In this part of my ‘FourRPGs’, I’m looking at the four systems that didn’t quite make it into the top grade for me for whatever reason but were still significant in some form or another.
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D)
My cousin Carl announced one day that he was getting the AD&D books (we’re talking 1st edition here) back in October 1983. That filled me with a little trepidation, as I was heavily invested in TnT. However, it did have the side benefit that I bought all of Carl’s TnT books for a nominal fee! Whilst he picked up the players handbook (blue background, white wizard), the dungeon masters guide (green cloaked DM opening big doors) and the monster manual (gold dragon and white pegasus) I got hold of just the players guide to try and make sense of it all. Oddly enough though, it was me that ended up buying all the scenarios – we played the classic I6 Ravenloft, but that’s as far as we got with AD&D.
I continued to pick up the odd supplement into the early nineties and to help fill in the WFRP material shortfall. My gaming group then discovered ‘Forgotten Realms’ so we invested in the source material which in turn influenced our WFRP games. Out of all the game systems I have been involved with, AD&D I’ve probably bought the most of, spanning modules from the first I bought ‘I5 Lost Tomb of Martek’ to the last ‘Feast of Goblyns’.
MERP (Middle Earth Roleplaying)
I never really took any notice of the original Iron Crown Enterprises edition of MERP when it was available in my local Games Workshop, but it piqued my interest when GW started advertising their reprint in 1985. With a distinctive purple box, it opened up the possibility of adventuring in the source-material-rich background of Middle Earth. I bought Southern Mirkwood just before Christmas 1985 and enjoyed reading it that much I then went back the next day to buy the rules set. It took a while to get to grips with the system, but once I managed it I ran Southern Mirkwood as a solo adventure to get used to things. There seemed to be some glaring omissions for someone that had been used to TnT’s TTYF (Take That You Fiend aka a fireball spell) as pointed out on Twitter by @Hyper_lexic, so I added my own fireball spell to fill the gap.
By the time I was attempting to create conversions of favourite adventures, there were rumours of the GW WFRP system and my interest turned to that as a potential long term gaming system. I think another flaw for me is that MERP was too good a representation of role-playing in Middle Earth and there wasn’t enough familiarity of adventuring like TnT for me to completely make the leap between systems. It all seemed a bit too ‘serious’ a background as I do like a lot of humour in my games and this contributed to its downfall for long-term use. If I’ve got to be honest once I set up my characters and understood the game system, it was very much a case of ‘ok, so what do I do now’. I found myself ‘wandering’ Middle Earth looking for something to do which in turn led me to abandon the system.
Warhammer First Edition / Fantasy Battle (WHFB)
Warhammer looked like the ideal system in marrying the miniatures series by Citadel (of which I had loads) and a new system to role-play in. My cousin Carl bought it originally when it was launched in 1984 but didn’t like it, so he sold it to me. When I started reading through it, I can’t help feeling a little disappointed with the role-playing side as there was too much emphasis on the miniatures gaming side, the ‘balance’ was wrong for me. So, I changed my expectations and used it for miniatures gaming and set up a few games between Carl and my brother, which were very enjoyable. I also picked up a copy of the ‘Forces of Fantasy’ boxed supplement which added to the miniatures gaming side and filled in a lot of the gaps (and some system bugs I seem to recall) by making it a bit more complete.
Not the system I originally thought it would be back in 1983-4, but expectations eventually realised by WFRP a few years later.
Looking for some sort of miniatures gaming system for my 15mm Traveller miniatures, I picked up a copy of Laserburn by Tabletop Games (TTG) from Virgin Megastore (VMS) in Birmingham. VMS could be a treasure trove of gaming goodies as they tended to stock the gaming rarities that GW didn’t, or refused as they became more house-orientated. Some of the appeal wasn’t the glossy cover or high production values, but the rough edges – its simple single colour card cover and simple layout was very much in the style of the TnT solo dungeons. I found the system reasonably easy to get into and an added advantage was that it could be used straight away with 25mm miniatures.
I quickly picked up copies of the remaining three supplements (Forces of the Imperium, Robot and Imperial Commander) just as they were being sold off (Virgin were changing their stock and layout) and played a number of games using some 25mm troopers with my brother. I’ve still got all the books and card cutouts of the hand-flamer and weapon effectiveness range guides, safely tucked away with my TnT books. It should be noted that the Laserburn books formed the basis of the Warhammer gaming series and eventually Warhammer 40,000.
In my final part of My FourRPGs, I’ll be looking at the four game systems that I bought but never made any use of, for various reasons!