A Retro Idea of Retro

I’ve previously discussed insights we can get from Arcane magazine’s Top 50 RPGs feature, but there’s one other feature from the magazine which I think has aged particularly interestingly. Rather than being presented in a single article, though, it unfolded over the span of the magazine’s existence.

This was the monthly Retro feature, each instalment of which offered a one-page retrospective of an old game, by and large (with a very few exceptions) one which was well out of print by the time. This is interesting to look back on now because when Arcane was being published the hobby was some 21-23 years old; this year it’s 46. In other words, more time has now passed since Arcane magazine ended than passed between the emergence of D&D and the appearance of Arcane. It’s interesting, then, to look back and see what games were considered to be old-timey classics from that perspective, and how things have developed since.

Continue reading “A Retro Idea of Retro”

The Arcane Top 50 – Where Are They Now?

Arcane, a short-lived British tabletop gaming magazine from Future Publishing which ran from December 1995 to June 1997, is a name to conjure by for many gamers of around my age. I came to the hobby after White Dwarf had become a Games Workshop in-house advertising platform, and just as Dragon was on the verge of dropping its coverage of non-TSR RPGs altogether; that meant I got a brief taster of TSR having a broader scope of coverage, and missed out on the golden age of White Dwarf altogether.

With other RPG-focused gaming magazines available in the UK only available on a decidedly variable basis (whatever did happen to ol’ Valkyrie?), the arrival of Arcane was immensely welcome. Sure, even by this early stage the Internet was already becoming an incomparable source of both homebrewed material and cutting-edge RPG news, but much of that was in the form of Usenet and forum discussions of variable quality or ASCII text files. To get something which was informative, read well, and looked nice, print media was still just about where it was at.

Truth be told, taking a look back at Arcane in more recent years I’m less impressed than I was at the time. It took largely the same approach to its own subject matter (primarily RPGs, with some secondary consideration to CCGs – because they were so hot at the time they really couldn’t be ignored – and perhaps a light sniff of board game content) that Future’s videogame magazines took to theirs, particularly the lighter-hearted PC Gamer/Amiga Power side of things rather than the likes of, say, Edge. That meant it focused more on brief news snippets, reviews, and fairly entry-level articles on subjects than it did on offering much in the way of in-depth treatment of matters.

Continue reading “The Arcane Top 50 – Where Are They Now?”

Referee’s Bookshelf: Bushido

One of those games that was originally put out through a small press before Fantasy Games Unlimited acquired it and put out a more widespread new edition, Bushido is one of those RPGs that has a comparatively low profile but whose influence is surprisingly extensive. Bob Charrette and Paul Hume, its authors, would be commissioned to produce the Land of Ninja supplement for 3rd edition Runequest, which effectively amounts to a conversion of the Bushido setting to Basic Roleplaying, and the influence of Bushido‘s honour system and class breakdown can be seen in later products such as Gary Gygax’s Oriental Adventures. According to Designers & Dragons, the Legend of the Five Rings gameworld was first developed after AEG explored the idea of making a new edition of Bushido but decided against paying the extortionate price required to get it out of the FGU IP black hole.

Bushido is based around providing a solid system for fantastic martial arts adventures in a version of historical Japan that draws as much on martial arts cinema and other media as it does on real history. In fact, Charrette and Hume seem acutely aware of their position as outsiders trying to describe a different culture to other outsiders, and consequently they make sure to draw a clear line between their game setting, referred to in the text as Nippon, and the real Japan; when they say “Japan”, they mean the real place, and when they say “Nippon” they mean the setting. (It’s a bit like a European medieval fantasy game calling Britain “Albion”.)

Continue reading “Referee’s Bookshelf: Bushido”