Friday, May 14, 2010

Open Friday: Underappreciated RPGs

Name a single RPG published before 1984 that you think deserves wider recognition than it's received to date and briefly state why in the comments below.

93 comments:

  1. Is there a reason to limit it to pre-1984?

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  2. I'd vote for one of the Tekumel RPGs, either Empire of the Petal Throne or Swords & Glory. Tekumel is too little recognized for its unusual cultural sources, which included (as M. A. R. Barker notes in the Swords & Glory preface) "Egypt, the Aztecs and Mayans, the Hellenic Age, Mughal India, and mediaeval Europe." Barker succeeded in his desire to create "a mythos which will be interestingly different from the traditional ones." Unfortunately, Tekumel's very originality makes it unapproachable without strong motivation.

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  3. I would have to say Starfleet Voyages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfleet_Voyages), an unlicensed Trek RPG; basically a mix of D&D and Sci-Fi adventure. It adapted D&D type rules to planetary adventuring and starship battles pretty well, compared to systems like Space Opera. It lived in its own randomly generated by the GM Trek-based universe, and had anachronistic D&D-isms woven into its reality. Bar fights with Klingons, buying equipment, and adventuring through space dungeons on missions added to its blissfully RPG-ish charms.

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  4. I'll second Tekumel (EPT especially), for the same reasons - but that doesn't add anything to the conversation, does it?

    So I'll go with DeathMaze or any of it's related single-player dungeoncrawl kin. Once upon a time, it was hard to find other players... and these served that need admirably. However many bad habits and however much antisocial behaviors that can be laid at their feet, many of them were quite good. Especially since you could easily translate these to something to run on the campus' VAXen... ;)

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  5. I really think Bunnies and Burrows could use a little more respect from our corner of the net.

    That said Tekumel deserves more respect from the world at large. If anyone knows a good EPT blog I'd be grateful for sharing.

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  6. Flashing Blades by Mark Pettigrew, published by Fantasy Games Unlimited. A short relatively simple rpg that manages to capture the spirit of its subject matter perfectly. It also allows players a great deal of leeway with rules for playing bankers, merchants, soldiers, rogues and so forth. Supported with some brief well realised adventures. Great stuff.

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  7. I second Tekumel. Marvelous world, fabulous novels. Game mechanics and publications that haven't succeeded. With the right resources, energy and a little luck, it could become a very popular rpg, sell a lot of novels and spawn a quality movie.

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  8. My vote is from 1984, but I'm choosing it anyway: Marvel Super Heroes from TSR. Mechanically speaking, it's one of the most influential RPGs ever made, because (to the best of my knowledge) it introduces the 'unified system mechanic' concept: A rule system that uses the same mechanics for everything you need to do in a game, from dusting for fingerprints to throwing a punch!

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  9. I played a ton of Marvel Super Heroes. But I preferred the Advanced Version, due to more character creation options. We ran campaigns that went on for years. But, Ultimate Powers book was not a good add on IMO.

    I want to throw my big vote behind Stormbringer. I really loved how it captured that world. I always thought the books were a bit silly in many ways. David, my main friend in gaming, loved those books. So he had the whole system. The game whose magic system was about binding spirits and demons was dark and pulpy. Not to mention pretty darn deadly. I haven't seen seen the game in over two decades but I vividly remember playing it one summer. And I remember how easy it was to put some CoC monsters in the system ... since it shared that Chaosium system between them.

    One oddity was Powers and Perils by Avalon Hill. I brought it at some close out store for pennies on the dollar along with a bunch of Victory Games James Bond mini games. The system was one giant math problem. But, it tried real hard to capture a more pulp fantasy vibe. It had some great charts and mechanics ... if you had experience reading wargame manuals and could claw your way through the math. I remember making a Grey Mouser clone in the system and being pleased with the results.

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  10. Unfortunately for me, ConradKinch got my favorite choice before I saw this entry. Flashing Blades is excellent all the way through. My second choice, Swordbearer is one that James has already reviewed, but should be especially noted for its inventive and interesting magic system. There are a couple of games that have neat ideas but a failure of execution that remove them from consideration (Witch Hunt is notable here - it has its virtues, but it ultimately fails; however, it is probably of interest to those studying the history of the hobby due to its seemingly unusual play style).

    Ultimately, though, I think that Tom Moldvay's utterly crazy Lords of Creation should probably get more attention than it does. The system is a little clunky, but the breadth of the idea is breathtaking. Plus, I have to be a booster for a game which includes a setting based on the works of William Blake, and an alternate history setting based on the successes of both Spartacus and Boudicca.

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  11. After looking up early RPG history to make sure I didn't forget anything important I read a bit about En Garde! Sounds like an interesting game with a long history. Since I've never heard of it maybe En Garde! needs some love.

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  12. Good topic. I have a copy of Stormbringer, never ran it though. I always felt odd about running that as much as I do running MERP. Marvel is definitely the one I had the most fun with, or maybe Gamma World.

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  13. Empire of the Petal Throne (published in 1975 by TSR)

    I'm repeatedly surprised at how unknown this game is amongst old-schoolers. It seems that most who have even heard of it know next to nothing about it.

    In a nutshell, a brilliant philologist in his mid-40s took the D&D game (written by young pups: In 1974 Gary was 36 years old and Dave was 27) to a whole new level. M. A. R. Barker is arguably the finest fantasist of all, plus his logical, beautiful, and tightly-structured rules set was written in 1974 and published in 1975.

    This never fails to leave me in awe.

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  14. Chivalry and Sorcery. Yes, the name is fairly well-known, but the game is lost behind its reputation for being too complicated and ponderous. I think it had an excellent magic system, it fit that magic system to a medieval world so that it felt like it actually belonged there, and it had Simbalist's great essay, "Monsters are people, too."

    security word: "Maddist." One who specializes in acting insane.

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  15. Daredevils. The game and supplements/adventures really had a nice pulp feel and lent itself to several different genres, from pulp hero, to horror, to mystery, to lost world adventure. I've always felt most of FGU's stuff is a bit clunky mechanically, but this was just a really fun game. One summer we ran a Shadow/Doc Savage type pulp campaign using the Daredevils box set and had a lot of fun.

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  16. Avalon Hill's Magic Realm, published in 1978. Probably the best role-playing board game ever published.

    Multi-player. Permits both cooperation and competition between players. No DM. Deterministic and strategic combat system (no dice rolls for detemining hits or wounds) Has a built in race-against time mechanic to propel the game forward. A unique combined wounds / fatigue damage system. Has great re-playability. Mana-based magic system that works. Interesting magic item mechanics.

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  17. Have to agree, that EPT is under-rated, but also agree with EnGarde, we had a lot of fun with that system, though I'm not sure whether it really is a roleplaying game, more like an expanded version of the Traveller character generation system

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  18. While I agree with a number of these, I'll throw in my vote for Arcanum, Steven Michael Sechi's RPG offering before Talislanta. Arcanum was a heavily modified D&D variant ruleset and setting, incorporating most of the classes and options from his "Compleat" series of chapbooks. We played it a lot on college breaks, and it felt like a more logical and fun way to proceed from D&D basics than AD&D had been. It felt more open and spacious, less cramped and cranky. Oh, and Bill Sienkewicz art.

    Most memorable thing: the "Andaman" template-race for animal-headed humanoids (a lion and a man ... a weasel and a man ...) That probably influenced my blase attitude toward the profusion of animal-humanoids in the game.

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  19. I've really wanted to get into Magic Realm but it is intimidating.

    I'd have to vote for DragonQuest 2nd Edition.

    First of all, I played in it for 5 years and had a great time. It's not revolutionary by today's standards, but I think it was at the time.

    I like the classes that work as skills, and the combat strikes a nice balance between easy and detail. The magic system was nice but a little difficult. The bestiary stayed much closer to myth than D&D did.

    It's a little quirky like most games of the second generation, and it's written in a dry, intimidating style. But with some serious revision, I think it could have been fantastic.

    As I understand it, a game called Fifth Cycle (1990) heavily borrowed from DQ, adding some bits from BRP. I haven't tracked down a copy yet but plan on doing so eventually.

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  20. Bending the rules slightly to include 1984 I must say I am very fond of Alexander Scott's Maelstrom, a game of 16th century swashbuckling and skullduggery. It has all the strange richness and diversity of the old school with a number of interesting extras. You can play fruiterers and scriveners as well as thieves and mages. It has the most extensive and fascinating herbalism rules found in any rpg, combat is extremely deadly and it can take months to heal from a minor skirmish and magic is very, very hard to do.

    It was the 2nd rpg I ever played after BECMI

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  21. I'm also gonna break the rules and say Chill, which I believe was published in 1984. I played a lot more Coc, but I'm always going to have a soft spot for Chill.

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  22. CoC gets plenty love. I'm going to say Superhero 2044, and it's lasting affect on my Villains and Vigilantes, all the way into my prolific Champions campaigns.

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  23. Gangbusters (1982 or so?) was a great game, mechanically and otherwise. Aside from Gamma World, this was the big one my group played besides D&D. It was a revelation in a lot of ways--the players weren't necessarily a party (in fact, they might all be enemies who never speak to each other in-game), the characters had to worry about their incomes and jobs, career advancement was tied to professional success. The thing that amazed me most when I first read it as a kid was an example of play where some of the players are gangsters down on the street, and the others are cops staking them out from a high window. All the players know everything the other players are doing and planning, but the characters don't, and they restrict their character actions (with some help from the GM) to the in-character knowledge. It was a big change from D&D, and a huge amount of fun.

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  24. Bruce Quarrie's Fantasy Wargaming from 1981 was a pretty interesting system particularly it's magic system. Plus it had stats for Jesus.

    No game says gonzo old school gaming more to me than James Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha. It may not have been much on rules but I really dug the concept.

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  25. Almost the entire output of Fantasy Games Unlimited, I'm afraid, as this was it's heyday.

    Bushido is probably my favourite of these. As well as having a long running campaign, I frequently use a lot of the game mechanisms elsewhere, such as the level of place/people.

    Chivalry & Sorcery has always been a favourite, although I do prefer the first and fourth editions to the others.

    Psi World is a relatively unknown favourite as well. A very thin set of rules, but an interesting world/idea. I liked the skill system.

    Villians & Vigilantes is often forgotten when people mention superhero games because it is random, but I've been in many excellent campaigns that use both 1st and 2nd editions.

    Aftermath was a bit too complicated for easy play, but people liked my post-Star Change Cthulhu game. Then again that group was very nuts and bolts.

    Flashing Blades (which is really an expansion of En Garde when all is said and done), does stellar service in creating career paths in the military and clergy.

    Other Suns is almost forgotten by everyone, although it was always eclipsed by the notoriously incomplete Space Opera (of which the supplements such as ground & Air Equipment are very good source material still).

    I've used Privateers & Gentlemen to run vast space opera, where only the names (Portsmouth => Luna Base; England => Earth; France => Alpha Centauri) have been changed to protect the guilty.

    I have to mention Lands of Adventure just for the beautiful cover, even though the rules took the idea of mechanical complexity a formula too far and an acronym too many.

    Daredevils was fun, but I find the rule system doesn't really matter when playing pulp games.

    I could add non-FGU stuff, such as Empire of the Petal Throne, Dragonquest (especially the original edition with the College of Greater Summonings and the extensive lists of demons that they could summon), and the Thieves Guild series (especially the excellent naval rules in Thieves Guild VI), but I have already gone on far too long.

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  26. @David Hayden: Fifth Cycle doesn't really borrow that much from either BRP or Dragonquest I'm afraid. It's still interesting in it's own right, especially if you also can find the supplement Military Races which covers the anthroporphic slave races raised to fight the wars that led to the Fifth Cycle. I like the spell evolution system.

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  27. Earthdawn.
    Talislanta.
    Tekumel.

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  28. Timemaster by Pacesetter. The system was fairly easy to learn, but the time travel concepts introduced were truly mindblowing.

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  29. Under-appreciated even on a thread about under-appreciated RPGs: Starships and Spacemen. Basically Star Trek with the serial numbers not so much filed off as covered in masking tape. Published by FGU in 1978, it had everything you needed for a Star Trek-style space exploration game: chargen with races and branches/sub-branches of the service (classes), attributes that doubled as skills, experience, equipment, combat, space travel, time travel, diseases, alien creatures, starships and ship-to-ship combat and pursuit, space hazards, even sample adventures, all in 78 pages. It was a heck of a lot of fun for such a simple game.

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  30. Nobody mentioned "Dardevils"?

    I love (and played a lot) that old FGU game (1982).

    The game mechanics were awkward (to say the least) and very "unrealistic" despite their complexity, but still, the "careers" your adventurer had to choose during the creation process were just great.

    It added a wonderful background to any character, providing him a solid history, numerous useful talents and a many related objects.

    Still Old School enough to me, anyway...

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  31. I have to go with "Fighting Fantasy", published in 1984 by Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone (of Games Workshop). Based on the solo gamebook series of the same name, "Fighting Fantasy" took the rules a step further, allowing for a GM-controlled tabletop RPG. With only 2d6 needed for play, & complete rules for combat, magic, monsters, & otherwise, "Fighting Fantasy" definitely falls into the "less is more" category of RPG's.

    Granted, "Out of the Pit" (the complete MM of the Fighting Fantasy RPG), "The Riddling Reaver" (a pre-published module), & "Titan" (a sourcebook for the Fighting Fantasy gameworld [also named Titan]) were released a year or so later, I still consider the "Fighting Fantasy" tabletop RPG as a fun, easy to play, & unfortunately forgotten game of a bygone age.

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  32. As someone who actually owns and has played En Guard! I can vouch that it is fun game with a lot of potential. Like OD&D, it needs a lot of massaging, but as someone who loves random tables, I must admit that I pull it out on a regular basis and play a solo game every now and then.

    However, my vote is for V&V. I played this game a lot. And even when we "moved on" to Champions, we still used the V&V creation system in order to come up with character concepts. Random character generation has never been so fun.

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  33. High Fantasy - not a great system, although still very playable, but the solo adventures are amazingly well written and fun to play.

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  34. This doesn't meet James criteria of pre 1984, so if that bothers you read no further.

    I say 3rd Edition D&D and the OGL. The old school renaissance owes its origin to the OGL and 3E. Without it none of this would have happened.

    No edition of the game has brought more revenue, more employment, or more creative minds to the genre.

    Each of it's successive versions has been a graceful refinement of the core mechanic and all the versions retain strong links to their 1E grandfather.

    The corporate owner of 3E tried to destroy it and it not only survived but essentially spawned an entire company in Paizo to continue the legacy with new products and full compatibility with existing libraries of products. No edition of the game has done this.

    Since 2000 right up until this very day 3E proves to be the most successfull and influential version of D&D and probably in RPGs in general.

    All hail Paizo. This is all. Return to Gronardering.

    Where is the new logo you promised James?

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  35. Land of the Rising Sun, by Lee Gold. Apparently it was based on Chivalry and Sorcery rules variants, but I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was that it was the most detailed description of feudal Japan and Shinto mythology that I had ever seen. It made me want to play in that world.

    I've still not found a better source, including non-fiction works.

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  36. Another vote for Powers and Perils. We never played it as written, but I loved reading through the setting material and looking at the artwork.

    It's also notable because it's the only RPG I remember seeing in one of the fancier department stores, with the other AH bookshelf games.

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  37. I'll toss out Cyberpunk 2013. I haven't looked at the new version, Cyberpunk 2020, but the I remember a lot of fun and not too much swearing at the system.

    Another one would be Torg. We had a lot of fun mixing and matching from the various realms and settings and the mechanics were pretty smooth.

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  38. Tunnels & Trolls. So many people I've meant had T&T as their RPG gateway game. It also maintained a sense of whimsy as well as allowing lone gamers the chance to still kick down doors, kills stuff and take their gold in the form of solo game books.

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  39. @ BlUsKrEEm :

    I don't know how to send you a private message thru Blogger, but may I offer my own blog about our groups' (mis)adventures on Tekumel?

    http://chirinesworkbench.blogspot.com/

    I'd also like to second "En Garde!"; we had an immense amount of fun with it back in the day!

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  40. "This doesn't meet James criteria of pre 1984, so if that bothers you read no further."

    Oh, and my two favorite pre-1984 basketball players are Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. Idiot.

    Mike B.

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  41. Wow. Not one mention of Star Frontiers? Maybe I was the only one who played the heck out of this. This was the first game I ever really ran a 'real' campaign with ('real' meaning with more than 1 player). In all honesty, what I wanted was a Star Wars game (which wouldn't come out until 1987)—but in the meanwhile, this was a very good substitute.

    Star Frontiers was a simple game to play, even though it used a skill system (something a lot of old school gamers don't seem to like). It was this sudden shift in thinking that first caught my eye. Until that point, I had always thought of games as having classes and levels and that was just the way it was. Not so. And good.

    Many of the supporting materials for the Star Frontiers were great as well. From the 'wargamey' ship combat system to the adventure modules, Star Frontiers really formed the foundation of my sci-fi gaming experience—something I built off of once Star Wars finally did come out.

    Oh, and the art? Superb.

    Anyone interested in the game can find almost all of its stuff on the following site: http://www.f4fbbs.com/StarFrontiers/

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  42. As a player, I'd vote for Space Opera. Spent hours playing that back in the 80s. I loved designing starships and then getting involved in goofy adventures loosely based on Star Wars and whatever other crap we could stuff into the game.

    As a GM, I'd vote for Dragonquest, primarly for the modules. I've had lots of fun adapting and running everything from House of Kurin, Palace of Ontocle, Treasure of Socantri all the way to two runs through The Enchanted Wood. Good stuff.

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  43. I also agree with Tekumel, though I'm gonna actually go with basic D&D -- it's the game that, for most of us, set our imaginations afire. I wish today's D&D would take a few cues from basic (simpler would be better.)

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  44. Boot Hill is the Velvet Underground of RPGs; very few people seemed to actually play it, but a big chunk of those that did ended up creating a western to fill the void.

    Poster motortree mentioned Gangbusters; I second that one. The first edition was pretty much a rehash of Boot Hill's mechanics, but it was superb fun.

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  45. I remember doing a lot of gunfights with Boot Hill, but not what you'd call a campaign.

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  46. The Morrow Project was great. I mean how can you not like a game that provided the supposed Soviet targetting matrix for the entire united States.
    I think EPT has gotten tons of recognition in these latter years so it really doesn't qualify.

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  47. T&T and EPT are excellent choices and many other good games have been mentioned here. But the obscurity if Tom Moldvay's Lords of Creation is an ongoing Crime Against Awesome only rivaled by the lack of a legal Thundarr the Barbarian DVD set or the existence of the the Star Wars prequels. (Yes, I went there.)

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  48. To this day Star Frontiers still has my favorite alien race ever, the Dralasites, with the Sathar being a close second. Heck, I like all of the SF aliens except for those stupid flying monkeys. If this game was released in a new edition (or even the same edition with improved layout) I would buy everything for it.

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  49. Badmike--Dwyane Wade. Not Dwayne.

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  50. It's a tough call for me between The Morrow Project and Ysgarth.

    Ysgarth had a lot of interesting features. It had a simple method of multi classing - each class had an experience rating of 1 or more; add together the ratings of all the classes you want to pursue and consult the experience chart that matches your total experience rating.
    It had many interesting spell casting classes, including demon-summoner, that added a sinister feel to magic; it also assigned a percentage of total hit points to each body part, this made it possible for even high level characters to be killed by low-level creatures if they were hit in the eye (which would never have more than one or two hit points). The game is overly complicated for my tastes now, but I had a great time playing it in the early '80's.

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  51. I'll throw my weight in behind The Fantasy Trip. While Melee and Wizard are great fun by themselves--Steve Jackson manages to make it all work together rather seamlessly. Its a great game that doesn't get enough love.

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  52. "Badmike--Dwyane Wade. Not Dwayne."

    That's about the 11th time I've spelled it wrong this week (I'm a regular on basketball forums). There goes my hoops cred....

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  53. I'm going to third Star Frontiers. There's still a bit of the rpg'er snobbishness around SF, and it has a relationship to Traveler similar to BD&D's relationship to AD&D... a la, "Grown ups play Traveler."

    It's a nice, simple, concise game, that delivers on the type of game it's designed to give you, mainly "Old West" in space. Its scope, in its core rules form, is more limited in what it does than a lot of Sci-Fi games, but what it covers, it covers very well.

    I'll also agree with those saying Tunnels & Trolls. T&T has had a bit of a renaissance among rpg cognoscenti over the last half-decade or so, but to my mind, among fans it still doesn't hold it's proper place with D&D, Traveler, CoC, and Runequest as one of the pillars this rpg hobby was built upon.

    And finally, I really haven't read enough of the rules or played with it at all, but Lords of Creation just reeks of coolness. Thumbing through the monster book alone is inspirational, or the appendix of example universes. If you want to see what Tom Moldvay could do when he had no limits placed on him whatsoever, you must pick it up.

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  54. Fantasy Wargaming. It missed the point of "role-playing" completely, but the writer put a lot of detail into the game, and many of it was good for cross-pollination with other fantasy RPGs.

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  55. I say Villains and Vigilantes: My first supers game and one I still would play in a heartbeat, despite my massive pile of supers games.

    My second supers game was Marvel Basic set, and I still love that game for it's simplicity.

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  56. I can't beleive it took that long to mention Tunnels & Trolls.

    However, I would say Boot Hill or Star Frontiers

    or you could mix them and play old-school Firefly ;)

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  57. Chaosium's Superworld boxed set, Boot Hill and V&V for me. We played the hell out of all of them.

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  58. @ Pat Armstrong: Jesus, Pat, that's genius! I wish I'd thought of it!

    Boot Hill is the most under-appreciated game around. No one uses it to its true potential: a true, Western role-playing game that models only the rules needed to resolve Western conflict (i.e. gunfights) in a realistically deadly manner.

    I love it.

    [I'm not sure I'd call Star Frontiers nor Tekumel as underappreciated on the web]

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  59. I'll fifth Star Frontiers - I played it with my Gamma World group back in the day. The campaign was hugely fun, combining the joys of gonzo space opera and planetary exploration.

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  60. 1st edition Paranoia. Totally hilarious mind fuck when it came out. Loved it. (of course, this was 1984... figures...)

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  61. I will second FGUs Other Suns. Does anyone still remember it? I loved the 'futuristic' flared trousers and lunatic alien races - big teddy bears that did NOT look like Wookies. I seem to remember the system being remarkably, and thankfully unlike most other FGU games. I still yearn for it's space-age brown-ness.

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  62. Fantasy Games Unlimited's Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo game. The actual rpg rules weren't good -- they are pretty much non-existant -- but as an outline for a campaign using the Daredevils rules system it is remarkably good.

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  63. En Garde spawned a large PBM community in the UK, where there was some real role-playing going on. In one 100-issue plus game I played in, about a year's play was devoted to a massive civil war (the good guys won, but my character died defending the Bastille...). I think a similar one called The Paris Tribune may still be going - iirc, Bothwells has been blown up several times in that one.

    I'd also agree with Boot Hill. We played that regularly, but I can't so much remember the plots as the characters, like "One Shot" Eddie Martindale, who had this habit of rolling critical hits as soon as he pulled out a gun. Splendid stuff.

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  64. Well, even though James talked about this not long ago, I still think this games deserves more recognition: Victory Games James Bond 007 RPG. That was the first RP game I played and still think it is a great game to this day.

    My second choice would go with the Fighting Fantasy series of game books, which has been mentioned already in this list of comments.

    There was another series of game books I was fond of called The Way Of The Tiger, where you took on the role of a Cain from Kung Fu type of dude who was a ninja, who went by the name Avenger. cool series, done by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson.

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  65. I got to say Ysgarth as well. I think I saw a copy of it once and it never got any ink other then that little 80's zine called The Abyss. If any lost and forgotten games deserves to be reviewed on Grognardia, Ysgarth must be on the top five list.

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  66. The Fantasy Trip by Steve Jackson (the GURPS one not the UK one) from 1980.

    It was a fleshed out war game and really well designed. I like the fact the Into the Labyrinth (the RPG expansion) included everything you needed for all sorts of adventures, merchants, thieves, whatever -- everybody got a little support.

    It would later mutate into GURPS but TFT was more playable in an old school way

    It kind of survives as two retro-clones one of the 1st actually called Legends of the Ancient World which is pretty well supported here http://www.darkcitygames.com

    and

    Warrior and Wizard

    http://warriorandwizard.blogspot.com/

    However other than an article on Beyond the Black Gate it gets very little love

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  67. Recon really deserves more respect and recognition. Originally released in 1982, so it passes the criteria for this discussion, though I think the 1986 Palladium edition is the definitive version.

    It's subject matter earned a lot of unfair knee-jerk outrage when it first came out. What gamers are still aware of it dismiss it as a punchline, "that Vietnam rpg." Even Palladium fans don't like it much, since it doesn't use the standardized Megaversal system.

    But its actually a pretty good game, with a much the same good qualities of Basic D&D.

    * Very simple rules, everything's a simple d100 roll.
    * Quick and easy char-gen, pop out a new mercenary in under ten minutes.
    * Clear guidelines as to setting, adventure structure and goals.
    * Extensive sandbox-play support. Maps, npc's, randomn encounter tables, hundreds of seeds.

    By OSR standards, its excellent, pretty much the wilderness adventure aspect of OD&D expanded and refined for a contemporary setting.

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  68. Something of a cheat (it was published in 1984) but I have a soft spot in my heart for one of Hero Games' redheaded step-children, Justice Inc. The game was designed to emulate the pulp fiction of the 20s and 30s and had an awesome campaign book that outlined all the sub-genres of the pulp fiction of the time and how one could play it. Only played it for a summer, but it was great fun.

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  69. 1979's Heroes by Dave Millward.

    A precursor to the grimy trinity of Maelstrom, Dragon Warriors and WFRP, it's the dirty, dangerous Dark Ages rpg that twists like a knife in the guts of UK rpg design.

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  70. The two that I would have mentioned were JUSTICE INC. (which managed to capture the spirit and versitility of ALL pulp fiction while showing people that one didn't have to mini-max to enjoy the Hero System), and THE FANTASY TRIP (which has already had it's many strengths listed above).

    I would alo add the Steve Jackson Games / Hero Games collaboration AUTODUEL CHAMPIONS - which not only added vehicle rules to the Hero System, but made CAR WARS a playable RPG.

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  71. FGU's Land of the Rising Sun, if only because it gets overshadowed by it's younger brother Bushido. Compared to Chivalry & Sorcery, with which I recall it being largely compatible, it's layout was much easier to digest and I spent many hours rolling up random characters and then taking them on journeys using the extensive wilderness encounter tables.

    @Sean Wills. Thanks for mentioning this one. I'd never heard of Heroes, but I'm liking what I can glean. John Blanche art? Barbarians in a civilised land?Yes, please. And I like your description of the games that follow as the grimy trilogy.

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  72. Noone seems to have mentioned SPI's Universe, which I always thought was terrific. I liked the character gen - particularly the environment matrix which let you determine how a character from one environment adapts to other, more alien environments.

    And Dragonquest!

    And Fantasy Trip!!

    And Death Maze!!! (and it's sequel Citadel of Blood)vernive

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  73. L'Ultime épreuve. because it was the first french rpg, in 1983.

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  74. To chime in again. I loved Villains and Vigilantes and played the heck of it. Oddly looking back we were only successful in maintaining long campaigns in super hero genre. Makes sense we all had comics and our AD&D characters usually bit the dust in one fashion or another in a level or two.

    I have to agree with the fact that Stars Frontier isn't so forgotten compared to many on this list.

    Sadly I know most of these games only as ads from Dragon.

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  75. Both the ones I'd have called out were called out: The Fantasy Trip and Universe.

    The latter was interesting, not only for the reasons that groakes stated, but the beautiful star map that came with the game (covered everything within 30 LY with the 3D coordinates given) and the space combat system that had to be bought separately, Delta Vee, which was a pretty playable abstraction that actually took into account something called "physics"

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  76. A few people have mentioned En Garde! - can I put in a plug? I'm developing a free online game based on it. Anyone who's interested can contact me (news at apolitical dot info).

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  78. I thought you were abstaining from the internets on fridays now... couldn't stay away huh?

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  80. Roger the GS nabbed my choice. The Atlantean Trilogy (the Arcanum, the Bestiary, and the Lexicon) really flavored my games since I ordered a copy from Bard Games. Tons of different character classes, Armor stops damage, skills were percentile, oodles and oodles of different magic types such as Astrology and Low (Spirit) Magic, and combat was not tied to a table, but instead was based on a target number and skill. It was very much someone's house rules for D&D, though, and we house-ruled *it* to be closer to BECMI and played like that for years.

    I'm not sure why it never caught on. But I know that it continues to flavor my gaming even today. It's a goldmine of ideas waiting to be tapped, and I've found rich veins in those books again and again.

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  81. I'd probably say Bunnies and Burrows for the innovativeness of the rules, but the setting didn't appeal as much as playing D&D or other more conventional fantasy games in those days.

    I did enjoy running Metamorphosis Alpha too, but the rules were pretty clunky in the TSR edition.

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  82. I thought you were abstaining from the internets on fridays now... couldn't stay away huh?

    As I explained last week, when this same question came up, I was asked by several commenters to create an open post on Fridays, so that discussion could continue in my absence, which is what I've done. I was offline yesterday and am just now beginning to weed through the absurd number of emails I received while I was.

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  83. From the pre-1984 games, I think that the Great Unappreciated was TSR's own Escape From New York. It was an excellent little compact board game based on the movie I wished it were made into a full scale role playing game it had everything: a unique setting, NPCs, equipment, gear, encounters and a combat mechanic with weapons, plus an awesome gameboard and a terrain geography typology I still make use of in my games and in the real world!

    Other contenders would be the Espionage! which was to TSR's Top Secret like Runequest is to D&D, and another game I wish I had a copy of from the early days of the hobby, called Assassin! (live RPG) where you try to bump off your friends before they hit you.

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  84. Brooze the Bear: I don't remember Assassin!, but I do remember Killer, which is still in print, and is exactly what you are describing.

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  85. Whoops. Not in print, exactly, but available in pdf format.

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  86. "Ultimately, though, I think that Tom Moldvay's utterly crazy Lords of Creation should probably get more attention than it does. The system is a little clunky, but the breadth of the idea is breathtaking. Plus, I have to be a booster for a game which includes a setting based on the works of William Blake, and an alternate history setting based on the successes of both Spartacus and Boudicca. "

    Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with you and the other posters who noted this one. I had some real fun playing it and recently got my complete set (and "Omegakron"!) back. Totally excited.

    And Bad Mike, you tell 'em, man.

    Also, to the poster who mentioned Fantasy Wargaming: are you serious? Because I recently picked this up and had decided it might very well be the worst RPG ever (keeping in mind that I don't think of 3e or later as RPGs . . .). I read the first 80 pages, didn't encounter a rule, was amazed at all the shittily ill-informed attempts at history, noted that both Judaism and homosexuality count as diseases or curses or some such and finally just bailed and wrote an AD&D encounter to make myself feel better. I just don't see this one.

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  87. Michael (in NYC): Though I largely disagree with your analysis of FW, I only want to single out one bit. Judaism and homosexuality are not listed as "diseases or curses". They are results on the so-called "Bogey Table", a table which "[d]espite its name… has as many good as bad factors within it". Note also that homophobia is in the same column of "bad factors" as homosexuality, and that Judaism is a requirement for one of the magic-using classes. There are problems with that, yes, but it is reasonably true to the source material.

    FW has its virtues, though its faults (such as a system that slows down play unnecessarily - one needs to roll separately for both luck and success for every action!) kept me from mentioning it myself.

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  88. faoladh: Thanks for the insight. I did not, I admit, delve deeply enough to see precisely what was going on with Judaism and homosexuality when they were mentioned because by that time I was halfway out the door (again, 80 pages, no actual rules yet). I did notice a weird dig at Clark Ashton-Smith and something along the lines of "part of the problem with all other role-playing games is fighting crazy made-up monsters!" Bur? Yes. That *does* suck.

    I guess that gets at one of the main problems I had in my abbreviated reading: the sense through the whole thing that the way they're doing it, which to me seems to palpably wrong and troubling and unfun and annoying in so many ways (and hey, I dig fiddly--I'm an AD&D player) was, as far as the writer was concerned, a *corrective* to the way all other games had got it all wrong. Like using monsters. And not using angels, I suppose.

    It's also what I tend to hate most about a lot of current fantasy (I'm looking at you, G. R. R. Martin). I already know about the real world (better than the writer of FW, that's for sure!). I don't need a game that takes place in fantasy Europe and has a fantasy Christianity and over there is fantasy Asia, where all of the people are going to fantasy hell. I mean . . . what's the point?

    I guess what I'm saying is color-code my dragons and let my people go.

    ;)

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  89. Judaism is a requirement for one of the magic-using classes? Oy gevalt!

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  90. From memory it was the Cabalist.

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  91. anarchist is correct. It was also the most competent of the magic-using classes in the game, surpassing even the High Sorcerer and the Runic Sorcerer.

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  92. Golden Heroes from GW. Very cool frame-based combat system. And random powers which you had to justify with your own origin story. One of the characters in our campaign had the Leaping power, he was the fearsome Jumping Justice (TM)...

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