19. Favorite Published Adventure. At last, an easy one!
While I’ve read and played many great adventures for various systems, none stands out as vividly as Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio, with development from other contributors who expanded a great story with generous amounts of research, not to mention a large and excellent collection of player handouts. Fans of the adventure have even compiled a companion several times longer than the adventure itself.
Call of Cthulhu enjoys a wealth of great scenarios, but Masks is the most epic and globe-spanning, which for me is a huge appeal. Players start in New York City, but depending on which clues they follow, they can travel to London, Cairo, Nairobi, Darwin, Shanghai, and points between.
Without abandoning the sense of horror key to a great CoC adventure, Masks veers deep into pulp adventure territory, giving the players the (often illusory) feeling that they have more in common with Indiana Jones than with Charles Dexter Ward. Beware, however; those who go in with bullwhip snapping and pistol waving will be fortunate if the only result is a sudden death.
18. Favorite Game System. Unfair! Too hard to answer.
While I have long been a story-over-mechanics guy, there was a time when I admired nothing better than an elegant die mechanic. West End’s Star Wars, FASA’s Shadowrun, Mike Nystul’s Whispering Vault, and lesser-known games like Don’t Look Back: Terror Is Never Far Behind impressed me as much with their rules as with their settings—although in most cases, I liked both. I could make a long list before coming close to a true favorite.
Another stand-out is Call of Cthulhu, which I initially dismissed because of my loathing for d% systems. Once I looked at it, however, the simple beauty of the insanity/mythos mechanic won me over.
Of course, as my first and most-often-played game, D&D has long held a special place in my heart, even for its hoary mechanics. I even liked many of the innovations of the reviled 4th Edition, but I agree with the many who felt they began to fail after the lowest levels of play.
With that in mind, my choice will be the Star Wars Saga edition, which married the virtues of 3rd Edition with a few of the best elements of the then-nascent 4th Edition. I make this choice with a certain amount of practical ignorance, for while I’ve read a great deal of the Saga material, I’ve yet to run a campaign.
17. Funniest Game You’ve Played. Another one of those questions that’s hard to answer because of too many hilarious memories. One of my formative gaming experiences was a dungeon designed and initially run by my friend Greg Sager. He called it “The Halls of Amusement,” and it was, like Camelot, a very silly place. I still have the wrong kind of nightmares about the disco dragon atop a lighted ziggurat lit by mirror balls.
Later, Greg invited me to help him flesh out the dungeon. I recall few details, only some faded memories of the map, for which I found the smallest-square graph paper that I could so as to make it as big as possible.
15. Favorite Convention Game. This is a tough one to answer because in my early years of conventions, I tended to run games rather than play them. I suppose that still counts. And in my later years, I tend not to play at all, which is rather sad and must be corrected—perhaps this November at Pure Speculation.
Shortly before and during my tenure at TSR, I edited, wrote, and ran lots of RPGA scenarios. Among my favorites were the Ravenloft adventures by Bruce Nesmith, each of which offered the players a fate worse than death: loss of control their characters. Bruce’s scenarios replaced them with doppelgangers, infected them with lycanthropy, turned them into vampires, and otherwise made monsters of them without actually removing the player from the game. The effect was at once exciting (to those who enjoy playing monsters) and terrifying (to those who found themselves outnumbered by their former allies).
14. Best Convention Purchase. Because I’ve flown to most conventions, I tend to defer purchases until I can pick up something at a local game store. For a few years in the mid-90s, I made a point of buying a new set of dice at each convention as a souvenir. And a certain amount of what I brought home in those days were review copies or otherwise freebies. Still, I have made a few memorable purchases.
To be timely, I’ll mention last night’s Diana Jones Award-winning Hillfolk, which I backed in its Kickstarter and collected at Gen Con last year.