitin.

By 1982-3 I (and most people I knew) were playing RQ. People knew about Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu was gaining followers. A White Dwarf readers survey around the time had the top 3 games as D&D, Traveller, Runequest. Traveller got a regular column in WD from about issue 15, I think. Runequest didn't get its Runerites column until around issue 30 or so.

I moved around the country several times in the 1980s, and there was always D&D & RQ happening, and Cthulhu was a staple for one-shots or minicampaigns. Other things came and went - WHFRP, Jorune, Judge Dredd, MERP, Twilight 2000, Pendragon, Bushido, Privateers & Gentlemen, Flashing Blades, T&T, Toon, Paranoia.

I never saw much evidence of Traveller actually being played. I was one of many that admired they system, loved the design, loved the graphical look and feel of the products and yet I don't recall play, or even hearing friends talking about it.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I used to joke that Squad Leader was the first RPG I played, because you had a blank leader chit, and there were rules for advancement through playing a series of scenarios. I was strong on the wargamer side, playing in chess club, and my school's chess team; my language skills were poor, so math and chess, universal languages were my friend. Couple that with some slavic abruptness, it was usually best to keep my mouth shut. A sister introduced me to D&D, and AD&D, and from playing Imperium by GDW, a friend bought Traveller and we played that, probably around '79; Traveller was good on long bus rides in chess club for league tournaments, because it had a lid one could roll dice in, and we used 3x5 cards for our characters, the digest sized books were handy too, you got three in the box originally, but you could fit 5 more or something.

I might have played Melee from the The Fantasy Trip first though, memories get pretty hazy. We also played a lot of Snapshot, with Martian Metals minis, on the big FASA deckplans. We would use the big tables in the chem lab, as the teacher there was supportive of our gaming. I bought Gamma World, and incorporated it into D&D, there were rules for doing so in the back of the DMG. Star Frontiers, ran the Volturnus modules, great art, game was somewhat blah. Played Call of Cthulhu, tried Rune Quest, used ICE MERP converted to D&D, tried Aftermath - fitting name for the game. Tons and tons of boardgames, Starfire II was just about perfect, lots of Ogre, GEV, and all the other Microgames, bought a few of the TSR ones like Revolt on Antares, though the Task Force Games ones in the bigger ziplock bags were better. We sort of incorporate all sorts of ideas into RPG's, as it was more sort of Freeform gaming.
 

I used to joke that Squad Leader was the first RPG I played, because you had a blank leader chit, and there were rules for advancement through playing a series of scenarios. I was strong on the wargamer side, playing in chess club, and my school's chess team; my language skills were poor, so math and chess, universal languages were my friend. Couple that with some slavic abruptness, it was usually best to keep my mouth shut. A sister introduced me to D&D, and AD&D, and from playing Imperium by GDW, a friend bought Traveller and we played that, probably around '79; Traveller was good on long bus rides in chess club for league tournaments, because it had a lid one could roll dice in, and we used 3x5 cards for our characters, the digest sized books were handy too, you got three in the box originally, but you could fit 5 more or something.

I might have played Melee from the The Fantasy Trip first though, memories get pretty hazy. We also played a lot of Snapshot, with Martian Metals minis, on the big FASA deckplans. We would use the big tables in the chem lab, as the teacher there was supportive of our gaming. I bought Gamma World, and incorporated it into D&D, there were rules for doing so in the back of the DMG. Star Frontiers, ran the Volturnus modules, great art, game was somewhat blah. Played Call of Cthulhu, tried Rune Quest, used ICE MERP converted to D&D, tried Aftermath - fitting name for the game. Tons and tons of boardgames, Starfire II was just about perfect, lots of Ogre, GEV, and all the other Microgames, bought a few of the TSR ones like Revolt on Antares, though the Task Force Games ones in the bigger ziplock bags were better. We sort of incorporate all sorts of ideas into RPG's, as it was more sort of Freeform gaming.


Then I am adding Tactics II, as I always had a story behind the battle.......this was before I made gaming friends and p!ayed such games solo.
 

MGibster

Legend
TSR published "the" RPG, to such an extent that "D&D" was often synonymous with RPGs in general. TSR ran "the" convention- GenCon. TSR published "the" magazine- Dragon (previously The Strategic Review ... get it?).

I think especially for most Americans this is true. Few people probably knew what GURPS or Palladium Fantasy was, but Dungeons & Dragons was infamous and appeared in national news broadcast. For those of you who haven't seen it yet, you can find Gary Gygax's appearance on 60 Minutes when they interviewed him, Pat Pulling of Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD), and others. It's interesting. I don't think another role playing game ever came close to D&D's fame until Vampire in the early 90s.

It's so tough to really know what the next popular game was given how fragmented gaming groups were back then. Rolemaster and MERP are games I remember seeing in places like B. Dalton Booksellers or Waldenbooks (and for you young people in the audience, those were both book store chains that were most often found in malls), but I don't know anyone who actually played them. But somebody must have been buying those books.

I started gaming around 1987-88, and after AD&D my group played a lot of TSR's Marvel, various Palladium titles, and GURPS. In fact, the first time I ran through the classic Ravenloft module we used GURPS. But we also played some Top Secret, Delta Force, Gamma World, Chill, and likely a few others I simply can't remember at this time.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
Epic
80's for me were a lot of the PaceSetter box games, Chill, Time-master, Star-ace.
Mini games from Steve Jackson Games were fun, such as Car Wars and O.G.R.E.
FASA Games such as Battle Tech
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Then I am adding Tactics II, as I always had a story behind the battle.......this was before I made gaming friends and p!ayed such games solo.

Was Tactics II a square grid, pre-hexes? First gaming magazine I bought a sub to was "The General" AH's mag.

A bit of trivia: I played TSR's "Battle of Five Armies" board/war game after the battle in the Hobbit, before ever playing DnD. Similarly, I played "Imperium" by GDW before ever playing Traveller; so it was the board-war game branch of these game companies that brought me over.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Side-note; they might have occasionally straddled the RPG line (Battletech moreso than SFB), but .... so much fun.

All three of them.

I still remember playing a Gorn Warship (SO SLOW!) in SFB, and the first time I played Car Wars (and later AutoDuel, I think, on an Apple II), and I played so much Battletech.
There were definitely GURPS AUTODUEL supplements to play in a Car Wars setting in addition to the actual Car Wars tabletop game. I have many of them buried in boxes in the basement. Only have them for the Car Wars fluff, though.
 

Was Tactics II a square grid, pre-hexes? First gaming magazine I bought a sub to was "The General" AH's mag.

A bit of trivia: I played TSR's "Battle of Five Armies" board/war game after the battle in the Hobbit, before ever playing DnD. Similarly, I played "Imperium" by GDW before ever playing Traveller; so it was the board-war game branch of these game companies that brought me over.
Yes. That was it.
 

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