Worlds of Wonder (1982)

For my money, 1982’s World of Wonder is the first serious attempt at the creation of a generic, modular roleplaying system that would work regardless of genre. It is an expansion of 1980’s Basic Role-Playing, a brief pamphlet of skill-based rules derived from the first edition of RuneQuest.

The box consists of Basic Role-Playing and three additional rulebooks: MagicWorld, SuperWorld and FutureWorld. Characters can be made using any of the four books and can cross freely between the three worlds thanks to the City of Wonder, a kind of trans-dimensional crossroads (think the Floating Vagabond bar or Planescape’s Sigil, but with a sci-fi district).

MagicWorld is an attempt to bring the RuneQuest rules more in line with a Dungeons & Dragons experience (that chimera is pretty sweet, too). FutureWorld mirrors aspects of Traveller, the most popular science fiction RPG of the time. SuperWorld is superheroes in the vein of Champions.

Worlds of Wonder never took off, at least not in the way Steve Jackson’s GURPS (Generic Universal Role-Playing System) would a few years later in 1986, but with Basic Role-Playing forming the backbone of the majority of Chaosium’s games – RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, Nephilim, ElfQuest and more – its legacy is still a huge one.

Bonus: One of the cool perks of collecting stuff like this is finding cryptic messages written by past owners. What happened at 4:13 on September 18, 1984? (It was a Tuesday, if that helps…)

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