October 20, 2015

My Top 100 RPGs

Lowell Francis over at Age of Ravens has started to put up his list of top 100 rpgs. Here are mine... 

Didn't make the top 100, but I think are still relevant: Fuzion, Everway, Empire of the Petal Throne, Metamorphosis Alpha, Jorune, Dark Conspiracy, Talislanta, Fudge, The Whispering Vault

100) Chill -  Never played but was made by Pacesetter, a company I like, and has good buzz.
99) SAGA - Never played but has good buzz.
98) Tunnels & Trolls - Never played by a forerunner of the modern rpgs.
97) Chivalry & Sorcery - Never played but an early big name.
96) Behind Enemy Lines - Have it, never played. I like the concept of a WW2 rpg so this is good material for me to check out.
95) Gang Busters - Early rpg that showed a different genre.
94) Cyberpunk 2013 - Never played but have a few books that I've adapted for my Shadowrun games.
93) Dying Earth - Have but not played yet. Am curious about a setting based on the writings from which Vancian magic was adapted.
92) Unknown Armies - Have it, never played, but seems to be well liked by those who do play it.
91) Phoenix Command - Intricate combat system, too intricate for me to play but good to study.
90) In Nomine - Interesting setting. have it but not played.
89) Villains & Vigilantes - My first non-D&D game. Clumsy rules but can be fun.
88) Firefly - Love the setting and adventures. Don't like the rule set.
87) Immortal - Good setting, complex rules. My wife tried running it but we didn't get very far.
86) Fringeworthy - Never heard of it before seeing it mentioned on Age of Ravens. Looks interesting.
85) Underground - Looks cool and fun. Never got it when it first came out.
84) Castles & Crusades - Just recently got the rule books. Only checked them over and haven't made up my mind yet.
83) ICONs - I love superhero games. Have the rules but not read them yet. Not sure about the random character generation as that is something I tend to not like.
82) Pendragon - Well liked and has been around forever. Do not have the rules yet.
81) FATE - Really popular right now. Not sure its something I would like, but I should check it out anyway to see what the buzz is about.
80) Runequest - Another old time game that influenced later rpgs. Never played it.
79) Labyrinth Lord - A good solid retroclone.
78) Call of Cthulhu - Was huge while growing up and still has a lot of fans. Never played it, but it can not be ignored.
77) HarnMaster - Always been curious about this one. I have a version of the rules but haven't rad them yet. Reports say it is highly detailed and well constructed.
76) Twilight 2000 - Played but don't have it. Not bad and the setting is good. Rules might be too complex.
75) En Garde! - I really like swashbuckler games. I do not have this one but am curious. Also its an early rpg.
74) Godlike - Superhero game in WW2. The rules are difficult to get through for me.
73) Burning Wheel - Curious about this one. Do not have it yet.
72) Ghost Dog - Have it, never played. The setting is better than the rules.
71) DC Heroes - Have a bunch of the books (and there a lot of them released over the years). Its a superhero game so I have it, but I prefer other systems.
70) Space Opera - FGU space rpg. I have a soft spot for the FGU games. Do not have it.
69) Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes - I also like pulp and this works well for that.
68) Dune - Love the fiction books. Not really a good adaption but I got it anyway. Never played it.
67) Star Frontiers - Played it. Fun but I couldn't take it serious.
66) GURPs - Have it, played it. I don't really like it, but its affect and standing in the rpg community can not be ignored.
65) Pathfinder - Have the starter set. So many people like it. Not for me (not a huge fan of 3E etc) but it changed D&D and the rpg industry by successfully challenging the 100-pound gorilla. While I will probably never play it, I do get a lot of their Adventure Path books because they are fun to read.
64) The Fantasy Trip - I have it and played it long ago. Not a bad system, but not great. However, I have a nostalgic soft spot for it.
63) Agone - Just picked this up and it looks interesting.
62) Heroes Unlimited - Superhero game so I have it. Palladium so its hard to worth with.
61) Champions - Superhero game so I have it. Pretty good. It also changed the way some people look at rpgs with its innovations.
60) Aces & Eights - I really want to like this but it seems...daunting. I will have to sit down and rad the rules carefully at some point.
59) Hackmaster - Silly, complex, looks fun. Its a through-back, not sure if its worth the effort but I do like the concept.
58) James Bond 007 - Famous spy game that is well liked. Do not have it.
57) Psiworld - Have it, never played. A solid attempt to create an rpg based solely on psionics.
56) Palladium Fantasy - Early strong game, but with Palladium rules.
55) Star Wars d6 - Played it, do not have it. Solid game.
54) Justice Inc - FGU pulp...soft spot entry.
53) Leverage - Loved the show, not a fan of the Cortex system. Might convince myself to try it again because I loved the show and concept so much.
52) Fireborn - Liked the concept, haven't been able to finish the rules as they can get complex.
51) Amber Diceless - Have it, played it. Not a huge fan of diceless games but the setting is strong for me.
50) Legacy: War of Ages - Highlander knockoff, love Highlander so I got it. It does a good job of potraying the setting but is overall weak.
49) Rune - It is one of my "in the mood for" games. It is all about raw violence and not much else.
48) Brave New World - Superhero game. Have all the books but never played it. It has depth but its not my go-to superhero game.
47) Lace and Steel - Loved the setting. Rules were more complicated than they needed to be but it looked like it might be fun. Have it but never played it.
46) Bushido - Played once, have all the books for it as I went and searched for the ones I didn't have. Complex but in a good way.
45) Mutant & Masterminds - Superhero game. I have almost all the books including 3rd party books. Never played it and probably never will as I find the system too complex for my needs. However, I really enjoy them
44) Star Trek (FASA) - Have all the books and played it a few times. It was fun without being too complex.
43) Hercules & Xena - Underrated in my opinion. Sure the series were camp but the game didn't have to be. Have it but never played it, though I might some day.
42) Rifts - Have some of it, never played. Not a fan of Palladium games, but I might just try this one sometime soon.
41) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Have it, played it, used it for a Gamma World game. Yes, its Palladium which I generally dislike but I had fun with this.
40) Toon - Have it, played it. Its a "in the mood for" game. Does it genre well.
39) Mage - Played it, liked it. Unbalanced the way we ran it.
38) Lord of the Rings (ICE) - Huge LotR fan so I played it of course...many times. Have the newest version from Cubicle but haven't read it yet.
37) Paranoia - Have it (went and looked for it). A lot of fun. A "in the mood for game".
36) Top Secret - Played it a lot. Was fun but it's been some time since I played it so I don't remember much of the rules.
35) Dresden Files - Have it, haven't read it yet. I will use it to determine if I like the FATE system.
34) Earthdawn - Have some of the books. It has a diligent following so I am curious about it.
33) Houses of the Blooded - I like this style of game, though the rules are a bit too narrative for my tastes. I will likely look at it again and give it an honest try.
32) The Riddle of Steel - Good combat and magic system. I have tried adapting the system to run in other games/settings but always end up going with the default rule set of the other setting to save time.
31) Space 1889 - Love the setting. Rules were okay, not great, not bad. Have all the books but haven't run it yet.
30) Grimm - I so want to run this. Need to find a group of players who would "get it".
29) Traveller - Grand-daddy of science fiction rpgs. Have a bunch of the books from scattered editions. Never played it.
28) Elric! - Loved the books and it looks like this would fit seamlessly with the books from a play-style approach. Almost ran a game a few years ago but we went with something else instead. Maybe someday.
27) Warhammer Fantasy - Another early days of rpgs entry. Have most of the 2nd edition, just need to run a game someday. Slightly intimidated by the setting as it has a lot of depth.
26) Marvel (TSR) - Played it like crazy back in the day. There are other superhero games I prefer now, but gosh-darn-it we played it a lot.
25) 13th Age - Solid system. Just have the core rulebook. Not likely to play it as a system anytime soon, but there are a lot of good ideas in there.
24) Fantasy Age - On order. I have the Dragon Age Set 1 and 2. Never played them but they look like a solid system. Needs more support.
23) Werewolf - Ran a bunch of good games in Werewolf.
22) Scion - Have the books, love the concept. Will run it someday.
21) Deadlands - Ran it a lot. A lot of fun was had by everyone. Solid game.
20) Warhammer 40,000 - Have the rogue Trader books. Good game but need to run it.
19) Lords of Creation - Nostalgia. Love the concept of the books. I want to run it so bad but other games keep getting in the way...and the system is not the best.
18) Flashing Blades - Never ran it but it is a very good system that does a lot. Also the adventures are solid. Another game I want to run badly.
17) Fading Suns - Ran it and it was a lot of fun. The setting has some good depth. Its a shame it wasn't supported more...or more people liked it.
16) Gamma World - My wife runs a mean game of Gamma World. I love playing in her Gamma Worlds games. We also played it a lot in "the old days" and always had fun with it.
15) Changeling - Love the concepts and setting. I love the faerie tales genre. Have never run it but once I find a group that understands the genre I will.
14) Savage Worlds - Awesome game that I only have 1 issue with. have run a few games with the system and designed even more with it.
13) Feng Shui - Ho boy! Awesome game. Stoked that I have the 2nd edition as the first was so much fun.
12) GUMSHOE - Some good ideas here and the books are well written. I've run Ashen Stars and have Mutant City Blues and Trail of Cthulhu. I like what they did with investigation tasks but the rest of the system is lacking.
11) Numenera - Have the books, including the Cypher System Core Rules. I like the core die mechanic of player-facing but character generation and growth I find to be unduly scattered. I know it popular so I'm trying to get a handle on it.
10) Ars Magica - Deep and rich game setting. Haven't run it yet for fear the magic system will be too complex for my current group.
9) Vampire - Have run many a good campaign with this system. I prefer the 2nd edition rule set, if no the setting as much. It was also a game changer in the rpg field when it first dominated the industry.
8) Timemasters - Fun game. I have all the books, but have not run it.
7) Doctor Who - Ran it successfully. The system is a bit stilted but the source books are top notch. Its here more for my love of Doctor Who rather than being a good system.
6) Shadowrun - I love and hate this game. Love to play it, hate to run it. Currently running it and so far it is going well.
5) Rolemaster/Spacemaster - Played this many times, both in Middle-Earth and in a couple of my home brew settings. I love the concepts and execution though my players tend to find the math daunting.
4) Legend of the Five Rings - Have all the 1st edition books and ran a good, long campaign. Excellent rule system and excellently written sourcebooks.
3) 7th Sea - Similar to L5R, I love the system and setting. My wife ran an fun campaign with it.
2) Dungeons & Dragons - No matter what else I play, I always eventually come back to running D&D. Call it nostalgia or because it is the 100-pound gorilla and everyone else is playing ir, I keep going back. Also, I happen to really like 5E so far. Plus its the game that started it all.
1) Masterbook/TORG/Indiana Jones/Shatterzone - My official favorite system. I love the elegance of Masterbook. It has a bunch of front-end math, but once in place runs fast. I also loved running TORG and my players still ask every once in a while when I'll run it again. But really, Masterbook is awesome.

October 13, 2015

Cliche Tripe

Here are a few things that annoy me when I see them as part of the promo for a new rpg. All too often they are spouting things we've heard before, but are trying to present them as something new or unique.

-"They walk among us" or "History is a lie" or "The world's hidden history".

-"A new fantasy rpg with...
          "...no class or racial limits!".
          "...streamlined combat!"
          "...rules for role-playing instead of roll-playing!"
          "...hundreds of classes and races!"
          "...no levels!"

-"For people who want to spend less time arguing about the rules and more time playing!"

-"Create a character in under 5 minutes!"

-Here are some overused attention-getters that often fail to fulfill...
"Dark fantasy world!"
"Cinematic action!"

-"Designed for X system but compatible with everything!"

-"This new system is based on system X, only better!"

-"This is the lite version of system X!"
-"This is the lite version of system X!" which is one no one has ever heard of.

-"Everything you need to play! Expect more supplements soon!"

July 21, 2015

Why I Demand Character Generation Be Done at the Table

The usual reason is to watch die rolls for stats, but that is not why I want the players to roll up their characters in front of me. I do so for a few other reasons.

Why are the players making the character? First is that I want to see the choices the players are making and am looking for some insight into why. Recently one of my players made "the healer" for the party. However, as he was discussing it with the other players, he made mention of some interesting things. He wants to "cure everyone" even if that includes necromancy as a way to "raise someone". He wants to be the party healer but in a twisted version. If he had just brought a completed character to the first game, I wouldn't know the background concepts he has in mind. Sure, he might have mentioned such things to me, but they would have been bullet points on his character sheet and I wouldn't have the same insight into the concepts he is exploring. I know more about what the players are thinking.

Likewise, I can see the general style of play each players is looking for. If someone is taking lots of negotiation skills I can see they want a game with more role-play. If they are combat heavy then I want to make sure to throw them in. This goes beyond just abilities. As players are making their characters they often talk about "how cool this ability will be" or "I can't wait to use this ability". A character sheet can give some idea of what a player wants to see, but not as complete a picture as found during character generation. 

Get to know the characters. Similar to the above, being there when the characters are created gives me knowledge of the character themselves. What flaws did they take, what areas did they specialize in, what skills does each have. When I am running a game I try to allow the players and their characters to shine. Often this means playing to a character's strengths. The best way to get to know their strengths is to be there while they are being created. Sure, I can take a look at a character sheet after it is made but the impact will not be as strong. being there for character generation means I know the characters better. 

Party unity. When the players are all together making characters they tend to collaborate. They discuss who is going to be the healer, who is going to cover the wilderness skills, the thief skills, the magic knowledge skills. They find their place in the party before the campaign even starts. Even if they went in planning to make a lone wolf character, they end finding themselves part of a team. This can start at character generation. 

Excitement. There is a general excitement when a new campaign is about to start. As a DM I have all kinds of cool ideas for the campaign (okay, maybe just cool to me). Everyone is wondering where things will go, what their characters will face. It is the ultimate in playing with the unknown. There is a buzz in the air. As a DM I like that buzz, that excitement. I can feed off of that. And basically, I enjoy it.

So for me, there is more to character generation than keeping the dice honest.

July 14, 2015

Why 5E is the Last Edition of D&D

I know I'm going out on a huge limb here, but I am telling you that 5E is the last edition of D&D. This is both literal and figurative.

D&D has nowhere to go now as a system. Throughout the various editions D&D has slowly changed with the times. The first edition and the various iterations of that gave us the core concepts of role-playing games and what D&D is...including the concepts of variability and additive systems that can be attached to the core system. Future editions gave us further enhancements and refined ways of doing things. 2E gave us a more streamlined system and near its end more sub-systems. 3E took the concept of additional material/systems to the max. 4E added in system balance. D&D has been ever evolving and showing us new things with each edition.

5E stated that would be a modular system. A simple core that would allow for additional systems to be added in seamlessly. They actually gave us that (much to my surprise). 5E can take the abuse of new support material...but it also can play lite. There is no reason to release a new edition, 5E allows for new concepts to be added onto its core design. If someone has a radical idea 5E can handle it, just release a support book with the radical idea and detail how to integrate it with 5E. Whatever evolutions in game design emerge can be handled by the modularity of 5E.

Of course, some of you are thinking that there will eventually be a 6E, if only as a money grab. And that might indeed happen. However, this brings up my second point. A new edition of D&D will die. It will be a non-factor, a non-issue, a non-game system. People will ignore it as nothing but a money grab. They will see no need for a new edition. In essence, 5E is the last viable D&D edition.

D&D never needs a new edition and people won't want a new edition. Between those two points, 5E is the last edition of D&D.

July 7, 2015

5E Traps - Samples and A Better Design

I am not happy with the layouts of WotC's traps. Basically there is none. They jumble the information about a trap into a couple of paragraphs that a DM has to sift through to get the relevant info. I prefer something I can easily look at and immediately find what I need.

I've been writing an adventure for my group that is laden with traps (it is a kobold lair). I came up with another layout/design for traps that work better for me and maybe better for other people. Here are the traps so you can see the layout and if you are looking for some more traps to use... 

Tar Trap
See Trap: DC14 Wisdom (Perception). “The floor feels weakened here.” 
Disable Trap: DC15 Wisdom (Perception) to move across the trapped area without setting off the trap. Roll with advantage if the person watches someone else cross safely. “There are parts of the floor that are still safe. The trick is to figure out where exactly that is.” 
Activates: When someone moves near the center of the trap area. “The floor gives way.” 
Set Off Trap: Anyone in the trap area is Restrained. A person may take an action to make a DC 12 Strength Save to end the Restrained condition and move out of the trap area. “You fall all of 3 inches. However, those three inches are covered in an odorless tar and your feet are stuck.” 

Leech Pit
See Trap: DC12 Wisdom (Perception). “There is something wrong with the floor up ahead. In fact, you swear you can make out where a corner of the floor is lifted up.” 
Disable Trap: DC15 Dexterity. “The floor is in fact nothing but a loose cover for a pit. You think you can make it so it will not collapse when walked on.” 
Activates: When a person moves to the halfway point. “The floor falls out from under your feet revealing a pit beneath you.” 
Set Off Trap: Everyone in the area of the trap must make a DC12 Dexterity Save. Failure means the person takes 1d6 falling damage and is now in a 10’ deep pit. In addition, the pit is filled with leeches. Each round the person takes 1d4 damage from the many leeches on them. Once out of the pit they can spend an action to remove the leeches. “You fall to the bottom of the pit which is covered in rotten meat, a couple of carcasses and hundreds of leeches. The leeches quickly latch onto you.” 

Stinkbomb Trap
See Trap: DC18 Wisdom (Perception). “There is a tripwire low to the floor. There is something odd about the ceiling.”
Disable Trap: DC15 Dexterity. “Any movement of the tripwire will set off the trap. A wedge needs to be placed where the wire enters the walls so when the wire is cut they will not release tension.”
Activates: When a person moves to the end of the trap and trips the wire. “You feel the pull of a tripwire.”
Set Off Trap: Everyone in the trap area must make a DC12 Dexterity Save. Those that fail are covered in a liquid that gives off a strong musky smell. At the same time the giant weasels from location 6 move to the smell and attack, focusing their attacks on those covered in the scent. “Parts of the ceiling collapse revealing bags that fall to the ground and burst. The bags were filled with a liquid that now covers you. The liquid seems to be water and does not harm you other than leaving a bad smell.” 

Collapsing Ladder Trap
See Trap: DC14 Wisdom (Perception). “The ladder looks shoddy and not safe.”
Disable Trap: None, ladder is fake and cannot be used as a ladder. “The ladder is designed to collapse. It is best left alone.”
Activates: When a person climbs up the ladder and is near the top. “The next rung suddenly gives way as the ladder itself falls apart.”
Set Off Trap: Entire ladder collapses and the climber takes 2d6 falling damage. “The entire ladder comes off the wall in pieces. You plummet to the floor.” 

Deadfall Trap
See Trap: DC12 Wisdom (Perception). “The ceiling looks loose. There is a string stretched across the tunnel.”
Disable Trap: DC15 Dexterity. “Cutting the string will release the tension and disable the trap, but be careful as tugging on the string will activate it.”
Activates: When a person moves into the end of the tunnel without seeing the trap. “Your foot pulls on a tripwire near the floor.”
Set Off Trap: 1d10 damage to everyone within 10’ of the end of the tunnel; DC15 Dexterity Save for half damage; makes a loud noise alerting location 4. “The roof comes cascading down with a loud series of crashes.” 

Pit Trap
See Trap: DC12 Wisdom (Perception). “The floor ahead looks unsafe.”
Disable Trap: DC15 Dexterity. “By wedging a small item into the seam where the pit and regular floor meet it should be safe to walk over one at a time.”
Activates: Move to the end of the northern end of the trap. “The floor tilts downward and then collapses.”
Set Off Trap: Everyone in the trap’s area must make a DC12 Dexterity Save. Those that fail take 1d6 falling damage and are now in a 10’ deep pit. “You fall into a 10’ deep pit.”