Monday, 4 June 2012

The Games That Define Me.

Jumping on the bandwagon that is floating around the blogosphere I decided to dive in with my thoughts on 'the games that define me' as suggested by Frontline Gamer here.

I decided to keep it as a 'positive' list and I have based the entries on RPG's and boardgames that I grew up with, that influenced me in some way (in a gaming sense) or that left their mark through the memories and enjoyment they gave. There is a distinct lack of actual 'wargames' as I have played so many variations in the past (and present) that it is hard to really pull any out for specific mention. Perhaps 7TV, Strange Aeons, SAGA or Point Blank may get a mention at a later date. For now it is mainly about the RPG's and other games that really stick with me.

After playing with Action Men and 'little soldiers' when I was really young and creating in-depth stories and characters in them I soon moved on and played plenty of alternative and sci-fi type boardgames and a even a couple of wargames (with the old Airfix and Matchbox soldiers) in my youth but some of the ones listed are games I regularly played and wanted more of and these inspired me to explore.

1 ) The Awful Green Things From Outer Space (boardgame) - one of the first 'alternative' style boardgames I ever bought. It really inspired me to look past the traditional game and is probably the first thing that started me as a 'gamer'. The 'Alien' film influence really came into play here and had a kind of legendary status with my friends and I at the time. I later picked up a couple of Tom Wham games following this including Snit's Revenge. I still have them both!

2) Kingmaker (boardgame) - just a great boardgame meets wargame of sorts and again, one of the early things bought for me that made me realise there was more out there than Scrabble!

3) Car Wars (boardgame) - another one of those early alternative boardgames that I had and played before (and after) joining the school club and the discovery of rpgs. I also have to give a mention Battlecars, my follow up to the above and a much more straightforward and east to play game. It again ties into my other passion of movies and the host of Mad Max type post-apocalyptic, road-warrior fodder around at the time.

4) Runequest RPG - possibly my first 'real' rpg that I actually played. The truly different fantasy background, with its strange array of creatures (ducks, baboons and scorpion-men!) and pantheon of Gods gave me more than DnD and its dungeon crawls could at the time. I played a human Stormbull worshipper in something run by our GM Robert (still our mainstay GM to this day!) at the school games club and was completely hooked. It was a very short lived campaign but I bought the 2nd Edition (pre-Avalon Hill) and played for ages, practically my default fantasy game until I drifted out of the hobby for a while. One of the reasons for buying it was that I had a purchased a few of the boxed sets of Citadel Runequest figures after the great impression the school club games left on me.  It also introduced me to my favourite system, BRP or Basic Role Playing. Probably not the best by any stretch but always the one I felt most comfortable with.

5) Traveller RPG - this was the first rpg I bought for myself in the mid 80's after playing it a school. It was the big boxed set. I had already bought three of the old 15mm boxed sets of figures and my friend had three as well so added to the multitude of ship floor plans available we liked using the miniatures whenever we could. I loved the career aspect of character generation and the 'world creation' rules were excellent.

6) Asteroid (boardgame) - another weird sci-fi boardgame where you would select a crew from various options to fly out to an approaching asteroid mining base that had diverted course and was now headed for Earth. The base had been taken over by a supercomputer 'brain' that had killed all the human crew and now controlled all the robot workers and security. Good set of random floorplans too that could be used with 15mm figures. Great stuff!

7) Snapshot (Traveller boardgame) - excellent game and still own it. We often used 15mm figures. I was very much into sci-fi at the time and the idea of ship-board combat was really appealing. An exciting game with loads of playability.

8) Call of Cthulhu RPG - my first horror rpg and possibly my favourite game of all time. I bought the 3rd edition of this in the early 80's and ran / played constantly for many years, usually with only one or two players. I still have all the original characters that we used! One of my friends first characters was called Henry 'Harry' Winstanley, the Duke of Braidley Fennel, who somehow survived years of campaigns and whittled his sanity down to about 10 (with a bit of fudging by the GM) - he actually named his son Henry after this's that for life defining! I got into HP Lovecraft after buying this game and it opened up a whole new world of horror authors to me.

9) Pendragon RPG - an awesome game. Other than the superb setting I really loved the system and the idea of creating a dynasty of sorts with your character and their descendants. The epic feel and the traits and glory aspects really raised this above most standard fantasy games. To be honest, by this point I was a complete Chaosium fanboy!

10) Warhammer Fantasy Battle 1st to 3rd Edition - I bought the 1st and 3rd (and Warhammer Siege) but we always played it pretty free-form and more rpg / campaign / story based rather than a straight up tabletop battle. It is responsible for the massive pile of 25mm fantasy lead that I now own...

11) Aftermath RPG - I only ever played a short campaign run by our usual GM Robert (again!) but it really stuck with me and this, added to my love of Zombie movies fuelled my obsession with post-apocalyptic settings. The system itself may have been over complicated and we always managed to roll the hit location 'groin' but it was a good crack at the genre!

12) Vampire the Masquerade RPG - some of the best character driven stuff I have been involved in. Roberts long running campaign still rates in my all time top games. My introduction to the game was incredibly memorable as I was asked to come up with a basic background for a modern character with a few highlighted skills and personality traits. I was not told what system or game we were playing and had no idea what the concept was behind it. I turned up to our usual session with character notes and proceeded to be excited and terrified as my character was woken and chased through the night by god knows what. Then the thing caught me and apparently I was dead. It was only at this point it I was told I was now 'Kindred' and the name of the game we were now playing was revealed to be Vampire: The Masquerade! The campaign was run to perfection, as background and story slowly opened up and the group of characters (who's players had all endured individual sessions like my own) gradually bonded and grew together. My characters ultimate fate came when he frenzied at an untimely moment and whilst being restrained by the rest of the group, one of them, who had an ongoing issue with my character, decided to take his opportunity and proceeded to rip my head off! There was one more Kindred character for me following this and a brief part of the campaign with a Werewolf character but the game soon ran its course and has never been picked up on since. We have played short games since but nothing has captured the thrill of the original campaign.

13) Earthdawn RPG - another of my all time favourite campaigns. This also had a lovely setting and great concept of 'hero' characters. Despite its apparent clunkyness I quite liked the system too. Yet another favourite character too with the elemental wizard Gustaf Treblinki. We journeyed across Barsaive and undertook many adventures linking years of play both in and out of game. I have literally pages and pages of notes on this campaign and we still talk about a key moment in the characters story - when the annoying thief Sevran (sorry ZM) who was always getting into trouble, tried to pick the pockets of the Troll warrior, Irod, resulting in the death of a character. I intend to set the record straight now as recorded in the ancient journals of Gustaf...

"As the group (Gustaf, Sevran, Irod, Laranus, Bjorn and Carlos) approached a small town called Haven and argument broke out among Irod and Sevran, the continuation of a previous disagreement between the two. There had always been a hint of one upmanship and aggression between them and Sevran delighted in mercilessly stirring up the big Troll at any given opportunity with taunts and digs at his ugliness.
This time things escalated quickly. It seemed Sevran had tried to pick the pockets of the big warrior Troll! After it had apparently calmed down, Sevran suddenly tripped Irod who crashed to the floor, face first. A serious fight began and Irod threw one of his hawk hatchets at the stunned Sevran who retaliated with a deft throw of his dagger. Fortunately all missed. Irod, finally at the end of his tether with the thief, drew his sword and insisted Sevran apologise for all his previous actions and insults over the previous months. Sevran characteristically refused and just before matters grew worse, Gustaf began to cast 'slow metal weapon' in hope of avoiding any injuries between the two. Bjorn, a dapper swordsman and cortisan, tried to grab Sevran to calm him but was too slow and was deftly thrown to the ground. Gustaf shouted at them to stop but by this time Sevran charged Irod, who hit Sevran with the flat of his sword. Sevran then decided this was his moment to apologise. Satisfied, Irod turned and picked up his hatchets from the floor.
Suddenly, Sevran made some form of magical attack that smashed Irod to the ground by hitting him on the back of the head! The whole group then fell into disarray as Bjorn (suitably embarrassed from being out-played earlier) leapt in and attacked Sevran. An arrow then flew through the air, possibly fired by Laranus and narrowly missed - Sevran realised he was in serious trouble. He dropped his weapon and the angry and hurting Troll stood up. Full of rage, Irod then strode over to Sevran and tried to prize loose the blood magic charm (an earlier gift from Irod to Sevran) from the startled thief's chest! Sevran retaliated with his dagger, trying to stab Irod who responded with force, cutting down the thief where he stood! Irod and Bjorn buried Sevrans corpse as the others looked on in shock..."

Even now, many years after the event, this still provokes debate in our group! Unfortunately the campaign eventually wound down, probably in favour of the next big game but I will always hold this campaign as one of the best I have ever played in.

14) Kult - one of my favourite modern horror games. An extremely dark background and I loved running it but it was almost too bleak and horrifying to maintain. I wrote multitudes of deep background for this game and had a good stable of non-player characters. My style was to focus on stories for each player-character with different scenarios. We left this one hanging somewhat, a particular player-character was technically a zombie...perhaps a return to this is due one day.

15) DnD RPG - the first rpg I ever saw and I created a wizard character for it but I never actually played DnD until years later with one of the school groups. Much later, with the release of the 3rd Edition and the whole d20 craze, Zombie-Masters horror / fantasy crossover campaign was one of the best things I have played in. Ulfgar Rannaheim, the Dwarf Cleric of Moradin, was one of my great characters. This game introduced our group to the whole d20 mechanic and became our standard system for several years, leading to everything from Conan to Judge Dredd and modern settings. Conan d20 should get a special mention here as it looked like this could be our next big fantasy game but the enthusiasm waned and we have yet to pick it up again. ZM has recently been spreading tempting rumours that he would like to resurrect (such an appropriate term here) his horror / fantasy game. Unleash the undead horde ZM!

Some other games that I should mention:

Twilight 2000 RPG - I ran some good games with this. A good military game and in my opinion a solid attempt at a believable post-apocalyptic setting.

Fading Suns RPG - should get a mention too. Another great campaign by Robert - I remember my  character, Ratchet the engineer, very fondly! We have essentially replaced this game with Dark Heresy that we still currently play.

Bushido RPG - definitely gets any honorary mention. Another school club game in the 80's. Hardly played it since then so this is more about good memories - who can forget the desperate charge down the valley with arrows whistling past you in the first scenario! I would like to play this again sometime.

Ars Magica RPG - would make the list as a new game for me. I only recently discovered this with the 5th Edition and have bought every supplement since. We definitely don't play this enough. I love the medieval / low fantasy Europe setting and the idea of 'troupe' play. Some of the best characters in our campaign are Grogs!

Judge Dredd RPG - a good filler game, easy to drop into as most people are aware of the background to some extent and have at least seen the character in the comics. As a massive 2000AD fan back in the day I loved this! Played the first version a lot and quite enjoyed the d20 version too.

Cyberpunk RPG - just loved this game. As a fan of the genre I also played with several different groups outside the normal crowd so I would put it in the list it for that. I even ran this with a couple of 'non-gamers' who really enjoyed it and got into the spirit of things.

Paranoia RPG - was great fun and very different but would never make the 'A-list' of games that influenced me.

Luther Arkwright RPG - was really good but only played a couple of times so I cannot justify it being in the main list.

Fighting Fantasy Books - worthy of a nod? Like a lot of folk, I picked up the first book in the early 80's and this probably helped set me off on the RPG path.

Others played and not forgotten plus a few I owned but never got to actually play! - Space Opera, Top Secret, Gangbusters, Star Wars, Millenniums End, The Morrow Project, James Bond, WHFRPG, AFMBE, Amber, Conspiracy X, Chill, Skyrealms of Jorune, Wheel of Time, Champions, Golden Heroes, Chivalry & Sorcery, Dark Conspiracy, DC Heroes, Marvel Heroes, Feng Shui, Gamma World, GURPS, In Nomine, MERP,  Recon, Shadowrun, Space 1889, Stormbringer, Elric, Underground.

Our current crop of games includes Outbreak: Undead, Dark Heresy and Lankhmar / Heroquest.

1 comment:

Ant Master said...

I think the learned description of events finally puts to rest the fact that poor misunderstood Severen was murdered in cold blood over a bit of harmless banter. Now if only I had been allowed to play his revenge seeking twin brother....