Recently, I have been thinking a lot about RPGs (roleplaying games). I have been prepping to start a new campaign with my main gaming group, working on a comprehensive RPG index as a freelance project, picked up some classic RPG books at Gen Con and from a used bookstore recently, and I have returned to the Game Store Prophets podcast as a host, and RPGs come up there in discussion quite a bit. I also spent time reorganizing my RPG shelves and culling my collection. During this culling time, I had to put serious thought into what games I would I play again, which books I would use as resources for other games, etc. This past summer, I wrote about my favorite #TabletopGamesPlayedOverTenTimes where I talked about how even our favorite games don’t make it to the table often because of length, interest, etc…yet other games make it to the table often because they are quick, fun, and players request them. I view RPGs differently because of the time involved but was curious to look at my collection in a new light.
I have an extensive collection of RPGs in my library, but how often have I played many of them? Quite a few, even many of my favorite older RPGs that I discuss in my #TopTenOverTen RPGs, I have only played five to six times. Some I have only played once or twice as one-shots and then never returned to them. And others I have acquired and never played at all, yet they sit on my shelf. There are also so many RPGs my friends have owned and we played in a one-shot or mini-campaign, to never return to the game.
Many of these infrequently-played RPGS I remember fondly and would love to get to the table again. Some that I have never played I have read through at least once and sometimes many times, yet I never manage to pull together a game night for them. So, why is that? For me, it is two distinct reasons: Player Interest and Time…and these impact each other.
Player Interest it the biggest reason. We have all experienced this as game masters. We find a game that really interests us, but our players don’t have that same excitement for it. They might not like the game system, the genre doesn’t entice them, the character creation doesn’t lend itself to their types of characters, or the campaign world doesn’t draw them in. If it doesn’t interest them, do they want to put the time into playing? Tabletop games you can learn and play once and move on, RPGs not so much.
Now you add in the Time factor. RPGs take time to learn, prep, and play. Unlike a board game, there are not many RPGs you can just sit down, learn, and play all in one evening. Someone has to commit to learning the game and prepping an adventure, players show up to play, and if it goes well you play for weeks/months/years. Back in high school and college, we would play new systems every few months just for fun. If we liked, we would keep playing, if not, we would go back to what we had been playing. Now as a middle aged gamer, with work, family, friends, other hobbies, and more, I and my players have limited time for roleplaying. Because of this limited Time, we only want to play things that really interest us and bring us joy…we aren’t as willing to risk trying new RPGs because of the time investment required. As I get older, I might have more time to game again…we shall see. My life is more challenging because of my caregiving and freelancing, which also take up time that I might use for roleplaying otherwise.
Even with this limited Time and Player Preference, there have been some RPGs that have found staying power and made it to my gaming table often. Some of these have been for one-shots and mini-campaigns over and over, but many have become full campaigns which have generated so many memories that I still talk about with my gaming friends and family. Some memories are so strong, we are thinking of returning to these older games for a bit of nostalgic fun. With over thirty years of roleplaying, these are the RPGs that I have managed to game master or play more than ten times.
Legends of Anglerre
Legend of the Five Rings 1e
Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade
Star Wars (West End Games)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness
Vampire: The Masquerade (The Hunter’s Hunted)
Villains & Vigilantes
Wayfarer RPG (Homebrew System)
Wheel of Time
How long have you been playing RPGs? If not for long, then likely there are only a few RPGs you have played. If you have been roleplaying for a long time, what RPGs have found staying power in your gaming group and made it to the table more than ten times?