Today, we’ve got modern role-playing games on computers, handheld devices, and video game consoles. But before all that, we had classic tabletop role-playing games. Some might say the ’80s were the pinnacle of tabletop RPGs, and we might just agree with that. In honor of 80’s tabletop RPGs, we’re taking a look at some of the best – and why we should bring them back.
So, what tabletop RPGs should we be bringing back? We’ve looked into 6 of the best 80’s tabletop RPGs we should be bringing back, and they include Marvel Super Heros, Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game, Space Opera, Call of Cthulhu, Powers & Perils, and Aftermath!.
With our list of the best 80’s tabletop RPGs, you’ll get the most extensive look at the role-playing games! We’ll walk you through what tabletop RPGs actually are, an overview of each 80’s tabletop RPG mentioned, why we should bring it back, and even where to get it today. Ready to play?
The 6 Best 80’s Tabletop RPGs We Should Bring Back – and Why
Like we mentioned, some might say the 80’s were the best time for tabletop RPGs. That may just be the case. As promised, we’ll dive into 6 80’s tabletop RPGs that were the best of the best. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the best 80’s tabletop RPGs: when they were released, what they entail, and why we should bring them back.
But first – since nowadays not everyone was able to enjoy the 80’s tabletop RPGs right as they came out – we’ll take a look at what RPGs actually are and give you a brief history of them.
A Brief History of Tabletop RPGs
You’ve probably guessed by now what RPG stands for role-playing games. Add tabletop to the beginning of that and you’ve got just what you think – tabletop role-playing games. We can actually break this down even further.
What Actually are Tabletop RPGs?
In this sense, “tabletop” means players are all seated around a tabletop or other surface in order to interact with each other and play the game. Role-playing games are essentially what they sound like; players take on a character or role and immerse themselves in it to play the game.
With tabletop RPGs, players create and interact with the world around them as their actual character in the game.
Take this example from Wheelhouse Workshop: “When playing the game Monopoly, for example, players aren’t (usually) thinking about why the metal terrier wants to build a hotel on Broadway other than the rules of the game that let players know how they should be playing and what should be motivating them… [In tabletop role-playing games], players think about what motivates their characters and how their characters will set goals and make plans for accomplishing them.”
When Did Tabletop Role-Playing Games First Emerge?
Back in 1971, we started to see the first emergence of tabletop role-playing games. The miniature wargame Chainmail was released in 1971, and it would eventually become the basis of the classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
In 1974, the world was introduced to the first commercially available tabletop RPG: none other than Dungeons & Dragons. Dungeons & Dragons’ creators expected to sell about 50,000 copies of the game to a niche market, but as it turns out, the game exploded in popularity and gained its own long-lasting player and fan base. Dungeons & Dragons is a notable household name even today.
In the same year, another one of the first tabletop RPGs was released, called Empire of the Petal Throne. The other leader in tabletop RPGs brought about its own popular fan base and gained enough traction to be released commercially like Dungeons & Dragons.
The early tabletop role-playing games and leaders in the industry secured a spot for tabletop RPGs in the gaming industry as a whole. Nearly 50 years after the releases of the first tabletop RPGs, the genre of gaming has millions of players worldwide and an economic significance in the gaming industry.
Tabletop role-playing games were created well up until the 2010s, and new tabletop role-playing games are actually still being created and released today. While there are numerous tabletop RPGs out there from tons of different eras, there’s just something about those tabletop RPGs from the 1980s.
An Overview of the 6 Best 80’s Tabletop RPGs We Should Bring Back
Before we dive right into the best 80’s tabletop RPGs we should bring back, let’s give you a quick overview of the ones we’ll be discussing. We’ll be taking a look at the following 6 best 80’s RPGs:
- Marvel Super Heroes
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game
- Space Opera
- Call of Cthulhu
- Powers & Perils
Marvel Super Heroes
This iconic tabletop role-playing game set in the Marvel universe was released in 1984 under the name Marvel Super Heroes: The Heroic Role-Playing Game. It allowed its players to really assume the roles of their favorite superheroes. What could be better than that?
Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set was released in 1986, giving the game a new edge with upgrades like new rules for campaign level play and new character power levels. Once Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set was released, the original release was commonly referred to as the “basic” set of the game.
Marvel Super Heroes Game Features
In this tabletop RPG, you can choose to play as an already defined superhero or create your own. If you want to play as an already defined superhero, the game comes with 45 pre-defined hero cards. The cards show a full-body portrait of the superhero on the front and show the statistics of the superhero on the back.
Along with the cards, the game also comes with character tokens, 3-sided cutouts that can be assembled and stood up to allow players to become more immersed in the game. The maps provided with the game also help players engage with the game; double-sided, poster-sized maps show the street level of Marvel’s New York City and flip to show the interiors of key buildings or other settings.
Why We Should Bring Back Marvel Super Heroes
With the emergence and popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no doubt that Marvel’s characters are now more iconic than ever. If you needed some more persuasion on that, the Marvel movie Avengers: Endgame just became the highest-grossing movie of all time!
There’s no doubt why we should bring back the Marvel Super Heroes tabletop role-playing game. What could be better than getting to play as your favorite superheroes (or as a superhero of your own creation) during the age with so much love for Marvel and its characters?
Marvel Super Heroes creates such an immense world in its tabletop RPG with a lot of play options and customization options with classic beloved characters. It’s time to bring this 80’s tabletop role-playing game back!
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game
Another iconic name and more classic characters all in one tabletop role-playing game? You bet! Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is next on our list of tabletop RPGs to bring back. This classic role-playing game was released in 1987 and set in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game has 3 main editions of its rulebook, as well as Expanded Universe material. The sourcebooks of this tabletop RPG are still cited as references by Star Wars fans today as we near 2020.
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game Features
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game and its space opera settings offer an array of features for full immersion in the game’s universe. The game comes with a player’s guide, as well as a sample solo adventure and a feature adventure.
In the game, there’s a player called the Game Master who essentially runs the game world, while the other players play one character. Each character comes with its own features, skills, and equipment. Some characters can even use the Force!
Why We Should Bring Back Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game
In Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, players can expect to immerse themselves in a universe filled with awesome technology, heroes, villains, exotic aliens, and action-packed adventure. Who wouldn’t want to play that?
Although Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game may differ in a few minute ways from the ever-expanding Star Wars universe we know today from countless movies, books, and video games, it’s a great way to get back to the roots of Star Wars and experience the beloved saga in a time before it became hugely popular.
Space is a great place to be when it comes to tabletop role-playing games. The RPG Space Opera really reinforces that idea. Released in 1980, the role-playing game was created with the idea that its rules could be applied and adapted to really any imagined universe.
Space Opera gives its players the freedom to mold their universe into a popular science fiction universe like Dune or Star Wars or to mold their play to one they came up with themselves. The “system” and features included with Space Opera gives players everything they need to adapt their play however they wish.
Space Opera Game Features
To be able to give players everything they need to play their game in any imagined universe, Space Opera had to think of everything – and they did. Space Opera comes with basic rules for just about everything, including character creation, planet creation, society creation, starship construction, and combat instructions.
The features don’t stop there, though; Space Opera also features toys and equipment, monsters, robots, aliens, and other necessary components for the ultimate space adventure.
Character creation is huge in Space Opera, and it can take up to an hour or more just to create one character from the main character classes. The technology and combat systems are just as complex and open to interpretation and customization.
Why We Should Bring Back Space Opera
This tabletop role-playing game is so customizable and all-encompassing that it needs to make a comeback. Its allowance to be adapted to virtually any universe/setting gives it the edge that some other role-playing games may not have.
The versatility of Space Opera is a huge part of what makes it so special, and since it’s been nearly 40 years since it was released, that versatility can be even more important. Being able to get all the tools to role play in seemingly any setting and universe, all with one tabletop role-playing game set? Let’s bring that back!
Call of Cthulhu
This horror tabletop role-playing game has been called the best roleplaying game of all time by many a player since its release. In terms of popularity, it’s just about up there with the iconic Dungeons & Dragons.
Call of Cthulhu was released in 1981 and was based on the famous H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name. It’s often abbreviated to CoC. CoC’s premise is that the characters discover our universe is actually inherently evil and unfit for human existence; therefore, it’s filled with some unimaginable horrors.
Players engaging as characters may choose to rise up to the darkness by sacrificing their sanity and, ultimately, their lives – can they do it?
Call of Cthulhu Game Features
Call of Cthulhu introduced a new format for tabletop role-playing games. The creator of the game, Sandy Petersen, introduced what is known as “onion skin” with CoC. In other words, players will find interlocking layers of information and clues leading them to those dark conspiracies that will ultimately destroy the world.
Call of Cthulhu includes rules for the Keeper – the person who creates their own story or chooses a story for the rest of the players to embark on – as well as rules for its Investigators working their ways through the stories.
In Call of Cthulhu, players can expect to engage with monsters, magic, sickness, insanity, and other dark tropes of the horror genre. Sweaty palms and racing hearts aren’t technically included with CoC, but oftentimes, they arise from playing it anyways.
Why We Should Bring Back Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu is different from a lot of other tabletop role-playing games, and that makes it special. In a lot of other tabletop RPGs, players can expect to play characters that are classic heroes fighting the bad guys.
Their characters evolve and get better over time, making them often start out heroic and become more and more heroic. Call of Cthulhu is nearly the opposite: characters often die, may get eaten by a monster, may go insane – any number of undesirable fates.
Characters and players in Call of Cthulhu may actually devolve rather than evolve, much like we do in life as we get older and pass on. It may be somewhat bleak to some, but that’s life. Call of Cthulhu not only induces some heart-racing and brow-sweating fear, but it can also teach us a little about life – and we should bring that back.
Powers & Perils
This 80’s tabletop role-playing game with a name that has a striking resemblance to Dungeons & Dragons is next on our list of RPGs that need to make a comeback. Powers & Perils, abbreviated to P&P, was released after much anticipation in 1984.
In this tabletop RPG, players and characters can expect to take part in adventures in the game’s setting: the Perilous Lands. P&P is a very complex game system, featuring in-depth skill-based character capabilities and a spell-point magic system.
Powers & Perils Game Features
This complex game is complete with five rule books that describe the game’s characters, combat rules, movement, magic, surface world, underworld, creatures, treasures, magic items, and even more (yes, even more!).
The second box of P&P was also released, containing three more rule books and more adventures. Players can expect to create complex characters who navigate several complex fantasy worlds for long-lasting adventures.
Why We Should Bring Back Powers & Perils
Powers & Perils is so complex, it can lead to an infinite amount of play possibilities. We need to bring that back from the shadows!
Powers & Perils met its own peril shortly after its release; it leaves a nostalgic legacy today, but it was chalked up as a sort of “failure” for its creators. Overpricing, strong competition and come plagiarism issues led to P&P’s creators, Avalon, to completely drop the line of games and related content.
Although Powers & Perils wasn’t the greatest feat for the company that created and released it, it was still a highly immersive world with complexities that could draw all of its players in. We need more of that.
Our sixth 80’s tabletop RPG that should be brought back is Aftermath!. This RPG was considered the first serious post-apocalyptic role-playing game and was released in 1981.
Aftermath! is a game that immerses its players in a harsh post-apocalyptic world, where the very basic necessities like shelter, water, and food have to be found and fought for. The game is characterized by its long play times and very complex and extreme detail.
The Game Master in Aftermath! can stimulate and steer the game in the ways they desire, but the game is often said to take on a vibe not much different from the Mad Max movies.
Aftermath! Game Features
Aftermath! has been criticized for its complex details and rules, but many argue that’s what makes it so special. Aftermath! includes 3 rulebooks, an introductory scenario/adventure, character sheets, reference sheets, counters, and a feedback sheet.
Aftermath! rates its characters on a set of six statistics that include will, wit, speed, strength, deftness, and health. Ratings range from 1 (on the lowest end) to 40 (at the highest end). Characters can use the game’s combat system and skill advancement, and everything the player needs to know about his or her character is included in the character sheet provided by the game.
Why We Should Bring Back Aftermath!
Let’s face it: in today’s day and age, we love apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic content. Take the movie World War Z or the Stephen King book The Stand, for example. We’ve even got post-apocalyptic video games like Fallout.
all the post-apocalyptic content we’ve got, we need to bring back the
post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG. Aftermath!
is the perfect option.
Ready to Help Us Bring Back these 80’s Tabletop RPGs? Here’s Where You Can Get Them
The good news about most of these 6 80’s tabletop RPGs that need to be brought back is that we actually can bring them back. Many of them can still be purchased and played today! Are you ready to help us bring back these 6 iconic 80’s tabletop RPG’s we’ve been talking about? Let’s walk you through where you can get them.
First Things First: Research Before You Buy
Before we dive right in on where you can get your own 80’s tabletop role-playing game, we want to note that buying tabletop RPGs can get tricky. Tabletop RPGs are notorious for adding more features and content after the first release of the games, and this resulted in a ton of products.
When looking to buy a tabletop RPG, research before you buy! Complete boxed sets of tabletop role-playing games are arguably the best for you to purchase, as they have all the necessary components to start playing the game. You can add features from there. Make sure to look at the descriptions of things, as you may end up with something like just a rule book or storyline instead of the actual entire game.
Where to Get Marvel Super Heroes
The basic set of Marvel Super Heroes we discussed can be found on one of the internet’s favorite eCommerce sites, eBay. This particular seller has the game listed for $129.99 with an $11.99 shipping charge. It’s listed as anew condition, too!
Likewise, another basic set of Marvel Super Heroes can be found on Mercari for $62.00 plus $5.25 in shipping. It’s listed as being in good condition.
A used version of the advanced box set of Marvel Super Heroes can also be found on eBay, listed for $139.99 plus a $15.00 shipping charge.
Where to Get Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game
Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game may just be a little easier to find than Marvel Super Heroes. A 30th Anniversary edition of the tabletop role-playing game can be found on Amazon for $47.96 plus free one-day shipping for Amazon Prime members.
Another 30th Anniversary edition of the game can be found at major retailer Walmart for $54.99. There’s an added perk of free delivery should you choose to order it online instead of in-store.
Where to Get Space Opera
The tabletop role-playing game Space Opera may be a little trickier to find than some other tabletop RPGs. It may be easiest to find Space Opera from online sellers rather than in stores.
A used condition boxed set of Space Opera can be found on eBay for $34.96 plus $11.20 in shipping.
Where to Get Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu starter sets are pretty abundant online, but other components of the game that can be added to it may need to be purchased separately. The starter kits are said to contain everything you need to begin playing Call of Cthulhu. You may just want to add to your game with more products.
You can get a Call of Cthulhu starter kit from Amazon for only $22.49 with free two-day shipping for Prime members. You can also get a starter kit from eBay. A used set will cost you $17.99 with no added shipping cost, where a brand new set will cost you $24.99 plus a $5.99 shipping charge.
Where to Get Powers & Perils
Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to be able to find your own copy of Powers & Perils unless it’s one someone still has from the ’80s. Powers & Perils was dropped in the mid 1980s, and original productions are hard to find.
If you manage to get your hands on a Powers & Perils tabletop RPG, consider yourself a lucky one! Maybe have yourself, parents and friends take a look in their garages, basements, and storage spaces to see if they’ve got a copy.
Where to Get Aftermath!
Aftermath! is also a role-playing game that’s somewhat difficult to get your hands on, but it’s definitely possible! If you’re looking for your own copy of Aftermath!, you can purchase it from DriveThruRPG for $12.00 normally and $9.00 on sale. However, that’s just an overview of the game – you may want a full set.
You can get a full boxed set of Aftermath! from Amazon for $129.99 plus $12.99 in shipping. It’s listed as used but in very good condition. A list of other Aftermath! products and scenarios can be found at Wayne’s Books at a variety of locations and prices.