Thursday, December 20, 2012


By way of Tim Brannan at The Other Side, the seven roleplaying games I've most played or run. In no particular order -

1. Dungeons & Dragons: It's hard to avoid playing the World's Most Popular Roleplaying Game, though it was far from my favorite, and like many others, it was my first - the Holmes blue box, then 1e AD&D, then 3e. I never played 2e, 3.5e, or 4e, and I'm unlikely to ever pick up D&D? Next!. D&D is the game I play because, well, everyone plays D&D at some point; recently, that's been one or two weekends a year, and that's about all the D&D I want or need. That's not to say that I don't care for D&D itself - there are actually a number of things I really like about the game - but rather that I'm just not a big fantasy guy. If I ever play this again regularly, it will be with my kids, and it will be a swashbuckling & sorcery campaign.

2. Metamorphosis Alpha: MA remains the perfect dungeon crawl roleplaying game, in my experience, way better than anything I ever did with D&D. Thanks to my parents, I grew up reading Robert A. Heinlein, and that included Orphans of the Sky, so the basic premise of MA resonated with me immediately. The real problem was that I could never find anyone else who was as deeply interested in the game as I was, so I was only able to run it sporadically. I did import much of the technology into my D&D games, however, 'cause sci-fantasy was more palatable to me than the bog-standard pseudo-medieval stuff most people were playing.

3. Boot Hill: I loved Westerns from the time I was a boy, thanks to my dad's influence - we spent a spring break when I was about eight visiting ghost towns and exploring old mines in the Mojave Desert - so I got my hands on 2e BH as soon as it was available. I think I like BH better now than I did then - and that's sayin' somethin', 'cause I played an awful lot of BH - because with more than three decades of experience behind me, I appreciate the lean rules of the game even more now than I did as a teenager. Two of my all-time favorite modules, for any roleplaying game, Mad Mesa and Burned Bush Wells, were published for BH.

4. Top Secret: Pretty much everything I run turns into a spy caper at some point, so TS was right in my wheelhouse. Beyond the genre, however, I really like a number of the rules in TS, such as secondary attribute scores and the way contacts work in the game - it's said by some that the rules tell you what a game is 'supposed to be' about, and together the contact rules and the deadly combat rules tell you that this is a game about investigation and manipulation rather than going in guns a-blazin'. The problem is, the first few modules kinda failed to sell that: Operation: Rapidstrike! and Lady in Distress were both commando missions used for convention tournament play, and the woefully misunderstood Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, which came packaged in the box set, comes off like a dungeon crawl with Uzis rather than the excellent espionage sandbox it really is. TS really hit its stride with Operation: Fastpass, another of my favorite modules for any system. TS was really well supported, with a ton of Dragon articles and the Top Secret Companion. I'd play this again in a heartbeat.

5. Traveller: Years ago, I wrote that of all the roleplaying games I played, I had more good memories of playing Traveller than any other, and I think to some extent that still holds true. This is the only game where I play the house setting; I love Charted Space and the Third Imperium, in all their flat-space vastness. Traveller is the game that initiated my personal 'old school renaissance' - I was considering putting together a d20 Modern supplement similar to 1001 Characters, and when I was flipping through the pages, I thought, Wow, this really is a great game. A week or so later I had the reprints in my hands. Running the captain of a free trader looking to become a merchant prince is still one of my favorite roleplaying experiences.

6. d20 Modern: With my inclination toward historical and contemporary gaming in the real-world, this was my go-to game for many years, the only generic system I ever really liked.

7. Flashing Blades: *looks around the page* Well, yeah.


  1. Sprechenhaltestelle...wonderful name. Wikipedia told me that it's supposed to be German for "The place where speaking stops" and it is, in a hilarious, let's smash words together and see what sticks-way.

    But speaking of espionage, have you ever seen The Sandbaggers? If not, I would really recommend it, it's the best spy series ever. Very gritty and dark and very much not James Bond. Don't get attached to characters.

    1. Yeah, "sprechenhaltestelle" is an awful sort of portmanteau, sort of like calling a mule a donkeyhorse.

      The Sandbaggers sounds like it's right in my wheelhouse - thanks for the tip! Apparently Greg Rucka's comic Queen & Country is directly modeled on The Sandbaggers - I'm a big Q&C fan.

  2. I read Q&C one week after I was finished with the Sandbaggers without knowing about the connection and it was obvious from page one that Rucka loves The Sandbaggers. It's like an unofficial sequel.

    1. Oh, and just sayin': if you find yourself running a play by post/email game of Top Secret again and if should you be in need of a player...pick me, pick me!


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