RPG History Club

Or, The Legacy Games Collective!

I was uncertain whether to start this thread in this topic or at the Game Table, because, for now, this is highly theoretical.

For a long time I have felt it would be very cool to meet people who are, overall, just as curious and passionate about rpgs as rpgs and not so much in search of a certain play experience. What I mean is that, quite often, we seem to be talking about finding that Holy Grail of game systems less often than we talk about simply experiencing games—any games—for the sake of the experience or the game itself. I myself am deeply curious about rpgs as a general mode of discourse, and I would love the opportunity to enter more fully into it.

Lately I have been thinking how cool it would be to take Shannon Appelcline’s series of rpg histories and to pull out what I am calling the “legacy” games—those that have undergone (in many cases) multiple editions and still enjoy a “playership” today—as a structure or progression with which to explore these games. Of course, I would also need a group of likeminded enthusiasts or rpg “academics” to actually play them.

Taking Designers & Dragons: The ‘70s, I parse out the following as the first likely contenders. (Those in bold are games I myself currently own in physical form.)

Dungeons & Dragons 5e (my hypothetical collective wouldn’t need actually to play this, right? Though not in strict accordance with my desire to play the most recent iterations of the legacies, I do think it would be amusing to try out the Original White Box coupled with Chainmail).

Tunnels & Trolls

Mysteries, Spies & Private Eyes (strictly speaking, this wouldn’t be a legacy game, but it still is available in print)


The Fantasy Trip

Chivalry & Sorcery

Villains & Vigilantes


Call of Cthulhu

Any I’m missing?

So they have to be played today in some form, and have to have roots in the 70s. Hmmm.

  • Boot Hill? I swear I thought there was a newer version, but maybe not.
  • Bunnies & Burrows? (Revived by Frog God)
  • I’d say Metamorphasis Alpha, but I think that’s a pretty dead game, yeah? Looks like there was an edition in 2014, though.
  • Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. I had no idea this even existed… but the Modi stuff counts, yeah? Or no? IP can persist and the systems can change… looks like there was also a John Carter game, which I was clueless about.

I don’t know if any of these could be considered the “same” game…

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I suppose even subsequent iterations and editions can be rightly argued as not being the same game.

I totally overlooked Bunnies & Burrows. Thanks for the addition!

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Morrow Project? 1st ed.

They have a new edition coming out soon…

World of Darkness… just about all of them are making a big comeback and have many editions

If we extend to the 80s and 90s, there are loads more games…

Oh, and I think it’s Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes, isn’t it? I remember looking at it on the shelf with my $20 allowance in my tight-fisted hand…

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Thanks, @Harrigan.

Yes, Appelcline covers rpg history in three more volumes (and working on another one): the 80s, 90s, and 00s.

Rolemaster and Vampire are covered in those. I think Rolemaster is 80s, and Vampire is 90s.

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Champions is still played, although it is not “the” superhero game anymore and has had many rule editions. Brilliant in it’s day, but is way to easily abused for me to ever run it again.

Empire of the Petal Thrown is stilled played and has multiple editions.

My next two are definitely debatable, Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse games.

Fate has evolved and has significant changes from Spirit of the Century to the Dresden Files to Fate Accelerated to Fate Condensed. Now, they claim it’s all the same, but those fours touchstones have many differences, just as they have many similarities.

Powered by the Apocalypse game are varied and similar in the same way. Blades in the Dark is a good example. It is similar to Dungeon World and very different. That’s all I got.

I think Gabe was shooting for games born in the 70s, but regardless I cannot help but throw in Fate-related deets…

  • Fate actually has roots in Fudge, which in the early days (~1992) was FUDGE, the “Freeform Universal Do-It-Yourself Game Engine.” (I just read that the ‘D’ was originally ‘Donated,’ but I haven’t run across that tidbit before.)
  • There was a version of Fate in 2003 (then FATE, “Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment (Fudge Version)”) known simply as FATE 2.0. It was quite a bit rougher around the edges than later versions of the game, but also was simpler – it lacked a lot of the jargon that Hicks and Donoghue introduced in SotS.
  • Whatever happened to FATE 1.0? To my knowledge, it was never released for public consumption…

Yeah, I think your right. Empire of the Petal Thrown fits and Champions is close if memory servers it was released around ‘83. Fate is definitely not that, but that system seem to be constantly tweaked. Most for the good.

How about the James Bond rpg, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

Fighting Fantasy. I’ll admit that one is a bit underground though. The books, reprints of the books (ongoing, also mobile apps), hacks like Troika!

Where does Vampire fit in? Did that last long enough? Are there still players?

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I’ve been meaning to update this, because it appears to be confusing and (sometimes) misunderstood.

First, though I have received a lot of games recommended for inclusion in this list, I haven’t had a sense of anyone wanting to join the club by actually playing/trying any of these, which was my initial intent. :grinning:

Second, I meant to start this discussion by isolating the earliest “legacy” games (those that still have “living”/current editions) of the hobby. This would be the 1970s.

Shannon Appelcline, in Designers & Dragons, began here, then produced later volumes (the 80s, the 90s, and the 00s — and rumors are there now is a 10s in the works!) exploring rpg history.

The 80s
Basic Role-playing (1980)
Rolemaster (1980)
Champions (1981)
GURPS (1981)
Harn (1982)

The 90s
TORG (1990)
World of Darkness (1991)

Don’t forget Palladium system.

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