I previously wrote about unique role-playing games, so this list may seem to blur the line. But my goal is to introduce a new generation of gamers to the games that old-school gamers (like myself) grew up on. You won't see Dungeons and Dragons or any White Wolf games on this list for one simple reason - they are still played today by scores of gamers around the world. They are classics, but anyone who's rolled dice has probably at least heard of them.
First up is Warhammer: Armies of Antiquity. Unlike the vast majority of American gamers, I did not start off with D&D. I went to the other side of the pond and experienced this little gem. It's a one-book, everything you need game for dark, dark fantasy. This game was so good, it was nearly 20 years later before they did a second edition. And folk seem to still prefer the original.
I'll have to include Palladium Role-Playing Game next. Palladium was once at the top of game design in regards to their meta-plots. The mechanics have always been... dicey, if you'll forgive the pun. But this is a classic intro to the greatness of their story telling. This core book includes one of the most famous fantasy adventures of all time: The Tombs of Gersidi.
Another Palladium sample, Beyond the Supernatural, has recently received an update to second edition. What made this book a classic is the total lack of meta-plot and the extreme variations of evil presented for the game master to use. Creatures from mythos from all over the world. Plus, it had a great intro scenario where all the characters were 12 year old girls. Yes, I am serious. It was great fun only superseded by the TV show, Supernatural.
And for our third Palladium example comes Robotech the Role-Playing Game. Robotech was huge when I was growing up and Palladium's rpg was a great vehicle for these massive transforming robotic ships, their Zentradi enemies, and all the cool characters from the cartoon series.
The Star Wars Roleplaying Game... what else can be said for it? You got to play Jedi and have awesome star ship battles. A lot of players say the d20 versions are better, more complete, and balanced. But how can Star Wars as a role-playing game be balanced unless every one plays a Jedi, or no one plays a Jedi? Old argument for an original classic.
There was once a joke that the creators of Palladium and GURPS were the same man. I'm afraid not, but here's the other half of that coin: GURPS BASIC SET Campaigns (GURPS: Generic Universal Role Playing System). If you really want to play the classic, dig around for a copy of the Second Edition; I could not find it when I wrote this list. GURPS was great because it hand dozens upon dozens of source books that you could plug and play with the core mechanics. Plus, GURPS had tie-ins for the old World of Darkness games.
No classic game list would be complete without Shadowrun, Second Edition. One of the original cyber-punk games, Shadowrun had... and still has, a vehement group of die-hard fans who refuse to play anything else. For the most part, I don't blame them. I can certainly understand. For the most part, the game hasn't changed too drastically over the 20 or so years of its existence.
It is a sad, sad thing that I cannot include perhaps my second favorite rpg of all time. The original DC Heroes 2nd edition boxed set was highly praised for having mechanics that worked for Batman as much as they did for Superman, despite the power differences. It included a huge booklet of characters from the DC line-up and a point based character creation system that allowed you to make the character just the way you wanted. Of worthy mention was the 3rd Edition 'white book', again I could not find it as of the writing of this list. This 3rd edition book updated everything through to the Death and Return of Superman.
On the other hand, Marvel Super Heroes: Advanced Set [BOX SET] was pretty darn good too. The character creation system left you holding the bag and wanting a little bit more, but in itself it was a very simple game disguised as one being overly complex. There were scores of additional materials - an Avengers boxed set, a X-Men boxed set, scenario packets, and even the The Ultimate Powers Book (Marvel Super Heroes Accessory MA3). The Ultimate Powers book was exactly what it was titled. If a super power existed within the pages of Marvel Comics, it was showcased within this tome.
And speaking of boxed sets, here's something you don't see everyday. The Car Wars: Deluxe Edition [BOX SET] game was one-part Cannonball Run, one-part vehicular manslaughter. Every time a match was won, you could update your wheels for better speed, more guns, armor, whatever. It even had rules for 18-wheelers and helicopters. It was perhaps the first 'filler game', a game that was played when the whole group was not available for the normal game or when every one wanted a break from the on-going game.
I miss these old boxed sets. Maybe I'll have to release one of my next games as a boxed set, just for nostalgia.
Torg: Roleplaying the Possibility Wars [BOX SET]. Ah, TORG. Genre bending uber-adventure. The penultimate game of multi-dimensional possibilities. Heck, it was even billed as the Possibility Wars. Players were given what amounts of character archetypes and provided points to personalize with. Every part of the world was seemingly invaded by something from another time or place. It was like Journey to the Center of the World meets the Lost World meets Dungeons and Dragons meets Indiana Jones. The rules were a little clunky and character creation didn't offer as much as some would have liked. But this was original cinematic gaming at its best. And it's yet another boxed set.
Last, but certainly far from least comes Paranoia (RPG Rulebook). Wow, this one got pricey. Please report to the nearest termanation facility. The Computer is your friend. Within, you played a servant of the Computer, hunting down mutants (of which, you were one) and those who were members of secret societies (again, you are within such ranks). There was so much character death that the game allowed you to have six clones - one died and the next one was delivered. The book listed here is a later edition than what we played back in the day. But I don't imagine it's much different. Except the original version was a boxed set. Bet you didn't see that coming.
So there it is. A mixed bag of games that covered about twenty years worth of gaming fun for me, my friends, and a whole lot of others. Hopefully, you found one or two gems that you'd never heard of before. I hope you get the chance to try them out. These are the games that made me want to be a game designer. And I don't know what else to say about that....