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Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Look Back at the Diverse Selection of RPGs I Ran "Back in the Day"

I played just about ever RPG back in my high school and college days, and when I say I played just everything, I mean I ran just about anything - I was the main DM / GM in the group.

Regretfully, I no longer seem to have the affinity to quickly pick up and understand diverse rulesets these days. In my younger days, I ranged far and wide:

MERP - I still remember some crazy NPC chasing the party yelling "Bola?!? Bola? You want bola? I give you bola!" as they ran in terror. This morphed into Rolemaster, which then killed the campaign under too many rules

Swordbearer - we never got further than character generation regretfully, but I did use the Dwarven Halls adventure in AD&D.

Star Ace / Timemaster / Chill / Sandman - I ran them all, but I do vividly remember a player's space fighter being destroyed around him, and he was left floating alive in space during the battle.

Traveller - more character generation than anything else, but I did run a few one or two shots - the planned campaign never seemed to materialize.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay - we had a campaign that lasted for months, before the party's spell caster inadvertently cast a fireball with himself as ground zero. Did I mention he carried like a dozen glass flasks of oil?

Paranoia - OMFG, but this was a blast to run. Killing players without remorse - Here come the clones! Amazing in small doses.

Top Secret - fun for one shots, there was little interest in playing this more than a handful of times.

Gamma World 1e - I think we played a 2nd session, but I'm not sure. There just wasnt much love for it in my group. First game I bought with my own money as a teenager (during my first trip to the Complete Strategist in Manhattan).

Star Trek (FASA) - tried to use it in conjunction with the Command Deck game for it - we never got to a second session.

Mechanoids - a single session

Palladium Fantasy - we played the digest sized published adventure with the red cover - and always talked about going back to it but never did.

Call of Cthulhu - a handful of one-shots, usually in October

Runequest - I got the 3rd edition of the rules for Christmas one year and never understood the sorcery rules. Grabbed the 2e rules, Pavis and Big Rubble at a con at Columbia University, and ran 2e for a summer and then some as a sandbox type setting. Fun times.

Conan (TSR) - ran a few sessions before we all decided we preferred D&D by far. Wasn't even fun as a change of pace.

GURPS - always wanted to run it more then I ever got the chance to, two campaigns ended in the first session with TPKs. Ah well.

Elric - one session. It deserved more, but I dont think any of us had a handle on the setting and expectation at that time.

Champions - this was the boxed set. Balancing the powers got way too confusing. I've never enjoyed supers games much anyway.

Spacemaster - I ran this for a two player group for the better part of a year. Still don't think I knew half the rules, but it didn't keep us from playing and having fun.

Cyborg Commando - The Complete Guide to RPGs gives this 3 1/2 * - I give it 4 shits. My God, but this was awful. I can't believe I made my group even try to play it, but we did. I'm still trying to live it down.

The Morrow Project - one of my players really wanted to play this, so he gave me his rules. We got as far as character generation. Ah well.

Pendragon - we tried, really we did. Not enough stuff to kill for my old group ;)

Toon - I ran a few sessions when the group was short a player or two. It was a fun change of pace.

Boot Hill - we ran a session that seemed more like a single unit miniatures war game. No one wanted a second bite of the apple.

The above is a fairly complete list - I suspect there are a few I've inadvertently missed. Still amazes me that I had a decent handle on such a diverse selection of rules.


  1. This is what I think of when someone mentions Cyborg Commando.

  2. rq sorcery took me a few 90s source books to get with examples

  3. Gamma World 1st Edition was also the first game I ever bought with my own money, funny. My role playing experience mirrors yours in a lot of ways. I also had a two person Space Master campaign that lasted a good while and we never got the rules right either, but we loved those plasma repeater charts. The campaign ended when one of the players got killed, and I had mercy and said his brain could be saved. He got an android body that made a little too high in the stats and the other player got jealous and the game fisled...

  4. Nice list! IN addition to the many flavors of D&D, I ran many of these games myself. In order of how often I played:

    * Top Secret. Had all the modules, played many sessions. Sadly this had less espionage and more "SWAT Tactics" type roleplay.

    * Gamma World. We always had fun playing this game. I'm actually eager to morph some of the DCC RPG stuff we're working on into a GW type campaign.

    * Boot Hill. Played several sessions of this. I recently found my old character sheets from this game. Great fun.

    * Champions. I had friends who ran this so I was just a PC in this. As i wasn't the biggest comic book fan I didn't get into it too much.

    * Traveller. Surprisingly, I have a lot of books from this game given how little we played it. I seem to recall enjoying the character creation more than the actual game play.

    * Car Wars. Technically not an RPG but we played a fair amount of this as well. Mad Max had just come out in the theaters which encouraged us to play.

    * Merc. Played a few sessions of this. Basically a squad-tactics game, which is how we were playing Top Secret for the most part anyway.

    * Bug Eyed Monsters, They Want Our Women. I think this was the first game I bought based on the title alone.