Friday, April 8, 2022

Games You've Never Played – But Wish You Had

I regularly hear it boasted that there are now more roleplaying games available than at any time in the hobby's history. That's almost certainly true, though it's a very odd boasted, given that I don't think most gamers ever get the chance to play more than a small number of them (or, if they do, they can't possibly play them for very long). Mind you, this was true even back in the first decade of the hobby and I can distinctly recall seeing or hearing about many RPGs I never had the chance to play myself.

This got me to thinking: what is the one roleplaying game that I've never played but wish I had? I thought about this question for a while and considered several possible answers before settling on an answer that satisfies me: Space Opera. Though I am a devoted fan of science fiction roleplaying games (and even wrote one myself), I've never played FGU's 1980 entry into the genre. I own a lot of the game's releases and have read several of them avidly, but, more than four decades later, I've never never succeeded in playing the game, though I did come close a few years ago.

I suspect the main reason I never played Space Opera back in the day is that I already owned Traveller, Star Frontiers, and Star Trek. Between them, I had more than enough options to sate my appetite for sci-fi. More to the point, aside from a couple of guys I met a public library games day, I didn't know anyone who played Space Opera regularly, which made it less likely I'd ever do so. But I always wanted to play the game, in large part because it was such a delightful mishmash of elements ripped bleeding from the bodies of popular science fiction books, tv shows, and movies that I suspect it would have been a blast to play. Honestly, I still think that, even if I remain somewhat skeptical of its rules.

What about you? What one roleplaying game have you never played but wish you had? Non-existent bonus point if you explain why you've never played it and/or why you wish it were otherwise?

75 comments:

  1. Stormbringer 4th edition. I won it at a convention 32 years ago, and have never played it (or any version of Stormbringer, for that matter) Also Star Frontiers. Had it since back in the day, never played it.

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    1. It's a great little game. I love it dearly and I've played it a lot. Do yourself a favour and play it! :-)

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  2. I have never played Empire of the Petal Throne, but it would be nice to do so.

    I have never played it because I have never been able to get past my awe of the setting. Though it's silly to say, I'm afraid I'd mess it up!

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    1. Agreed. Fascinating, but intimidating. And what if James or Barker suddenly showed up at your table and told you that everyone was pronouncing everything wrong.

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    2. Any RPG setting worth your while is intended to be "messed up." That's part of the fun!

      (And, for what it's worth, I still can't pronounce many Tsolyáni words correctly and don't sweat it.)

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    3. Not that I'm ever likely to run EPT again, but if he were still alive Mister Randolph Calverhall would be most unwelcome at my table. I don't game with his sort.

      Wouldn't have a problem with James showing up though. Bring a copy of Space Opera and I'd even take a stab at running it. It's only been about 37 years since the last time I tried.

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    4. I guess I'd have to say FASA's Dr. Who game. I was a huge Dr. Who fan in the early 80s, when it was on PBS and the shows were all Tom Baker. I got the RPG at the Fairbanks Comic Shop, but no one I knew was interested in it but me.

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  3. Replies
    1. heh, call me. I could hook you up, if you are in Alberta Canada. I loves me some CoC

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    2. That is very kind. Unfortunately I am thousands of miles away. I have the boxed set from new but have never found anyone interested.

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    3. that is crazy to me. I have the best success these days with CoC. everyone has heard of it, wants to try. D&D? sorry, busy

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  4. MERP (Middle Earth Roleplaying)

    Our DM didn't want to learn a new system, so we never tried it. It's too crunchy for me now, but back in the day I would of eaten it up.

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  5. Star Frontiers. Close to the same reasons. Never met anyone that played it and already played both Traveller and Star Trek. It seemed like a fun space opera game that scratched a sci-fi itch the others didnt.

    PS: Middle-Earth-Adventure-Game (MEAG) is a rules-lite version of Middle-Earth that is largely compatible.

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  6. This is hard to limit to just one...

    Lace & Steel, which I bought as a joke (it was 39 cents on clearance and the FLGS owner had been mocking it for over a year), discovered it had a captivating setting and beautiful artwork, and then I could never get anyone else interested in even trying it.

    Tephra, a steampunk fantasy game that one of my fellow players in a D&D 4E campaign really wanted to run for us all but we never found the time before the group fell apart. Still feel bad about that.

    Mage the Ascension, which sounded so very cool on its own but everyone always wanted to mash in all the other World of Darkness stuff and the games would never get off the ground.

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  7. "But I always wanted to play the game, in large part because it was such a delightful mishmash of elements ripped bleeding from the bodies of popular science fiction books, tv shows, and movies that I suspect it would have been a blast to play."

    Did you ever try Star Patrol, a 1977 effort from Gamescience? I've played both it and Space Opera a few times, and if scifi mashups are what draws you, Space Patrol may actually be more broad-minded about what sources it grabs from than SO - and a heck of a lot less subtle about doing so, too.

    Mind you, it's got the same "shame about the rules" thing going on - but it is a gleeful little intellectual property magpie.

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    1. I have never seen or played Star Patrol, I'm afraid.

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    2. I managed to run one scenario of Star Patrol and a few of Space Opera. I liked Space Opera more but it’s extremely lethal. Don’t expect combat to last beyond the initial exchange of fire.

      Star Patrol really is a kitchen sink. It just plugs in whatever, like including multiple FTL drives (Lensman-style inertial-less, warp and hyper, etc.). One really odd thing that sticks out was the Roman pila (a thrown missile weapon) dishing out one of the highest amounts of damage.

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  8. There are many RPGs I wish I had played back in the day, but first place is a tie between Pendragon and Prince Valiant. At the time, I felt I couldn't do Pendragon justice if I didn't become an expert on the subject and that my players wouldn't appreciate it properly unless *they* became experts, too. When I discovered Prince Valiant, I didn't have an active gaming group, but I probably would have felt that something was missing if none of my players had ever read the comic strip or seen the movie. Still, I think both games would have been enjoyable if we had allowed ourselves to muddle through.

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  9. Due to the wonders of the internet I've been able to play every RPG I own, and some I don't own--it's crazy out there. But there is one exception. I own but have never played/ran Colonial Gothic, and I picked up first edition shortly after its release what, some fifteen years ago?

    Why haven't I played it? One, I had a large queue of games to play when I started playing via play-by-post, and naturally one of them has to be last. The last one, the one left all alone, all by itself on the non-played shelf, is in fact, Colonial Gothic. See it over there, looking forlorn? That's Colonial Gothic.

    I'm not going to use the past tense, because I still hold out hope of playing it someday, I just don't know when that will be. It looks cool as all get-out (answering why I wish it were otherwise); it's an interesting mix of horror, Cthulhu-esque shenanigans, against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. Horror, undead, redcoats, bluecoats, all kinds of coats, and shadowy things that go bump in the night. What's not to love, I ask?

    I'll put my non-existent bonus point in Luck, a non-existent characteristic in Colonial Gothic.

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  10. As a King Arthur geek, I would have loved to play Pendragon... if I knew I had players on the same wavelength as the game, which is much more difficult to find.

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  11. Pendragon for me as well. I've always loved the Arthur mythology, but never picked up the game or had a group that I thought would enjoy it. I think I only have one gaming friend (not counting online acquaintances) who has ever played it.

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  12. I've never played Traveller and would very much like to. I have run Traveller: The New Era, but that's not quite the same thing, I was 15 at the time, it was the first rpg I tried to run, and I don't think I did it justice.

    (Many years later I went back and looked at my TNE rulebook, and saw a familiar name in the credits...)

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  13. I played Shadowrun at a convention in 1993. I've wanted to play or run a game since. (I have rulebooks and adventures on the shelf behind me and a collection of Pdf's and I'm the only one who ever looks at them.) Over the years I've also been interested by/in: Traveller, Paranioa & Eclipse Phase. Thankfully my gaming mates and I have tried a lot of other systems.

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    1. Eclipse Phase looks absolutely fascinating and terribly intimidating at the same time. Takes GURPS Transhuman Space and dials it to eleven.

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  14. Pendragon. I'm specifically interested in how it captures the sweep of history over generation. But putting together the right group that is into the grand Arthurian cycle, and willing to go in for the long haul is the obstacle.

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  15. For almost 40 years that answer was Classic Traveller (I own practically every release and have stared at them for a long long time), but I convinced my group to check it out a few months ago and now we are playing it regularly. Life goal acheived! So, I guess my back-up answer—like many others—is Pendragon.

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  16. Superworld. I've tried almost every supers game out there, but that one I've never gotten my hands on or had a chance to try. It's especially interesting to me because I heard that a Superworld campaign spawned the WildCards series from George RR Martin and friends.

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  17. Talislanta. I really like the world building, the archetype class system, and the simple seeming game mechanics.

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  18. Twilight:2000 sorta. When the new edition came out, I did a bit of reading and realised Frank Chadwick had identified the features that Old School gamers say was good about early D&D (meaningful choices, tough resource decisions, dealing with factions), but 20 years earlier.
    But I can't get past the half-the-world-is-dead bit. And today, the thought that I know of people who could have been the PCs here.

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  19. Over the years I was lucky enough to play most, if not all, of the classics.
    I got Traveller, CoC, RQ, Pendragon, MERP, Rolmaster, MSH, Paranoia Cyberpunk..you name it.
    I started "losing ground" in the 90s, and although I have no simpathy for World of Darkness and urban/modern fantasy, the game(s) from back in the day that I miss playing are Mage and Wraith.

    If we are talking about recent games, I can name some 20 games at least, but I will spare you ;P

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    1. Yeah, same trajectory here. After a very active and diverse gaming career during HS and college, I also lost ground during the 1990s. The small press and indie explosion of the 2000's was both exhilarating and frustrating and eventually caused me to give up keeping a viable wishlist of games I wanted to play.

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    2. It's absolutely impossible to keep up with new RPG releases these days. Not enough time in a lifespan to play even a few sessions of everything that comes out, much less a campaign of any length. Nothing surprising about it, just part of the overall supersaturation of entertainment media that's been a hallmark of the last ten to twenty years.

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    3. My current, extended, "want to play at least once" list:

      13th age
      7th Sea 2e
      Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e
      Bash!
      Forbidden Lands
      Heroquest Glorantha
      John Carter of Mars
      Mechwarrior Destiny
      Mutant City Blues
      Quest
      Shadow of the Demon Lord
      Swords of the Serpentine
      The One Ring 2e
      The Sprawl

      I do not expect it to grow anymore.
      (Actually it's shorter than it used to be last year, since I managed to cross a few titles off...)

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  20. Fascinating to see how many mentions of Pendragon there are. I've never heard of the game, but I am a bit of an expert on the Arthurian legend. (Graduate level studies, research paper on le Morte d'Arthur, etc.).

    But this is probably my own fault. All I've ever played, and all I've ever known, is D&D.

    If I could go back in time, I would have liked to play Traveller. I came across it in the early days, c. 1980, studied it, and loved it. But never found a game.

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  21. I cannot exactly say I've never played Pendragon, but I've not played more than 1 perhaps 2 short sessions of it. And yes I think that's my main RPG regret. I hope to rectify it in the not too distant future!

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  22. Lex Arcana, the Italian Roman-themed rpg. My friend had the first edition boxed set back in the '90s, but we never got to play it. I've now bought several books for the new edition and they are gorgeous, but I have not got the chance to run it. BTW, if anyone is interested the new edition is also available in English. After Lex Arcana, I'd say the One Ring (I have played its 5e adaptation though) and Jackals Bronze Age Rpg, which I fear could remain unplayed.

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  23. I always wanted to try Witch Hunt. The ads in Dragon always intrigued me, with the line "Be Ye Witch, or Be Ye Magistrate, it makes no difference. All are suspect."

    I never saw a copy in a shop, though.

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    1. I saw one, once, but skipped on it due to reading a very negative magazine review. The Space Gamer panned it IIRC.

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  24. I'd like to give En Garde! a go, even though it might not be a proper rpg. I heard about it through listening to the Save for Half podcast (which I really really enjoy) and I've had a soft spot for the Three Musketeers ever since I watch "Dogtanian & the Three Muskehounds" on TV as a kid.

    After that it might be Boot Hill or Metamorphosis Alpha.

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  25. Twilight: 2000. The setting where I'd be dead by age 14. A disparate group of soldiers from a broken army trying to go home. It's a modern Anabasis in the original form.

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  26. I played D&D, Shadowrun and Runequest as a youngster. I didn't think I had played Traveller, and have always wished I had, but apparently I did after all. I co-ran my school's RPG club and had conducted a survey among its members on which games they played and which they wanted to try. Recently, while going through my parent's loft, I found the survey form I'd filled out myself, and I had ticked the box saying I had played Traveller; the game I listed as wanting to try is Call of Cthulhu, and I still haven't addressed that (I'm now in my 50s). I've recently picked up Vaesen and hope that will scratch the Victorian/Edwardian horror itch.

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  27. Fading Suns (not on 1d20 system). There is something appealing in that game I cannot exactly specify: the world is a bit Dune and slightly WH40K, and bits and pieces of it are recognizable from other places but I think it would be a still interesting game to play, and I want to see how its original system works with the premise.

    Synergon RPG (don't go on their site, it is been hijacked) which was a tiny game about corporate, somewhat absurdist hell built on the system that reminded me something of early Final Fantasy made tabletop. I think the setup had a lot of fun potential (and the game text was rather funny, in bleak way), and I wanted to see again how it works and if it possible to make it better.

    Red Box Hack, just because it is so forgotten now and I never had a chance to try it.

    Sol (also now-forgotten mini-setting from about 2013), just because it tries so hard to immerse you into the world, and I wanted to see if this immersion is achievable.

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    1. I played a couple of sessions of Red Box Hack many years ago and it is great fun. Also quite ahead of its time. I hope you get to play it some day.

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    2. Thank you, I hope for this as well.

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  28. Prior to online gaming the last several years my list of considerations would have been much longer.
    (I can since scratch off: Rolemaster, MERP, Boothill, En Gardé, Lords of Creation, Pendragon, and probably a couple more I am forgetting)
    Of those remaining on the list if I had to narrow it down to just *one* then I guess it would have to be:
    SPI's UNIVERSE
    I've since reacquired a complete boxed set of it though so who knows what the future may bring?

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    1. I have also been curious about Universe. I have a copy and it had a lot of intriguing ideas, being quite different from Traveller (it's main competition back in the day). Still, that character action system seemed deeply crunchy. I never could wrap my brain around it.

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    2. Delta Vee (the ship combat game based off Universe) was a holy grail for me for years back in the 80s and 90s. When I finally did get a copy I was pretty disappointed, honestly. Didn't live up to the hype. Universe was better, but too crunchy for my group and we only played a couple of sessions. DragonQuest had the same problem.

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    3. There is a UNIVERSE group on Facebook. Recently a couple of members met up and created characters (rather than play, since it was just the two of them...) Even accounting for unfamiliarity they estimated it took between 30-45 min per character. Which is a testament to the game's 'crunch' level.
      If you look at it purely from a page-count standpoint, the game isn't really that big. But the content of those pages are DENSE.

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  29. It used to be that there were two names on the list, but thanks to finally playing Classic Traveller with my Friday group there’s now only one: Pendragon. But I’m not sure that I’d want to play it the way others would want. My vision for it has always been to play it as if it had been done by the Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli that did Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa.

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  30. Short answer: Empire of the Petal Throne. Was sort-of aware of it when young due to mentions in The Dragon, but only encountered it for the first time some 10-15 years ago when I grabbed tons of Tékumel stuff from Tita’s House of Games. This was after my youthful run of role-playing was over and before I rediscovered interest during the pandemic. Would still love to run a fresh off the boat campaign if I can find interested folk who aren’t neo-Nazis, but maybe I’d use the Béthorm system.

    Longer answer: King Arthur Pendragon and Polaris: Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North, for things I’ve discovered since coming back to RPGs.

    Things I never managed in my youth:

    Got to play Classic Traveller at convention but never ran a game. Would still love to run a campaign that started off with the classic Psionics Institute search. Had a lot of ideas for this.

    Actually made Villains & Vigilantes characters but never got a game off the ground.

    Fantasy Wargaming. I still haven’t encountered a game that better captures the medieval feel (not Chivalry & Sorcery, definitely not Ars Magica). I would love to be involved in a game that used the troupe-style and seasonal play of Ars Magica but has an authentic feel to magic and the Otherworld, with the “covenant” being an outpost of the Knights Templar or a group of kabbalah students or some such. I don’t really think FW is the best fit but haven’t found the best system. Any suggestions? (By the way, the Burgs & Bailiffs publications are a great resource for medieval play.)

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  31. Another vote for Pendragon here. I've never had a group that would be suitable. Runner up would be any version of Mechwarrior as long as it was extremely crunchy about the mech quirks, maintenance and other logistical details.

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  32. There are a couple. I've never played the original Prime Directive RPG implementation of the Star Fleet Battles universe. Now I have the GURPS 4E adaptation, so I don't know how likely it is that I'd ever play the original.

    While I have played individual Pendragon sessions, I've never had the opportunity to play the full campaign that the game seems to be written for. I would love to get a chance to do that someday. I did once get one session toward a Pagan Shore (ancient Ireland) campaign in, but that's a particular sub-setting of Pendragon I'd love to explore.

    Fading Suns is such an evocative setting, but nobody I know has ever run it. The only edition I have is the second, and I have no idea whether that's considered good or bad. It looks like an interesting system, though. I haven't looked up what supplementary materials were ever produced for it, so my only exposure is what is in that 1999 hardcover.

    I've backed the Kickstarters for Stars Without Number revised, Spears of the Dawn, Silent Legions, and Worlds Without Number, but have never managed to play any of them yet. I'm mesmerized by the faction rules and other sandbox tools each comes with.

    Finally, I've never had a chance to play or run Nephilim. It looks like an fun idea, and an interesting take on semi-immortal characters.

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    1. Nice to see somebody else mentioning Fading Suns.

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  33. What rock have I been living under for 40 years such that I am (apparently) the only person totally unfamiliar with this incredibly popular Pendragon game???

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    1. Well, it was only published 37 years ago...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendragon_(role-playing_game)

      I would only want to play it with a group that was prepared to take it seriously, and that has just never come together.

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    2. Haha! I take full responsibility for my ignorance on the subject. One of the strange quirks of life. You never know what you don't know! Hard to believe, but true, I've just never come across it in my own RPG circles.

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  34. Mothership

    Cthulhu Dark Ages

    Challenges Game System (Tom Moldvay's 10 page version of AD&D.)

    Pendragon (which, until now, I thought it would be hard to recruit for. Seems like an online campaign could work, given the game's sweeping approach to time.)

    Gangbusters (we used a different game for roaring '20s.)

    Bunnies and Burrows (FGU's game for Watership Down)

    Transylvanian Adventures


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  35. Empire of the Petal Throne, no question. I've been digging into Tekumel (given the recent unpleasant revelation) and I'm a bit blown away by Barker's genius. Sad that he was pro-Nazi, but I'm very impressed with Empire of the Petal Throne, and I would have loved it back in the day.

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  36. I'm sure there's something out there I should have played but looking at my game collection, there really isn't anything in the "never played" list that I really feel like I've missed out on.

    That said, both Talislanta and EPT are in my collection and never played. I am curious about them, but don't have a burning desire or a great regret (and the revelations about MAR Barker push EPT down on my list - on the other hand, playing EPT with James would almost assuredly be a treat).

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  37. Replies
    1. Oh! I even have a copy of that (both books and the supplement, Societies Sourcebook).

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  38. Chivalry & Sorcery 1st edition, or even better, C&S zero edition, that is, "Chevalier" (a reprint of it was made some twenty years ago).

    Also, "Reve de Dragon" in its original french version and in its first edition as well.Among other things,it contains my favourite fantasy graphic of al time, probably.

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    1. Ooo. Reve de Dragon. I forgot about that one. In the right hands, I suspect it could be a wonderful experience.

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  39. Back in the 90s there was a set of unofficial rules for playing Highlander (80s movie with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery) within the world of darkness, never found anyone who would GM it.

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    1. Highlander: The Gathering, I think it was called
      I remember reading those on Zanzibar

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    2. @Kyana: Highlander: The Quickening

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    3. I played in a WoD crossover game around 2000 in which one of the other players was a "Highlander" using that ruleset.

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    4. @faoladh, it was a long time ago to remember correctly, indeed.

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    5. @Kyana: It has been a couple of years, for sure. In fact, it's been so many years that you were right and I was wrong.

      I think that was the first free RPG thing I found on the internet, though I know that there were some others that had been circulating on USENet as well.

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  40. I should second Legendary Lives, which was mentioned above, and add Celtic Legends (the English translation of the French game, Légendes Celtiques).

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  41. Apocalypse World 2E or Burned Over.

    Urban Shadows.

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  42. Space Opera
    Ars Magica
    Chivalry & Sorcery
    Traveller 2300
    Pendragon
    Adventures in Middle earth
    Pallidum Fantasy
    Fantasy Wargaming
    Gangbusters
    Superworld
    Warhammer

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