B.C.'s RPGs: Role-Playing Games

I've been playing role-playing games since I first discovered Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) at age 13. I don't get a chance to play much anymore -- mostly because my old gaming crowd has dispersed to different cities -- but I still spend too much money on gaming stuff.

Hero Campaigns

Star Hero

At the moment, my favourite rules are the Hero system by Hero Games.

Campaigns

  • Unseen Toronto

    An urban fantasy campaign.

  • Fading Suns

    A conversion of Holistic Design's futuristic Dark Ages game.

  • Beulah: The Champions of Los

    An interdimensional/time-travel/science-fantasy campaign.

  • The Northern Guard Reformed

    In 1998, the third incarnation of the Northern Guard, Canada's government-sponsored super-team, decided to disband. In late 2002, the Canadian government decided to reform the team and put out a call for heroes.

    A four-colour superheroic campaign set in the Champions Universe.

  • The Hole

    Originally based on an article by Jeff Koke in the first issue of Pyramid Magazine, the Hole is a campaign setting in which characters from various times (and possibly, various dimensions) have been mysteriously transported to a 30 mile-wide hole on the surface of a barren planet. The hole has old buildings, trees and water, but no way to leave.

  • The Empire of the Thirteen

    A Star Hero campaign.

  • Star Trek

    I've been running a Star Hero-based Star Trek campaign for a while now. The players are junior crew officers on a recently-refitted Constitution-class starship set around about the 4th-5th season of ST:TNG. (The Borg incident at Wolf 359 seriously weakened the fleet, and a number of older-model starships were refitted to quickly build up the number of ships).

    My campaign has followed the careers of a group of Star Fleet officers from their cadet cruises to their first posting on the USS Arkadelphia, which is in the early part of a long-term, deep space astronomy mission. A few officers have recently reached the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade.

Other Stuff

  • Hex maps created using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) in one inch and half inch scales. If you don't have an SVG viewer already installed on your machine, try getting the free one from Adobe or use Firefox 1.5 or higher. Actually, go for Firefox; it's much better.
  • Some Star Hero stuff:
  • Science Skills from The Ultimate Skill, in an easy-to-read format:
  • Traveller Starships Deckplans
  • I'm also secretly working on an RPG called Ravenous Labyrinth. Shhh!

Games I Have Loved

Villains and Vigilantes

Villains and Vigilantes

My longest-running campaign was a Villains and Vigilantes campaign. I was a hard-core comic book reader, and loved the super-hero genre. (I once owned a copy of Superhero 2044, but I try not to admit it)

What appealed to me about this campaign was the richness of the history that developed. Several different player groups were involved in one game universe, and over time, an elaborate campaign background developed.

Things started out in a "four-colour" flavour and then, gradually, character development and interaction became more and more important. The tone became more serious, as the characters started dealing with personal challenges and tragedies. Finally, the campaign was so grim, I put put the characters on hiatus, and started up a "next generation" setting set 20 years in the campaign's future. A new group of young heroes took the place of the old, and I made an effort to add humour to the new campaign.

One of my fond memories of V&V involves my only trip to GenCon; there I met Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the creators of the game. A friend of Jeff Dee organized a game session, and I signed up -- I got to play against Jeff and Jack, who took on the roles of the supervillains (they almost won, too).

Oh yeah, and there was once a Villains and Vigilantes comic book, too! Loved it!

Eventually, it became harder and harder to find V&V supplements. I assumed for many years that it had gone out of print, but apparently it hasn't; it's merely not promoted by the publisher. Also, over time, I found that the game had some awkward game mechanics -- notably, I think it needed a skill system, and needed to revise the way experience worked. (Both of which appear to be addressed by the rules upgrade available on the web).

But it remains one of the most significant games in my memory, because it was the game I played when I really learned how to GM.

Lords of Creation

I really don't expect many people to remember this game -- but it was a multi-genre, time-travelling, dimension-hopping game. The adventures (three of them in print) were structured a lot like computer games, with a mix of brain-puzzles and combat.

A weird game, with a really inflexible rule system. But, hey, I loved it when I was in high-school.

Mage: The Ascension

Mage: The Ascension

Okay, I got into reading Vampire: The Masquerade fairly early on. And while Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Wraith: The Oblivion sounded like really cool games as well, the one that I waited patiently the first two years for was Mage: The Ascension, mainly because I really like the idea of modern-day magick. I think there's a lot of potential for blending the street-smart savvy of an almost Cyberpunk genre with the fantastic elements of high magic.

I've run Mage campaigns on a couple of occassions, but in neither case did I get very far. I loved Loom of Fate, pretty much the only adventure for Mage, but over time, the supplements all started to sound like one another, and the game suffered from too many rules extensions, and not enough adventures. I don't buy it anymore.

Traveller

I played Classic Traveller back in high school (and I still have the old rule books around here somewhere), and while I've always loved science fiction games, and wanted to run sf campaigns, I thought that Traveller needed more rules. Y'know, rules for creating weird alien races with odd abilities that don't upset game balance. Much better rules for combat. A better experience system. And much better psionics rules.

I later bought most of the MegaTraveller and T4 stuff (I avoided Traveller: The New Era, because I didn't like the premise and because the game seemed too, I dunno, military-flavoured for my tastes).

I'm quite impressed with GURPS Traveller; in fact, I think it's the first version of Traveller that actually had half-decent rules for character creation.

Castle Falkenstein

Miscellaneous

  • R. Talsorian Games' Castle Falkenstein
    I loved reading this game, and love the setting. One day, I may run a Castle Falkenstein campaign using the Hero rules.
  • FASA's Star Trek: The Role-Playing Game
    Almost no rules! But lots of adventures. Suffered major continuity problems when Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. I once had a Star Trek adventure published in Challenge magazine (they never did pay me for it, either).
  • Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu
    "More bowling balls, man! More bowling balls!"
  • GDW's Space: 1889
    Loved the idea. Never bought the game.
  • Shadowrun
    One of the best games for campaign atmosphere that I've ever seen! Probably the best mixed-genre game.
  • GDW's 2300AD
    A nicely-done game with a good number of adventures. It lost focus when it tried to become Cyberpunk 2020, but I still like it.
  • Holistic Design's Fading Suns
    Pretty good rules, great aesthetics, and really interesting ideas. But it's starting to fall into White Wolf's pattern of creating lots of supplements but no adventures.

Links

Here are some interesting links:

  • There's a whole whack of Hero gaming stuff at the Open Directory Project.
  • A game company that has really impressed me, lately, is Dream Pod 9, the publisher of Tribe 8 and The Jovian Chronicles (although its other product, Heavy Gear isn't a game that's ever really interested me).
  • Jeff Dee has a Living Legends home page. Living Legends is the follow-on product to Villains and Vigilantes.
  • Check out White Wolf's homepage for Mage: The Ascension stuff.
  • All the old files from the Red October BBS have a new home on the web. Red October is gone, but the files survive. Check out, especially, the playtest version of Star Hero, Second Edition.

Copyright © 1998, 2009 by B.C. Holmes. Last updated January 4th, 2009.

Champions, Fantasy Hero, Hero System and Hero Games are registered trademarks of Hero Games. All rights reserved.
GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved.

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