Though it no longer exists, the gaming company known as TSR, Inc., will always be associated with Dungeons & Dragons. However, TSR published a lot more tabletop roleplaying games than D&D. The science fiction game Star Frontiers to this day has a strong fan base, and the game Gamma World continues to find some love. That being said, many of TSR’s other RPGs tend to have been forgotten by a wider audience though they might still have a community of followers.
Such a game is Gangbusters.
Designed by Rick Krebs and originally published in 1982, Gangbusters takes place in the America of the 1920s and 1930s in the fictional Lakefront City. This is a game of cops and robbers, of gangsters and crime lords and Tommy guns. Historical figures such as Al Capone or Pretty Boy Floyd might make an appearance along with fictional characters like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, but players also have the opportunity to play the bad guys. Or they can play the good guys and join the side of the law. Or they can be something in between, like a newspaper reporter or photographer.
The original version of Gangbusters included multiple maps, two ten-sided die, and a 64-page book of rules. Today 64 pages might not seem like much for a rules book, but Gangbusters had plenty of information packed into those pages.
When I started playing RPGs all the way back in the early 1980s, I did not have a group of players at my age to play games with (well, at least none that I ever found). Hence, I subjected my brother to Travellerand Star Frontiers — and eventually Marvel Super Heroes, Twilight: 2000, and others. RPGs had always presumed that the game would have a game master (GM) — sometimes called Dungeon Master, referee, storyteller, keeper, and others — and the players.
The GM is largely responsible for crafting the story, running all the non-player characters (NPCs), adjudicating the rules, and responding to player decisions by adjusting the story as necessary. Hence, I acted as the GM and my brother played the characters in the story. Typically, far more players are looking for GMs to run games than GMs hanging around without players. This is, of course, highly dependent on the games being run, location, and so on. With online gaming, it is usually more challenging to coordinate time zones.
That said, GMs may have trouble finding players to play anything but the giant of all RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons. However, D&D often serves as a gateway to other RPGs, and the incredible success of Cyberpunk Red and Aliensshows that as more players enter the hobby, a fair number are willing to expand beyond the D&D horizon.
Firearms from the Old West era have always fascinated me. It’s not simply the physical attractiveness of such weapons, though some are quite pleasing to look upon, but it’s the mechanics and the operation of these firearms which has always drawn me. Single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles, cap and ball weapons, even scatter guns of the period, they all take a certain amount of basic knowledge and skill to operate, to even load, let alone fire. There has always been something about the physical manipulation of such weapons which has interested me, far more than most modern firearms which are more deadly but don’t usually require the same operations.
This is the third of three articles covering GDW’s published adventures in the “American Campaign” for Twilight: 2000’s first edition. The first, “From the Mountains to the Oceans,” can be read here, Part 2 is here.
The final three adventures ofTwilight: 2000’s American campaign leap from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to Baja Mexico. Twilight: 2000, GDW’s apocalyptic World War III RPG first released in the 1980s, always kept a firm eye on the individuals — usually US soldiers negotiating this challenging environment — while incorporating broader events. For the American campaign of adventures, the primary broader event has been the rising power of New America — a fascist tyranny run by the mysterious Charles Hughes — using its power and the competing US government’s two halves (MilGov and CivGov) to establish control over ever more area. New America has been a prominent opponent in the earlier adventures Airlords of the Ozarks, Urban Guerrilla, and Gateway to the Spanish Main.
In the half century or so that makes up most of video game history, there have been plenty of games which have featured swords and swordfighting. From fantasy games to ultra-realistic combat games, most have not gone for any realism except perhaps graphically, though there have been a handful of notable exceptions such as Bushido Blade and Kengo. Until fairly recently that has not been much of an issue. The average video game player, if there can be said to be such a person, has seemed to be more interested in flashy graphics and action than in realistic swordfighting, or at least that is what the gaming market has mostly provided. Yet the last couple of decades have brought about the popularity of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) with more and more practitioners and proponents joining the leagues every day, along with those who have interests in other martial arts. And these people, the folks who train and compete with swords, they know their swordfighting. Which means when they want to play a swordfighting video game, they want realism not only in how swords look but in how the bladed weapons perform on the screen.
Finally there is a video game for them.
The game’s title is Hellish Quart. Produced by Jakub and Kate Kisiel of the Polish studio Kubold, Hellish Quart is a 3D physics-based, one-on-one swordfighting game in which each fencing move of the characters on screen have been motion captured.
Hellish Quart is currently an Early Access game, which means there is more work yet to be done on it, and so far it is only available for play on a Windows platform. But don’t let any of that fool you. If you are interested in serious, historical fencing, this is a game you will want to look into.
This is the second of three articles covering GDW’s published adventures in the “American Campaign” for Twilight: 2000’s first edition. The first, “Going Home Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be,” can be read here.
For the characters at the start of their adventures in Twilight: 2000 — presuming they start with the default location in Poland — the situation in America is essentially unknown. They may learn more clearly that the United States government has split into competing units: the so-called MilGov and CivGov. However, the nature and extent of the collapse of society and the rising of powerful alternative forces would largely be unknowable.
The nuclear strikes against America overwhelmed governmental services either because they were taken out in the strikes (the main body of the federal government), the vast quantity of desperate refugees put civilian leaders in no-win situations for shelter and food, or the collapse of the intricate infrastructure of food production and delivery stripped civilian government of any authority as people turned to baser instincts for survival. Even the Roman emperors understood the importance of food supplies and ensured that the citizens of Rome had free supplies of bread.
Usually here at Black Gate I write about old-school tabletop roleplaying games or elements related to them, but now I’m going to truly show my age by writing about Deadlands. See, I continue to think of Deadlands as a new rpg even though it’s now a quarter of a century old. And what a quarter century it has been for this game.
Developed by Shane Lacy Hensley and originally released in 1996 by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Deadlands immediately proved quite popular with gamers and with critics, eventually earning as many as eight Origins Awards. And why not? Combining elements of horror with the legendary atmosphere of the Old West, along with a few touches of fantasy and steampunk, Deadlands was quite innovative not only for its time but also for today. I think that mixture of horror and Westerns was what originally drew me to this game.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the FX series What We Do in the Shadows is one of my favorite shows ever. Each 30-minute episode has me literally crying laughing, and I’ve watched seasons 1 and 2 on demand multiple times while I wait for the release of season 3 in September. Something about mixing horror and comedy, ala American Werewolf in London or Zombieland just works for me.
A first look at the trailer for Werewolves Within makes me think this will be a film to go see in the theaters. I mean, I used to go see everything in the theaters. But being stuck at home for the last year has made a lot of us antisocial, and I find myself weighing the worthiness factor of a film before deciding where to see it. Such as, “is this film worthy of me putting on real clothes and sitting in the vicinity of other people I’m not related to?” And why do I think Werewolves Within is worthy? First of all, its origin story is kind of cool.
This is the first of three articles covering GDW’s published adventures in the “American Campaign” forTwilight: 2000’s first edition.
The published adventures for Twilight: 2000 did not stop with the players returning home in Going Home, the final adventure in what is referred to as the Polish Campaign. A series of nine adventures followed, all set in the United States — or what the United States as become the setting. The first three published adventures, Red Star/Lone Star, Armies of the Night, and Allegheny Uprising presume the players did manage to return to the United States from Europe.
Unlike the linked — albeit loosely — adventures of the Polish Campaign, with its opening escape, fleeing to Krakow, working toward Warsaw, and then eventual crossing into Germany, these three first adventures of the American campaign exist independently. An enterprising game master (GM) and players could find a way to connect them, though the distances are vast — particularly for Red Star/Lone Star and the other two — at least vast in a post-apocalyptic world.
Some months ago I wrote about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain, the 1982 video game by Mattel for the Intellivision home gaming console, so it only seemed right I also come up with an article about the followup game, 1983’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin.
Right off the bat, Treasure of Tarminis graphically a massively different game than Cloudy Mountain. For one thing, most of the action is in a three-dimensional, first-person view of the various mazes the player’s character must traverse; while this wasn’t the first video game to offer first-person action (that game would be 1972’s Maze War), this viewpoint was rare at the time for video games and, looking back, seems almost an impossibility for the limits of a home console during that era. So, visually, Treasure of Tarmin offered something not quite unique but almost so to the kids sitting at home tapping away on their Intellivision controllers.
More than just graphics, however, Treasure of Tarmin offered a depth and complexity of gameplay that was not common at the time, and again was something not generally thought of as possible for a home console of that period.