I’ve played a lot of games over the years and I figured I’d make a bit of a list of some of my favourites/not so favourites and tell you why it is I like them. The games listed below are not in any particular order. (I’m intentionally leaving out Dragon Warriors – I think I’ve gushed enough about how much I like that game!)
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
This is the first fantasy game I ever properly GM’d. I’d dabbled in some Basic D&D DMing but fancied something a bit more detailed (and I never really liked AD&D). So, knowing something of the Warhammer World, I snapped up the softback copy in the late eighties. I can recommend the original rulebook alone – it has enough material to keep you going in campaigns for years. A lot of people didn’t like the career system but I found that if it was well managed it wasn’t that much of a problem. The magic system, however, was a bit of a chore and I was lucky that none of my players were that into playing magic users.
I’ve tried the Second Edition and whilst it is still a great game the rulebook just didn’t have the atmosphere of the original. This is my go-to fantasy RPG.
This was the first fantasy game I ever played where I got into my character. The rules are a cut-down version of the over-complicated Rolemaster system, but it’s still quite tricky in some places, and the rulebook is just that – a lot of rules. There’s not much Tolkien atmosphere in the book and we ended up just playing the game set in a fantasy Europe, but the system is robust and allows you to play a well-defined, rounded character. Again, the magic system was a bust and made no sense (and it didn’t suit the world of Tolkien at all) but we never took much notice of it, anyway.
Star Wars D6
All my RPG friends love Star Wars so it’s not surprising that this game was probably the most run. We set our games in the Setnin Sector (detailed over at http://www.lightsabre.co.uk/) and, through four interchanging GMs, got some great campaigns out of it. We always stuck with the original version of the game – the Second Edition just made things complicated for no discernable reason and was a horrendously laid out book, and even though the Revised and Expanded edition was a wonderful book it still retained some of the rules that I felt just weren’t necessary. In fact, the short Star Wars adventure I ran earlier this year used the original rules and worked like a dream.
Call of Cthulhu
Well, what can I say – I was introduced to the work of H P Lovecraft by this game so that’s one reason for me to like it, but not only that I love the system, which I knew from owning RuneQuest. Most of my games had either been fantasy or sc-fi so trying to emulate the world of the 1920s was quite difficult. After reading some of Lovecraft’s work (mainly Call Of Cthulhu and The Shadow Over Innsmouth) I got an idea of how to run the game. I’m not much of a horror fan but this game really did push some buttons. I’ve always prided myself on not ever having run a published adventure ever, but after reading The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep I so wanted to run that adventure.
And I’m talking first edition, too. Yes, that dreadful 2D6 game where character creation was ‘Wuh?’ and the skill resolution system was ‘Eh?’ Once we got our heads around what turned out to be a simple system, we had a blast. I was playing a Davion special forces soldier and, with rorynex in hand, I spent my time doing work for Davion Intelligence in Kuritan space. Now, the system is poor and we had to do some rule modifying for certain areas of the game, but it was very, very good to play a character in the Battletech universe.
There’s also a couple that I’m going to recommend that I, alas, have not yet played (although I have read them).
Basic Fantasy/Swords and Wizadry
I did enjoy playing Basic D&D back in the 1980s and now we’ve hit the 21st century you’d have thought that there was no place for the older game. Boy, was I wrong. These two games have taken the old D&D and tweaked it ever so slightly, releasing games that capture the spirit and the enjoyment of the original game and adding a bit more to enhance the experience.
This is a solid sci-fi RPG that I enjoyed reading, and it has plenty of background material that gives you plenty of scope. It is a game that I’d like to play just to experience the world that has been created for it and the fact that the game has been designed/played/tweeked for years tells me it’s worth having a go at.
Old school kill ‘em and take their stuff. It’s short, it’s sweet and it works. In fact, I’d recommend this game or Basic Fantasy/Swords and Wizadry as a beginners game – if you’re trying to introduce someone to the RPG hobby then you can’t go wrong with these.
And, of course, there’s a few I just didn’t get along with.
Shadowrun (1st Edition)
AAARGH! I so wanted to enjoy this game but the system was just so weird. Was it me? Did I just not ‘get it’? I don’t think so! Not only that but the initial nerdgasm about Elves and Ogres in a cybernetic corporation-run future wore of really quickly. I attended the games, mainly because at that time it was the only game in town, and once my character died it was almost a relief. Needless to say it turned out that I never revisted the game for later editions.
Prime Directive (Task Force Games)
Yes, I bought it because it was Star Trek. Yes, I bought it because I was asked to by my Star Trek friends. No, it wasn’t a very good game. I ended up converting the game to the D6 system, using Star Wars D6 as a template, because the game system just wasn’t any good. The book is full of useful info, and I bought it again recently just so that I could run some D6 system campaigns with it.
In all my 25 years of roleplaying I have owned, played in and GM’d 30 different systems. Some came and went with barely a ripple, but others struck my hobby and my gaming group with such a splash that it left a long-lasting mark on me and my players – and that wasn’t always a good thing.