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Merric's Musings

Thoughts from an Australian Board Gamer and RPGer
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RPGs I'm nostalgic for... without having played them

Merric Blackman
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Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
I've been playing role-playing games - mainly D&D, but with forays into other systems - since 1982 or thereabouts. As I get older, I get fuzzier about when I was introduced to the hobby. Certainly the Moldvay edition of Basic D&D was the first set I saw. Soon thereafter, the Top Secret RPG made its acquaintance of me - but only briefly. I played in a couple of sessions, and that was it for Top Secret.

My early years of roleplaying were spent with D&D and the James Bond RPG; the latter an exceptional RPG that still holds up well today. Once I got to university, my range expanded somewhat: we had extended campaigns of Amber, Marvel Super Heroes and Star Wars (d6). They formed the basis of my experience of role-playing games, and have stood me in good stead later. (That's not an exhaustive list of RPGs I've played, either, but it does represent games I spent 3 or more years playing!)

However, there were other RPGs out there that interested me, but I never bought or that I bought and didn't get to play (at least not very much). As I get to a point in my life where I can look back on those games and find many of them still existing either through PDF reprints or because some new company has taken them over, I get quite interested in running or playing in a game of them.

Then the cold, hard reality sets in: I don't have the time. Admittedly, I have a lot more time than most people, but I've filled that time with regular boardgaming and roleplaying which I don't really want to disrupt. I mean, most people don't get to play RPGs twice a week (or thereabouts) and I do. It's just that I'm playing in intensely entertaining campaigns of D&D 4E, and I don't want to stop them to play something that perhaps not all of my friends want to play. However, every so often I might get the chance to pull one of these games out of the closet (or, more correctly, off the internet) and give it a go. Of course, the games I really want to play, will properly need a campaign...

Call of Cthulhu - The Masks of Nyarlathotep
Of the games I discuss here, I've played the most Call of Cthulhu: mostly in a few convention scenarios I played when I was still at University. However, when Nathaniel went away to Canada for six months last year, we put our regular D&D campaigns on hold and started a few new games. Call of Cthulhu was the one I managed to play, mostly through a few of the Goodman Games "Age of Cthulhu" adventures, which each played in 1 or 2 sessions.

That was all fun, but I still haven't played or run a proper Call of Cthulhu campaign, and it's something I want to do. Over the past few months, I've picked up three big CoC campaigns: Tatters of the King,
Spawn of Azathoth, and the master campaign of them all, Masks of Nyarlathotep.

The Masks of Nyarlathotep has an amazing status amongst RPG scenarios: it was an early big campaign for Call of Cthulhu, and the freedom it gave characters to investigate what was going on was stunning. It's one of those adventures which requires a lot from both referee and players, but which rewards them both a lot. I keep hearing good things about Masks, and one of these days I'm going to run it. What I really want is for my friend, Sarah, a big Cthulhu fan and great roleplayer, to be involved. Alas, her current work schedule isn't conducive to a regular campaign.

(I also picked up Tatters of the King just because she's such a big fan of the King in Yellow).

When I was still very new to RPGs, I had the chance to buy a set of Traveller. I looked at the small box and the three small booklets inside, and decided it wasn't worth spending my money on it. I was about 11 years old. It probably wasn't the wrong decision. (Later, I picked up Universe, and proceeded to demonstrate that despite me liking the game system, I wasn't going to run much of hard sci-fi games!) No, AD&D was the rage of my extreme youth.

When I got to high school, a few people there were interested in Traveller, especially in the Trillion Credit Squadron supplement, that allowed a space-warfare campaign between different players. I never actually played in that campaign (heck, I don't know if it even got off the ground), but it did stir my interest in Traveller. Just enough so to completely ignore it for the next twenty years or so.

What got me reinterested in Traveller was a couple of factors. The first was running a Firefly campaign using the Serenity RPG rules. The campaign was great, but the rules were junk: I've rarely been so frustrated by a ruleset. The second was that my local mail-order outlet, MilSims, had a sale on where they discounted the Traveller main rulebook to $10. I leapt at the chance and purchased it. And a second copy, just in case I got a game going: it's useful to have a book to lend out.

The Mongoose version of Traveller seems very well done and - glory of glories - it has trading rules, which is something some of the players in my Serenity game wanted to do, but with the rules in Serenity were dreadful at resolving. (I'm a big fan of tables and hard rules for that sort of thing). So, as the Little Black Books were coming out (the PC books reprinted in smaller and cheaper forms), I've been picking them up. One of these days, I hope to start a second "season" of the Serenity game, but using the Traveller ruleset instead. We'll see how that goes.

As far as games I didn't play because I didn't like the system, and games that I don't really like the system now go, Rolemaster stands pretty high on the list. This doesn't change the fact that I'd like to play some Rolemaster, but I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps because it was one of the major games played by others during my youth: I can't think of many other reasons.

Rolemaster has a basic problem: it fills the same space as D&D. Indeed, it was originally presented as an alternative combat system for D&D. (I once owned the first printing of "Rolemaster", with its parchment weapon tables; although strictly speaking it was the 2nd edition of Arms Law).

But I'm curious. There are the legendary critical hit tables. There's the number of character classes. There are the spell lists. I really hate how it deals with low-level magic, but the spell lists continue nicely. (Weirdly, the recent introduction to Rolemaster, Rolemaster Express has no first level offensive spell for mages. Boy, that's horrible design.

This is a game I read the main rulebook of when I was at University and felt it could make a fascinating game... and then forgot about for many, many years. I've just been reminded of it, because Greg Stafford has just released a revised Pendragon 5th edition (called 5.1), and the big campaign for the game is also available fairly cheaply as a PDF online.

Knowing a few people who are really good roleplayers, and looking at the epic scope of this game really tempts me. It's actually a game I'd almost prefer to play in rather than run, which is odd for me, as I far prefer for most games to be in the DM's chair.

Of course, the trouble with Pendragon is that, like most of the other games I want to play, it requires a bunch of commitment, which I don't think I can give it yet. (And, indeed, Call of Cthulhu comes above it on my list of games I like to play). So, I'm probably going to look at it in longing and never get a chance to play... but perhaps I might swing in a Sunday evening game...

So, that's a few of the old games I'm feeling a desire to play at present, occasionally for no good reason.
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