You favorite tabletop RPGs and why

Hygro

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I had hope to goad @AmazonQueen into justifying her top 5+1 non D&D answer to this question, but I suppose I failed in my first attempt. I have been very curious.

My first favorite tabletop RPGs are Dungeons and Dragons generally, with some editions over others and a nod to the spinoff Iron Heroe. I like the D&Ds because they use lots of different dice and have good rules for an implied setting that I deeply enjoy, which is a Tolkien flavored range from Conan to Star Wars (I mostly prefer the austere side).

I don't care for the general discussion of D&D by the "always-online" crowd, especially if they (barf) discuss their characters as "builds" or get into flavor/balance arguments they came up with after a lengthy discussion with other always-online debaters. This is different from my question about what's your fave and why.

The D&D implied setting, played out with great diversity, is still the best for a combination of glorious conquest meets sufficiently complex rules to not seem like a board game, maintaining verisimilitude. Role playing is great, sure, but always in service of the game's verisimilitude to a compelling real-narrative or even memory. The scaling, at least between say levels 1-12 (my experiences) feels really fun, with the diversity of higher powers as an option makes it feel very open and motivating, even as any serious attempt by casuals never gets there ("D&D is the fantasy game that you will play D&D").


My second is Cyberpunk 2020. It too does its implied setting awesomely, even if it's, uh, unpolished.

What are your favorites and why them?
 

Gori the Grey

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I only played one. It was called The Fantasy Trip. It was designed by Steven Jackson, who went on to design GURPS.

Loved it. Some of my happiest childhood memories.
 

Valka D'Ur

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I only played one. It was called The Fantasy Trip. It was designed by Steven Jackson, who went on to design GURPS.

Loved it. Some of my happiest childhood memories.
Not to be confused with the Steve Jackson who, with Ian Livingstone, created the Fighting Fantasy RPG. My first NaNoWriMo win was novelizing one of their gamebooks (Caverns of the Snow Witch). I turned that gamebook into a 60,000+-word novel in 30 days (after playing it, of course).
 

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I had hope to goad @AmazonQueen into justifying her top 5+1 non D&D answer to this question, but I suppose I failed in my first attempt. I have been very curious.

My first favorite tabletop RPGs are Dungeons and Dragons generally, with some editions over others and a nod to the spinoff Iron Heroe. I like the D&Ds because they use lots of different dice and have good rules for an implied setting that I deeply enjoy, which is a Tolkien flavored range from Conan to Star Wars (I mostly prefer the austere side).

I don't care for the general discussion of D&D by the "always-online" crowd, especially if they (barf) discuss their characters as "builds" or get into flavor/balance arguments they came up with after a lengthy discussion with other always-online debaters. This is different from my question about what's your fave and why.

The D&D implied setting, played out with great diversity, is still the best for a combination of glorious conquest meets sufficiently complex rules to not seem like a board game, maintaining verisimilitude. Role playing is great, sure, but always in service of the game's verisimilitude to a compelling real-narrative or even memory. The scaling, at least between say levels 1-12 (my experiences) feels really fun, with the diversity of higher powers as an option makes it feel very open and motivating, even as any serious attempt by casuals never gets there ("D&D is the fantasy game that you will play D&D").


My second is Cyberpunk 2020. It too does its implied setting awesomely, even if it's, uh, unpolished.

What are your favorites and why them?

D&D is the Microsoft Windows of RPGs.
So many cumbersome mechanics that other games do better or differently or not at all (classes, alignments, armour that makes you harder to hit but doesn't reduce damage, levels, hit points in the hundreds) and boring generic fantasy settings.
I've played every edition of D&D from 1st but however much they tweak it the basic structure is rotten and needs to be gutted.

edit: forgot to moan about XP too
 
Last edited:

Valka D'Ur

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D&D is the Microsoft Windows of RPGs.
So many cumbersome mechanics that other games do better or differently or not at all (classes, alignments, armour that makes you harder to hit but doesn't reduce damage, levels, hit points in the hundreds) and boring generic fantasy settings.
I've played every edition of D&D from 1st but however much they tweak it the basic structure is rotten and needs to be gutted.

edit: forgot to moan about XP too
The thing about D&D, though, is that as long as balance is maintained and all the players agree to comply, the DM can tweak the game any way they see fit.

The last campaign I designed was a hybrid of D&D, Fighting Fantasy, and a few of my own ingredients tossed in.

As for xp... try encumbrance for an annoying thing. Even if the numbers add up, if you actually try to carry everything your character is carrying on paper, it sometimes makes NO sense. This is why Fighting Fantasy usually starts the player out with a sword, armor, backpack, a few gold pieces, a potion, 10 units of Provisions, sometimes a lantern, and occasionally one or two specialty items designed for that particular adventure. They are usually restricted to an additional 5 or 10 small items (ie. spell components or magical items picked up along the way; this becomes critical in the 4-book Sorcery! series that comprise the Quest for the Crown of Kings, when you can keep the stuff from previous books when you start a new one). Some of the books specifically track how many items you're carrying and instruct you that if you want to take a new item, you need to leave another one behind because you're carrying too much.

When I decided to novelize some of the FF gamebooks I realized that if the PC was going to carry out certain actions, they'd need more stuff. An obvious example is maps. How is the PC supposed to map the dungeon if they don't have any parchment, ink & quill, or whatever other thing they might use? And restricting the money to gold is ridiculous. So I developed my own idea of how much some of the more basic stuff costs, such as a tankard of ale or a unit of Provisions (either the equivalent of takeout from a tavern or trail rations from a business that specializes in the needs of travelers who aren't staying in inns every night or hunting/foraging). I also allow them a belt pouch to put their money in, since it doesn't make any sense to just toss it into the backpack and have to scrabble around for it every time you want to buy something or pay for information.

There's a guy who runs a YT channel called Shadiversity. Some of his content is historical, and some is gaming-related. One video looked into just how much gold an adventurer could reasonably carry and still be able to travel and fight. As for myself, I know from experience of costuming at conventions (I always wore some variation of a medieval style outfit, whether based on Dragonlance, the SCA, Darkover, or Robert Silverberg's novel Lord Valentine's Castle) that I can comfortably carry 25 loonies in one small belt pouch and a few miscellaneous things in another (notebook and pen for bidding in the art auction or if I buy one of the Guest of Honor's books and want an autograph, pocket program guide, hotel room key, a few pieces of paper money for more expensive dealers' room purchases or successful art auction bids, and any meds I needed to have with me).

(note that this video includes a sponsored promotion, but at least it's incorporated into the whole medieval schtick so it doesn't come across as quite as annoying as it would in many other videos)


I honestly can't fathom carting over 3 kg of coins around in a pouch, particularly when he's got so much other stuff. 3 kilograms is half of one smaller pail of cat litter or 3/4 of a bag of dry cat food, and if you carry more than that... well, I wouldn't. I guess there's a reason why Bags of Holding are so useful.

In one of our D&D campaigns, the DM was a novice who didn't pay any attention to the encumbrance rules vs real practicalities. It took our fighter to point out that he was simultaneously carrying his sword (had it ready to fight, since we'd just escaped from the castle dungeon and managed to find weapons), a lantern, his other stuff, and a chest of gold. He wondered if he should really be carrying all this stuff because he didn't have enough arms!
 

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The thing about D&D, though, is that as long as balance is maintained and all the players agree to comply, the DM can tweak the game any way they see fit.

Thats not unique to D&D, that can be done with any RPG.
Still, the best RPG is the one that requires the least tweaking to make it a good game for the referee and players.
 

Valka D'Ur

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Thats not unique to D&D, that can be done with any RPG.
Still, the best RPG is the one that requires the least tweaking to make it a good game for the referee and players.
Yes, I am aware that any game can be tweaked. But you were criticizing D&D so that's what I mentioned.
 

Zardnaar

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This thread is funny. D&D us the 890 pound gorilla in the room and has been for decades.

Hipsters hate it there's always a better RPG. That lasts a few years then usually dies.

It's the generic lager while other are some chocolate coffee stout with a radish infusion or something.
 

AmazonQueen

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This thread is funny. D&D us the 890 pound gorilla in the room and has been for decades.

Hipsters hate it there's always a better RPG. That lasts a few years then usually dies.

It's the generic lager while other are some chocolate coffee stout with a radish infusion or something.

Yep, its generic and mediocre.
Runequest was 1st published in 1978 and is still going, Traveller the same, Call of Cthulhu since 1981, Pendaragon since 1985. Just a few years right.
 

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I really enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons, and I look forward to being able to play again someday. I liked playing online, and it was really easy for me to get into. My favorite part of the game is roleplaying and creating characters, and then writing fan fiction for my characters. I don't want a very complicated game, I want a simple one that's easy to understand and works fluidly. I've had wonderful experiences with it :)
 

EgonSpengler

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I played a handful of tabletop RPGs back in the day, and I'm not sure any of them were good systems, really. We had two "go-to" games we played most:

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
was the most-played game among the people I gamed with, but only because it was the system everyone knew how to play. It was a group somewhat averse to novelty, and with D&D we could just sit down at the table without anyone needing to be taught how to play. As one of the people who DM'd a lot, this was a bonus for me, because I could really dive into making an adventure that was interesting and challenging, and didn't have to worry about holding anyone's hand too much. All that said, the game systems weren't great. I agree with pretty much all of the criticisms outlined above.

One caveat: Many years later, I got into watching mixed martial arts, and came to a new appreciation of the "Hit Points" system pioneered by D&D. In games that use Hit Points, a fighter can be dropped after 10 minutes of battling, by a blow that would hardly have fazed him at the beginning of the fight, and you see this play out in MMA. So it turns out that AD&D actually did a half-decent job of modeling the battle of attrition and fortitude that can happen between two skilled fighters. I have lots of other problems with D&D's systems, but it turns out that particular gripe I had with it - that two high-level combatants could just whale on each other for 10-20 minutes - was somewhat unfounded.

Champions was our superhero RPG of choice. Its great strength was that you really could create any flipping kind of character you could possibly think of. Unfortunately its systems were cumbersome once you starting playing. Here again, I was often the game-master and loved being able to craft my NPCs and villains as I pleased, but actually running the game was a bit of a chore.

There were two others I really enjoyed running, but I could never find a group of players willing to play a horror game more than once in a while:

White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade was just a terrible game system. However, I was a big fan of contemporary dark fantasy - vampires, in particular - and I loved the game's World of Darkness setting, so I was willing put up with the game's systems. Again, I had a blast as The Storyteller, crafting my setting and NPCs and getting my players into dire situations. The gamebook's writing and artwork were both great - fistbump to Tim Bradstreet - but the game's mechanics could kiss my [cheek].

Now that I'm thinking about it, I think Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu did the job pretty well, and its narrow focus - it wasn't trying to be a generic game system - probably helped. I liked its use of "sanity", making psychic damage as much a threat as physical damage. It also really embraced the idea that the player characters weren't superheroes who could presume they had any kind of "plot armor", and would just be overmatched much of the time. There were monsters in that game the player-characters just had to run from, even if they were well-armed. My players understood when we started a game of Cthulhu that they could be snuffed out like a candle at any moment, and often drew up two characters at the beginning of a new game, so they wouldn't have to interrupt the game later when their first character lost their head, literally or metaphorically. iirc, the Chaosium system didn't use character classes and character levels, instead focusing on skills that improved as you used them. I can't remember the combat system, but I remember that it was at least brisk, battles didn't take forever to play out, unlike so many other systems - the fact that combat was so much more dangerous than in other games probably helped, in that regard.

There were others that my friends and I tried once or thrice - Boot Hill; Bushido; Cyberpunk; Marvel Heroes; Traveler; Twilight 2000 - but none of them ever got its hooks in us.

Many years later, I watched shows like Farscape, Battlestar Galactica (2004) and The Expanse and maybe understood better what Traveler was trying to do. Also years later, I really got into Chinese "wuxia" and espionage movies and shows, and wondered if there were games that would model those stories well. Unfortunately, by that time my gaming group had scattered to the four winds, so I never looked into it too hard.
 

Zardnaar

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Yep, its generic and mediocre.
Runequest was 1st published in 1978 and is still going, Traveller the same, Call of Cthulhu since 1981, Pendaragon since 1985. Just a few years right.

1. They're the exceptions.
2. Virtually no one plays them comparatively.


Alot of the criticism directed at D&D now are the same as the 90's. Most of the old problems have been fixed.

But if you don't like classes and AC yeah D&D isn't for you.
 

Birdjaguar

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When I played them, way back when, Runequest was the best.
 

Snerk

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Never played one, but I'd love to try it if I came across a fun group with a vacant seat.
 

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D&D has the advantage of a lot of background in the novels. That said, I played Warhammer Fantasy as a kid (run by an adult) and fricken loved it. I loved everything, from starting as a rat-catcher to freaking out every time we had to pull the warp-tainted sword from the chest for a big fight. But that might be the DMing more than anything. My friends and I tried to play WH 40k, but used the mini-game rules without understanding how the miniature games are played. So, my decked out character died in one hit to a lasgun ... not a long game.

I mean, RIFTS was amazing for similar reasons. Bonkers world building for people in the bonkers phase of their gaming lives.

I'd have to say that my favorite gaming was with Marvel's SAGA system. It's probably my favorite game for how the rules interacted with the play-style. It wasn't out-of-the-box balanced, but we were always asked to play within themes so that didn't matter. Just like with Marvel comics themselves, the power-ups eventually crept up to change the actual stories your character can be in, but that was just fine. It had a rapid, semi-strategic, narrative-heavy rules set that quickly allowed any shenanigans to be described quickly (or painstakingly, depending on the desired flow). We're talking about a world where one guy can whip up an inter-dimensional portal to solve a problem and another character has to carefully modulate his bar-fights to not accidentally freak out and kill each other ... and the rule system works for that. We played before the movies really started getting going.
 

Hygro

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Classes are part of the fun, the limitations that spawn the unlimited creativity. While the older editions were extra limited in how the classes worked, they inspired me more than the endless permutations available now. That said the endless permutations at times land on some cool stuff.

I played GURPs and it’s cool, but ultimately prefer some kind of theming bounds. GURPs is light on dice diversity as well, a little too simple and modular.

Though I prefer a more standard implied setting of Tolkien looking things, I think the pre made setting that understands the logic of D&D’s rules in a coherent setting is Dark Sun.

Magic overrides any tortured explanations of biology, power amasses in evil wizards who become draconic god kings, who bestow priestly magic to their acolytes, but the world is so chaotic full of civilization rupturing forces that coalitions are still needed and nothing is settled or in stasis.
 

Aiken_Drumn

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Not to be confused with the Steve Jackson who, with Ian Livingstone, created the Fighting Fantasy RPG. My first NaNoWriMo win was novelizing one of their gamebooks (Caverns of the Snow Witch). I turned that gamebook into a 60,000+-word novel in 30 days (after playing it, of course).

I loved these books as a kid!
 

AmazonQueen

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Classes are part of the fun, the limitations that spawn the unlimited creativity. While the older editions were extra limited in how the classes worked, they inspired me more than the endless permutations available now. That said the endless permutations at times land on some cool stuff.

I played GURPs and it’s cool, but ultimately prefer some kind of theming bounds. GURPs is light on dice diversity as well, a little too simple and modular.

Though I prefer a more standard implied setting of Tolkien looking things, I think the pre made setting that understands the logic of D&D’s rules in a coherent setting is Dark Sun.

Magic overrides any tortured explanations of biology, power amasses in evil wizards who become draconic god kings, who bestow priestly magic to their acolytes, but the world is so chaotic full of civilization rupturing forces that coalitions are still needed and nothing is settled or in stasis.

I find the way Runequest limits characters more interesting and more immersive.
Instead of choosing a class you have skills based on background. You increase skills by using them or training them. The limiter is not an arbitrary class but the limits of time and resources.
You also learn magic from the ingame choices you make. You can devote yourself to a god to gain divine magic, enter the spirit plane and bargain with spirits to learn spirit magic, or study to learn sorcery.

The limits on your character are all there in game. Nobody has the time or money to become a master of every skill. The various cults and sorcerous orders all have allies and enemies so you have to make choices about which magics you will learn.
 
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