Top Five games ever, played and run

Gnome Stew and the Tower of Zenopus (not to be confused with Zenopus’ Archives..) brought up an – apparently rather old- trend, naming your most-played/most run games. Because I am both lazy and running short on floor space, I’m only doing the top five of each. This actually boosts the difference between the two lists, which I think will be more interesting than just repeating the same shit a couple of times. Note that these aren’t my favorite games, just the most-used ones.

So, Most-played

AD&D 2e: The obvious one for a dude my age. I started playing in ’98, and played intermittently through 2011. My longest-running character – one who survived three campaigns, and currently sits at the elbow – was a 2e guy. I’ve probably been in thirty or forty AD&D2 games, although more than half died in one night. I’ve run it a lot less, because the 2e groups I got into in the Navy meant I didn’t have to run the fucking game all the damned time (a running theme, in fact, for the rest of the “most played” section).  While 2e died on the vine once 3e came out, I still played a few games in it, and even ran one for about 6 months a couple years ago.

Old World of Darkness, by way of Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Combined, because otherwise they’d take up too much room all by themselves. Of my groups in Lemoore, one ran OWoD pretty much exclusively (even though it overlapped about 60% with my other group at the time). Never ran it, but love the game to bits. My group was rather more combat-oriented than most, which led to a LOT of character deaths among my, ahem, less-optimized characters. Ironically, one of my longest-running characters was a “squishie” Human hunter with no supernatural abilities whatosever (other than balls of pure steel, high social stats, and True Faith 5). Total games/campaigns? I think ~25 or so. In terms of hours played, OWoD may actually beat out AD&D2, but I only played it between ’99 and ’01. Also, 2e OWoD’s combat system sucks and NWoD’s fluff can choke on a bucket of.. um, I’ll just stop now.

AD&D 3e: We all switched eagerly to 3e about mid-2001. Then we started arguing. In late 2001, I went on my first WESTPAC; for those of you not familiar with the Navy, that means I spent 10 months doing doughnuts on a million-ton airfield in the middle of the Indian Ocean while we bombed the fuck out of the Graveyard of Empires. Not noted on the Wiki page: we were the first nuclear-powered ship to go to Japan in ever, or any of our more hilarious accidents. Anyway, since 3e was the current lingua franca among gamers, I played two or three campaigns out there, and another one on my second cruise. I’ve played in a handful of games since, mostly just to keep my hand in, and may be doing a Pathfinder game soon. Also, if you have a problem with me designating it as “still AD&D” go look at the Skills and Powers books for 2x, at the house rules most people were using in 1999, and then go fuck yourself.

Battletech: This may be cheating a bit, but there was certainly a shitload of roleplaying. I’ve only been in three campaigns, but each was an enormous amount of fun, and all lasted for months (the most recent, for example, was a 5-month, weekly campaign). I’ve been playing off and on since 1998, although I actually got my first BT books back in 1991 or so. Since I started right at the birth of 4e and the Fedcom Civil War, I was spared much of the chain-yanking the older fans got, while still being able to enjoy the anime themes and stylings in the game. I should mention that I discovered Robotech’s provenance literally 2 weeks before Battletech, and I’d been powering through fansubs (3rd-gen CanadianVHS, those were the days…) of Macross right up to that weekend. I still love it, still play it, and I’m looking to start a campaign soon (my first as GM! Wheeeeee)

Big Eyes, Small Mouth: So, remember that anime thing? Where I help run a convention we expect to break 30,000 attendees this year, and I’ve been watching anime ravenously for 15 years+ now (knowing what it was) and about 25 years total? Yeah. It’s already a great low-crunch universal system, and playing it basically announces “Hey, you want to play a catgirl mecha pilot? Fuck it, that’s the most normal character anyone’s rolled up in this game!”. It’s fun, it’s gonzo, and it’s my best friend’s favorite game (link goes to his BESM wiki). The main system is free now, too (see the bottom of my free games page; Tri-Stat dX). Its producer, Guardians of Order, is one of the many companies taken down at the throat by the D20 crash, unfortunately. Played in only one campaign that got anywhere, but I’ve played intermittently for years and even run it once.
(the next two would be Star Wars D6 and Necromunda)

“But wait”, you say, “What the Hell?”
It’s true, I tend to run almost completely different shit than I actually play. In part, it’s shared DMing responsibility, in part, it’s that I started out with two of these games and ran them for so much longer than anything else…

Holmes Basic with or without elements from AD&D 1e: So I’ve already talked about this like a week ago, in quite a lot of detail. TL:DR: I’ve been running it since 1989 and I’m not stopping anytime soon. My most recent game was an unholy mashup of Mentzer, Holmes, and LotFP‘s skill and encumbrance systems. As I got ahold of the other books, I started adding in random crap that I liked from 1e. I’ve been using that particular Monster Manual since about 1994 (it’s currently my oldest gaming possession). I used it in 2e, I use it in LotFP occasionally, I use it in 0.5e – because it’s one of the best fucking gaming books ever published. All the information you need is right there, it’s evocative and readable, and they don’t spend 85% of the book telling you about their boring-ass default setting or using that bullshit “mail-order pages of the book on our subscription model” thing from the 90’s (looking directly at you here, 2e and 3e…). It works.

West End Games Star Wars (SWd6): Got it in the early 90s’s, lost it a few years later (a cat had a critical understanding failure about the respective roles and locations of my gaming books box and the litterbox). I mourned for years, but I could still run the game from memory. Found a hardcopy at Gary’s a few years ago and nearly shit myself with glee. This was my first universal system (what’s that? It’s not universal? My ass. I wrote an Outlaw Star conversion for it, I’ve used it to play cyberpunk and steampunk games for crying out loud), and I love it with a large portion of my heart. The 1e books are fun, funny, and really well-written. They set a beginning GM or player off on a very good path.. I’ve run this dozens if not hundreds of times, and used it as the basis of a wargame (heh, sensing a trend here?) called Trench Run which I still have on my bookshelf. It’s.. different than the official space combat rulesets, let’s put it that way.

AD&D 3e: Lingua franca. Gamers. A lot of time deployed between 2001 and 2005. I’ve said my piece. I can still run it on demand, but strongly prefer not to do so; the longest campaign I ran even when I was having some level of fun with it lasted only about 3 months.

Spycraft: So.. yeah. I’ve run 3 campaigns in it, one lasting for 8 months. Why do I like it and not 3e? Because the system (mostly) does what it’s supposed to do – let me play a superspy game. The extra crunch is well-presented, it discourages twinking your characters, I can use my real-world knowledge to make things more interesting, and it’s an eminently hackable system. I don’t like the chase/other shit mechanic (2e psionics? Really? That’s what you had to base it on?), but I’ve got my own card-based variant that seems to work well enough. A critical component is putting actual time stress on the players, and on myself as GM, to make snap decisions. I set a 15-second timer when each round starts (or rather, when I finish describing the results of the last round). Means that the chase scenes actually flow, drivers occasionally make really bad decisions, and the players get properly stressed and panicky. It also makes an excellent background for Shirow-style espionage games; I’ll have to post my conversion notes for Appleseed and GitS sometime.

Mekton (Zeta): I liek rorborts. A LOT. Indeed, to an almost uncomfortable degree for those around me. Mekton lets me play mecha games. I’ve played a little in the Virtual (mekt)On campaign run by the Mekton Zeta Mailing List, and run a couple long-playing campaigns; characters have bled out of them into other games as well. My only problem with it is the sheer amount of restraint and hacking it requires to be fun(ctional). A new edition could help with that – but R. Talsorian* has been in the pits for years. Again, mostly because of the d20 crash, although they were only caught in the blast radius, as opposed to GoO or White Wolf.
The thing I like most about it is the scalability: you can go from super-hardcore Real Robot action all the way to a wargame level of mass-combat depending on the game you want to play. It also simulates anime gameplay a lot better than Battletech..
(the next two on the list would be AD&D 2e and BESM)

So, now you know even more about me. Join us for our next episode, where I natter for an hour about Masamune Shirow (someone slap me if I actually do this, please).

*I’m sorry for linking you to that hideous frickin’ site, but it had to be done. Remember, kids, if your audience can’t tell that you’re being ironic, they’ll just assume you paid five bucks to a “web consultant” in 1995 and never updated your site..

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  1. needs moarrobutts


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