Monday, April 12, 2010

Fever Dreams and Gangbusters

Over the weekend I had the unique pleasure of suffering from a pretty severe fever that had me strapped to the couch for most of the day, ignoring my wife and child as they went about the business of life. What I did instead was wallow in fever flashbacks to other great fevers I've had in the past. The most notable one was, without question, the Great Fever of Winter '84 of which many a bard has struck a tune in the ensuing years.

At the time, I was a freshman in high school, and a friend had left his copy of Gangbusters at my house so that my brother and I could read it and we could start playing. We had all gotten new rpgs for christmas that year--I got Star Fronteirs, my neighbor got Gamma World (which we found ridiculous), this friend was Gangbusters and someone else, I can't remember who, received Top Secret. Yes, all TSR products. The selection was pretty limited at the drugstore in our town that was also our sole source of comic books, video rentals, and after-school candy. Such is life in a northern town. Ah hey ma ma...

Anyway, I rember lying about reading the Gangbusters rule book whilst suffering this great fever and being most impressed with its combat system. Shotgun blasts and machine gun bursts were intriguing--and I credit these rules for finally distinguishing, for me, the difference between a rifle and a shotgun. We went on to play a lot of pitched shootouts, inevitably involving a car chase; G-men and gangsters alike firing away from the running boards of their Packards and Studebakers.

While the milieu failed to capture our imaginations--robbing banks and bootlegging served merely as an excuse to funnel our adolescent bloodlust--the combat seeemd fast, furious and fun. And for that reason, I pretty much cribbed it intact for my Red Dawn/Road Warrior inspired Post apocalypitic rpg that I developed later that summer.

Now, 26 years later, Gangbusters doesn't crop up much in old school discussions that I've seen, and I suspect that others quickly tired of the lack of fecundity of the gangbuster premise--if they paid it any heed at all--just as we did. But I'd love to find the old rules and see if the combat system was really as frenetic as it seems in my memory. Or maybe it's just the fever talking.

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