A gaming meme

It started over at Gnome Stew: The 12 RPGs Every Gamer Should Play Before They Die.

Graham declared “Rubbish,” and started a thread over at Story Games.

And here we are:


1) Dungeons & Dragons until your character surpasses the highest level in the book.

2) Burning Wheel for 2-5 years, until you see all of the moving parts turn and move.

3) The Shadow of Yesterday until a character Transcends, then fiddle with the Pools and make your own setting and repeat.

4) Dogs in the Vineyard for a dozen towns. When you start play, photocopy your post-Accomplishment character. After a dozen towns, see what that kind of life does to a kid in this game.

5) HERO by making up a character.

6) My Life with Master until the endgame.

7) Mountain Witch with a full table of six players.

8) Sorcerer with a published setting until a character reaches 0 Humanity, then make up your own setting and play it again.

9) Shock: Social Science Fiction until you have a metric butt-load of minutae from the same world.

10) Houses of the Blooded until a character dies of old age.

11) Breaking the Ice until everyone is feeling flirty.

12) A Thousand and One Nights until someone’s character is beheaded by the Sultan and you have eaten good food or smelled a delicious smell.

13) Lacuna until you have answered all of the questions raised for yourselves.

14) Dust Devils until someone’s character dies tragically because of their own shortcomings.

15) Burning Empires until you have played through all of the phases three times with three different worlds.

16) InSpectres until, I dunno…

17) Now make up your own damned game.

18) PTA for two full seasons.

That oughta do it.

But if you want to add some more:

19) NPC in a boffer LARP until some sleep deprived player hits you on the head with a piece of foam and PC in a boffer LARP until your character dies.

20) Host a Parlor LARP.

I couldn’t do just 12 and I missed Don’t Rest Your Head, Trollbabe and a slew of others…ELFS until you have had your fill of poop jokes (which is a rough one for me…never) and so on.

GLARING OMISSIONS: The earliest iteration of D&D, Moldvay D&D, Polaris, Universalis, The Pool, Capes, Carry, Steal Away Jordan, Grey Ranks, Spione, 1st edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, Amber, Prince Valiant, Over the Edge, Agon

What does your list look like?

34 thoughts on “A gaming meme

  1. This is not a list…

    …this is an exercise regimen for every role-playing muscle in your body. Awesome 🙂

    I’ve been thinking really hard about this, and I’ve realized I don’t *have* a list yet. I’ve played a lot of games, but few of them are ones I feel make the cut.

    I guess *I’m* still trying to find and play the 12 games *I* should play before I die. After that I’ll start recommending.

    Thanks for a great post. Your passion and commitment to good gaming really shows.

  2. I’d add Polaris to your list for sure. Maybe Roach.

    My list would have to include some BAD games, or at least some BRILLIANT BUT BROKEN games. I think you learn a lot by playing games that are broken in some way.

    For example, “The Princess Game” is fucking brilliant, but the coin economy is flawed. We played it a couple times at Ice Station Nerdly and then started tweaking the rules until we had improved the coin mechanics.

    I feel the same way about “Zombie Cinema.” The game is fucking brilliant, but it needs better situation generation mechanics and the character-vs-character conflict requirement seems, at least after one play, to be arbitrarily limiting.

  3. 1. Universalis
    2. Inspectres
    3. Dogs in the Vineyard
    4. Trollbabe
    5. Burning Wheel
    6. Lacuna
    7. Agon
    8. Riddle of Steel
    9. 1001 Nights
    10. Capes
    11. Polaris
    12. Breaking the Ice

    (Mostly, I’m looking at it from the standpoint that you should play from across a wide spectrum of games).

  4. Brilliant but Broken

    Brilliant but broken is a neat category of games that are indeed interesting to play.

    Thinking about it, my bad gaming experiences have as much pull and effect as my good ones in a whole lot of ways.

  5. Brilliant but Broken

    Brilliant but broken is a neat category of games that are indeed interesting to play.

    Thinking about it, my bad gaming experiences have as much pull and effect as my good ones in a whole lot of ways.

  6. Here’s mine, posted over there also:

    * D&D: Choose two from: Original, Basic/Expert, Advanced, 3.x, 4.x
    * Choose three from: Champions 3rd, any of the Hero System 3rd edition era standalone games, Hero 4th, Hero 5th, GURPS 3rd, GURPS 4th, The Fantasy Trip (added)
    * Choose one of: Amber, Over the Edge
    * Ghostbusters
    * Call of Cthulhu or RuneQuest
    * Traveller
    * Toon or Paranoia
    * One of: Any Palladium RPG. Once is enough.
    * Primetime Adventures
    * Choose two or more of: Sorceror, Dogs in the Vineyard, Burning Wheel, My Life With Master
    * At least one original World of Darkness game and one new World of Darkness game, or other games based on White Wolf’s house system (added)

    If you’re going to insist on the original Marvel Superheroes being a choice:

    * Choose one of: Marvel Superheroes, Villains & Vigilantes, Gamma World (any pre-Alternity edition)

    Because everyone needs to, at least once in their life, play a game with powers randomly rolled with 1d100.

    I pointed out GURPS and HERO and treated editions as separate games. I think there’s worth in playing through them to see the evolution, and specifically at least one of GURPS and one of HERO to see how they’re similar and different. I should have insisted on The Fantasy Trip in that bunch too to show off their roots (and added for the LJ comment).

    For instance, in Fantasy Hero, there’s a shitload of evolution between the very first edition (a small standalone game based on a very cut down version of the whole system) and the current (a kitchen sink book that, is almost as big as all prior published Fantasy Hero material combined and doesn’t even include the system).

    Ghostbusters is a must. Especially for the Story Games crowd. If you can, play the first edition. While you’re playing it, consider both its publication date (1986) and how much of it is obvious nowadays but no one had ever thought of before then.

  7. I’d remove GURPS, Og, Hero, and Rifts from the original list and toss in Dogs in the Vineyard, PTA, and either Shadowrun or Deadlands (Classic).

    DitV and PTA for their way of handling conflicts (and possibly Bacchanal, too). Shadowrun to show off the amazing world and because it was the first use of the dice pool mechanic. Deadlands for all the crazy stuff you need to run it: poker chips, dice, cards, and colored paper clips (yes, you need colored paper clips to play the game). Both Shadowrun and Deadlands could also be used to illustrate the concept of meta-plot.

    (There’s still a spot open on my list. I’m leaning towards Ghostbusters.)

    I’ve only played three of those on the list. Two if Hunter: the Vigil doesn’t count for the Vampire/WoD entry. The other two are D&D and GURPS.

    If we really need a super-hero game on there, I’d go with Champions. It’s nearly as unplayable as Hero, yet it has a supplement for a Champions/Car Wars crossover, which just makes it better. Heck, give any game Car Wars crossover rules and you’ve got a better game. Call of Cthulhu/Car Wars? Awesome. Dogs in the Vineyard/Car Wars? Fucking awesome. All Flesh Must Be Eaten/Car Wars? Doubleplus fucking awesome.

  8. So, the list is a wide range of genres and play styles. I wanted to include games with and without GMs, with and without narration trading, with different rules for player authority, scene setting/framing, adventure prep/creation in play, etc.

    And I wanted to include games that did similar things differently, so you could contrast and compare (Universalis, Capes, and Polaris all do GM-less play very differently, for example).

    I -didn’t- include mainstream games, because either a) you’re already familiar with roleplaying, and I’d be telling you nothing new, or b) You’re not familiar, and you have no context to navigate functional vs. dysfunctional groups of players, coherent vs. jumbled game texts, etc.

    Better to start someone with games and cultures that make sense first, than to put them through the grinder.

  9. Your list might enumerate more gaming than I can look forward to. In life.

    The list to do before I die can’t include more than about 1000 sessions altogether, I figure (20 sessions per year * 50 years). Also, system options are also limited in part by who’s available. But as a general prescription I can offer these:

    #1 A dozen chapters of In A Wicked Age in the same continuity.

    #2 Something where play was inspired by rather than actually using the rules (whether you realized it at the time or not).

    #3 Twelve sessions of freeform, diceful or not.

  10. I’ve always heard Ghostbusters was the first dice pool. Although that may be wrong; Tunnels & Trolls might be.

    Dogs in the Vineyard/Car Wars?

    Holy shit. Autoduellists wandering from town to town, fixing the problems and moving on.

  11. I was thinking of dice pools as “you roll as many dice as you have in the ability and count the successes” instead of “you roll as many dice as you have in the ability and sum the total”. Shadowrun was the first RPG that did the former. I had thought Ghostbusters was the first that did the latter, but you’re right, it was Tunnels & Trolls.

  12. I was thinking of dice pools as “you roll as many dice as you have in the ability and count the successes” instead of “you roll as many dice as you have in the ability and sum the total”. Shadowrun was the first RPG that did the former. I had thought Ghostbusters was the first that did the latter, but you’re right, it was Tunnels & Trolls.

  13. Wow. This is like the 20 in 20 list from Denvention, aka the 2008 WorldCon. That was about the 20 most significant books of sf from the last 20 years, where the panelists had agreed not to dick around with definitions for “sf”, “significant”, “book”, or, for the numerically challenged, “20”. I’m currently working on playing catch up there.

    It’s worse for rpgs, because I can’t just say, “Okay, I’ll take that game off the shelf and play it!” I need 3-5 other people willing to play along. Still haven’t had a full session of Monsters and Other Childish Things yet, even though everyone’s got characters, and I’m using the Candlewick setting.

    Okay, it’s partly my fault for opening my mouth about which larp we should write for Intercon I….

  14. Fu k, Judd. My list looks like your list. Wish I had ten people with your ambition and interests living within 20 miles of me.

    Z-Dog, aka Ken

  15. Oh, one more to add to the list:

    You play Dictionary of Mu so many freakin’ times that your book is falling apart from all the notes, additions, scribbles, etc.

    Then, when you go to re-start the game from scratch, you can’t remember what was in the original dictionary or what was in yours, nor do you care, ’cause all the shit you and your buddies came up with was so HOT.

  16. Vampire did the count successes dice pool thing (original VTM felt very much like Shadowrun with d10s); It also has the giganormous background and metaplot stuff.
    I’m just defensive about you suggest discarding both GURPS and Champions. I’d argue you need to experience both to be properly convinced that their beautiful, beautiful idea (the universal system, mechanic, currency etc.) can’t actually be made to work.

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