This afternoon, after several weeks of waiting, my final order of Marvel Heroic books arrived. I was pretty excited (“yea, new books!”) and then fairly despondent, remembering that the game was dead. As in, no more. Finished. Kaput. And while we only played a brief Marvel Heroic campaign, it was awesome, so much so that it was my clear pick for “Product of the Year” at the 2012 ENnies (they won Silver).

Marvel Heroic RoleplayingBut this also brings up a good reminder of the value of RPGs in their ability to be long lasting in not only value but usage. There’s nothing stopping me from running a Basic D&D game (aside from my loathing of the system, of course) since I have the books sitting here on my desk. Same with my piles and piles of FASA Star Trek books with their much-beloved 80s Action Point system.

In fact, within the past year I reacquired the entire Victory Games James Bond 007 RPG. What was amazing was that over half of the adventures that I purchased–and they weren’t difficult to find–were still in their original shrink wrap. It’s strangely cool to unwrap a boxed set of a game printed in 1983 in 2013. I dunno, something like cracking open the mummy’s tomb!

Why did I grab the game again? Because I loved it, it is a seminal game, was years ahead of its time in mechanics, and the production values are still outstanding, even compared to today’s offerings. (Which is a sad commentary, I’ll grant you.) It’s like owning a piece of RPG history.

Oh, wait. That’s my copy of Last Unicorn Games’ Dune. 😉

About  Don Mappin

For nearly 30 years RPGs have been a staple of Don’s life — so that means he’s pretty old. Author of a dozen RPG books, Don has worked with companies such as ICE, Last Unicorn Games, Decipher, and AEG. He now spends his time working in IT management, enjoying his family and two children, or gaming.

10 Responses to A Moment of Silence

  1. Don, I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my own philosophy regarding discontinued games. For several years, if a game enjoyed a limited run followed by cancellation, my excitement would generally perish with the end of the line. I have long had friends and associates who continued to play older editions of D&D, and it used to drive me crazy. But with the launch of 4th Edition – and my ensuing disappointment with the new rules – I doggedly persisted in maintaining a level of commitment and excitement to 3.5. In fact, between the software I used to manage my games and the houserules I’d spent years perfecting, I wasn’t even interested in jumping in to Pathfinder. Here I was… effectively married to a system in virtual obsolescence. It was an edifying experience.

    I’ve since begun to explore other long outdated games and found that – even if they aren’t something I’d want to dig into every week – there’s a great deal to enjoy. Despite spending the past 30 years with an ever-expanding volume of D&D material and a number of strong revisions, I never truly appreciated the underpinnings of our hobby until I began to explore some of the materials of yesteryear.

    Nice article, sir.

    • I got a bit off target towards the end but you’ve brought up an excellent point that I may devote an article towards at a later date, namely that of the resurgence (IMO) of “old gaming.” There’s the OSR and iterations paying homage to D&D but I think we’re also seeing it across other games as well.

      Or, to put it another way, my shelves are already sagging with games that I haven’t played yet; filling them with even more stuff seems unnecessary when I’ve so many options available to me.

      I’ve a great affection for discontinued games in that they feel “complete.” The downside being when they’re games you’ve written for… :(

  2. yeah yeah, rub it in, ye bastid. 😉

  3. I know that feel bro.

    I was a devotee of 2e for many a year into the 3.X era, especially Planescape. I’ve opened many an adventure or box set, years out of date, for the first time.

    One of the nice things about the OSR is that you can play all sorts of modules, old and new, with all sorts of slightly different rule-sets. Most OSR games are at around the same power-level and speak the same language (thac0, descending AC, etc.).

    Warning, Tangent Ahead:
    As for owning a piece of history, I actually got to open a copy of the DEVO album, Duty Now For the Future, that was still wrapped in the original ads for weird DEVO clothing. Then I heard it. Vinyl played for the first time sounds amazing. All this was circa 2003.

    Owning a piece of history is quite a pleasant thing.

  4. Walt Ciechanowski

    Oddly enough, I also acquired nearly the entire line of James Bond 007 a few months ago, and most of it was still shrink-wrapped.

  5. Oh, and we just finished up a MHR adventure last night. To paraphrase Dr. McCoy, “It’s not really dead, as long as we play it.”

  6. I’m familiar with that. Until Savage Worlds came along, the majority of the gaming I did was in dead games. I miss GDW.

  7. I love older games, and don’t get the feeling of obsolescence at all.

    Some games, like White Box D&D, are obviously going to appeal to a very limited audience now – as the new generations of gamers were who the newer versions of D&D et al were written to accommodate.

    But Pathfinder is really little more than someone’s (really really intense) house-ruling of 3.5 to close up the gaps left by poor manufacturing or material creep, with the benefit of some extra cooks and some extra sets of eyeballs. If you’ve invested your time in doing the job yourself, why sweat it?

    Right now there’s a brouhaha over the new version of Call of Cthulhu being kickstarted as I speak. New ideas to re-invest the game with a new generation of players and I hope it works for them.

    But I have invested the cost of a jet ski in Call of Cthulhu products already over the years and feel no need for new rules (that in my opinion borrow from other game systems that I already own anyway). Indeed, I’m playing now from an older set than the current 6th edition.

    As for buying older games, I’m with Don and Walt, especially when it comes to boxed sets. I get all “kid at Christmas”-y when I open a boxed RPG or Classic-Era Avalon Hill game for the first time. I went on a binge a couple of years ago and bought all the editions of Call of Cthulhu I had missed that I could find, and by far the best feeling came from opening the boxed third edition (that was on the shelves so briefly I never saw one in the wild).

    And then I managed to score a copy of SPI’s Dragonquest, in an edition released during the oil crisis of the late 70s when game companies had problems sourcing dice.

    Not only was it unpunched (all SPI games came with counters and this was no exception) but it had a sheet of “randomizing chits” and an apologetic note that this was actually more expensive to provide than dice!

    The game was … perhaps an acquired taste (being an RPG produced by an outfit that made military simulation games mainly it was a bit GURPS-y in approach), but the feeling of opening it up to see it again after 30 years was exquisite.

    Interesting note: The White Box D&D set was three books: Men and Magic, which might be called a Player Manual, Monsters and Treasure, which was a bestiary/monster manual, and Wilderness Adventures which contained rules on how to run games above and beyond dungeoneering.

    Just about all RPGs have followed the three-book format since that day, even when not really called for. Powerful thing, being first out of the gate. Look how long it took to shake off the 6 (or so) numeric characteristics approach to building characters.

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