As I think I've mentioned before, when I was a kid, there were certain games that had a mystique associated with them. This mystique wasn't always a good thing; sometimes it was a bad thing, as in the case of, for example, Chivalry & Sorcery, which my friends and I deemed "too complex" and "unplayable." Looking back on it, I realize that most such games were ones we didn't play or didn't know people who played and so either assumed were "bad" games or "elite" ones -- games so amazing that only a special few gamers were worthy to play them. TimeLine Limited's 1980 post-apocalyptic RPG The Morrow Project fell into the latter category.
Unlike Gamma World, which was my post-apocalyptic game of choice, The Morrow Project had a reputation for being "realistic." In retrospect, this reputation was ill-deserved, but, back then, games that fetishized firearms and military gear were typically considered realistic, even if, as in TMP's case, they also included "undead" beings reanimated by radiation. I think TMP's reputation was also based on its premise: the characters are all cryogenically frozen soldiers and scientists who awaken 150 years after a nuclear holocaust destroyed civilization as we know it. As a premise, it's a good one, since it allows the players to portray people not unlike themselves who are thrown headlong into a world gone mad where they're expected to try to lay the groundwork for a rebirth of civilization. This gives both players and referees a straightforward frame of reference and structure on which to build a campaign.
The Morrow Project suffered somewhat from having a fairly uninspired game system, except where combat was concerned, where the aforementioned gun fetishism comes into play. But like a lot of games from those days, gamers overlooked rules inadequacies because the world it described was a compelling one. Living nearly 30 years later, it's hard to remember just how plausible a nuclear holocaust seemed to many people, particularly young men. While I certainly didn't live in perpetual fear of World War III, I didn't discount its possibility and I spent many hours imagining what my life might be like if such a thing did occur. What made The Morrow Project so attractive was that it simultaneously acknowledged my youthful fears and assuaged them by giving us a chance to play men and women from the present trying to save the future. Even now, I find the scenario it paints a powerful one.
TimeLine Limited still exists, albeit under different ownership. There have been plans for a 4th edition of The Morrow Project for some time, but they have yet to see the light of day, owing, I suspect, to the limited resources of the current owners. That's too bad, because a revamped version of the game, with simpler but expanded rules and an updated setting could be just as compelling today as it was back in 1980. Fear of nuclear annihilation may not be as common as it once was, but most of us, I think, still worry about the future and the possibility that our actions today might create not a better but a worse world. Games like The Morrow Project speak to that possibility in an engaging way, which is a pretty good goal for any roleplaying game in my opinion.