Friday, November 13, 2009

Travelling continued, An alternate look at RPGs

Here some more on the what-if history of Travelling.

Forward to Adventure Part 2
A retrospective of 30 years of Adventure Games.
Imagination #225, October 6th 1970

Travelling and World War 2.

Travelling 2nd edition became a minor hit during World War as entertainment for soldiers. Especially in 1943 when Saul Banner submitted the idea to Imagination of using a single referee to judge the scenario for a group of player working together. This article came with the classic scenario Output Alpha, which featured the famed Nostradamus Bugs.

Saul Banner went on to write several more classic scenarios, notably the Memory of Beta, about a sentient ship, and Gamma Twilight which took placed on the tidelocked world of Gamma in the Victoria Subsector. Gamma Twilight was written in conjunction with Miller's article on the Aryan Consulate. The Aryanites were the main villains of the scenario.

Towards the end of the war, several companies came out with their own adventure games, but most were poorly put together in rules and binding. Travelling kept its dominance.

After the 2nd Edition V. Wiseman stopped contributing to Travelling. He graduated from the University of Chicago, and went to work for the Manhattan Project.

During the war, Imagination introduced the Aryan Consulate the sworn enemy of the Spinward Republic. Also the Dogmen of Antares made their first appearance, along with the master intriguers the Ceti Octopiods.

Travelling 3rd Edition

After the end of the War, the WorldCons were resumed starting in the fall of 1946. Miller, with backing from Campbell, hired Saul Banner and formed AGW, Adventure Games Workshop. In 1947 the two released Travelling 3rd Edition. This edition completed Travelling's transformation from a writer's aide to a full fledged Adventure Game.

How Pirate & Plunder almost sank Adventures Games in the 50s

During the war, rivals of Astounding, and even comic book companies put out knocks off of Travelling. Most of them were poorly written, poorly designed, and poorly bound. Travelling wasn't that much better but Miller used what resources he had to make Travelling the best product he could.

Most of the World War 2 Era Adventure Games were space related. Amazing Planetary Adventures, TriPlanetary (later sued by E.E. Smith), Astonishing Space Adventures were some of them. The remaining half dozen expanded Adventure Games into new genres, superheroes mostly, but there was a western (Tombstone Tales), a Three Musketeers game (Legends of the Rapier), several Pirate games, a game based on the Greek Myths, and one Time Travel game from Educational Comics (Time Travel Tales or TTT)

When EC Comics founder, Max Gaines died in 1947, his son William took over. William Gaines decided to jettison the comics and focus on taking the Adventure Game market away from AGW. He hired many of the best sci-fi and genre writers from Astounding rivals and turned them loose.

The result was an explosion of titles, and magazines for the Adventure Games market. Time Travel Tales was cleaned up and the Time Patrol was created along with their arch enemy the evil Denebians. Galaxy Trek was created to go head to head with Travelling. Their most popular game was Pirates & Plunder, a game dealing with the pirate genre. With the Adventure Games expansion the company changed it name to Entertaining Games.

By 1950, Entertaining Games was still second place to AGW. In the fall of 1950, The 2nd edition of Pirates & Plunder was released. It added a chapter on the dead, pirate curses, and black magic. This caused an explosion of interest in Pirates & Plunder and for a brief time in 1951 it outsold Travelling.

During the early 1950's Entertaining Games introduced the standalone scenario. Previously scenarios were only published in one of the magazines devoted to Adventure Games. It also introduced the idea of expansions with the release of Tales from Davy Jones' Locker. Davy Jones' expanded the chapter on the dead, curses, and black magic. This was followed up in 1953 with Legends of the Ancient Mariner.

The year 1953 was the highpoint of Entertaining Games. In 1954 Seduction of Youth was published which criticizes Adventure Games and Entertaining Games in particular. Sales plummeted and with the bankruptcy of Entertaining Games' distributor in 1956, William Gaines ceased publishing everything except for a humor magazine known as Crazy.

During this Miller and Banner kept toiling away at AGW. Despite the competition from Entertaining Games, the general Adventure Game market boomed during the early 50s and AGW expanded to a dozen employees. Miller and Banner released a 4th edition of Travelling. The 4th edition was noted for the introduction by Physicist V. Wiseman, who also contributed charts and notes on on Nuclear technology. Miller also began publishing standalone scenarios and supplements. Mostly repackaging earlier contributions to Imagination, updated for 4th edition.

With Seduction of Youth and subsequent downturn, AGW was forced to let most of employees go by 1956. Miller writes.
The summer of 1957 was pretty bleak. We were down to myself, Banner, and our secretary/office manager Lauren Smith. That fall We had a small uptick in sales from some tie ins with the International Geophysical Year. Grand Survey was the best of that year's releases. We knew that there was work being done to launch something into space.
Miller continues
By October I was working on some stuff about the early days of the Spinward Republic and thinking about how to incorporate what was going on. When Saul runs in and tells me to turn on the radio. That when I heard beeping of Sputnik and the report that the Russians launched the first satellite. I was mad and afraid along with the rest of the country. As beloved as the Spinward Republic was, this was real and the Russians were first. But inside I also knew that beep was the sound that AGW was going to be saved.
Spy versus Spy and revival of Adventure Games in the 60s.

With the launch of Sputnik, interest in Travelling and Adventure Games exploded. Even with rivals putting out their own space related Adventure Games, AGW remained the largest publisher of Adventure Games.

The closest rival to AGW was Jackson Games of Tulsa Oklahoma. John Jackson gained noticed by writing for several of AGW's rivals. His work pushed the conventions of the space adventure games in new directions. Following the strange disappearance of Arc Johnson of Small Box Games. Jackson returned to his home in Tulsa Oklahoma and founded Jackson Games. He developed Spy versus Spy in 1963. Capitalizing on cold war tensions and the popularity of spy films and shows. Spy versus Spy and its line of scenarios and supplements became the #2 game of the 60's.

The triumph of the Hobbit, Adventure Games return to the past and fantasy.

In the fall of 1955, the third volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings was released. With the decline of Adventure Games due to Seduction of the Innocent both AGW and Entertaining Games did not notice the release. After the launch of Sputnik, the Adventure Games Industry focused on space.

In 1963, Gary Ganon and Robert Arendt founded Fantasy Adventures, Inc in Great Britain. They loved Travelling, Adventure Games, and Tolkien. With a desire to enter Tolkein's world. Arendt created a thinly disguised version of Middle Earth called the Wilderlands and Ganon created rules for the game. The two released Fellowship, Adventures of Fantasy, at the 1964 World Con.

The game was a hit. Lord of the Rings was beginning it's rise in popularity and people wanted to use Adventure Games to play in Tolkien's world. In 1965 Tolkien wrote to Ganon and Ardent praising their work and noting that they seemed to have lost his check in the mail. Fantasy Adventures started paying Tolkein a royalty and secured an official license to continue Fellowship. Arendt then created a line of "official" Middle Earth expansions along with continuing the Wilderlands. By 1967, Fellowship and Fantasy Adventures, Inc were the #2 company behind Travelling and AGW, Jackson Games and Spy Versus Spy remains a solid #3.

During the late 60's Travelling and Adventure Games gained mainstream notice with the success of Star Travels. Gene Roddenberry, the producer and creator of Star Travels, was introduced to Adventure Games when he was writing westerns for TV in the 50's. He learned about Travelling and was inspired to combine his work on westerns with the ideas found in Travelling. Today Star Travel is in its 5th season with Jeffery Hunter playing the role of the starship Enterprise's captain James Pike. The Klingon Leonoids are a homage to Travelling's Dogmen of Antares.

The Future of Adventure Games.

Today, in 1970, Adventure Games still is a strong vital market. The recent unpopularity of the Vietnam War appears to having having an effect on sales of Travelling and Spy vs Spy. However Fellowship keeps growing in popularity every year.

Fantasy Adventures newly established line of Mines and Caverns scenarios are especially popular. It is rumored that the Third Edition of Fellowship is going to make a Mine crawl the centerpiece scenario rather than the Citadel of Dun Arthanc.

There are also rumors that Jackson Games is expanding the rules used in Spy vs Spy to the Fantasy Genre. The new system is supposedly going to be called GUAG or Generic Universal Adventure Game and involve the use of the different polyhedral dice being used in the wargames industry.


Max Kaladin said...

This is great. I'm going to have to forward it to the members of my gaming group.

Robert Conley said...

Be careful ;) I read this to one of my friends and he thought it was real. He was bummed out to find out it was just fictional alternate history.