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Bifrost: Anyone Own or Have Played this old UK Fantasy RPG?

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One of the topics discussed during breaks in my Sunday game was WOTC's 5e announcement. Most conversation revolved around what people liked about the various editions of D&D and D&D-like games that they would like to see in 5e. When we were talking about old D&D-like games, one of my players mentioned Bifrost. I was shocked as most people have never heard of it. Heck, most of what I know about it comes from a review of the first book in White Dwarf #7. I believe read a review of one of the later volumes as well, but I could not find that review in White Dwarf issues this morning -- perhaps I missed it or the review was in a UK D&D fanzine or I simply imagined the review.

Bifrost is the game I always wanted to find in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Unfortunately, I never saw a copy of any of its four volumes. More surprisingly, I have never found anyone who had seen a copy of played in a Bifrost game. If any copies made it to the US, they must have been very few and very far between. If you check Noble Knight games and RPG.net you can find ictures of the covers and a line or two of description, but not much else.

As far as I can tell, the game never made much of an impression on anyone. Well, except for me, that review in White Dwarf #7 obviously made an impression on me. Part of the reason it went nowhere was probably the way it was published, four volumes (originally planned to only be three) published once a year and from what little I've been able to find out, the weird organization meant that you really needed all four books to play. For example, here's what was in the first volume according to the White Dwarf review: "....Setting Up the game, Game content and Sequence of Action, Choice of characters, individual abilities, Alignment, Gods, and the Hand of Fate, Social position, Prices and equipment, Map movement and symbols, Fatigue, Diseases and illness, Incident locations, Morale and reactions, Weather, Progression, and advancement." Things like combat, magic, monsters, treasure, etc. were left for later books. The reviewer (Don Turnbull) did say that there was quite a bit of material that could be incorporated into a D&D game either because it was material not really covered by D&D or did things somewhat better than D&D did, for example alignment and gods.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has read Bifrost -- or better yet played Bifrost. While I've given up on ever finding a copy (I could not afford it if I could), but I would still like to find out more about it. I'm sure that it was just another early example of what came to be called a "fantasy heartbreaker" but even after all these years I remember that review of the first volume of Bifrost in White Dwarf #7 and wonder what the game was really like. Any readers who played the Bifrost or know someone who did?

8 comments:
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Catacomb librarian said...
January 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM  

"I'm sure that it was just another early example of what came to be called a "fantasy heartbreaker"

I can assure this is not the case.
Bifrost is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
It took me a lot of time and it was a real pain in the neck but after some years i was able to get copies of the first and the third volume, i read them some time ago and i was struck, particularly by the Magic system. Bifrost is beautiful,but it is really not for everyone. If you have a look at "Heroic worlds" it says that it is somewhat complicated and that may be true.

Bifrost was better than D&D, and in my humble opinion is one of those gems which absolutely must be rediscovered again.Unfortunately, as i said, i only read Bifrost but i never managed to play it, but i will surely try in the future.
You are right, the only existing review is the one in WD, the other one you saw maybe was contained in a fanzine, because it was never reviewed in Dragon nor in Space gamer, only in WD.
I am fond of obscure fantasy rpg's, on my blog i already wrote about Castle Perilous, Phantasy Conclave, Melanda, Sword's path:glory, and you can be sure i'll devote time and energy to ensure the proliferation of Bifrost.Do expect some posts in the future about it.
Since i know that it is extremely difficult to obtain it, i was thinking of using my blog to make it available in the future to everyone..i'll see what i can do.

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Randall said...
January 17, 2012 at 1:14 PM  

@Catacomb Librarian: You are the first person I've ever found who actually owned any part of Bifrost. I will be very interested in reading your posts on it. For others interested, Catacomb Librarian's blog can be found here: Mesmerized by sirens. It talks about a lot of older RPGs that most people have forgotten or, more likely, never heard of.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing about the magic system, but also why you think the game is better than D&D in general.

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Randall said...
January 17, 2012 at 1:18 PM  

I just noticed that Catacomb Librarian posted scans of the White Dwarf review I mentioned above yesterday in this post: The enthralling mystery of Bifrost. If you'd like to read the review that got me interested in Bifrost 30+ years ago, hop on over there.

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Catacomb librarian said...
January 17, 2012 at 2:14 PM  

Thanks Randall, i'll write about Bifrost in the future on my blog,as i said before. I promise, don't worry :)

I think that many games were better than D&D..i am generally against the cult of D&D and the fixation on it.

bye for now

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imredave said...
January 19, 2012 at 9:50 PM  

I used to own a copy of Bifrost volume 1, which I picked up while being a tourist in London many years ago. Unfortunately volume 1 was not enough to play the game.

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Randall said...
January 25, 2012 at 11:04 AM  

A received an email from a gentleman in the UK who believes he still has all four volumes of Bifrost in a box in his closet. I'm trying to persuade him to write a bit about each volume and the game as a whole as a guest post here. Even a list of what each volume covers would be more than I know.

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Catacomb librarian said...
January 29, 2012 at 6:43 AM  

that's excellent news. Please let me know of any further information you are able to collect from this guy.

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Catacomb librarian said...
November 11, 2014 at 5:10 AM  

http://mesmerizedbysirens.blogspot.it/2014/11/bifrost-part-iv-combat_11.html

http://mesmerizedbysirens.blogspot.it/2014/11/bifrost-part-v-magic.html

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