Trending recently in the Twittersphere: What four RPGs are your favourites or have most influenced you? Go on then. These are mine; the pictures are for the editions I first played.
Dungeons & Dragons
What has become a lifelong hobby bordering on obsession began with a game of this little beauty one evening in a pub in Oxford in September 1976 where I met up with friends from the Tolkien Society.
I’m still playing original White Box D&D with a slowly diminishing group of fellow enthusiasts from the 1970s; and sometimes I daydream about running a campaign again myself. Not many games have that kind of staying power.
I’ve been playing Classic Traveller on and off since Games Day in 1977 when I bought my first box of Little Black Books. That is nearly 40 years now, so it’s little wonder that CT is so deeply ingrained in my gaming that if you scratch any of my SF campaigns you can see it shining through underneath.
Traveller quickly became my favourite because it was science fiction rather than fantasy, and it was much better organised. Character generation and combat look dated now, but the game works as well and is as much fun as ever; if I hadn’t outgrown those two sections, I’d still be playing it as my main RPG.
All Things Zombie
Although I’d played Two Hour Wargames rules before, it was 2009 before All Things Zombie introduced me to a new genre – survival horror – and showed me how solo campaigns worked at their best. Very simple rules with complex, realistic emergent behaviour; the game punishes poor tactics ruthlessly, and like most THW games works equally well head to head, co-operatively, or solo.
There are many lessons to learn from this game, but the key one is this: In the zombie apocalypse, it’s not the zombies you have to worry about…
That brings us to Savage Worlds, my current go-to RPG. Plonk down six quid or so for the core rulebook and you can run pretty much all my favourites right out of the book; Conan, Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Stargate, Star Wars, Traveller, homebrews, mashups… if it had rules for solo play I wouldn’t need anything else.
Designed from the ground up for game masters with next to no free time who just want to get on with playing, it’s fast and easy throughout. This is the only RPG I have which I can use to stage a fight involving 30-50 figures with multiple vehicles on each side, and finish it comfortably in an hour or so.
If I could have five, I would add 2300AD, which showed me how to build viable NPCs with just a skill level and a couple of tags, and still has the most credible near-future SF setting of any RPG I know. If I could have six, I’d add Stars Without Number, which showed me how sandbox gaming could be done in a sensible amount of time.