Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The 90's Were My Golden Age

I know that in this corner of the Blogverse, there are those who believe that the Golden Age was a time when Ol' Man Gary ruled from an ivory throne and game books had pentagrams and saggy harpy titties inked upon their forbidden pages. I missed out on that fun. When I came into the hobby, it was 1991: TSR was publishing more than half a dozen settings for AD&D 2nd edition, Vampire was just hitting the streets, (though it would not corrupt my innocent sensibilities for another six years) and people bitched at each via BBS rather than blog.

I know nothing of the business side of the hobby, but as I dig through the used bins of local book/game stores and sift through the fuzzy memories of my early gaming days, I can't help but get the impression that the 90's were a better time to be an RPG publisher. Hey, correct me if I'm wrong; it's just my perception. It seems like even the most obscure ideas for a game could find some root. It seems like game writers and designers could easily do things full time, and gaming companies had offices, and each company could field multiple game lines and see them flourish. Of course, I was 10 when I started gaming and merely 18 at the end of the 90's, when WotC took over, so maybe this is all rose colored lenses and blissful ignorance.

The color pieces from 90's TSR projects are still among my favorite gaming art, particularly the color pics in the Gamma World 4th edition rule book. Mmm.... Al-Qadim, Alternity... TSR's color artwork can almost do no wrong by me, and many of the pictures in the AD&D 2nd edition PHB and DMG are so much a part of my early gaming experiences that I can't forget them. Tim Bradstreet pictures in old Shadowrun and White Wolf...

Yes, the sort of nostalgia for 80's TSR passes me over, because I missed that boat by virtue of my date of birth. For me, the 90's are the Golden Age: the art, the dizzying variety of games, the sense that there was a strong industry that wasn't afraid to take risks...

Before you conjure up rain for my little parade with your "accurate historical facts" and other assorted bullshit, let me inform you, dear reader, that I know just how rose-colored these glasses are; I find them comfortable and would like to wear them yet a little while. I know that my Big Corporate TSR memories are not as "pure" as staring at Aphrodite's tits in Deities & Demigods or wanting to write up a stat block for Emirikol the Chaotic, but I can't ever appreciate the old stuff for the same reasons you old-timers do. (Though you can rest assured that I would rather run AD&D1 over AD&D2...I just like the trade dress of AD&D2 better)


  1. The 90s were a great time to be a gamer. That was when game designers really started maturing, adding fantastic art, edge, attitude, and ideas to their games.

    Most of the good stuff WAS non-TSR. Over the Edge has a great system and premise. Vampire had fantastic artwork and style (and the 1st edition sure started out with the best of intentions). Rifts had all those books with ideas and campaign settings for years. 1st edition Deadlands had a great concept. Even Chaosium put out some good stuff (Stormbringer 4th edition) alongside some garbage (Elric! and all later editions of Stormbringer).

    There are still gems to be found amongst the dross of the 90's. I just don't think AD&D 2 is one of 'em.
    ; )

  2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." - Charles Dickens

    Sometimes the Greats sum it up all too perfectly. I would probably be considered an old-timer (gamer 1980-present), somedays my rose-tint is too dark to see thru... RWG, maybe the best is yet to come!

  3. You can appreciate the old stuff for the same reasons the old-timers do. The way you feel about your golden period is how they feel, how we all feel, with our favorite components, stories and friends we shared the experience with.

    This is the place in the road where we all stand.

    And if you ask me, THIS is the golden period and I've lived through all of them.

    We can play anything from anytime anywhere we want and with the tools on the Internet we can play with the entire world.

    It doesn't get any better than that.

  4. If Spelljammer and Planescape are wrong, then I don't want to be right. ;)

  5. I don't know jack about content, but I know my gaming groups get better and better. When I started with the red box set, I was happy. When I found SR2, I was paralyzed with excitement. Now with this group, I have met the gaming nougatty goodness. Does it come from Super Kev? No, not really.
    Has some company come up with the Uber game system of the century? Not so much.
    This group has turned me onto more games than in all of my gaming experience and the golden karma keeps rolling in. They even pave over the cracks that are in any game.
    Sometimes you meet a gamer and wonder why all these MF'ers skating uphill. And sometimes you stand at the gates of Valhalla and they call you in by name.