During a recent conversation with gaming friends, the topic of “what games most influenced us over the years?” came up. It was so interesting to hear how games we played as kids, in school, and later in life influenced our gaming interests today and led to some of us working in the game industry. This Monday series will take a personal look into my history as a gamer with my #Top10InfluentialGames. This week you will need to brush up on your math skills while reading some comic books.
My high school gaming group took a break from AD&D for some superhero gaming when I stumbled upon the 3rd edition of Champions at a used book store. We had played Villains & Vigilantes in the past, but Champions opened up many more creative possibilities, and we enjoyed the system quite a bit. Champions became our go to break from AD&D. So, by the time I headed off to college, I was very comfortable playing and running Champions. Early in my freshman year, the 4th Edition of Champions and the Hero System were released. I picked up the Big Blue Book for Champions and quickly pulled together comic book fans on my floor for a superhero campaign. We had fun defending the earth, but we bored of superheroics after a while and wanted to try something else. Since they were comfortable with the Hero System rules in Champions, we were off on so many gaming adventures across genres once I picked up Hero System and many of its genre books. During college, I ran Champions, Cyber Hero, Fantasy Hero, Ninja Hero, and Western Hero. I even worked up my own campaigns using Hero System for espionage and anime mecha. I still played AD&D as well and ran some campaigns in it, but my go to game as a game master for most of college was the Hero System. The generic rules of Hero System offered us a comfortable and familiar RPG to play between our trials of other rpgs in college. Champions and the Hero System really grew my game master skills and expanded my understanding of roleplaying.
- Generic RPG systems allow exploration of genres. While I love system specific rules that really integrate with the theme, generic RPG systems like Hero System, GURPS, and Savage Worlds really open up possibilities for an ongoing gaming group. Once you and your players learn the system in one genre (like fantasy), then you can take a break and jump into a new genre (like cyberpunk or superheroes) without the need to learn new rules. The rules stay the same with minor tweaks for the new genre. Great if you have a group that like to try new things often. Not so great if you like rules that really represent the genre well.
- Rule heavy systems require more free time. Back in high school and college, I had much more time for gaming. I could give up an evening or two each week to design npcs, villains, and campaigns along with game night. Now, I am lucky to roleplay every other week with maybe part of an evening to prepare. Because of that, I tend towards light and more flexible systems like Fate or the new D&D 5e. They require less prep for me and less rule learning for my players. I still love Hero System and what it is capable of, but I don’t have the time it takes to prepare games using that system, nor can I find players with the time to learn the rules or prepare their characters in the system.
- Superheroes are the most fun RPGs, yet hardest campaigns to maintain. I love the heroics, the over-the-top fights, the world-impacting storylines, and the creative character designs. I still love to run one shot superhero game nights, but I have given up on long term campaigns. Every time I have tried to run an ongoing superhero campaign, the players begin to lose interest and the stories start to falter. We will then return to a fantasy or science fiction longer-term campaign until the itch for a night or two of superhero gaming returns.
After my college years of gaming, I couldn’t find anyone to play Champions or Hero System any more. The rules were too “mathy” is what I would be told. So, I moved away from Hero System to play the games groups around me were playing. Even for superhero gaming I moved on to other systems like Heroes Unlimited and Aberrant. I eventually traded or sold off all my Hero System books. I have fond memories of the Hero System and Champions. It and AD&D were my core games in college. One of my gaming group from those days in college years later came to work at the same place I do so he joined my new gaming group. We occasionally reminisce about the days of playing Champions.
What about you? What game have you played the most over the years that had a huge impact on you? I would be very interested in others writing about their #Top10InfluentialGames. Next week, my roleplaying took a turn into the darkness after college, but opened up a world of new friends.