2018-11-29 Influental Games

Brad J. Murray is doing it again, inspiring me to write a blog post. Instead of doing a top 10 list, he just talks about influential games. Fair enough.

I’ll start with the first game, like he does. It was The Dark Eye, first edition, or Das Schwarze Auge as it was called in German. I wrote about it in 2010. It introduced me to the basic game. Fantasy, magic, equipment, combat. I still like it.

The other big influence was D&D, obviously. It was “the original” back when I was a teenager and discovered that The Dark Eye was but “copy.” How foolish I was! Some things I noticed:

  1. The Dark Eye had a defence roll instead of a fixed AC 10. All combat, twice as slow!
  2. Later editions of The Dark Eye had a skills which are tested by doing three roll-under attribute tests. Somewhat elegant, if you like skills and don’t like the micro-management of Rolemaster or Call of Cthulhu?
  3. The first edition of The Dark Eye had no clerics! And I still don’t like them.

But would I call AD&D or D&D 3.5 influential? I don’t think so. As I wrote back in 2010, I actually wanted to play M20, not D&D 3.5. I still like simple rules! The first edition of AD&D is simply memorable for Gary Gygax’ style. His prose was amazing for a fifteen year old teenager trying to learn English in school.

D&D 3.5 was important because it introduced me to the concept of the Open Gaming License. Here was something analogous to Free Software. I loved that aspect. I loved people producing other d20 games under the license.

Well, I moved from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder and kept looking for alternatives and finally I bumped into Labyrinth Lord and B/X D&D. This was material with the right amount of rules for me. Not too simple, like Risus. Not too complicated, like later editions of D&D. This was perfect, for me.

And that’s where I’ve stayed, in terms of gaming.

In university, I liked the idea of Fudge (the precursor to Fate), but I never really got to play it. When I discovered Burning Wheel and Burning Empires, I really wanted to like them because I thought the life path system and the duel of wits was amazing. But the games fell flat at the table.

When I discovered Traveller, I found that it came with a randomised life path system. This was even better because character creation was so much faster! And this was the first game I found without advancement. That blew my mind.

I ran a Traveller campaign a few years ago. Sadly I had read the rules on paying back a ship and making money by trading and thought that’s how you’re supposed to run the game, and it was boring. And when I ran it more like I was used to running games, a player said it felt like “D&D in space.” I wasn’t happy with it.

But I still carry the Traveller bug. I want to play another campaign!

I switched the campaign from Traveller to Diaspora, a Fate variant. I liked the idea of social conflict and ship combat and all these other systems playing alike. It had a sort of elegance I liked. But it turns out I don't like Fate Points. And so I ended up abandoning all Science Fiction games.

These days I think the games that have had the most influence on me are the games talking about procedures that can be transplanted to other games. Dungeon World introduced me to Fronts and Moves, for example. Mountain Witch introduced me to the idea of asking players to reveal something emotional about their characters without requiring any conflict at all.

More important than all of that, however, must have been the blogs of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) back when Grognardia was going strong. Those were good times. I was reading and blogging and gaming like crazy!

Good times.



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