Sunday, August 25, 2019

Summary of Experience with RPGs, 1974-1977

I have long been a huge fan of John H. Kim's RPG Encyclopedia, and more for its chronological index. I have tried, for some years now, to play all the earliest RPGs that were ever out there, with mixed results.

I thought I should finally share some of those results...

Played (twice). A wargame, not a RPG.
Dungeons & Dragons (1st ed)
Played and ran, though seldom without substantial house rules.  Good, if uneven, and needs much house ruling to fill gaps.
[Warriors of Mars is not listed, but is a wargame closer to a RPG than Chainmail]
Boot Hill (1st ed)
Played (once). More of a wargame, for one-on-one dueling.
The Complete Warlock
Only 1978 version available.
Empire of the Petal Throne
Ran (twice). Conceptually fascinating, an interesting D&D variant with good campaign ideas, but better for raiding for ideas than playing. I’m not a fan of the campaign setting, but I admire its attention to detail. I blogged about my first solo experience with EPT/Tekumel, playing a randomly rolled, seven years ago!
En Garde (1st ed)
Unavailable, but looks more like a wargame for one-on-one dueling.
Tunnels & Trolls (1st ed.)
Ran (once). Meant as an improvement on D&D, but wildly eccentric and no real improvement.
Bunnies & Burrows (1st ed.)
Ran (twice). A fun, but challenging to play game; not having opposable thumbs is very limiting on a player-character. Never had much support material; plan on watching Frog God Games for their relaunch and new B&B adventures.
Knights of the Round Table
Metamorphosis Alpha
Played (twice), ran (once). At 36 pages, more of a rough draft of a great idea for a RPG, more fully realized in Gamma World.
Monsters! Monsters!
Ran (once). Tunnels & Trolls, but played from the monster’s perspective. Ingenious, but as flawed as T&T, and handled much better years later by Kobolds Ate My Baby!
Unavailable, but from what I’ve read, it is a strange animal, more like a wargame with exploration as the goal instead of war.
Bifrost (1st ed)
Chivalry & Sorcery (1st ed)
Unavailable – but skimmed the 2000 Red Book, which claims to be 1st ed unchanged, but edited and compiled into one book. If so, then 338 pages is twice too long and complex for a core rulebook for my liking. Pendragon will, later, do feudal campaigns and unusual time-keeping campaigns better. It does do Tolkein’s “demi-humans” better than D&D. I rolled up a random character that was pretty much unplayable (a bungling, weak dimwit, but with stunning good looks and a poetic voice!). Granted, my next character could have been amazing, but not a promising start.
Dungeons & Dragons (2nd ed/Holmes ed)
Ran. Though only a basic book (levels 1-3) was ever produced, it is a mostly complete game unto itself, at times both crude and elegant, and possibly the most streamlined version of D&D ever.
En Garde (2nd ed)
Unavailable, not sure what the differences are to 1st ed.
The Fantasy Trip (1st ed)
Unavailable, but coming back through Kickstarter.
Flash Gordon and the Warriors of Mongo
Unavailable, but from what I’ve read, it was more like a board game, with a map instead of a board, and simple combat rules tacked onto it.
Space Quest
Unavailable, but was apparently D&D reskinned as science fiction.
Star Patrol
Unavailable, but apparently another reskinning of D&D as science fiction.
Superhero 2044
Only read it, but can't imagine how you can play this as a complete game without substantial house rulings. It seems more like a supplement meant to be tacked onto another game.
I have one of the original booklets now, but don't own the first book with character creation rules in it, so I've never been able to tackle playing it. I've skimmed the rules and tried making a character once, but found the character gen rules too pro-military for my liking. I wanted to make a character who dodged the draft, and wound up with no skills because, apparently, anyone who doesn't serve in the armed forces is a no-talent loser.
Tunnels & Trolls (2nd ed)
Unavailable, but I understand it expanded on 1st edition, rather than replacing anything.