By 1984, most everybody had seen the masterpiece pulp adventure movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, and its sequel/prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. TSR Hobbies (the company behind the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game) secured the license to create an RPG setting based on the characters from the Spielberg movies.
The Adventures of Indiana Jones resulted. The box set had (almost) all of the elements for a smash hit for TSR. The 1930s two-fisted pulp setting was exquisitely gameable. Designer David Cook made the game rules-lite – for the 1980s – with fast gameplay to reflect the action in the movies. And few characters were more recognizable than Indiana Jones.
Alas, the stars did not align. Sales were poor, and after the release of several modules in 1985, the line was cancelled.
Let’s dive into the set, and I’ll talk about the controversies alongside the box contents.
The Adventures of Indiana Jones [BOX SET]
1984 … David Cook … TSR 6570
CONTENTS: Rules booklet; Evidence File; World of INDIANA JONES Map; Referee’s Screen; 3-D figures.
Due to rights issues, there is no (legal) PDF available. I’m not aware of any OSR style Indiana Jones retroclone rules (like ZeFRS is to TSR’s Conan RPG).
To see the whole TSR IJ product line, visit my Indiana Jones page at my RPG Reference Site. The later West End Games IJ RPG is detailed there as well.
The Rulebook is definitely of the style “Learn As You Play”, with the adventure Ikons of Ikammanen scattered in Episodes throughout the book.
The rules make use of an abbreviated color chart seen in various incarnations in other TSR RPGs of the time (Conan, Marvel Super Heroes, Gamma World 3e). The “Modified Check Table” allows for degrees of success in percentile die roll results. The IJ game has a limited skill system, and a nifty Chase Flow chart.
But I heard the game has no character creation rules! True. In an interview, David Cook said that rights owner Lucasfilm balked at PC chargen, preferring that players use the pregen legacy characters included in the set. “There is a very detailed NPC creation system in the back… We always hoped the people would pick up that clue,” Cook noted.
Unfortunately, gamers began to associate “Indiana Jones RPG” and “no character creation rules”, which surely damaged sales. Chargen would be belatedly added in the Judge’s Survival Pack (IJAC1). [One whole page… Told you the system is simple. I’ve got that page over at my reference site.]
The Evidence File has handouts for the Ikammanen adventure, plus half-page character dossiers for each player: Indiana Jones, Sallah, Marion, Short Round, Willie Scott, Wu Han, and Jock Lindsey. On the last page is the “NPC dossier” which, as we saw above, was actually intended for homebrew Player Characters.
World of IJ Map and 3-D Figures
The character stand-ups have three faces, similar to those in the MSH game.
Other than the lack of chargen, the IJ RPG is known for TSR attempting to trademark (™) the word “NAZI“
… or did they? You won’t see that in this box set. It was in the later modules that they began the trademarking spree, under orders from Lucasfilm I’d reckon. Only actual character names are trademarked in the IJ core set.
IJ uses two percentile (d100) dice, with crayon. Similar to TSR’s other games of the time (ex: Top Secret).