That staple of the 80s and early 90s RPGs, the boxed set, may be making a comeback.
Back in what some like to call "the day", a lot of the RPGs on the market came in boxes. You'd usually get a couple of pamphlets of rules, maybe a map or a cardstock character sheet, possibly some dice, and some ads for whatever company published the game. It was pretty awesome.
Boxed sets were shrinkwrapped. I think I bought a lot of boxed sets specifically because I couldn't see what was inside them. I flipped through plenty of rulebooks for perfectly good games as a youngster, but didn't get them because they looked boring. (I passed over getting the "deluxe" RuneQuest book multiple times for this very reason.) With a boxed set, I was never sure what I was getting into. That element of not knowing was maddening, and I often ended up buying something just for that reason. Sometimes they led to hours of play (TSR's Marvel Super Heroes, for example), and other times they led nowhere, but to this day, I still pick up old boxed sets just on the principle that they look cool.
Anyway, for whatever reason - most RPG companies cite manufacturing costs - boxed sets have more or less fallen by the wayside. I think that's a shame, as there was something about them that made first-timers want to try them out. A couple of smaller publishers, like Troll Lord or Fiery Dragon, still do them from time to time, but the "big" guys almost never did... until recently.
Wizards of the Coast have a boxed module called Revenge of the Giants due later this year, which is a change from their previous policy of only using the boxed set format for their sorta half-assed D&D Basic Sets. White Wolf recently published Dreams of the First Age, a big boxed expansion for Exalted (though apparently it didn't do as well as they'd hoped). Green Ronin's recently announced Dragon Age: Origins tabletop game is going to be a boxed set aimed at new gamers and distributed in book and video game stores. Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG is going for the same demographic and distribution pattern.
It obviously remains to be seen if any of these boxed sets will be met with any enthusiasm or success, but one can hope, right?
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