Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zombie

**********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z posts is gaming with my friends in the 1980's.********

Z is for Zombie
Zombies are, of course, a well known and often used monster during encounters in D&D and other fantasy games.  Whenever Zombies are mentioned now I can not help but think of the one time that several of us played D&D with an older brother of one of the group members. 

The game session was a last minute pick up game because we could not get everyone together to play.  We sat down and started listening to his introduction to the session that included army consisting of "legions of undead" controlled by a necromancer.  I assumed that we would be encountering tons of skeletons, zombies, and other undead by the end of the session.  We got in a complete session and we discovered just how many zombies are in a legion.  I know the anticipation is killing everyone at this point! How many were there?


We made wise cracks about that for years. :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Yet Another Game System

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Here's another post that I was planning on doing Monday...

Yet Another Game System
No, this is not about the Y.A.G.S. role playing system.  I admit that it does look interesting and I would definitely like to delve deeper into reading and trying the rules out in play.  This post is about my old gaming groups role playing game buying habits. 

Like many other groups, we had our go to systems that got many hours of play.  We were pretty devoted to A/D&D for fantasy and V&V for supers.  We may have tried out other systems at times but most of them were quickly put aside to go back to our mainstays.  Some other games that got quite a bit of play from us included Palladium Fantasy, Talislanta, and Marvel (Basic and Advanced versions).

There were a ton of games that were bought in our group but only played once or never even played at all.  Some were bought to serve as idea sources for games that we regularly played.  For instance, the Enemies book from Champions led to us assembling a similar product of our own villains for Marvel and also for V&V.  It was basically 20 or so NPC's stapled together with a cover drawn by our buddy Dan.  Other games never got played simply because we could not get everybody to agree to play it or objected for some other reason.  I imagine the list of unplayed games we all had was quite large due to varying tastes and all.  I just wonder how common it is for groups to have several unplayed products in their collection?    

X is for X Marks The Spot

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

I was planning on posting this on Monday as part of my catching up but I have it ready now...

X Marks The Spot
Of course, the "x" mentioned in the title of this post refers to a treasure map.  You know, the ones that are often seen in pirate movies, animated fantasy features, and other areas.  The treasure map is the only home made prop that my old gaming group ever used. 

It started with somebody using some notebook paper to rough sketch an old treasure map that he handed to the players when their characters found the map.  I took it a little further and tried to make my treasure maps look somewhat "authentic" by using copy paper.  I would crumple up a section of this paper and put a few creases in various spots.  I would also use a little bit of coffee or soda pop to make stain spots on the map.  Then I would draw the map on the paper after all of this so the ink would not bleed or smudge from the liquid used for staining. 

There are the instructions for making a home made treasure map prop for use in a gaming session.  I admit that it is not very sophisticated or high tech but it works for using with the gaming group.

X,Y, & Z is for Catching Up On Monday

Due to a minor mishap at work, my right index finger is splinted and bandaged for the next couple of days.  It's been fun but I am bowing out of the so far and I will be playing catchup on the A to Z challenge on the last day. this year just because it would be a hassle to type up these last three entries.  There's always next year... After a few days of rest, my finger is fine.  I jumped the gun just a little bit because I was under the impression that I would be in a finger splint for a week or so.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Here is one more game that I owned but never played.  I got it hoping that I could add on to the A/D&D material - races, classes, etc. - that we used during play.  I got it and at first flip through I was somewhat disappointed because the material did not readily lend itself to immediate use within the A/D&D rules.  In other words, to be used the material would have to be converted from one rules system to the other.  Plus, there was some resistance against learning another rules set at that time among members of the gaming group.  I put WFRP away for years and never did get around to running or playing in even one single session of the game.  I wonder what it would have been like? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Villains & Vigilantes

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Villains & Vigilantes

Villains & Vigilantes 2nd edition is a game of several firsts for me:

  • V&V was my first non A/D&D rpg purchase.
  • V&V was the first supers rpg that I ever bought.
  • V&V was the first game I bought at a convention.  It was Conjuration I in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  My uncle David - the one who passed down his A/D&D stuff to me - took me with him.
  • V&V was the first rpg we played that had a continuing campaign with recurring characters and an evolving time; EVERY game of V&V we played was somehow connected together through characters, organizations, or some other connection.
There were other supers games that were played by our group over the years but none of them had the staying power of V&V.  Marvel caught quite a bit of play but not nearly to the level of V&V.  Marvel did not really pick up until the Advanced set was released.  Heroes Unlimited was played a little bit but the class and level system did not match our expectations of the genre.  DC Heroes looked interesting but was a little beyond our young minds at the moment.  Champions offered excruciating detail and options but often felt like work instead of play.  GURPS Supers just really never got out of the gate because most of the group did not want to mess with "all those GURPS books".  V&V was our go to supers game.  I still have my battered copy of the second editon rule book.  V&V is now back in the hands of Jeff Dee and Jack Herman and they have released version 2.1 of the rules.  I know that V&V 3rd edition is being developed now and I wonder if 2.1 is worth snagging or if I should just wait for 3rd edition?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Ultima

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

The Ultima games and me go way back.  I was first introduced to Ultima at an old friend's house.  His older brother had a Commodore 64 and a huge stockpile of games - Rings of Zilfin, Adventure Creation System, and several Ultimas to name just a few.  One afternoon we did not have any D&D adventures prepped to play so he told us he "had something that we could play that was almost as good." 
I am not sure which Ultima we sat down and played that afternoon - somewhat irrelevant because I have played them all by now - but it was not difficult to see that this game was different from the computer rpg's we had played previously.

There were several things that stuck out immediately about Ultima.  The world was open and available for exploration instead of forcing your character down a strict path.  There were many options for interaction in the game.  In the earlier entries, your character could ask the citizens their name, job, and other information.  In later entries of the series, you could basically have your character carry on a full conversation by using keywords that are highlighted.  There was also a morality mechanic, recurring characters, and an overarching narrative to several of the entries.  If you have never played any of the Ultima games, do yourself a favor and find one now. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Talislanta

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

I saw this ad in Dragon magazine countless times during the 1980's.  You know, back when Dragon magazine was good by having articles that were truly useful and were not completely focused on just A/D&D; there were actually articles about non-TSR games included at times also.  The point being that the ad caught my attention and made me wonder what this Talislanta game was all about.  My gaming group was all about fantasy games at this stage and would pick up any new fantasy  games we ran across to try out.  We had played enough of the available games that it was time for something new and something different for the group.
I remember that none of us were old enough to drive yet when I bought Talislanta.  I was over at my buddy Jamie's house and there was a game store about a mile down the road.  We were dedicated and would walk to that store every time we were at his mom's house; at least, until I was driving.  We were browsing the games on the shelves and then we noticed the Talisanta Handbook and Campaign Guide with the tattooed Thrall Warrior standing in a combat ready pose on the cover. 

Our custom at that time was to split the cost of any new games we purchased to just try out.  If both of us liked it, then we would get another copy.  If one of use liked it and the other did not, the other person would buy out the other half or just go half again on the next purchase.  If both of us did not like it, then we were only out half the price of the game.  With the modern prices of these types of games it might not be a bad idea to get some like-minded people and arrange a purchase arrangement like that again. 

I could go on and on about the coolness of Talislanta but I think anybody reading this could be better informed by going to the Wikipedia entry and then going to the Talislanta Library to check out the official Talislanta products that Stephan Michael Sechi has made available for download.  It's a true shame that there are no new Talislanta products to grace the store shelves but the creator has ensured that Talislanta will  never "die" by making the game available in this manner. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Shadowgate

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

I remember the game Shadowgate because it was nothing like any of the NES games we had played up until that time.  I picked the game up at one of those game stores that are located in the mall of any big city.  I believe it was after receiving Christmas money one year and several of us loaded up in my buddy Larry's car and headed to the mall to spend our loot. 

I know we stopped in on the music store, book store, and several other places in t he mall but I believe I waited until the game store to make my big purchase.  I know I bought several games but the one that sticks out in my memory is Shadowgate.  I know that the artwork on the box caught my 
attention as I was browsing the games.  I immediately made the connection between this game and Dungeons & Dragons so I bought it.  I believe I also got Wizards & Warriors at this time also but I can not be sure. 

After we finished spending our Christmas money, all of us piled back in to Larry's car and headed back to homes.  Of course, when we got to my house we decided to give the new games a spin to see how they played. 

All of us went back to my room and got ready to play.  As was customary at this time, there were several pronouncements of "cool" and "lame" when the Shadowgate title screen popped up on the television screen.  Of course, using the title screen to judge game quality is a perfectly sound method of doing so to the teen age brain so I guess it works; not really - because there were many times that one of us changed our mind after the title screen was gone and actual game play began.  Hey, we were willing to let the game play change our first impressions so no harm, no foul.

There were several things about Shadowgate that made a lasting impression.  First, it was not a button mashing game but more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book done as a video game.  Second, it was a game that we truly played as a group.  As we faced new obstacles, every one of us in the room made suggestions and had ideas on how to advance.  Third, it was the first game that we used the Nintendo Tip Hotline to get clues on how to get through certain areas.  Fourth, WE - not just one of us - beat this game after several months of play.

If you are interested in a video of game play, check out the video below:     

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rogue

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************
I had mentioned doing a "R is for RIFTS" post on my Palladium Books post then I got a feeling that something was not right.  I checked out some information on RIFTS and, sure enough, it seems that it was released in later 1990.  Since RIFTS would not fit into my theme of gaming in 1980's, I chose a new topic for this post...

Several members of our gaming group took an introductory computers course together in high school.  I honestly remember very little of what was taught in that class; with time passing and things changing it is a whole new world when it comes to computer programming.  The one thing I do remember from that class is discovering the computer game Rogue. 

One of the guys in the class brought it to school on an old floppy disk.  A few minutes later and it was loaded on to every computer in the class room.  One by one, people immediately started it up and began playing the game.  Some people did not care for it but most of us enjoyed playing and would do so every spare moment we got in class.  At first, we would just show up early and sneak in a few minutes of game play before class started.  Then we started sneaking in some play time after the teacher gave us our assignments and retreated to her office.  There were a few times that one or more of us got caught playing when the teacher returned and we could not get the game shut down quick enough.  I have downloaded a new version of this game recently and it has a "fake DOS" button that you can push to avoid that issue.  That sure would have helped out years ago.

Rogue is not overly complicated in presentation or game play, as you can see from the picture above.  It is just an old fashioned dungeon grind with a small slice of a story.  Your character enters the randomly created dungeon collecting gold, fighting monsters, and improving in other ways.  The goal is to find some sort of amulet and escape the dungeon.  I do not know whether you use the amulet on some sort of monster boss or just escape with the amulet to win.  I do not even know what the lowest dungeon level is in the game.  I do know that none of us ever reached it.  Maybe next time... 



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quest of the Ancients

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Quest of the Ancients
 I am doing one more post about a game that our group never played.  It was not from a lack of interest or availability.  There were several times that I picked up the first edition rulebook at our local game store and wondered about buying the game.  In retrospect, I completely understand why none of us bought the rulebook.  We had a good variety of fantasy games to choose from in the various collections in the group.  I know that we had AD&D, D&D, Fantasy Hero, Palladium Fantasy, and Middle Earth Role Playing.  That is just from memory and I am sure that we had more.  Just like the Living Steel post, what is the point of a post about a game that was never played in my gaming group.  Quite honestly, sometimes I still wonder about this game after all of these years...
  • Does somebody reading this post own this game?
  • Is it worth picking up? 
  • Am I missing something out of the fantasy genre by not having this game?
  • Can anyone just give me an honest evaluation of this game?
 Thanks for any answers in advance.  I will definitely respond with other questions if somebody is willing to share their opinion...   

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Palladium Books

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Palladium Books
Ok, I admit it, I somewhat procrastinated on this post.  I actually thought of several P words - print magazines and player character, for example - before deciding on Palladium Books.  I should have thought of that much sooner because they provided many hours of gaming fun for my old gaming group.  I have talked about Palladium Fantasy and some general thoughts about Palladium Books in my blog before.  Rather than repeat much of what I have already said I will advise any interested parties to follow the link above and read that post for the main points.

It's been a rough two days at work so far this week and I admit that I procrastinated and put off doing the P post.  Suffice it to say that Palladium Books provided several games for our gaming group:

  • Robotech - It all started with this.  I bought the core book and one of my buddies bought some of the old Robotech VHS tapes because we used to rush home to watch it after school.
  • Palladium Fantasy - Jamie bought the original first edition black cover rule book.  I would probably pay top dollar for this today because we had so much fun with it.  Yeah, it's basically a very heavily house D&D but our campaign switched over to this system for a long time.
  • Heroes Unlimited - I got the first editon and would be interested in playing the second edition.
  • RIFTS - The awesome! Look for R is for RIFTS to hear some thoughts...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for OGRE

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Since the subject of this post is "Ogre" it could be about several things - one of the monsters your character can encounter in many fantasy games, something about Shrek, the big jock from Revenge of the Nerds that goes by that nick name, a super villain from the Champions universe, or any of several other options.  Well, this post is not about any of the things I have named.  This post is about the old war game, OGRE, designed by Steve Jackson.
OGRE was one of my two favorite non-rpg games; both were designed by Steve Jackson.  I have enjoyed several of his designs over the years.  I can not honestly say that I remember much about the rules of the game - it's been about 20 years since I played - but I do remember how much fun we all had playing OGRE.  It was one of our go to games and was played pretty steadily in our group. 

So, what is so great about the OGRE game?  OGRE has a simple premise for play.  One player controls the OGRE - an almost unstoppable war machine - that is intent on destroying the headquarters of the othe player.  The second player has an assortment of various units at his disposal to stop the OGRE and defend his headquarters. 

There is an immense replay value associated with OGRE due to the selection of units available.  If you take a look at the picture to the left, you will note that the price is $2.95.  This was probably from 1977 or within a year or two but the point is that OGRE was relatively cheap in all of its' microgame or pocket box versions.  There have been other versions available over the years and I owned several of them; I never did buy OGRE Miniatures but I would have liked to have owned the game.  I hear through the grapevine that SJG has a kickstarter under progress for an updated version expected to be released in November of 2012.  I have also heard that it is estimated that the price may be $100!  That is quite a big difference from the price of the sets I bought over the years.  Who am I kidding?  I've started putting money back now. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nintendo Entertainment System

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Nintendo Entertainment System
I completely missed the first generation of console gaming.  That's right - there was never an Atari 2600 in the house when I was growing up.  In fact, I did not own a Colecovision or Intellivision console either.  I vaguely remember playing around with some of these things at a friends house but we missed the first generation of consoles.  What we had instead was the Commodore Vic-20 and I honestly never knew the difference.  There were plenty of games available and I could do other things the Vic-20 also.
That would all change one Christmas morning.  I woke up and noticed a large box with my name on it!  What could it be?  I was running through the options in my head all morning.  Finally, we started opening presents and I saved it for last.  When I opened it, I got super excited when I saw it was the Nintendo Entertainment System and several games.  The picture here on the left is a pretty fair representation of what I opened - the NES, games, zapper, controllers, and the robot were all there.  By the way, I still dig all of that stuff except for the stupid robot.  I never did like using it and I still hate it to this

I immediately got everything opened and out of the package.  We got the instructions laid out and then got it all hooked up.  For the next several hours, I was lost in the den/game room trying out the Nintendo.  I was hooked right from the moment I put in Duck Hunt and started zapping away.  Of course, Duck Hunt did not get a lot of play after that day.  As soon as I played some of the other games, I knew I just wanted to play until I beat them! 

My buddies and I would play quite often when we weren't doing some D&D or other activities; it was also the perfect opportunity to do some solo gaming because you just needed one player for the video games.  The NES got a ton of use in my childhood and I am surprised that it didn't just wear out.  I have to give a big THUMBS UP to Nintendo for making a quality product.   

Some of my favorite NES games (in no particular order) are:
Dragon Warrior was one of the first console rpg's that I played and owned.  I eventually owned every one of the Dragon Warrior games released for the NES.  It was a way to satisfy the D&D itch when no one else was available to play.  I enjoyed the story and felt immersed in the quest taking place in the game.  It had all of the typical D&D elements and also reminded me of Ultima. 
UGH - this game was rough!  Punch Out was one of the games I got at Christmas.  I put it in after Duck Hunt and played Glass Joe for several matches - many more than I should have I felt ;-) - until I finally beat him.  I continued on and finally made it to the third guy that weekend.  In the following months, advancing further in Punch Out became a serious competition among the whole group.  Every so often someone else would advance to the next boxer and that would make every one of us try harder.  Finally, I was the first to reach Mike Tyson.  I got slaughtered in the first round.  I didn't give up and kept practicing.  Some of the other members of the gaming group caught up to me and reached Tyson also.  I kept plugging away at it because I wanted to be the first one in the group to beat him.  I finally found out through Nintendo Power that I just needed to get a certain amount of points scored against Tyson and last all three rounds to win by decision.  I changed my strategy to one of mainly avoiding him during his really difficult spots in the match and scoring points during the best opportunities to do so.  Then everything was falling into place during one attempt at Tyson.  I knocked him down twice in the first round, twice in the second round, and then entered the third round.  We traded knockdowns during the match and during this final round.  I had the points to beat him by decision and I just need to last 13 more seconds after knocking him down for the second time in the third round.  Tyson hops up, meets me in the middle of the ring, throws a crushing uppercut - the same ones you are forced to avoid for over a minute in the first round - and sends Little Joe down to the mat!  No matter how hard or fast I hit the buttons, Little Joe would not get up.  Being around 16 or 17 at the time, I am quite confident that I let out a teen aged F BOMB and then immediately turned off the game.  Not my proudest  I never did play it again, either.  The funny thing is that none of us ever beat him.  One of these days I might have to track this down and give him another shot.   

I usually hate racing games but I really dug R.C. Pro-Am because it was different.  You weren't driving a racing car but one of a selection of remote controlled cars.  As you maneuvered around the track, there were power ups you could collect that would let you do things like shoot missiles.  There were also little arrow strips you could drive across that would shoot your car zooming down the track to pass the competition.   After collecting letters and spelling a word - I don't remember what it was - all of the cars would transform into trucks if I recall correctly.  We always wanted to last long enough to transform again but I don't believe any of us ever did accomplish that feat.

I remember playing the arcade version of Rygar every time I was stuck going to the grocery store.  When I found out there was a home version, I rushed out and got it.  At first, I was a little disappointed that it was not a direct adaptation but I quickly got over it.  The NES Rygar was so much more awesome to me because of the differences from the arcade version.  You travelled to different areas in the game in both but there was a sense of history to the world that has been tainted by evil.  There were unique items to collect and obstacles to overcome that would eventually result in facing the boss monster.  The most memorable thing about this game is the difficulty.  You could pick up from your previous game but only until you turned off the power.  There was no save or continue function that would let you come back later to pick up your quest from that point.  There were times when we would leave the NES powered up and just turn off the TV so we could continue the next morning.   

Super Mario Brothers was another one of the games in the Christmas package.  My buddies and I would play this game for hours, taking turns when someone would get killed.  It may be a "simple game" by the fact that you basically just make Mario run, jump, shoot fireballs, and avoid obstacles to get to the end of the stage but it is very fun and the stages are quite diverse.  This is a true NES classic and anyone that claims to be a console gaming fan - especially the retro kind - should play this game.

I remember hearing the name and thinking "that sounds like a game I will not get".  I borrowed the game from one of my friends at school and found another game that would satisfy my D&D itch when no one else was available.  I saved up my money and bought The Legend of Zelda; I even got the gold cartridge version!  I spent hours playing this game trying to get to the next dungeon, upgrade to the next better sword, or find some other item that would help me advance on the quest.  There were times that my friend Jamie and I would stay up pretty much all night playing this just to get to the next milestone.  The Legend of Zelda was a very engaging game and did a fine job of mixing the action and rpg genres into a game that would have wide appeal.  Although I have played a ton of the sequels, I still find this first game to be one of the best entries in the series.

 As soon as one of these games becomes available on the Wii's Virtual Console I make sure to download it.  So far I have not been disappointed in any of the games.  The play still feels very similar to the way I remember it.  In fact, I have downloaded several older games that are probably considered true classics by many - Metroid, Castlevania, and several others - but I am really waiting on the Dragon Warrior games.  I better go check the newest update to see if it is available... 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mazes & Monsters

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Mazes & Monsters

I previously posted about the satanic panic and alarm over D&D in my J is for "Just a Game" post.  The scene from Mazes & Monsters unfortunately demonstrates what many people at the time believed about D&D.  These people had usually never played D&D but the rumors, hearsay, and media attention would fuel the fire of their ignorance. 

The movie was based on the book by Rona Jaffe.  I do not know her motivation for the novel or what side of the D&D argument she stands on.  It is pretty apparent from reading the book and watching the movie that her knowledge of D&D is best described as superficial.  Take this still for instance:
In all of the years that I have played D&D and other games, I have NEVER seen, heard, or been a part of any game that was done by candle light.  I am sure that this was done for dramatic flair but I have never seen it done in reality.  The lack of accuracy was not important to the people viewing this but the images and actions was very important.  The detractors just ran wild with this information and some would cite this movie as an example; some would suggest it was even "based on a true story"!

Fortunately, I never directly faced this sort of hysteria from close family.  My mom just needed help with the names of the products she would buy as birthday or Christmas presents.  My step dad did not fully object but would just say "be aware of what you are messing with".  At times his stance would annoy me BUT I do get it now.  It is actually sound advice and makes sense.  You should be aware of what you are messing with regardless what "it" is - games, religion, politics, etc.  It never led to any arguments or heated discussions so it is no problem at all. 

Now that the 80's are long gone, I thought this sort of hysteria and alarm would be gone but it does resurface every now and then.  I hope that one day people will realize that activities such as gaming are not to blame for the actions of some people.  It all comes down to choice and agency.  People can choose to act "good" or "bad".

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Living Steel

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************
Living Steel
It seems unusual to do a post about a game that I have never played but I have also never read the rule book; I did hold it in my hands and flip through it at the used book store one day.  All the gory details about the game can be found from the listing at Waynes Books.  The book was in pretty horrid condition so it immediately fell into the no purchase category.  I remember the price being asked for it was much higher than the condition warranted.  I have also wondered if I made the right choice about purchasing that hardbound rule book several years ago. 
So, what's the point of a post about a game I virtually have no knowledge about?  I remember seeing the ads in Dragon magazine in the 80's.  We were also looking for other directions besides D&D or "yet another fantasy game" and this looked to fit the bill.  I also remember that several of us wanted to get this game.  Come on, look at the cover!  That looks to be pretty much the opposite of D&D.  The only thing I know is from the reviews I have read; basically, hearsay is it.  The general impression seems to be that it was super detailed in just about everything from combat, world history, guns, etc.

We looked at several of the game stores but could never find the game.  None of us knew anything about mail order at the time so that wasn't even an  Maybe one of these days I can track it down at a reasonable price...   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Krull

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Here I go with another activity from "gamers that did more than just game" category of 80's memories.  The trailer for Krull is below:

Several of us went to the theatre and saw this film.  There was no D&D movie at the time but this was a close approximation to the way many  groups played the game [atleast for a short period of time]- as in, they did not strictly stick to fantasy but also threw in a little science fiction also.  Not to mention that TSR mixed science fiction and fantasy with EXPEDITION TO THE BARRIER PEAKS.  I admit that it is not a cinematic masterpiece BUT it is better than the official D&D movie that we got.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for "Just a Game"

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

"Just a Game"
I uttered those words numerous times in the 1980's - every time some close minded person would start rambling on about the "evils of D&D".  So did some of my gaming buddies.  Looking back at it all, I understand why the concern took place at this point in time.  I am not caving in and saying that "they" are right but I am saying that the 80's was ripe for this sort of thing.  You see, the 80's was the time of the bogey man around every corner.

The Cold War happened during this time period.  Remember all of the hype about mutually assured destruction between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.?  I remember doing bomb drills in school!  We would actually get out of our seats and crouch under our desks during these drills.  Adding to the hype was the film Red Dawn.  I believe there was also a TV movie made during this time - Amerika, I believe - that told the story of a Soviet occupied America.
This decade also saw the spotlight hit the music scene.  Critics of hard rock and heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Jame Dio, Pink Floyd, and others were worried that these bands would lead to drugs, wild sex, satanic worship, or even suicide.  In fact, Judas Priest was even brought to trial over their music.  It was crazy times.

The slasher films and video games also came into popularity at this time.  This was another area of concern for critics.  They were convinced that the violence in these films and games would make people desensitized to the blood and gore so they would be more likely to commit violent acts.

Dungeons & Dragons came into extreme popularity in the 80's.  I am not talking about a somewhat large part of the population playing the game BUT it seemed like within a short while EVERYBODY had either played or at least knew a few details about the game.  Just to show how popular D&D was at this time, here are a few things I remember:

  1. Mattel released an electronic D&D board game.
  2. There was a red, electronic handheld pocket D&D game.
  3. Basic D&D was in the SEARS catalog.
  4. Basic D&D was available for a reward in GRIT Newspaper sellers program.
  5. D&D action figures.
  6. D&D animated series.
That's just real quick off the top of my head.  Not only was D&D very popular but people tended to play the hell out of it for long periods of time.  The point is that the popularity put D&D in the spotlight.  If someone committed suicide or murdered someone and they were a D&D player then it would draw more attention to it.   

The bogeyman was everywhere during the 80's.  It makes perfect sense that the role-playing game Paranoia would come out of this decade. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Illuminati

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************


Steve Jackson Games provided the games that filled many of our playing hours.  The two products that were probably my favorites were OGRE and Illuminati.  OGRE was a futuristic war game featuring a cybernetic tank that was close to unstoppable while Illuminati was a card game of conspiracy and world domination.  As a side note, SJG was somewhat know for the diversity of their products and these two are just the beginning; there was also others such as Car Wars and Raid on Iran. 

I know what you're thinking - what is so great about another card game?  Well, this is not your typical card game.  Each player controls one of the mastermind orgnanizations - the Bavarian Illuminati, Gnomes of Zurich, Servants of Cthulhu, etc. - that are trying to control the world.  Each one of these groups had a different victory condition such as controlling one group of each alignment, earning a certain amount of megabucks, or destroying a certain amount of groups. 

Other activities in the game involved controlling smaller conspiracy groups to build a power structure.  This could be groups like the Boy Sprouts, the UWA, the Post Office, etc.  Each of these groups was matched up with your starting master group one of the sides and each group had up to one arrow on each side that would allow the power structure to continue to grow.  Illuminati was actually more like a board game with the cards being placed on the table as play went on so the board was forming and changing during play.  The arrangement of each power structure determined what groups could aid other groups during your turn. 

This game actually seems to encourage players to think outside of the box and try to form alliances with other players, forge treaties, and even downright cheat their way to world domination.  It wouldn't be uncommon for some players to try to work out alliances or plans before a game was taking place.  I know I am not doing the game justice with this description but it's hard to do so because I haven't played in a while and the play goes beyond the rules in the box.  The best way to describe this game just may be to take a glimpse at the SJG catalog and read the following:

"Two to six players compete to take control of groups ranging from the FBI and CIA to the Dentists, increasing their wealth and power for further takeovers, until one rules supreme. Every player has different victory conditions! No ploy is too devious, no stratagem too low, as you scheme your way to victory."

Doesn't that sound fun?

Monday, April 9, 2012


I interrupt this A-Z posting marathon to show off what an old acquaintance just gave to me...

Oh, and it doesn't stop there.  He also gave me...

That's right, the Moldvay Basic with the matching Expert plus B2: The Keep on the Borderlands and X1: The Isle of Dread.  He says he hasn't used them since "way back then and that someone that would use them should have them". 

D&D Holy Grail = FOUND, Cost = FREE.

It's time for the happy dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

H is for Heavy Metal

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Heavy Metal
Ok, here's another post from the "gamers that do more than game" category.  I'm not going to write a lot and just let the trailer speak for itself...

...and it's pretty awesome!  I remember staying up later than we were supposed to and sneaking in the other room at my buddies house running across this show just as it was starting.  Of course, his parents probably would not have approved of us watching but it was everything a group of pre-teen boys would find awesome - rock music, swords, lasers, fighting, fantastic adventures, and naked  Hey, what can I say, all of us were around 11 or 12 the first time we saw it.  Don't bother with Heavy Metal 2000; it sucks.  'nuff said!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for GURPS

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Several of the products from Steve Jackson Games were played quite frequently by the members of our gaming group.  It all started with Car Wars.  We were thrilled to find a game and play experience that reminded us so much of Death Race 2000.  The price of the game -$3.95 - was enough to lure us quickly into snatching up more of the SJG pocket box games.  Some of our favorites included OGRE, G.E.V., Illuminati and One-Page Bulge.

One of my favorite contents included in the SJG game boxes was the catalog.  It was like a miniature SEARS catalog of gaming goodness with sections devoted to each product.  There are several I would have liked to have tried like Raid on Iran, Kung Fu 2000, and others.  The catalog also included a little blurb about the upcoming products by SJG that were going to be released sometime soon.  I enjoyed reading about the products I did not have and the products that were coming soon and then one day I noticed the product spotlight for an upcoming product that grabbed my attention - GURPS, the Generic Universal Role Playing System.  The announcement promised that this one system was all a group would need to play in any style of game they wanted.  Most companies did not do that and expected you to buy a new game with new rules for fantasy, western, science fiction, supers, or other gaming.  I read the further previews with great interest and waited for the release of the game.    

When the original boxed set of the rules were released I bought them at the game shop I used to frequent as much as possible at the time.  I took it home and started reading through the rules.  The more I read, the more I liked and blazed through them pretty quickly.  I thought it was extremely revolutionary that you actually designed your character from points, used advantages and disadvantages to "balance" your character, and also had a basic combat as well as advanced combat system; there was also tons of GM advice available in the rules.  I played through the included solo adventure - Caravan to Ein Arnis, I think? - and was pretty excited to see more.  In short time I purchased GURPS Man to Man (basically a slimmed down fantasy combat version of the system), GURPS Autoduel (roleplaying in the Car Wars universe), GURPS Cyberpunk, GURPS Fantasy, and GURPS Supers.  With these additional rules volumes it became apparent that not every genre would use the exact same rules - some would be added or changed from the core - but all of these different genres did use a basic starting point that was the same.  Everything else could be figured out or dealt with in a reasonable fashion since the core was intact.  I began jotting down notes and ideas for a campaign that I wanted to run everybody through.  I was next up in the Game Master rotation and I wanted to introduce the rest of the group to this awesome new system I had just learned.

It turned out that GURPS would become my single biggest disappointment in my gaming experience.  No, it wasn't from play experience or any other dissatisfaction with the system.  My gaming group had one simple problem with GURPS - they believed that all of those rulebooks were mandatory and voiced opinions such as "if we're going to need all of those rulebooks then we might as well just keep using D&D, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers".  I tried in vain to convince them otherwise but Jamie was the only one that would listen.  We played around with Man to Man a few times but never did get a GURPS campaign going.  I would occasionally pick up future GURPS supplements - they are generally so informative that they can be used for other games - and even bought GURPS 3rd Edition even though I knew that none of my gaming buddies would give it a shot.  It remains a system I am highly interested in using.  Perhaps I will get the chance someday?

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Friday the 13th

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Friday the 13th
Yeah, I know what you're thinking at this point - I thought this guy was using gaming in the 1980's with his friends as the theme of all of his posts?  Yes, you are correct and I assure you that the series of Friday the 13th movies DO fit into the stated theme for my posts.  You see, my gaming group from the old days did not start out as my gaming group.  All of us were friends for various lengths of time before we started role-playing together.  In other words, we didn't just game together but did all sorts of other things in our free time.  Some of the posts for this challenge will reflect that fact.  This happens to be one of them.
One of our favorite activites was watching movies - especially horror movies - on the weekends.  Most of the horror movies we saw at the beginning of the 80's were just the kind of movies that would make you jump at certain points.  There might be some vague hints at gore and violence but the main point was to make the audience jump.  After viewing tons of these movies, you kind of get used to the jump scenes and can almost pinpoint the hints leading to those moments in the films.  Our whole experience with these films would change when we discovered the slasher films that exploded into popularity in the 80's.

I could not give you the exact date or even an approximate year for the start of the slasher films.  What I can tell you is that after a few of these series took off with tremendous popularity, there were many other slasher films of varying quality released to the viewing public.  As with most everything available for public consumption, the cream rises to the top.  The top tier of the slasher films consisted of movies like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th. 

The members of the gaming group had varying tastes when it came to these movies so there was no consensus about the best series in the genre.  All it took was one viewing of Friday the 13th for me to have my favorite.  I remember hearing about the legend of Jason in the movie and believing that he was doing all of the killing.  Instead, I was surprised to discover that his mother had been slowly getting her revenge throughout the movie.  I was even more surprised when Jason came out of the water at the end of the movie.  I remember that scene giving me creeps late at night and there was a few times where I turned on a lamp so it would not be dark.  I may have been just a tad young to be watching these movies but the "forbidden fruit" aspect was part of the fun.

There have been many sequels to the original film in the following years.  They all end pretty much the same way - Jason is vanquished and there is doubt as to whether he is truly dead or not.  Eventually, there is another sequel released that has Jason revived yet again to wreak havoc on pot smoking, beer drinking, and teenagers having sex out of wedlock.  The films are not "deep" or anything but I find them entertaining; maybe a guilty pleasure even.  With all of the times I have watched these and other horror movies I have never played any horror rpg's.  There's something to that but I don't know what... 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Expert Set

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Expert Set
Following the foundation laid out in the Basic set, the Expert set provided details for characters to advance in level to the approximately the mid-teen levels; I know it's somewhere around 14th or 15th level but it has been a while and my memory is a little fuzzy.  The Expert set also focused more on wilderness and overland adventuring and encounters in contrast to the focus on the dungeon environment found in the Basic set.  Of course, since the characters gained new options then were also new monsters, treasures, and other assorted information in these rules.

I have heard that there were actually adds from the old TSR catalog that had information for an unproduced Holmes Expert set.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  Regardless, all of us in the gaming group had a copy of the Mentzer version of the Expert rules.  I do recall playing through the included adventure, Isle of Dread, and thinking how cool it was to go on a pirate adventure to an uncharted island.   

For some reason, no one in the playing group owned a copy of the Moldvay version of the Expert rules.  I think this is a case of somewhat odd luck because several of us had the matching Basic rules.  I am sure the differences between the two Expert sets were not all that great but I would have preferred a copy of the Moldvay set.  Judging from the cover, thet presentation matched the Basic set and the two boxes would have made a nice pair on the shelf together.  I have also heard that there was a Moldvay Companion rules set that was unproduced also.   
Out of all the D&D products that I have owned over the years, the product(s) I feel would be ideal for playing today would be the Moldvay Basic along with the matching Expert rules that I never owned.  Most of our D&D campaigns rarely made it further than the levels presented in the Expert rules so these two boxed sets of rules would make an ideal rules set for my old gaming group.  It's pretty tempting to head over to some used game sites to see if I can pick both of these up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for DC Heroes

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

DC Heroes 
I have been a fan of supers gaming ever since I picked up the Villains & Vigilantes 2nd Edition boxed set in the early 80's.  From that game, several of us tried out Marvel Super Heroes from TSR and Heroes Unlimited from Palladium Books.  One summer I ran across the first edition of DC Heroes in the local game shop.  It seemed like an obvious purchase since many of us were avid readers of several of the DC titles; plus, Green Lantern will always be my favorite super hero of all time.  I figured any game that had Green Lantern included in the universe and available for play should be a must have for me.  Besides, maybe the system would be easy to translate back and forth between this system and the one used in the Marvel game.  We had plans for the ultimate crossovers and battles between the universes but the systems were not compatible at all.
 I was a little concerned with the price but then I opened the box and was pretty much blown away.  There were three booklets (a Players Manual, a Game Masters manual, and a Skills & Powers manual if I recall correctly), a GMs screen, and a boatload of character cards that served as miniature character sheets for many of the most popular and some of the more obscure figures in the DC universe.

There were several of us that were pretty excited to get home and play this one.  I have to admit that most of us were a little intimidated by the way the rules were presented.  There were some areas that were super easy to grasp but some of the other areas left us somewhat confused.  It didn't seem to me that you could do a proper gadgeteer under the rules because every invention had charges associated with their use, the powers were somewhat specialized to a DC exclusive outlook with custom names instead of general names, and the fact that we were somewhat confused by the rules at the time.  An older brother helped us tremendously with the rules but we got the idea that DC Heroes was more about playing established super hero characters rather than your own creations so we did not play it much. 

I have heard that there were two other editions of DC Heroes published that cleaned up some of the problems and issues from that first edition.  It seems there is also a legacy product called Blood of Heroes that made further revisions and additions to the rules.  Maybe I could look that up sometime and give the game another spin?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Choose Your Own Adventure

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Choose Your Own Adventure books

The concept of these books is pretty simple.  The reader assumes - some later series added minimal character generation rules - the role of the main character in the story and the decisions made at certain points of the story determined the direction of the story.  The reader usually read between half of a page to several pages and then was given a list of choices.  Following the choice would lead to an outcome and you would then arrive at another list of options. 

This series of books was widely available in my local area.  The library had a whole section of them in the middle school, the book fairs at school always had several of them for sale, and the weekly readers from grade school would have several of these listed in them on a regular basis. 

When the gaming group was not gaming, we often did other things in our spare time.  One of those activities was reading through one of these books.  I read a ton of these things as a child and also branched out into other series such as Pick a Path to Adventure, Lone Wolf, Sorcery, and Zork just to keep the list small.  Of course, we would usually buy different books and then swap them when we were done reading them.  I remember keeping a notebook that would list the choices made in the book and whether or not they led to victory  or defeat.  I would pull these books out at a later date and read through just the victory choices so I could have a smooth read without backtracking after defeat. 

I believe these have somewhat come back into some level of popularity now.  I would read new ones today but I would probably want one of the series that included a limited form of character creation before beginning the read.  Of course, I may still have a small box of these in storage at my parents.  I wonder if that notebook with all of the solutions are there also?  Hmmm.... 

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Basic Dungeons & Dragons

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Basic Dungeons & Dragons
In my old gaming group, Basic D&D saw a lot of play along with AD&D.  We were always swapping out modules or other materials between the two games.  Although none of us ever did purchase or play OD&D, there were several different versions of the Basic rules spread throughout the group.

Holmes Basic D&D Rules
I was the only one that had the Holmes version of the basic set.  It is more of an introductory version because it only covers character levels 1 - 3; for further advancement, it is recommended that the reader move on to the AD&D rules.  It also deviated in some of the rules areas such as weapon damage being a straight D6 for everything with daggers being able to be used twice per round and two handed weapons being used every other round.  An attempt at balance but ultimately misguided.  There were also mention of classes and races that have not traditionally been part of the D&D rules such as the witch, samurai, and even some of the more exotic races being allowed if the DM approves.  In an interesting twist, the alignment system is also different.  The three alignment axis from OD&D is gone and the nine alignment axis from AD&D is not used but a five alignment system is used in the Holmes set.  It is interesting to note that one of the rules changes that has caused quite a stir from 4E was first tried in this early set of the rules.  This is still one of my favorite presentations of the D&D rules with the artwork, font, and layout all combined together.  It is a shame that no follow up products - Expert Set, etc. - were produced for this set.  I would have liked to have seen what could have been.

Moldvay/Cook B/X (Basic/Expert) Rules  
There were several sets of this version of the Basic rules owned by various members of our playing group.  There were some differences from Holmes in this set.  The three axis alignment returned and I believe there was a clear distinction between D&D and AD&D with these rules.  I also believe that variable weapon damage returned instead of the universal D6 weapon damage seen in Holmes.  As much as I absolutely love the Holmes version of the rules, I must say that the layout and presentation of these rules is the perfect representation of Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

Mentzer B-E-C-M-I Rules ( Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, Immortals) 
Everyone in our playing group had a copy of Basic through Masters;  it allowed play until level 36.  I personally never bought the Immortals set and I am unsure of whether or not other members of our group purchased the set.  Eventually, I believe that these separate sets were edited together to form the basis of the Rules Cyclopedia that would come later.  I thoroughly enjoyed that product but I admit that I was not a big fan of the Mentzer sets.  It all comes down to their presentation.  It really is that simple.  I felt that these sets were too "polished" and too "professional" to properly convey the feeling and atmosphere that the other sets were so good at getting across to me.  Put simply, it felt like the suspension of disbelief and immersion had been scaled down with the layout and presentation used throughout these sets.  Don't get me wrong, I would still gladly play using these rules today if I had the opportunity it but the presentation just was not my favorite out of the three versions.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

***********Just for the sake of clarity - the theme for my A to Z postings is gaming in the 1980's with my friends.*************

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
It just makes sense that AD&D is one of the subjects of my A - Z posts, doesn't it?  It (and the Holmes Basic set) are what introduced me to the role playing hobby.  It was the summer of 1980 when I received the  PHB, DMG, MM, and the Holmes Basic from my uncle David.  He had been a player of the original rules and had bought these revisions and played for some time before handing them down to me.  
I was pretty excited by these books because I was a fan of all things fantasy and now I had the opportunity to play out my own adventures similar to Conan, King Arthur, or the animated version of The Hobbit that the local PBS station played pretty regularly at the time. I do, however, admit that some of that stuff was pretty confusing for an 8 year old and took the assistance of my uncle to fully understand.  Once the concept was understood, we played pretty obsessively taking any free moment we could to sneak in some game time. 

The common rules at the time were usually a mish-mash of AD&D with D&D and some house rules thrown in for good measure.  Our group was no different from the norm.  I probably have many of our house rules in one of my old gaming notebooks somewhere.  Rules that I particularly remember are ignoring the class/level limits for demi-humans and a +1 to an Ability would allow you a score of 19 in our games.  Maybe it was not "balanced" but we had a blast and THAT is what's important.

AD&D was the mainstay of my gaming group for many years.  It started with just my brother Mark and me but quickly expanded to my friend Jamie.  Over the years other players would come and go.  Some of the most notable additions were Ray and Neal (brothers) and Travis.  Other games might temporarily hold our interest but AD&D was the most played game until most of us graduated in 1991. 

At this point, several of us joined the Army and went our separate ways.  I gamed a few times in the 8 years that I served but it was mostly a drought of gaming.  I know that Ray and Neal have not gamed since high school, Jamie has gamed - we are trying to get a group together - and I am unsure of the rest of the group.  Unfortunately, my original rpg collection met the fate described in this post earlier on my blog.  I would love to have some of these games now or even get a gaming group together.  I think it's about time to get the band back together for one last adventure.  Maybe I'll grab a copy of OSRIC and make a few phone calls...