Friday, January 18, 2013

Ohmigod! It's Totally 80s Friday!

At the beginning of the week I was talking about the OSR of Computers where I was interested in going back to buy a computer I had owned back in the day for nothing but nostalgia.  I instead just went out an got an emulator.  Now I just need to transfer the ROM from the machine in my parent's basement (I guess I still have some stuff there).

This train of thought kept going all week, and now I have come full circle.  Looking for games not from the 80s, but set in the 80s.  Not as many as I wanted to be honest.  Here are the ones I got and enjoyed the most.  It's not all of them, and not even all the ones I would potentially like, but the ones I bought.

D20 Decade: The 1980s
It is difficult not to compare this to Damnation Decade or Solid! in terms of capturing the feel of a decade.
For starters this is for the d20 Modern RPG, which I am not even sure is still being supported by anyone.  That all being said, there is a lot of great stuff in this book.   There are some pages spent on modifying the d20M skills, in particular how Computers worked then. That and the new Perform (Break Dance) and Perform (Free Style Rap).  No Perform (Gymkata!) though.  Of particular use to any 80s-based game is the list of common items we take for granted today that just wasn't there then.  Easy stuff like Smartphones, but other not so obvious things like Caller ID. Sure there were cellphones, but they were huge and the batter life was only a couple hours.  Chapter 1 covers the 80s. At 20% of the book content is really worth the price of the book.  It is a great overview of 80s tech, culture and pop psychology.  Its not a history book, but it shouldn't be either.  Even at 30+ pages somethings are going to be missing; but this is the 80s writ large, not Master's Thesis.
Chapter 2 covers the "Imaginary 80s", an 80s that never was.  Among the new races there is also a list of other games you can look into to help you out.  With the OGL they could have simply included what they wanted from many of those games, but I thought it was kind of neat to include them.  Speaking of the new races, they are really new.  Some are twists on familiar concepts, but others are new and all fit the 80s to a tee. My favorite might be the Arcadians (Video game fey) or the Spetsnazski, the Russian Super Soldiers. Cause the only thing more fun than Nazi Weird Science is Russian Weird Science.  The Crow Folk and High Solstice Sidhe could work just as well in a Pathfinder game.  There are also about 16 new occupations for your 80s character.  There are also, surprisingly, 144 new feats! Going past those for a bit there are also 5 new Advanced classes.  If you were wondering when the Miami Vice influences would appear then take heart with the Blue Equalizer, which let you play any sort of 80s "Super Cop".  Perfect foil for the Drug Lord Advanced Class.  These are followed by a few new spells.
The last part, Confetti, has a few bits for the GM for adding 80s flavor to their game.  These are also useful for any 80s game.
There is fairly good list of resources both non-fiction and fiction, and a good list of movies, TV shows and graphic novels.
Final the OGL where everything is released as Open Gaming Content.  Very nice.
Ok, so this is a really cool idea and a lot of work went into these 164 pages.
They did a great job with this, but I am not without some quibbles.
I am not going to mention anything missing from the 80s.  Trying to squeeze an entire decade into a game book is hard and something is going to get left out. If it's not there and you remember it add it on your own.  Though missing *something* about a Valley Girl seems a bit like a huge omission to me.
The art is all over the place. Most is fair, but none of it is great.
The layout has a number of issues.  The background on the pages is not great.  In most cases it is only just there, in others the "page number block" obscures some text.  It's the 80s, where are the pastels?
I have mixed feelings about even mentioning it since I have seen newer products of theirs and they look great.  This one is an early effort.
Going back to my totally unfair comparison to Damnation Decade, I think it would be interesting to see this updated to something like True 20 (which is at the time of this writing just as dead as d20 Modern) with better layout.
Despite all that I can't help but really, really like this product. At 6 bucks it is a great buy.
4 out of 5 stars.

Cartoon Action Hour
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
I reviewed CAH in depth before and if you spend anytime here at all you will know my fondness for this game.  This not an 80s emulation game, but an 80s cartoon emulation.
The biggest news though I have heard is that Season 3 is on the way.  Looking forward to that!
5 out of 5 stars.

World of Darkness: New Wave Requiem
It's Totally Vampires! Playing in the 80's never looked so good. While I don't follow many of the new WoD titles, this supplement is great. It brings back all sorts of memories and it is nice to see a shift in mentality from the paranoid 90's (birthplace of V:tM) and the weird 2000s. Nice to get back to a time when greed was good, sex was not safe and drugs were everywhere. We can't go back to the 80's but we can pretend to. The art, like all the art in WW's books, is fantastic.
I want a print of that Erik Jones book cover for my game room.
This is one of my favorites really. Not just about the 80s but from the new WoD.  Put on some Bauhaus and give this one a go.
5 out of 5 stars.

So anyone know of other good 80s games?


Chris said...

Possibly relevant to yr interests: the 19A0s, the putative lost decade of chrome gloss, starscapes and futurism that fell between the 70s and the 80s we know.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

That is a weird article.
I am going have to read that one again to make sure I got it all. ;)

Trey said...

Good reviews, That is a great cover on the WoD book.

@Chris - thanks for the link!

Lee B said...

I wonder if that rulebook explains why vampires became powdered stiffs in trench coats after the neon 80s.