Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Top RPGs from 2012

Taking up a meme from Bravo Zulu, I'm listing my top played (and even just fooled around with) RPGs of 2012.
  1. Dungeons and Dragons, 4th EditionThis is the game system we use in the in-office RPG group, and it's probably the game I play the most. While I'm not entirely enamored with the 4e system, it definitely works, and the "at-will/encounter/daily" system is easy enough to handle. The on-line character builder, though not free, is quite simple to use, and you certainly can't claim Wizards doesn't support their players. I'm on the D&DNext playtest list, and what I see is intriguing. It will be interesting to see how that develops, and if it will cause me to abandon both 4e and Pathfinder. Maybe.
  2. PathfinderI use Pathfinder in my home campaign, and it's the game I probably spend the most time being involved with. Though I was never a huge fan of D&D 3e, which seemed too much like a game for professional roleplayers and not a game for just having some adventures, Pathfinder feels good to me. I realize my acceptance of Pathfinder was probably made easier by the fact that I'd been playing 4e for a while when I got it. That's an easier transition than from AD&D 2e to D&D 3e. I do have to admit though, I'm still drawn to more old-school D&Ds, like Swords and Wizardry. Maybe I'll give that game a proper shake in the future.
  3. Classic TravellerI actually had the good fortune to be able to run a CT game with some friends - that's the "Death Station entries I've made here. CT holds a special place in my heart, since (alongside AD&D 1e), that's what I grew up playing. The game is brutally minimalistic in some ways (combat sequence), and equally hyper-detailed in others (weapon and armor data), but with a little preparation work (which would be helped by a decent character sheet design - hmm, a topic for another entry...) and a group willing to abandon or handwave through the more precise grid-based combat systems of D&D, you can have a fast-paced adventure that matches up pretty well with harder SciFi movies for tone.
  4. Mongoose Traveller
    The first of the "RPGs I didn't play, but still spent a non-trivial amount of time playing with" in this list, MgT is very much like CT on the surface, and has the advantage of having a huge library of stuff to buy for it and easy conversions for the older material. Some of the new stuff is awesome, some not so much, but Mongoose has done a respectable job trying to make a Traveller experience for today's gamers that mirrors what we had back in the day. Not all improvements are for the better IMHO, specifically the "Level 0" skill concept. This idea looks great on paper, and matches well with how people view skills these days ("your skill list is your playbook"), but Traveller has classically been more of a "skills are what you put on your resume, but you can try anything" system. That's what the Education stat was for. But I digress.
  5. Mekton II and to a lesser extent, Mekton Zeta
    I love mecha anime. I used to be a inveterate BattleTech player, and though I flirted with Heavy Gear back when it first came out, I hadn't found an RPG/Combat system that felt right to me until I recently discovered Mekton II. (I bought Zeta a few years ago, but I suppose it was a "D&D 3e" thing - it just didn't capture my attention at the time.) I watch Robotech (and Starblazers) with the kids, and when they're a little older, we'll pick up some less "America Friendly" series. Mekton is almost a direct fit for Robotech or Gundam gaming, and the Interlok game system looks like a strange fusion between D20 (with its flat probability curves) and Traveller (with its skill focus, random character "life path" and more crunchy rules), though of course it predates D20, so I don't mean that comparison literally. Mekton brings in a lot of Anime tropes. My son and I worked up many of the Robotech characters (including MinMei) with very little trouble. With the right group, this game would be a blast. I'm not sure I have the right group though.
  6. Traveller D20 (T20)
    Having said all that, D20 has to my mind a better "skills" system than MgT, and T20 has done some clever things adapting D20 to a harder SciFi setting. My at-home crew is more accepting of a game that has very strong ties to the game they're already familiar with (Pathfinder), and given that I have more recent experience GM-ing D20 games, I suspect that T20 is going to get a lot more play.