On the last number of Casus Belli, the most important French periodical on RPGs, the Italian expert Ciro Alessandro Sacco tells the story and the actual situation of Italian RPG industry and scene.
If you want to know a short summary of our production and our gaming context until today, that’s the article for you (and it talks about Ultima Forsan too)!
Role-playing Games in Italy, by Ciro Alessandro Sacco
(…) Albeit Italy is not one of the countries coming immediately to mind when thinking about RPGs, RPG activity is quite old: an Italian gamer, for example, managed to see published in AD&D Fiend Folio tome the Aleax monster in 1981 (!) and from 1980 to 1984 the defunct magazine Pergioco (the Italian equivalent of Jeux & Strategie) regularly published articles about D&D and RPGs.
The very first Italian RPGs, I Signori del Caos (The Lords of Chaos) and Kata Kumbas (Catacombs) – both fantasy ones – were published in 1984 but the real start for role-playing in Italy was the D&D Red Box, published in 1985 by a major game publisher, Editrice Giochi. This started Italy’s love affair with D&D which endures to this day. After D&D release, more games followed: The Dark Eye (published by the same company producing the Lone Wolf gamebooks), Holmes & Company (an Italian hardboiled detective RPG), Tunnels & Trolls (produced by publishing giant Mondadori and distributed not just in bookshops but in newsstands!), Call of Cthulhu, MERP, Vampire and many others. The very first Italian RPG magazine, Crom, appeared in 1989 while another milestone, AD&D second edition, was translated in 1990.
Things looked good. But then Magic appeared in 1994 in Italian (the very first ‘foreign’ edition of the game) and virtually overnight the market collapsed. Publishers stopped producing RPGs or disappeared completely. Magazines folded (except Kaos).
The Long Night started…
In the recent years, the situation has got significantly better. The Italian edition of Pathfinder still is a triumph ( the core book being reprinted at least four times); Sine Requie, an Italian horror RPG, became a big success: this game is set in a post-apocalypse world where Doomsday has come, the dead walk the earth and our world is different, very different. Starting from small press publication in four booklets, Sine Requie not only has had at least three different editions and almost twenty different sourcebooks and campaigns: a record for any game in any language.
Savage Worlds is another impressive story: the core rulebook is perhaps the cheapest RPG here (just 13 euros) among professionally produced games in a few years has a line of almost 40 books.
Very intriguingly, some of them are Italian creations! Ultima Forsan, sometimes called ‘Reinassance with the undead’ has been particularly successful and it has been translated into English, Spanish and Russian (!). And let’s not forget Freak Control, a VERY unusual setting that seems coming out straight from Stranger Things (but it was published years before the TV series) and many classic telefilms of the ‘80s such as The Prisoner.
Of course in Italy too Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition had a smashing success with the Player’s Handbook being sold out at least. But prints runs have changed in Italy too, for the worse: at the moment a new RPG is printed 1.000 copies (but many ‘indie’ ones have far lower ones), a far cry from the heydays of the ‘90s.
We had some (new) Italian edition of classics (besides Dungeons & Dragons ): Call of Cthulhu seventh edition, The One Ring, Savage Worlds, Vampire the Masquerade. 7th Sea, Symbaroum… There is a growing interest in the old school movement (not surprisingly considering the love many Italian gamers have for D&D) with Italian translation of old school games (for example Labyrinth Lord) and original Italian creations (part of the Dangers & Demons adventure module line), publication of the so-called narrativist games continues too, albeit the only really popular game in this family seems to be Dungeon World…