Come convention season, it’s time to look for games that I would more rarely get an opportunity to play. So I’ve organized all the games I want to play but never actually have into two top-10 lists. Might be fun to revisit this in a few years.
Top 10 adventures I want to play right now
- Dungeon #70: Kingdom of the Ghouls—(tenfootpole.org) This is something I have wanted to play since I read it in Dungeon in the ’90s. It is the best example I’ve read of “Underdark as the mythic underworld,” full of weird and creepy encounters that are fresh in my mind after reading them 20+ years ago.
- S1: Tomb of Horrors—The original deathtrap funhouse tournament module.
- Lair of the Lamb is, like Tomb of the Serpent Kings, an introductory adventure, but organized around teaching the idea that the solution is something you create, not something that’s on your character sheet, rather than the basics of dungeon crawling. Creepy, weird body horror, playable in any system but I guess it’s written for the GLOG.
- The Caverns of Thracia (OD&D)—The original version of this is pretty crazy, I think it predates the era when adventures are designed for character level ranges. Read but never played.
- DCC #68: People of the Pit—Awesome level-1 adventure for DCC RPG. I’ve run the first few encounters but not much more than that.
- Rrypo: Get a Head is ZARDOZ-based adventure compatible with The Ultraviolet Grasslands (a psychedelic heavy metal mashup of Dying Earth and Oregon Trail).
- Operation Unfathomable A weird and trippy OSR-style Underdark adventure.
- Fever Dreaming Marlinko—Exploring a weird Slavic acid fantasy city. Gonzo. Read but never played.
- Broodmother Skyfortress: Weirdo giants descend from a floating city to wreck your precious campaign setting. Not read yet.
- The Stygian Library: Exploring a procedurely-generated dark weird-fantasy infernal planer library. I love Emmy Allen’s game commentary, but haven’t actually played any of her games. This seems a little more immediately gameable to me than The Gardens of Ynn. Not read yet.
Runners-up: S2: White Plume Mountain, Dungeon #37: Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb, Statues, B4: The Lost City, Yoon-Suin, Through Ultan’s Door, Dragon #83: The Dancing Hut [of Baba Yaga], S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Kidnap the Archpriest, The Gardens of Ynn, Fever Swamp, DCC #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea, Chthonic Codex, DCC Lankhmar: The Greatest Thieves in Lankhmar, DCC #13 Crypt of the Devil Lich, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, Stonehell Dungeon, DCC #81: The One Who Watches From Below, DCC #77: The Croaking Fane, DCC #88: The 998th Conclave of Wizards, Do Not Let Us Die in the Dark Night of this Cold Winter, Barrowmaze, Carcosa
Top 10 RPG systems I want to play right now
- Old School Essentials (SRD) is the perfect game system for an OSR player that wants to hew to the very familiar play style of old-school D&D with plenty of room for table creativity. It is the rules of Basic D&D, but simplified and reorganized for maximum DM utility and teaching to new players. I am transitioning away from Labyrinth Lord (mostly I need for the COVID-19 pandemic to ease in order to buy physical books) and was also interested in Bloody Basic and others, but after running B/X retroclones for a couple of years, OSE is far superior. It’s not an ersatz of the B/X D&D rules, it actually is the rules, organized and presented in a useful and comprehensible way.
- The Petal Hack Big fan of Tékumel worldbuilding, a wild and deeply imagined mix of Mesoamerican and South Asian mythology with science fantasy and sword & sorcery, but the rules sets are a little old-fashioned. The Petal Hack is extremely lightweight, and looks like the perfect way to explore this amazing setting.
- Scum & Villany is a Blades-in-the-Dark-based game about pulling off space heists, inspired by Firefly and the Millenium Falcon. The cool thing about this is that the party works together to develop the ship as a character, with its own character sheet.
- Troika! Numinous Edition is a wild science fantasy RPG that riffs off the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks more than D&D. Everything looks beautiful and kind of crazy, but it looks like a somewhat different way of engaging imagination, creativity, and narrative than most OSR or storygames.
- Trail of Cthulhu is a Lovecraftian horror and investigation game that uses the GUMSHOE framework, which is intended to make mystery and investigation-themed RPGs run more smoothly. I’m a little skeptical that this will actually be satisfying, but I’ve never actually played it out and am interested in trying it with a Cthulhu theme.
- The Quiet Year/The Deep Forest is by Avery Alder (the author of Monsterhearts); this is more of a one-session game, where you play out a year in life of an isolated community. It’s more of a novelty, but looks interesting to play at least once.
- Maze Rats is a two-page RPG system with a couple extra pages of random tables for character development; it seems ideal for a one-shot session. There’s a really cool mechanic where spellcasters randomly generate their spell titles and must collaborate with the GM to figure out what their spells do, which makes magic both otherworldly, unpredictable, and oriented to creative problem-solving. Things like Five Torches Deep and the Black Hack fill a similar role, but Maze Rats is particularly small and has that cool random spell system. You don’t have classes, what would be class abilities are handled by what equipment you pick up.
- Lasers & Feelings is an adorable Star Trek-themed mini-RPG good for a one-shot. I’ve translated it into Klingon (still a WIP), but never actually played, I need to fix that.
- FATE is something I’ve only ever played in a jokey, comedic game, but I’ve been assured by random people on the Internet that it’s good for serious Star Trek-themed games, and I’d like to give it another try.
- The GLOG isn’t a game system, it’s a manifesto of DIY RPG design that is a hot mess just crawling with ideas.