Saturday, March 01, 2014

March Madness 31 Day Obscure Game Blogging Challenge Ex Plus Alpha

I didn't get involved in the February Dungeons and Dragons blog event meme thing because I didn't want to clog up the blog -- blogclog? -- with half-hearted recollections of a game with which I have little connection. Then someone pointed out Tedenkhamen's non-D&D version and so here we are.

You're getting it in one big chunk because I don't think you need me wittering on at you every day for a month.

1 What was the first roleplaying game other than D&D you played? Was it before or after you had played D&D? 

The first role-playing game I played was the multiplayer version of Fighting Fantasy. I remember my friend Gareth introducing me to the book and I think we ran through a fight using the rules but I don't know if we got any further than that. I didn't play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time until a good five or six years after that, although I was aware of the game.

2 In what system was the first character you played in an RPG other than D&D? How was playing it different from playing a D&D character?

I'm pretty sure we used the sample characters from the example of play -- Armstrong, Bigneck and Crystal -- in that first FF not-game so I'm not sure that counts. If not then the first character I created would have been Mister Majeika, an ork street samurai in Shadowrun. At the time I still hadn't played D&D but Majeika was an ork on a motorbike and he had a submachine gun so I like to think that I had some sort of nascent awareness of the differences.

3 Which game had the least or most enjoyable character generation?

I did not like Traveller: The New Era at all but I enjoyed the way characters entered the game complete with this little biography telling the player where they'd been and what they'd done. I haven't played any other versions of Traveller -- not because TNE put me off but because no one I know plays it -- but I understand that they all take a similar approach.

4 What other roleplaying author besides Gygax impressed you with their writing?

I'm not that impressed with Gygax's writing to be honest but perhaps I've not read enough of the classics to appreciate his prose. +Chris Hogan's Small But Vicious Dog is a delight to read and I'd love to see more role-playing books follow his lead and move away from the technical manual style that seems to dominate the hobby.

5 What other old school game should have become as big as D&D but didn’t? Why do you think so?

This is a tricky one but given the fact that Star Wars turned up at around the same time as the role-playing hobby was taking off I'm surprised that Traveller didn't become more popular. It is popular, I know that, but it seems like it should have been able to capitalise somehow on Star Wars and so rival D&D in popularity.

6 What non-D&D monster do you think is as iconic as D&D ones like hook horrors or flumphs, and why do you think so?

It may be a bit of a cheat but I'm going with Cthulhu and I'd say he's more iconic than most D&D monsters. More so than the flumph anyway.

7 What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?

I love Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I like the simplicity of the system and the wonderful career-based character development, but it's the sense of humour that I like the most. I know a lot of people consider it to be dark fantasy or even horror but I see it as a comedic game, sort of Blackadder does D&D.

8 What spy RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details. 

I haven't played any spy games, at least not in the strictest sense. I enjoyed aspects of the first edition of Conspiracy X but I'm not sure that counts. Cold City and Hot War are excellent games that both involve espionage to a certain extent but I don't think they could be called spy games either. I really want to play Night's Black Agents.

9 What superhero RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

My superhero gaming experience consists of one session of the 1980's Marvel rpg so I suppose by default that's my answer. In fairness it was good fun; I played Death's Head in a team with Deadpool, Cable, and the Human Torch and we nuked St. Petersburg. It was an accident. Sort of.

10 What science fiction RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

I enjoyed running Rogue Trader even if the campaign spluttered to a halt. I had great fun playing Shadowrun in my teens -- see 2 -- if the presence of magic, elves, and dragons doesn't discount it. That said, Rogue Trader has elves, orcs, and magic too.

11 What post-apocalyptic RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

I know it's one of the classic genres but I don't think I've ever played a post-apocalyptic role-playing game. I did play Twilight 2000 a couple of times but the GM was using the rules to run an X-Files pastiche so that probably doesn't count.

12 What humorous RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

See 7.

13 What horror RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

I love Call of Cthulhu more than any other role-playing game. I first played it some time after being introduced to Shadowrun and Star Wars and it was so different; we were playing normal people with no special abilities -- beyond an aptitude for accounting or natural history -- investigating a haunted house. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of the hobby and to this day it's the only game that's scared me and the only game with which I've scared players. I also consider it to be one of the most heroic rpgs; you play librarians pitting themselves against nigh-omnipotent alien space gods that they cannot hope to defeat but they try anyway.

14 What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

I can't say that I've played any such game. Call of Cthulhu is historical but the alien space gods probably disqualify it.

15 What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

Again, I'm not sure I've played one of these unless Call of Cthulhu counts. This exercise is making it look like I've only ever played about five games in my entire life.

16 Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system? Give details.

I wouldn't say D&D has a good magic system, let alone "the best" but that's not an answer. I like the way that magic in WFRP2 is so unpredictable and even the smallest spell has a chance of going wrong and causing a mutation or summoning a major daemon; it's also a nice simple spellcasting system based on rolling a small pool of dice and adding up the numbers. Easy.

My favourite magic system though is probably that of Shadowrun circa the second edition. I like the little details; spellcasting is limited by the caster's toughness and so a mage can be exhausted or even killed if she pushes herself too far.; spells leave a trace in the astral plane so can be tracked back to their casters; urban shamans can conjure spirits made out of rubbish; it's packed full of fun ideas but they've all been thought out and make sense within the context, or as much as magic can make sense anyway.

17 Which RPG has the best high tech rules? Why?

Technology in rpgs tends to translate to "stuff to buy" in my experience and I don't really care about equipment lists. I will say that if a game has construction rules -- for starships, vehicles, robots, and so on -- then it has an above average chance of winning me over.

18 What is the crunchiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?

Traveller: The New Era had rules for calculating the effect the gravity of various planets would have on the range and damage of bullets fired upon said planets. An admirable attention to detail but in no way enjoyable.

19 What is the fluffiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?

I assume this means the rpg with the most setting and fewest rules. Fighting Fantasy uses 2d6 for everything and has a wealth of setting information if you count the fifty-odd gamebooks. Was it enjoyable? Read on, Macduff.

20 Which setting have you enjoyed most? Why?

This is tricky. My favourite rpgs each have their own settings -- Call of Cthulhu has umpteen -- but I can't say that I have any particular attachment to them divorced from their associated rulesets. That said, Cthulhu Invictus is amazing but who doesn't like Romans?

If I do have a favourite setting then it is probably Titan, the world of the Fighting Fantasy books; I haven't played a game set in Jackson and Livingstone's jumbled patchwork world in many years now, but I spent many happy hours bashing GOBLINS there and I'd love to return one day.

21 What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played? How was it?

I'm not sure what this question is getting at. What's a narrow genre? I suppose it's referring to something like Pendragon where you all play male, English knights in Arthurian Britain and there's not a lot of wiggle room; the game doesn't support Sir Cedric of Slough going dungeon crawling or getting in a boat and sailing off to discover America, or of being Lady Cedric instead.

If that is what the question is getting at then Pendragon -- despite its narrow focus, or perhaps because of it -- is an excellent game and is in my top five rpgs.

22 What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played? How was it?

One of my great regrets is that I've never played Rifts, a game which must be near the pinnacle of gonzo gaming. I have played Feng Shui though, and that's not only bonkers but also a great deal of fun.

23 What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?

I recall trying to play the Mutant Chronicles rpg once. We gave up and drank cheap whiskey instead.

24 What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?

It is clear that the first edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy had almost no playtesting whatsoever but even so I remember running and playing a long campaign using the rules that was bonkers and brilliant and only stopped when the rules couldn't support it any more.

25 Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?

I think this may be two questions masquerading as one. I find Chaosium's d100 system to be quite sleek as it's intuitive and light and gets out of the way but it also originates in the late 1970's so is not in any way modern.

26 What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?

I am astounded -- astounded, I say -- that there isn't a series of Final Fantasy tabletop rpgs. It seems like such an obvious thing to do. I'm no fan of the franchise but I'm also surprised that there's no Harry Potter game.

27 What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details.

See 7.

28 What free RPG did you enjoy most? Give details.

I don't think I've played a free rpg. I've got a few and they're stacked on the shelf ready to be played but the opportunity has never arisen. When it does I'd like to give Lady Blackbird a try.

29 What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain how.

This is an odd question. I'm not supposed to be talking about D&D in these answers -- it's the whole point of the exercise after all -- but the OSR is dominated by D&D so I'm not sure what to say here. If people in the OSR are producing swathes of material for WFRP, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, and Pendragon, they haven't told me, the blackguards.

30 Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details.

I really want to say Vornheim here because it's one of the most useful and innovative rpg products I've ever seen but it is sort of D&D focused. Instead I will go for the d1000 random mutation tables from either the old Realms of Chaos books or the more recent Tome of Corruption; both are for Warhammer but can be used with any game with just a bit of work and they're so much fun to use.

31 What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?

This is perhaps a bit of a cheat as it's D&D-derived but Dragonlance: Fifth Age was a fun and promising game that got sucked into the demise of TSR and I would love to see a new edition with the Dragonlance stuff left behind.


  1. Interesting answers! I had considered doing mine all in one but decided to split it up into several posts.

  2. "...but who doesn't like Romans?"

    ::raises hand::

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who really wanted to play Mutant Chronicles back in the day but gave up after character creation. Looking forward to seeing what Modiphius can do with the new edition.

    1. I wrote the setting off as stealing from Warhammer 40,000 but then as I got older I realised 40K was stealing from Dune and 2000AD so that doesn't bother me any more. I'm still not sure about the Space-Scotsmen though. I'll keep an eye on the new version; it would be difficult to make a game with worse rules but I hope they come up with a good system.

  3. I reckon you could call Cold City a spy game; Hot War is definitely post-apocalypse.

  4. Indeed - though it is a hybrid game - thus not as 'spy-y' as spycraft/ 007 - no car chases/ gadgets/ gear of that game. More gritty and deadly - with an awesome Trust mechanic. Great game! :)

  5. Interestingly enough, my post today is about Lady Blackbird, which can be summarized as...vague at best, as it's been a while since I played it that one time. I remember really enjoyed the system, though. Very good for storytellers, not so much for D&D munchkins, which kind of fits perfectly into this blog theme.