RPG Shorts Number 1 – some of my fave games in a nutshell

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I’ve been playing role playing games since 1980, and have come across a lot of brilliant, great, good, not so good and down-right rubbish games.  This is the first installment of an occasional series throwing out a few games I’ve really enjoyed, in the hope that it might inspire those looking for new RPG experiences and worlds to explore, to take a punt on a new game that might be rewarding as hell.  And if not, then maybe it’ll be a nice stroll down memory lane for those – like me – who played these games years ago but still have fond, but too infrequently enjoyed, memories of those good times.  So, please, enjoy!

CALL OF CTHULHU

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Well, what can you say about Cthulhu?  Probably THE most iconic and arguably  THE most important RPG of all time.  Who has not played this game (and if you haven’t you have not come close to completing your RPG 101!)?  Who didn’t cut their RPG teeth with this one? Everyone I know who knows what they’re talking about in RPGs learned some of their craft in the realms of Lovecraft.  The system is so good, so simple and adaptable that I used it for one of my greatest RPG GMing moments, a scenario based on the 1982 John Carpenter film, “The Thing”, that I ran in about 1990 that still resonates with my crew today.  Cthulhu is just one of the greats – nuff said (as is the 1982 version of “The Thing” – if you haven’t seen it you have not done your great movies 101 – see it! Now!).

Cool moment?  well there’s two:

Maxwell Capri saving the life of his best friend (and my character) Daniel ‘Bluey’ Barker, by making him a Werewolf moments before he died of his wounds, long before the Werewolf idea had been overdone like hell (we worked on ideas from “An American Werewolf In London”, and “The Howling” – again, if you haven’t seen these films you have missed out, so get them, watch them, and marvel at the werewolf transformation scenes, filmed in the 1980s…):

AND, in The Thing scenario, where one player started as The Thing and could infect others, my mate Andy saying to me as GM “the only people I think are Things are John and Matt”, five minutes before laying down his flamethrower whilst in the company of no one but…er….John and Matt…….doh (it didn’t end well…).

TRAVELLER

Well, how many Trav campaigns have we all played?  And for ease of understanding I’m including here MegaTrav, 2300, Twilight 2000, the original Traveller and latest re-prints. From my bounty hunter, the Baron Raven Jericho, the Cuban merc Ferdinand Rodriguez, Troy Savage and his calling card of TDX behind the toilet seat (which will make you wince if you remember the properties of TDX…), the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNPF) Hopper pilot LBJ, and the great Daev Decipio, I’ve had some of my greatest characters come to life in a Traveller universe (with huge thanks to my mates Andy and John for running so many Trav games over the years).  If you don’t know much about Trav then where the hell have you been all these years???   If you’re not sure where to start I’d suggest getting the new revision Trav Core Book and go from there.  Even though the character generation system – that takes you through multiple “tours” of duty – means you can start the game with an old fart whose close to proper retirement (but doesn’t have to be – but you’re unlikely to want to play a teenager…!), the system is a lot of fun: also, as far as I know, it’s the only game system that can kill your character before you even finishing rolling him up….

Cool moments?  Hmmmm, way too many to choose one.

Moment of regret?  Baron Raven Jericho ordering his AI ship, The Slave, to self-destruct to aid his escape from some very bad guys.  I still remember the Slave’s last words, as said by Andy (the GM) and feel like a disloyal bastard.  Shoulda gone down with the ship…..

LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS, 4th EDITION

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Oh hell yes.  For those not in the know, this takes a Game Of Thrones feel into Rokugan, a parallel fantasy feudal Japan, and it’s bloody great.  The book itself is, to quote the great Matthew T-J, “a thing of beauty” and the game inside the velvety covers doesn’t disappoint.  The 5 Ring system is really cool, and the character generation gives many options for you to build the character you want.  The shadowlands and the evils of the tempting and alluring Maho magic are all around (think dark side of the force for the Maho, tempting good and bad people alike).  But the honour of the Samurai stands against the evils, and stands above the political intrigues of the empire (or so they would have you believe).

The game is brilliant, the production quality of the book is superb, but sadly I think it’s out of print at the moment.  Get on Ebay and buy it, if you can find it.  Fantasy Flight have the rights, but we have no news as far as I know about their plans for a game that is just bloody brilliant.

If you can – buy it, play it, love it.

Cool moment?  Can’t say – my current campaign is still running and if i told you guys my character, the self-appointed evil-hunter Moshi Azamuku, would be toast…

JAMES BOND 007, VICTORY GAMES

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I haven’t played this game since i was a teenager, but it really evokes the feel of the films. Your stats help define your skill level, then an ease factor is applied.  Your success is judged by how well you roll your dice.  It’s a nice and simple mechanic that really helps the pace of the game, and the chase rules speed up the play and keep you feeling like you’re in a Bond movie.

I haven’t seen this in print for years, and don’t suppose you can find it anywhere other than Ebay nowadays (and probably not even there).  But I had such a lot of fun with this game it had to get a mention.  If you can source it then I’d buy it if I were you.

Cool moment?  The look on my players’ faces when, having found a body in a swimming pool riddled with bullets, they realise that their nemesis, the double uzi-toting hitman called Hobo, had returned to exact his revenge…

NEXT TIME…

The old Star Trek RPG (not to be confused with the Modiphius Star Trek RPG that’s just come out and will get its own review here soon!);

A Song of Ice and Fire RPG

Pendragon

And Judge Dredd

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