Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Indiana Jones Roleplaying Game

May 1984 saw the release of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, while issue #89 of Dragon (September 1984) saw the appearance of this advertisement:
I won't deny that, when I saw this ad, I was pretty excited. The Indiana Jones movies were my gateway to the movie serials of yesteryear and, from there, to the pulp magazines that inspired them both. So, when I heard that TSR was producing a RPG based on the movies, I was really looked forward to it. How disappointed I was when I finally got hold of a copy of the thing! Players were expected to play one of several pre-generated characters and there were no rules for creating your own, which caused considerable problems. After all, who wants to play Short Round or Sallah when their buddy gets to play Indy? The game also made heavy use of cardboard fold-up "miniatures" for adjudicating many of its rules, which was fine if you had the right fold-ups, but, if you didn't -- which was invariably the case for scenarios you made up yourself -- you were out of luck.

In retrospect, I suspect the Indiana Jones Roleplaying Game was intended as a "gateway" game for kids who weren't already in the hobby and, on that level, perhaps it was better than I remember its being. As I recall, though, it didn't sell well and there were only a handful of modules released for it (two of which were based on the then-released movies). The game is mostly remembered for the erroneous belief that TSR tried to trademark the word "Nazi," based on a misunderstanding about the illustrations on the cardboard fold-ups. In addition, a copy of the game burnt by employees at TSR UK is responsible for the name of the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.

12 comments:

  1. A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a complete set of this game, used. I have been (and still am) a fan of "pulp" RPGs and am constantly on the lookout for one that meets my expectations. Most fail but still end up my book shelf alongside other un-played RPGs collecting dust.

    Indiana Jones was so terrible, it didn't even meet the "dusty shelf" criteria...I returned it the same day I had a chance to read it.

    On the other hand, the Diana Jones award is fairly prestigious in certain circles.
    : )

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  2. You're describing almost exactly my experience with the game. Excited then disappointed. I no longer remember the details but I recall thinking the game as such was pretty lousy, too.

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  3. I completely share the same sentiments. The West End Games Indiana Jones was probably much better.

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  4. The char gen rules appeared in the Judge's Screen, and they weren't too bad.
    West End Games published two Indiana Jones games; one based on the MasterBook system, and it was pretty horrid.
    The true gem, however, is the Indiana Jones Adventures book, which uses the d6 system; in a single book there are adventures and setting information.

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  5. I'd completely forgotten he had a mustache.

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  6. I'm probably one of the few who was never much of a fan of the movie series, so the game had little appeal for me.

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  7. Hmm. I actually thought the rules and general presentation of the game were pretty cool. It was the first "pulp" game I'd come across, before I ever knew that (slightly misapplied) term.

    The initial limitation to pregen characters was a bit strange, though.

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  8. Played it for a while the game rules worked for pulpy movie adventures. I just whipped upa set of character generation rules and we had a mob of adventurers like "Yucatan Sam", "Idaho Joe" and "Mexico Mel" running about the globe. It was an easy fill-in RPG game with a quick set-up.

    I don't recall the paperstand-ups being much of an issue at all in playing the game. But we are talking about 20+ years ago.

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  9. I just happened across a review for this game in White Dwarf #61. The review was positive - overall score of 7, same as the D&D Companion Set reviewed in the same issue.

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  10. Anyone who makes an RPG without character-generation rules deserves to get punched, frankly.

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  11. I got this from a hobby shop in baton rouge when it came out, I was about 9 or 10, & yes, when I opened it & searched for how to roll up my own "Indy", & couldnt locate it, I was bummed. I didnt really care to simply replay scenes from the movies, so the game just missed the mark for me. Got moved to a binder eventually, never played, then who knows what happened to it...

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  12. I can’t really comment on the game. But I wanted to note that most people I’ve gamed with enjoy a “supporting” role as much as a “lead”. I’d be happy to try one of the characters other than Indy.

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