Throughout August, I’ve seen friends posting using the #RPGaDay tag. After a bit of digging, I found it came from David Chapman and is explained here.
It sounded like a lot of fun, but I didn’t have the chance every day to do an entry, so instead promised that I’d do a bumper issue covering the whole month at the end of August. Well, here’s the end of August, and here’s my list!
1st – First RPG Played
Vampire the Masquerade
Well, specifically, the live action version of Vampire, using the Laws of the Night rules (pictured). I was invited along by a friend of mine to a game a week before my first GCSE exams. It was probably the thing that stopped me from having a breakdown and going insane from the stress I was under. I’ve been playing Vampire pretty much continuously ever since.
2nd – First RPG Gamemastered
Vampire the Masquerade
The tabletop, this time! Somewhat unsurprising given it was the first game I played that I should have ended up running it first too. I started with short sessions in lunch breaks at school, and then started a campaign at home with friends. A shame we never got to finish it, but it was a fun run.
3rd – First RPG Purchased
Vampire the Masquerade
I sense a theme here… After being introduced to the LARP, which ran in the Milton Keynes area for a good few years, I went out and brought the book. I still remember how long it took WHSmiths to get the book in, and the problems I had trying to order it through them! Not to mention how the poor student that I was thought that it was soooo expensive. If the Matt then knew how much I’d spent on some books since then, I wonder what he’d say 😉
4th – Most recent RPG purchase
Call of Cthulhu (1st Edition, 2nd Printing)
I’m a completionist, I fully admit. I started collecting Call of Cthulhu books a while back, and now I only have a handful of titles I’m missing. I finally ran across a copy of 1st edition on eBay a few days ago which filled one of those holes. I’m still looking for a 1st printing of 1st edition (which has a much deeper box – the 2nd printing has the same inch high box that was used all the way to third edition), but it’s just a matter of time.
5th – Most Old School RPG owned
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1st Edition)
Yes, it was released in 1986 and Call of Cthulhu was released in 1981, but Cthulhu never really strikes me as an “Old School” game. In fact, it’s pretty timeless in my eyes. Now, WFRP on the other hand, at least 1st edition, definitely has that nostalgic, old school feel to it. I enjoy it quite a bit, although I tend to try and play it fairly rules light where possible. Still, a lot of fun, and such a rich setting, which is what really does it for me.
6th – Favourite RPG Never get to play
Wraith the Oblivion
There’s a few games that I’ve never played, but I’ve got the chance to run them at least. However, I own every RPG book for Wraith, and not once in the 14 years I’ve been gaming have I ever got the chance to run or play it. I’ve used setting elements in other World of Darkness games I run, but never a pure Wraith game. I know I like my games dark, and this is pretty dark. Maybe it’s a bit too dark for most? One day, I hope to change this – hopefully with the publication of Wraith 20th Anniversary Edition.
7th – Most “intellectual” RPG owned
This is a tough one. There were a few contenders for me that could have taken this spot. I nearly went with Call of Cthulhu or Mage the Ascension, but the thing that separates this one out for me is that the PCs don’t have magic, making it a shade more realistic. It’s also set in the backdrop of a very human-created horror setting, which has more of an impact. It’s a game that can be incredibly grim and intense, where relationships, agendas and betrayal are very much at the center of things. That grittier tone gives it a bit more of the edge in this category.
8th – Favourite character
Stephen Alzis (Delta Green)
The question didn’t say it had to be MY character 😉 I’ve had a good few moments I can recall from characters I’ve played over the years, but I’d rather talk about a character that’s part of a published game. Stephen Alzis is a nice, mysterious antagonist to throw at investigators in a Delta Green game. In the core book, there’s no explanation for what he really is, how he knows everything and how he is therefore a walking plot device. The chapter book that Pagan released for The Fate (later reprinted in the Eyes Only collection) has three explanations for what he is. One of them is pretty damned obvious, but I like the idea of the Keeper having the chance to define the truth about him, should they want to. It’s the first time I’d encountered such a concept, and it’s stuck with me. Plus, I like his mis-matched fashion sense 😉
9th – Favourite Die / Dice Set
Q Workshop – Call of Cthulhu – Limited Edition, Glow in the Dark (Black Set)
I have a little ritual each year when I go to GenCon. I go to the Q Workshop stand and I buy a few more of this dice set to add to my growing collection. At $5 per dice, it’s taken a little while, and I generally replace them as time goes on (as the paint wears off them from use). It all stemmed from Paul Fricker running Walker in the Wastes for us at the MK RPG club. Starting in the polar night, while we played in real-time winter, we had the lights out and sat in the dark (with torches to read our sheets). I got fed up of trying to see the dice, so I brought a whole load of the Green glow in the dark set that Q Workshop produced. Then, I found the black set and switched to those, because I thought they looked so much better when the lights were on. I’ve stuck with them ever since.
10th – Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction
Godwalker – by Greg Stolze
This novel is set in the world of Unknown Armies and tells the story of various factions working against each other while a potential Godwalker is about to emerge. It’s a book that’s stuck with me ever since I read it several years ago and instantly made the list here. One particular scene in there strikes me as one of the most moving scenes that I’ve ever read. Two entropomancers (luck magicians), husband and wife, put their heads together and play Russian Roulette as one. The wife pulls the trigger, dies, but the husband survives. In that moment, he gains nearly ultimate power to shape reality as he chooses. He could do anything… What he chooses to do is rewind time to the moment that his wife picks up the gun and takes it before she can, so that he dies instead and gives the power to her. It’s such a touching, wonderful moment, that it stuck with me ever since.
11th – Weirdest RPG owned
One of my favourites, hands down. Weirdness is what this game is made of, pure and simple. I was very tempted to choose Over of the Edge for this one, given it’s the only game I can think of where the characters can realize that they are part of a roleplaying game, but it’s the darker and less comical weirdness that separates Unknown Armies out from the rest for me. Glorious, dark, chaotically weird, it’s a style of game that’s unparalleled in its brilliance, and I love every chance I get to play or run this. Very much looking forward to the 3rd edition of the game that’s in the works.
12th – Old RPG you still play / read
By “old” RPG, I’ve gone with “out of print”. Kult is another glorious dark game (I think the reader might work out the general trend of my gaming collection from this!), and one that’s been described as “Call of Cthulhu without all the cheery optimism” and “Gnostic Christianity the RPG”. Both are pretty good ways of describing it. The setting is incredibly detailed, which is the primary reason why I love it. The mechanics are pretty complicated though (especially in combat) and grind it to a halt most times. However, the setting wins over any negatives in my eyes – I tend to use a different system when running it 😉
13th – Most Memorable Character Death
Jackson Elias (Masks of Nyarlathotep)
Again, I get to avoid talking about my own gaming experiences (although a moment in Beyond the Mountains of Madness and a long series of fumbles resulting in a graphic yet needless death does spring to mind). There’s only really one name that could possibly go here – Jackson Elias! The NPC that you set your characters up to know and like at the very start of Masks of Nyarlathotep and then he gets killed in the first scene. Everyone remembers their good friend, Jackson Elias. If that doesn’t automatically make him the most memorable character that’s died in an RPG, I don’t know what does 😉
14th – Best Convention Purchase
Mage the Ascension, Revised Limited Edition
A couple of years ago, I went to GenCon and signed up for a game of Mage the Ascension (the first time I’d got to play it in a few years). I brought a copy of the rulebook over with me, but in searching a large, second hand RPG stall in the trade hall (they tend to sell clearance stock from game stores), I found a copy of this book sat on the shelf, not priced. It was just the book on its own, admittedly. It didn’t have the slip-case, or the Art of Mage supplement that came with the full release set. Some of the gilding around the pages was a little worn, but otherwise it was still in pretty good condition. The guys on the till said “make us an offer” when I asked how much it was. I justified my price of $20 given the condition, lack of the complete set, and they accepted it without any need to barter. Win!
15th – Favourite Convention Game
Gatsby and the Great Race (Call of Cthulhu)
I finally got the chance to play Paul’s game at GenCon this year. It’s nothing short of amazing. Both me and Tiffany loved it, having a blast moving around between the six tables and 30+ players that we had running the game for us. It was unlike any other game I’ve played, and such a memorable experience. I’m looking forward to running this at a convention myself in the future and getting to mess with the player’s heads in fun and innovative ways.
16th – Game you wish you owned
Call of Cthulhu – 20th Anniversary, Named Edition
I own the normal 20th Anniversary release (Red Elder Sign), and the Miskatonic University edition (Gold Elder Sign) as well as a sealed copy of the latter as well (see above!). However, I’m missing the Named Edition (each one dedicated to a different Mythos God), the one with the Copper Elder Sign (which I can’t find a photo for anywhere!). I’d like to complete the set, but given how few were made, it’s going to be a while before one comes up on the open market. When it does, I expect it’s going to be high-three-figures, bordering on four-figures to finally get a copy. One day… One day…
17th – Funniest Game you’ve played
PTA itself is a set of rules rather than a game setting. You create the best TV series that never was. Scott ran a campaign called “Mooks” in which the PCs were the employees of the Mooks Recruitment Agency that provided the world’s super-villains with their henchmen. It used a fair amount of Marvel influence given one character’s background (not me, I don’t know enough about Marvel – my nemesis was James Bond, with myself being the cleaner that made all the villain’s bases spotlessly clean… before HE rolled in and messed them all up). Every session included us coming away hurting from laughing so much, usually after taunting a drunk, angry Aquaman by saying Dolphins were fish to the point where Scott would shout “THEY’RE MAMMALS!” Everyone in the building heard him 😉 Such good memories!
18th – Favourite Game System
Call of Cthulhu (7th Edition)
Unknown Armies was a very close second to this, but combat in that game can be a bit complicated at times. Cthulhu 7th took the top-spot for me because it’s simpler, and can be used in a lot more than just Cthulhu. Very much looking forward to seeing it in print later this year, along with all the other work that Paul, Scott and myself have done for the game over the last couple of years 🙂
19th – Favourite Published Adventure
Night Floors (Delta Green: Countdown)
I very nearly put “The Hastur Mythos” in here, but that’s more of a campaign framework than a single scenario. Night Floors is a wonderful trip into weirdness and insanity, featuring The King in Yellow – my favourite aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos. I have good memories of the time I played this scenario, and it’s blend of weirdness and mystery has been pretty influential on how I write and run games now.
20th – Will still play in 20 years time…
Call of Cthulhu
Given the breadth of the Mythos, there’s always going to be new stories to tell, new mysteries to solve, and a dedicated following that means that this game will never die. I’ll be there, losing SAN and going mad for many, many happy years to come!
21st – Favourite Licensed RPG
GURPS: The Prisoner
When trying to think of the answer to this one, I realized I don’t actually have that many games based on licensed material. I’ve got the Last Unicorn Games version of the Dune RPG, although never got chance to play it, so couldn’t really count it. Likewise, the same with the Doctor Who RPG from Cubicle 7. There’s the Dresden Files RPG, but I can not stand the mechanics, so there was no way I was ever going to choose that as a favourite for anything. Then I remembered The Prisoner. I’ve never run it using GURPS (again, not a system I like), but this book has very few rules in it – it’s mostly setting. I’ve run it with other game systems (Mage the Ascension and Unknown Armies), and I’m a big fan of the original series from the 1960s.
22nd – Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
Call of Cthulhu – 20th Anniversary
I originally brought a copy of this while I was at university more than 10 years ago. Since then, I thought it was a beautiful book, and would have loved to get to use it at the gaming table. I brought two copies of the 30th anniversary book when it came out exactly for that purpose (one to keep, one to use). I kept an eye on eBay for some time, waiting for a copy of the 20th anniversary copy to come up at a reasonable price. I found such an auction that went up with only a few days duration a little while ago. It went for a grand total of just £25, because so few people have seen it. It’s my “play” copy, if I ever need it, but I run 7th edition more these days, so it’s a little redundant. However, it was nice to cross that “want” off my list 😉
23rd – Coolest looking RPG product / book
Deadlands – Limited Edition
This book collected together the Player’s Guide and the Marshall’s Handbook. It’s got a really thick, real leather cover, a hubbed spine, embossed logo, and thick cut paper that gives it the feel of being a tome fit for the Wild West. Other RPG books have got leather or leatherette covers, and some have some really artistic looks about them, but none really tie into the theme of the game as much as this book. Close contenders would be the Rise of the Runelords Limited Edition, that comes in a gorgeous case, but the book itself is relatively plane. Another would be the Purgatory sourcebook for Kult, where it looks like every page is printed on a Rorschach inkblot test (although this makes it almost impossible to read in places).
24th – Most Complicated RPG Owned
Kult (2nd and 3rd Edition)
Both 2nd and 3rd Editions use the same rules. For the most part, they are fairly easy (roll a d20 and get equal to or under your skill). It’s when it gets to combat that it becomes painfully complicated. You have multiple actions in a single turn, which occur in different phases. Monsters have more actions, scattered over these phases in a crazy sequence. When you make a roll, you’re looking to put the result through at least two tables to get your end result, which normally doesn’t even scratch an opponent… I love the setting with a passion, but the rules strike terror into my heart if I ever have to run/play them now!
25th – Favourite RPG no one else wants to play
Heaven & Earth
An amazing RPG, that’s effectively Twin Peaks the RPG with the serial numbers filed off. It’s such a weird, crazy, dark setting, but so few people seem willing to run it or play it at conventions these days. I much prefer 2nd Edition over 3rd Edition because of the playing card mechanic in it that can throw a whole list of unexpected effects at the GM and other players in the game. 3rd edition plays a lot like a more regular RPG and thus loses some of its feel. Admittedly, 2nd edition is a bit complicated (effectively a card based variant of tri-stat dx) but it’s still a lot of fun. Plus, I love the way the two core books have the covers when they are put together 😉
26th – Coolest character sheet
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition
I like sheets that are simple, where you don’t have to worry about getting so far into a campaign or long running game that you have to worry about running out of room for all the new stuff you pick up (which always happens to me with World of Darkness games… the merits/background section becomes a black hole on my sheets and then doesn’t have enough room to expand). I also like sheets that are easy to update and prepare for convention pre-gens. The PDF for the 7th edition sheet calculates all the stats for you (half and fifth values), and has pretty much all the skills and space you need for 99% of times running the game. It’s saved me so much time when getting characters together. Others might be visually beautiful or complicated, but this is the one that hits the practical, useful and beautiful buttons for me.
27th – Game You’d like to see a new / improved edition of…
Not much more I need to say about this one really. See the comments in number 24… Adore the setting, but the rules need to be rebuilt from the ground up!
28th – Scariest Game you’ve played
Yep, it’s here again! I blame Scott for this one. He ran the first game of Kult I got the chance to play, in a small room, in the dead of night, lit only by candles with some scary, atmospheric chanting in the background. It was a wonderful experience! I still wonder what secrets the mouth in my knee could have told me if I ever got the thing to stop laughing at me mockingly… Yep, you read that right 😉
29th – Most memorable encounter
The Mountain of the Black Wind (Masks of Nyarlathotep)
Again, there’s a couple that could stand out here, with the other one being the moment that a certain NPC gets carried away by the Elder Things over the city in Beyond the Mountains of Madness (to which our whole party cheered, saying it couldn’t have happened to a nicer moron!). This one makes the list because of the sheer opposition involved. Fighting the way to the top of the mountain, only be confronted by the Bloody Tongue itself, a very potent sorcerer, and hundreds upon hundreds of cultists. On the surface it sounds like an unwinnable fight… because it is. You can only hope to escape and survive 🙂
30th – Rarest RPG Owned
Trail of Cthulhu – Limited Edition
This took a bit of researching. I have a pretty big collection of rare and limited editions of RPG books. In the end I found out that the Trail of Cthulhu Limited Edition copy I have is one of only 50 made, and most of them sold at Dragonmeet a few years back. I was lucky to find one on eBay and bagged it. Other rare books that came close, in terms of numbers were some Warhammer RPG titles (Realms of Sorcery Limited Edition at 100 copies, etc.), the Miskatonic University edition of the 20th Anniversary CoC rules (300 copies), and the Eyes Only chapter books for Delta Green (600 copies each). A lot of others (Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium, WFRP 2nd Edition Ltd Ed, etc.) all seem to be around the 1000 copies mark. I really want a glass cabinet to keep these all in!
31st – Favourite RPG of all time
Call of Cthulhu
Yeah, that was a big surprise! I think everything I said under point 20 (why I’ll be playing it in 20 years from now) covers everything here. Admittedly, I’d also put in the other big Cthulhu RPGs I play here as well – Trail of Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu, etc. because they all draw upon the wonderful Mythos, and in different ways that allow for different stories to be told.
Looking back over these, there’s a couple of games I think that deserve a mention for how much I enjoy them (especially as there’s a few here that seemed to get repeated screen time… CoC, Kult, etc.)
The Esoterrorists & Fear Itself
The Esoterrorists and Delta Green both appeal to me in similar ways, having an organization fighting against dark forces to protect humanity. Whereas Delta Green uses the Cthulhu Mythos, The Esoterrorists uses the Outer Black and the Ocean Game, which ties in with Fear Itself (normal people caught up in the fight, rather than the Ordo Veritatis), making them a wonderful pair of games, starting in one and escalating to the other.
Deadlands Reloaded & Deadlands Noir
Again, the setting is such a wonderful tapestry here. I wish I got to play it more. I own pretty much every book for both games now, and enjoy running and playing it when I get the chance. I’ve had more experience with the Savage Worlds rules than I have the original set, but it’s the setting that really grabs me.
World War Cthulhu & Trail of Cthulhu
Mentioned above, these offer alternative ways of telling Mythos stories, both mechanically and stylistically. World War Cthulhu takes the investigators into the Special Operations Executive as they fight in WW2 against the Axis and the Mythos. Trail of Cthulhu puts the investigators into the setting leading up the war, in the grim depression of the 1930s, amidst the rise of the dictators, etc. I’ve loved running and playing both on every occasion.
Over the Edge
A bizarre playground of the imagination, with the weirdness of the Cut-Ups and the madness of your PC realizing that they are just characters in a roleplaying game, this is a wonderful game. Oh, and did I mention baboons in fezzes? 😉