“The Flying Citadel”, Keith Parkinson (after Magritte?), The Art of the DragonLance Saga, TSR, 1987; originally for the 1984 AD&D module DL4: Dragons of Desolation. Even with the knotwork frame overlay this cover shows most of the original painting with all 8 dragons, unlike the cropped version used on the module. (Previously: The Tomb of Derkin)
World-building idea to steal: An inverted ziggurat dungeon marketplace in a platform of rock floating above the city (Ad for “Game’s” store in Casus Belli 1, April 1980) Game’s Paris location was in the Forum des Halles, the underground mall that inspired the illustration.
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…)