My Grandmother was initially opposed to me playing Dungeons & Dragons. She was pulled into the hysteria and feat about the game. Eventually, though she would come to accept that this game was a part of my life.
While doing so she bought me a roleplaying game that I think she thought would bridge our two worlds, Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game.
I had watched Dallas with her many times. It was adult TV and it was thrilling to stay up late to watch it. What was not to love? Still, when I got the game, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Then I saw that legendary war game designer Jim Dunnigan was credited on the game and that it was made by SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.), maker of Dragonquest. That got me excited and I opened it with gusto.
The slim box is very similar to other RPGs in what it was included. You got:
- Rule booklet
- Scriptwriter’s Guide
- 56 Character cards
- 1 Director’s reference sheet
- 9 Character sheets
- 2 tiny six-sided dice
Dallas: The Television Role-Playing Game Gallery
The game is pretty straightforward with six ability scores that shape gameplay: Coercion, Investigation, Luck, Power, Persuasion, and Seduction. Each character has a preset score and you play the ability against each other. If your ability is high enough, things instantly happen. If they are close, that is when you will roll the tiny d6s that came with the game.
The game comes with three original stories or scripts for players to jump into: The Great Claim, Sweet Oil, and Down along the Coast.
If you want more, then you as the Director will need to make them. The same goes for extra characters. No character generation method is given. So if you want to add to the Dallas universe with new player characters, be prepared to have to define what that entails.
This is an RPG, but not an open one like Dungeons & Dragons. Instead, characters are seeking out Victory Conditions in each script and whoever has the most wins in the end. This means if you want to make new scripts for the game, you need to consider a bunch of victory conditions for each character in order to make it challenging.
The game is more akin to a large party game with role-playing elements. I say large because in each of the included script all 9 characters are in play. So you better have a large group of people to play with.
I did not have a large group. Nor did any of my friends watch Dallas. So while I tried to play the game several times, hoping to show my grandmother how much I appreciated her support. In the end, the box went into the back of the closet for decades.
Looking back, it is remarkable that this game ever got made. It is easy to see why people were high on Dallas. It was a TV juggernaut. What is more difficult to see how an RPG could get made for it. All I can say is that in the early days of D&D and RPGs, so much seemed possible.
Dragons could be slain, alien worlds would be explored and in a basement, in New Jersey, a grandmother and her grandson could struggle for control over a fictional Texas oil family.