Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. This time, I am going to tackle a meme that has been going around the RPG sphere.
#7RPGs is a meme that asks roleplayers to talk about the seven roleplaying games you have GMed or played the most and what you have learned from them. I’ve discussed a couple of these before. However, since the end of the year is a time of lists, I thought I would share my list with you.
1. Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game
Amber is the game that I have far and away played and GMed the most, having run or been in a game, or both, continuously for well over a decade. Based on the ten novels of Roger Zelazny, Amber is an older game, revolutionary for its time for being a diceless system. That’s right, no dice.This puts a lot of storytelling weight on both the GM and the players. Given the high power level of the characters as compared to much of their environment (but not each other, or the rest of the family), family dynamics and relationships are extremely important in the game. Scott Lynch has spoken of the “Secret Amber Cabal” in the F/SF community, and its true a number of writers (and at least one book blogger, me) have taken lessons from their time playing and running Amber.
I’ve talked about Exalted before on Roll Perception Plus Awareness. The same things I talked about then still apply. Large canvased universe (you can drop most countries in the world into Creation and never find them again on the map), high powered characters and antagonists, grand stories, and a willing to throw kitchen sink sized stuff into a fantasy world. Dinosaurs? Check. Fighting Robots? Check. Creation devouring Faerie? Check. And much more. The title of this column comes from a common “what do you see?” roll I ask players to make when running Exalted.
3. Dungeons and Dragons
My first roleplaying game, I’ve played nearly every iteration of the game from Basic to Advanced through 4th Edition. I learned to love roleplaying, period, thanks to this game. It also helped foster a love of maps in fantasy, too. Thanks to D&D, I feel cheated when a secondary world novel lacks a map. And I suspect for many readers of this column, Dungeons and Dragons IS roleplaying. There is something primal about pulling out polyhedral dice and exploring a dungeon, although D&D can be far more than that.
4. Apocalypse World
I’ve played a f**kton of this game with the gaming group I meet at The Source, and its another game I’ve talked about here on Roll Perception Plus Awareness. I’ve learned a lot about stakes in conflicts, and character interactions from this game. And with a post-apocalypse universe, it encourages the GM to worldbuild, often on the fly (“barf forth apocalyptica”). Interestingly, I have not yet GMed this for the gaming group, only played. If we decide to return to this, I may volunteer to take the GM’s seat. I have a few ideas…
I’ve played and run a number of games based on the Fate system of Rob Donoghue and Fred Hicks’ imagination, including The Dresden Files RPG and Spirit of the Century. Fate was the more modern game that lured me into more narrativist territory in terms of gaming, giving players a stake in what happens.
As of the writing of this post, there is a Kickstarter going for a new version of the Core FATE system. And there are plans for a number of other properties, including licensed ones, in the works. The flexibility of FATE is amazing, and I’ve adapted it myself in one-shots and an ongoing campaign that mixes in Gods and mythology in the modern world.
6. Call of Cthulhu.
A classic of the 80’s, Call of Cthulhu has been described as a perfect RPG. It evokes the 1930’s world of Lovecraft’s stories to absolute, terrifying perfection. This game taught me mood and evoking a mood is crucial in immersing people in your world. I am also a big fan of the Robin D Laws and Kenneth Hite Gumshoe iteration of this, Trail of Cthulhu, although the mechanics of that game are significantly different.
A bit of a cheat here, since I’ve not played a lot of GURPS straight up. GURPS can run just about everything (like FATE) but it is often a kludgey fit for any one universe. But GURPS can theoretically run anything from Traveller to Amber. However, where GURPS shines is all of those worldbooks and idea book. Those books the people at Steve Jackson Games have put out for GURPS have wound up in nearly every game I’ve run. GURPS taught me that you could take stuff from one RPG and stick it into another, and wind up with a peanut butter cup of goodness if you did it right.
Honorable Mention: 13th Age, the game I am running now for the Indiegamers. A mix of old and new school Dungeons and Dragons, and interesting narrative bits with the Icons. The game is not yet fully published, but when it comes out, I intend to dissect it here at Roll Perception Plus Awareness.
How about you? What games have you played the most?