Other Old Games

Unlike many of my blogland compatriots, I’m not much of a gamer. That might read strangely, coming from someone interested enough in D&D to write this blog, and play RPGs at all (especially as a referee, given the time required). But it’s true. I don’t play board games and haven’t played any video game extensively since Final Fantasy XII. I find myself getting bored by most games other than D&D, and most of the time I would rather be reading or at the gym.

I don’t really have gamer ADD either, though I am a bit of a perfectionist and because of that sometimes feel the urge to start a new campaign from a blank slate. Even now I’m working on my next campaign in addition to the campaign I am currently running.

I haven’t played any tabletop RPG extensively other than D&D. I played a few White Wolf games in the 90s during high school, but no real campaigns. I owned several of the books, but have since sold them. I had a brief experience with RIFTS and hated it. I read most of the Nobilis book because it came highly recommended by a friend, but never played it. Cool ideas, but two high-powered for my tastes. I tried Ars Magica once, but the chargen took longer than the one or two sessions we ended up playing.

What’s the point of this? Following the ongoing OSR commentary, I’ve actually had my interest piqued regarding several other game systems. Specifically, the Stormbringer domain hack, over at Hill Cantons, Small But Vicious Dog (D&D mashed up with Warhammer), and the Lovecraft-inspired work at Secret Antiquities. Not to mention the continuing retrospectives of older games at Grognardia. SBVD is one of my favorite products that I have seen come out of the OSR, and I have zero experience with WFRP. I’m not sure if I would actually like to play them, but I think I would like to read them, for historical knowledge if nothing else. I’m sure they would also be a good source of ideas, even if I only continue to play D&D. Here are the games I am considering:

  • Elric! or Stormbringer
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Burning Wheel (recent, I know, but still looks interesting)
  • Some other Chaosium games
  • Chivalry & Sorcery
  • Gamma World
  • Spirit of the Century (also recent, I think)

However, I don’t really know where to start. Most or all of these games have multiple editions, and the first edition is not always the best. I’m really interested in classic versions, not cleaned up new school editions. So, readers, where would you recommend I begin? Any suggestions regarding versions to seek out or avoid? For Gamma World, I would probably start with Mutant Future, based on how much I like Labyrinth Lord, but for the others I’m really not sure. Which game would you pick to investigate first, for someone who doesn’t currently own a single RPG product that is not D&D or a retro-clone?

5 thoughts on “Other Old Games

  1. Talysman

    Well, the Basic Fantasy Roleplaying system is pretty old — it arose out of a hack of original D&D — and is pretty close in many ways to D&D, so you might want to focus on either Stormbringer or Call of Cthulhu, as examples of that. You can make your pick based on how much you want to stray from the familiar D&D pattern of play; Stormbringer as fantasy adventure is going to feel like D&D with a skill system and new magic system, while Call of Cthulhu strays farther afield, creating the now-traditional mystery/investigation style of play. Call of Cthulhu has barely changed from edition to edition, so you could probably get the most recent and not go wrong. I’ve read that 1st through 3rd are pretty close; 4th edition changed a lot, and 4th+ is not compatible with 1st through 3rd. I’d recommend 3rd, since that’s the version I bought and am familiar with.

    I bought Burning Wheel and played in a couple games, but I can’t say I’d recommend it. It’s very heavy on the character-building side, and the Duel of Wits does not really work, despite what fans tell you. The game as a whole is playable, but unless you’re specifically looking for a new school rewrite of fantasy adventure gaming, I wouldn’t suggest getting it.

    I only played Warhammer Fantasy RP (1st edition) once and we barely got anywhere in it, so I don’t have much to say about it. The lifepath system in Warhammer is the obvious inspiration for Burning Wheel, though, but with less character building, because Warhammer characters follow the D&D model, starting weak and building through play, instead of starting detailed and making tiny improvements through play, as in BW.

  2. Brendan

    Thanks for the suggestions. It sounds like 3rd edition CoC and maybe 3rd edition (1987) Stormbringer would be good choices. The 3rd edition of Stormbringer looks like it might be more or less the same thing as the 1st and 2nd (same author, Ken St. Andre) but in book format rather than boxed set. I generally prefer books because they are easier to store on the shelf and reference.

    Complicated chargen is the kiss of death for me, so I’ll probably leave Burning Wheel for one of the later investigations, if I get to it.

  3. Brendan

    Based on some web browsing, It looks like the 1986 1st edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (by Games Workshop) is the edition to get. Along with The Enemy Within campaign, maybe.

  4. Tedankhamen

    Each Old School system encourages a certain style of play, and if you play in that ‘sweet spot’ you’ll have a great time. Stormbringer (1e to 3e) shines when you step away from D&D dungeon crawling and try adventures based on the source material of Moorcock’s writing. ‘The Hall of Risk’ in 3e is probably one of the funnest adventures you can run and steeped in that Moorcockian ‘doomed pawns of greater forces’ vibe. Thulhu has a similar vibe, and is the only game where choosing a Librarian and going to check the archives is as full of adventure chance as being a Gangster with a Tommygun.


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