Tag Archives: old editions

Reader’s Choice: The Final List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games

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I know I’ve said it a couple of times already, but thanks to everyone who’s commented on this thread. I hope you’ve had as much fun exploring this topic as I have.

Today is reader’s choice day. I’ve put together a small list of recommendations from readers for games they thought should’ve been included but weren’t. So without further ado…

Siskoid suggested:

  • Arcanum: Set in the ancient world before Atlantis disappeared beneath the waves, Arcanum is the precuror to Talislanta. In contrast to D&D’s high fantasy, Arcanum featured civilizations based on real-world cultures.
  • Bullwinkle and Rocky Role-Playing Party Game: You remember Rocky and Bullwinkle, right? Now you too can play one of the characters from the TV show or even (depending on the version of the rules you use) an brand-new one in the world of Frostbite Falls.
  • Critter Commandos: Kinda like Toon for miniatures, from what I can tell. [Correct me if I’m wrong, Siskoid. This is a new one for me.] You play a character like those in Saturday morning cartoons.
  • Dream Park: Based on the novel by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, in Dream Park you play a player playing an RPG PC. Yup, your character’s character is a PC in “subgame”, which can be from any RPG genre.  I know this sounds kinda silly (not to mention recursive), but I’ve found the game to be a lot of fun. I particularly like the fact that you can use the same character in different genres.
  • StuporPowers!: Tired of those boring, old, everyday powers like x-ray vision, telepathy, and super-strength? A parody of superhero games, StuporPowers allows you to play a character with more … ahem … “unique” powers. What kind of powers? Oh, powers such as “price check anything”, “dust bunny army”, and “b.o. force field”. My favorite is “mail yourself anywhere”.

Luis suggested:

  • Justifiers: A science-fiction game, you play a human-animal combination “critter” who’s job it to act as part of the strong-arm force for the corporation who made you. Your goal: buy your freedom. But to do that you’re going to need to survive.

Rebecca suggested:

  • Feng Shui: The Hong Kong cinema of rpgs, Feng Shui focuses on all the things you expect from Hong Kong cinema: martial arts, magic, guns, high-technology, and … oh yeah, martial arts.

Both Siskoid and Rebecca recommended:

  • Teenagers from Outer Space: A very rules-light system based on the more humorous anime such as Ranma 1/2 and Dragonball. The game setting is just want the name says — aliens from space become fascinated by Earth’s “teen culture” and decide to bring their children here. In this game you play either a normal human or an alien teen-ager trying to fit into Earth culture.

Finally, some further recommendations from me:

  • Rêve: the Dream Ouroboros: Since Rifts really wasn’t that less-known, this is my replacement suggestion for “R”. Based on the French game Rêve de Dragon, the game is set in a fantasy world dreamed into reality by dragons.
  • S.L.U.G: Simple, Laid-Back Universal Game: Even if you never play this game, read the rules to your group sometime during a break in your game session. Seriously. In fact, you can read them right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.  SLUG is a free rules system you can get on-line through the link above. The creators claim you can get the entire set of rules on one side of a sheet of paper, but I’ve never gotten it below two sheets and still had the type large enough to read.

An A-to-Z List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games: Part 5

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Here we are at the end of the list — almost. What do I mean by “almost”? Check the end of this post and you’ll find out 😉 . Meanwhile, here’s our final five:

  • Villians and Vigilantes: Like several of the games in this list, this is probably well-known to you if you were gaming in the early ’80’s and not if you joined the hobby later. It’s a super-hero game system which never got as popular as Champions.
  • Whispering Vault, The: Ever want to hunt gods? Then this is the game for you. Published in 1993, it experienced a surge of popularity in the mid-90’s when occult horror games were at their peak of popularity. Players play Stalkers — people who were once mortal humans but have been granted supernatural abilities — whose job is to hunt down renegade gods who’ve escaped into the mortal realm.
  • X-Crawl: I’ll admit — I haven’t yet met anyone who’s even read through this game, much less actually played it, including myself. So I’m going by the information on the publisher’s website. X-Crawl is a game based on shows like American Gladiator. In this, players play contestants on a pay-per-view reality show who face the dangers created by the “Dungeon Judge”. The game is artificially created — the character deaths aren’t.
  • Ysgarth: A fantasy RPG originally published in 1979 by Ragnarok Games. The focus in this game is on skills, not character classes and the whole system is extremely “crunchy” — meaning you have to crunch a lot of die rolls. Granted, it’s not quite as bad a Rolemaster…. You can try out a ‘lite’ version of the game for free at: Ysgarth: 20th Anniversary Edition.
  • Zombi: Subtitled “The Earth Won’t Hold the Dead”, this game is just what you’d expect. Zombies are taking over the earth and have to survive. Jeff’s Gameblog has a nice writeup about it in his “Five Overlooked RPGs” post.

There it is: A to Z. At least one game for each letter of the alphabet.

So what with this ‘almost’?

Right. The ‘almost’. Well, several of you have posted comments or Tweeted me about games you felt should’ve been on the list. So tomorrow (Friday, 07 Aug 2009) I’m going to post a “reader’s choice” list of lesser-known games. So if there’s anything that’s not here but you felt should be, please leave me a comment on any of these “A-to-Z” posts.

An A-to-Z List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games: Part 4

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We’re coming into the home stretch of the list. Today we’ll cover Q – U

  • Qin: A game that looks like it does for China what Legend of the Five Rings did for Japan. It’s set in China’s Warring States period. I love China as an RPG setting and can’t wait to get my hands on this and give it a try.
  • Rifts: Okay, this is actually a rather well-known game but it’s so intriguing I had to include it. I have to admit, this game’s been sitting on my shelf for years and I’ve not yet had a chance to play it. You want cross-genre? Take just about every genre of RPG game you can think of, throw them into a blender and set it on “puree” and you’ll get Rifts. Oh for more time….
  • Space 1889: Set in a future that never was, this game bills itself as “Science Fiction Role Playing in a More Civilized Time”. Imagine the Victorian speculations about space were true: Mars does have canals carrying water from the polar ice caps to parched city-states and Venus is covered in thick, steaming jungles dense enough to make those of Africa and South American look like botanical gardens, populated with dinosaurs. Now image that Victorian science could’ve gotten there and you’ve got Space 1889.
  • Talislanta: Made famous in the the late 80’s for it’s Dragon Magazine ads that promised unique fantasy races “and no elves!”, Talislanta is a high-fantasy game system inspired more by pulp-fantasy than by Tolkein. This gave Talislanta a sense of originality lacking from many D&D alternatives.
  • Toon: In Toon, you play … you guessed it … a cartoon character. I particularly like the fact that all characters have a “back pocket” (whether or not they’re wearing any pants) that can carry pretty much anything, including an anvil — one of Ace Corporation’s best selling-items available for speedy mail order.
  • Tales from the Floating Vagabond: Yeah, this makes three “T’s, but this is one of my all-time favorites, so I had to include it. Similar to Murphy’s World, which I wrote about yesterday, the Floating Vagabond in pan-dimensional bar where literally anyone could drop in from anywhere. The system is extremely mechanics-light with an emphasis on humor. It’s a skill-based system which allows you to Mess With Dangerous Goo, Hurt People Badly, Hurt People Really Badly, Swing Pointy Thing with Panache, and Look Good at All Times (actual skills from the game). In addition, each character has an Effect — like a personal schtick — giving them special abilities. But watch out for those Space Nazis™…
  • Underground: Another satirical game, Underground is set in the year 2021, but this is no Cyberpunk. The PCs are genetically enhanced ex-mercenaries with souped-up powers and a extreme desensitization to violence. And now they’ve got their walking papers and have been discharged into a 21st century dystopia. Good, wholesome family fun 😉 .

Tomorrow: the final installment — V – Z (and yes, I really do have at least one game for each letter).

An A-to-Z List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games: Part 3

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I’m really glad people are enjoying my list. Here’s the next part:

  • Lace and Steel: A game set in a fantasy version of the 17th century which uses a card-based combat system. You can even play a centaur without pesky level penalties 😉 . BTW — if anyone’s looking to get rid of a copy of this game (either edition), let me know. I’m definitely in the market for one.
  • Murphy’s World: It’s called Murphy’s World for good reason — the game is set on a planet where Murphy’s Law is more reliable than gravity. The PCs are, like most of the world’s inhabitant, reluctant immigrants searching for a way back home. Which means you can create a character from nearly anywhere. After all, what other game would let you play a Giantish Lemming Herder or a Troll Tree-Hugger?
  • Macho Women with Guns: Yeah, I know this is a second “M”, but I really couldn’t leave out this (in)famous gem. The feminist side of me is horrified, but I’ve tried the game at a con and it’s a kick. In it you play, well … a macho, skimpily-clothed woman with big guns. No, not those guns … well, okay, yeah, those guns. But you get massive amounts of artillery and firepower, too. And you need it, if you’re going to hunt down and destory the forces of Drunken Frat Boys and other such dangerous “critters” (as non-female NPCs are known).
  • Nobilis: In Nobilis, you don’t really play a character that’s a person — you play the personification of a concept. What kind of concept? Well, any concept, from love to fire to puppies or small print. But this isn’t a humorous game. In Nomine players will find this easiest to grasp, since it’s similar in idea to the concept of a Word.
  • Over the Edge: One of the earliest games to use the dice pool concept. The game setting is more-or-less modern, taking place on a mysterious island in the Mediterranean called “Al Amarja”. If you like conspiracy-focused games, chances are you’ll like Over the Edge.
  • Pandemonium: Another humorous game, this one set in a version of our world where all the tabloid news stories are true, though most people still don’t believe them. PCs are among the Elightened, the people who know better. The game gives you a choice between E-Z rules, using pre-generated characters, or the Very Complicated Rules designed for experienced role-players. Even if you never play the game, the rules make entertaining reading.

Tomorrow: Games Q – U

An A-to-Z List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games: Part 2

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Here’s the second part of the A-to-Z list of games:

  • Gangbusters: Another of TSR’s non-D&D game systems. Published in 1982, it’s an RPG set in Prohibition-era America.
  • HoL (Human Occupied Landfill): Not a family-friendly system. The players play characters who’re trapped in a penal colony located on the Confederation of World’s trash dump planet. While it’s playable (and can be a lot of fun if you’re in the right mood), HoL is also a satire of other RPGs and often pokes deliberate fun at them.
  • It Came From the Late, Late, Late Show: Another humorous RPG. In this one, players play actors acting in a Bad Movie. Not a B-rated one, a bad one. The group of Actors (players) and the Director (GM) work together to create movie. A great game to pull out if you’re missing the requisite number of players for your regular game session. My favorite part of the game is that the Director can give out experience to players acting Appropriately Stupid.
  • Jorune: Yes, I know, it’s official title is Skyrealms of Jorune, but I wanted to showcase a different game for “s” and it’s most commonly referred to as simply “Jorune”. If you ever want to game on a truly unique and alien world, try this game. It takes a while to really get into the swing of this game — the players have a lot of background information to learn — so plan on making a long-term campaign if you choose to play it.
  • Kult: Like World of Darkness, Kult is set in a darker version of our own world. It’s based real-life magickal occultism and draws heavily on Kabbalism and Gnosticism.

Tomorrow — Part 3: L – P

Top 10 Most Popular Posts Countdown

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Here’s a count down of the 10 most popular posts and pages since Evil Machinations went live April 2009

10. What D&D Character Are You?
9. “I hit him with a BoAF*… I mean Fireball!”
8. Edition Wars
7. GM Tools: Story Worksheet
6. “You Want to Do What?”
5. D&D: the Future
4. Character Questionnaire
3. Wormy’s Back!!!
2. An A-to-Z List of Lesser-Known Roleplaying Games: Part 1

And the top post of Evil Machinations history:

1. “Where are we again?”: Creating Unique Fantasy Cities and Towns

D&D: the Future

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Predicting is always a tricky prospect. Where will D&D be in five years? 10 years? 20?

rpg blog carnival logoWhile I would love to sing D&D’s praises to the highest, I’m afraid that five years down the road, I won’t be playing it. What I mean is, that it’s unlikely I’ll be playing whatever the current edition of that time is. Most likely, I’ll still be playing 3.5 ed with the occasional “beer and pretzels” 1st ed game.

You see, I actually left the D&D fold completely after the introduction of 2nd ed. After playing (pretty much exclusively) D&D for almost 10 years, I got far more intrigued by other games: Amber, GURPS, Ars Magica, Trinity, World of Darkness, Traveller, various home-brew systems, including my own. I’d gotten frustrated with 1st ed’s limitations — that a thief always had the same skills as every other thief, etc., not to mention the whole alignment controversy (which I won’t go into here).

It was 3rd ed. that brought me back. The addition of skills and feats meant that I could have a thief that was more of a highway man, or a magic-user who was a “people person” and not a high-powered blaster. But despite the new additions to the system, I felt it still managed to keep the flavor of D&D. Now don’t ask me to quantify why — I can’t. It’s just to me it still, for some untangible reason, “feels” like the 1st ed. D&D done better.

Now 4th ed. doesn’t do a thing for me. To me, it feels like an MMORG brought to the tabletop. Not a bad thing, if that’s what you’re into and I can see how it would be very accessible for brand new players. It looks like, from my read-throughs, that it’s a good game in it’s own right. It’s just not my cup of tea for a number of reasons. And, to me, it doesn’t feel like D&D. Again, that’s an emotional, gut-reaction and I can’t put my finger on why. But because of it, I’m very unlikely to buy anything from the line.

Will there be a D&D in the future? I think there’ll still be something called “Dungeons and Dragons”. It’s staying power has been proven. Will I be playing it? That all depends on what the game does between now and then.

This post is part of the RPG Blogger’s July Blog Carnival.

Edition Wars

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Edition wars. Where would D&D be without them? Even when I first started playing D&D back in 1980, there were already edition wars. Members of my first gaming group would argue the merits of Basic D&D vs. Advanced D&D vs. “the little brown books” (the boxed set of Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).

My contribution to the Edition Wars topic is a little different. I haven’t really had a chance to try out a new addition of D&D, but I’m hoping to by the end of the month. If I get a chance, I’ll write a post about it.

rpg blog carnival logoD&D isn’t the only game to go through multiple editions. If you’ve read my post on upgrading to new editions, you know I’ve got a lot of older editions of games on my selves. Instead of rehashing the “which D&D edition is better” debate, I decided to list my favorite games that have multiple editions:

  • Dungeons & Dragons. The granddaddy of all RPGs. To date, I’ve played Basic D&D, AD&D (1st ed), D&D 3.0 and D&D 3.5. I played 1st ed for so long I still remember that the saving throw chart was on pg. 79 of the DMG. That’s without looking at the books in almost 20 years (except to verify that saves were on pg. 79 😉 ). I loved that game and played the books to tatters. Even with that, I have to admit that 3.5 is my favorite edition so far. I love the skill system and feats which allow me to customize my character so I don’t have the exact same skill set as every other character of my class. I haven’t really played 2nd ed or 4th ed, so the jury’s still out on them.
  • World of Darkness. 2nd ed, hands down and straight across the board. Granted, I haven’t actually played the newest editions (I’m still reading through them) but I don’t care for what’s been done to the game’s setting. I’ll freely admit it’s probably due to old-fogeyness and I’m not above stealing material from other editions to use in my current game.
  • Ars Magica. 4th ed. I haven’t yet seen a copy of 5th ed, so I can’t really make a call on it. But I like Atlas’ take on the game better than White Wolf’s or WOTC’s. I feel that 4th ed has the most flavor of being truly medieval-based and historically inspired.
  • Traveller. Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4). I found (despite the horrible copy editing job of the book) this edition of the rules much easier to pick up and play than the original Classic Traveller. I haven’t played any of the other editions beyond these two, but T4 is definitely my favorite so far. Plus, I like the early Third Imperium setting.

Those are my preferences. But, as I mentioned above, I tend to take a little here and there from other editions of a game and shape them into my own house rules version of a game. So I’m curious — what edition of these games do you play and do you “borrow” from other editions. If you do, what do you use and how do you incorporate it into your game?


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After taking a look at the new AD&D, 4th edition, I’m reminded yet again why I don’t convert my games to the latest rules edition when it first comes out. Now, this isn’t a review of 4th ed. I’ve only leafed through it, so I can’t give you an educated opinion. The first thing, though, that did strike me right off the bat — it’s an entirely different game from the first three editions.

Which got me thinking. I’m famous (infamous?) in my gaming groups for insisting on running “obsolete” versions of a game. Heck, I’m still using second edition World of Darkness rules. The main reason, of course, is that I already know the system. I’m not having to flip back to review the rules every few minutes. I’m a bit of a Luddite, I guess, when it comes  to game systems. I’m loathe to give up something that’s working just fine as it is. Of course, the fact that my shelves are packed with material from the previous editions of a game and I’m cornering the market on out-of-print game books, may have something to do with it.

But it’s more than just not wanting to shell out $40+ on a system “upgrade” or not having to find unfamiliar tables. It’s also a belief that, in general, these older game systems are still good. They’re not like old computer games — you don’t have to worry about new hardware making your 1st ed AD&D books unplayable.  Don’t get me wrong – I do buy new games and run them. I’m always chomping at the bit to try my latest acquisition. But I also like to continue running the old games, too. (Though, I admit, my players did get me to stop running two different campaigns with two different editions of the game system at the same time. Something about not being able to keep the games straight. Whiners 😉 .)

Playing older games, I think, gives us a connection with the history of our hobby.  Yeah, there’s certain amount of nostalgia there — it brings back old memories of game sessions long past, when everything was new and exciting. Sometimes it’s fun to go back, to remember what brought us to gaming in the first place. Beyond that, though, there’s a reminder of how much gaming’s changed over the last 30+ years.

It’s come a long way.