25. Favorite RPG No One Else Wants to Play. This one requires a slight evasion, because I’m sure I have lots of friends who’d like to play the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. The problem is that I don’t want to run it simply because of the sheer amount of work required of the GM to do it properly. Likewise, I’m unlikely to play another campaign unless the GM is outstanding and the players all a good mixture of cooperative and competitive. Two unicorns.
My experience with the game as a player is that the most fun part is character creation. The attribute auction is an elegant way to let the players sort out their own hierarchy of powers through diplomacy and intimidation. Sadly, it is not without its flaws in the hands of a permissive GM and an ambitious player.
The problem comes when an ambitious player negotiates an absurd number of perqs with the GM, as happened in an online campaign I joined about twenty years back. The campaign ended up being primarily between the GM and this one player, who’d managed to min-max his character by devoting himself 24/7 to a dizzying array of homework assignments. The rest of us gradually lost interest in a story revolving around him.
I’ve played a couple of other Amber campaigns. The focus on story demands an exceptionally talented GM. Otherwise, the attribute auction ends up being the only fun part.
24. Most Complicated RPG Owned. I gravitate toward games of low to moderate complexity, and I think of Pathfinder and any mature edition of D&D as fairly complicated (although a good 20% of that is due entirely to the grapple rules).
Back in the 80s, I marveled at the endless lists of critical hit results from a friend’s copy of Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law—elements the original version of Rolemaster. He had them assembled in a loose-leaf binder, which despite its organization had the unexpected effect of making it all look that much more patched-together and complicated. I glanced at a few of the funnier entries and put it away.
I own a later edition of Rolemaster, bought at Gen Con sometime in the mid-90s, but I never played it. The closest I ever came was a short-lived Middle-earth Roleplaying Game campaign, which was also plenty complicated for me.
23. Best Looking RPG Product. So hard to pick just one! Lately Paizo has produced the most consistently beautiful books for its Pathfinder line, although Wizards of the Coast continues to give them a run for their money. And Monte Cook Games has showed with Numenera (and, I expect, also with The Strange, my copy of which should arrive any day now) that even a smaller company can produce a gorgeous game book.
But in an attempt to play by the rules, I’ll pick one product: the Al-Qadim boxed set. By today’s standards of full-color artwork, it might seem quaint. But the graphic design and material quality throughout the line stood head and shoulders above its contemporaries. And, I admit, I particularly like the setting, so having it in a deluxe format was icing on the cake.
22. Best Secondhand RPG Purchase. I don’t remember great second-hand gaming purchase, although I know there must have been a few. The truth is that I’ve been such a fan most of my life that I’ve usually bought new releases, and during the years I was in “the biz,” I received a lot of trade or review copies.
I have found some great bargain second-hand miniatures, however, so I’ll say my best purchases have been lots of D&D and Star Wars pre-painted minis.
I just remembered another answer: I once took home a small stack of World of Darkness books from a swap-meet. I still haven’t read them all, but WoD remains one of my favorite settings to read. My first two attempts to play involved horrible Storytellers. One day I’ll try to find a good one, or I’ll take the plunge and run a few sessions myself.
21. Favorite Licensed RPG. Star Wars in all of its incarnations.
The West End version was instrumental in proving that a game could successfully expand the world of an existing franchise. The Saga version has my favorite, most comfortable rules system. But now the Fantasy Flight version is doing nifty things with dice mechanics and is part of a much larger license including the marvelous X-Wing miniature skirmish game and some cool upcoming board and minis games. I dig RPGs connected to other styles of game.
Also, like D&D and superhero games, Star Wars is just the right paradigm for action-oriented roleplaying, which is still my favorite basic style. It’s also easy to include horror, tactical battles, and investigation, my close runners-up.
20. Game Will Still Play in 20 Years’ Time. This one is a toss-up between some iteration of D&D/Pathfinder, since it’s the one burned into my brain these past forty-some years, or Call of Cthulhu. In both cases, the reason is that I have a large stash of scenarios, miniatures, terrain, handouts, and whatever else I might like to take with me to the old folks’ home.
If I had to pick just one, I’d say probably CoC, since they’ll probably assign me to a small, padded room.