Thursday, May 6, 2010

History of RPGs Question

What was the first RPG to have wholly non-random character generation? Was it Champions or were there others that predate it? Champions was the first that I personally encountered but it might well have not been the first in the history of the hobby, so I'd appreciate any information others could provide.

Thanks.

26 comments:

  1. The earliest I know of is Supergame (1980), by Jay and Aimee Hartlove. I still own a copy. Unless TFT's Melee (1977) was entirely built, not rolled (which I am not sure about, it's been a long time), in which case that was first.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd have to go with Melee/Wizard unless you don't consider them RPGs until In the Labyrinth came out.

    Other contenders could include Superhero:2044 (did it have random char gen elements...I really can't remember).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Melee does not, as I recall, include any random elements in character creation, but I'll have to look at my copy to be sure.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you are talking about a complete-ish system, though, In The Labyrinth was also released in 1980, and I am not sure which hit the shelves first, that or Supergame.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Faoladh is right; Melee characters were completely built from a points pool plus race-specific starting values.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Herb: If I recall correctly, there were random elements in character creation for Superhero: 2044, but it has been years since I've even seen a copy, much less read one, so I could be wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would have opted for Superhero: 2044, but it has been a decade since I looked at my copy.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know there are no random elements for Melee/Wizard/In the Labyrinth.

    I don't remeber any for Superhero:2044, but as faoladh says it's been a long time.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've got to cast my vote for The Fantasy Trip as well. I ran this for quite a while and don't recall there being any randomness in character generation.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Melee (1977) and Wizard (1978) only become an rpg with the publication of In the Labyrinth in 1980, the whole known as The Fantasy Trip. That still precedes Champions in 1981. TFT formed the basis for GURPS.

    Superhero 2044 (1977) has a point buy char gen system so I feel it must be regarded as the first rpg with such.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Doug McCrae is correct: Donald Saxman's Superhero 2044 (Gamescience, 1977) has no random elements in character creation, though there are plenty of die rolls involved in creating scenarios, resolving lawsuits, etc. The rules on improving skills call for random rolls for availability of teachers and their skill level.

    ReplyDelete
  12. earliest I know of is Supergame (1980), by Jay and Aimee Hartlove. I<

    As a kid I helped Jay and Aimee playtest Supergame. It was HEAVILY based on Superhero 2044 from around 75 or 76 and I am pretty sure that was the first non-random generated character game.

    I loved Superhero 2044, and my Champions game world is still based on that. Supergame, well, it was kind of a steaming pile. You needed a calculater to play and it was notorious for it's excessive use of square roots in it's task resolution. My one attempt to run it at Aero Hobbies was one of the worst experiences in my gaming life.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Melee and Wizard might not have been "RPGs" until Into the Labyrinth came out, but we sure played them as RPGs... though what we considered role-playing wouldn't have been considered 'Role Playing' by many with higher opinions of themselves. :) We had names for our characters and identified with them.

    That would have been pre 1978.

    I think we were shocked when the friend that introduced us to D&D had us roll for characters. I asked - and he relented - if I could just play my Melee/Wizard characters. That was within the month of the Players Handbook being released, as we had waited for it by that friend's advice.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It doesn't meet the qualification of "wholly", but I thought I'd mention "Chivalry & Sorcery" by FGU (1977) as reference. Characters were generated (IIRC) by first rolling dice to compute a total pool of points, which were then used for point buy to manually design the character. C&S was released a few months before Superhero:2044, but C&S still has that random element.

    As much as I've always thought TFT was the first, it appears from the posts above that S2044 is the answer. My oldest SF RPGs like Starships & Spacemen, Space Quest, Space Patrol etc. all had random CG elements.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Melee/Wizard and Superhero 2044 had no random elements in character generation -- S2044s system isn't very good.

    Supergame had a clear point buy system that actually worked, but it was quickly surpassed by Champions when that system was released.

    ReplyDelete
  17. In Appendix A RuneQuestII (1978) has a point driven system for character statistics (all start with base value of 8 and then 20 points are available to allocate over the 7 statistics with a maximum value of 18).

    SuperHero2044 is probably the first where it is the default method.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Presumably the Superhero 2044 votes are for Superhero 44? :)

    I'd love to have said Ian Livingstone's spoof RPG "Friday in Dundee" (May 1976) but unfortunately that has random stat generation even if those don't actually affect gameplay much beyond character class selection.(!)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Brunomac: Yeah. I keep it around to remind myself what not to do in game design.

    irbyz: We are discussing Superhero 2044, which was called Superhero '44 in its first printing, but used the full title in all later printings.

    Overall, it does look like Superhero 2044 was the first fully point-buy system. In any case, it was in 1977 that the first games introducing point-buy as the primary system of character creation came around.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is Donald Saxman (author of Superhero 2044). I saw on Google you were discussing Superhero 2044 character generation. As published there was no random component for character creation. My original intent was to publish two (or more) additional volumes, one of which would have been mostly on character creation and it was my intent to let characters generate a random number of "hero points" they would be able to use to increase attributes, implement special powers, or get equipment. When Gamescience bought all right this never happened.

    Note that after decades, I'm in the process of doing a new RPG that will have a lot of elements of the old SH2044 but (i hope) fix a lot of the stuff that makes it so lame (especially compared to state of the art now a days).

    It will be based on some novels I'm trying to sell. If anyone is interested, check out my web page/blog. I can't post the link here but it is www thesestrangeworld .com.

    BTW, I'm still always amazed and pleased people even remember sh2044!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hmpf. At that, the safe link messed up. It is thesestrangeworlds (with an s)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes, that's the link. Thanks. I thought anti-spam had posting links blocked for new users.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ah, I didn't consider that. It might do that.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Without any doubt, the first rpg without a random generation of characters was Chainmail. Then, such a system was added and it slowly evoluted into D&D.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.