Saturday, January 09, 2010

Listmania! (RPGs)

Ok, this is dicier, because I am talking about colleagues. Put simply, what are my favorite small-press RPGs?

Here's the rules for this one: first, it can't be anything I was associated with, my hypocrisy has a few limits; second, nothing by Wizards of the Coast, because they get enough accolades.

This is for the little guys.

God bless them, every one.

Once again, in no particular order.


Gutsy, ballsy, brilliant. The single best idea anyone ever had for the OGL and the single greatest sign of why, the more "corporate" you are, the more the OGL scares/angers/worries the bejeezus out of you.

The surest sign that the inmates had taken over the asylum.

2. Year of the Zombie

As you all know, I am pro-apocalypse. However, I am anti-zombie. In my not-so-humble opinion 99.99% of everything involving zombies are just fucking dumb.

YOTZ (and they had me at hello with that acronym) captures the spirit of the one zombie movie I will watch repeatedly, the first Dawn of the Dead. It puts the survival in "survival horror" and casts the zombie apocalypse in stark, realistic military terms.

3. OGL Conan

Among the things I love, Conan is near the top. You can have your epic fantasy with your Legolas and your Strider, give me the moody, iron-thewed barbarian any day. This book comes the closest to capturing the magic of Howard's Hyboria better than any RPG ever, narrowly edging out GURPs Conan.

That's high praise in case you weren't aware.

4. GURPs Alpha Centauri

As much as I love CIV IV, my favorite Sid Meier game is Alpha Centauri. It's just an amazing setting and a game that oozes atmosphere, thanks to great voice acting and a great story. It's something a turn-based strategy game shouldn't even be ABLE to do, but it does, and brilliantly.

This book takes that great setting and turns it into a great RPG world.

5. Godlike

This book probably has more to do with me becoming a writer than any other. As awesome as this gritty take on WWII supers is, and it's nothing short of amazing, the d20 conversion notes in the back, by Mike Mearls, did more to spur me to try my hand at writing a d20 supers game than anything else.


Desert Rat said...


Although I haven't played OSRIC, the concept strikes me as brilliant. Of course, I just recently took the D&D 3rd Ed plunge (used, dirt cheap), so I've been fairly old school with D&D anyway.

Never tried YOTZ. I've had a lot of luck with RPG Objects: Blood and Brains add on for d20 Modern, which is a pretty good base point.

When did Steve Jackson Games become small press? They're no WotC or White Wolf, but I defy you to find an FLGS that doesn't have a lot of Steve Jackson product on the shelves (GURPS, Munchkin, and more, in most cases).

Chuck said...

Yeah, my definition of small is "everyone who isn't owned by Hasbro".

And really, I'm pretty comfortable with labeling Steve Jackson small, at least as compared to WOTC.

I've said before that Wizards is SO much bigger and does business on SUCH a different scale, that they're really in a different business than the rest of us.

Blood and Brains is great, I like Michael Tresca's stuff generally. He has to be excluded because I worked on a lot of that stuff, albeit in minor, editorial/advisory capacities.

Desert Rat said...

Ah, ok. Truth be told, I've picked up the whole Blood And... line. Great add-ons to my and my gamers system of choice, d20 Modern.

I've actually enjoyed All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Maybe I'll give YOTZ a look when I have a little money laying around.

Masada (aka: Curtis) said...

I can't come up with 5 (without using the forbidden conditions). But I have a couple.

I know this system may not see much more love in the future, but I really fell in love with its easy play while still keeping enough crunch to be a roleplay *gaming* experience. If you got lighter than this you start getting in to games that are near total roleplay.

Savage Wolrds
Also a great, fast, light system.

Spycraft 2nd Ed
Holy cow, the crunch! This is roleplay **GAME** in the extreme, but cool to see what a really heavy rule system can do. (IMO)

You'll notice that all three systems favor modern settings. These are also key components to my tastes. I like generic systems that work in many genres.

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