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Author Topic: The Essential RPG List  (Read 12125 times)
Bret
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« on: December 04, 2001, 08:36:00 PM »

Hey folks. I'm trying to compile a list somewhat along the lines of an "Essential RPG Library," containing all the RPGs that someone either interested in the RPG industry or interested in designing a game should own or have read. So far I have:

  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd ed. - Still considered *the* role-playing game. Whether you love it or hate it, it's there and it has a huge impact on the role-playing game industry.
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth - A popular role-playing game due to the fact that it claims to recreate the style of Japanese animation role-playing games. Whether it does or not is a debate for another time. :wink:
  • Toon - An ingenious role-playing game allowing you to play a cartoon character. This game took a big step from the traditional "serious" role-playing games and helped to widen the scope of the industry.
  • Call of Cthulhu - Another industry-widening role-playing game that opened up horror as an rpg genre. It's sanity rules where also extremely interesting and added great atmosphere to the game.
  • Cyberpunk - This game brough cyberpunk to the role-playing game industry. I don't really know too much about it, but it seems pretty significant. :wink:
  • Rifts - Almost up there with D&D in popularity, this game has an extremely creative premise and basically makes absolutely anything possible within a campaign, though I wouldn't call the game mechanics revolutionary or awe-inspiring. :wink:
  • Champions - Another game that I'm not very knowledgeable on. I've heard that it's the best superhero RPG on the market. I've flipped through it and found it interesting, but I had better things to purchase (like Tribe 8 which, sadly, I won't be including in this list :razz:)
  • GURPS - *The* universal role-playing game system. It was the first extremely popular generic role-playing game on the market.
  • Vampire - As far as I'm concerned, this is the second-most important role-playing game on the list. It's really opened up the industry to a whole new group of people (no matter how weird they are :wink: ) and the second-most recognized role-playing game after D&D, not to mention it kind of redefined the kind of "heroes" that characters could play making rpgs a bit darker than they were before White Wolf came into existence. :wink:


Anyhow, any comments on usefulness/stupidity of compiling such a list, comments/complaints on the list itself, factual errors (which I'm sure I have in abundance :smile: Thanks.

Peace,
Bret

[ This Message was edited by: Bret on 2001-12-04 23:49 ]
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mahoux
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2001, 06:31:00 AM »

Pretty good list to start with I guess.  I'm not entirely familiar with all the games at least not past a name basis.  A friend of mine turned me on to Aberrent as a Superhero game, but I liked J. Michael Stryczinski's Rising Stars comic.  I don't know too much about how Champions works, except I gather it's a little more geared to the heroic vein.

I also like the alternate history setting games like 7th Sea and Deadlands (the original, not HOE).  They work well as examples of an overarcing backstory, and as history research used to different ends.  They also provide a different setting idea than the fantasy setting.

Finally, I would say check out Jared's Inspectres for an example of a quick and easy game setup and system.  From a more Narrativist perspective the game rocks.

I hold off plugging Sorceror and Little Fears as I haven't bought either one yet and can't offer an opinion (at least not an informed one).  As a tangent, I do think that I will get them.
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Marco
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2001, 07:19:00 AM »

Over The Edge. Industry-widening in my opinion.

Also, maybe: FUDGE -- Free and highly supported. A counter-example to GURPS in that while both are universal FUDGE takes a much more "basic engine" approach rather than a whole universe of rules.

-Marco
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Time
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2001, 08:10:00 AM »

I would also add Aria (I belive that's how it's spelled, can't remember right now).  It's one of those games that a lot of folks I know said they liked it, and thought it was a very interesting look at creating mythology and worlds, cultures, etc - but no one playes it (that I know of).

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greyorm
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« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2001, 09:06:00 AM »

Not surprisingly I disagree with many of the choices listed in the first post.  I don't believe they are essential at all!  I think there are far more essential games for a designer to own.
The above are a very narrow spectrum of the industry...Vampire, D&D, Rifts, GURPs...there's nothing really spectacularly different about any of them in that they all follow the same design philosophy.  They're all the same sort of game, with different mechanics, yes, but really little different from each other.

Everway.
Maelstorm.
SAGA.
Over-the-Edge.
Zero.
Rune.

These are games which are different, which present the directions the industry could go.  And this is by no means the only or best list for that.  In fact, I WOULD include D&D on such a list, as an example of yet another type of game.

Ron had stated once that he doesn't know why people bother converting games from one system to another...perhaps this is the answer.  Those games are so similar in function/attitude-towards-mechanical-implementation that conversion between them is *easy, so why use another system when you can use the one you've got and like already?

In short, there's nothing to seperate D&D from Vampire that really makes you WANT to keep the Vampire rules, or vice-versa, that really makes it necessary to hang onto one or the other.

Perhaps this deserves it's own topic in Theory?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2001, 09:19:00 AM »

Good point - I was busy thinking through my collection that I hadn't thought of the design angle.  How I didn't think of Everyway right off the bat I don't know.

Depending on what the definition of "essential" we want to use will determine the list.

Do we mean "essentialy different in design concept," "essential in their impact on the hobby" or something else?

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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2001, 10:10:00 AM »

If we're assuming that this will be the sort of list boyfriends give girlfriends ("You haven't watched Apocalypse Now??"), so that game designers will Go Away And Think before designing yet another crummy rules system, then I'd list most of the WoD games, to be honest. They use consistent (though not terrific) mechanics through all dozen-or-so books, tweaking them here and there to better suit the subject matter.

The history of the WoD games (developing metaplot, mechanics, thematic emphases), from Vampire 1st Ed right up to Exalted and Adventure is also quite interesting. In another 10 years, I think they'll be great. :grin: The writing is often superb, too. I do adore Mage: Sorceror's Crusade.

I'd also list Fudge (how to write a game engine) and Castle Falkenstein (rules and setting in harmony, and game design explained *in character*!). Zero (super-defined concept) and Rune (it's so *different*). D&D3e. Over the Edge (play balance? Eh?). BESM. The usual. =)

But I'd *also* list come crummy games and game mechanics. In fact, I'd sit down the designer and throw buckets of 1st Edition Shadowrun dice at them to see how *they* liked the autofire rules.

I'd have no problem writing a list of game mechanics I disliked. =)

Joe.
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2001, 12:39:00 PM »

Man, I'm so tempted to jump in here and rail on games like BESM and the WoD line.  I mean c'mon...BESM as anime?  Why does it have a Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai supplement then?  Go buy Demon Cops if you want anime.

Oops, there I was, getting all hot and bothered.

Seriously, you want games that did something to advance the industry (in a game design sense, and not necessarily in terms of opening it to a larger market)?  What about:

The Whispering Vault.  An eye opening experience.

Extreme Vengeance.  Mr. Edwards and Sir Wipfli turned me on to this game.  Some of its ideas won't seem so groundbreaking to current Forge members, but it must've been something when it first hit the shelves.

The Pool.  Awesome game design.  Powerful storytelling mechanics.  Nuff said.

Sorcerer and its supplements, if for no other reason than it will change the way you look at, and prep, scenarios.

It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show.  A somewhat muddled game, but its metagame mechanics are truly inspired, and with a 1989 copyright, it easily predates games like Extreme Vengeance and Swashbuckler, which showcase similar ideas.

InSpectres taught me you don't need a combat system to have a roleplaying game.  It was here that I finally divested myself of my wargaming mentality, which I never even knew I had.

Kill Puppies For Satan.  A fun read, with a startlingly strong premise.  Good game design too.

WYRD.  Okay, that one's mine.  So sue me, at least I mentioned everyone else's first.

Take care,
Scott

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-12-05 15:40 ]

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-12-05 20:16 ]
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2001, 01:13:00 PM »

OK, I realize that my opinion here is going to be obnoxious to some (it has rankled with folks before), but here it is.

Everything is essential.

If you compare the number of RPGs there are to, say, texts on WWII, you will find that there is just not that much written, relatively speaking, on the subject as a whole. I like to think of myself as a game scholar. As such I read every RPG I can get my hands on in an attempt to further my understanding of the form. It's much less reading than my History buff friends do on WWII.

Read them all.

If you have to, buy them. Where you can, borrow them. Get them free off the net. Do whatever you can to get exposed to as many as possible. If you can't get at the game get at someone who has and find out what you can from them. After a while RPGs start to gel as a form rather than one game here and one game there.

I can't state how important I think this is. Yes, even the bad games. Skim them if they are unreadable, but find out why they are bad so you don't make the same mistakes.

This last I find deplorable. How many games have we all seen where you see a mistake in the design that you've seen in twenty other games? Or a game that is so insignificantly different from another that it just isn't worth anyone's time? Know the material.

Play many games.

Can't play them all, but you really don't know a game as well as you could until you've actually played it. The more you play the better you can define your own goals. Play, play, play.

Can't get to everything?

Neither can I. Even as crazy as I am to try. So what do you do? Consult others on the quality of your work as you design. Somebody has played that game with the mistake, and they may be able to point it out to you. Or mention that mechanic from that one game that makes your system all click. Create in a vaccuum at your own risk (remember DeadEarth and Mythie's review? Still laughing).

OK, rant mode off.

You can probably get away with not looking at a whole lot of RPGs and still design well. But I still urge people to check out as much as they can. On top of the benefits of research...it's fun.

Mike

[ This Message was edited by: Mike Holmes on 2001-12-05 16:16 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2001, 01:58:00 PM »

I'm kinda with Mike on this one ... it's often surprising what can be found in, say, the introductions or editorial sections of otherwise run-of-the-mill games. Or the occasional mechanic that really blows one's mind, or even a whole system that (a) is astounding and (b) is totally forgotten.

To illustrate my point, I started to make a list, and it bloated up to over 25 games before I even got to the section which compiled meaningful "GM Tips" across games ... Something told me I needed to quit.

Best,
Ron
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Bret
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« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2001, 04:30:00 PM »

My original intention was for "essential" to mean "essential in their impact to the hobby." I wanted to keep the list to games that were still in print, though, which unfortunately leaves out a lot of games that had an enormous impact on the hobby, but I wanted it to be a "to-buy" list of sorts.

hardcoremoose: I agree with you on BESM and WoD, but the fact is that they are extremely popular and have, in my opinion, affected the hobby. Personal grudges aside, they are games that could, and in my opinion, should be considered essential (White Wolf far more than BESM, though). While your list does contain some incredible games, most gamers have not heard of them. I suppose I needed to qualify the list a bit more before asking for imput.

Mike and Ron: Again, I agree. You should attempt to read everything that the hobby has to offer, but what I'm trying to compile is a list of the books that you *must* read if you really want to have a good grasp on the industry and the "contemporary" state of game design.

Peace,
Bret
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2001, 04:42:00 PM »

My essential list is pretty simple.

D&D3e
Talislanta 4th edition
The Dying Earth

Three games, each dealing with a separate spoke of the Threefold Model, all dealing with the same basic genre.

My game library comprises over 100 separate games. Of course, maybe a dozen are ones that I go back to for research...the rest are curiosities.
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2001, 05:10:00 PM »

Bret,

My opinion of games is much like my opinion of Hollywood films and Stephen King.  Being marketable, almost by definition, requires an attention to the lowest common denominator.  You want the most out of your potential market, so you shoot low.  Being somewhat above the LCD, I almost universally disregard anything that is too hyped, too popular, and too often praised, preferring instead to look elsewhere for my art and entertainment.  I watch foreign and low budget horror flicks.  I don't read nearly as much as I should, but when I do, it's on the obscure side.  And I like to play RPGs that no one else has ever heard of.  I do these things because I think they are better, for me as a person, and for people in general.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Every so often, the mainstream turns out something really good (I'm on the The Lord of the Rings bandwagon big time; Tolkien and I have the same birthday, and I'm a Peter Jackson fan from way back...).

Note to Everyone:  Go rent Heavenly Creatures right now.  You won't regret it.

Ron and Mike are right, of course.  You learn from the bad as well as the good.  Actually, you probably learn more from the crap than you do from the truly excellent stuff.

So anyway, there's a little extra grist for the mill.  It seems like I was just misunderstanding the nature of your thread.  But heck, give me a chance to talk about the stuff I like and I'll go on forever.

Take care,
Moose
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Bret
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2001, 05:22:00 PM »

Moosey,

I hear you. I'm the same way when it comes to rpgs and music, and I agree about the LCD statement. I do, however, think it's important to keep up on what's popular if you're going to have any knowledge of the industry, and if you're going to design and sell games I think that's knowledge you should have. Feel free to prove me wrong, though. :wink:

Peace,
Bret
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Joe Murphy (Broin)
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« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2001, 05:46:00 PM »

Mike, where's this review of 'deadeath' by 'mythie'?

Is it:

http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_0852.html

If so, thanks, my life feels more... something... having read it. =)

Best,

Joe, more convinced, day by day, that he reallyreally must get Sorceror.
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