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Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game
February 29, 2012 8:43 PM   Subscribe

I catch a lot of flak over my description of the years 1974 to 1983 as the Golden Age of roleplaying games, much of it based on a misunderstanding of my original point, namely that, after this period, tabletop RPGs would never again command the same degree of broad cultural significance that they did during this time. A good illustration of my point is this odd product, from wargames publisher SPI: Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game. Published in 1980, the same year as the company's more well known foray into roleplaying, DragonQuest, Dallas was designed by none other than James F. Dunnigan, famous as (among many things) the designer of the classic wargames Jutland and PanzerBlitz.
You have basic stats and you own certain Minor Characters or Organizations (represented by cards in the book) that give you bonuses to your core abilities. At the start of an Episode (adventure) each Major Character (PC) is given a set of objectives ("Control X Minor Character and 5 of the following Minor Characters/Organizations") as well as some secrets (like control of certain of the above).

Each scene has a Director (GM) phase where the action/location is set up, a Negotiation phase where the characters can maneuver and deal for what they want through roleplaying, and a Conflict phase where you deal with conflicts that couldn't be handled by Negotiation (you compare the appropriate abilities, subtracting the lower from the higher to get the result of the conflict, but this is when pulling a "But I control the local FBI office!" card off the table to surprise the other guy can come in handy and there's a Power resource you can use to further modify your situation).

There's also a little rules section for dealing with when PCs commit illegal acts, which boils down to a PC using their own Investigation skill or that of a Minor Character/Organization they control to call out the suspect and get them in trouble.
posted by Trurl (26 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
For further research: RPG.net's "Licensed RPGs you can't believe exist(ed)" thread
posted by Trurl at 8:44 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Roll against Drink Throwing/ Pool tossing
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Earlier today for no good reason I was looking up Dunnigan's book Dirty Little Secrets of the Twentieth Century. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he left this little tidbit outta there.
posted by cgc373 at 8:53 PM on February 29, 2012


Huh, it actually does sound good. Now if only I could find a copy.
posted by Garm at 8:59 PM on February 29, 2012


I catch a lot of flak over my description of the years 1974 to 1983 as the Golden Age of roleplaying games, much of it based on a misunderstanding of my original point, namely that, after this period, tabletop RPGs would never again command the same degree of broad cultural significance that they did during this time.

Exhibit A: Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters
posted by jonp72 at 9:19 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, can we mention favorite licensed RPGs here? Here's one for you: GURPS Prisoner.

The Ghostbusters RPG is a classic of the genre, with both Steve Perrin and Sandy "Call of Cthulhu" Petersen on board.
posted by JHarris at 9:26 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The weird thing about the Dallas game is waking up in the shower the morning after and having no remembrance of playing it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:31 PM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


8th level spell: Dream Walk. Casting time: 1 standard action.

This spell makes you move backwards in time. You can undo the events of a number of rounds equal to your caster level.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:47 PM on February 29, 2012


8th level spell: Dream Walk

This one saved my arse when I was abducted by aliens during the quest for the Shower of Resurrection.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:02 PM on February 29, 2012


I remember Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader. Good times, man.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:48 PM on February 29, 2012


[Formatting derail deleted; Metatalk is your spot for discussing issues with post presentation. Thanks. ]
posted by taz at 11:19 PM on February 29, 2012


He's right that 1974-1983 or so was the time when RPGs became a cultural phenomenon, both positively & negatively. The games themselves have evolved much since then, but they've never had such a prominent place in popular culture as they did when we first became aware of them.
posted by scalefree at 1:51 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to have the Dallas RPG. While wildly out of kilter with what the market considered an RPG back in the early 1980s, these days it would fit right in with the indie-game crowd.
posted by Hogshead at 4:05 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a strange use of "Golden" that says nothing about the quality of the item under discussion. Well, OK, I guess there are some people for whom popularity == quality.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:03 AM on March 1, 2012


LogicalDash: "It's a strange use of "Golden" that says nothing about the quality of the item under discussion. Well, OK, I guess there are some people for whom popularity == quality."

One item does not invalidate an industry's "Golden Age"
In fact a golden age may very well result in a large number of subpar products trying to get in on the bandwagon.

Not every comic produced during the golden age of comics were high quality. That doesn't mean that the 40's and 50's wasn't a golden age for comic books.
posted by 2manyusernames at 5:12 AM on March 1, 2012


Each scene has a Director (GM) phase where the action/location is set up, a Negotiation phase where the characters can maneuver and deal for what they want through roleplaying, and a Conflict phase where you deal with conflicts that couldn't be handled by Negotiation (you compare the appropriate abilities, subtracting the lower from the higher to get the result of the conflict...)

This sounds suspiciously like gameplay in the Amber DRPG. *cocks an eyebrow*
posted by BrashTech at 5:56 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Garm: Huh, it actually does sound good. Now if only I could find a copy.

Here you go.

Act fast, though. Only 28 days left on that auction.
posted by hanov3r at 6:17 AM on March 1, 2012


As a youth I saw this advertisement in an old Dragon magazine and while I forgot the name of the game, the picture of it stuck in my mind for decades, particularly the clever tagline:
Excommunication is a harsh sentence. Can you stand up to the Pope's attack fleets?
In an earlier thread here someone linked to some scans of the magazine and I poked around to find the ad - looks like the game, "Imperial Earth," was never produced.
posted by exogenous at 6:23 AM on March 1, 2012


Dallas is just $14 from Noble Knight. It sounds like it has some neat mechanics and might make for a good game... but I have plenty of unplumbed good games on my shelves.
posted by Zed at 6:43 AM on March 1, 2012


#29 on the list here at RPG Geek which claims it is the "first licensed RPG".
posted by meinvt at 7:09 AM on March 1, 2012


One item does not invalidate an industry's "Golden Age"

I don't think I even tried to invalidate anything.

However, the author defines his particular "Golden Age" by the pop-cultural cachet that RPGs had, which has nothing to do with game quality at all.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2012


Nowadays, if a TV series or movie is a hot property, you might expect to see a video game made of it, but tabletop roleplaying games? Not likely.
I have a minor quibble with this, because it is technically untrue. Now, if he had qualified this as licensed and commercial, I'd have to concur. But a quick trip to 1km1kt will disabuse you of the notion that there is something imaginable which has not been made into a tabletop RPG. Want to play a game where you're a sentient toaster? You got it!

Otherwise, I can't really dispute his point. Before society knew which hole to bury the RPG subculture in, there were a few years of prominence.
posted by Edgewise at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2012


Want to play a game where you're a sentient toaster?

I....
I do.

::clicks link, fulfills dream::
posted by FatherDagon at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Want to play a game where you're a sentient toaster?

Toaster: Howdy doodly do. How's it going? I'm Talkie, Talkie Toaster, your chirpy breakfast companion. Talkie's the name, toasting's the game. Anyone like any toast?
Lister: Look, I don't want any toast, and he doesn't want any toast. In fact, no one around here wants any toast. Not now, not ever. No toast.
Toaster: How 'bout a muffin?
Lister: Or muffins. Or muffins. We don't like muffins around here. We want no muffins, no toast, no teacakes, no buns, baps, baguettes or bagels, no croissants, no crumpets, no pancakes, no potato cakes and no hot-cross buns and definitely no smegging flapjacks.
Toaster: Aah, so you're a waffle man.
posted by scalefree at 10:31 AM on March 1, 2012


It's a strange use of "Golden" that says nothing about the quality of the item under discussion. Well, OK, I guess there are some people for whom popularity == quality.

Golden Age comics are pretty unreadable. There's a hell of a lot more great science fiction being written today than in the Golden Age of science fiction, which was mostly indifferent to interesting prose style or good characterization (I say this as a fan of Golden Age science fiction.) I don't think Hollywood's record today is any worse than in the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood.

There are more and better games being made today. A genre or medium's Golden Age seems usually to refer to the early days of exuberance and lack of definition or boundaries whose end is marked by an establishment of an idea of what the genre or medium is, rather than a diminution in quality.

It's not like a civilization's Golden Age (which, as everyone knows, is marked by being able to switch governments without anarchy, every tile that already generates any commerce or production generating an additional point of commerce or production, and increased Great Person point production.)
posted by Zed at 10:32 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


but I have plenty of unplumbed good games on my shelves.

Don't we all. Still, the fact that this game and this thread exist pleases me. (And as a longtime Amber player, that sounds like way too many rules for Amber, she said with love.)
posted by immlass at 1:20 PM on March 1, 2012


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