I fall for some of the ‘memes’ going around OSR blogs and here’s another one: the seven games you’ve played the most. (I’m not even sure who started this now.)
1. GURPS. From the release of Man to Man (which was basically a pre-release of GURPS that introduced the basic system and let you run ancient/medieval combat, up until the mid-2000s when we switched back to D&D (3rd ed.), GURPS was my go-to game. Because my brother preferred it to other systems, and was the usual GM, we played it more than anything else, in every conceivable setting, although the longest-running campaigns were fantasy/swashbucklers mashups and some historical settings.
2. AD&D (1st and/or 2nd ed.). This is what I started with, and dominated my formative gaming years, although we also dabbled in Gamma World, Boot Hill, and B/X around the same time. When 2e was released, my brother & I didn’t like some of the changes and liked others, but it didn’t seem like too big a change. It was a little shocking to meet new players who’d never played 1e in the late 1980s.
3. D&D 3/3.5. Never my first (or second, or third) choice, when D&D 3e was released, my core gaming group (my brother and one or two friends) decided to give it a go, partly out of novelty, partly out of nostalgia for D&D, and mainly because that was the easiest way to find more players. Although it is far from my favorite version of the game, it did get a lot of play was we re-established a fairly regular gaming schedule for the first time since our college days.
4. Rolemaster/MERPS. I lump Rolemaster and ICE’s Middle Earth Roleplaying because they are very similar systems. I might have a slight preference for MERPS because it is a little simpler and has less ‘bloat’ (supplements and splat books), although we always felt conflicted by the fact that it did not really feel anything like Middle Earth, with magic use being so common.
5. Shadowrun. This enjoyed a short but prolific run in my gaming group in high school.
6. Champions. We also had a period of superhero gaming. It began with Villains & Vigilantes, but we eventually switched to Champions when the boxed set came out. We really liked the level of detail and point-crunching, and I think it was the first completely points-based system we played. (Nowadays I might prefer V&V though.)
7. Star Wars (West End/d6 version). I only played this for couple of years in college, but it was a great time. We played a marathon session every Sunday, and although I went through at least three PCs, it was a great campaign, mainly because the GM really loved the Star Wars universe without taking it too seriously, and the players were all great people I enjoyed hanging out with.
If I had to name the top seven games I’ve run, well I’m not sure I’ve even run seven different RPGs. Let’s see:
1. B/X-Labyrinth Lord mishmash (Telengard 1.0) — this ran something like 32 sessions, and was a lot of fun, and I still regret pulling the plug on it sometimes.
2. Castles and Crusades-B/X mashup (Telengard 2.0) — this is on session 35 or so and still going…kind of on hiatus for the holidays though.
3. GURPS — I could run this reasonably well and ran a few short-lived campaigns in college. Conan for about 10 sessions, Fantasy/Swashbucklers for about 4 or 5 sessions, and a convention Man-to-Man tournament. I also had a post-apocalypse type thing gestating but never ran it, partly because the only people interested in playing it in the college gaming club were not people I was interested in GMing.
4. Optional System for Rulings (the system inherent in Digital Orc’s Out where the buses don’t run) — twice.
5. Fantasy Wargaming — one session, mostly a disaster, from what I remember of it.
6. Boot Hill — one half of a session…total disaster.
Dang, didn’t make it to seven. I would still like to try running Gamma World (or Mutant Future) at some point, and I still fantasize about having the time and player interest to try something like OD&D with mass combat, dungeon crawling, and kingdom-building.
Now if I were to try to list my top seven favorite RPGs, I’d be at a bit of a loss. For one thing I have a lot of nostalgia for older games that I’m not sure I’d enjoy nowadays. For another, two of my favorites — GURPS and D&D — have changed so much over the years that I love some versions and hate others. But I guess I’ve had the most fun with AD&D (1st edition if you mostly leave out Unearthed Arcana, maybe 2nd if you leave out a lot of stuff and put half-orcs back in!) and GURPS (1st or 2nd edition). There are lots of things I like about other systems, but those two are really ones I ‘think’ in when I think about gaming. I’ve had a ton of fun with Rolemaster as a player but I think it’d be something of a chore to play now. Similarly I had great times with Boot Hill but don’t know if I’d like it as much now. I really liked the Talislanta system, as simple as it was, too. But I actually don’t remember a lot about it; just that attributes were modifiers rather than scores that yielded modifiers, and that my character sheet could fit on an index card. I also had some great laughs in Star Wars (the West End d6 version) but don’t really care for sci-fi generally and Star Wars specifically. The BRP system from CoC and Runequest always appealed to me as well, but I’ve played it so little that I’m not sure how much I’d like in practice.