Friday, September 30, 2011

Open Friday: Gaming Disappointments

I mentioned in my post yesterday about how disappointed I was when I finally got a copy of Unearthed Arcana in my hands. I'm not sure that was my biggest gaming disappointment, but it certainly is among my most memorable. So, for today's question, I'd like to ask you about your biggest gaming disappointments. What was the product that you most looked forward to owning and that, upon getting it, you came to regret purchasing? My only stipulation is that you keep your comments to the product itself and its contents, not the writers/designers or company that published it.


  1. 4th Edition D&D. I've tried to like it, I really have, but after two years playing it I'm still distinctly underwhelmed.

  2. Back in the 1990s I kept hearing about this hilariously funny and satirical game called Paranoia, which was supposedly a real hoot. I went out and bought it and was thoroughly underwhelmed by the limp slapstick comedy on offer... because I wasn't aware of the debacle surrounding the "5th edition".

    I eventually acquired a second-hand copy of 2nd edition and was much happier with it.

  3. Well, I mentioned this before on my own blog but the "Paragon" RPG advertised back in issue 109 of Dragon.

    The promise was to join a large group of playtesters who would try out a new, innovative FRPG, with tons of support and updates by mail. The reality was an envelope full of loose-leaf pages that detailed an incoherent, incredibly complicated 'fantasy heartbreaker'. Bummer.

  4. I was hoping that 4ED&D would be a good purchase, but even after doing my best and giving it a go, I found it was deeply disappointing and not what I wanted.

    And recently, The Secret Fire, another disappointment. While I liked aspects of it, overall it didn't do anything exceptional and wasn't as good or as innovative as I'd imagined.

  5. By far, one of the greater gaming disappointments I think for me was the Spelljammer boxed set. Maybe I was just too naive, but I thought it looked cool. As it turns out,it wasn't. Also the Taladas boxed set for Dragonlance. So much potential, but uh....nah, it just didn't do it for me. And the Wilderness Survival Guide left me feeling sort of empty.

  6. Hmm....Rifts, Earthdawn, TORG are games I was excited about prior to purchase & play, only to be disappointed (Rifts less so than the other two).
    I'll have to look back through the blog. I may have missed where you explain your dislike of UA. Personally, I enjoyed it. At that point in my AD&D gaming, we were looking for some fresh ideas, and we welcomed them.

  7. Never getting a Klingon source book released for both Last Unicorn Games and Decipher's Star Trek RPGs before the license was terminated.

    Runner Up: The premature demise of Alternity (especially Dark•Matter) to make way for the d20 era.

  8. Wilderness Survival Guide. The eyes, they glazeth over.

  9. 4e was bit of one, or more so its business model on releasing the core game in parts. 4e Forgotten Realms was a huge disappointment. Palladium's Hero Unlimited was bit of one too. Star Frontiers also. Both games I had played before and enjoyed, but by the time I got a copy for myself to start my own games of them. I was left feeling disappointed. I remember how limited I felt SF was for players.

    I never expected much from Cyberpunk, but when I tried it I couldn't believe how more awful it was.

  10. For me it was RuneQuest 3 (the Avalon Hill edition.) I'd had RQ2 for 2 years but everything had dried up for it due to the new edition coming up. I had just started university so for the first time in my life I had some spare cash. Boy did I need it when it came out. I was the first in the area to get it and when I opened (the very nice) box I was shocked at the cheap, nasty booklets and the garish map.

    When I got around to reading the books I was also underwhelmed. Somehow all the flavour had been sucked dry.

    Yet ironically, it's still the rpg I've played the most by a long way and I've had massive amounts of fun with it.

  11. 2nd edition Star Wars RPG, the West End Games version. It's not that it was bad in any way I can point out easily, it was serviceable enough - but it also seemed to suck the life out of the subject for us, and felt too detailed. I ended up making a simple rpg of my own, with some basic abilities, skills, and gear (eg, blaster, d6 damage) which worked better for us. I think I view star wars as more of a fantasy milieu, so wanted a more adventurous, nebulous product. If that makes sense.

  12. The abandonment of The Primal Order books. Fit well with my idea of what the petty gods should be like, but killed by lawfare and the CCG gold-rush.

  13. Star Wars Saga Edition.

    Lifeless, slower, duller and less exciting than any previous edition. Also, a stupid shaped set of books, at far too high a price.

  14. 4ED&D. Actually I've been repeatedly tempted to report WotC to trading standards on the ground that 4E isn't D&D but that's probably just snarkiness.

    When I received my box set of the first three rule books from Amazon I was overjoyed but as I sat and read through them I found myself crying. Very little of what had been promised in the two preview books (both of which I'd bought) seemed to have actually made it into the final product. I put this pretender back on the shelf and there it's gathered dust ever since.

  15. 1) Cthulhutech
    In retrospect, I can't imagine the game might have turned out as anything other than the derivative mish-mash I read after years of waiting and finally ordering a copy from overseas. Even the system and graphic design turned out to, ah, strongly resemble other products from other publishers.

    I didn't even sell the copy I had, IIRC. I think I actually threw it away in disgust.

    2) HERO System Sixth Edition

    Fifth Edition goes out of print, and while I'd memorized the game's rules, Fifth Edition had too many words for too little improvement. Sixth Edition might have slimmed down to a reasonable rules set.

    It didn't. It got bigger, made unnecessary rules changes--some simply renaming long-standing rules, wrapped it all in an extremely unattractive layout, and garnished it with an even higher price tag.

    OTOH, it did get me to stop buying every relase from that publisher.

    3) GURPS Transhuman Space

    I wanted it from the flavor text in other, previously published GURPS books. Then I got it, and I found its setting so conservative and disjointed that I wondered if I'd accidentally bought the wrong game.

    Again, not a total loss, as I stopped being a GURPS completist. A lesson well worth the money, but definitely not what I thought I bought at the time.

  16. First place by a mile would be a scifi miniatures wargame - the 3rd edition of Warzone ("Ultimate Warzone"?). What a mess! Grammatical errors, spelling errors, duplicate paragraphs, missing paragraphs, run-on sentences, stats for units that didn't match their fluff (i.e. the more heavily armored walker was slower than the regular walker, but had the same armor stat, IIRC). Horrible. Totally drained my desire to play the game.

    I recently picked up a copy of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Shadowrun, after years of hearing good things about it. As is my wont, I started reading the world background before diving into the rules. Wow, what a jumbled, badly written mess. I know it was written from the perspective of someone who inhabits the game world describing the events to me, but reading page after page of the "conversational" text quickly took to the luster off of the book. It would have been much better to just give me a timeline, some blurbs, and trim 20 pages off the book. On a more positive note, the short stories in the book were good at conveying the feel of the Shadowrun gameworld.

    Tied with Shadowrun for recent disappointing purchases would be the latest editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (8th) and Warhammer Ancients (2nd). While the books look great, both suffer from typos, poorly written rules that needed to be FAQ'd, and in general unneeded and unnecessary rules changes.

  17. Wow, I hate to be the "what he said" guy...but 4e was a huge disappointment. Tried it for 14 months both in a long running home game using WotC adventure material and playing LFR at cons. Love the support material and love some of the ideas (skill challenges and party roles, etc.) But the system always left me feeling frustrated and annoyed instead of pumped up and heroic. So we went to Pathfinder.

    The online offerings from WotC for 4e at the beginning were also quite slim. That's since changed over time. I would note that the all cheered virtual table top is STILL in beta (I think?) It was the thing I was most excited about but I didn't play 4e long enough to use it.

  18. 4e... By far the largest disappointment in my 30 years of gaming! I was part of the playtest for 4e and I really enjoyed the 3 sessions that I played. We reported back our findings and then waited. When it came out I was like, very cool... It was shiny and new, it was flashy and graphically awesome, then you play and your like cool this is fun, the rules are decent, the powers are cool, everything about this screams good times!

    Then you play it... Long term and your like wow this is just like grinding in WOW with some magic cards thrown in. We played for about 2 years on and off. I have a few really good GMs for our group and that's what made it tolerable, the story, the role play, the intrigue, but all of us were feeling way empty inside as far as satisfaction. Then it happened, it was my fault, I accept full blame! A power became available to my character and I took it, cause hey it seemed cool on paper. It allowed my character to turn into a lighting bolt and move around the battlefield zapping people... It was that moment that I looked up and everyone, including myself just threw up in their mouths a little and the look of wow that was lame was spread across all of our faces. I stopped gaming for about a year cause some of the group continued to play 4e.

    What went wrong? WoTC killed D&D for me at least. They took the imagination out of the game, they streamlined the system to make it easier to get people involved, they made it like a MMoRPG and Crack the Gathering to get younger players involved.... I give them tons of credit for that, and most of the new players will never see what is wrong with 4e ever and that's cool, cause they will more than likely stray into other cool systems and games.

    So now I steer clear of most d20 systems. I can't find a group willing to old school it with me, so I turned to Cortex first (descent but meh) then I picked up Warhammer FRPG new edition, shiny, pretty, way too much stuff though (it does present interesting ideas of play though) and finally I settled into Savage Worlds... Rules lite, multi genre, fast paced. I like it, but now the trouble is getting players as we are all pushing 40.

    Yeah so definitely 4e... DAMN YOU... YOU DAMN DIRTY WIZARDS!

  19. But let me say, seeing my name in the back of a dungeons and dragons book was probably one of my coolest gaming moments.

  20. I will probably get lambasted for this, but I was pretty disappointed when I read the 1E AD&D DMG and PH a few weeks back. I played Basic back in the 80s, and upgraded to 2E when it came out. But I'd never owned these two originals myself. As a lark, I picked up these hallowed tomes, which I'd never really spent any time with before, used and on sale at my local game store.

    The DMG and PH are, of course, important from a historical perspective, and I get that. The sheer creativity on display here is amazing. But it is so convoluted and difficult to make sense of that I wonder how it ever caught on. The various rules and exceptions to them don't really mesh into a cohesive whole. There was so much to memorize, I'm sure a lot of folks had to wing it and improvise most situations. The system is a mess, albeit a glorious mess.

    I was actually considering running a 1E AD&D-style adventure as a twist in my 4E campaign, but after looking at these two books, I think I'll stick with the much clearer and elegant Mentzer era Basic Rules for that instead.

    Well, I've dissed 1E AD&D, praised Mentzer, and stated I play 4E. That's probably cause for lynching around here, but I'm not meaning to troll or anything. It's just food for thought.

  21. Rifts, with the ever-clunky Palladium system and the sheer glut of splatbooks. The latter was especially frustrating, because players would go buy the damned sourcebooks left and right and bring them to the table. Then I'd hear things like "I want to play a 20-foot-tall dragon slayer creature with cyborg parts that can use magic!" Shut up!

  22. Not to beat a dead horse, but the Rifts thing was a bitter pill because I loved the concept so much! It had so much potential, such cool stuff in just the original core rules. Then they flooded the world with just a tsunami of garbage. I couldn't possibly guess at the number of character classes that now exist in that game...

  23. Mongoose RuneQuest (I) -- although by the way the playtest had been managed the disappointment shouldn't have come out as a surprise :-(

  24. The Fantasy Trip, in 1980. Although the system was great (and remains a favorite to this day), the release of the physical product was a disappointment when compared to what had been promised for years in "The Space Gamer" magazine. What was supposed to be a complete game released as a $20 boxed set ended up being four saddlestiched publications (Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, In the Labyrinth and Tollenkar's Lair) that were poorly organized and still required the previous Microgames to be a complete ruleset.

    A few years later, my hopes were buoyed by the promise of GURPS from SJG, but the initial release was a disappointment to me as well.

  25. I'm trying to decide if it's Aria or 3E D&D, and having a hard time picking between the two. Aria looked like it could have been something great, the ideas that the writers had were ambitious and creative. Then the thing came out and was… not good. 3E looked like it could have been the salvation of the D&D game, like a new step forward in design. Instead, it turned out to be an unwieldy mess, as complex as GURPS with the "advanced" and "optional" rules but lacking almost all of the virtues of that game.

  26. Biggest disappointment, with out a doubt, 4E. With 3E, even if I wasn't a huge fan, I could still recognize the product and still fit within the original concept of "odd group mechanics" compared to the whole "niche roles".

    I mean, how did we go from, "Sheesh, we could really use another cleric..." to "sheesh, we could use another controller and one more striker...."?

    Seriously, if I wanted to play a video game I wouldn't have this bag of dice with me.

  27. Ah nice topic! So let's see:
    1) 4e D&D
    2) Palladium's Beyond the Supernatural
    3) Palladium's Robotech (I should have learned that I don't like the Palladium system, no?!)
    4) Feng-Shui
    5) World of Darkness (old and new; both the rules and the "setting", though some sourcebooks for the 2nd edition I liked, and I kept them)
    6) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e. Nice premise, plays quite well, but it takes way too much space on the table

  28. WFRP: Empire in Flames. Got mine second-hand* when the Hogshead era of WFRP started in the mid 90s.

    * Paid over the cover price for it (yes, they saw me coming from a loooooong way off).

    Lemme see if I've got this right. This lazy, derivative, phoned-in-to-meet-a-deadline dungeon-crawl is the long-awaited, world-shaking finale of the famous "Enemy Within" campaign? Is this some kind of joke?!


  29. Oh, I forgot to add:
    7) d20 Conan. Brilliant premise ruined by a game system even more complex and baroque than 3.5 D&D. I am STILL looking for the perfect Conan game.

  30. Hmm . . . maybe a tie between WG7 Castle Greyhawk and the City of Greyhawk boxed set.

    The first was just bad humor poorly executed, and I felt ripped off from the moment I opened it. I honestly feel bad for the person who bought it off me on eBay years later. I salve my conscience by saying he knew what he was getting and just wanted a complete collection.

    The second . . . my goodness, the gritty and nasty medieval-inspired city of Greyhawk looked like Richard Scary drew the map and Lowly Worm lived downtown. It was just a big, open, airy place with a smallish number of houses. Compare that to the densely populated Waterdeep setting . . . I was deeply annoyed and, again, sold it. Waste of money even if I got some back later.

    Just not good.

  31. I was very disappointed by Powers & Perils, which I bought, but I was also disappointed by Sandman and Pirates & Plunder which my co-GM bought. There was also a Star Frontiers expansion (Zebulon's Guide?) that I deeply regretted buying. It ruined the game for me (at the time).

  32. I have to echo Peter's sentiment about WG7 Castle Greyhawk.

  33. Torg was a huge disappointment. I loved the books, but the system was clunky, the rules crunchy and it would have cost me small fortune to keep up with it.

    I liked the idea of the drama deck, and I loved the setting, but I just could not make it work.

  34. Temple of Elemental Evil (T1-4). By the time it was released at GenCon '85, we'd been waiting for it for years. We were so excited and... what a disappointment. It killed the megadungeon idea for me and fueled my growing disenchantment with TSR products.

  35. Hero Wars (1st edition). Only RPG I've ever taken back to the store within days of purchasing.

  36. Traveller New Era (TNE) Forms and Charts followed by (TNE) Path of Tears or was it Smash & Grab.

    I loved MegaTraveller even though it never lived up to all that Classic Traveller produced, it was steadily achieving that. I did love the Rebellion and especially the descent into Hard Times. There is where I would have left it. Embers of civilization occasionally duking it out in a new Dark Age. The solution that GDW was again to wipe the slate with Virus. I had no problem with that but then they wanted to preserve some of old Classic Traveller in the Spinward Marches which seemed to make no sense so I could live with TNE decision had it been better communicated to me (it took the release of 1248 TNE Mk II to accomplish that task).

    But, what floored me was the first two supplements that they chose to release was a forms book and a book of worlds. MegaTraveller had set a new standard by producing rich narrative source books - this seemed like huge step backward and simply lazy. I wanted to know more about the milieu and found it lacking. Furthermore, the art lacked a vibe and it seemed like they were intend on recycling old cliches rather than developing new products.

  37. Mayfair's City-State of the Invincible Overlord. One of the few gaming products that I returned to the store.

  38. Has to be 4E D&D. We played this version since it came out and this summer we finally gave up. What's worse though is that it ruined my players for older editions. We tried to go back to AD&D and the greater mortality of the PCs, magic-users with one spell at first level, slower advancement - things we all lived with for 30-plus years were suddenly obstacles that NEVER existed before. The game fizzled after four sessions and we've been on an RPG break since June.

    Sadly, I don't hold out much hope for 5E either unless they radically change direction.

  39. Michael & purestrainhuman: I once ran a long-term Torg campaign -- some of the greatest fun I've had in gaming. But I can understand the difficulty involved in getting into the game. There's a kind of ... steep learning curve is not quite the term, but I found it takes people a while to get comfortable with the system even when you're playing with people who know it inside-out. So trying to get into it without having a group around that already grasped it is even more difficult. Plus, some of the later supplements weren't very good, and the overall campaign wrap-up was ... well, *really* not very good. Too bad, since some of the supplements, world books, and basic ideas were *brilliant*.

  40. Megatraveller

    My first regular group played Traveller, but I never had the books myself. I picked up Starter Traveller, which was a bit of a disappointment. I actually think ST is one of the best versions of the game ever, and I still use those books the most when playing Traveller. To me, though, it isn’t quite complete, and I need a couple of other books to use with it.

    By the time I was ready to step beyond ST, Traveller had become Megatraveller. There are some things I like about MT, but there’s a lot more that I don’t. I like having the more advanced subsystems as an option, but MT threw out many of the basic subsystems I preferred entirely. That’s not even getting into the errata issue. I’m pretty sure it was my biggest disappointment.

    I never bought TNE or T4, so I never had the chance to be disappointed by them. I knew GURPS Traveller wasn’t for me from the name alone. (I like GURPS. I like Traveller. I’m not interested in mixing them.) Although I did buy a copy of T20, it was only to mine for stuff to borrow into a d20 or classic Traveller game.

  41. Pathfinder. They promised to fix some of the glaring issues with D&D 3.x, but the implemented rules just made the system even clunkier and in the end, I could have thought of those in an afternoon with a beer. Their "fixes" weren't worth the money I paid for that book. I know 4e gets a lot of hate here too, but at least at the core it is workable.

    In the "not D&D" category, probably Seventh Sea. That setting went south fast.

  42. Objectively I agree about the inherent problems in Unearthed Arcana, but frankly I loved it when it came out for the additional spells and higher levels attainable by druids and assassins.

    My biggest disappointment was the whole Dragonlance series of novels and modules. I was looking so forward to a series which milked all breeds of dragons for all their worth, but (and as you have written about many times in the past on this blog), Dragonlance is really what started killing D&D's soul.

  43. d20 Gamma World. There was glorious hype on that has me incredibly psyched, but the final product was terrible. Poorly developed, poorly edited, poorly written, terrible mechanics, and thinly spread over a slew of hardcovers. Such a great property; so horribly handled by White Wolf.

  44. I don't know if was my biggest disappointment but Icons didn't live up to my expectations. Something about it just didn't click with me.

  45. I'm surprised to see all the votes for 4E here. Especially considering they are all "tried it but didn't like it" and not just bashing it on principle or rumor. Really shows the disconnect between the players and authors I think.

    Well let me add another log to the fire, 4E D&D is my vote. My long time group had always been a loyal "D&D only" group, never really giving any other RPGs significant playing time. In the run up to 4E it was a foregone conclusion that we would be playing it just like we did with every other edition of the game. Then we actually got the (PDF of) PHB and decided it wasn't for us. At all. Quite a disappointment. I'm just glad that at the time you could get a PDF and we didn't actually go out and spend the money on the hardbacks. Doubly glad 3.5 thrives thanks to Pathfinder.

  46. I have a vague memory of feeling the 1st Ed Lankhmar: City of Adventure book, and also the Star Frontiers book Zebulon's Guide To Frontier Space, were incomplete or badly edited, though I can't recall the specifics.

  47. Savage Worlds.

    It is a good game and I know people love it but it never worked for me.

  48. Most of this will sound familiar.

    D&D 4e: The best GM I've met so far couldn't sell me on it. (Not that that was really his goal.) He ran a 6 month campaign with an intriguing premise and exciting adventures ... until we got to combat, which alternately frustrated and bored me. The only exciting combat was the final battle involving entire armies, which the DM completely winged. Since at least 2/3 of the rules are about combat by page count of the PHB, why did I need this game again? Dozens of free RPGs can manage skill checks and magical rituals. I sold the DMG and MM online, keeping the PHB just in case I ended up in a 4e game. (Now there's a revised version called Essentials that's the hot new thing.)

    Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e: Initially I was on the fence about it, although cautiously optimistic. It has some good ideas ... too many ideas for one game. When I have so many cards and tokens that I have to manage table space I get annoyed. I'm in a WFRP3 game now, and it's OK ... but I just sold the $100 set I'd bought about a year ago. From now on, the GM is my rulebook ... as it should be.

    Orkworld by John Wick: I'd heard rumors about a game that turned fantasy tropes on their head, and made orcs sort-of heroic. I found a copy online; when it arrived, I discovered a 300+ page book consisting mostly of in-universe fiction. I hate game fiction. I sold off my copy, borrowing it just recently to read up on its version of *elves*.

    Metamorphosis Alpha 4e: Articles in the Space Gamer described MA as shoddy rules but fun concepts. 4th edition should tighten up the rules, right? Honestly, I don't know how tight they were, given that there were so many. So players have to create a robot PC, then a few sessions later an android PC, then a few sessions after that a human PC, and then optionally a mutant PC ... after which, the player can decide which he wants to play long-term. Uh, no.

    I'm sure there are lots of others, given that I went on a buying spree a few years ago only to sell a third of it off when I moved. These days, though, I hunt down reviews or demos before I buy.

  49. Definitely WG7 Castle Greyhawk. After wanting to see "the real McCoy" for so many years, Lorraine Williams' incarnation of TSR shoved out something that had NOTHING to do with the exciting megadungeon I'd heard about for so many years. The humorous adventures inside might have been acceptable as a comedy collection of their own, but it was an insult to call it Castle Greyhawk.

  50. Oh, I forgot to mention Mongoose RuneQuest I: shoddy editing, mechanics that just didn't work, and several slim but expensive books required before you had a real game. I really tried to like it, but in the end -- you guessed it -- I sold off the half-dozen books I'd bought.

  51. My most recent disappointment is Early Dark, a patronage project for what I believed to be a Sword & Sorcery RPG but ended being something very different. While I really love some of its mechanic, they're buried under poor organization and a supplement-mentality that I didn't expected in a patronage project.

    However, by far my greatest disappointment is definifelty D&D 4th. I so wanted to like this game and spent the last two years tinkering with the system until I finally got it - no matter how many books I read (and re-read) I can't appreaciate this game. To me it feels banal and bland (also to my players). The weird thing is that I'm saddened by this, because this is the first edition of D&D that I really don't like/get.

  52. I think they have all been mentioned.

    Most of FASA's output I found lacking in someway or other.

    D&D 4.0. D&D based on the emergent meta-roles from MMORPGs? (Buffer, Healer, Tank, etc.) No thanks. I bought this on the recommendation of Wil Wheaton and the PA guys. I'm not saying they are shills but...

    Traveller 4. One of the worst edited product ever except for perhaps TNE.

    Mongoose Conan d20 OGL RPG. Just because the OGL is free doesn't mean it's the right engine for every genre and background. It's been 30 years and nobody has yet "fixed" D&D to play like REH. Too bad Conan could not have been redone with MRQ rules. Even then I hear MRQ is not as clean a system as it should be.

  53. MERP.

    I wanted to relive Lords of The Rings, and discovered I was supposed to count how many miles we have traveled, to gain xp.

    (xp by traval is not a bad idea, in fact, but the way it (and the whole book) was written..)

  54. I've always been a cautious game buyer, so I rarely buy something I haven't researched to some degree. The one game I can recall ever purchasing, but feeling disappointed about was Gangbusters. My adolescent brain just couldn't embrace the whole historical setting and cops versus robbers thing. It seemed boring. (As an adult now, I think I might have a different opinion... but I would still be sorely tempted to add a touch of Lovecraft to the mix.)

    Truly, though, my greatest gaming disappointment was 2nd edition D&D. The sacking of Gygax was a baffling mystery that made no sense to me (until it was later explained many years later by the man himself). The "voice" of Gary's writing was what made D&D what it was for me. His modules were always the ones that set a high water mark for what an adventure could aspire to. 2nd edition was a bland shadow and it put me off the game for quite a number of years.

  55. 2e. I found it charmless. AD&D with much of the flavor and overall feel bleached out. And I hated 2e era art. Within a few months, my much anticipated 2e books were permanently shelved and I went back to running 1st edition.

  56. Wow, this quickly devolved into parroting three-year-old, patently false trolling points about 4e. I had honestly expected better from the old school community.

    As for me, the moment it was sufficiently explained to me why fighters were never a viable choice in 3.5.

  57. Burning Wheel. So much talk about how it's really all about the story and all, but the fundamental conflict mechanics and the disorganization of the rules left me feeling cold.

  58. Another vote for 4th edition D&D here. I have played it and had a good time. At no point during any of those sessions did I feel like I was playing D&D. As a skirmish game, I love 4e, but as D&D I hate it.
    Mongoose Runequest 1 should get an honorable mention as well. I waited for years for new RQ material, and when both Chaosium and Mongoose announced new versions of BRP and RQ at about the same time, I was blown away. BRP was nothing new, but well done. MRQ was a steaming mess.

  59. @Rach's reflections said:
    "Wow, this quickly devolved into parroting three-year-old, patently false trolling points about 4e."

    Funny how I see the exact opposite. I see real disappointment in 4E from people that very much wanted to like and play the game but, try as they might, just couldn't. I don't see anyone discounting the game on trolling points only on actual play and reading of it. I think it speaks volumes.

    I hope the 5E designers are reading because I am not giving up hope that I will play the most current version "Dungeons & Dragons" again someday.

  60. Alpha Omega. Beautiful book, a cool setting, and seemingly cool game mechanics with their 6-6 system and their wielding.

    But as you continue to play, you find out how horrible the game balance is and how some systems obviously so no play-testing at all. Starting characters have vastly different power scopes depending on what race they chose. Without house rules, wielding effect such as "mind control" become "I win" buttons for even starting characters who only put a minor focus in that sort of wielding.

    Combined with the lack of any solid support or new material other than a monster book since it came out, and it turned into a very large disappointment. It had a lot of unrealized potential.

    Whereas with D&D 4E, it's hard to call it a disappointment even though I don't like it, since it was pretty clear from the start what kind of game it was going to be. Kind of hard for them to disappoint by giving you what they advertised.

  61. Mine would have to be a game put out by White Wolf called Scion. At the time I thought it had an awesome premise, but once I got a hold of it I found the rules to be way too complicated and the premise wasn't really fleshed out enough to make it playable.

    Not that I need a pre-made setting, mind you. You were supposed to play Hercules style children of the gods in the modern day, but it didn't say if people knew the pagan gods were real or what the hell happened to Christianity. The system was based off of Exalted, which I also loathe but didn't have as high of hopes for.

    I was tempted to say 4e, but my disaffection with it took much longer to set in. I only sold off my 4e books a couple of weeks ago. Scion I regretted purchasing from the moment I opened the book.

    Now I'm into much more low-key fantasy settings and probably wouldn't pick it up.

  62. Been disappointed many times, but the biggest was 3e. When it was about to come out, the group I was with recruited me to be the 3e GM. I bought the books, started studying, and was immediately and permanently turned off. The 3e design aesthetic was to take all the stuff I dropped from 1e, multiply it by 10 or 100, and put it back in the game, front and center... and then claim it's "simpler" because they use a unified mechanic.

  63. D&D third edition.

    My friends and I were hardcore 2nd edition players and we also played Magic: The Gathering. When we found out that Wizards had purchased D&D, we were over-joyed. That is, until, we got the product.

    We felt insulted.

    I know many people love the D20 system, but to us, it felt like Wizards had taken D&D and pulled out the bits that might've been confusing to an 8th grader. We were, and still are, simulation gamers. We felt that the rules should be an interpretation of fantastic reality, not merely game mechanics. If the rules were too complex for you, get out of the basement. We heard that the rules of baseball weren't that complex.

  64. D&D 4e: Like many others. The game has some cool ideas, but it seems like a completely different game with "D&D" slapped on it. Not at all what I wanted.

    Hero 6: Like has been mentioned, Steve Long had the chance to slim down the rules and bring the game back to popularity. Instead, he turned it into an even bigger monstrosity than 5eR.

  65. I'm probably going to catch hell for saying this, but my biggest RPG disappointment at the time of buying the game was...
    Holmes Basic.
    Yup, the box that sold D&D on a wide scale was the thing I most regretted buying when I bought it. I was pissed off that it only took adventurers up to third level and was full of statements that you should go buy AD&D if you wanted to go further. I felt as though I'd paid ten bucks for an advertisement. That feeling led me to get a copy of Tunnels and Trolls, which was probably the single most influential purchase in my gaming career.
    I should note that now I really appreciate what Holmes was doing.

    As for something I regretted when I bought it and still regret: Man, Myth, and Magic. Such an interesting idea, so badly presented.

  66. AD&D 2nd Edition partially ruined gaming for me at the early nineties, because EVERYBODY in town were playing it, mostly Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms of a mix of the two (if you can imagine that).

    I found the rules bizantine, iron-grasping and most people played strictly by the book - no house rules, no DM rulings, an explicit rules lawyer dark age.

    It made me HATE everything RPG with a dungeon and a dragon in it until the OSR birth.

  67. Space Opera - almost unworkable mechanics. I was excited to find a alternative to Traveller - until I bought it and was incredibly frustrated just rolling up a character let alone moderating a game. The cheezy space combat rules (Nova gun!) were so divorced from an established millieu (read - book or books) that it was so unbelievable. Note, CT was not necessarily more believable, what with "lasers & sandcasters - but there was some great fun in building spaceships and playing with them.

    Arms Law/Claw Law - can you say percentage charts? I was hoping to get a better sense of how medieval combat could work but the system was again incredibly frustrating, awkward to use and what was with those "fumble" tables?

    City State of the World Emperor - I was expecting another larger version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord which had, at least in my teenage eyes gorgeous chrome and idea generators. Bland and bland - so disappointing.

  68. I was disappointed specifically by the 4E D&D Red Box. I saw it on a shelf, looking like that Magical Basic D&D Red Box that had started me into RPGs oh so long ago, with Elmore's dragon on the front calling for me to return to the hobby.

    The box was a lot larger than the one I had bought in the 80s, but it seemed to hold all the same promises. I was pretty excited about the idea that they had created a product so obviously aimed at ME and mentioned it to my wife. She did some research online, found a local dealer where she could order it and then braved the mysteries of the local comic store so she could give it to me for Christmas.

    The content of the 4e red box turned out to be designed for brain-damaged children and I was profoundly let down. It was far from the experience I had expected. The good news is that it lit a fire in my head that lead to an online search, that lead to me finding the OSR, and the Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Grindhouse) Boxed set that was a far better fit for me anyway.

  69. Looks like this topic is bringing out the posts like crazy. :) Here are two products I was disappointed by:
    Forgotten Realms Boxed Set (AD&D 2nd edition): when I first heard about the Realms, people described it as this incredibly rich world of imagination and adventure. What I got was a badly presented, dry read presenting a world that wasn't quite as exciting as it was made out to be, and its railroad-fest intro adventure, Beneath the Twisted Tower had gaming's worst deus ex machina mechanic ever imagined.

    Birthright (2nd edition AD&D): sold as a game about running domains and strongholds, and running rulers lording over their hapless subjects, this boxed set was brought low by 2e's trademark blandness. Weird, because I really wanted to like it.

  70. The 3E Serpent Kingdom book.


    The White Wolf D20 version of Gamma World.


  71. It's a toss up between shadowrun's 4th edition, and Battlesystem(any edition of it). The only edition of SR I'd ever had access to prior to 4 was the core book for 1st edition, which was positively dripping with slang and awesomeness. SR4 just seemed to be way too inspired by Ghost in the Shell and lacked the feeling of awesomeness and strangeness that 1st edition had. I was first introduced to the idea of battlesystem via the dark sun setting and I thought, oh cool! mass combat system! When I finally got ahold of the original battlesystem and then the 2e version, it was just so . . . . blah. I promptly shelved it and went back to using a heavily modified Warmachine.

  72. The second edition of Ironclaw, more properly entitled Ironclaw: Squaring the Circle. They had released a list of the changes they were planning to make (which were quite reasonable), and then produced a totally different game which follows quite a different philosophy. It went from an excellent clean and simple system with consistent internal logic to an overly complicated exception-based system. Once I saw what they had done it took a month before I could look at the game again, so great was my disappointment. And even now, many months later, I find myself unable to view the changes dispassionately or trust myself to review them without prejudice.

    It was ... disappointing.

  73. D&D 4E of course. Is not a RPG, it's a MMORPG. And Spirit of the Century, so much hype for a game very similar to Adventure! with + and - dice and a bizarre system not oriented to play campaings. I learned to hate FATE with that game.

  74. Castle Greyhawk in all of it's faux forms: WG7 Castle Greyhawk, WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, and Castle Zagyg. None of them delivered on the promise of the real dungeons of Castle Greyhawk (although certainly CZ came closest in its treatment of the Storerooms level).


  75. Pirates and Plunder from Yaquinto. NO SHIP RULES FOR A PIRATE RPG? Thirty years later it still makes my head hurt.

  76. Rus. An obscure australian rpg about dark ages Russia. I was feeling the theme to be awesome at that time and asked the ocal shop to find me a copy. When they get it, it was really, really expensive, fra much more than I can afford, but I was feeling I should take it anyway by respect for the shopkeeper who took tuime and money to find it. It was a really, really bad rpg, unimaginative, with a very loose background. Total disapointement.

  77. Both the World of Greyhawk folio and the later World of Greyhawk boxed set, back in the early eighties. Probably I would now find them perfectly decent products, but at the time I was looking for more of that excited feeling that the setting-scraps in the PHB, DMG, and early modules gave, and they just seemed completely empty of that. Nothing about them was bad or stupid, they just didn't have whatever it was I wanted from them. I can't remember anymore why I got the boxed set after being so disappointed with the earlier version--maybe I thought "this time they'll get it right!"

  78. Dungeons And Dragons. I first played D&D as run by my Dad. Later, I picked up Hackmaster, because 3.0 was out and I didn't like the feel of it. Hackmaster felt closer to my initial experiences than the newfangled edition did.

    Then later, I kept trying to go back to D&D. You know what? I never liked it. Hackmaster had an interesting Honor system, and an attitude that I enjoyed. It was silly, campy, and full of overblown machismo. But D&D felt bland, the presentation and mechanics of the game just felt off to me. It wasn't until I played Burning Wheel that the idea really began to crystallize.

    I want my serious games to emulate the feel of literature, with their air of mystery. D&D's over-explanation and almost scientific approach to everything (not to mention levels, hitpoints, the feel of combat) just never did it for me. While I do enjoy old modules, and monster manuals. I tend to chuck out 85% of the content, and build off what appeals to me.

    In the end, my first game that started my descent into gaming is the most disappointing.

  79. Burning Wheel... I love the concept. I want to love the game... the whole idea of radical transparency in a game fascinates me but it was such an frustrating game to be a player in.

  80. 1) d20 gamma world. what a steaming pile of excrement, served up by a pompous game designer who didn't understand the target audience.

    2) Mongoose's Conan. Possibly the worst edited book, ever.

    3) Mongoose's RuneQuest. I played a demo of it at gencon, it was awesome. I bought it and read it, and it wasn't the same game. Then I got hold of RQ2, and realized the guy had been running RQ2, and when he said, "I deviate a little bit from the rules written by mongoose", he really meant, "deviate a bunch".

    4) Iron Heroes by Mike Mearls. Billed to grim and gritty. It wasn't and had a hokey token pool mechanic. It was competently run by Buzz at Chicago Gamdeday for me, but damn if that system wasn't a stinker.

    5) The TSR survival guides. This ground has been trod over by others.

    6) DL1: plot train is not my style.

    7) Most everything WotC put out for 3e. Really disliked the art, and the continual amping up of the system that went on post 3.5. Really, nothing since the 3e Unearthed Arcana came appealed to me at all. Shortly after UA came out, I quit DMing 3e altogether. Never gave 4e much of a look, outside of the original freebie demo adventure.

  81. Battletech - The arrival of the Clans. The new stuff really didn't add to the game in my mind, it just gummed it up.

  82. FASA's Doctor Who.

    Loved the flavor and the background stuff (even bought one or two supplements, I think), but it was welded to that really crufty FASA action point system. Nothing could feel less Whovian than that.

    Of course, I know NOW that I didn't have to play it by the book. But I was raised by a pack of wild rules-lawyers...

  83. Certainly Hero System 6th edition. Whoah man! They had UNLIMITED budget for a FULL COLOR huge manual, supported by a gaming company and all that. And they literally massacred it with the worse layout I have ever seen. Imagine what they could do if they just kept the 5th edition style. Even the artwork is awfully mediocre. Of course it's expensive and for such a big book I can only guess the costs but come on... a similar impression I had when I bought GURPS back in 1990 or so. The general organization of the book and the artwork of the game (including all modules) were appalling.

  84. The two supplements for AH's "Dune" boardgame. The original was so great, and the supplements were so useless, it was difficult to understand.

    "Greyhawk Ruins" was also a HUGE disappointment. It was obvious that the authors hadn't really done their homework vis-a-vis the original.

    And I'd have to agree with the folks who mentioned 4E. I was really ready to take the plunge because the marketing for it was *saying* all the right things. But actually playing it turned me off of it really quickly.

  85. Uh and everything Dark Sun. Honestly. I loved, really loved the boxed set. It set such an evocative, apocalyptic feel. I had everything clearly set in my mind, when I read the books... yeah the books that introduced a SEA in the Dark Sun world. It might be me but I hate when some super-npcs shape the world around the works of the players. And I won't mention the modules. One ended with PCs storming the Githyianky citadel clad in steel armors and silver vorpal swords. Talk about gritty and primeval...

  86. The Dungeoneers Survival Guide for me. That was the beginning of the end of my love affair with AD&D. So much worthlessness.

  87. Story Engine turned out not to be the rules-light speedster I had hoped for, and instead was a rules-bland, badly-edited thing stuck inside of a setting that I didn't care about.

  88. Pretty much everything greyhawk stretching from post Gary (WG7) up until to the Oerth Journal era & Erik Mona's revitalization. Sad thing is, I kept buying, hoping....
    In particular, I HATED WG7 (to the point where I found it an insult) and the hardcover Greyhawk adventures book(boring beyond belief and completely denuded of any charm).
    From the Ashes was okay. I actually ended up selling my copy in the late 90's to a certian co greyhawk DM who was sniffing around with TSR about doing som writing and needed a copy to get up to speed. Got 2 autographed little white books as a result.

  89. Cyborg Commando. What the hell, man? Roll two D10s and multiply them?

  90. Vornheim. The reviews were breathless but I found it uninteresting.

  91. The original Marvel RPG boxed set by TSR. My buddies and I had all played champions before and were excited about playing with our own characters in the Marvel Universe. When I got to the part about the character creation and powers being totally random I just realized that I had wasted my money. I didn't want to play established characters!!!! I wanted to make my own. We ended up playing DC Heroes, which had a really robust character creation system based on point spending and allocation. It was our go to super hero game for years and was the main one we played. And I know some of you have fond memories of the Marvel RPG FASERIP system, but I found it to be terrible. For me, it was the biggest waste of money on a box set during the 80's.

    TORG was also a waste because the system and the setting seemed to be a mess. It was all over the place and the whole thing seemed to be done by a committee which couldn't agree on anything. I bought it thinking that it would be a nice change of pace for my gaming group but after reading the rules I knew everyone would hate it so we never gave it a shot.

  92. The biggest real disappointment was not in pencil and paper role-playing, but in a computer RPG Arcanum of Steamworks and Magic. I expected great things from it after the Fallout series, but they went so far out of their way not to be similar to D&D (I guess they didn't want to be sued), that it hobbled the game and made me realize how much of the fantasy game infrastructure is derived from AD&D.

    Chainmail was something I never used. When I discovered miniatures, I also saw an ad for a free Perilous Encounters fantasy batle supplement from Chaosium. It was free in the days long before the internet. I sent them a letter typed ona manual typewriter and with a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE). I got a four page booiklet xeroxed on red paper. There was a hand-written note from a game designer himself, that he hopes for the damnation for my eternal soul if I plagiarize or publish his rules as my own. I did no such thing and played all of my miniatures according to that Perilous Encounters rules. When I got the Chainmail, it seemed overly complex, and I just never used it.

  93. The second early disappointment was a Tunnels and Trolls boxed set. It was my first fantasy RPG rules after AD&D books. The most memorable thing about it was the weapons list, which included Assegai, Jambiya, and Bhuj. I had to hit the books to find out what they were. Bhuj was a Bowie-knife sized cousin to a machete from the Axe clan, that lived in ancient India. Assegai was a spear with a briad spearhead shaped like a leaf (an Elfin Spear! I thought), Jambiya was a short fighting spear from sub-saharan Africa, with a spearhead on eiher side! One was a broad hunting head, like on the Assegai, to kill unarmed opponents, the other was shaped like a three-sided stiletto or a bodkin arrow, for fighting other warriors wearing armor. Short size makes it useful in close quarters. I was disappointed that T&T's coimbat system was too simplistic to really allow the uniqueness of each weapon to come into play. I never ran a T&T game. Later on I heavily modified the AD&D combat rules to allow each weapon's intended tactical purpose to come into play, thus making real consequences to the Player Characters choice of weapon proficiences and allowing the players to evolve their own fighting styles. All of a sudden it became as engaging to devlop as fighter character as it is to develop a strong Magic User.

    More of a USELESS disappointment was me picking up Players Handbook volume 2 and Dungeon Masters Guides volume 1 and 2 from 3.5 Edition, I think. I was looking for new ideas on adventure design, and found almost nothing. Gary Gygax had more useful information for adventure design in his DMG 1st Edition Appendices (later removed from DMG 2nd Edition) that both copies of the new Dungein Master's Guide. For sheer elegance, Moldway Red Book Basic set has a short, bu extremely elegant section on Duyngeon Adventure design. The best one! Voliumes 1 and 2 were a disappointment. I was expecting new ideas.

  94. Similar disappointment was with the Wilderness Survival Guide. I was expecting something akin to gary Gygax's writing on Dungeon Design, except for the Wilderness. I was expecting (too much!!!) a thought provoking book about creating ecologically and topographically accurate wilderness areas for D&D adventuring. Boy, was I wrong. The authors took an intellectual cop out, and adapted any of the many Outdoors Survival Guides for D&D with an end result that you have a book that will tell the DM how long it will take the player characters to die from exposure in the wilderness. Incidentally, a reverse was true with the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. I don't like underground campaigns, and wasn't expecting much, but there was an excellent section on developing plot and on writing and story development in general. Also, the opposite in spirit of the Wilderness Survival Guide was a little known (Classic three book)Traveler supplement The Grand Survey. It was published by a non-GDW company and did not stick to the little booklet format. It was a full sized book with fewer pages than Moldway Basic rulebook, bu the wealth of information I didn't expect! It went way beyond the Traveler Book 6 Scouts, about describing the Scout Service, additional tables for the world generation, lists of exploration equipment used by the Scouts to survey the new world, that wasn't just beyond the type of equipment that typical Traveler provided, it was pure hard sci-fi thinking out of the box instrumentation for the exploration of the world I haven't seen since in a work of Sci-Fi or in a game!!!!! Scout was my favorite Traveler Occupation, I treated myself to a Traveler rules supplement for my birthday, from an ad in a White Dwarf magazine, I think, and when I got it... It was the best traveler book I ever got!!!! Never expected what I found between the covers!!! Wilderness Survival Guide and WOTC in general, did the opposite, unfortunately.

  95. Sorry to add to the pile, but definitely 4e. I was playing pretty happily in a 3.5 group for more than two years, having a blast. I ran into trouble when I tried to DM 3.5 (too complex for me), but I loved playing it.

    Then the group switched to 4e, and I did not last long. Saying stuff like "healing surge" and "striker" at a D&D game just feels wrong to me, and takes me out of the spirit and vibe of the game.

  96. OK, I want to stay away from games this time, so supplements only.

    Orcs of Thar, it reduced what should of been something cool to bad comedy. Why even bother making this if the goal is to make the baddies look like goofs.

    3e Unearth Arcana, some was good but you compare it with AEG's Mercenary and you see who had the better 3.0 UA. 3.5 at least struck back with Miniatures Handbook and PHB 2 at least, I liked those.

    1e's Forgotten Realms, but only at first. I was always underwhelmed by the first campaign sets. There wasn't enough pre-made stuff for me (I was at that age where I liked long character creations and told how to play). And I was wondering "Where are all the kingdoms? Nothing here but city-states!" A year later I liked it. I finally "got" the concept.

    2e, 3.5e, 4e's Forgotten Realms books. 2e: You killed Bane, Bhaal, and Myrukal and replaced them with these goofs?? 3.5e: Global warming is the new campaign idea? Weak!!! (especially in a world of magic and druids! 3e WotC was way too fringy political!). 4e: You got rid of Zhentil Keep, the Zhents (and replaced them with some lame Yakuza??), and Maske??

    But the winners are ... BECMI's Immortals Set. Good idea but why the new game mechanics? At the time I couldn't understand why I should be excited to play my IMMORTAL as any mortal class and level. What's the point of that, I'm a god now dammit! Now I can appreciate that idea. Now I see it as a good way to forever play a favorite character in any adventure.

    And, on the same note... 3e's Epic Handbook. What a waste! It should of been a 3e version of BECMI's Masters and Immortals (but as demi-gods). Instead you gain levels and just happen to meet epic monsters like Epic undead who are more powerful than the most powerful demons? Who ever thought this supp up I hope isn't getting paid to write RPGs anymore.

  97. Great topic.

    The BXCMI Immortal Rules stands as the only D&D product I ever brought home, read, and immediately returned the next day.

    I acquired a used copy of Birthright, hoping to use it for mass-combat (and dominion-management) rules. That lasted a bit longer, but is one of the few D&D things I ever sold away. Ultimately I had to write my own (see blog).

    Throne of Bloodstone (attack Orcus at his home in the Abyss) is pretty wretched by my standards, but I haven't been able to part with it yet.

    I think I may have seen the innards of TSR's spoof Castle Greyhawk parody, which turned my stomach a bit. The Greyhawk Wars product is kind of in the same zone, although I have that. Also the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover. (i.e., all TSR post-Gygax Greyhawk stuff).

    I can be a slow learner.

  98. And now, having read the comments above, I'm reminded of:

    - Wilderness Survival Guide.
    - Star Frontiers Zebulon's Guide.

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  100. I find it interesting that a few of the titles listed here are ones that I know are revered by some players and GMs. As an example, I consider SWSE to be the best Star Wars RPG ever made...but that's me. Different tastes and all that.

    Anyway, here's my list. I could probably drop down and be more granular on individual books, but I've run into enough systems or editions of certain games that I disliked enough to do a good list.

    Traveller: The New Era. Completely trashed the retro-50's SciFi feel of the original setting, in favor of an utterly unbelievable "Virus" that basically took 20 years of great setting material, soaked it in kerosene, and then tossed in a lighted match. Burn in hell, GDW, for that atrocity. I'm glad this edition basically killed your company.

    Traveller: 4th Edition. I actually co-wrote a few of the sourcebooks, which generally speaking were some of the better received books in the line, but the corebook was an atrocity (no, I had no hand in that one). I know a bit more about how that happened, but really don't feel like slamming the parties responsible by name.

    Vampire: the Requiem. No, I'm not a drooling Old World of Darkness fanboy, but for all its flaws, which were legion, VtM had a very strong feel in terms of setting and tone. By contrast, VtR took a unique setting and turned it into a generic store brand...cold, sterile, and basically flavorless. I basically tossed its setting, and converted VtM to its better system.

    The Burning Wheel: Lots of hype, but doesn't begin to live up to it. Bottom line, when character social interaction is made to feel exactly the same as a combat encounter, it's time to put the game down and go play'll have about the same feel. Turned me off so much I'm not even remotely interested in picking up Mouse Guard, despite the mostly positive reviews.

    Savage Worlds: I really, really wanted to like this, as there are a ton of great settings and options for it. The game falls into the same trap as many point based systems, but to an even worse extent, since compared to GURPS, Hero, M&M, etc., the options are limited. Play it enough, and you'll find you're designing the same character, over and over, and worst still, you'll find you're often doing it even in very disparate settings.

    The ongoing power creep of WotC systems since D&D 3rd Ed: Too many books, and no eye whatsoever to play balance beyond that of the core rulebooks. I still run 3.5, but pretty much restrict players to the three corebooks and a handful of others, and a few of the options I like from Unearthed Arcana (action points being the primary one, since I have a player who has a tendency to blow die rolls at critical moments).

    I briefly considered 4th Ed, until I saw that WotC was releasing new books at an even faster pace, and decided to pass. Not sorry I did, and I've yet to see a compelling reason to jump to Pathfinder.

    Serenity/BSG/Cortex system in general: See the Savage Worlds comments, and multiply by 3. Point buy, even less character options than Savage Worlds, and doesn't really convey a strong feeling of setting, which is death in a system that so far has been used mostly for settings based on licensed TV and movie properties.

    I bought the Serenity and BSG core books, but never played them. I love Supernatural, but frankly, would probably just run it via a modified d20 Modern with some additonal spell options out of D&D.

  101. Desert Rat: First, count me among those who really, really liked Pocket Empires. Thank you.

    Second, could you expand on this: "The game falls into the same trap as many point based systems"? I suspect that you mean to indicate what you followed up with, "Play it enough, and you'll find you're designing the same character, over and over, and worst still, you'll find you're often doing it even in very disparate settings", but was wondering if you had further insights into the matter. I am conflicted on that issue particularly, as I like the idea of control over what character one is playing, but I also like the idea that a player should be challenged with matters outside of his comfort zone (plus the necessity of a Referee generating NPCs of wider variety).

  102. Other than the constantly regurgitated and harped reputation of D&D 4th ed., I'd have to say [i]Star Frontiers: Zebulon's Guide[/i]. It threw out the basic mechanics of the system and setting, added a lot of unnecessary gubbins, and was a general overall disappointment. There were a few things here and there that were interesting, but they were few and far between, and quite far from rescuing it, in my honest opinion.

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  104. Without any hesitation, I can say that WFRP v2 (and as a matter of course, v3), was the biggest entertainment disappointment of my life, eclipsing even that of Phantom Menace, or Halo 2. Simply put, what people claim SW Ep 1-3 did to their childhood memories of Star Wars, so too, did everything after WFRP do to warp my happiness associated with that game.

  105. 3ed Players Handbook. I was so excited about the "new and improved" D&D. I had been eagerly reading all of the BBS traffic about it prior to its release, then blew a paycheck on the hardbacks, only to be very disappointed.

  106. D&D 4E. I couldn't even get through half of the Players Handbook. I quickly realized that I was reading a video game on paper, and that was the end of D&D for me. Now it's old school 1E/2E or Pathfinder for me

  107. Fiend Folio.

    I've come to like it a lot better in the intervening decades. But when I rushed back home with it in my hot little hands only to find fifty-nine variants on skeletons and a whole bunch of pustule-encrusted monster pictures (I did not come to appreciate Nicholson's art until way later)--I was bitterly disappointed.

    These days, I can't live without the flail snail, penanggalan, and the flumph. And I've used retrievers to good effect in my games too.


    I actually agree, 1e AD&D is not a good RPG at all outside of being a historical artifact. I hear at least OSRIC does a good job of repackaging the style of 1e.

  109. >Desert Rat: First, count me among those who >really, really liked Pocket Empires. Thank you.

    Thanks. I worked on that one, Psionics Institutes, the two Milieu 0 books, and a couple of others that escape me.

    Pocket Empires was a point of pride. We actually took Marc Miller's notes from the design of the old GDW Traveller wargame, Fifth Frontier War, and reverse engineered them into a separate system to recreate your own strategic level conflicts. If I had to do anything a little differently, it would be to tie it more neatly in with character scale stuff...but we just didn't have the time to develop that the way we would have had to.

    >Second, could you expand on this: "The game >falls into the same trap as many point based >systems"? I suspect that you mean to indicate >what you followed up with, "Play it enough, >and you'll find you're designing the same >character, over and over, and worst still, >you'll find you're often doing it even in very >disparate settings", but was wondering if you >had further insights into the matter. I am >conflicted on that issue particularly, as I >like the idea of control over what character >one is playing, but I also like the idea that >a player should be challenged with matters >outside of his comfort zone (plus the >necessity of a Referee generating NPCs of >wider variety).

    Don't get me wrong. I like point based systems. And with most of them, there are enough options out there to where if you are comfortable with them, you can design any character you want.

    Trouble is, a lot of players aren't that comfortable with the mechanics of designing a character, or get stuck into ruts. And Savage Worlds just doesn't offer the breadth of options that a GURPS or Hero, or M&M does. So characters wind up taking the same mix of perks and flaws, and the characters just all start to look the same after a while.

  110. The Monster Manual 2, Unearthed Arcana, and Manual of the Planes were all a little disappointing to me, since each had a decent amount of content already published in Dragon and various adventures.

    I think the Manual of the Planes was a huge disappointment for me, but at the time I was not playing much, and it just was not a very interesting read, nor did it have much art. Overall, I thought it was kinda uninspired.

    Scion was another one, as someone mentioned. As a fan of American Gods, I thought that it would be awesome. It was not.

  111. "Fiend Folio.

    I've come to like it a lot better in the intervening decades. But when I rushed back home with it in my hot little hands only to find fifty-nine variants on skeletons and a whole bunch of pustule-encrusted monster pictures...I was bitterly disappointed."--Adam Thornton


    Fiend Folio was the last D&D product I bought 'back-in-the-day'.

  112. Cyborg Commandos was a true gaming disappointment. The setting was goofy but certainly offered plenty of action-based adventures but it was ultimately lame and unplayable.

  113. Funny how I see the exact opposite.

    As do I. Contrary to the common caricature, nearly everyone I know who's expressed disappointment in 4e did so after having played it extensively and finding it lacking. Me, I never played it and had no interest in it, so I'd never claim to be disappointed in it, but lots of people were and sincerely so, which, I think, says far more about 4e's failures than it does about the supposed close-mindedness of many gamers.

  114. Thanks. I worked on that one, Psionics Institutes, the two Milieu 0 books, and a couple of others that escape me.

    Really? That's terrific! I liked Pocket Empires a lot myself. T4 is a version of Traveller that had a great deal of potential but it never quite came together the way it ought to have. Still, there are several books from the line I still keep close to my desk and Pocket Empires is one of them. In fact, I've been thinking about trying to do something similar for Thousand Suns. Perhaps you and I should talk ...

  115. Personally, I find it surprising that a 14 year old DIDN'T love Unearthed Arcana!

    As I say, I ought to have loved UA. I liked most of the original articles that made up the book's contents when they first appeared -- and that includes the much-reviled cavalier and barbarian classes. But, somehow, the collection of them all under one cover diminished them in my affection and suddenly the direction Gary was taking the game seemed unpalatable to me.

  116. >Really? That's terrific! I liked Pocket Empires a lot myself. T4 is a version of Traveller that had a great deal of potential but it never quite came together the way it ought to have. Still, there are several books from the line I still keep close to my desk and Pocket Empires is one of them. In fact, I've been thinking about trying to do something similar for Thousand Suns. Perhaps you and I should talk...

    Any time. It took a lot of number crunching, between myself (Stuart Dollar), and my partner in crime, Joe Walsh to work on that one, but it's one of the best projects I ever worked on. The whole system was worked up over the course of about half a dozen weekends on IRC, and trading spreadsheets back and forth.

    Having picked up Thousand Suns, I have to say it scratches a lot of the same itches Traveller used to for me...though I think it a bit more flexible than Traveller. I'd love to chip in on such a book if you decide to do it.

    Re. T4, to me, the editing debacle of the core rulebook overshadowed a string of pretty good sourcebooks, a couple of which I worked on, a few that were written by others.

    The thing that finally killed T4 wasn't the core book ironically, as disastrous as that was. T4's publisher, Imperium Games, was bankrolled by a Chinese partner, along with Courtney Solomon, who later produced the two Dungeons and Dragons movies. I think there was a desire to do to Traveller (development as a TV/Movie property) what Solomon inflicted on D&D. Ultimately, the Chinese partner took a bath during the Russian liquidity crisis and LTCM collapse in 1997-98. Funding dried up, the D&D movie got delayed while Solomon looked for new investors (and the movie deservedly got crushed critically when it did come out), a bunch of writers didn't get paid all they were owed (I was one of them) and it just kind of collapsed.

  117. My biggest disappointment would be the GURPS Religion supplement. Usually the GURPS writer are good about doing their homework and getting details right. I had heard good things about it so I assumed that I'd get a supplement that did a good job of defining and creating religions for role-playing games. Instead I got a rather vague and poorly researched supplement that included some appalling errors of history. There's a long essay by MAR Barker that's much more useful - I think it's called Creating Religions for Fun and Profit.

  118. I'd have to say Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth, which is pretty much inscrutable. I love the idea of an RPG that lets you roleplay both a culture and its iconic heroes, but Aria was an impenetrable thicket of Capitalized Terms Gone Amok.
    It doesn't seem constructive at this point in the thread to mention 4e, but that's when I hopped off the D&D train. I'm not going to say it's a bad ruleset, but it doesn't support my style of play.

  119. I think I am the only person who ever hated Call of Cthulhu. And my players kept me running it until I had to quit in disgust.

    I also regret that I spent money on a few 2nd Edition D&D supplements such as Birthright.

    I regret that I spent as much money as I did on Old World of Darkness, but I got many, many hours and weeks and years of play out of those books, so that was a problem with my excessive spending more than anything else.

  120. i really want to like C0C, but the focus on the 20's era outside of Delta Green means i will never play it.

    My biggest disappointment though would have to be Pathfinder. People keep telling me its amazing, and the price point is right, for the PDF anyway, but it just feels like 3.5 turned up to 11. That system hardly needed to have the power level increased. But maybe that's just me.

  121. Biggest disappointment. Probably the Star Trek Tricorder/Starship Sensors Interactive Display. I bought this at the 25th Anniversary Convention in Anaheim ... thought it was pretty ... and discovered not long afterward that the prime function of the device was to destroy game tempo and confuse players by facilitating miscommunication. *sigh*

  122. ... yeah, the Tricorder post is mine. I'll just take the opportunity to point out that, for me at least, posting comments has become nigh-impossible. What used to work (my Google profile) quit posting a while back and instead started diverting me to create my own Blogspot account. :-P

    Bob P.
    Sparks, NV

  123. The 4e D&D Neverwinter Campaign Setting! I paid above RRP for it!! :( :(

    For older stuff, hm, the 1e Wilderness Survival Guide was pretty atrocious. I had actually put off buying it, which just built up anticipation. When I finally got it, the world-design article was mediocre, the rest of it was unuseable.

  124. @Jay Dugger -

    Damn, I'm sure this thread is more or less done, but if you're around, do you mind explaining what you mean by the word 'conservative' here?

    3) GURPS Transhuman Space

    ...I found its setting so conservative and disjointed...

    Do you mean 'not-risk-taking'? Or is there some ideological bent you found?

  125. D&D 4th edition. Shear disappointment forced me to returned the core books. This marked first time I ever returned an RPG for a refund.

  126. I'm going to bring up 7th Sea, myself. I don't remember the details of my disappointment, but I had trouble reading it, it seemed to have nothing to do with the promised pirates RPG, and I don't even remember what happened to it - I probably sold it.

  127. Thoughts on a couple of the topics up thread, on a couple of my favorites.

    MegaTraveller...without naming names, I understand that the same issue from people in a position to know that turned MT's core books into an errata-filled mess did the same thing to T4. There's a common denominator, but I'll let you figure it out.

    Ironically, with the errata fixes (which were fixed in later printings of the core books, by the way), it's my favorite version of Traveller, both for setting and for rules.

    Re. Call of Cthulhu's 1920's default setting. I'm a big, big fan of pulp, and Call of Cthulhu , so setting games in the 1920's is no big deal to me. In fact, I'm running a Skype Masks of Nyarlathotep game now, on alternating Saturday nights.

    Still, as I've seen other people, including at least one of the designers of Delta Green point out, it's hard to imagine what Chaosium was thinking in making the 1920's the default time period for the game.

    As this person noted (and the name escapes me at the moment, or I'd point you to the writing), when Lovecraft wrote his stories, his characters used the latest in technology: telephone, telegraph; submarines; dirigibles; aircraft; automobiles; trains; semiautomatic pistols and rifles, etc. Yet Chaosium chose to set the game in a historical timewarp around the period when Lovecraft was at his peak as a writer.

    Still, there's a lot that can be done with Call of Cthulhu in a modern setting, even if you set aside Delta Green. Look at all of the television shows and films involving the supernatural that have been around over the course of the last 20 years. It'd be pretty easy to give any of them a Mythos spin with a little creativity. And to their credit, the 5th and 6th Editions of Call of Cthulhu have really deemphasized the 1920s as a default setting.

  128. I'll have to second GURPS Religion. I can't remember a thing from that back that I'd actually use in a game.

    Chicago Arcology (A Campaign Sourcebook for Cyberspace) is one of the few books I've sold back to the store. Okay, so I'm not a Cyberspace player. But I've always wanted an awesome arcology, a million people compressed into a giant poorly-maintained building reeking of despair. Anne McCaffery did a good one in Pegasus in Flight. What did we get here? A basic company town of 24,000 people, well-maintained, and heavily guarded. A detail of the shops the teenagers shop at in the mall. Yawn.

    More major, Monte Cook's World of Darkness. What I was expecting was the World of Darkness, maybe sharpened and compressed. What I got was a werewolves, vampires, demons and mages setting that didn't feel anything like the WoD. To top it, we got a heavily level based system; I guess I should have expected it, but I don't really want modern horror with a system that a high level human can ignore werewolves.

    I think the final straw was a short story where a human within the zone of weirdness died at 6:06 every day. Later, he realizes werewolves are following him. He figures he can use his curse to his advantage, and get a werewolf to kill him at 6:06, and then they'll not realize he comes back to life. Well, he does so, at 6:06 on his watch, and then the werewolf makes fun of his watch for being cheap and slow. Hello? Is someone actually going to do this and not figure out when he died everyday on his watch's time?