James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > By Project

Reviews in Project: Roleplaying Games (18)

Against All Odds

Danger International

By Douglas L. Garrett, George MacDonald & Steve Peterson  

14 Mar, 2023

Roleplaying Games


L. Douglas Garrett, George Macdonald, and Steve Peterson’s1 1985 Danger International is a modern-day roleplaying game (modern per 1985), intended to cover adventures set from 1945 to the year

2000 and beyond.” Published by Hero Games, Danger International (or DI” as it was known to aficionados) is a descendent of the rules pioneered in 1981’s Champions.

And what did one find in the box? First, that there was no box. Danger International replaced the box sets of previous Hero Games, games with a 174-page perfect-bound text2 (176 if you count the ads).

Read more ➤


GURPS, 3rd Edition (Revised)

By Steve Jackson  

12 Jan, 2023

Roleplaying Games


Steve Jackson’s GURPS, 3rd Edition (Revised) is (as one might expect) the third, revised edition of GURPS, whose first edition was published in 1986. Also, as one might expect, it is published by Steve Jackson Games1, founded by GURPS designer Steve Jackson (human Texan)2.

In a previous review, I discussed the sad history of the venerable tabletop roleplaying game The Fantasy Trip (TFT). It was doomed to decades of oblivion by a combination of clashing personalities and business setbacks. But all was not lost. We soon heard that Steve Jackson was working on a great unnamed roleplaying system, to be given a shinier name once Steve Jackson thought of one. In 1986, that shiny new name was revealed: GURPS. Which stood for Generic Universal Roleplaying System.

GURPS prevails. While a 4thedition is available, this is a (commissioned) review of the 3rdedition.

Read more ➤

Sword & Sorcery

Swords of the Serpentine

By Kevin Kulp & Emily Dresner  

17 Nov, 2022

Roleplaying Games


Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner’s Swords of the Serpentine1 is a fantasy roleplaying game (RPG) set in Venice Eversink, an entirely fictional secondary world fantasy city that is simultaneously a geological mystery, a thriving trade community, and the living embodiment of a goddess. Core mechanics are based on Robin Laws’ Gumshoe game engine. The game emulates the heroic fantasy of Howard, Leiber, Lackey, and Pratchett.

Read more ➤

Wonder In Most Every Thing I See

Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons

By Ben Riggs  

4 Aug, 2022

Roleplaying Games


Ben Riggs’ 2022 Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons is an account of the rise and fall of TSR, publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as many related works. 

Although there were precursors to table-top roleplaying games (including the Bronte siblings’ 19th century foreshadowingof the pastime), Dungeons and Dragons is generally acknowledged as the first modern roleplaying game. Having founded the field, publisher TSR dominated sales. Roleplaying fans and game merchants, therefore, were taken aback when in the mid-1990s TSR suddenly imploded. Only timely intervention by cash-rich Wizards of the Coast gave the game a new owner and new lease on life.

Perhaps the chief question addressed is What went wrong?” 

Having read the book, perhaps a better question is how did nemesis take so long to catch up with TSR?”

Read more ➤

True and Destined Prince

Lyonesse: Fantasy Roleplaying Based on the Novels by Jack Vance

By Dominic Mooney, Dave Morris, Pete Nash, Mark Shirley & Lawrence Whitaker  

6 Jan, 2022

Roleplaying Games


Design Mechanism’s 2020 Lyonesse roleplaying game is a fantasy roleplaying game based on the Lyonesse novels—Lyonesse (AKA Suldrun’s Garden), The Green Pearl, and Madouc—of Jack Vance. It was written by Dominic Mooney, Dave Morris, Pete Nash, Mark Shirley, and Lawrence Whitaker1.

Despite the best efforts of Andrew Wheeler, I am not myself a Jack Vance fan. Why, then, acquire a copy of a licensed roleplaying game set in a Vancian world I’ve not read?

Read more ➤

Just Lots of Little Frames

The Runequest Starter Set

By Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard & Jason Durall  

21 Dec, 2021

Roleplaying Games


Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Jason Durall’s 2021 The Runequest Starter Set is a starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. It’s the latest edition of the venerable table-top fantasy roleplaying game Runequest. It thus simultaneously embraces both the very new and the very old, so I thought it was particularly suitable for this, the two thousandth review on James Nicoll Reviews.

Read more ➤

Humanity’s Scythe

Trudvang Chronicles

By Theodore Bergqvist, Magnus Malmberg, Anders Jacobsson & Max Herngren  (Translated by Andovar)

1 Sep, 2021

Roleplaying Games


Trudvang Chronicles Gamemaster’s Guide, published in 2021, was written by Theodore Bergqvist, Magnus Malmberg, Anders Jacobsson, Max Herngren, and others. It is one of two core Trudvang Chronicles books: the other book is 2021’s Trudvang Chronicles Players Handbook, written by Theodore Bergqvist, Magnus Malmberg and Anders Jacobsson and others. The English translator for both books was Andovar.

Back in the dawn of time, Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying begat Äventyrsspel’s 1982 Drakar och Demoner (in its first edition, a combination of Basic Roleplaying and Worlds of Wonder’s Magic World). After a convoluted process too lengthy to be detailed here, this led to Riotmind’s 2016 Nordic-and-Celtic-themed fantasy roleplaying game Drakar och Demoner Trudvang1, the Anglophone edition of which is Trudvang Chronicles.

Read more ➤