Friday, September 19, 2014

The Fifty Best Role-playing Games Ever (in 1996)

In the mid-90's there was a gaming magazine called arcane and although it disappeared after twenty issues -- I am told that the demise of TSR and the consequent evaporation of TSR's advertising budget killed it -- I still have a great fondness for it. It was no White Dwarf but it had that characteristic Future Publishing slickness that made it fun to read.

The fourteenth issue came out just before Christmas in 1996 and presented the results of a survey to discover the readership's favourite role-playing games. The cover is a bit of a spoiler.

Here's the list in full. I doubt it's useful data in any way as it presents the opinions of a specific set of gamers -- those reading a British gaming magazine in 1996 -- but it may be an interesting historic curio. Or not.

50 - 2300AD
49 - Mechwarrior
48 - Dragon Warriors
47 - Fighting Fantasy
46 - James Bond 007
45 - Castle Falkenstein
44 - Cyberspace
43 - Dark Conspiracy
42 - Don't Look Back
41 - Golden Heroes
40 - Heroes Unlimited
39 - HOL
38 - Top Secret
37 - Ghostbusters
36 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
35 - Twilight 2000
34 - Dream Park
33 - Werewolf: The Apocalypse
32 - Tunnels and Trolls
31 - Millennium's End
30 - Skyrealms of Jorune
29 - Aftermath
28 - Over the Edge
27 - Champions
26 - Palladium Fantasy
25 - Stormbringer
24 - Earthdawn
23 - Conspiracy X
22 - Rifts
21 - Judge Dredd
20 - Space 1889
19 - Ars Magica
18 - Feng Shui - arcane loved this game and mentioned it whenever possible; there's a new edition on the way soon.
17 - Bushido
16 - Mage: the Ascension
15 - Rolemaster
14 - GURPS
13 - Wraith: the Oblivion
12 - Pendragon
11 - Middle Earth Roleplaying
10 - Cyberpunk
9 - Star Wars
8 - Shadowrun
7 - Paranoia
6 - Vampire: the Masquerade
5 - RuneQuest
4 - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
3 - Traveller
2 - AD&D
1 - TORG

Ha. No, first place went to Call of Cthulhu, of course. It's clear to see that White Wolf's dominance was in full swing at the time -- although pity poor Changeling! -- but there are also lots of the classics that I'm sure would appear in a similar list today.

There are also a fair few surprises in there. Paranoia is higher than I'd expect and when was the last time you saw someone talking about Millennium's End or Don't Look Back? 1996 perhaps.

I don't remember if I submitted a list at the time but for what it's worth here's my top ten as of September 2014... Ah, you know what? I think I'll save the top ten for another post.


  1. Aw man, I miss Arcane magazine! I was really bummed when they went under.

  2. Yeah - I too really liked Arcane. Better production values than WD.... not the same nostalgia at the time.... or depth of articles... but great look, good reviews, nice feel. Yeah. Real shame it crashed and burned. Nothing like it now. :S

  3. As I understand it arcane depended on advertising revenue to survive and most of the advertising came from TSR, so when TSR went under, so did arcane.

  4. I loved Arcane magazine, an informative and entertaining read. I only had a couple of friends into RPG's at the time (we knew of other groups nearby but they were closed or just a bit out of our way) and it was a bit of a window into the UK gaming scene at the time, current topics, trends, opinions.

    The 50 best RPG article had many of our favourites already (AD&D, White Wolf's series, Cthulhu, WHFRP) but it gave us a few more to look into.

    I gained some very useful tips that helped to expand my Roleplaying/GMing repertoire due to this mag. Articles like the World Building Series, using weather to create a mood and drive the story along. I managed to fill the gaps in my collection a little while back. I like to dip into them from time to time, they're a great retrospective of the gaming scene in the UK at the time and the advice is still as relevant today as it was at the time of print.

    It was unfortunate it had to end, the magazine had a lot of potential left.

    1. It shows its age in places -- the reviews and the more frivolous features -- but on the whole it is still an excellent resource and I too dip into my collection every so often.