Sunday, 2 September 2018

My five favourite roleplaying games of all time


Before I begin, I'm obviously not including any of my own games in here. That would be super un-British of me. Also, I've been informed that there are quite a few games out there, some say there could be more than eleven games! I've not played them all. These are just the favourite of those that I've played, obviously.

So what do I love about a game? My preference is rules lite to middling, where combat isn't too complex and minis aren't a necessity. These are my five favourites (in no particular order):

Tunnels and Trolls

If you've been following Trollish Delver over the past nine years, you'll know how much I love T&T. In fact my last few posts have been all about it. For those who don't know, T&T is the second roleplaying game and a response to the percieved complexity of the original D&D rules. Created by Trollgod Ken St. Andre, T&T eschewed the wargame-derived combat for something more abstract and simple. It also introduced a ridiculous slew of weapon types to choose from and peppered the game with humour where D&D may have been a bit more po-faced. For me, the best part is the proliferation of solo adventures for the system, meaning you can take a character on a solitary campaign, from the crucible of Buffalo Castle, through the Arena of Khazan and beneath Blue Frog Tavern. To T&T enthusiasts, places like Gull, Kasar and Khosht are as iconic as Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate or Blackmoor. My personal favourite is 5th edition, with house rules inspired by 7e and Deluxe - but most editions are compatible.

Call of Cthulhu

Cosmic horror is my literary jam and Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu is, for me, the definitive Lovecraftian game. The BRP system is simple to grasp but robust, leading to a great roleplaying experience. Some of the best games I've run have been CoC, with a slow-burning horror, cosmic horrors that can't be defeated and the players' spiral into insanity. Don't expect to survive an adventure - most PCs end up either dead or in an institution.

Swords and Wizardry White Box

This is my favourite flavour of D&D. Simple, race-as-class, roll-under, deadly. I think the OSR lives in the imagination and White Box really encourages creative thinking because turns are quick and efficient. PCs don't have a slew of powers at their disposal and they're not superheroes. It's simply a game you can read in an afternoon and get down to playing at the table. That said, I also love games like The Black Hack and Lamentations of the Flame Princess for these reasons.

Tales from the Wood

Despite never really being a fan of things like Watership Down and Animals of Farthing Wood, Tales from the Wood by Simon Washbourne (Barbarians of Lemuria) captivated me and was an inspiration for my own games. Tales from the Wood is about woodland animals of the British countryside essentially trying to survive this tooth and claw world. The rules are simple and there's a cool mythology woven into the game. Oh, and you're not anthropomorphic animals - you're real animals - no weird clothing needed.

D&D 5th edition

Oh, Scott, what a boring pick. Yeah, sure, it might be, but in my eyes 5e is the most recent version of the rules I can really get behind. After 4e, which I thought was great at what it did, but broke at higher levels, 5e took a step back to assess the philosophy of what D&D truly was, even bringing along OSR-famed consultants to advise. What we got at the end was a great, pared back rules set that pushed roleplaying more to the forefront than the last few editions. Is this one for crunchy powergamers? No, not at all. The crazy amount of character options you get with the likes of Pathfinder aren't there, but the trade-off is an elegant set of mechanics and a nod to old school gaming. For me, it's everything I want from a new D&D game.