I saw on Character Generation and then again on Dice Monkey the other day a post about what five games influenced the way you play? I pondered the question for a couple of days and after serious consideration decided to share them with you. I have played lots and lots of rpgs with many different groups in many different situations. Some were long campaigns that lasted years, while others were one shots with a group of gamers I met at a convention. I will explain my reasons for each game as we continue.
Marvel Super Heroes - I had become accustomed by the time I purchased this classic yellow box to rpgs either being a bit slow paced (mapping the Temple of Elemental Evil) or deadly (Boot Hill, Top Secret, Traveller). So the classic yellow box was a welcome change. This was the first time I really set about creating my own material, both adventures and rules hack, for a game that I would run. The accessibility of the rules made it much less intimidating to take the reins. The fact that most my friends, and myself were huge comic fans just made it that much sweeter. It was also the first game I ever ran at a convention.
Star Wars D6 - I was five years old when Star Wars premiered in the theatre. I have never known life without it. When the rpg was released in the late 80’s it seemed like the perfect escape for a hardcore group of gamers. The rules were easy and so was the character generation. That left time to start role-playing the characters without rules distraction. It is also a really difficult system to munchkin, so our games never broke down from power level bloat. Venger Mok (points if you can pick out the two sources combined to get that name) was my first character and I still have the character sheet more than two decades later. My favorite campaign of all time was using this game and it was run by a novice GM who was a big Star Wars fan.
GURPS Basic Set 3rd Edition – When one of the best GMs I have ever had the opportunity to play with introduced me to GURPS. I was intrigued by the flexibility and scope of what the game could cover. I had purchased Champions 4th Edition but kind of set it on the bookshelf out of fear until I learned to play GURPS. I am not a generic system addict, but when a genre specific system is not available for an idea I am dreaming up, I turn to generic systems before trying to hack some other system for my needs. The first games in my homebrew fantasy world were used GURPS, and while I haven’t played GURPS in eight years, my fantasy world continues to grow regardless of what system I use to play. I usually use Savage Worlds or Hero Systems for a universal system now.
Mage The Ascension – What I learned from this game was a lesson that I keep in the forefront of my mind when I am designing adventures. In certain games if players have access to certain powers, spells, technology, social groups, or whatnot, then be prepared for anything to happen. If those powers are sort of make up what they day within abstract spheres of control then be prepared for the impossible. In some settings like Mage the Ascension in a modern setting, be prepared for the characters to rely on magic, technology, wealth, political power, and more to figure things out. In Mage the Ascension the players also have the ability to affect environment, time, and reality. There will be very little that they will not have access to. I carried the lessons that I learned from a game that had great concept, characters, and promise but poor execution into lots of other games.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition – I have had some vocal criticisms of some of the mechanics of 4E but I in some way I feel like I was delivered what I had been asking for as a DM for years. I had wished for a D&D game that would allow me to gauge the challenge of encounters better, for a game that could be played without a cleric, and a game that wouldn’t be all scrying, detecting, teleporting, and layering of spells before a fight. A game that didn’t grind to a halt at every door. 4th Edition delivered but the fantasy was better than the reality (that was intended). The deadliness of each encounter could easily be figured out by the DM and also the players, the party didn’t need a cleric because other classes could pretty much do the same thing but if the player didn’t really role-play their powers they all had the same feel. The characters were more than tough enough to never need to slow down or prepare. So wish granted. I also learned I want action points, all characters to have some limited self-healing, spells and rituals, at-wills, interrupts, and themes in 5th Edition D&D. Those were great additions to Dungeons & Dragons.
The things I learn in games are usually mixed blessings that I carry with me into other games I play. I don’t really ever think a game is bad just some time not right for me. Some of the games that I mentioned other gamers will hate. I try to look at every system for the positives that I can use in my next game regardless of what system I use, and the negatives that I will try to avoid which forces me to be a better Gamemaster and a better player. What are your five games and why? Let us all know in the comments or link to your blog. Until next time, Roll Hard!
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