I know that boxed sets simply aren't economically viable in this day and age -- or so I'm regularly told anyway -- but I can't help but wish RPGs were still produced that way. Back in the day, most new games were released in a boxed format, while it was supplements that came in book form. In my more cynical moments, I think that the death of the boxed set was a symptom not of their expense to produce but of the fact that RPGs were no longer played but simply read. Likewise, boxed sets placed a physical limit on how big their integral components could be, which meant reasonably sized rulebooks, adventures, and source material. Is it any wonder I miss these things?
Chaosium produced a lot of truly excellent boxed sets. Having recently acquired two such sets in excellent shape (Stormbringer and Ringworld for those interested), I was reminded of that company's glorious past and the fun I had playing their games. Besides Stormbringer, Ringworld and of course Call of Cthulhu, there were quite a few stand-outs from the Era of the Boxed Set:
Thieves' World: Based on the series of books edited by Robert Asprin, the boxed set included many short books detailing the city of Sanctuary and its inhabitants as well as maps. This product was for use with multiple game systems, including D&D, RuneQuest, Chivalry & Sorcery, and, if you can believe it, Traveller. This was a really excellent resource and I wish I still had a copy.
RuneQuest: The second edition of RQ was available in a boxed format that included the rulebook, Basic Roleplaying pamphlet, Apple Lane adventure, a collection of pregenerated characters and monsters, character sheets, referee sheets, and dice. The blurb on the cover proudly declares, "Everything Needed to Play! A $26 value."
World of Wonder: WoW was Chaosium's attempt to show off the flexibility of its Basic Roleplaying system. This product presented three different, short games for use with those rules: Magic World (a non-Gloranthan fantasy), Super World (superheroes, which eventually became its own RPG), and Future World (a sci-fi game). This was a neat product.
Pendragon: One of the few RPGs I'd consider "perfect," I probably played the original boxed edition of the game more than any other. Much as I appreciate some of the improvements introduced in later editions, none can hold a candle to the original for its exquisite combination of brevity and creativity.
Ghostbusters: Speaking of perfect RPGs, I often think that that this "co-production" between Chaosium and West End Games was not only the best licensed RPG ever made but also the best iteration of the D6 system that eventually went on to great acclaim in the later Star Wars RPG. I know it seems implausible, but Ghostbusters really was awesome. Of course, what else would you expect from a collaboration between Greg Costikyian and Sandy Peterson?