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Thursday, May 17, 2012

ADB does RPGs

Steve Cole writes:

Back in 1979, two gamers (Stephen V. Cole and Allen D. Eldridge) started a game company called Task Force Games. One of their first games was a board game called Star Fleet Battles, based on the Original Series of Star Trek
. (The game was legal under a license from Franz Joseph Designs. Later, Paramount also gave TFG a license to use some Star Trek elements.) The two talked frequently about doing an RPG based on Star Fleet Battles, but never actually did.

In 1983, Task Force Games was divided into two companies. Allen D. Eldridge owned Task Force Games, which was incorporated, and Stephen V. Cole started Amarillo Design Bureau. ADB owned the copyrights to Star Fleet Battles and other games of the Star Fleet Universe; Task Force Games had the publication rights. Plans for a Star Fleet RPG continued to go nowhere, but Task Force Games did publish several one-off RPGS including Supervillains. There was also a series of RPG books called Central Casting and one called Traps which were published by TFG.

Allen Eldridge sold the company to some investors in California, and they published the first Prime Directive RPG (based on Star Trek) in 1993, based on a new RPG system they wrote (no doubt borrowing bits and pieces from other RPGs, as all game designers do). TFG published three expansions/supplements to this game: Prime Adventures #1, Uprising, and the UFP (Federation) Sourcebook. They also published dozens of board game products done by ADB. Sadly, TFG died in the late 1990s.

Amarillo Design Bureau became incorporated in 1999 and bought out some parts of TFG, and transformed itself from a design company to a publishing company. They remain in business to this day, doing dozens of boardgame products, a card game, a line of starship miniatures, and the re-launched Prime Directive series. It was the philosophy of ADB to not invent a new RPG engine, but to license existing engines. They got a license for GURPS and did three books for GURPS 3rd edition (Prime Directive, Module Prime Alpha, and Klingons). Later, they did a GURPS 4th edition version of Prime Directive and Klingons, and did new GURPS books titled Romulans and Federation. They have also done a d20-based version of three of the books and a d20-modern-based version of the four books. Their theory is to do more books (titles such as Tholians, Final Frontier, and Orion Pirates are in development) as well versions of their books for as many other game systems as they can. The problem is that the people who own and run ADB, Inc., are not RPG players and have no experience with the RPG engines they want to use, so they hire outside contractors to do the conversions of the books. Most of these outside contractors have been slow to deliver manuscripts. Given the problems they had editing the d20 books, they hired Jean Sexton, a professional editor and proofreader who is familiar with many RPGs to manage the projects, but progress is slow, yielding two or three books per year. The company would love to publish 10 or 12 a year, but the limitation is in getting them properly written and expertly edited.

ADB is branching out to launch a line of Traveller:Prime Directive books. The first book to be converted will be the core rulebook, of course, but the other sourcebooks should follow regularly. Keep an eye out for further developments as we will keep everyone apprised of our progress. If you want to read more about the Star Fleet Universe, check out our Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive & Roleplaying. It is available for free from e23 (http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=ADB8000) and from DriveThru RPG (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/99676/Introduction-to-the-Star-Fleet-Universe%3A-Prime-Directive-and-Roleplaying).