I guess we’ve all had them. The system you love; the one you can’t wait for the next supplement to come out for. And then all of a sudden, BOOM, cancelled!
Thankfully in the age we live in most systems with a modicum of popularity live on in the internet. Some even thrive. Still it’s not easy seeing the one you love go away. If you’ve been playing long enough, before al Gore so generously gave us the Internet, you experienced it, a game line was cancelled and you had no more support, no new book coming out. It was like getting dressed for the prom and being stood up, if the prom was a game and corsages were dice!
What can I say about Star Frontiers that I have not said before? I remember when I first bought it. I saw it at the book store, I had already been playing D&D for a while and here was a game by the same company, TSR, for science fiction role playing, I had to have it. So I begged my mom for the $12 (I think that was the price but my memory is not what it used to) and purchased it. I examined the box, punched out the counters and soon was playing with my friends.
This was my first sci-fi game and I had so much fun with it. I played it through high school and into college. During those first months I got my hands in every supplement I could, which granted were not many, none of the local stores seem to have them. I had to mail order Zebulon’s Guide to the Frontier.
What I didn’t know was that by the time I discovered Star Frontiers the game was already dead! Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space (its proper name) was published in 1985. I discovered Star Frontiers in 1989, a good four years after. When I learned they were not producing any more supplements for the game I was heart broken. Mind you this did not stop me. I played the game for years; I believe the last session was played in 1993 or 1994. So it goes to show you, a game may be “dead” for a publisher but it lives on with the fans.
Despite my best efforts I’ve never completed my Star Frontiers collection. It along with the nearly, but not quiet, complete run of the Rom comic book, are among those nagging things I have to get around to completing one day.
Despite proclaiming my love for the setting but my dislike for the game on a previous post, I was saddened to see the TORG rpg cancelled. Back then I worked on a comic book store that carried a wide selection of games (and if you are curious the shop is still around and it’s where I got the Orcus mini) where I got most of the supplements for the game. Those I could not buy I read at the store on lazy afternoons. That’s how I kept informed of the Possibility Wars.
I may not have liked every twist and turn the storyline took, but it was fun and exciting, and it felt like being part of something greater. That kind of collaboration and involvement is easy to imagine in our digital age, but back them, well it seems amazing.
When TORG ended I felt like part of my gaming childhood, or adolescence at least, died. By then I was older, wiser, and expected different things from my games. Perhaps even took my games too seriously, but I have never given up hope of seeing a TORG revival. I guess you can’t keep a good game down!
By this time the Internet was an integral part of my life and it was there where I learned of Alternity. TSR’s upcoming sci-fi game, a toolbox of rules and ideas that promised to do for sci-fi what AD&D 2nd edition did for fantasy! (Say what you may about the system, I was a big AD&D 2nd Ed fan, and played it for years.)
When it finally came out I snatched it up and soon after adapted a home brewed campaign I had been working on to the system. It was modular, fun, had a unique dice mechanic and is still today one of my favorite science fiction games I have ever played. It scaled easily to various genres of sci-fi and it allowed me to create the setting I wanted. Needless to say I was an immediate fan.
By this time I was not big on pre-published adventures (I’m still not a fan) so I skipped most of those. But I got most rule supplements. Many Alternity Fans are also fans of the Star Drive Campaign setting, but I was never enamored by it. Like many Alternity books it suffered from having really awful interior art. One campaign that had an amazing look and design was the Dark Matter book, the Alternity system take on modern role playing and the X-Files craze.
Both settings lived on long after the system was gone, but when Alternity was cancelled I lost what I liked most about the game line, the generic sci-fi rpg I could adapt for my compulsive home brewing. Thankfully Alternity lives on via a very active community alternityrpg.net. Every now and then I take the book down from the shelf, reread it and toy with the idea of starting a new Alternity campaign. I just might one of these days, I’ll let you know.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth 2nd Edition
I never played Big Eye, Small Mouth (or BESM) 1st edition, I heard great things about it. I have not been a fan of anime for many years but I did hear the game was easily adaptable for a super’s game. When the 2nd edition came out I purchased it for specifically this purpose, to retool it as a superhero game. Guardians of Order actually did it for me and published Silver Age Sentinels. This was the last system I used for a supers campaign and despite its problems I loved it.
When they published the Tri-Stat dX system I used it for a sci-fi game, adapting the very same campaign I had played using Alternity some years before. When Guardians of Order went out of business I was sad to see the company go, but had hopes for the system when I learned White Wolf would publish the 3rd edition under their ArtHaus imprint.
But then 3rd edition came out and for me it lost some of the magic. The book was massive, and seemed so much more complex. It was so far off from the original BESM, it was not the game for me. So I realized the 2nd edition I loved so much and the games that came from it were gone, and gaming was all the worse for it. At least dX is still out there so in a way the system I lived on.
Star Wars Saga Edition
As a child of the 70’s I grew up with Star Wars. I saw the original movie in theaters, endured the prequels and currently enjoy the Clone Wars TV series. So the attraction to a Star Wars RPG is obvious. I had the different editions of the D6 West End Games version, but never managed to get a campaign off the ground. Likewise the first two tries at a Star Wars rpg by Wizards of the Coast failed to capture the magic of Star Wars in the D20 format for me.
This all changed with the Saga System. For me it took the best of the D20 system and hammered it into a proper Star Wars game. I loved it from the time I read it; I played a short campaign using it and own most of the books. Those I have not purchased yet I’ll be getting soon. I think the Saga System is easily adaptable to be a generic sci-fi game, and toyed with the idea of adapting it for a Rifts game. Fan made conversions for fantasy and Cthulhu games show the versatility of the game engine.
Wizards’ decision to cancel the line was a sad moment for me. By then I had stopped playing D&D 4th edition so the only products I was buying from them were the Star Wars books. When the line ended my last ties to Wizards of the Coast were severed.
I’ve said it before, you can’t keep a good system down, and one of the developers of the Saga System is working on a system neutral adaptation of the rule system e20 System Evolved. I find it very interesting, although some of the D&D 4th edition elements in the preview worry me; I’m willing to give it a chance. I’m sure other Star Wars role playing games will come out in the future, the license is just too attractive. We’ll see what happens, but will it be as great as the Saga System?
Looking at this short list of games I realize three of the five games were sci-fi games, and another I used for a sci-fi game. I guess I’m still looking for the right game of this genre. So what systems have you enjoyed and were sad to see go the way of the dodo? I’d love to know…
I always wanted to love BESM more than I could when I played it.
Fortunately most games don't really end they simply go into fan supported mode
http://starfrontiers.us/ is an active community that started with Bill Logan's "remastered" Star Frontiers documents and grew up around the Star Frontiersman magazine (which is available at http://starfrontiersman.com/ for free download). I participated in the early development of the magazine but haven't been active for a while now.
I was also disappointed by the end of Star Wars SAGA (and it also ended my being a customer of WotC). WotC supported the system really well from the publishing end, but it seemed like there was no marketing and the on-line support lagged behind.
You hit the nail on the head for me! I also miss Star Frontiers, BESM, and Saga Edition, and I've got hardcopies and PDFs of all of them, even if I'm now using FATE for my homebrew space opera, I'll always be thinking of Dralasites, Yazirians, and Jedi…
Man Alternity…. got such a shafting.That whole art thing was a rel frustration, not just for the fans, but for the designers as well. When a lot of it was delivered it was assumed by them that it was rough sketch/prelim art and it wasn't until late in the layout (i.e. to late to get new art orders) that they discovered it was the final product. The game itself could also have used another half a year of development with rules, I felt, to work out some of the kinks with the system. But all that said, I was sad to see it go. I still have all my Alternity books, and am currently using Star Drive as a basis for a Fate game.
Earthdawn was a game I loved and was sad to see go. I know a couple of companies picked it up in various ways but it's the system I go grognard for. Earthdawn first edition all the way.
Sunglar, you are having an excellent posting streak recently.
Back on the subject however. I too was saddened by the loss of Alternity. Which may or may not be because this game for me was the last breath of waning TSR. Still when I read he first review in my favourite magazine back in 1998, I was blissfully ignorant of the publisher’s looming demise and the game looked very promising. I thought (still think) that the game had just the right combination of ingredients. I admit that contrary to your sentiment I found Star Drive to offer al that I wanted from an SF setting and more – somehow cannot recall the interior art though. Dark Matter was good I agree but I had already come across Conspiracy X and Delta Green by that time and they just seemed superior takes on a similar theme. I was much more excited by Alternity version of Gamma World possibly the best to date (the D20 version was not quite there and I'm very sceptical about the D&D4th ed version). Anyway, I was following the whole product line until TSR suspended it and I'm very fond of the game until this day – thanks to ebay and DriveThrough in equal measure. All in all when TSR got sucked in by the Big Boys, Alternity was quite a mature product and relatively a very complete game especially Star Drive so perhaps this is not such a big deal.
Since I cannot comment on the other games you mentioned – haven't played them (well I played d20 SW but as you can imagine being a D6 version fan made me somewhat biased). Incidentally I never got over the end of D6 Star Wars line and West End Games dissolution. I have written it before that if there was another edition of SW, I would be very happy indeed if that was D6 (I know not gonna happen – Paranoia got republished but that doesn't come with that many strings attached I guess). Also Stargazer posted about the possible Torg re-print.
One game which I really miss and which I feel died prematurely is KULT. It was a horror game initially published by Target Games in Sweden, then Metropolis then 7eme Cercle (3rd edition). Then the game disappeared. It enjoyed 3 editions a handful of supplements and not much else. No news of new editions since 2004, only rumours (maybe it's a clever ploy or something 😉 ). Possibly its themes got out of fashion – it was vaguely tapping into the whole 2YK millennium inspired spiritual crisis sentiment – possibly not. I played the game a handful of times and each time was remarkable if challenging in terms of role-play – I would not call it your beer and pretzel kinda game. I thought it was a great alternative to Call of Cthulhu and World of Darkness at the time and I would really like it republished.
Another fine game which is unlikely to be resurrected is Castle Falkenstein by Talrosian. Extremely well written steampunk fantasy powered by unique and quirky mechanic although GURPS version was available as well. There are quite a few supplements out there – including one about the weird wild west. The game is still available as a pdf I think and the website is still up but no official new material or (very sadly) new printed edition is planned. Pity.
That's pretty much it, but to be honest I don't really miss any of these games; on one hand I own my copies and on the other they're pretty much still available primarily in digital format via online pdf retailers so they can be considered very much alive as long as they can be played. I think that the games I miss more are the old editions like AD&D boxed settings or materials for Warhammer 1st and 2nd editions, stuff that I missed because I couldn't afford it when it was available and now when I can, it's not available any more.
The games I enjoyed but which didn't last were:
– Nexus: The Infinite City which had a massive (obviously!) background teeming with inventiveness and a clever generic system with a nice combat system. I suppose it did mutate into Feng Shui but that never did it for me in the same way.
– Over the Edge, a gonzo game of weirdness beyond measure. Actually I'm not sure how much more could have been published but it still stands as one of the most inventive games ever.
– Dying Earth. Actually it's back in the shape of Skulduggery and the licence has been renewed. It's the game of roguery and back-stabbing as the Sun dies.
These are all Robin Laws games and by a quirk of fate the security word to enter this comment was GUMSHOE.
I was also really sad to see WoTC cancel Star Wars Saga System. After they switched to 4th edition (never a fan of it), I was only buying the Star Wars books, so after they cancelled it, I said goodbye to Wizards (even though I occasionally check out their website just to stay in the loop)
I was also sad when d20 Modern was cancelled. While found it to be a bit clunky at times, I loved reading the books and still find them very usual for mining ideas from (d20 Future, Past, and Apocolpyse are still three of my favorite RPG books).
Probably the games I miss the most are the Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. I really love the Cinematic Unisystem and I was really sad to hear that Eden Studios lost the rights to both properties.
Thank you all! Seems like we all like a trip down memory lane.
@Mark, fan support is one of the wonders of the Internet Age! I am so thankful for that.
@Andrew the amount of support for star Frontiers is amazing… I need to run a new adventure in the Frontier.
@Oz, I’ve said it before, my breakup with D&D (the concept of the game, the brand) was hard for me in a strange personal level. I’m better now but still it was hard to let go. Parting ways with Wizards was hard. Jejeje…
@GeneD5 I guess we must be on the same demographic! A Dralasite Jedi would be cool!
@Justaguy I can understand why people liked Star Dive, it’s just that I am a compulsive home brewer and refuse (for the most part) to GM campaigns in settings I did not create. Incredibly I have never played Earthdawn, some people love it, and others hate it. I’ll have to try it someday.
@Voidman, thank you sir! But be forewarned I may go back to lame reviews soon! I agree that the Alternity version of Gama World was among the bests of the many iterations of GW. Kult I read but never played. Seemed interesting but I could never decide to actually run it. Castle Falkenstein I read casually but never got the book, seemed really cool but nothing my players would have liked to play back then.
@GB Steve, I must admit I have never played or read those games. Gumshoe I think is amazing, not sure how my players would feel about playing it, we’ll see…
@Cody, I never played Buffy or angel but what I have read of the Unisystem I like. D20 Modern almost made it to the list, but I felt as if I did not miss it. All the books you mention are awesome I have all the D20 Modern books, and if I wish to play it I have all I need. That was the reason I cut it form the list, but I do like it, clunky as it may be.
Again thanks everybody for your feedback!
Marvel SAGA so f'n much. God I love that game, warts and all. Still, to this day, THE best super hero RPG I have read, owned, played or ran.
Also, Star Wars Saga Edition…though, thankfully, I have all the books and managed to get every one at, or below, cover price (Knights of the Old Republic being the only one I paid cover for, thanks to a very nice person on RPG.net).
Also, Buffy/Angel…though I do have consolation in the fact that I was a playtester to the bitter end, and so I still have the files, at least, for all the books that were written but unreleased.
Deadlands WOULD have been on this list, but then I discovered Deadlands Reloaded and saw that it was very, very good.
@Tommy, I have never played Marvel SAGA (so may game so little time), but have heard such high praise for it. I need to get my hands on a copy. I think my FLGS may have one in the furthest recess of their gaming area. I need to check that out. What made it do great for you?
The lack of the impossible.
Heroes don't have hard limits, they have guidelines.
The Edge mechanic makes the more experienced characters TRULY dangerous against their opponents (like Captain America against…anybody).
The difference between characters being "active" (having a hand of cards) and not is a HUGE difference maker…like how a character is more impressive (generally) in their own book than when they are a guest star in someone else's. Example: You could have Spider-Man (PC) vs Firelord (NPC) and because of Edge, Trump and Spidey having a hand of cards, he could realistically kick Firelord's butt. Turn it around, make it a Cosmic series starring Firelord, and suddenly the best Spider-Man is hoping for is staying out of his way.
There are downsides:
1) The deck of cards has made it impossible to maintain a fanbase over the years (once they're gone, they're gone, and no one's ever made a dice substitution that's made people happy).
2) It does over-the-top, four color supers well…and not much else. Don't expect to have gritty, Punisher-style games.
3) Character creation pretty much sucks. Most of the PCs in our games are converted Marvel Classic characters.
4) A few of the rules, especially in regards to powers, get a little funky because it is a "PCs act/react" game…everything is a PC action, and a couple of the powers don't make complete sense when applied as a reaction (or an action)…I probably didn't explain that well at all…=P
I've still yet to find a game I've had more fun with. Savage Worlds is close…