Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Aftermath

I've been meaning to inaugurate a new, regular series of posts and finally decided today was as good a day to do so as any. I'm calling it "The Ads of Dragon" and it will focus on, as its name implies, advertisements I found particularly evocative in issues of Dragon I owned in my younger days. To kick things off, I'm beginning with this ad, from the very first issue of Dragon I ever purchased, #56 (December 1981).

Given my recent re-examination of Gamma World, this ad has some topicality. As I've noted before, I was never a big Aftermath player. But, like all of FGU's output, I was at once fascinated and repulsed by it -- with this ad being a big part of my fascination with it. It's funny that something as simple as this would have such an effect on me as a younger person, yet it did. There was something about that silhouetted figure, combined with melodramatic text above him that just fired my imagination and made me want to buy Aftermath.

The fact that I never actually says nothing about how powerfully this ad once affected me. As I recall, FGU produced a number of really evocative ads back in the day. They almost all made me want to rush out and buy them immediately. A big part of why is that they generally stuck to a single iconic image to sum up the game and paired it up with some really straightforward information about what the boxed set in question contained. It was "meat and potatoes" advertising at its finest -- nothing fancy, just the facts and a potent illustration to reel you in. I've got to say that I miss ads like that.

19 comments:

  1. FGU always had great ads. Unfortunately, that $20 price tag kept me away from games like Aftermath and RQ 2nd when I was 11. :(

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  2. I always liked the VILLAINS & VIGILANTES ads in the old DRAGONS, where they included statted-out mini-heroes and villains, complete with a little bio info, so you could drop them into a campaign. DC HEROES did the same thing with the full-page GOTHAM GAZETTE ads, but I always liked looking for new heroes and villains for V&V in their little "vignettes".

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  3. This ad had much the same effect on me when I got my first dragon (issue 78 I believe.) I picked the game up not much later and I probably ended up playing it far more than any of the other games I had (with the possible exception of star frontiers.) Just thinking back to the ads that still stick out in my mind after the years; this one, witchcraft (or witchhunt?) jorune, element masters...but you're right the fgu ads somehow hit the right spot between Aftermath, Space Opera, Recon, Psi World, Bushido...

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  4. To this day, that ad is how I remember Aftermath*. I'm glad you're doing this series. These ads will generate a lot of nostalgia -- and probably force me to spend money tracking down old games I'd wanted, but passed on. :)

    *(That, and the ever-popular "Hit to the 12!")

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  5. *sigh* How I miss the days when finding a half dozen shotgun shells and a tin of dogfood counted as treasure.

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  6. Good idea for a series, James. The old Dragon ads were always one of my favorite parts of the magazine, even though I bought almost nothing because of them.

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  7. Aftermath or Morrow Project, which is the more hardcore post apocalypse setting? Maybe Aftermath, but it's was the Morrow Project players who spooked me and my friends the most.

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  8. This will be a great series.

    Although for my group we never bought anything unless it was already at the game store. So even when we did see an ad that looked interesting if it wasn't immediately available in the store we would forget about it. We never mail ordered anything or even asked the store to order anything for us, we were strictly off the shelf. That's probably why 90% of what we actually played was from TSR since they had the shelf stock.

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  9. Excited to see where you go with this series. The ads have definitely played a role in shaping the hobby. I have done a little bit of quantitative work on them, if you want some nice graphs.

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  10. The Dragon ads worked. I picked up both Aftermath and Bushido. Never played either of them, but they looked good. Now lost in my missing box of 80's gaming junk. One of these days it will turn up and I will be ecstatic.

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  11. @Sham: I have the same games, in addition to V&V. They're all sitting on my gaming shelves, gathering dust. I've played Bushido (probably one of the best for Japanese RP) and Aftermath (nowadays too complex for my sensibilities) but they were both fun for a short while. I kept going back to Gamma World, Palladium, and GURPS.

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  12. That was a great ad (and a great one to start this series off with) that made me buy the game.

    I never actually played it but it was a great source of ideas.

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  13. I was one of the lucky few who had a subscription to the dragon(#36 to #47, I only got 9 outta the 12 mags. As a young teen, I thought it was a plot of evil-gamer postmen; more than one copy of my mags came open & Pre-Read by someone!)

    The first Ad(dragon#39) that had a effect on me was The Judges Guild "City State of the World Emperor". Man, I was all over that having bought "Wilderlands of High Fantasy" on a (happy)whim!

    I mean a City(CSWE) with 3 books(200+pages), 3 maps (one of the city in colour) for $12 was a good deal even back in 1980.

    As for other ads, I glanced at the pics but skipped over them without reading most. I liked to get to the comics first, then monster and/or adventure which was meat & potatoes to a budding DM.

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  14. I never played Aftermath and had forgotten it until you posted this ad. I remember the ad, probably because it reminded me so much of this image from the MGM cartoon "Peace on Earth":

    http://media.kickstatic.com/kickapps/images/66470/photos/PHOTO_9421934_66470_18660554_ap.jpg

    Not the same, but similar in feel.

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  15. Great ad to start the series! That was definitely an iconic one! Those ads motivated me to buy quite a few games back in the day (Pirates and Plunder, Behind Enemy Lines, MERP, Rolemaster, etc.). Like others, I was limited by my funds as a teenager. Much of my game collecting since the mid '90s has been based on games I saw in Dragon and couldn't find or buy at the time. Kabal, Fury of the Norsemen, the Thieves' Guild series, Man, Myth, and Magic, and even Aftermath are just some of the games that I have collected because of the lasting effect of the ads from Dragon.

    @James - Dragon #56 was my first issue also! I took that thing with me everywhere I went and poured over it continually. I didn't understand half of it, but I had never seen anything like it. It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. I bought Dragon religiously until issue #191. I was disinterested long before that, but continued to buy it out of habit and nostalgia.

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  16. I remember this ad well, and also agree about FGU's ads having a certain pull to them. I was very intrigued by Space Opera, Bushido, and Aftermath, specifically. The thing is, I never saw any of their games for sale anywhere. It seemed like the only way to get them was to mail away for them, and as a kid with no allowance, that wasn't going to happen. Most of my gaming purchases happened while out with my mom and making a special trip to a store so she could buy me something. There's no way she would have ordered something "sight unseen" from a magazine ad. She would have felt that we were going to get ripped off.

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  17. @ Badger King - yeah, those V&V ads were like gold to broke little jr. high me. I cut them out and made my own mini-'opponents unlimited' out of 'em.

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  18. Definitely a game I wanted back in the day - a desire based largely on the Dragon Ad. But as cibet says, I only buy what the local gaming store carried on its shelves.

    My local store was pretty good, and they eventually had Aftermath in stock, but by then I'd run across Morrow Project (demoed by the Timeline guys themselves at one of Toronto's very few 1980's conventions) and I didn't need another post-Apocalypse game.

    I'm playing with the idea of a post-Apocalypse campaign and I'm tempted to try getting a copy off of eBay (or maybe from FGU directly; they seem to still be selling the original game).

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  19. I have a very large collection of FGU games, and I blame it entirely on their Dragon Magazine adverts.

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