responsible for Mongoose’s edition of the game. Chaosium’s RuneQuest from 1978 was a fantasy game set in Glorantha, a world that Greg Stafford had been playing about with since the 60s. The rules system followed Traveller’s lead, rather than D&D’s, and has been constantly reprinted, most recently by The Design Mechanism. However I want to draw a little more attention to Chaosium’s 1981 game, Call of Cthulhu (CoC), not because it needs the attention, more because of how different it was to the other mainstays of the time. At Irish conventions in the 90s and early 2000s three games were head and shoulders above everything else in terms of popularity, D&D, Vampire: The Masquerade (more on that in a later article) and Call of Cthulhu. Using the Basic Role-Playing system, CoC put the players into HP Lovecraft’s chilling version of the 1920s where the question wasn’t if your character would go insane and/ or die, it was when! Traveller had been a pretty dark world in many ways, but D&D was largely based on the notion that you were the hero and you’d probably win in the end. Sandy Petersen’s non-euclidian game was based on the notion that you poked into the dark corners of the earth and you probably wouldn’t survive what you found there. The game took Lovecraft’s work and translated it likely as well as humanly possible into an RPG that’s still as popular and scary today as it was when it first came out. Another game from the 80s that made it very clear RPGs weren’t all about swords and sorcery was West End Games’ Paranoia, first published in 1984. Written by Greg Costikyan, Dan Gelber and Eric Goldberg, it thrust players into Alpha Complex, a world where
everyone has something to hide, the Computer is your friend and the game assumes that you will die several times per session. I struggle to think of any other game that’s “like” Paranoia, although some of the more surreal indie games of recent times likely come close. It would be very easy to look back at the early history of RPGs and see only games like D&D, Traveller or CoC, but the ongoing popularity of Paranoia (the 25th edition came out in 2009, with Gar Hanrahan very much involved once again, he gets about...) shows just how wide the scope of RPGs has always been.
Sandy Petersen’s non-euclidian game was based on the notion that you poked into the dark corners of the earth and you probably wouldn’t survive what you found there.”
The other major thing to come out of the 1980s RPGs was the idea of a “generic” system, first pioneered by Chaosium with their book Basic Role-Playing in 1981. The Hero System (with a book that is useable in home defence) was used in Champions the same year and in 1985 Steve Jackson Games published the Generic Universal Role Playing System (GURPS), a game that wanted you to be under no illusions as to its purpose. Over the fifteen years since the
publication of D&D, RPG systems had changed and evolved, the games had been translated and the hobby had spread far, far further than North America. The early 90s were to be a period of further change, but in part four we will take a look at what was happening in other areas of the hobby in the 70s and 80s, concentrating more on toy soldiers and the rise of Games Workshop.
The Gazebo is a free, quarterly e-zine dedicated to gaming in the UK and Ireland.