Some, like Mutants & Masterminds, I ran and burned out on. Others, like Rippers, sounded cool then but don’t grab me now. A few dropped because I ran them and felt happy with the results (Middle Earth). I’m annoyed to see how many of my earlier picks I never got around to, despite running 4-5 different campaigns each week.
Here’s my present list—which will likely change in the next hour. These aren’t the best or my favorite games, but they’re the ones I’m most excited to get to the table right now. Items marked with * indicate settings I want to run, but not with the default system.
In isolation these two games work, the former better than the latter IMHO. But combined together they rock. Elements from their lives as kids go on to inform their personalities as struggling teens. The nature and dynamic of the group emerges over time. I’ve just finished running a 12 session block of this and I’m glad I did—and I loved it enough I’d go back to run it again.
24. Amber Diceless/Lords of Gossamer & Shadow
I’ve run “Throne War” versions of Amber Diceless, but 20+ years ago. I’d like to give the full game a try now that I’m more comfortable with looser structures and freeform play. LoG&S offers some innovations on Amber’s mechanics, but I also find it a hard slog rules-wise. I need to see which would be the best fit.
23. Forged in the Dark
I like the base Forged in the Dark system and a couple of specific versions show up on this list (Band of Blades, Neo Shinobi). It’s a likely go-to for some games I want to play for setting but not system. We’ve seen several cool published FitD games (Scum & Villainy, Mutants in the Night) and a bunch of striking hacks, one of the most appealing being the idea of doing a version of Ars Magica with it.
22. Reign of Crows
A “Game of Thrones” style game with the PCs all drawn from the same family. I ran it as a Fate hack in 2017. It allowed for interesting collaborative world-building and high scale play. Rather than the PvP of SCUP or Legacy, Reign of Crows had the players work together to carry out plots. Fate might not be the best choice for this concept; FitD might suit it. That would allow for the split between seasonal actions and downtime play.
21. Rotted Capes*
Supers in a zombie post-apocalypse. I’m not a big fan of zombie stuff, despite having done demos for Eden Studios and AFMBE. But I love the exHeroes series for the contradiction between personal power and the challenges of community protection. When I ran my Masks hack for this premise, I’d only played it a couple of times. I think I have a better idea of how I would handle this now—doing more heavy modification of the moves and providing more concrete mechanics and choices for representing community (ala Mutant Year Zero).
I love the “kids get sent to a strange school” premise. I ran a non-powered Masks hack for this that worked OK, but could have been better. I’d like to make a few changes and do this again with a new group.
I’m lumping several things together here. I love Scion’s modern-gods concept. I ran it with its original system (yikes), a Fate hack (badly done), and using Godbound (wasn’t bad). I keep seeing Demigods mentioned and I’ll take a look at that. Finally I have hard copies of the new, error-riddled edition. I haven’t looked too hard at that except to see I don’t dig those rules. OOH I might just run straight Godbound since I had a great time with that.
18. Neo Shinobi Vendetta
Our anime cyber-ninja conspiracy setting. Sherri’s Forged in the Dark NSV hack offered one of the richest and most enjoyable series I’ve run this year. She’s reviewed the tapes and has ideas on how to tune and improve it. She wants to dive deeper in and maybe recruit others to help develop the concepts. I couldn’t be more excited. I talked about NSV in a recent podcast ep and blogged about it here.
17. Take My Revolution
Jamila R. Nedjadi’s game which takes heavy inspiration from Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m hyped to try it out because I love the series and I want to see how others interpret the material.
16. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
I think there’s two basic approaches for a SMAC game. First, you could do it generationally with players each taking the role of a different faction. That’s what Legacy’s Worldfall does. The other approach has all the characters together in a single colony with the factions representing competing philosophies. That becomes a survival game, with the characters trying to build up their colony while pushing their agenda. That’s more of what I want and I’m pretty sure I’ll use the natural fit of Mutant: Year Zero for this.
I just read the first collected trade of Kieron Gillen’s Die. You should check it out. It’s got me thinking about my own “youthful heroes return to a fantasy realm as adults” game, Crowsmantle. It isn’t nearly as rich or dark as Die, but I have great fondness for it. I’ve learned a lot since I first did that hack (mostly how PbtA actually works). I’d like to take another swing at it.
14. Pasión de las Pasiones
I love this game so much. It lets players create heightened soap opera melodrama without devolving into parody. I love that the new version has a built-in timer, limiting games to six sessions. I talk a little more about it in the next gauntlet Podcast episode.
The Veil’s completely different every time I run it. Players build a unique and striking cyberpunk world for each campaign. It’s constantly surprising. And that’s without even introducing elements from Cascade or Inheritance. It’s the best game about future lives I know.
12. Night’s Black Agents*
Years later I keep circling this setting of spies vs. vampires. I’ve become more comfortable with Gumshoe, having run Trail of Cthulhu for many months now. But you can slim down ToC quite a bit. OOH NBA’s iteration of Gumshoe has so many bells & whistles. If I finally get around to this I suspect it will be as a Forged in the Dark hack. I’ve sat down to write that out a couple of times, but I keep getting distracted.
11. Legend of the Five Rings*
L5R's Rokugan has lots of problems; in places it’s an Orientalist mish-mash. But there’s some moments of brilliance and truly interesting world design in there. I love the structure of distinct clans which have unique takes on the central values of society. I like that they’re not monolithic, instead made up of families with competing agendas. And I appreciate that there’s a shared code which everyone has to engage with and maneuver around. I’ve talked a lot about L5R before and I want to carve out my own version…but not with any of the published rules.
I keep coming back to this weird game of near-future cyberpunk J-Horror. The base premise and atmosphere works. The rules I’m less keen on and the actual meta-story presented is kind of dumb. But if you just bring Japanese horror sensibilities to a cyberpunk setting, you enrich both.
9. Fading Suns*/Coriolis*
I’ve always loved the look of Fading Suns: European medieval aesthetic married to space stuff. It has issues like a Slaver PC class and a weird sense about authority and colonialism. It also has a base system I’ve never dug. I have the same feels about Coriolis, though here my objections come more from system wonkiness and a mismatch between mechanics and described setting. I’ve thought about fixes, from a FS retooling to tinkering with Coriolis’ core. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I’m just attracted to anachronistic science-fantasy trappings (like Dune and Lord of Light). Maybe I need to scrub that idea down to the basics.
8. 7th Sea*
I wrote about this last year and I still haven’t figured out what to drop in for a core system. The problem lies in the question of what 7th Sea is. My go-to hacking systems, FitD and PbtA, emulate specific genres well. If I could say “This is a pirate game” or “This is a Musketeer game” it would work. But part of what attracts me to 7th Sea is the wild, adventuring company feel of the setting: groups can do anything and come from all over. That’s even truer if you include The Crescent Empire and Lands of Fire & Gold supplements.
7. Castle Rock
This would be a game where we first play out the characters as teens interacting with a supernatural horror mystery. Then we jump forward to the PCs as adults, still suffering from past trauma. Circumstances draw them back home to deal with mysteries new and old. I’d originally thought about moving back and forth between periods, but I think that’s more complicated than it needs to be. I have a basic PbtA hack I’ve been working on and I plan to do this as my contribution to Degoya County.
6. Changeling the Lost PbtA
I’ve been running this off-Gauntlet and it just makes me want to play it more here. I love Changeling the Lost’s setting and our games have focused on my favorite elements without feeling like I’m losing anything. This hack has gone through multiple iterations and changes with input from Sherri, Tyler, and Patrick. It has moved further away from being a general adaptation to focusing in on the specific elements, including stuff not present in the original source.
A hack of The Veil for picaresque fantasy urban life play. I ran a few sessions of this a couple of months back. I thought this would be an amusing lark, but we had such solid play I absolutely need to run it again. Before that I have to deepen my simple reskinning. Lots of possibilities here.
4. Action Cards
Our card-based Fate-influenced homebrew remains my go-to for adapting setting ideas for my f2f crew. It matches my GMing style and adapts easily. If I could figure out an easy and rich way to run it online I would.
3. Legacy: Life Among the Ruins
A dynamite game—it does what it sets out to: generational play with strong world building. It’s a game experience and one worth getting a dedicated group together for. There are a couple of alternate settings, notably the Rus-based Under the Yoke, that I’d love to run. But right now I’m drawn to a couple of simple reskins. For example, it would be super easy to reframe the core rules for a high fantasy or space opera ala Dune.
2. World Wide Wrestling
An rpg about pro-wrestling. It has generated some of the greatest emotional highs and lows I’ve ever seen at the table. I’ve run three different “seasons” of the Gauntlet League Wrestling promotion so far—and other GMs like Tyler and Gerwyn have added to the mythos. I suspect this game will be in my top ten for a long, long time.
1. Hearts of Wulin
Someone once told me you’re done with a game design when you don’t want to play it anymore. I’m not done with Hearts of Wulin. We have a ton of really interesting stretch goal settings—I’m planning on running each of them. As well, some of the * games I’ve listed here might be candidates for a HoW treatment.
49. The Last Fleet Fantasy BSG
48. Shadowrun with The Sprawl
45. Thousand Arrows
44. Before the Storm
43. Ars Magica
42. Fate and FAE World of Adventure
41. Good Society
38. Skate Witches
37. PbtA hack for Promethean or Mage
36. Rising Tide* or Tides of Gold
35. Trail of Cthulhu Campaign
34. Masks: A New Generation
33. Fate of Cthulhu
32. Crimson Skies*/Flying Circus
30. Mutant: Year Zero
29. Hack the Planet
28. Base Raiders
26. Band of Blades
For the full backlog of Age of Ravens posts on Blogger see here.