Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #12 - Marvel Super Heroes

There have been a number of RPGs based on Marvel Comics but my favorite remains the original game, as published by TSR in the 1980s. It's been around 25 years since I've played the game but I still have very fond memories of the game.
I believe TSR made the game from 1984 to 1993. There were two main rules sets - the original basic game in 1984 and the advanced game which was releases in 1986. TSR later published a revised basic set. The game reflected the changing Marvel universe - it began with a strong Bronze Age of comics feel, though over time it acquired the Iron Age feel of late 1980s and early 1990s comics - the proliferation of X-Men teams, supernatural characters, etc. Though strongly rooted in the Marvel Universe, the game had rules for your own characters, teams, headquarters, etc. 
The mid-1980s saw a number of "table-based" RPGs - Chill, Gamma World, Marvel Super Heroes, and Conan are the biggies I can think of. Of the TSR games, I think Marvel did it …

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #13 - Dungeon Crawl Classics

We're entering a region of my Top 19, probably up to number 6 or 7, where I'd almost be inclined to list a 6-way tie. I like all the games on this list a lot and we're hitting the games that I really, really like.

Dungeon Crawl Classics came out around the time I started this blog so it has a special place in my heart. It takes the D&D 3.x rules and strips them down. It then looks at the stripped down rules and decides they've not been stripped down enough. And then it decides to strip them down a bit further. And then it adds a few gazillion tables for critical hits, spells, deities, etc. It takes Appendix N of 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide, the inspirational reading section, as its source material. This gives it a mix of science fantasy, weird fantasy, swords and sorcery. Inspirations like Robert E. Howard, Lin Carter, Manly Wade Wellman, HP Lovecraft, L. Sprague de Camp, Andre Norton, etc. It did introduce me to a number of authors I've come to greatly e…

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #14 - Icons

I have a mixed record with superheroes. I love superhero comics, but my success rate with superhero campaigns is rather limited. That said, there will be some superhero entries on this list - games I have had the opportunity to play and enjoy.

I had the opportunity to clock some time running an Icons campaign and definitely had a lot of fun. It's clearly a relative of Fate, though with a good dose of TSR's old Marvel Superheroes RPG in the mix as well.

Icons does a good job of emulating what you see in a comic book. Characters can slam foes and send them flying. By using Determination, characters can activate Qualities (like Fate Aspects), avoid Trouble, and up their effort to retry failed tests. A character who dies is out of play for at least an issue, but after which may make a miraculous return based on an explanation come up with by the GM and player. No, this is not a gritty simulation of realism. Superman, Captain America, Phoenix, Bucky, Professor X, Doctor Doom, Magn…

Actual Play: Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign? Part 1

In early 1921, the investigators depart Massachusetts to investigate a mysterious death in New Orleans...

Based on the classic Call of Cthulhu adventure "Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign" by Kevin Ross. Originally published by Chaosium in The Great Old Ones, revised version published by Golden Goblin Press in Tales of the Crescent City.

Setting: Boston, Mass. and New Orleans, LA; Friday, January 28 - Monday, January 31, 1921


Earl Crowley - Antiquarian settled in ArkhamJordaine Furst - Strasbourg-born Great War spy for FranceFredrick Tardiff - Great War veteran, Kingsport artist

The investigators received a telegram from the great occultist, Étienne-Laurent de Marigny of New Orleans asking them to travel to New Orleans, indicating he required their services in an investigation.

Leaving Boston on Friday the 28th, they arrived in New Orleans two days later after an uneventful rail journey. Much warmer than Boston, New Orleans was apparently unaware that …

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #15 - D&D 5e

Back in 2015 I gave my first impressions of the 5th edition of D&D. Beyond that brief campaign I haven't clocked much 5th edition time but my impressions remain - it's a great game. It takes a number of lessons learned from the 3rd and 4th editions of the game.

Here's my big takeaways on the 5th edition. First, it takes away the necessity of 3.x games to very carefully balance encounters and to plan player characters from first level. It removed the "grind" often found in D&D 4th edition and stepped back from a number of decisions made in there that made the game feel less like D&D. One interesting lesson it took from 4th edition was a "proficiency bonus". When making a roll in something core to your character you add it to your d20 roll, otherwise you don't. A fighter would add it to attack rolls with his sword, a wizard would apply it to her spell rolls. Any character would use it for skills he or she is proficient in. It applies to c…

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #16 - D&D 3.x

One of the oddities in this list is variants of D&D will appear multiple times while games like Call of Cthulhu will appear once. However, I've found many of the editions of D&D are extremely different from one another. If you showed up at my Call of Cthulhu 7th edition game with a 1st edition character, we could probably convert on the fly. On the other hand, bringing a D&D 3.5 character to a 4th edition game would not work.

Additionally, there will be a few retro-clones on this list - primarily if they bring something very new to the gable.

While D&D 3.0 and D&D 3.5 do have some fair-sized differences, it is clear that 3.5 is an evolution from 3.0 as opposed to an entirely new game, as was done in 4e.

It was tough for me to figure out where D&D 3.x should rank. I want to point out that any game on this list is a game I've both played and enjoyed - and there are a few games not on the list that I've also enjoyed quite a bit.

The 3rd edition of D&a…

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #17 - Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games)

In the late 1990s I resumed regular gaming for the first time since high school. The game we played was Star Trek: The Next Generation, published by Last Unicorn Games (LUG). We played all the incarnations of it - they came out with three RPGs for Star Trek. Their first release was for Star Trek: The Next Generation, covering 24th century Starfleet games. They later came out with releases for the original series and for Deep Space Nine. I really liked their DS9 game as it allowed for a variety of character types, much like the television show it was based on.

When making this list, I gave some thought to all of the Star Trek RPGs I've played. I've played the FASA, Last Unicorn, and Decipher ones. I do have a place in my heart for the FASA game, though I found its extremely tactical combat system a bit of a mismatch for its genre. The Decipher game I didn't get to play all that much. It was the Last Unicorn version I got a ton of play out of.

Like the FASA Star Trek game, …