Just before Christmas there was a twitter hashtag doing the rounds where people would post the four most influential RPGs that they have or continue to play. This gave me a bit of inspiration to extend the idea into three parts, the first of which is presented here. I’m going to look at:-
Part One – the four RPGs that inspired me, got started, played to death or still have an interest in now or use in some form or another.
Part Two – the four RPGs that didn’t quite make it to the upper grade, but I invested a lot of time / funds or used the source materials for the other RPGs.
Part Three – the four RPGs that I bought but I never played / really took off / abandoned for various reasons.
Part One – My Top Four RPGs
Tunnels and Trolls
Aka ‘TnT’ and the one that got me started in RPGs; I had bought a number of the Dungeon Master and solo dungeons and introduced me to RPGs early in the summer holidays of 1983. I can still remember that first trip into ‘Dungeon of the Bear’, dodging traps, fighting high MR (monster rating) creatures with bucket loads of dice and playing through the night. This was enough for me to buy my own copy of the TnT fifth edition rules and start building my own dungeon, in an old exercise book. I bought many of the solo dungeons and introduced friends at school to TnT, right the way through to when I left school in 1985. I kept all the books safe and used many of the ideas after a lull in gaming in the late eighties, when I joined a new gaming group in 1990-92. I still occasionally roll up a character or two, usually starting with the solo dungeon ‘Naked Doom’; the reasoning is if your character can survive that it can survive anything…
For me TnT will always be the orange covered 5th edition rule book with the Liz Danforth artwork of three delvers about to step inside a dungeon, published under license by Chris Harvey in Walsall, West Midlands. What also really helped were the examples explaining how combat worked, in an almost storyteller-style and the example character creation of ‘Fang the Delectable’. The books humour and unsurpassed-even-now weapons charts (yes, I do need fourteen types of dagger to choose from!) make this a classic RPG for me.
I was also immensely proud to be one of the Kickstarter backers for the Deluxe TnT publication and get my name in the back of the book, with which I’m rediscovering favourite dungeons of old and adventures of new.
Classic Traveller (CT)
My main RPG that I dabble in now, more so than back in the eighties. How I got started with Traveller is written elsewhere in my blog (ie. via the miniatures route) and didn’t actually buy a copy of the rules until around 1985 (Starter Traveller). I always wanted a copy of the Deluxe rules but at £14.99 they were a big investment for me and pocket money wouldn’t stretch that far. The LBBs (Little Black Books) always fascinated me and in 2002 I started to find bits and pieces of information about Traveller on the internet. Interest in Traveller waxed and waned for a few years whilst I built the background information for Digital Waterfalls on the Terran Trade Authority Handbooks. It wasn’t until 2009 however that I found farfuture.net and purchased a copy of the Classic Traveller rule books on CDROM – something that is incredibly good value and I recommend to anyone! I’ve since searched the internet and picked up physical copies of the books from a number of places including Striker from Canada, the Classic Traveller 1981 rulebooks from middle America, quite a few of the supplements and adventures from waynesbooks.net in the USA and my latest addition, the Classic rules (1977 edition) from the UK via eBay. Oh, and I did find that Deluxe boxed set supplied with the LBB rule books, a little battered but complete with all the extras, as I sought after nearly thirty years before. I always seek out the US printed versions though, they are a little larger than the UK Games Workshop printed versions, which are a more of an odd format to me.
Now Traveller for me is something to solo play (using CT) and write the occasional adventure for the 76 Patrons / Amber Zone contests or dip into Mongoose Traveller when reviewing some of the latest releases.
Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP)
When I got together with my gaming group in 1990-92, one of the rules sets I introduced them to was Warhammer FRP. It was a pretty new system at the time and there were a limited number of supplements available, the biggie being the first couple in the ‘Death on the Reik’ series, the ‘Enemy Within’ and ‘Shadows over Bogenhafen’. I ran the two parts of the campaign until the DotR came out and immediately ran that straight after. Though the products from Games Workshop were of a very high quality, releases were few and far between. Only other notable at the time was the ‘Lichemaster’ which I seem to remember had various flaws of some such – ‘Terror of the Glichemaster’ was a headline I recall. To get around the lack of official adventures, we made a huge number of adventures up ourselves which was no bad thing. Many books and supplements fed our own adventures in WFRP, to a certain degree which was largely based around the AD&D ‘Forgotten Realms’ world.
Out of all the RPGs I’ve played, this is the one I’ve written the most number of scenarios and had the most number of long-standing characters. I probably DM’ed and played adventures about 50/50 of the time spent in the WFRP ‘Old World’.
Call of Cthulhu (CoC)
I picked up a copy of CoC when GW released their hardback version in the UK in (year escapes me). Though at most I played about two scenarios with my gaming group in the early nineties, it has been the game that has found its tentacles reaching into (no pun intended) almost every other game that I have played. One particular aspect of the GW version that I liked was the pencil drawings of the creatures and monsters; I still use these for inspiration, adapted especially for Traveller. It also has one of my favourite scenarios published in White Dwarf, namely ‘The Last Log’ (no surprise it looks a bit like Traveller) and one of my favourite supplement covers, namely ‘The Asylum’ – the Shoggoth flailing its hapless victim looks truly terrifying.
I suppose one of the reasons it didn’t take off by being played in its ‘natural’ environment (ie. the 1920’s) is that it was a bit too close to the modern era. We wanted to play something that was so far disparate from the 20th century and the modern world, we didn’t take to CoC in the same way did with other RPGs.
In my next part, I’m going to look at the ‘nearlys’ – the RPGs that I invested a lot of time in, but they never became one of my main systems. I wonder if any other players have had similar results or experiences as me?