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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:45 am:   

Okay, if any of you play RPG's (and not rocket propelled grenades, but thanks for playing our game) and remember back to the old Star Frontiers Science Fiction RPG that TSR put out back in the day, it's back. The main races and even an abridged form of the campaign setting are included in the new d20 Future book for the d20 Modern system, which makes that book go from I may buy it to Holy hell, I have to own this. The book is good even if you don't really play games that much: it has a very useful section on various types of 'realistic' spaceship engines and how fast, say, 14% of lightspeed really is, as well as various useful chapters on nanotechnology, genetics, technology of war and so on. It's not a substitute for a few good reference books, but it's a nice general overview if you're looking to do some mild SF and don't want to have to look up all the math.

I may even run a game with it. When will I have time? Hah! You underestimate the power of procrastination!
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Luis
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:54 am:   

Sounds great, I may have to buy it, even though I no longer have time for this kind of thing.

Another RPG book I heartily recommend purchasing even if you don't play that much is _Nobilis_. Bloody brilliant game.

By the way, what are your favourite RPGs? Aside from the aforementioned _Nobilis_, I love _Call of Cthulhu_. It has one of the most elegant systems out there, bar none. I've heard some gamers complain that the probabilities may not be entirely realistic, but then again, neither is all the nonsense with a dozen exotic dice, tables and calculations that let you to slaughter an army of trolls with a +5 toothpick.

_Kult_ is another of my favourites, in concept at least, because I never got to play it. Horror, gnosticism, ontological nightmares, you get the idea . . . If you like Mr Rossi's deranged essays, _Kult_ and _Nobilis_ are probably the perfect settings for putting them into practice.

I also played White Wolf's _Vampire: The Masquerade_ for a while, but the real shiner is _Wraith: The Oblivion_, which I bought to supplement my Vampire chronicle and immediately fell in love with. I'm not particularly taken with the Storyteller system, though, the dice thing is cumbersome and not very flexible (or even logical) taken straight out of the box.

Like I already mentioned elsewhere on these boards, I dislike _Dungeons & Dragons_ (I did buy all the 3E core books, because I'm weak), and the new edition hasn't done much to address the problems I had with the system. I never had much hope about the settings, which are mostly variations of the same faux-medieval crap as always. Planescape is the only one I like (and I *really* like it), I yhink it's a pity they dumped the setting. I believe Monte Cook did a related book recently, but I haven't looked into it yet.

Best,
Luís
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Luis
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:01 am:   

"not very flexible (or even logical) taken straight out of the box."

There should be an "it's" before this. It's the system itself that's not very logical, character creation in particular.

Best,
Luís
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:28 am:   

Kult and Chill I owned and got a lot of use out of. In Nomine was another, to the point where I even tried to find the old French original In Nomine Satanis. Of the White Wolf games, I liked the original edition of Werewolf and Mage and didn't really play much else. Both suffered from expansionitis: I honestly believed they both worked better and were more useful when there was only the information in the first book about their world and you could develop the rest. I'm enjoying D&D/d20 now (which is new for me) mainly because it's simple enough to just use for hack and slash and robust enough to be adapted to a multitude of settings.

Luis, if you hate D&D/d20, I abjure you to find a copy of Mutants & Masterminds. Only one d20 roll determines everything There are no hit points: you roll a damage saving throw to determine if you're injured or not, and you have to fail several in a row to be incapacitated. It's even point based d20 where you build your character by spending points. I highly recommend it as my favorite d20 product. Also, Eberron is pretty determinedly NOT that old mishmash fantasy world. It's more like WWI.

Okay, you had asked me what my favorite RPG's are. So here's a small list and reasons why:

Champions/Hero System - sure, it's insanely math heavy. But it came around when I was really into Superheroes, and it did the job really well. Honorable mentions are the original DC Heroes and Marvel Super Heroes RPG's, both of which did their respective worlds really well. You didn't need them if you had Champions, though.

Talislanta - Just balls out freaky: rivals The Empire of the Petal Throne for a new approach to fantasy in RPG. These two games seemed as inspired by Gormenghast or E.R. Eddison as anything else, and TEOTPL has only gotten weirder over the years. Talislanta's had its ups and downs as well, and the system isn't great, but this one I kept picking up purely on the strength of the setting.

Star Frontiers - it's a rough call between this game and the various iterations of Gamma World. Unfortunately, the current version of Gamma World sucks so hard that it can pick dirt up off of your carpet, while the small taste of Star Frontiers in the d20 Future book only whets the appetite for more. But I liked both, SF for its wild 'you are the law in the dangerous wilds of space' (think Firefly with aliens) and Gamma World for its 'well, you done blown it up and there's talking badgers coming to club you to death, what now?' vibe.

Unknown Armies - I almost have to like UA. Luis mentioned Kult as a setting to put the essays into practice, but UA is probably, if anything, superior for that. (Over the Edge would work, too.)

There's a lot more... I own a lot of RPG's and have played a small percentage of them. Talsorian's Cyberpunk and Cybergeneration, Shadowrun, Nexus the Infinite City (a sad loss that game isn't still in print), GURPS (I don't have the new edition), Conspiracy X, Everway, even White Wolf's new Exalted game (which is their best game in some time, imho, even if it does suffer from White Wolf's tendency to exhaust a setting into pointlessness. Get the first few books and then stop)... but I'll stop for now.

Anyone else want to comment? Don't see any reason this can take on a similar form to the thread on influential books.
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Luis
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 01:17 pm:   

Matt, I've heard *a lot* about Unknown Armies, but I keep forgetting to look for it while at the games shop (which I no longer frequent as often as I used to) . . . Talislanta and TEOTPT sound very interesting as well.

Cheers,
Luís
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Jess Nevins
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 02:03 pm:   

Unknown Armies is one of the best games to read as a reading experiences. (I'm among those credited in the second edition, too, since I contributed something to the rumors and...one other section, don't remember what).

Adventure! is a wonderful pulp game. Nobilis is another superb game--just splendid reading.
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Lou Anders
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 02:55 pm:   

I was a big fan of Star Frontier's flying squirrel/wookie like aliens. I still have the original game, though, like a lot of games, I got it too early, so there weren't enough modules/adventures for it to sustain my interest.
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Chris Roberson
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:12 pm:   

I haven't played any RPG's since I was fifteen, but every few years I pick up a couple and read the manuals. There's something in the worldbuilding aspect of the best games that really appeals to me. I thought I was the only person who did this until I read an interview a year or two back with China Mieville in which he mentions that he does the same thing. Anyone else in this camp?
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Luís
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:43 pm:   

I am. I read RPG books on occasion, but as I've explained, I have little time to organize and play a gaming session. Hard to find players with matching schedules and interests too . . .

Cheers,
Luís
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 04:49 pm:   

I think most anyone who is into RPG's does that. From 1994 to 1999 I almost never played, and have only recently gotten into a couple of games out here: but a good RPG not only has that worldbuilding aspect you mention, Chris, it gives you a sense of possibility, that you could do as good or better yourself.
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Lou Anders
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 08:31 pm:   

I bought something like 10 Call of Cthulhu manuals in 91/92, when I was living on my own in London. Only played half of one game, but read them all fanatically.
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Minz
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 07:31 am:   

Here comes the geek . . .

My personal favs:
Champions is terrific, but the be-all, end-all of math heavy games, and my personal favorite for best fantasy rpg (most "realistic" if I dare use the term), was Powers & Perils by Avalon Hill. The combat system was absolutely top-notch (magic system only okay, but it was based upon and consistent with the combat system). Unfortunately, the game was pretty much D.O.A. (I believe it came out just before Hasbro bought and gutted AH) and its players few and far between.

I love Chill, and prefer Star Ace over Star Frontiers (all of Pacesetter's games were terrific--it's a shame they didn't last), though I like both. I've a big soft spot for Challenger--probably my favorite SF game, though mostly for character creation and the particular group I originally played with.

Call of Chulhu's good, but I actually prefer the original Gamma World because it was even more brutal and sadistic toward the players (Frank Mentzer made it an absolute killer, so much so that it was revamped within its first year of existence--Frank wasn't too happy about that, but apparently lots of people complained).

I've had some grand times playin' Boot Hill and Gangbusters, but again, it was the peak of my gaming years, and we had fabulous GMs and a great gaming group (that of course eventually fell apart--as all gaming groups do), rather than a superior gaming system.

I've done a bit of LARPing, played IFGS and Magic Horizons (both fantasy systems, the first is sorta like D&D, the second more of a world-based game) and had a grand time. But my gaming years have long since passed.

You should check out GARDENS OF THE MOON by Steven Erikson (epic fantasy novel)--the book's very intense, extremely well-written and incredibly dense, but underneath it all, there is a former gamer who tells a wickedly wonderful story.
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:37 pm:   

It's hard to beat classic AD&D for flexibility and continuous gaming. It would last as long as you could take it.

Champions was a great concept, but I never could get anyone interested in it long enough to get a good world going.

TMNT (yes the Turtles) was fun, but you could exploit some character generation flaws to build invincible creatures which lost its fun after a few weeks.

Played a ton of MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) in college. This was a lot of fun for me since I got to be a player instead of the DM/GM. It was also cool to go wreak havoc on Tolkien's landscape. This game had an insance d100 battle system that was inanely specific: "Damage to left arm" oh great! And if you rolled high (like 94+) you could get bonus rolls and double, triple, etc. the damage you make.

I think Car Wars had potential for great RPG, but I could never convince my AD&D friends to learn ANOTHER system, when it was more fun to build cars and blow them up.

D&D is my all time fav. I even have the most-recent manuals. Wish I had time to play. I even have a world I created in college that we never got to. Locations, encounters, adventures, history, I created everything for this sucker.

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:41 pm:   

Oh, I should mention I started playing AD&D around 1978, before they had created any of their settings. Everything was created on your own. We had some modules, but mostly made up our own stuff. I don't like that the more recent iterations of the system push you towards their worlds, but I guess they have to justify printing all that stuff somehow, right?

JK
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:42 pm:   

And finally, before someone corrects me, I know they have Greyhawk (was it Greyhawk, something like that Greyhaven?) in the 1970s, but it wasn't as full-fleshed as the current worlds are.

JK
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Chris Roberson
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:05 pm:   

John - Oooh, I'd forgotten about Car Wars. I wasted a lot of time with that game back in high school.
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Luís
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 04:22 pm:   

Though the opportunity did arise, I never got to play MERP, because every time I looked at the rules, my eyes would glaze over and would I fall over backwards. I wonder what the people at ICE were thinking . . . "Hey, let's make a game that everybody wants to play but no one actually CAN!"

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but MERP does have one of the most byzantine systems I ever came across, and since I like role-playing more than I like roll-playing, I eventually forgot about it. I still have a bunch of books, bought at 50% and 70% discounts because the shop couldn't get rid of them otherwise. (I wonder why . . .)

That reminds me . . . Not really a favourite RPG, but rather a good book *on* RPGs: Ken Hite's _Nightmares of Mine_. It was put out by ICE too. Has anyone else here read it?

Best,
Luís
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Luís
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 04:29 pm:   

John: yeah, Greyhawk was the original setting, they resurrected and fleshed it out for 3E. Trying to win back some of the "old school" gamers, I guess.

Best,
Luís
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Lou Anders
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:24 pm:   

I remember I had the full Greyhawk map mounted on this really heavy piece of plywood. It wasn't a bad world, I'm glad to hear its getting some new use.
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:43 pm:   

I know a lot of guys from Wizards and the various official magazines (Dungeon and Dragon) - Greyhawk's a favorite among a lot of them.
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Lou Anders
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 07:44 pm:   

Remember the old Gods, Demigods, & Heroes manual? The ones with stats for Lovecraft, Moorcock & Lieber creations? Ah....
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 07:56 am:   

I believe the boxed set of Greyhawk came out in 83 (maybe 82)--I also started playin in 78, which was around the time the AD&D hardcovers started to be published. I actually developed my own personal version of Forgotten Realms after reading the very first FR article in Dragon--about the Dieties of Forgotten Realms, within a month I had made up a map, multiple cultures, outlines for several campaigns. (Of course, within a year, they had released a bunch of FR stuff)

I also had the original first printing of Dieties and Demigods, which had the Cthulhu and Melnibonean Mythos . . . without the thank you note to Chaosium who actually had been licensed those rights. (By the third printing, TSR had dropped those two mythos so they wouldn't have to mention the competition in the book.) Ah, the inner geek is beginning to blossom.

Hey Matthew: I used to know a number of TSR guys--though only one of them survived the WotC acquisition (Kevin Melka, Todd Laing, Les Hahn, good ol' Uncle Lou). And the guy who ran our local gaming club was in charge of coordinating the RPGs at Gen Con (Keith Polster--man the stories I could tell you about Keith) You know any of them? (Haven't been in touch with them too much since I moved to the East Coast.)

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