What game changed your view about games? And how?

edited February 2012 in Story Games
Saw this on rpg.net and thought it would be good to see it on here.

For me the game that really changed me at first was Fate, for the idea that words have mechanical power, and that hindering yourself in the narrative makes you stronger.

The big one though was My Life With Master, for showing me that a games mechanics really need to be about what the story is actually about.

Burning Wheel for teaching me that failure on a roll does not mean failure on an action.


  • Sleep is Death for demonstrating that roleplaying doesn't have shit to do with funny shaped dice, roll-to-hit, pens, paper, or verbal narration.
  • My Life with Master taught me how games can treat genre and formula. Everything I've since designed has tight genre arcs and builds directly on the lessons Paul taught me here.

    Danger Patrol helped me learn to embrace playing different games with different people. Before that, I felt like I had one set of preferences and I needed to shoehorn everything towards meeting them. Danger Patrol taught me to have goofy fun with goofy friends, and to save the serious plots for serious people.

    Apocalypse World is like a treatise on all the different places where mechanics and fiction can end or overlap. It's shaken me something fierce.
  • Probably Jared Sorensen's octaNe. It was the game that sucked me out of the games that I was frustrated and struggling with and introduced me to a completely new kind of RPG play. I came across it in college, ran a lot of short sessions for friends, and the whole "yes and" or "no but" results of rolls was kind of mind blowing for me.
  • Vincent Baker's work in various ways at different times.

    I feel like instead of fantasy heartbreakers, I just write lumpley heartbreakers.
  • The Pool, for showing me how fun a game could be even if the mechanics of the die roll had absolutely nothing to do with realism, character ability, height advantages, etc.

    Dogs in the Vineyard for a whole variety of reasons:
    * How a game can allow you to put your character's life on the line, but only when it matters, without taking the tension out of the game.
    * How a game can teach you how to prepare for a game, and give you a template that delivers exciting, explosive fun, every time. Scenario design's not a magical gift from on high: it can be designed for.
    * For teaching me (from a design perspective) about desperation, and what it makes people do.
  • "Puppetland" - still the most elegant game I've ever read, over a decade later. It taught me that the rules don't need to be a cartoon physics of arrows in flight, that they can be a cartoon physics of belief and desire. It has a simple, brutal, effective pacing rule that completely reset my expectations about narrative velocity in gaming sessions. It also set me on the path to lazy GMing, showed me how to get and use flags, and was my gateway to small-press and indie games as a whole. Pretty good for a game of less than 10 pages!
  • edited February 2012
    Dust Devils. Just reading a review of it changed the way I looked at roleplaying forever. A maniacally focused, elegantly implemented, independently published game? Really? OK, that is what I want.
  • edited February 2012

    While I don't like some parts of the rules, it was the game that proved to me through play that games could influence player behavior to produce the type of game you want even when half the people at the table are completely skeptical of the system working at all. Prior to that experience I had viewed rules as a sort of necessary evil, and didn't think of them in terms of how they influenced behavior, but how they "simulated" stuff.

    It really changed the way I look at how game systems function (well, that and reading more principled game design outside of tabletop).
  • Hackmaster showed me the coolness of character behaviors as reward, through the "honor" subsystem.

    Spirit of the Century cracked open my brain to the idea of "narrative control"

    Burning Wheel showed me that I could play in the fantasy world I always wanted, while tying the above two points into one badass packaging. I had a gritty game, that was tightly focused on the characters story, and still allowed the GM to challenge the players in meaningful ways.
  • Wushu, for this paragraph: "Sadly, traditional RPGs have long been in league with realism. They penalize players who want to, say, kick seven mooks with one spin kick by piling negative modifiers onto their roll, which makes them less likely to succeed. The inevitable result is that smart players stick to simple, boring actions and take a tactical approach to combat. Wushu breaks up this insidious alliance with a core mechanic that rewards players for vivid descriptions and over-the-top stunts by making them more likely to succeed, each and every time."

    Other games said it sooner, possibly better, but that phrasing, at the time I read it, was like a hammer to the face.
  • Kirt Dankmeyer's _Unsung_. I still think the game is really cool, despite never being able to find players for my hyper-specific UN FPU in Liberia scenario (whoda thunk it?). But the bottom line was that it was the first game I'd seen that wasn't just the basic D&D physics model structure, perhaps with a few tweaks or a genre port.

    I mean, actually, I'd played Pendragon before, but for some reason I didn't really appreciate it - Unsung was the game that sort of opened my eyes to the broader realm of possibilities.
  • TFT. (Coming to it from AD&D) "Oh, game rules can all be consistent and work together? Neat."

    Paranoia. "Keeping things moving is more important than getting the rules right? Neat."

    ... decades pass ...

    Universalis. "You don't need a GM? Neat."

    ... several years ...

    Lady Blackbird. "You don't need to prep? You don't need a railroad? You don't need more than a couple of pages of rules? And it'll still be the best game you've ever run? Neat."

    Geiger Counter. "You can do without the GM and play can still be fast and fluent? Neat."
  • Riddle of Steel.

    "You mean ... my character can die? And that's okay? Holy shit wait actually it's awesome."

  • Ars Magica. Seeing the way that you made choices about which nouns + verbs you invested in for spellcasting defined the way you solved problems without limiting you to a pre-chosen archetype, and that then your personality would be shaped by the kinds of problems you solved and keep making your character deepen in that direction, was my first inkling of what mechanics were for.

    OD&D. The way that it presents nothing recognizable to modern eyes as a mechanic, just a lot of procedures and content, was my first inkling of what mechanics had been training me to do when the chips were down.
  • Oh, yeah:

    The Shadow of Yesterday: "Wait, if I buy off my key, I have enough XP for two new keys? My character grows mechanically as a direct result of growing in fictional depth?"
  • Boothill/Metamorphosis Alpha, for showing me that everything wasn't a dungeon crawl.
    Lacuna, my gateway to indie gaming.
    Wushu, for re-writing the narrative roles.
  • Until I played Don't Rest Your Head, I had only ever played AD&D and Shadowrun (2nd and 3rd editions). The concept of a game where the players weren't just passengers in some story written by the GM was new to me. And a dice mechanic that wasn't just a determination of success or failure, but something vital to the narrative and theme of the game was something I'd never even imagined. I had no idea that games like that were out there. I've been addicted ever since.
  • edited February 2012
    Four phases for me (so far):

    Reading and playing In a Wicked Age (and reading Mouse Guard and bits of Burning Wheel) blew my mind open to possibilities I'd only dreamed of playing RPGs, but I had a hard time making it work; playing Fiasco was what really made me grok how easy it can be; reading Apocalypse World (and Play Unsafe) and playing Dungeon World drive the point home and have made me so much more comfortable doing it; playing Lady Blackbird and Mouse Guard more recently has helped too, in different ways.
  • edited February 2012
    Over The Edge. Lightweight mechanics. Freeform chargen. World you don't need to spend an our explaining. Weirdness. Importance of going with the flow. How lack of "balance" doesn't have to matter. Tons and tons and tons of stuff.

    For me OTE is like the SICP of roleplaying games.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: nikodemusOver The Edge. Lightweight mechanics. Freeform chargen. World you don't need to spend an our explaining. Weirdness. Importance of going with the flow. How lack of "balance" doesn't have to matter. Tons and tons and tons of stuff.
    OTE introduced me to light games and crystalised my understanding of several aspects of the importance of the narrative and character generation. My Life with Master and Dogs in the Vineyard, for me, were all about focussing on the character driven conflict.

    None of these were things which hadn't happened in any and all of my previous gaming, in D&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu etc, but when it's more clearly defined, it gives you a way of talking about what was going on. None of the earlier games really got to grips with what the game was about.
  • At our table we call our RPG experience 'before' and 'after Mouse Guard'.
  • the original GNS essays, Dust Devils and My Life with Master, pretty much in that order. Most of the rpg culture after those has been elaboration on what I already knew.

    The only exception is the OSR thing: certain Forge discussions in combination with the OSR blogosphere has taught me to look at D&D in a way that is new to me. There's no single specific game that did this, though, unless you count D&D itself.
  • edited February 2012
    Mountain Witch opened my eyes to indie designs and taught me that RPG mechanics can be abstract and they can be about story stuff.

    Shock taught that a game does not necessarily need a GM to work.

    Solar System taught me that one can actually make a story game that is heavy and vulnerable to one sort of munchkinism.

    Reading stuff from the internet has been a great tool to analyze my feelings regarding gaming, I should add.
  • D&D 4e.
    I had no idea that games were played this way. Then I played WHFRP 3e. What? Do folks REALLY play this way?!

    The whole extras and paraphernalia. This modern RPG and Boardgame combined. This fusion of 'story' and 'tactical combat' and bits and bobs to move around the table (and character sheets). My experience prior had always been a few sheaves of paper, or a notebook some dice, a rulebook, maybe a map or too. Then came this visual, tactile feast of TABLETOP gaming. Oh my goodness. I'd been playing BW (core only) for a year or so one-on-one and then decided to give this 'new-fangled' D&D a go after discarding the franchise when 3e blossomed. The Glitz! The Glamour! Shiny pre-made character sheets with cards and health tokens and pre-painted hordes of minis and tabletops full of dungeons and dank forests and dingy city streets.Then watching the penny arcade dudes with Messers Wheaton and Perkins on you-tube.

    Mind blown.
  • Posted By: Daniel LevineKirt Dankmeyer's _Unsung_. I still think the game is really cool, despite never being able to find players for my hyper-specific UN FPU in Liberia scenario (whoda thunk it?).
    Do I smell a convention scenario?
  • Deliria promised me that you could have a game where players were there to tell a story, and be proactive, and want to interact with each other and with the world you (as the organizer, game master, whatever) were trying to tell and that they could all blend and weave and play together in a mix of joy and anger and fellowship.

    It failed.

    The Mountain Witch delivered, quite unexpectedly, because I had never heard of it and had no reason to believe it would. And then it did.

    Happy Birthday Robot, Zombie Cinema, and then Fiasco showed me that games can also be great teaching engines, showing us some cool techniques with little flluff and mechanical abstraction.

    Polaris showed me that you have to trust enough to let yourself be angry. That unless you trust your fellow players enough to let them get to you, you can never get on that emotional roller coaster that is "really meaningful opposition."

    and Puppetland shows me every time I play it that gaming is a wonderful magic spell that can grab you and take you someplace else for a while.
  • Anima RPG. It's a fantasy heartbreaker with a complex ton of subsystems, but reading it was like having an old mustang in your garage, like a lot of junk that had something really promising underneat but craved for new parts, fixing and tuning. And the new parts came from FATE, Burning Wheel, DitV, DRYH, the Pool, 3:16... you name it. It was like fitting different engines, injectors, batteries, nitro, etc. in different configurations and watch it fly, crash and burn, or sometimes made elegant curves and movements it wasn't designed for.
  • Wow, this is hard. I think the first game that really changed my opinion about RPGs was Burning Wheel. Up until then, I think I'd mostly played GM driven games where the GM and players would struggle with trying to tell a good story and giving players agency at the same time. There was a lot of railroading and guessing what players wanted, even when the players would say what they wanted, things still went awry. BITs were the perfect tool for GM + player collaboration and communication, and we loved it!
  • One winter in college, I discovered Continuum, Fudge, Nobilis, and the Forge all at roughly the same. My life has never been the same.
  • I had this with InSpectres demo version with the UnSpeakable add-on (the Cthulhu / Lovecraft one). We played it, dunno, in summer 2007 or smth, practicaly (except maybe a short demo of Burning Wheel I played earlier that year, or maybe this was next one?) without any play experience with post-2001 (and really, with post mid-90's WW-like) design. It turned out that lots of stuff like the confessional and player contribution, improvised plot, "strong" scene framing and (practically) playing it GM-less/full was so intuitive and comfortable. Hacked the game (still: demo, I don't own the full game to this day) to pieces, after that. Polaris, DitV and Burning Empires followed.
  • I think Kill Puppies for Satan was the first time I ran a game where I let the players do whatever they wanted and have a blast. It got a bit weird because the players were playing their IRL selves, and then went looking for my in-game NPC self, haha

    Storming the Wizard's Tower made me "get" challenge-based play and really enjoy it.
    Polaris made me see that GMs aren't always necessary, and that a collaborative, structured framework can lead to some really amazing creative experiences.

    OSR games helped me to finally appreciate D&D, even if it did mean I would never want to play any iteration that was post-AD&D1e again :)

    Apocalypse World helped me to see how cool it could be if the fiction and the mechanics are very well integrated. That is, there are games like 4e where some powers have effects that cannot be readily translated into fictional events. But AW doesn't work like that - everything is right up in the front row, facing the fiction head-on. I want to do that! And I second the concept of "lumpley heartbreakers", haha
  • edited February 2012
    Star Trek: The Next Generation
    At a con first and a few years later with the Last Unicord Games edition. The first time I had a setting I was invested in and wanted to "get right", as opposed to playing a roleplaying game in which the setting is simply there. I still haven't found any other setting that I didn't just see as a tool or colour palette to draw from.

    The first game to introduce me to the difference between what I want to happen and what the character wants to happen. Later games would make this distinction more obvious to me when other players I played with were frustrated and annoyed by the way things turned out for their characters.

    Buffy - The Vampire Slayer: The Watch House
    This was a game I played in when I spent a year in Edinburgh. As the game went on it became more experimental (with 2 of us often involved in pre-planning games with the GM) but it also changed my expectations of what kind of emotional response a roleplaying game could get out of me.

    Primetime Adventures
    A game in which the emotional journey of a character is actually relevant to the game, as opposed to something for the player to fantasise about at home.

    For seperating the different roles the GM plays by actually giving them different character/voices. As a Paranoia GM you have to be impartial as the referee, malicious as the game-world and friendly and jovial as the game's host. Recognising that you have to switch between mindsets when you run a game has been a real eye-opener for me.
  • Some combination of all the awesome sounding games The Sons of Kyros played, discussed and analysed; by the time I came to read or play any of them myself, I was bathing in the kool-aid.
  • edited February 2012
    The frpg home-brew of my friend Tore, back in -86, changed everything; up until then I had only known cards and boardgames.

    My own game Muu came to me with the force of a vision one night. I wrote it down during the night, and on work the next day, and played it on a club that evening ...
    - and it changed everything I thought I knew about rpgs. Playing a game of poetic silliness to find harmony was ... strange.

    The marvellous game Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobson, thought me how to make simple and elegant games of the modern type. Nothing has been the same since I played that one some years back.
  • Posted By: WightbredAt our table we call our RPG experience 'before' and 'after Mouse Guard'.
    Can you unpack that a bit? What was it in MG that spun your head around? It's one of those games that has a lot going on under the hood.
  • Dogs in the Vineyard showed me that I want to play games that are about something and tell a specific type of story rather than trying to do everything.

    Dungeon World made me want to create content for more than just personal use.

    I always knew I'd play games with my kid but Happy Birthday Robot made me realize that I didn't have to wait.
  • PDQ and RISUS: My first introduction to simple rules light systems, and that the same simple mechanic can be used for everything.

    Fudge: a tool box that lets you build your own game to meet the needs of the setting and story.

    Fate: How the game can be fractal everything can be a character form an organization to a simple fire.

    WUSHU: The importance of giving players a reason to describe their action, at long last the end of I swing my sword again response.

    Sorcerer: The magic of the one page setting, that can skin the game to be the game you want to play. That a player generated Kicker get the players moving, and bought into the fiction. The beauty of a success = die = bonus = penalty math, that allow the GM to figure out how to handle most situations.

    Apocalypse World: "to do it, do it" how this makes the Narration define the game. GM has moves and never rolls the dice, this freed me to follow the rules of the fiction.
  • The Pool.
    I didn't realize that RPGs could have simple mechanics.

    Primetime Adventures
    Why the hell doesn't every game have scene-framing mechanics

    Simple, and more importantly, it forgoes randomization and point optimization for a mechanic that IS scary. More on this later.

    In a Wicked Age
    Forget stakes. Entirely. You don't need them. Wait, you don't..?
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse was the first RPG that I came in contact with that consciously had themes and a clear, in-your-face conflict. It seems a bit hackneyed and immature in hindsight, but next to Rifts being everything at once and a bunch of pointless lists of guns, Werewolf grabbing me by the collar and shouting "When will you rage?!" kinda blew my mind at the time.

    The indie games I encountered at Gen Con SoCal (which included octaNe, InSpectres, Enemy Gods, Run Robot Red, and a few others) put a bunch of new ideas in front of me, and more importantly really impressed on me that an RPG didn't have to be a ginormous tome that addressed the same cliche things every other RPG addresses.

    Maid RPG taught me the joys of randomness in RPGs. For me no other game has ever come anywhere close, and if you want to have random chargen, as far as I'm concerned it'd better be at least as interesting as Maid's ability to spit out a sexy heroine chainsaw-wielding cyborg fox spirit with a dark past who's working as a maid for bridal training. It's kind of ridiculous how many of my own games have ended up having random tables since then.

    D&D4e is still one of the more mathematically rigorous RPGs I've ever encountered, and it showed me as a guy who likes RPGs but not board games, just how good board game design elements can be. Mathematical rigor was one of the areas where I was lacking, and 4e showed me that it's possible to provide a rich gaming experience while keeping the math very tight.
  • Almost every one of them, for one reason or another.
  • edited February 2012
    I kinda had a reverse-epiphany.

    I enjoyed D&D and other games and liked everything I played.

    Until I started reading about them on the internet I never even knew railroady GMs existed.

    My group had fun with every game we played until we started trying games we had only heard of on the internet. I didn't realize I could play a game with my friends and have it actually be worse than just hanging out with them.
  • Burning Wheel Revised
    I had been out of role-playing games for 10 years except for one or two sessions of Star Wars d6 and GURPS. And a co-worker handed me a copy of BWR and told me to read it over the weekend.

    I had replaced my disinterest with AD&D 2E and GURPS with Magic:TG, and then replaced that with online computer games like Everquest.

    But reading BWR really blew my mind. I felt like the rules replaced the lameness and cludgyness I felt from 80s-90s RPGs (that I had played) with some rules that felt like they actually made sense. In particular, reducing all of the "gold piece accounting" with Resources, the streamlined skill roles, the life paths, beliefs; and even the Duel of Wits, which was not something I had seen done well before.

    When I got back to work on Monday, said co-worker directed me to The Forge, and I dropped down the wormhole...never to return the same.
  • Marvel Super Heroes: Advanced Set taught me you could keep "playing pretend," only now with dice and rules arbitrating the fiction.
    Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game introduced the idea of having to roll only once to hit and do damage (allowing fighting to be about the description of the fight, rather than the roll-a-thon)
    RIFTS taught me that, heck, most of the RPG business is not about great game design, but about selling books to committed customers.
    AD&D showed me how you convinced most adult men to role-play at all... albeit badly and with a whole lot of uninteresting meta-game baggage.
    Amber taught me how characters acquire depth and complexity.
    It Came from the Late, Late, Late Show taught me how superficial characters and genre-loving GMs can make for a memorable combo.
    Everway hinted at the rules of fiction being more important than the rules themselves.
    Unknown Armies gave me the gut feeling for what a "story game" should accomplish. Those that couldn't take me where UA could take me weren't worthwhile. Same goes for Feng Shui
    Sorcerer, Whispering Vault, Over the Edge, S.O.A.P., Dying Earth, ZERO all introduced me to the basics of indie story-gaming: making the system matter and do the work that GMs and PCs otherwise had to do in order to keep the game afloat. These were all incredibly buggy systems, but held the idea of player agency over the plot as sacred.
    A Freeform Storytelling Game Thing we did in college fixed most of the bugs by removing the system entirely, along with the GM.
    Riddle of Steel was the first indie game that brought back combat as a visceral act for me (like UA).
    InSpectres reminded me that there was a whole slew of Forge-based games out there that I should check out, and now you can run them in under 2 hours!

    I've been sympathetic with the story game mindset for a good chunk of my life, and keep on being delighted by what lies around the corner.
  • edited February 2012
    So I played Dogs* after GMing and then playing in about 4 sessions total of D&D 3.5, my only roleplaying experience up to that point. I can get exactly what I want out of roleplaying? i.e. create fiction that is meaningful in the game and have the game meaningfully impact the fiction. Read this old blog post for the whole story. Man, I was fucking excited.

    *(one character creation session; the rest was a disaster b/c the GM didn't follow the rules)
  • edited February 2012
    1983: Moldvay D&D: "You mean I get to make up my own world and story and everyone else will want to explore it? I bet I will enjoy this game for the next thirty years!"

    1986: GURPS: "At last, I have thrown off the shackles of character race + class and now I can implement my characters in all the beautiful unique detail they deserve! All other games are for simple children!"

    1992: GURPS Vehicles: "Hmmm. I'm not sure what I'm getting out of this."

    1993: Star Wars d6 / Castle Falkenstein: "Farewell shackles of needless complexity! From now on, I'm a role-player, not a roll-player!"

    2002: Dust Devils / Sorcerer. "Why is Wilson so excited by these things? They're just roleplaying games where you can only ever play one kind of story. What if I'm not interested in that kind of story? Thus, I judge there to be nothing happening here."

    2003: Savage Worlds: "Holy crap, it's fun to play with miniatures!"

    2004: The Riddle of Steel: "Holy crap, spiritual attributes are awesome!"

    2007: Beast Hunters: "Holy crap, it's fun to say yes and to reincorporate!"

    2008: Montsegur 1244: "Holy crap, 2002 me was a dumbass."

    2009: God of War: "I wonder if I can do these fantastic huge set piece fights on the tabletop?"

    2009: D&D4E: "The game informs the fiction informs the game informs the fiction."

    2010: Lady Blackbird: "The game is the module is the game is the module."
  • Dogs showed me that you really only should be worrying about what the characters care about, and you should only be rolling dice for things that the genre is interested in. It showed me that there's a difference between rolling for every minute action and rolling for what matters.

    Apocalypse World showed me that it's important to codify and lay out the procedure of even something as simple as how we talk, and how the GM decides what to do. It showed me that it's important to figure out just what in the world you're supposed to be doing, as a player, behind the scenes.

    Bacchanal showed me that you can make what's happening in the fiction weigh just as much as what the dice show.
  • Yttersta domen (Final doom)
    Showed me that zealous faith can be played earnestly without becoming slap-stick. Like, all that faith in that game is mechanically a leverage other people can use against you and buying it off gets you nothing and costs nothing but god damn that makes you stubborn to keep it!
  • Dreamation 2005, My Life with Master, with Michael Miller as Master and Judd Karlman, Tony Lower-Basch, Drew Morris, Joshua A.C. Newman, and me as minions.

    Up until that point, I'd played every version of D&D, all the genre-clones of it (like Boot Hill, Gamma World, etc.), Palladium, World of Darkness, Ars Magica, etc., ad nauseum. Up until that point, I'd never really fully gotten what I'd wanted out of gaming. Here's what fucked up my brain:

    * RPGs with winners
    * Taking turns
    * Non-physics-emulation, story-emulation
    * Two stats having to do with emotional states
    * Superpowers self-authored, with a very simple few-sentence system that produced something incredibly nuanced and flavorful
    * Self-authored disadvantages that you want to use
    * Endgame
    * GM had to follow the rules, in public, in front of everyone
    * No one had to come up with anything beforehand
    * Group creation of the villain?!
    * Most importantly: I had pathos and humor and my decisions mattered and I made a character and played with characters I loved, was creeped out by, felt pity for, felt proud of, and was glad to see die

    I could probably go on for a much longer time.
  • The Riddle of Steel is still in many ways my ideal game: lots of fightiness that really matters, great crunch, and easy as fuck to GM because of the brilliant flagging. Also, suitable for a long-ish campaign because the characters have lots of room for growth while still being challenge-able at any level.

  • Honestly, Dogs in the Vineyard. It showed me that mechanics don't have to subsume role playing. PTA was my transition from D&D but I was frustrated with it at times because of how rules-light it was. Dogs was just what I was looking for.
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