I was reading this article about how to get through your RPG (role playing game) backlog and decided to combine it with this month’s GLAM Blog Club theme of collect. You see, among the main librarian-esque collecting I do of books, comics, and movies, I collect games. My board game collection is quite extensive as is my RPG collection. So in an effort to find people who would want to help me get through this backlog, and also inspire others to find new games to play, I’ve decided to list all the RPGs I have. I may also do a less involved list of board games as I’ve set up several board game collections in public libraries and some may find it helpful.
Well met, adventurer! When you think of RPGs you’ll most likely think of one of these. While these are the games I’ve played the most they’re not the ones I completely enjoy. Lately I’ve been looking at more narrative, role play based games. I want to know what makes characters tick. I want to spend hours talking about plans, exploring how our characters interact with each other, and knocking over display stands in small shops.
Dungeons & Dragons – I still have a 3rd Ed Dungeons & Dragons players handbook and am currently playing a 5th Ed campaign (Gabriel Knight, bard extraordinaire <bows deeply>). A good actual play podcast for 5th Ed (apart from The Adventure Zone) is The Broadswords. Besides being an all women actual play podcast, it focuses heavily on role play and narrative, leaving a lot of the clunky dice rolls at home.
Pathfinder – Good old Pathfinder. Basically a D&D 3.5 ed knockoff that is very ‘rules heavy’ but can still be fun. I started GM’ing a group formed from a previous employer and we’ve been gaming together for about four years now. A highlight was when they created a local government out of a humanoid ape army; there were meetings and budget reports galore. There is a new edition coming out soon too.
My Pathfinder character, Eugene Fitzherbert, has spent more time unconcious in this game than he has awake...
Shadowrun – This is one of the first RPGs I played back in the days when a group of us played during our lunch breaks in high school. It was during my goth years and we had a lot of fun, although it quickly descended into chaos as most Shadowrun campaigns often do. The only reason I’m keen to play this again is due solely to the excellent actual play podcast – Neo Scum which you should all listen to.
Vampire: The Masquerade – V5 is coming out very soon (like this month) however I’m not sure how good this will be as compared to those sessions I spent during lunch at high school. Plus this version is problematic at best. Although I suspect that if I did play this again I would discard most of the setting and use the mechanics around something I’d built myself.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – This is another classic White Wolf game I used to play in high school. While I have fond memories of it there are far better games out there now to play instead.
Now those are out of the way, if anyone wants to play any of the following games hit me up!
Rules But With A Narrative Focus
The following are long format games (games you can run for more than a single session) but have a stronger narrative focus. This is where I’m at now in my RPG/storytelling needs. Most have been found through one of the following podcasts – One Shot or She’s a Super Geek.
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – I started playing this based solely on the amazingness that is the Campaign podcast. Seriously, that podcast will change your life, and you don’t even need to know much about Star Wars. Go follow Kat Khul right now, listening to her has made me a better GM and she's just an awesome person. One mechanic I really like about this game is the dice. Rather than using the d20 system it uses positive and negative symbols that you then need to interpret into a narrative structure. This is helpful for migrating people from a d20 system into a more narrative space (or it’ll make them stop playing, like one of my players did, YMMV).
Call of Cthulhu - I started listening to the Cthulhu and Friends podcast, and while I’m only a few episodes in I realised that the system they use could create some very interesting narratives.
Night Witches - I’m very keen to play/GM this game as I’ve been interested in the Night Witches (Nachthexen in German, Nochnye Vedmy in Russian) for a while now. This game tells the stories of the women who flew for the Russian 588th Night Bomber Regiment during WWII, looking at their hopes, dreams, and interpersonal relationships.
Feng Shui 2- This game is bonkers crazy. The Feng Shui system is designed to let you role play all those action kung fu movies we know and love. One Shot have done a few Feng Shui actual plays which are just great to listen to.
Good Society: A Jane Austin RPG – This one is Australian made which makes me happy. I’m still waiting for the actual game as the Kickstarter finished only a month or so ago. It promises to be a fun time though.
One shots are games designed to be run in a single session. This is great because you can play multiple games quickly or switch between lots of different themes/genres to experience different stories.
Noir World - One of the first RPGs I backed on Kickstarter, Noir World is everything I want in an RPG: gritty, noir fiction, with a heavy narrative focus. The way the One Shot group played this game makes me so happy, they all work together to create plot threads and then bring them back together in a way that is satisfying to all players. After Star Crossed (see below) this would be my top pick for 2018.
Swords Without Masters - This game intrigues me. It is a very rules light narrative game and the only dice rolls are to influence the ‘mood’ of the storytelling. Even building a character is unique, each player brings an object, image, thought, or even a song to inspire and ground their character. Listen to this actual play to get a good feel for the game.
Bluebeard’s Bride - I’m not a huge fan of horror but this RPG is absolutely amazing. The GM’ing of Sarah Richardson in this actual play is excellent and makes me want to experience the terror of Bluebeard’s Bride myself.
InSpectres - This was the game that helped me find the One Shot podcast in the first place and then sent me down the RPG rabbit hole! I forget where I saw this game but I wanted to listen to people play it before buying a copy, One Shot had two hilarious runs of this which inspired me to run my own session (can you say ‘haunted comic convention’?).
Fiasco - I picked this one up because I LOVE a good heist/caper film. Fiasco lets you play out heists and other situations like the Colonial Marines from Aliens with little prep and it runs GM-less. Wil Wheaton ran a session on Table Top if you're interested.
Fate - I think I bought Fate at the the same time I was buying a bunch of other RPGs and figured it would be good if I had a story I wanted to play but didn't know which RPG system to use. Fate is flexable system that you can use to run just about anything. The One Shot crew have done a few podcasts using Fate and the equally fun Adventure podcast can give you some ideas for things to run in Fate or a bunch of other systems.
Just For Fun
These are all super fun, quick games you can run as one shots. They work well for impromptu games as most don’t require pre-planning on the GM’s part.
Paranoia - A re-release of the original 80s game, this is set in a world of clones and the all powerful computer. Trust the Computer. The Computer is your friend.
All Outta Bubblegum - I ran a session of this for a friend who was visiting from Adelaide and I created one of those HR team building exercises where everyone was on a treasure hunt in Perth CBD. It ended with a Catbus and a man-pigeon.
Everyone is Herman - My own personal spin on the classic Everyone is John. I’m a fan of the old sitcom Herman's Head and decided that it would suit this game mechanic quite well. I have yet to play test it though.
Honey Heist- “It’s HONEYCON 2017. You are going to undertake the greatest heist the world has ever seen. Two things - One: you have a complex plan that requires precise timing. Two: you are a GODDAMN BEAR." - need I say more?
It Was a Mutual Decision - This is a game I’ve been saving for when I have a group of six-to-eight people looking for a stupid fun time. You split into two groups, each group controls one character that is part of a couple. You then role-play their terrible breakup. Oh and one or both of you might be a wererat? ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Millennial Apartment Hunters - Created by James D’Amato of One Shot fame, this game puts the GM as a real estate agent showing hapless millennials around garbage properties. It’s a short fun game that you can play while crying and eating smashed avocado.
Runaway Hirelings - This one takes the classic D&D trope and makes it all about the little people. You play as villagers hired to lug gear, find traps, and generally shlep for ‘real adventures’. The game starts just as the last adventurer dies and you need to find your way out of the dungeon.
Now who doesn’t like smooches in their RPGs? After narrative, this is what I think has been lacking in my RPGs and I plan to introduce it more into other games. Just because you’re defending a village from a goblin raid doesn’t mean you don’t have time to woo the local blacksmith!
Star Crossed - This is hands down, the best RPG I’ve ever played. It’s original name was Tension and it uses a mechanic seen in Dread (another game I’d like to play) where a non-copyrighted, generic, tumbling tower is used instead of dice to see if something was successful. A two player, GM-less game, you create two people who really, really, want to but can’t, then put them in situations where they are close, quiet, and alone. My first game of this consisted of a Stormtrooper and a traitor (think FN-2187) being reunited and finding the love hidden inside. It ended in a tight embrace as their Star Destroyer exploded… Excuse me, I…I have something in my eye.
Monsterhearts 2 - Created by Avery Alder, this is a game about the messy lives of teenage monsters. Think Buffy, Charmed, anything on the CW network, and Sarcophagus. The catch phrase that sold it to me is ‘I don’t even know who I am any more!’ Drama, teen romance, and the supernatural the game is how the characters relate to each other and it just gets messy.
Romance Trilogy - Now this is a collection of three different short games: Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon, and Under My Skin. I bought this for Shooting the Moon but the other two games look good (Breaking the Ice is like Star Crossed but without the tension). Shooting the Moon is about playing out a love triangle in various settings. This actual play with one of my favourite web comic artist is super fun and is what sold me on the game.
GM’s note: Dealing with things like romance, sex, fantasies, and violence you should always communicate with your fellow role players. Talking about lines and vails, using the X card, and even just checking in with everyone to make sure you’re all having a good time is very important. Heck, it might even make your non-RPG life better too. The last half of this Polygon article/podcast talks about these tools and how to make your RPG sessions more accessable.
Other (own but haven’t played)
These are RPGs that I’ve collected over the years and have yet to play or hear/see anyone else play. They might be good, they might be terrible but I still want to play them (especially Stargate!).
- Big Eyes Small Mouth
- The Tenchi Muyo! RPG
- Abney Park's Airship Pirates
There are a bunch more games out there that I'd love to play like Damn the Man, Save the Music! (SASG actual play here) and One Last Job (closeup magic, the dessert of magics), but if I listed all the games I wanted to play we'd be here all day.
Somehow I managed to turn a list into almost 3000 words about RPGs I like, and what is probably the longest love letter to the One Shot Podcast <3. Hopefully you might find something you like from this list, or you can check out all the other games James and the crew have played and find something there you like. See you next time, heroes!