Ten Influential RPGs (for me)

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Star Frontiers: in 1987, my Dralasite threw a tangler grenade and thus opened the gateway into the larger role-playing game cosmos. I had the rules, but I’m fairly certain I never played by the rules.

Middle Earth Role Playing Game: my proxy for Dungeons & Dragons during the Satanic Panic.

My mother insisted that Dungeons & Dragons was evil and abhorent. Yet in my house I had a displayed copy of Rolemaster Compaion III that I would take to Sunday School class.

2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons: the game that I snuck into my house, and from which I ran a long-ranging campaign with fellow high-schoolers. This is the game that cemented numerous friendships that I carry forward to this day. And declaring actions before rolling initiative is still my favorite thing.

Rolemaster: in 2000, I wrote my first RPG* article for the Guildcompanion, highlighting a critical aspect of RPGs—the rules are there for you to hack and extend.

3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons: a flexible system with lots of player facing technology. More important, an open source rulesset that allowed everyone access and rights to the many layers of the system.

Burning Wheel: a masterfully constructed fantasy RPG that puts the rewards and advancement squarely in the hands of the players. The Range & Cover and Fight system exemplify the idea that combat should be unpredictable and ambiguous for its participants.

Dungeon World: a game iterated on via Github. I committed changes to what would be the final release. I also wrote up several for sale supplements. And last, the breakdown of Principles and Agendas provides a framework for articulating how you approach an RPG system.

Diaspora: I fell in-love with the mini-games, and having played a few space battles using a one dimensional map, I must say that is all I need. Providing a system where out maneuvering a ship is just as viable as disabling the opposition. Diaspora does a fantastic job of highlighting that you need not have a unified set of systems for all elements of your game.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: re-iterated that it can be a howling good time to problem solve with a cadre of fragile characters with nominal resources.

Whitehack: elegant, minimalist without relying on an understanding of the meta-context that is fantasy RPGs. I’ve been working on a modification and clarification of Whitehack that incorporates some B/X* and Lamentations.