The Lesser Known TSR Games

Armchair Gamer

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 13, 2017
Messages
184
Reaction score
228
Even before I ever heard about the marketing reason behind Summer Flame, the book seemed like Weis and Hickman throwing all their toys against the wall to shatter them and then storming out to go home. The whole book felt like a capital middle finger. I don't know if they intended it as a middle finger to TSR, but it came across as a middle finger to the reader.

And THAT was the springboard for Fifth Age.
It was more a case of the DL fans at TSR trying to make lemon out of lemonade. Fifth Age wasn't on anyone's radar when W&H wrote DoSF; they wanted to take the single-book contract and turn it into a trilogy or multi-book series with game supplements all focused around the Chaos War, but TSR said 'no, just the one book, please.' After presales of it were very strong, the DL fans in TSR's Games Department finally got the go-ahead to do a new DL game under the stipulations 'card-based, not-D&D based, and set after DoSF.'

So despite what some people may say, DoSF wasn't written to introduce the Fifth Age. Weis & Hickman have gone back and forth on whether it was meant as a move into a new era or an outright ending to the series, and 25 years after the fact, I don't think we'll ever get a clear answer on that point. The War of Souls was more clearly intended as a course correction/launching point, although I pick up a lot of 'trash the Fifth Age and make sure no one else can ever play with our characters again' subtext in those … works … as well.
 

Tommy Brownell

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
1,644
Reaction score
3,111
Did anyone ever do a second edition or at least some errata for MSHAG? I love the game, but it was pretty apparent it went out before it was ready. Maybe a clone?
Lots of errata collected. I’ve wanted to clone it, but ultimately I make it work when I run it so that’s been good enough. Others have offered to collaborate on a clone, but we can’t ever agree on what should stay and what should go.
 

Armchair Gamer

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 13, 2017
Messages
184
Reaction score
228
Tab Creations apparently has a SAGA retroclone/variant they use to power games like Dime Adventures and Against the Dark Yogi.
 

Tommy Brownell

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2017
Messages
1,644
Reaction score
3,111
Huh. Hadn't heard of the games or the company. Interesting.

I like the SAGA system, both the Marvel and Dragonlance variant (I was just never sold on Dragonlance as a setting that interested me).
 

Apparition

New Generation Grognard
Administrator
Joined
Jul 29, 2017
Messages
1,956
Reaction score
2,519
Buck Rogers XXVc was the best RPG TSR put out, IMO. As for the others, the only TSR RPGs I recall ever seeing in stores was AD&D 2E, Buck Rogers XXVc, Gamma World, and Buck Rogers High Adventures Cliffhangers, (which I saw only once). But I didn't get into tabletop RPGs until 1989/1990.
 

saskganesh

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2018
Messages
70
Reaction score
165
Two more boardgames, both by Tom Wham. Snit's Revenge and Awful Green Things From Outer Space. Both first published in Dragon, then later released as boxed verisons.
 

Bunch

Prince of Insufficient Light.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
5,232
Reaction score
7,141
Two more boardgames, both by Tom Wham. Snit's Revenge and Awful Green Things From Outer Space. Both first published in Dragon, then later released as boxed verisons.
I have Snits Revenge in boxed format.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
557
Reaction score
768
Marvel Saga is a locally (by my friends) adored game. I know a clone is coming, very slowly. There will be a few notable changes to the rules (mostly fixing the quirky 'odd' rule powers like Chi and Stunning attacks) and cards will be distinct enough to avoid trademark issues. However, the core rules will otherwise remain 95-98% the same. Though of course a custom superhero setting behind it.

I'm very fond of Buck Rogers XXV's setting, but the 2E rules are a bit of an ill fit. It could have used some streamlining (notably skill-wise, and saving throws.) I've heard fantastic things about the later Buck Rogers Cliffhangers game, but never managed to obtain it.

I own Star Frontiers (though a reprint, when it was available that added in the Mentalist class to core Alpha Dawn rules.) I've had multiple boxed sets and given them away to friends.

My copies of Advanced MSH are hardcover (I got them library bound at one point.) But I actively play it any chance I get.

As for Top Secret, I own Top Secret S.I, the Agent 13 sourcebook (pulp) the FreeLancers books (cyber/supers.) Along with it, and still, find it an amazing game. I've wanted to run a low powered superhero game for years now. But getting players is never that easy.

I own Gamma World 4E (1992) and have owned all but 1st Edition. I am still quite fond of 2E/3E but 4E is the best balanced. I was surprised that Gamma World for 4E D&D was actually pretty good, except for the idiot idea of tying in cards. Just let people pick and choose their daily/encounter/etc powers and change them as an experience thing--not at random. However, the rule book needed a much better quality print though. (Still, it explained 4E rules better than the D&D books did, and made a MORE fun game of it.) Though it wouldn't be my choice for Gamma World.

I've tried hacking the AGE system from Green Ronin and considered a 5E adaptation, but I'm so busy with Hearts & Souls, Agents of Archive Space, E.o.N, and The Legend of the Celestial River Heroes. (Plus a novel of superheroes, and a new space opera idea.) That frankly, I'll hope maybe someone more dedicated than I who has time will do more work for me :grin:

I really liked Dragonquest by SPI, the original, TSR's version wasn't as good, but still, honestly I liked its magic a lot.

Alternity wasn't a terrible game, I enjoyed it actually, and liked some of the races, but never as much as I loved Star Frontiers.

Also the Amazing Engine several fantastic settings, some with really great setting rules (like For Faerie Queen & Country's magic system) and Khromosome was a neat genepunk game. Though I'd like to see better systems for them overall than the base AE engine--it was a little too broad, and I'm a fan of focused for their genre games.
 

Dan Davenport

Hardboiled GMshoe
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
605
Reaction score
376
How about the TSR minigames like They've Invaded Pleasantville and Saga? Actually played Saga, was a bit disappointed. Vikings roaming a map looking for treasure and dodging dragons. I'm sure there were others but I can't remember them all. There were also the AD&D Monster cards at the time.
We mustn't forget Revolt on Antares!

 

Oculus Orbus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2019
Messages
145
Reaction score
206
Buck Rogers XXVc was the best RPG TSR put out, IMO. As for the others, the only TSR RPGs I recall ever seeing in stores was AD&D 2E, Buck Rogers XXVc, Gamma World, and Buck Rogers High Adventures Cliffhangers, (which I saw only once). But I didn't get into tabletop RPGs until 1989/1990.
I used to do a game blog until I didn't that had a bunch of nifty (if I do say so, myself) XXVc stuff in it. If you dare, you can find it here. There might be a post or two about Cliffhangers, too, but I don't remember.
 

Gringnr

Chief of the Boat Feels
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
1,123
Reaction score
1,344
Metamorphosis Alpha was one of my go-to games back in the day. I liked it a lot better than Gamma World.

LOVED Met Alpha. From the nihilistic setting to the gonzo sci-fantasy of it all. It was aces.

Edit: Goodman games gas been putting out some stuff ro 1e MA for a minute now...
 
Last edited:

Voros

Doomed Investigator
Joined
Sep 23, 2017
Messages
5,912
Reaction score
8,297
I quite dug Top Secret S.I. and got to play a bit of it back in the day. But it actually was pretty well supported for what I assume must have been a few years and a number of the supplements are actually of a high quality.

I reviewed S.I. and some of its supplements here
.
 

Dahak

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2018
Messages
163
Reaction score
198
Not one mention of Empire of the Petal Throne. Nor even of using the pages as rolling paper. Have I really been alive this long??
 

Gabriel

Legendary Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
536
Reaction score
967
Not one mention of Empire of the Petal Throne. Nor even of using the pages as rolling paper. Have I really been alive this long??
It seems you have. The original edition was before my gaming time. I didn't get introduced to the world of formal RPGs until 1981.

I've seen Tekumel mentioned in various things like Dragon and messageboards, but I don't think I've ever seen the physical product, not even the GoO version. That GoO version seems recent to me, but then I remember it was well over a decade ago.
 

Luca

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2018
Messages
163
Reaction score
272
I own a shrinkwrapped copy of TSR's Empire of the Petal Throne.

It will stay that way, to be treasured by the Federation's archeologists.
 

Stan

Legendary Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
467
Reaction score
665
Not one mention of Empire of the Petal Throne. Nor even of using the pages as rolling paper. Have I really been alive this long??
I was thinking it was published by others to go with D&D. I was wrong, it looks like TSR published a version.
I have some materials that I picked up used a decade ago - I'm not sure which edition. I've not gotten around to thoroughly reading and absorbing it.

It's interesting but rather alien. Literally. If I recall humans landed on an alien world long ago and are a minority. None of that Tolkien ripoff stuff. It's probably has a greater density of new info than Dune. I can see why it remained niche. Most people probably didn't know what to do with it. Imagine an eccentric academic has spent decades spinning a world in their mind and then decided to do an info dump into an rpg.
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,356
Reaction score
1,541
I own a shrinkwrapped copy of TSR's Empire of the Petal Throne.

It will stay that way, to be treasured by the Federation's archeologists.
That way they can point to it as an example of erroneous twentieth century archeology or evidence of alien contact.
 

Voros

Doomed Investigator
Joined
Sep 23, 2017
Messages
5,912
Reaction score
8,297
I was thinking it was published by others to go with D&D. I was wrong, it looks like TSR published a version.
I have some materials that I picked up used a decade ago - I'm not sure which edition. I've not gotten around to thoroughly reading and absorbing it.

It's interesting but rather alien. Literally. If I recall humans landed on an alien world long ago and are a minority. None of that Tolkien ripoff stuff. It's probably has a greater density of new info than Dune. I can see why it remained niche. Most people probably didn't know what to do with it. Imagine an eccentric academic has spent decades spinning a world in their mind and then decided to do an info dump into an rpg.
The original set is pretty accessible and playable. No more challenging than a sf rpg with an original setting I’d say. The clean, simple rule set is also better explained than OD&D and 1E AD&D.

Some of the later releases are very lore heavy and more clearly targeting the hardcore converts.

I highly recommend the free The Petal Hack by Brett Solcum as a great intro to the setting and races with a nice simple rule set.
 

Toadmaster

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2018
Messages
831
Reaction score
1,322
Two more boardgames, both by Tom Wham. Snit's Revenge and Awful Green Things From Outer Space. Both first published in Dragon, then later released as boxed verisons.
Interesting, I had the boxed versions of both (unfortunately long since lost) but didn't recall the connection to TSR. Steve Jackson has had the rights to Awful Green Things for some time now and has issued it in several formats. Snits was amusing, but I liked AGTFOS better. It would actually make an interesting Alien like scenario for an RPG.
 

ORtrail

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
83
Reaction score
124
What about the Dragon Magazine games? Quest For The Emperor's Treasure, File 13, King of the Table Top, Monsters of the Midway and so many others. Man, Dragon was a great magazine. :sad:

We played File 13 a couple times and King of the Table Top once. The board game Kings and Things is King of the Tabletop's worthy successor.
You forgot to mention Crimefighters (a pulp hero RPG from Dragon Magazine #47). We had to jot down the characters on notebook paper as there was no character sheet provided, but it covered an amazing amount of ground for a magazine insert RPG (including a sample adventure). We played through 2-3 adventures with those Crimefighters rules.
 

Joseph Wolz

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
59
I loved Alternity and played a bunch of Dark*Matter back in the day. I found this website that might be useful for us:


It's got all the covers and lists of supplments for a lot of what TSR published over time.
 

Gabriel

Legendary Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
536
Reaction score
967
Looking at Star Frontiers Basic Game Rules this evening
p3 said:
players in a role playing game do not simply roll dice and move pieces around a board
The booklet now spends the next few pages detailing a skirmish board game where all the players do is roll dice and move counters around the board.
 

Bunch

Prince of Insufficient Light.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
5,232
Reaction score
7,141
Looking at Star Frontiers Basic Game Rules this evening


The booklet now spends the next few pages detailing a skirmish board game where all the players do is roll dice and move counters around the board.
Yeah that sounds about right. I recall making characters and going through the sample adventure. There's a town section as I recall that we played heavily relying on Chits on a map. Later there was a running fight in a starliner as I recall. Again with map and chits.
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,356
Reaction score
1,541
The smaller booklet is just a skirmish game, the larger booklet is the rpg.
 

Gabriel

Legendary Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
536
Reaction score
967
The smaller booklet is just a skirmish game, the larger booklet is the rpg.
I know it's just an introduction meant to teach new players the game and ease them into the world of RPGs via more familiar play concepts.

But you gotta admit that it's pretty funny how the introduction says that and then decides to illustrate an RPG by providing an example which is exactly what the introductory description says the game isn't.
 

Bunch

Prince of Insufficient Light.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
5,232
Reaction score
7,141
I know it's just an introduction meant to teach new players the game and ease them into the world of RPGs via more familiar play concepts.

But you gotta admit that it's pretty funny how the introduction says that and then decides to illustrate an RPG by providing an example which is exactly what the introductory description says the game isn't.
Someone either didn't take their own advice, was forced to do something they didn't agree with or they knew what they were about to present and wanted to plant the seed this is an example for learning but not necessary. Well that or an infinite number of other options.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
9,218
Reaction score
19,164
Well, I loved Marvel Superheroes and Star Frontiers, but those definitely aren't "lesser known". It's suprising to me how few people know about the TSR Conan game though, which has a pretty nice retroclone in ZEFRs. I knew of Gamma World and Buck Rogers primarily through frequent comicbook ads, but never really got into either.

Does Battlesystem count as lesser known? That was TSR's very mediocre miniatures wargame.
 

Gabriel

Legendary Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
536
Reaction score
967
Well, I loved Marvel Superheroes and Star Frontiers, but those definitely aren't "lesser known". It's suprising to me how few people know about the TSR Conan game though, which has a pretty nice retroclone in ZEFRs. I knew of Gamma World and Buck Rogers primarily through frequent comicbook ads, but never really got into either.

Does Battlesystem count as lesser known? That was TSR's very mediocre miniatures wargame.
Well, I suppose I've sort of drifted to anything TSR that wasn't D&D.

As for Battlesystem, I remember the original version of it was EVERYWHERE. TSR pushed that one hard. There were multiple modules with Battlesystem stuff shoehorned in. Bloodstone Pass was probably the most common one. A couple of the Dragonlance modules also had Battlesystem stuff in them (Dragons of War and Dragons of Triumph). I'm pretty sure there were others.

I remember buying it, because the idea of giant fantasy battles with my AD&D1 characters participating sounded cool. I learned the rules after a fashion and...

Well, no one wanted to play it. Plus, none of us had anywhere near the number of miniatures to fill out even a single small unit. The box had all these counters, hundreds if not thousands of counters. But let's be real here. Miniatures wargames are played for the spectacle of the miniatures. Having a bunch of counters on the table is lame.

The rules didn't strike me as well done, well written, or particularly playable either.

But when it got down to it, I was the only one of my crew that had Battlesystem and the only one really interested in it. I recall those red boxes sitting on Waldenbooks shelves long into the 2e days (and it was originally launched in 85, so that's forever in inventory terms). Bloodstone Pass was almost as bad. Then there was the 2e book version which seemed to be a similar shelfwarmer.
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,356
Reaction score
1,541
Okay, first edition Battlesystem was designed to produce statistically correct results for combats in the thousands. You see counters, I see pre-cut bases. So, really it was doing something well but very specific that most people didn't really care about.

Second edition Battlesystem is pretty good but needed more structure for character and unit building. At the very least there should have been a guideline for setting the points of characters and monsters that are imported from D&D. Even so, it's a solid, interesting an playable miniatures game and a damn sight better than any edition of cashhammer.
 

Oculus Orbus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2019
Messages
145
Reaction score
206
As for Battlesystem, I remember the original version of it was EVERYWHERE.
Hell, they were even pushing it in BECMI products. The module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield is the one that springs to mind. Had all the components to run it with Battlesystem, but I'm guessing most went with the War Machine rules. Don't recall if there were other modules that used it.
 

Gabriel

Legendary Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
536
Reaction score
967
Hell, they were even pushing it in BECMI products. The module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield is the one that springs to mind. Had all the components to run it with Battlesystem, but I'm guessing most went with the War Machine rules. Don't recall if there were other modules that used it.
I was thinking of that one. I couldn't recall the module name, but I was thinking "wasn't there even a BECMI module with Battlesystem stuff? That can't be as it wasn't AD&D branded." But I do seem to remember at least one BECMI tie in to Battlesystem.

The talk of Battlesystem reminds me. For years I had those counters all over the place. There were so many of them. Even though I long ago discarded the game, I am STILL to this day finding counters from that box. Just recently, I was shredding some old documents, and lo and behold I found a baggie of counters from one of the Dragonlance modules. I think they were from DL-12, the one with the Maelstrom adventure. It was a bag of sea elf counters.

You know, if anyone wants a shitton of simple counters for Fantasy Trip or something, go on ebay and search for Battlesystem.

The only counters I saw that were actually neat with anything resembling art and color were some dragon counters in one of the Dragonlance modules. I do kind of wish I still had those just for nostalgia value.

Edit: Did a quick ebay check and got reminded of the fold up houses. OMG all that fold up junk from that era!
 

Voros

Doomed Investigator
Joined
Sep 23, 2017
Messages
5,912
Reaction score
8,297
Well, I loved Marvel Superheroes and Star Frontiers, but those definitely aren't "lesser known". It's suprising to me how few people know about the TSR Conan game though, which has a pretty nice retroclone in ZEFRs. I knew of Gamma World and Buck Rogers primarily through frequent comicbook ads, but never really got into either.

Does Battlesystem count as lesser known? That was TSR's very mediocre miniatures wargame.
I quite like Douglas Niles 2nd edition Battlesystem and Skirmish rules. The original boxset was merely okay. But I’m no wargame expert. I liked how streamlined the rule set was and the books are quite pretty.

9A7C7783-757A-4B69-A878-4AD5C12D7303.jpeg

337A1CA9-8F2B-4B51-8D9A-E6FB2695A325.jpeg
 

Séadna

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2018
Messages
2,380
Reaction score
3,259
Always meant to take a look at that. I got a chance to use the mass battle system from the Rules Cyclopedia once and quite liked it.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
9,218
Reaction score
19,164
MSH aside, I really had very little contact with TSR games prior to the 90s. I was familiar with the Red Box, and I'd seen the AD&D books, but Warhammer Fantasy and Dragon Warriors sort of filled that spot for me as initial fantasy RPGs. As such, I missed the "push" for Battlesystems described, I only knew it as an obscure boxed set I came across in a garage sale, and saw no mention of it across 2E's product range, even the 2nd edition, which I didn't know about until the internet days. Most of my early awareness of that era would have come from Dicing with Dragons I think. That's where I heard about stuff like Tekumel, Metamorphis Alpha, Boot Hill, Bunnies & Burrows, Chivarly & Sorcery, etc for the first time.
 

Stan

Legendary Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
467
Reaction score
665
Compared to the options now, Dragon Warriors looks somewhat limited. But if I had encountered it in the 80s, it would have totally outshined AD&D1e. It's so much cleaner yet still has some player options. Unfortunately, I first encountered it only ~10 years ago.
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
1,356
Reaction score
1,541
Honestly, a properly written D&D combat system wouldn't need a mass combat rule. Just make sure all the damages are in whole dice, assign 4 HP per HD. Add in some army recruiting and deployment rules and you've got a system that's more functional than Borehammer. It's one of the things that bothers me about Battlesystem Skirmish and the prepainted D&D Miniatures game, they'd be utterly redundant if you designed the core game right. It's where I've been headed with Dark Passages 3. It's just not a high priority because there are already so many retro-clones, neo-clones and so forth.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
9,218
Reaction score
19,164
For a "patch" on an RPG to handle mass combat, while still allowing individual heroes to shine or have specific moments of importance to the flow of the battle, I think the Army of Darkness RPG's system is the best I've encountered. But ultimately, if I was going to break out the miniatures, I'd probably go with one of my preferred fantasy wargames, be itTerry Gore's Medieval Warfare, Warmaster/Hail Caesar, Chaos Wars, or, if I wanted an "old school" flavour, Knights & Magick. Unless I was playing Warhammer Fantasy, in which case of course I'd use WFB 3e
 
Top