Last week, I waxed nostalgic over My #TopTenOverTen Tabletop Games, having been inspired by classic game segments on the Game Store Prophets podcast and the The Dice Tower podcast. This week I want to explore older RPGs with my #TopTenOverTen Years Old RPGs. I play more tabletop games these days then I roleplay, but back in high school, college, and graduate school I was a heavy RPG player and game master. I had two to three game sessions a week, which gave me lots of opportunities to explore the various RPGs available during those times. I still have fond memories of many of those games and periodically I will pull one of those old games off the shelf and run it again. A few I had traded or sold over the years, but recently I have gone back to purchase them again with a nostalgic interest in running those campaigns.
Aberrant (2004) – I got my start in roleplaying with Villains and Vigilantes 2nd Edition when a friend showed me the box set on the bus to school. At the time, Super Friends! was still my favorite Saturday morning cartoon and I loved reading comic books. The idea that a game would allow me to be a superhero blew my mind, and I was instantly hooked into the roleplaying hobby. Over the years, I have returned to superhero gaming as a player and game master so many times, playing most of the superhero RPGs ever produced. My favorite of all time has been Aberrant. To be honest, I don’t like the world behind Aberrant and never played it. But the game system I loved for character creation and playing superheroes. I am very excited to see what Onyx Path does with an upcoming new edition of Aberrant after all these years. I could see another superhero campaign on my horizon.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – First Edition (1977) – AD&D will always be my favorite RPG. Soon after starting out with V&V, I was introduced to a gaming group playing AD&D. It took some convincing for my mom to allow me to play AD&D as this was during the time in the 80s of AD&D having a growing negative reputation. One AD&D session, and I knew fantasy gaming would always be my all-time favorite genre of gaming. I grew up passionately reading fantasy novels by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen R. Donaldson, Robert E. Howard, Piers Anthony, Roger Zelazny, and more. AD&D 1e, 2e, and now 5e have allowed me to adventure in the worlds inspired by my favorite fantasy authors then and today. I am really enjoying running and playing D&D 5e these days, but I will still be pulling out AD&D 1e occasionally for an adventure of campaign as it has a feel and style of play all its own.
Ironclaw (2001) – Reading the Chronicles of Narnia and watching Disney’s Robin Hood (one of my favorite of the old Disney animated films) gave me a love for anthropomorphic animal stories. Thus when I was introduced to Ironclaw, the game fascinated me. The artwork was very reminiscent of the Robin Hood movie and I just happened to have players at the time willing to play in a world of talking animals. The campaign didn’t last long, but it left an impression on me that would have me pulling this game out over the years for an occasional one shot. Might be time for it to come out again soon. (Note, never liked that cover. Almost didn’t post it, but it is the version I originally played)
Legend of the Five Rings – First Edition (1996) – I played AD&D Oriental Adventures a few times but never felt the game captured the proper emotions or culture of ancient Japan. I was introduced to the movie The Seven Samurai in college and found a passion for studying Asian history and culture, including reading The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. When L5R was introduced as an RPG, my gaming group was looking for a change of pace from AD&D. This resulted in an L5R campaign that is still referred to by my gaming group as one of the most memorable (for good and bad moments). We have often talked about returning to the world and dabbled with the later editions but didn’t like the new system. So, over the past couple of years, I have been rebuilding my collection of the first edition with hopes of running a campaign again in that world using these rules again.
Palladium Roleplaying Game – Revised Edition (1983) – My high school gaming group liked to dabble in other systems, but always returned to AD&D 1e. One of those forays was to try a new fantasy system called Palladium Roleplaying. The world and system were so different than AD&D that we were intrigued for a while. Over time the group decided to return to AD&D but I had a soft spot for elements of the world. I really enjoyed using Palladium to run low magic campaigns and have run quite a few adventures and mini campaigns over the years with human and wolfen barbarians taking on the forsaken creatures of myth. Something about the weirdly balanced Palladium system provides the feel I like for these Conan-inspired campaigns.
Pendragon (2005) – My post-college gaming group stumbled upon this game and found it fascinating. Instead of being focused on individual characters and their adventures, this game had an epic feel with multiple generations of characters. Game sessions had somewhat traditional fantasy quests to save the kingdom or fight off monsters, but it also had evenings of court intrigue, marriage, family, estate upkeep, and extended time spans. Pendragon was like no other RPG I had ever played nor have I experienced since. Even when not playing a campaign, I occasionally get the book out and just create a character and run them through a few decades of life. The simulation this game provides of court, estate, and family life is fascinating.
Rifts (1990) – Remember I said the Palladium Roleplaying Game had a unique system? Well, Rifts took that system and made it even crazier, both in mechanics and in world. Rifts was a mash-up of ever science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic movie and book I had ever experienced. One of my gaming groups in college found this game and we were off on crazy adventures for years. I vividly remember our ragtag party of a Ley Line Walker (me), Glitter Boy, Juicer, Baby Dragon, and Ranger taking on the world. I haven’t run this game in a while, but I have pulled it off the shelf for some creative inspiration. This game is great when you just want to be over-the-top and blow some things up.
Star Frontiers (1980) – This was the first game my AD&D group in high school ever tried beyond AD&D. We all loved science fiction so when one of our players brought the box set to game night and asked to try it we were all eager. Since it used the same basic game system, we felt comfortable trying it out. It was an instant hit and made for some very zany scifi misadventures more like Buck Rogers than Star Wars. I had forgotten about this game until my brother-in-law gifted me a box of old books and games this past Christmas. In it was a complete box set of Star Frontiers. After having read it again, I am eager to run a game using this throwback sometime soon. It might just see the light of day in a unique way in my upcoming Spelljammer 5e campaign.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (1985) – Before the TMNT cartoon and movies, was the comic book and this RPG. Are you seeing a trend yet of Palladium RPGs? In the late 80s and early 90s, I set aside AD&D for a while and really got into games made by Palladium including the Palladium RPG, Ninja’s and Superspies, Heroes Unlimited, Rifts, and TMNT. TMNT really struck me as it was a gritty post-apocalyptic anthropomorphic setting. I had seen nothing like it. My friends and I in high school and college really got into the oddity of the characters and world mixing Mad Max Road Warrior with talking animals. We were really into that post-apocalyptic mood then with so many great movies in the genre, so the idea of mutated animals taking over the world after humanity nearly destroyed the planet just made sense for us. Over the years I have pulled this game back out for a one shot when the urge for some road rage hits me. Recently I worked on Mutant: Genlab Alpha, which instantly felt reminiscent of TMNT and a great modern reworking of the genre.
Toon (1984) – Growing up on Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, this book jumped off the shelf when I saw it at my local game store. Many a one shot game night has been my friends chasing each other around as cartoon characters. Now I have friends who run Toon Dungeons where they take classic AD&D modules and run Toon characters through them. It is an insanely fun experiencing having cartoon characters wandering through the early death traps and TPK elements of the old AD&D modules.
I hope you have enjoyed my nostalgic walk through my favorite older RPGs that are still in my collection and return to my gaming table occasionally. I would love to see your list, even if just a quick list with no explanations. What older RPGs still excite you as a storyteller and/or player?