Buck Rogers XXVc (1990)

Here it is, the RPG no one asked for: Buck Rogers XXVc (1990).

If you’ve read about TSR’s largely idiotic history, you probably know at least some of the back story. The woman who ousted Gygax was the granddaughter of John F. Dille, the publisher of the Buck Rogers comic strip (not even the damn creator, Philip Francis Nowlan, just the guy who owned the strips), and in some egregious self-dealing, she had TSR develop a board game (1988) and this RPG out of the IP. She initially stuck her brother, Flint Dille, on it (he who was responsible for the Dragonstrike video and all those D&D products with audio CDs inside), but he couldn’t deliver, so it fell to more capable hands.

Again, no one wanted this. The main touchstone for Buck at that point was the corny two-season TV series (1979), and that was primarily a cheap knock-off of Star Wars. But the boss wants what the boss wants (I should note, however, that the popular theory that Star Frontiers was killed so that Buck could live doesn’t hold water — the dates don’t line up). The thing is, though — being unwanted doesn’t mean bad. Buck Roger XXVc…is not bad. Believe it or not.

It’s basically 2E D&D with a sci-fi skin. It isn’t elegant and there is no thematic unity between the setting and the mechanics and the ranged combat is a mess, but it hangs together all right. And there is a lot of fantastic setting stuff in here, supported by excellent art (the art is legit far better than your average 2E Forgotten Realms book). Hostile AI’s, billionaire’s downloading their consciousnesses, evil megacorporations, corrupt governments, freedom fighters, pirates. There’s a lot of good stuff that was basically smothered at birth because it was Buck Rogers and no one cared.

What I’m saying is that maybe we should be so quick to dismiss a game designed by Mike Pondsmith, even if it was for a DOA property.

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