So far, my 2022 tabletop roleplaying game character generation challenge has been a great trip down memory lane. For myself, my first “milieu” of the roleplaying game hobby was the years 1979 to 1986. In many ways, these years form the foundation of my roleplaying game hobby views. Alas, after this point, I entered college and, though I still kept in touch with RPGs, the truth was I was distracted. As you will see, my second milieu of gaming doesn’t pick up again until 1993.
Looking back over the seven earliest games in my collection, one should immediately notice that the 800 lb gorilla of the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons, is not there. Although I had friends who played D&D, it never grabbed me. I was a science fiction and military history fan and not a strong reader of fantasy fiction. So I stuck with games more in my wheelhouse; Classic Traveller, Behind Enemy Lines, James Bond 007, FASA Star Trek, Paranoia, Twilight: 2000, and Traveller: 2300.
From 1979 to 1986, the foundational roots of my RPG hobby were laid. Classic Traveller remains a favorite game. Behind Enemy Lines, with the emphasis on “adventuring through encounter tables,” is worthy of deeper analysis. James Bond 007 remains one of the best cinematic depictions in an RPG. FASA Star Trek would influence Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paranoia is still the dark-humor standard of the hobby. Twilight: 2000 created such an intriguing world that even the end of the Cold War could not kill it off and a new edition is out in 2021. Traveller: 2300 may be a step-child of Traveller, but its influences back into space opera Traveller, and eventually even TV shows like The Expanse should be noted.
This retro look at my roleplaying games, though focused on character generation, has reminded me of other reasons I long for the simple days of the retro beginning of the hobby.
- Classic Traveller is technically setting-less—the Third Imperium setting came along after the three Little Black Books. Adventures are driven by encounters and patrons. So simple; so fun.
- Behind Enemy Lines is build around missions, but within each mission one moves from encounter to encounter.
- James Bond 007 came with missions based on familiar movies, but they are changed up in ways that make each familiar, yet very unknown. Such excellent writing.
- FASA Star Trek is a “bridge-crew” focuses adventure, but once again the lack of canon made exploring the setting so much fun. Later supplements like The Klingons are still amongst my most favorite.
- Now that I am older, I really understand the humor behind Paranoia better. Too bad all the snowflakes of today wouldn’t be able to handle it (“I died? But…I spent hours in the coffee shop developing my backstory!”).
- Twilight: 2000, while maybe the most mechanically complex game, is really a medieval world with modern weapons.
- Traveller: 2300 is under-appreciated and arguably made a very significant (albeit very behind the scenes) contribution to the world of The Expanse.
In 1986, my first milieu of gaming was coming to a close. The next milieu, which I call the “My Lost Traveller D20 Years” would start in 1993 and run though 2005. As I will show you over the next few posts, it wasn’t such a great time for my RPG hobbying.