The Five Games That Influenced The Way I Play

Over on Character Generation, Liz talks about what five games influenced her. I’d like to talk about the five games that influenced me.

1. Star Wars D6. Like Liz, this was my first RPG. It introduced me to a world where anything was possible. I had a blast with it, even if I only played it (back then) about 10 times. It inspired me to make my own terrible RPGs with my brother as we sought to discover more about what this whole roleplaying thing was. I’ve recently rediscovered this game, and it still holds up as a fantastic ruleset for simulating the Star Wars universe. Perfect.

2. Star Wars D20. This was the first game I ran. This system is one of the best systems I know, but only on a personal level, because I know that I could run this game into eternity without ever looking at a book. I know it that well. It also taught me how to run things completely on the fly, and knowledge of this system allows me to run any other d20 system (including 4e) on the fly. I’m still playing online with my players from 11 years ago, in a modified version of this system, with the same characters, and hope to continue on until the end of time. 😀

3. Savage Worlds. This game blew me away when I first played it with its simplicity, but also its familiarity. This game is my preferred universal system, even over d20. It really allows you to play anything you could imagine playing. If you want a game where your characters are mundane, and also sort of badass, this is where you’ll want to look. It’s Necessary Evil campaign is pretty incredible. Up until Marvel Heroic came out, it was my go-to when someone would want to play Superheroes. Speaking of…

4. Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. I know I shout its praises, but it’s for good reason. The Marvel Heroic RPG is one of the best things I’ve seen in a long while. It allows for some really dynamic and interesting games, with a wide variety of roleplaying opportunities. The “rules-lite” approach is very indie in flavor. This isn’t Champions, Mutants and Masterminds of Necessary Evil. This is a game that replicates the action that takes place in a comic book, without any further need for rules bloat.

5. Burning Wheel. This game is my unicorn. I’ve never, ever run a game of it, but I love it completely. I’ve tried, I’ve tried so hard to run it, but without much interest from anyone. The ability to scale-up or scale-down the rules for your group, the simplicity of the dice rolls, and the lifepaths. Oh, the lifepaths… I love them so much. If every game in the world had lifepaths like this game, I’d be so very happy.

What are your Five Games? Tell me here, or on your own blog, but make sure to link back here and to Liz’s post over at Character Generation, so that we can come visit and see what your five are.

7 thoughts on “The Five Games That Influenced The Way I Play

  1. I need someone who really KNOWS Burning Wheel to run a session or two for me. I’ve played a couple of times and it’s never really clicked.

    Thanks for sharing, man. 🙂

  2. I have, on several occasions, picked up Burning Wheel… I flip through it for a few minutes, realize that it’s this huge book full of small text and what appears to be a lot of rules… I then put it back down and move on. It might be a great game, maybe, but it really seems to be in the “not for me” category. It’s not just Burning Wheel though. I’ve had this reaction to other games… It just doesn’t sell itself well to me as a gamer.

    My five games that make me happy/inspire me/changed the way I play?

    1. Amber Diceless RPG — still the greatest RPG of all time. Seriously, I love it that much. It changed everything for me, how I play, how I GM, what gaming even meant to me… it was my gaming epiphany of “this is how I want to game!”

    2. Star Wars D6 — Of course I love Star Wars D6. Probably played more of this than anything other than D&D. It’s a super-solid game that is fun over a prolonged period and has a mechanic that anyone can love.

    3. Marvel Saga System. This was the one that came in the little box and played with a custom deck of cards. I love this game. It’s not perfect but I still think that if I want to run Super heroes I’d rather go to this over any other Supers RPG. It really has inventive uses of the card deck, a fun semi-random character generation system, and it’s just kind of a wahoo supers game. It’s just fun.

    4. D&D 2E — This is the D&D I played the most, fell in love with, ran across it’s entire 11 year active span. D&D is fundamental to my gaming origin, fundamental to getting me started in gaming, but D&D 2e is really “my” D&D.

    5. Castle Falkenstein — This is my unicorn (to use your term). I love this game but I’ve never had a group to run it with. It was steampunk-y before it was cool, it was kind of a story-game before it was cool. It’s simple, brilliant, elegant, and inspiring. Still really want to run/play this.

  3. Burning Wheel really is all that and a bag o’ chips. I’ve never run it as a GM, but it is a tremendous system. As a player I really enjoy the teeth-gnashingly vicious combat, sensible skill improvement rules, and integration of roleplaying with character advancement.

    Five that influence the way I play:

    1) Runequest – D&D 2ed was what we all played until I picked up the freshly-minted RQ2 (the original Chaosium version) and started running a Gloranthan campaign. Playing low-powered characters in RQ is just as fun as playing high-powered characters. Skills-based play means you can go for several sessions without any combat, and still enjoy yourself. The world of Glorantha made me realize that setting matters as much if not more than mechanics.

    2) Shadowrun – Shadowrun is a GM’s dream. The mechanics can be difficult to handle at times, especially for Decker runs, but the world is overflowing with scenario possibilities. There are so many competing corporations, criminal groups, nation-states, clandestine organizations, and powerful entities running around, and action takes place in cyberspace, on the ground, in the air, under water, and in astral space. More than any other game, Shadowrun taught me to think about the possibilities inherent in a complex world.

    3) Burning Wheel – As I mentioned above, Burning Wheel directly connects in-game actions to character advancement in a very clever and holistic way. I can’t help but wonder how different our hobby would be had Burning Wheel come out before D&D.

    4) Eclipse Phase – I’m running an EP campaign right now (you can see writeups at my blog if you’re interested). The game mechanics are nothing exciting; it’s a rather straightforward percentile system. But that’s a good thing, because the game universe is just stuffed to the gills with possibilities. While Shadowrun is a mashup, Eclipse Phase is really a whole new world. As a player and as a GM you are forced to think about the questions the game raises. In terms of putting one’s self into the game world, it’s perhaps the most challenging and rewarding game I’ve yet played. Plus, it’s all provided under a Creative Commons license. Awesome.

    5) Pathfinder – I had given up on D&D a long time before 4ed arrived. But Pathfinder reaffirmed the value of tying the game world to the mechanics. The cleaned up rules work together so well with the game world, and Paizo has done such a good job of giving players so many avenues into the game, that I can’t help but be excited about it. It doesn’t hurt that their work is so visually attractive. One of these days I’m going to have to run a Pathfinder campaign.

  4. I posted a full reply on my blog, Casting Shadows, but I’d like to enter the conversation here, too. My picks of five games which had the largest effect on my gaming style are Palladium Fantasy, Call of Cthulhu, Ars Magica, Wraith: the Oblivion, and All for One: Regime Diabolique.

    The inclusion of All for One edges Star Wars or perhaps Shadowrun out (they were tied and arguing in the corner).

    Palladium Fantasy was the game that I turned to when I got too frustrated with AD&D. I never went back. I found that the approach to combat, the freedom represented in the character classes, and the supportive rather then limiting nature of the rules and setting presentation not only facilitated good play, but also let me develop the solid GMing skills from my early days of Basic D&D without the baggage.

    Call of Cthulhu was the game which helped me find my voice as a GM, and almost everything I do as a GM can be traced in someway back to this game. Pacing, atmosphere, use of detail or lack of detail, player choice balanced with real risks and rewards being rooted more in motivation than gear or advancement, and the rudiments of my thoughts on solid campaign design and troupe style play all come from CoC. The Grandest of Grand Old Games.

    Ars Magica was influential in helping me refine skills more than develop them, and it taught me different ways to think about ideas I had begun to develop on my own, but could not get a real grip on – like troupe style play, and deeply involving the characters in the development and maintenance of sections of the game world.

    Wraith furthered this refinement, but it was the use of the Shadow which really set me loose on some massive revisions of how I wanted to employ choice, motivation, responsibility, and respect for the development of the character in my games. These attempts were pretty heavy-handed at first, but I eventually managed to find ways to do this which are unobtrusive~

    All for One: Regime Diabolique brought the fun, magic, and passion back to gaming for me. I had almost become a taster, moving from game to game to sample its bouquet, smile, and move on. The simple power and utility of Ubiquity, and the very compelling setting for All for One, set me on a course I am still enjoying today, rooted firmly in exploring one game system deeply, while reinstilling core principles of fun, supported by the rules rather than limited and defined by them.

    Thanks for sharing an interesting topic. I had the misfortune to post a very similar idea on my blog earlier today, which I imagine will get lost in the shuffle. The idea there was to list the scenarios or modules which taught you something fundamental as a GM. Based on the above responses, I think it would be great to get answers to that question, too~

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