RPG Index
Buck Rogers
Dragon 157
Launch Issue
TSR 3562
Boxed Set
TSR 3563
TSR 3565
TSR 3566
TSR 3567
TSR 3569
TSR 3571
TSR 3573
TSR 3574
TSR 3575
TSR 3578
TSR 3579
TSR 3582
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This page last modified by Jens-Arthur Leirbakk

There was actually released quite a lot of material for Buck Rogers. Perhaps not compared to the thousands of pages that were released by TSR for, say, AD&D, but still a few hundred pages' worth.

This is not an attempt to list them all. Not by a long shot. What this is, though, is a description of the Buck Rogers material I possess, and a discussion of the contents of the various scenarios and supplements.

What I really, really would like, though, would be the supplements regarding the Outer Planets. There is an apparent gap in the material I have, judging from the TSR reference numbers, and there's a conspicuously large hole regarding the ring systems of Jupiter, Neptun and Uranus, as well as any information about what activity - if any - that exists on Pluto/Charon. There's a distinct possibility, however, that supplements were planned on those subjects, but that they got canceled before their releases because the Buck Rogers line got canceled.

I would really like any hard information on this. If anyone's got any firm facts at all, please do [drop me a line].

Remember, though, that what I present is all very subjective - because I am very subjective. Oh, sure, not all the time, but when it comes to one of my all-time favourite game systems, I reserve the right to be subjective about it.

Dragon Magazine issue 157
Dragon Magazine, issue 157:

"What on earth has this to do with Buck Rogers", you might ask. Well, this particular issue of Dragon Magazine just happens to mark the launch date of the Buck Rogers Boxed Set, at the very least. There were two articles regarding Buck Rogers in this issue - I'll type them up soon - but more to the point, this makes it easier to peg the launch date of the Buck Rogers boxed set.

May 1990. That's when it all started - at least when it comes to this incarnation of Buck Rogers. Obviously, the TV series and whatnots were way earlier, but the boxed set? May 1990.

First article, by Kim Mohan.

Boxed Set Cover
TSR 3562 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century boxed set:

This boxed set was the first Buck Rogers material I purchased, and the first that I know of. I was under the impression, though, that TSR was at that time in the habit of designating round series numbers to their 'baseline' products, and the 3562 designation indicates that there might have been two other products released before the boxed set was released. It's just a theory, though - I have nothing to back it up with.

It contained Characters and Combat, The Technology Book, and The World Book - all of which are discussed further down below.

In addition to this, the boxed set contained four large, full-colour maps of various locations of interest as well doubling as battle mats for conflicts, twenty-four full-colour cards of spaceships and NPCs, a sheet of die-cut ship counters and markers, and a foldout referee's screen - and a set of dice.

All in all, the Buck Rogers Boxed Set really did contain absolutely everything needed to play the game. I believe I've got the set of dice that came with the game somewhere - still in their plastic bag, never opened. Either that, or the set of white dice that I'm still unsure of where came from are those dice.

Characters and Combat
Characters and Combat:
This 96 page book was a part of the boxed set, and sets down the rules for creating a character (complete with THAC0, AC, class special abilities and the works) as well as explaining ship-to-ship combat, and providing rules for building one's own space ships.

As an aside, I don't think I've ever read this book back-to-back. My knowledge of a couple of areas - especially ship-to-ship combat - is actually very sketchy. I have, however, been looking for a few rules that I thought would be there - for instance, the difficulty ratings of ship maneuvers that a rocketjock might attempt with his ship or fighter - but I've never found that kind of rules in this book. Not to be lost, I merely implemented a few maneuvers from the good old Star Wars d6 system, and then just winged it a lot. What can I say? We had fun, nevertheless...

The Technology Book
The Technology Book:
This 32 page book was a part of the boxed set, and contains a listing of all the special equipment available in the boxed set. Obviously, later accessories and scenarios would elaborate and expand upon the information available, but this was actually the most popular book when we ran our first campaign in Buck Rogers - far more interesting to look at toys rather than try to understand some obscure combat rule reference.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the entries here has a flavor text that helps bring about that special Buck Rogers feeling - as well as listing not only the weight of the object discussed, but also the physical dimensions of said object. How long, exactly, wide and so forth a specific item was actually became a point a couple of times when we were gaming (how long is the barrel of my laser pistol, exactly?), and it was reassuring to have a reference as thorough as The Technology Book at those times. It also allowed us to extrapolate information at times, as well.

The World Book
The World Book:
This 64 page book was a part of the boxed set, and contains an overview of the political situation as the game starts play (2456, if my memory serves correctly), as well as a discussion of the physical locations in the Solar System - Earth, Mars, Venus and so on.

Much of the information given here is sketchy, but it did its job - give enough information to let a game master start his campaign any way he chose. Later scenarios and accessories would of course elaborate or perhaps change some of the information given here, but it was an excellent and crucial part of the boxed set.

The Space Ruler
The Infamous Clear Plastic Ruler:
This is a scan of the infamous clear plastic ruler that came with the boxed set. Meant to be used as a ruler to tell how much fuel various trips with the space ship would cost as well as what the message/response time between various locales would be, we never did understand how to use it the first time we played Buck Rogers - but when we revisited Buck Rogers a few years later, it was all painfully obvious.

Of course, there had been a few physics classes in-between, so it was quite understandable that this little piece of plastic remained an arcane mystery for us that first time out. A little anecdote related to this: My first encounter with a Herzsprung-Russel diagram was when I bought Space Master - and at that time I was only in 6th grade!

Scenario: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
TSR 3563 Official Game Adventure XXVCA1: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century:

This is a 64 page book in the familiar loose cover, map insert, booklet format. This was actually used on nearly all of the supplemental material that came for Buck Rogers. The inside of the cover of the product would often contain maps and stats for characters that could be used, as well as overviews of pertinent ships, gennies and suchlike - in essence, a sort of custom-made GM screen for that material (adventure, accessory, whatever). The map insert would usually be quite large and in full four colors, and the booklet would be liable to be quickly torn up as it had no cover to protect itself with. Oh well, the maps were perhaps worth it.

In case you wondered - the circular tab placed on the scanned cover indicates that I got this scenario second-hand. It had hardly been used, however, and I didn't even know it existed, so there.

The scenario itself (or Official Game Adventure, if you want me to use the TSR parlance) is actually very long. Pick up any number of scenarios you've bought for any other game system. Is it 64 pages or more long? Does it have a full color map insert?

Usually, the answer would be: 'no'. As such, the various Buck Rogers materials usually offer excellent value for your money - even if all the booklets have only B/W art inserts. It's not as if the players should see any of those pieces anyways, and the map is in glorious color.

The scenario revolves around a chase of a traitor inside NEO, and as such provides quite a bit of material on the Newporg Arcology (where the chase starts), as well as the surrounding sprawls. It is meant for near-beginning characters, around 1st to 3rd level, and introduces a few choice pieces of technology (including the HiSTAV, a tracked and armored van) and gennies (including the Jonah, which is a gene-modified whale acting as a submarine). The scenario will probably end up in space where the traitor to NEO is - hopefully - defeated.

I haven't actually run the scenario, so I can't tell whether it's a good one or not.

Supplement: Mars in the 25th Century
TSR 3565 Official Game Accessory 25CR1: Mars in the 25th Century:

This 64 page supplement, as well as its sister supplement Earth in the 25th Century, are actually the reason why I believed that the scenario [Buck Rogers in the 25th Century] was, in fact, a supplement rather than a scenario.

Physically, the design of the two are identical, down to the loose cover with diagrams and whatnots on the inside fold of the cover, the full color map insert, and the 64 pages of the booklet. However, Mars in the 25th Century is a different beast altogether.

Obviously, Mars in the 25th Century concentrates on the status of Mars. As Mars is run by RAM, much of the book concentrates on how RAM is organized, who is running RAM, as well as providing profiles of various personalities that are part of RAM. Some new items and rules are also provided for, for instance life suspension, cybergenetics and various types of ship sensors, as well as a few creatures and statistics on various RAM soldiers.

Personally, I think this is a mediocre supplement. Though fairly well written (certainly better than I would be able to!) as well as professional in packaging, it is lacking that certain something. Though there's certainly enough information on various parts of RAM - for instance, the judicial system is dealt with over several pages - something as interesting as Martian Free States is rather sketchily outlined. It is Buck Rogers, so I wouldn't miss it for the world, but it doesn't really contain essential information. The tech items are fairly good, however - but the description given in the flavor text and the statistics given in boxed text doesn't always match. Minor, yes, but oh so annoying.

Scenario: NEO in the 25th Century
TSR 3566 Official Game Adventure XXVCA2: NEO in the 25th Century:

Again the loose cover, map insert, 64 page booklet format. No wonder I got confused when the same format was used for supplements, scenarios and what had you. I really do like the full color maps, though. I've never used them, mind you, but they're pretty to look at.

This time, the subject is a MacGuffin hunt - with a twist: The Player Characters are the subject of the MacGuffin hunt! Running around in the Asteroid Belt (mostly), they meet a wide variety of individuals, as well as new gennies and what have you.

The idea is interesting, and the writing is at times inspired. However, there's sometimes a slight discrepancy between the flavor text and the boxed statistics (again) - for instance, one particular NPC doctor is described as a "bug-eyed, tubular-tongued gennie", but is denoted as a Martian in his accompanying stat box. Minor, yes, but these minor details soon get annoying. At least all TSR products are very-well proof read - there are few to none spelling mistakes to detract from the fun. Not like HERO products at all.

The appendices are very, very short. It seems that some - perhaps a lot - of information was cut to make this scenario 64 pages. Perhaps the art took to much space - what do I know?

Anyways, the scenario is entertaining but seems disjointed. I haven't played it, though, so I really don't know how it plays.

Accessory: Earth in the 25th Century
TSR 3566 Official Game Accessory XXVCR2: Earth in the 25th Century:

Loose cover, full color map insert, 64 page booklet. 'Nuff said.

More inspired writing than in the [Mars] supplement, this supplement expands on the various arcologies, sprawls, and other features of good ol' Earth. Of course, a few choice items of technology and gennies are added as well, though some too-specific stats make the personal computers offered there seem a bit ridiculous: "Wrist Computers, these marvels of computer technology (...) are the equivalent of 20th century main frame computers (...) hold one gigabyte of memory". One gig? Give me a break. We'll have those calculator-sized computers within three to five years at this rate, and not in 500 years... It would be better if they made the "Megapulse" copout of Shadowrun, which then avoids this type of errors.

Anyways, that's just entertaining and does not really detract from the supplement itself. I really like this supplement, and if I had to choose between this supplement and the Mars supplement, it wouldn't really be a contest.

Scenario: Deimos Mandate
TSR 3566 Official Game Adventure XXVCA3: Deimos Mandate:

This scenario is presented in the loose cover 32 page no map insert format.

In this scenario, the player characters are sent on a mission of mercy - to rescue a certain NEO sympathizer from the clutches of RAM. The catch? Said sympathizer is on Mars itself! This does make things a bit more ... interesting for the player characters.

Deimos Mandate is a fairly linear scenario, which seems fairly streamlined - though to a certain extent, characters are railroaded along. The Mars accessory is useful, but by no means necessary to play this scenario. This is also the scenario where a certain Terrine is introduced - Marcus Wulfe. Over the next few scenarios released, Marcus Wulfe would be a recurring NPC - a formidable warrior, always striving to catch, mutilate or straight out kill the player characters if they take a wrong turn somewhere.

This is what I would rate as a good scenario. There are plenty of maps - though there is no map insert - which should simplify running the various encounters. It is a bit combat-heavy, though, with few possibilities of fast talking - but plenty of swashbuckling action and John Woo style firefights.

Scenario: Sargasso Of Space
TSR 3571 Official Game Adventure XXVCS2: Sargasso Of Space:

A 32-page loose cover format, this adventure has the "other" type of packaging that TSR had on these scenarios. No full color map insert in this one either.

It is the second in a loosely-interconnected series of scenarios, where they are harried by a RAM Terrine called Marcus Wulfe. Interestingly enough, his statistics vary in the various scenarios - not just levels and skills. Oh well, one can't have control over it all, I guess.

Sargasso of Space is a MacGuffin-hunt. A prototype NEO cruiser has been stolen from a ship yard by a previously unknown type of gennies, and it is up to the player characters to find them. Though the Solar System is a large place, these gennies happen to be of quite an unique appearance, and moreover are RAM deserters, so they've made for the Belt.

Though this adventure expands a bit on the Belt, the Trojans (asteroids in two specific Lagrange points between Jupiter and Sol) and provides a new gennie, what it really does is to introduce the concept of "bottles", custom-built space stations that provide a specific climate, terrain or whatever in a simulated environment. A bottle might be anything - from a completely submerged environment (though it would be a hassle to get that much water to a specific point in space) up to and including custom-built resorts for the fantastically rich.

I peg the scenario itself as fair to good, though I must admit I haven't played this one either.

Scenario: A Matter of Gravitol
TSR 3573 Official Game Adventure XXVCS3: A Matter of Gravitol:

Departing from the thus far usual format, this scenario is a mere 32 pages long. It does have the familiar loose cover with a lot of information, but it does not have any map inserts. Bit of a letdown, that.

This scenario does contain the stats of a few prominent NPCs - Carlton Turabian is perhaps the more familiar of those, and the leader of the Salvation III space station - as well as some new equipment and a lot of ship statistics.

Actually, this scenario is more heavily oriented toward ship-to-ship combat than any of the previous offerings, but does contain opportunities for a bit off cross-country driving and a few fire fights as well.

As the title suggests, this scenario deals with what might happen if someone managed to synthesize a form of Gravitol (a drug used to counteract the negative effects of zero gravity) that could be produced anywhere in the Solar System, and not just on Venus. Mayhem, that's what. One would imagine that RAM would not stop at anything to get its filthy hands on something like that - and, indeed, RAM doesn't. Our intrepid heroes just happen to be in the thick of it again, though, so with a little luck everything's sorted out in the end.

I don't really like prepackaged scenarios. I do like, however, to use one and then modify some details of it to make it my own - or to make it fit better in the campaign. This one, however, is one of the better I've read for Buck Rogers. It doesn't have the disjointed feeling of [NEO in the 25th Century], and feels less rough around the edges than that scenario. That, and the scenario at least had a title that gave an inkling into what it was all about.

As an aside - the cover art for this scenario was also used for the Buck Rogers computer game "Matrix Cubed". And I've always thought that the big brute in the background looks like a worker/desert ape crossbreed...

Accessory: No Humans Allowed
TSR 3574 Official Game Accessory XXVCR6: No Humans Allowed:

Soft cover but with glued instead of stapled spine, this accessory is about 130 pages.

This is the ultimate accessory for gennies and high-level Buck Rogers campaigns. The opening pages provide a simplified THAC0 chart for all gennies and careers available, as well as an expanded gennie career selection chart. Not only does this supplement provide a lot of information about various genesplicing firms, it also compiles all the information available on a wealth of gennies that were presented in earlier accessories and adventures. To top it all off, there are also a few adventure hooks hidden here and there in the text, though there is no specific section on adventure hooks. It doesn't matter, though, as this is one book that any serious Buck RPG fan really can't do without. If at all possible, get your hands on this one!

Now for the few detractions. Here and there, there are a few apparent contradictions between the stat modifiers given in earlier supplements and/or scenarios and this one - but I consider this work to be the more canon of them all. Furthermore, there's not always a complete correspondence between the flavor text and the game statistics. The Cadrite, for instance, is described along the lines of a "hideously powerful gennie", but the game stats makes it about par to slightly superior to a first level human (Terran). It doesn't matter, though.

Did I mention that the cover is hella cool as well?

Accessory: Luna
TSR 3575 Official Game Accessory XXVCR4: Luna:

64 page loose cover full color insert variant, this supplement details Luna.

Described as the Switzerland of the Buck Rogers universe, certain similarities to Israel also exist. Well-armed and not afraid to use it, Luna is the economic power house of the 25th century - and this supplement details a lot of what you need to know to run a campaign on Luna.

I like this supplement. I really can't point out why - it all just makes sense to me. An especially hilarious bit of text is in the Luna Bureaucracy flowchart, which allows the GM to come up with fair-sounding but utterly ridiculous problems when the players are trying to navigate the intricacies of Luna bureaucracy. If Lunarians don't like something or someone for some reason, they tend to bury it in red tape - in the notion that if you can make it hard enough, people tend to give up.

The "in-depth" sections also give very detailed information about a specific facet mentioned earlier in the text, and really shows a GM how to incorporate the material detailed in this supplement into his campaign. The Mars supplement really needs a rewrite to make it more like this supplement in that respect.

Personally, I rank this as a must-have accessory. Obviously, as the entire Buck Rogers line is out of print, it is better to just buy all the stuff you can find rather than passing one up because I said it wasn't as good - better safe than sorry, eh?

Scenario: Phases of the Moon
TSR 3578 Official Game Adventure XXVCS4: Phases of the Moon:

This scenario is presented in the familiar loose cover 32 page booklet no map insert format.

The scenario itself deals with brainwashing - in particular, the brainwashing of a certain NEO officer. When this officer, as a result of the brainwashing he has received, announces that he wishes to defect to RAM, the player characters get involved in the case as their commanding officer doesn't like that in general. In particular, a lot of NEO spies, moles, and undercover agents may be compromised if the NEO officer is allowed to spill his guts to the RAM organization.

This scenario takes place mostly on Luna, and incorporates a few of the special conditions that Lunarians live under.

Though I haven't played the scenario, I'd rank this as one of the better scenarios that I've read for Buck Rogers. It is written by the late Nigel Findley, whom I fondly remember as one of my favourite authors for Shadowrun.

Accessory: The Belt
TSR 3579 Official Game Accessory XXVCR5: The Belt:

A 64 page loose cover full color map insert format supplement, The Belt details the asteroid belt and the various people, organizations and locales that make it worth visiting - or make it worth giving the place a wide berth.

The Belt follows pretty much the by now well-established formula of detailing a few places, giving some notes on the society of the Belters, and introduces a couple of gennies. Interestingly enough, those gennies can also be found in the [No Humans Allowed] accessory, which has an earlier reference.

What The Belt does do that isn't covered elsewhere, is in principle to introduce the game mechanic of training packages. There are two training packages offered in one top-secret NEO base that functions as the Top Gun academy of NEO, and there player characters can get skill points for free - provided they complete (and survive, obviously) the course. An interesting mechanic that might warrant further development.

I rate this supplement as somewhat better than average, as it is clear that it has gone through extensive proofing. Something that's a bit interesting - on the cover, there's no primary author listed, and on the first page, all development and editing is just listed "TSR Staff". Strange.

Accessory: Hardware
TSR 3582 Official Game Accessory 25CR7: Hardware:

Stapled cover and 64 pages of joy, Hardware is a new Technology Book.

Oh yeah, baby! That's actually my first thought when I saw the cover of this book. I didn't get disappointed when I cracked it open and just sort of leafed through the book. Hardware is, along with [No Humans Allowed], the accessory for Buck Rogers - apart from the boxed set, of course. Introducing oodles of toys, guns, and gadgets, it is hard to pick out something that's better than other things.

Need stats for submarines? It's in Hardware. Need stats for a laser sight? UV sight? FIR laser rifle? Automatic Rocket Rifles? It's all in here. A treasure trove of new ship-scale weapons, new fighters, prototype drive systems, and just stuff (Venusian Lowlander Suits, for instance), it's just a must-have.

Back in the days when the only computer I had was an Amiga, I actually typed the entire book as a text document and released it through sending the disk to some friends that I swapped with. Nowadays, that niche is taken by PDF files - but I'll not go there yet. I didn't know copyright law as well as I do now, back then. But this supplement is so good, it makes my teeth ache.

I thought I had lost all access to this supplement at one point, actually. I don't really own this supplement - a friend of mine does. He had lost all his RPG stuff - or so he believed.

I was dumbfounded when he said that he'd suddenly started finding RPG stuff in the attic and in the cellar, and had piled all of it in a cardboard box - and if I was interested I might have a look. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I found Hardware. I've currently got that cardboard box on an extended loan - though he doesn't play RPGs any more (and I do), he hasn't had the heart to completely sever all of his ties to those golden days. Me, I'm just as happy either way. I've got Hardware!