The second volume of Shannon Appelcline’s history of the RPG industry is every bit as large as the first. It’s a much bigger subject though, since the 1980s saw a lot of activity up and down. But TSR and GDW were very prominent parts of this decade, and were already covered in the first volume. This is also the decade of most of my role-playing activity, so there’s a lot of familiar names here, and many more I remember from ads, but never knew someone who actually got the products.

There’s another 23 major histories here, plus six ‘mini-histories’, and two magazine histories (these really need to be in the table of contents). This is about twice as many entries as the previous volume, which shows that most of them aren’t as long, though there’s still some very substantial chapters.

The biggest omission I noted in this volume was Car Wars. Appelcline passes over it quickly as a board game that Steve Jackson Games did very well with. However, it really exists in that halfway realm of the ‘proto-RPG’ or ‘hybrid game’ that he explores a little in the first volume. While the people in Car Wars are largely not the focus, there is a skill system, and there is character advancement through those skills. Moreover, the expected mode of play was for characters to persist from session to session. Sunday Drivers (expanded and reprinted from The Space Gamer, and later retitled Crash City) was labeled as ‘a role-playing supplement for Car Wars‘ and Convoy (reprinted from the first issue of Autoduel Quarterly) is a solo adventure (though not for one character) not unlike the ones produced for Tunnels & Trolls. Perhaps a large history of the RPG industry isn’t the place to meditate on just what constitutes an RPG, but I think looking at the edge cases, especially where play styles and fan groups start bleeding over into each other, is instructive.

While there’s several companies I’m very familiar with in here, they’re concentrated in the early parts of the book. In the last two (of six) parts, the company I’m most familiar with (DGP) I only really knew of after the fact, and I never got anything by New Infinities and only one from R. Talsorian (Dream Park, though I certainly enjoyed playing Teenagers From Outer Space). Again, it’s an extremely informative book that covers a lot of ground well.