Which games excite you?

So here’s a question to start your day: Which games excite you? Which ones give you the buzz as you read them and make you want to drop everything so you can just sit down and game? Widening the field, which supplements do it for you? Which adventures? And – most intriguingly – why? What is it about those games/supplements/adventures that light the spark, and what is it that the others lack?

Here’s a few from my own list, just to start the ball rolling.

Third Edition D&D

If it weren’t for Third Edition D&D, I wouldn’t be gaming D&D at all now. Reading those books brought back all the nostalgia of playing Classic D&D back in the good old days to the point where I rammed the books under the eyes of my friends and forced them at gunpoint (metaphorically, of course. But is was a loaded metaphorical gun) to read it themselves. And they did. And it was good. Unlike the mind-meltingly bad (in my opinion) AD&D with it’s slew of jumbled rules (but kickass settings), this was finally a modern D&D I could understand, and want to play.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Mutants & Masterminds, 2nd Edition

For years our go-to game of choice for superhero gaming was HERO System/Champions. We’d tried and played the rest, but it seemed like nothing but nothing could shift this wonderfully crunchy system off it’s perch. Then came M&M. We played one session. We changed.

One of the things that makes it such a great system is the writers’ deep love of the genre. They “get” comicbook superheroes like few rpg authors ever do. They understand the conventions and the many tropes of the genre, and make that shine through their writing. Of course, it helps that the rules are superb and that character generation is every bit as flexible (if not moreso) as HERO System. But what won me over first and foremost was the writers’ love. Get that right, and everything flows.

Red Book D&D

Ahhh Tom Moldvay. I challenge anyone to hold a copy of Red Book D&D in their hands and not want to play it that instant. From the Erol Otus cover to the interior style and layout of the pages it’s got a charm and design all of it’s own that puts it leagues ahead of any modern over-typeset over-designed piece of pap. I’m looking at you, 4e D&D: much as I love you as a rule system, your design leave me colder than a cold thing in Coldland.

This is a game that says “THIS IS FUN!” in large friendly hand-drawn letters. In comparison, 4e D&D says “THIS IS A COMPUTER MANUAL!”.

When it comes to sheer gaming appeal, there’s no competition.

Rifts

What do you do with a game that has everything? Play it, of course! Every single page of Rifts adds another layer of batshit crazy onto the batshit crazy. Anything that can say Giant Nazi Vampire Death Robots with a straight face is allright by me.

I know it’s the vogue to knock Palladium games for the quality of their rules but in Rifts they work. This is a crazy jumbled everything of a gameworld that needs a crazy jumbled everything of a rule system to come even close to showing how crazy jumbled everything is. It need characters whose damage dice are a hundred times greater than their peers. It’s not a balanced world. Trying to impose a balanced rule system onto it would just be BadWrong.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Talking of which, there’s TMNT, from way back before Those Movies came out and the Ninja Turtles were gritty, dark and dangerous comics from the pens of Eastman & Laird.

And TMNT the RPG reflected that with extensive (and typical of Palladium games) rules for many different types of weapons, martial arts and armours. Oh, and pretty much any talking animal imaginable. Dude, you’ve not lived until you’ve played a game where you’re a Rhino WWF Wrestler, Cheetah Taekwondo master or Mouse Samurai.

See? You want to now don’t you? That’s why TMNT is on the list.

Birthright

I’ve heard it said that Birthright is the best D&D campaign setting that no one played, and that’s certainly true of me. I’ve read and re-read it countless times and would gladly kill to be able to run a game of feuding empires and warring fiefdoms – but trying to get player buy-in is next to impossible. The general opinion is “Nah. Seems like too much hard work.” and I’m just left holding the book in my grubby little hands sniffling quietly in a corner. Players can be so cruel sometimes.

Rolemaster, 5th Edition circa 1985

If D&D is dark and dank dungeons, Rolemaster is wide open meadows, fields, copses of trees and patches of rare and occasionally dangerous herbs. It’s fantasy blown wide open where character generation (especially with with Rolemaster Companion II by your side) is a real thing of beauty. It’s one of the few systems where you can honestly say you are crafting a character. You go through his (or her) adolescence adding the skills of his (or her) childhood before moving onto those gained through training and prior to taking the life of an adventurer. By the end of it you know the character like you know yourself. You know that they went riding at he age of 14 and suffered a bad fall so never went near a horse again. You know they went fishing in the Blood Lake by moonlight, and you know their first secret kiss under the floorboards of the Gallows’ Head.

And that’s before you even start playing.

Rolemaster is famous for it’s combat charts but what folks who haven’t played it don’t realise is that IT WORKS. Photocopy the one for your weapon and attach it to the back of your character sheet and you’ve everything you need to play. It plays fast, feels every bit as modern as 4e D&D even now almost 25 years on and has the deadliest combat system ever made for a role-playing game.

So that first secret kiss under the floorboards of the Gallows’ Head might well also be their last.

I could go on, listing GURPS WWII, Tome of Magic (the Binder is my favourite D&D class, ever) and more. But I’ll stop there, and hand the floor over to you.

What games excite you, dear reader, and why?

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21 Responses

  1. adam weber says:

    AD&D 2E, for being straightforward enough to run a game with little prep work and open enough that you can cobble together a game world with a few ideas-and a DMG that gave you interesting world building ideas.

    Cyberpunk 2020 because its life path system ensured that everyone came to the table wih an interesting background to work from.

    and Vampire 2E, whose layout and design took its dark and sensual subject matter and injected it into me like a hypodermic syringe.

  2. Dyson Logos says:

    Games that excite me when I read them:

    Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel. The writing is excellent and drags you through the books in a marathon of “wow”. Unfortunately in my experience the game has never lived up to the awesome of the books. Which makes me very sad.

    Cyberpunk. The original game. Black and white. Gritty and flashy. One of the most deadly combat systems ever (miles more deadly than Rolemaster, which I ran for two years with only two PC deaths).

    Third Edition D&D did it for me too. Wow. Bringing back the adventure map from the 1e DMG was awesome (also the first 3e era Dungeon magazine I bought had that module in it). 3e was us rediscovering 1e with a more complex rules set.

    Vampire – Revised and Original editions of the Masquerade as well as the Requiem. I bought the original edition the week it came out and was running it within a month. The Bradstreet illustrations, the personal horror, the loosely sketched out setting… Revised edition made the 2e version (with the full metaplot environment) darker than it had been and consolidated the rules really well. And the Requiem again managed to make me feel this consuming need for blood. All three of these editions really let you know that the authors were deeply into the game, you can feel it.

    Moldvay Basic / Cook Expert D&D – These books have such sweet and clean layout, excellent rules, and are stuffed full of classic Erol Otus, Jeff Dee and Willingham art that they make me start drawing dungeons every time I see them. I just picked up the red box again (the Mentzer version) and I don’t understand the appeal of the jumbled up layout, the loss of all the old-school art, and the scattered rules placement.

    Savage Worlds – Every time I read the book, I feel the need to convert another RPG to use the system. The last time I did this it was for Shadowrun and we played a one-year Savage Shadowrun game. There’s something about the toolkit texture of the game that drives an urge to tinker into me.

    Wraith the Oblivion – Dark. Gloomy. A game where violence is never the answer (because if you do enough damage to a wraith to “kill” it, it has a harrowing and then comes back with the permanent loss of one less life level – so it now hates you even more and has more reason to get revenge on you for what you’ve done to it). And the shadow player mechanics are an awesome touch to keep everyone playing and interacting, even if their characters aren’t.

    Top Secret – This gives me the old-school itch even worse than B/X D&D. I want to see characters like the Jeff Dee illustration from the first page of the book doing awesome spy stuff using an overly detailed system. Totally gives me the espionage itch and I end up having to satisfy it with more “current” espionage games because most of my players won’t play Top Secret.
    .-= Dyson Logos´s last blog ..[Mokole Fomori] Brother Tailbiter, Wyrm-Tainted Mokole =-.

  3. Thasmodious says:

    Shadowrun – from the FASA days, the covers, the flavor of the setting, the slang, everything about it made me want to play nothing else, except for the system which just so damn clunky in play. We played a lot of Shadowrun, but never for its rules.

    Red Box D&D – I agree, except that I like 4e’s design, my favorite since Red Box and, maybe, the second run of 1e books (wizard on the cover PHB, etc). Problem was I barely ever got to play Red Box. My friends all played 1e and for a bit I ran modules with D&D by myself, playing party and DM, then got my brother to play. We played D&D, just the two of us, for awhile before we went wholly over to AD&D.

    Savage Worlds – really the first generic game system that I have played and I love how simple it is without giving up in play options and tactics. I love being able to brainstorm crazy settings and having the freedom to fit about anything into anything else. The rules are actually elegant.

  4. DeadGod says:

    All Flesh Must Be Eaten – I love me some zombies.

    4ed – Since it has come out, I’ve only been a player in 2 sessions. (Although I’ve DM’ed plenty.) I would gladly drop everything I was doing to get more player-time.

    The Morrow Project – Call me a sadist, but there is something entertaining about rolling on all those medically accurate damage charts. “I hit him in the chest cavity, and it didn’t penetrate any organs, but it did strike a major blood vessel!”
    .-= DeadGod´s last blog ..Gnomes are Tinkers: Redux =-.

  5. Elton says:

    Rolemaster — Yeah, I still get excited to play this game.

    Blue Planet — What’s not to like about roleplaying in a new frontier?

    AD&D 2E — I really like this system for all of its faults. It is simpler than D&D 3e or 4e. It’s also Roleplay oriented, and it does keep the mystery alive. It is also customizable. You can throw out THACO, for instance, and use D&D 3e’s AC system. And it still works.
    .-= Elton´s last blog ..Rolemaster Scenarios =-.

  6. Chad Thorson says:

    1. Chill – My first RPG ever, and one of my favorites. It uses everything from the old Universal monster movies to Hammer House of Horror! It’s horrifyingly good fun!

    2. Battletech – Probably my favorite universe. It’s so detailed, and you can really get into the politics of the game.

    3. Rules Cyclopedia – Really, have you ever seen a more beautiful book? It’s got everything you need chocked into one volume!
    .-= Chad Thorson´s last blog ..Here’s my Orc! =-.

  7. Not Rolemaster! I joined a campaign and I’m afraid of character death because character generation has been such a pain. I prefer B/X D&D by Moldvay, Cook & Marsh – or Labyrinth Lord. I want to play!

    When I read Burning Wheel, and the supplement Blossoms Are Falling, I want to play! Somewhat astonishingly, Burning Empires is a brick, and I haven’t read it, but leafing through it and looking at it, I still want to play!

    Mouse Guard – not so much.

    Spirit of the Century is a similar brick. Haven’t read it, but leafing through it, I want to play!

    All of this makes me think that perhaps I just want to play whatever I get into my grubby hands. I remember owning all the old Rolemaster stuff, never finding any players, and still wanting to play! But now that I’ve actually played… I’m not so enthusiastic anymore.

    All the Planescape boxes make me want to play! Law, Chaos, Blood War, Celestia, I just want to go there, be there, do something! But what? I’m at a loss, and so I start every campaign with the eventual goal of going planar, but then I lack plots. Damn! But I still want to play!

    Star Wars SAGA Edition made me want to buy it. And I still have to fight the urge to buy tons of supplements. But once I saw it, I had no urge to play. None at all. Too much skills this, talent that, feat me this, prestige me that. Noooo! Then I bought and looked at Mongoose Traveller, and it meant nothing. But then I generated a random subsector and started populating it with stuff. And I wanted to play! Hell Yeah!
    .-= Alex Schröder´s last blog ..Labyrinth Lord Revised Edition =-.

  8. Kensan_Oni says:

    In Nomine – I probably will never end up playing this, as my friends either fall into “Too Christian” to “Hate Christians”, but the ideas in this game really are a lot of fun, and I feel it really accomplished what it set out to do. I like to look at the game and just use it for imagination space.

    Serenity – I like that it seems to be a more advanced system of WEG’s D6 system, and the language section is wonderful, as in all Joss Whedon styled books. It’s one of those games I always threaten to run someday, if I think I can memorize enough Chinese to swear properly at my players.

    Jadeclaw – If not for the dice system, I would be running this game instead of what I’m running now. It’s color, it has lots of concepts, it’s really, really easy to make a character that is EXACTLY what you want, and SPARROW Characters! OMG, the sparrow! I so was drawing these things for MONTHS after seeing it. I so wanted to do a People’s Rebellion with all Sparrow Characters fighting off Cranes and Hawks. It would have been beautiful.

    TORG – I still am excited by Torg. Semi-Narrative control elements, Dramatic Resolution Systems, and Multi-Genre Blender options really make this a beautiful game to me.

    Houses of the Blooded – Just simply because the core mechanic concept of “I fail” as a character motivation and trying to have a game be written up as a Tragedy is such a wacky concept. I really look forward to playing this someday.

  9. Roger says:

    HERO System 6e.

    M&M might be lighter weight for Supers, but nobody other than Jackson’s GURPS comes close for out and out genre flexibility. It can be crunchy, but it doesn’t have to be, it’s a gaming tool-kit (per the marketing literature, no less!), designed to let the GM add in and cut out things with relative painlessness.

    To me at least, it combines the best of old-school sensibilities with new school flexibility.

  10. WildWalker says:

    OD&D: Moldvay Basic or Red Box or Rules Cyclopedia. I’ve got them all and they are still THE fantasy RPG for me in spite of M20 and 4th Edition which are both brilliant peices of game design.

    Rifts: Yes it is a kludge. Yes it could be a better system. And yes I will cheerfully play it any time, any where, with anyone nuts enough to play it with me. The setting is just so alive and the world screams, “Play HERE!”

    TMNT/Mutants Down Under: I can’t even egin to explain how cool that game and setting is…you just have to play it.

    WEG 1st Edition Star Wars: They got it right. I have not seen Star Wars as a game done right since.

    If I could design a perfect game it would be a fusion of these.

  11. Carl says:

    Mutant Future combines all the coolness of Gamma World with the simple perfection of the B/X ruleset (as re-organized in Labyrinth Lord). I have been running a Mutant Future campaign for a few months now and several of my older players have told me it is the most fun they have had since their TMNT games of old. High praise from those guys. Plus its free! Check out the website for the free PDF download.

    BTW, the Binder class from the Tome of Magic is awesome, I had to make an NPC Binder the second I saw the class to insert in my 3.5 campaign.

  12. Carl says:

    hmm, for some reason this blogger page added some extra junk to the address I tried to link to above, just go to goblinoidgames.com if you want to check out the free Mutant Future PDF.

  13. drow says:

    any version of D&D, currently 4e. dungeons and dragons. its right there on the tin. i’ve been playing dungeons and dragons for more years than i’m entirely comfortable considering, and it continues to be my favorite, regardless of the fiddly ruley bits.

    i desperately want to run cthulhutech, because its so awesome. i opened the book, and awesome literally oozed out of it and hurled itself into my brain, slowly coalescing into an eldritch thing of awesomeness which will not let me sleep until it has five or six PCs to torment. sadly, only one or two of the players in my group see the awesomeness, and would rather play something a little more conventional. so it will continue to rest in my mind, until i unleash it upon their unsuspecting D&D characters.

    i also want to run a serenity/battlestar galactica crossover campaign, which has slightly greater buy-in among my group. which is fortunate, because it’s also slightly more difficult to work into D&D. the mechanics are lovely, and involve a lot of dice, and the synthesis of setting material is almost as awesome as that of cthulhutech.

  14. kaeosdad says:

    Games that I currently play:

    4e- I like it alot.

    Mage: the awakening- Finally got to play some world of darkness and am enjoying the storytelling system immensely. The fact that it is a game set in present day means that it’s real easy for new gamers to get into.

    Games that’s out that I want to play but haven’t:

    Dark heresy- as a former slave to games workshop I wish this game came out years ago.

    Burning Wheel- after watching the demos on youtube I’ve really been interested in trying his system out.

    Games from the future!

    Warhammer third edition- looks freaking awesome!!! I’m definitely plunking down some cold cash for the core set at least. Everything I’ve read about it just sounds like it’s going to kick ass.
    .-= kaeosdad´s last blog ..Step Zero =-.

  15. Greywulf says:

    Wow. It’s terrific to see so many great games getting so much love! That’s one heck of a list, folks including more than a few I’d be happy to have included in my own list :D

    Thanks, all. Keep ’em coming!

  16. Elda King says:

    Greywulf, you just got me wanting to play Rolemaster. Every sentence you said made the game look great…

    About D&D4E, when the previews started to show more of the rulebooks and less of the design concepts, it was like slowly entering in cold water… until I got to play it for the first time, and I kind of fell in love with the system.

    But, as of the books and not the game per se, the 3E (both 3.0 and 3.5) are much more exciting. No matter how well-made, an image of two characters with illogical equipment and heroic poses won’t never describe the misterious feel of the “old magic tome” covers, the “scroll-sketch” in the first page of each chapter, and even the internal art as a whole (the 4E is less uniform, and has some pieces I love and some I hate).

  17. KaosMonk says:

    A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying – I love George Martin’s world of A Song of Ice and Fire and when I picked up the new edition when it was released Ive been wanting to play ever since. Problem is getting people to play as I only know one person who has read the books and no one else wants to as they dont know what is going on.

    Dark Heresy – I’ve loved playing WHFRP and have been wanting to play the 40K version for some time.

    Call of Cthullu – I have Arkham Horror the boardgame and love Lovecraft’s works, so playing the RP seems like it could be a lot of fun.

  18. Thunderforge says:

    Savage Worlds – I can use it for any setting and not have to worry about modifying the rules, which is a big plus. And it’s FAST. No hour long combats here! And like Dyson Logos, I automatically think of new conversions whenever I read the rulebook.

    Star Wars D6- Unlike the Saga edition, this one actually feels like Star Wars rather than “D&D with Lightsabers.” Quick, fast paced, and cinematic. Gotta love it.

    Paranoia- Because the computer says it’s fun. All hail the computer!

  19. mxyzplk says:

    Let’s see, real love affairs… I’d say

    Star Frontiers – my first love. Played every bit of it. You didn’t have to sweat the science and the adventures were good.

    Red Box D&D – my second love. Played every bit of it too. The total prettiness and usability gets you in and all the adventures keep you.

    Feng Shui – blew my mind that GMing didn’t have to be an exercise in anality, and players could really enjoy being badasses. Still one of my favorites, especially for short/con games.

    Call of Cthulhu (any)e – being totally powerless is fun too! And a super quick pickup system for cons/casual games.

    D&D 3e – though I enjoyed 1e and 2e, 3e was so exciting when it came out! Orcs didn’t have to be one HD nothings, they could be whatever level! And the flood of third party adventures had such sweetness, like Freeport.

    Mutants & Masterminds 1e – the first superheroes game I could not just tolerate but enjoy. Great art and design, really gets me into the supers mood. (Boo to Hero System on this count.)

    Spycraft 1e (and, to an extent, Top Secret/S.I.) – I like modern games done well. I liked both of these despite a lot of their support material (the SI adventures, the Shadowforce Archer stuff) being way too uber gonzo. I liked the Top Secret 1e adventures and use them in these later systems (the original TS system was something only someone in the 1980s could love). I have to say, though, I can’t stand Spycraft 2e; they went too far from “readable” rulebook to the “it’s a 200 page dictionary of terms” school of game design.
    .-= mxyzplk´s last blog ..Final Savage Worlds “Legends of Steel” Session Summary Posted =-.

  20. Thasmodious says:

    I’ve wanted to run a Firefly/Serenity game for a long time, but the game system in the Serenity RPG is clunky and nonsensical in parts. I really dislike it. So I chopped out all the flavorful bits, bought the book on spacecrafts and gear, and am running one starting next month with Savage Worlds, which seems such a perfect fit for a free-wheelin’ space western.

  21. BlaqueSaber says:

    WOW
    TWO Others mentioned CYBERPUNK (one for each version) and here I thought I was the only one.
    No one else mentioned IRON KINGDOMS: a “steampunk” infused fantasy game (similar to CyberPunk and ShadowRun) were magic and steam technology combine.

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