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Early Competition for D&D: DragonQuest

Early Competition for D&D: DragonQuest

Throughout the 1970s and very early 1980s, Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) was a company known for its board war games. Then in 1980 it took a stab at the growing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons and other popular tabletop role-playing games. SPI came up with a different style of fantasy RPG known as DragonQuest (DQ), published in a boxed set with multiple books.

Eventually there would be three versions of DQ. SPI published a second edition in 1982 in a single book, but soon after the company was purchased by TSR, the developers of D&D. Eventually in 1989 TSR would produce the final, third edition of DQ, this one also in a single book, but since then they have done next to nothing with the property though they did release a few gaming modules for the system. Fortunately a few other companies also released DQ-related material and to this day there is a somewhat active DQ community online. As for the three versions of the game, they are pretty much compatible with few differences between them, especially between the second and third editions.

Created by Eric Goldberg, later known for his role in the publication of the tabletop RPG Paranoia and numerous other games both at the table and online, DragonQuest separated itself from D&D and its imitators by not focusing so much upon a class system for character creation and advancement. Instead, characters in DQ were mostly based upon growth in skill rankings.

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Mashed Up

Mashed Up

FireflyAs might be expected from the guy who wrote Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery and is now Kickstarting Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia, I love a good mash-up. I use the term mash-up to refer to a creative work that blends two or more apparently dissimilar genres. The mash-up most genre fans would know would be Firefly, mashing-up space opera and westerns.

Brotherhood of the WolfNow space opera and western are not terribly dissimilar, but Firefly included many of the trappings as well as the tropes of the western. The characters carried six-shooters and lever action rifles, they had costumes that appeared quite close of 19th century American frontier clothing, and pseudo-frontier language dotted their speech – along with Mandarin. While I often hear Firefly referred to as sci-fi with some western aspects, I think it is more fitting to call it a western in space.

That’s kind of splitting hairs.

Firefly melded two genres, but there is a wonderful French movie that mixes at least four – period drama, martial arts, horror, and romance. The Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favourite movies and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It might not be the finest movie of its age, but it was my favorite movie of 2002.

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A Return of Pacesetter RPG Style Horror

A Return of Pacesetter RPG Style Horror

You are about to enter the world of CHILL, where unknown things sneak, and crawl, and creep, and slither in the darkness of a moonless night. This is the world of horror, the world of the vampire, ghost, and ghoul, the world of things not known, and best not dreamt of. CHILL is a role-playing game of adventure into the Unknown and your first adventure is about to begin — CHILL Introductory Folder

In 1984, a group of former TSR Employees that included Mark Acres, Troy Denning, and Stephen Sullivan formed Pacesetter Ltd. Games and ambitiously published four role playing games: Chill, Timemaster, Star Ace, and Sandman. The rights to these games now belong to a diverse list of small publishers. Phil Reed owns the rights to Star Ace, Goblinoid Games own the rights to Timemaster and Sandman (as well as the Pacesetter brand), and Mayfair Games owns the rights to Chill.

Chill wasn’t the first horror role playing game, nor is it considered the best by the majority of gamers.  However, it has long held a place as a “cult” favorite in the role playing game world. While it is a cult favorite, that cult status has not enabled it to garner a reprint in recent years. In 2009, Otherworld Creations attempted to do a Fundable campaign (a Kickstarter before Kickstarter was cool) and failed to raise the necessary money to do a new edition.

Chill was different from other horror role playing games that often sought to capture the dark nihilistic material horror of H.P. Lovecraft or turned monster-hunting into an action movie. Chill tried to capture the tone of Hammer and AIP productions. Because of this four-color focus, and I believe also because its creators were former TSR employees, Rick Swan reviewed the game quite negatively in Dragon magazine and in his Complete Guide to Role-Playing Games. Swan wrote that the game was:

A horror game for the easily frightened… While most of Chill‘s vampires, werewolves, and other B-movie refugees wouldn’t scare a ten-year-old, they’re appropriate to the modest ambitions of the game… Chill is too shallow for extended campaigns, and lacks the depth to please anyone but the most undemanding players. For beginners only.

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Pavis – Gateway to Adventure: The Classic RPG City is Back! (Part Two)

Pavis – Gateway to Adventure: The Classic RPG City is Back! (Part Two)

pavis_coverLast week I began my review of Pavis – Gateway to Adventure, the new RPG supplement from Moon Design Publications for its HeroQuest roleplaying game in the fantasy world of Glorantha, with a bit of history of this greatest of RPG cities, and an overview of what this massive new book contains. This week, I’d like to look at the book’s content in far more detail, with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of just what you get in its 416 pages.

Chapter by Chapter

To begin with, the book’s cover is a nice full colour painting depicting a priest of the cult of Pavis, the city god, atop the ziggurat-like temple of Pavis in the new city, facing east over assembled city-folk and worshippers as the sun rises. In contrast to the green and earth tones of the previous two Sartar books, the cover is predominantly pinks, purples, and greys, emphasizing the hazy, desert-like environment of the city. It gives a feel for the predominance of religion – and religious intrigue – in the city.

After credits, contents, and introduction sections, the book launches straight into “Making Your Character”. If you have Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, you’ll know what to expect here; except that in addition to the Sartarite settlers of Pavis County, there are also HeroQuest keywords and character creation guidelines for Old Pavisites, Sun Domers, Zola Fel Riverfolk, and even Lunar Settlers.

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Pavis – Gateway to Adventure: The Classic RPG City is Back! (Part One)

Pavis – Gateway to Adventure: The Classic RPG City is Back! (Part One)

Pavis Gateway to Adventure-smallWow. This is a big book. I mean, seriously big. It’s 420 pages of letter-sized softback, absolutely crammed with information about one of the most famous cities in fantasy roleplaying – Pavis, City of Thieves, Gateway to Adventure.

Let me be frank: I’m a fan. I have been ever since Pavis first saw the light of day back in 1983. And, since this freshly published brand new supplement for the HeroQuest fantasy roleplaying game hit my mailbox last week, I’ve become a fan all over again.

This week and next, I’m going to review Pavis – Gateway to Adventure, and try to give some idea of why it’s such a special book. This week, I’ll consider the history of the city of Pavis as a roleplaying game product, and give a high-level overview of what the new supplement contains; next week, I’ll look into the book in much more detail, and provide a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

So what is Pavis, and why should you care? Well, if you’re a fan of the ancient fantasy world of Glorantha, the invention of RPG and fiction writer (and sometime shaman) Greg Stafford, then you’ll know all about Pavis already. But if you’re not – then prepare yourselves for a treat. Because whether you’re a roleplayer, or a fan of fantasy fiction with a love of well-crafted worlds, meticulous cultural detail, and awesome fantasy cities, Pavis – Gateway to Adventure might just be for you.

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