Golden Age of roleplaying games, much of it based on a misunderstanding of my original point, namely that, after this period, tabletop RPGs would never again command the same degree of broad cultural significance that they did during this time. A good illustration of my point is this odd product, from wargames publisher SPI: Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game. Published in 1980, the same year as the company's more well known foray into roleplaying, DragonQuest, Dallas was designed by none other than James F. Dunnigan, famous as (among many things) the designer of the classic wargames Jutland and PanzerBlitz. That's probably not the most absurd pairing in the history of the hobby, but it's got to be up there.
Dallas came, like all RPGs of its era, in a box, consisting of three booklets, dice, and some cards. The first booklet, Rules of Play, explained what the game was about and how it was played. The game rules are pretty simple and based around comparing the ability scores of opposing characters -- Power, Persuasion, Coercion, Seduction, Investigation, and Luck -- against one another. Each of these scores is given two ratings, one for resisting and one for affecting, so a character might be poor at, say, coercing others but might also be highly resistant to it. Dice are only rolled when the compared scores are within a certain range of one another (otherwise, automatic successes or failures come into play). Luck functions as a kind of saving throw, allowing a player to reverse the result of a previous contest, turning an opponent's success into a failure. The rules don't get much more complex than this, though there are a few additional details, mostly pertaining to using organizations and minor characters to achieve one's schemes.
Dallas includes three sample "scripts," which is what it calls scenarios, as well as some very basic advice to "the Director" (i.e. the referee) on how to create his own. There are no character generation rules, since it's assumed that the players will take the role of established characters from the TV series. Consequently, you won't find any experience or advancement rules either. Nor are there rules for handling violence, so you'll have to wing it if you want to write a script where someone wants to take a shot at J.R. That's understandable, since Dallas isn't really a RPG in the sense most of us would use the term. It has a great deal more in common with party games like How to Host a Murder and the like, right down to having "victory conditions" for each character in the various scripts.
That said, Dallas is a roleplaying game, a simple one, certainly, and one with a very different focus than most other RPGs published in 1980. But the mere fact of this game's existence -- published by one of the premier wargames publishers of the era -- says a lot, I think. Nowadays, if a TV series or movie is a hot property, you might expect to see a video game made of it, but tabletop roleplaying games? Not likely. That wasn't the case in 1980, though, and, while I suspect that, like most licensed RPGs ever published, Dallas wasn't a success for SPI, I don't think that's necessarily a reflection of the inherent foolishness of the idea of a Dallas-based RPG. Rather, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that SPI was probably in a poor position to market a product like this. In another company's hands, it could conceivably have had a bigger impact.
In any event, Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game is probably one of the more peculiar RPGs I've ever read. I don't own a copy myself and never did, but I had the good fortune to know someone who did. He was an avid collector of SPI products and, literally, bought everything they ever made, including Dallas. I eagerly read the thing, since I dimly recalled hearing about it in my younger days, but never had the interest in seeking it out. I'm glad I had that opportunity, because it was a good reminder of just how faddish this hobby once was -- truly an age whose like we shall not see again.