Thursday, July 30, 2015

Looking back 30 years ago, it was very teenage boyish (embarassingly so now), but the RPGing was fun and a bit glorious

My RPG group from 1980 to about 1991 (sporadically from 1991 to 1993) played many RPGs during the golden age of the hobby. These are all the remaining character sheets I still have and am posting for posterity.

1981 - GDW's Traveller

1982- TSR's Star Frontiers

 1983- Flying Buffalo/Blade's Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (MSPE)

1984- RECON

 1984- FASA Star Trek

The great system when I was a kid, though my friends played heavily TSR's Top Secret. We had a short lived Starfleet campaign, but I GMed all the way until 1991 a Merchant Campaign. Some of these were converted into Gurps later on.

For the record, I created Stryker 3 years before the ST:NG's Will Riker (in 1984)

We recorded all of our adventures in the Starfleet campaign through Captain's logs, which I discuss here.

Aah, but it was the merchant campaign, set in the Triangle, where the RPGing really took off for me.

1985- Victory Games' James Bond
 1985- Steve Jackson Games's Gurps

Gurps was by far the best RPG system out there. From about 1987 to 1991 (sporadically from 1991 to 1993), that was the only system I played and converted many characters to it.

 1987- West End Games' Star Wars

From 1999 to 2006,  I GMed a PBEM (play by email) campaign with Jim for several years. It was a Dimensional Patrol campaign. I also did a WEG Star Wars one using the characters we rolled up in 1987.

Jim's WEG d6 Dimensional Patrolman character by PBeM:

These are the email headers I put a the top of every email post.

It was all over ten years ago, on November 16, 2006. Our RPG group, formed in 1980, finally ended in 2006. My friend Jim and I were the last one standing when I finally ended our 5-6 year experiment in PBeM (Play By Email) RPGing.

November 16, 2006 email:

Well Jim,

                  That as they say, is that. With the last PBeM posting, as discussed, this is the end of the campaign, the end of PBeMing, and the end of the RPG hobby for us.  

                  I feel I need to add some closing words.

                  First, I’d like to say that I liked this mission and am glad I got the urge to scratch the Kromagg [Dimensional villains] itch. I wanted to GM them since I first saw them. I hope you honestly liked it.

                  I also always wanted to do a dimensional campaign, and am glad I got to do one. I did a partial dimensional campaign with Craig’s [FASA Star Trek merchant] crew of sociopaths, but this one we just did was 100% dimensional hopping.   

              It’s a strange feeling to do everything you wanted to accomplish in a hobby. It was a nice ending to a hobby that I was all geeked out about in the 80s.

            The time has come however, to put it aside and focus on other things. Yes, work is stressing me out, but it’s more than that. I didn’t put my finger on it until this mission. I think in my postings and your counter-postings in the PBeMs, we were going through the motions. I think it was more an imaginative and academic exercise for both of us. It was interesting, but the passion of the old days is not there. We both aged, and can’t and don’t want to, go back. Which is fine. We are both now at the age of the characters we played when we were teens. The age, I think, where the only people we want to role-play is… well.. our real selves. I have no current dreams of adventure and I don't want to be anyone other than me.

            This campaign, like everything else in the hobby, came too late. Always, with RPGing, everything came too late, as Craig can attest. I caught the RPG "bug" just as the RPG gang was on it last legs in 1984. And it seemed only after the gang dispersed, that the fine Gurps supplements came out. Craig and I would sit there and talk for hours about the excellent Gurps Space, etc and complain if we only got it earlier. The same with Space:1889, Star Wars, etc and now, with this campaign. Perhaps we peeked too early when the hobby was still in its infancy, with it's really bad amateurish publications.

           Oh well, I still won’t trade my RPG memories for anything however. The hobby is dying in the face of computer games and CCG, but I’m glad I was “there.”

            My fondest memories however, are RPGing the FASA Star Trek RPG universe, especially with Craig’s crew. The short-lived Starfleet and even shorter Klingon campaign were good as well. I have a confession to make. I was less a general RPGer than a FASA Trek RPGer. I can only say I dabbled in RPGs before FASA trek. I came far too late for TS [TSR's Top Secret] and Jer took off in the middle of JB  [James Bond: RPG].  But FASA Trek, well, it was my first RPG love and it fuelled my enthusiasm for the hobby. Something in me “clicked” and I never looked back. I fondly remember going through the snow with my black briefcase full of FASA publications to Elizabeth Street to play Starfleet with you guys. And 10 sided dice at the time I found so… futuristic! :-)
          Laughing now, I can honestly say I was so nervous when I faced you and Craig as GM for that first time. It was the very first Kruger mission, and you were there..[...]. I quickly got into after that afternoon.  I didn’t care afterward that the old gang dispersed as Craig for some reason, kept wanting to play despite [his family and work obligations], and so I doggedly hung on to the [FASA STar Trek] campaign despite everything. By 1991, we did all we could in Trek, and when that ended, it was really the end of the face to face RPG years.
                  If I didn’t play Trek, my interest in the campaign was limited. We had a lot of stillborn campaigns in the late 80/early 90s to prove it; Traveller:2300,  Twilight:2000, Autoduel, Space:1889, Dimensional Patrol (we played half of one mission), etc. I called them stillborn as they were dead even before they were born. When I started [graduate work at University], I was totally busy and had no desire to play any more stillborn, non-Star Trek campaigns. Gurps reading was sufficient for both of us, though the running joke for years with Craig was when we will start our "next campaign." Nevertheless, I was doubly surprised last year [in 2005] when you wanted to do another PbeM. I was willing to go along, due to the strength of the [WEG Star Wars home made adventure] "Collector." I got into it and started adding things I haven't seen in any PBeM faq, such as headers, wav, video etc. I kicked myself however because I forgot that I wanted to resurrect Captain Douglas, [Jim's FASA Starfleet Captain]  only to send him as part of a Starfleet dimensional exploration team. 
      Man, what fond memories I have of the good stuff!:

  • The look on Craig's face when I introduced the "Silver Twist" for the first time, or when he spaced the Klingon everyone called "Whiskey" or when the NPC villain Soloman Kane stole his ship and stranded him on a jungle planet;
  • The never ending battle Craig had to control his temper with respect to his merchant crew;
  • The ongoing trust/don't trust banter between Craig and "El Papagayo" or between Craig and Akalzed, the Orion arms dealer.
  • The hilarious laughter from you, Craig, Skippy, and Caz when I took 20 minutes from the mission to list all of Kruger's crew's crimes in the  FASA 3 team Doomsday device mission with you, Craig, Skippy and Caz at each other’s throats;
  • The final  years-in-the-making  face-off between Kruger, Kane and El Papagayo;
  • The meeting between you and Kruger in Star Wars:  Jedi Knight Lancer went over to the assigned ship and met one of Kruger's crew, McMahon, drunk and almost puking on your shoes while Kruger was across the docking bay.
  • The anger and hurt the night all our Klingon and Romulan characters killed each other, or when the USS Excellence was destroyed (before being revived a year later), because a lesser GM both times, was at the helm;
  • The ad lib mission when I sent Douglas to the alt where Khan won the Eugenics War. (Remember being labeled an "ordinary"?);
  • The look you and Craig exchanged when you crashed a Star Wars Imperial Officers Mess, only to be told that "Servants by the back door."
  • The "Collector" mission.

           The PBeMs were a wonderful revival with the mission “The Collector” a great starting bang.  But it’s time to move on and I’m glad we leave on a positive note. I "Declared War" in the mission, and now I would like a "Declaration of Peace."        

           All I can say was that it was fun, guys. Thanks to you both for the memories.

The Final Header:


  1. Wow, I see a few character sheets with my hand writing on them. Good times.

  2. That brought back some memories! Played a lot of those same games GURPS, Star Wars, Star Trek, Traveller, Recon, Star Frontiers, James Bond - I also played a LOT of Twilight:2000, Top Secret, Various Palladium games (TMNT, Robotech, Palladium Fantasy and their super hero game...?), and later Cyber Punk, Warhammer Fantasy Role-play, and Shadowrun... I WISH I'd kept a few character sheets from that era, unfortunately I had a bit PURGE in the early 90s... Gave away games and miniatures, simply threw out stuff like miniatures...

  3. Twilight 2000..we played that too though I no longer have the character sheet.

    Aren't you glad though, that we were "there" in the golden age of RPGs.. :-)

  4. Whoops , that should have been "simply threw out stuff like CHARACTER SHEETS"...

    I don't know, there are a LOT of great role-playing games out there now! 30 years. The 80s may have seemed like THE Golden Age, but I think it was more likely OUR Golden Age - made possible by the fact that we were teens and had seemingly limitless time to PLAY the ones that were available - at lunch hours, after school all day long on the weekends...?

    Oh and there was Champions, Behind Enemy Lines, Paranoia, TOON, and one where you played an officer in the Royal Navy during the napoleonic wars (whose name I can't remember...) - I never owned those, but friends did....

    Role Master, Space Master, Call of Cthulhu...

  5. Privateers and Gentlemen...? Is that what it was called...?

    Man we played a LOT of different games, now that you got me thinking about it!

  6. P&G, yep..Champions, DC Heroes, Behind Enemy Lines, etc.. Now you're making me nostalgic..

    A running joke to this day with my buddies is "when are we going to start our Toon campaign.."

  7. Because you made lots of characters, but never actually played...?

    There were a few games like that for me too. I made a lot of Paranoia characters, but I think I only ever played it once or twice. Lots of games I made characters for but never got to use - Oh, I did play the games, sometimes a lot, but I still made way more characters than there were campaigns that we played - it was fun just going through the process of making a character and dreaming up their background and imagining what adventures they MIGHT go on!

    How could I forget Battletech/Mechwarrior and Teenagers from Outer Space!?

  8. I think we all did that..make characters knowing we'll never play. Somebody once called it solitaire play for GMs.

    If you don't have it already, try to get the book Heroic Worlds by Lawrence Schlick. It's like an encyclopedia of 80s ROGs.

    1. In 2011 I rolled up a bunch of Classic Traveller characters and NPC's for a campaign I'll be running after I retire ......... in 17 years :-). I also started making new starships and vehicles for Striker. I guess I still have a few years to get mini's for Striker.

  9. Very well, Craig.. we can restart the old RPG group in 2034...