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  1. I get that you don’t like excessive dice-rolling, but still, consistently misnaming Rolemaster as “Rollmaster” is likely to confuse readers who aren’t in on the joke.

    1. Already fixed it. Funny story, the first draft had it as Rolemaster, but I saw some online references to Rollmaster while looking for article pictures and thought I had misspelled it.

  2. It’s ROLEmaster. Rollmaster is the ironic pun on the name because of the dice rolling involved. However, I have had many fun sessions with Rolemaster and its mountain of critical charts. It was perfectly playable if you stuck to the core, largely, and didn’t try to add all the rules from the deluge of companion volumes to it.

  3. If he doesn’t know how to spell “Rolemaster” and “Glorantha” it’s kind of a miracle that he can spell “Cthulhu” XD

      1. Yet you missed spellchecking in the line number entry: Cthullu.

        It’s not a bad list at all. Some great titles here, but to be honest I took the humor out of Paranoia and renamed it “Justified Paranoia”, and ran that. Another favorite of mine was Gamma World. Interestingly, the TMNT RPG introduced me to the comic, instead of the other way around.

        1. Thank you, fixed the Cthulhu typo.

          I loved the TMNT comic and initially picked up the RPG books because they had some small comics and artwork in them. When Laird sold the rights I heard that he retained the right to produce a few comics every year, and I was really hopeful that he was going to complete volume 4.

          I actually got into Paranoia just seven or eight years ago. I was going through the board game section of a thrift store and they had a couple brand new 1st edition boxed sets.

    1. Hero System/Champions needs to be here, and for other pioneering Superhero games, Villains and Vigilantes.., and Superhero 2044 for that matter

      1. Did Ars Magica make your list at any point past 10? Just curious. 😁 I’d rate that in my top ten myself, but as with your list, that’s a matter of personal preference. Nice list. The fact that Call of Cthulhu is number one is a win! 😂

          1. You’re right. It was first published in 1987. That’s my bad memory for ya. The 90s list is pretty sweet also. Including the commentary on TSR’s idiocy. I went to GenCon the year TSR came unglued and Wizards bought them up. Lots of TSR employees fearful for their future. Though the main reason for their failure was the dominance of Magic The Gathering.

  4. Hero System/Champions should definitely be #2 on this list, and Villains and Vigilantes should have an honorable mention.

  5. The title of this made me chuckle. All of them? OK, lots of them.

    Fell out of love with D&D sometime in the early to mid 80s when I discovered there were lots of other games. Never much of a Fantasy fan, I prefer SF and Superhero RPGs with favorites from the era being V&V, Champions, Star Wars D6, FASA Star Trek, Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space, Ghostbusters, Paranoia, Cyberpunk, and classic Traveller. Hard to narrow it down to 10.

  6. Never heard of Ghostbusters. Besides D&D and Traveller, I was playing Top Secret, Gamma World and Champions; and the game I still play from that era is SPACE 1889.

    Should we be relieved that Bunnies & Burrows didn’t make the cut?

    1. There was a Gurps Burrows and Bunnies, so I like to think that it’s technically included.

      I got a ton the stuff for the ’87 edition of Top Secret for almost nothing from a Sears clearance sale, but I was never able to find the core rules box set. I spent a decade looking through those books thinking the game looked so cool, and knowing I’d never have the rules to play it.

    2. Traveller should definitely be #1. It only had one other RPG to go by and completely revolutionized the concept in its first go. That feat should not be underestimated.

      Cthulu #2 for the reasons given.

      Runequest #3 as the fantasy RPG that tried to be a simulation as much as possible for those into that.

      Arcanum was the best D&D alternative that played like D&D in a worthy manner and gets #4.

      Champions gets tied with Villians & Vigilantes for letting us be superheroes in the true sense and made tropes actual game mechanics. #5 & #6.

      GURPs both because Steve Jackson finally made his mark on RPGs and making a really playable generic system for any genre. #7.

      After this I don’t have strong opinions but I expect Boot Hill deserves to be in here somewhere. Never encountered Pendragon but the description sounds cool so likely deserves a spot.

      Ghostbusters, StarWars, and Warhammer really don’t warrant being in any list of good examples of RPGs, IMHO. MERP was also quite disappointing as anything but an interesting reference but otherwise unplayable.

    1. I didn’t include any games from the late 90s because they weren’t around for most of the decade. If I ever do a list for the 2000s, something from Silhouette will probably end up on it.

  7. You seem to be confused on the Traveller Editions. Mongoose Traveller is a different company publishing under license, as did GURPS. The latest, Traveller5, is the 5th official main line edition. Period. Not confusing at all.

    1. Traveller
    2. MegaTraveller
    3. Traveller: The New Era
    4. Traveller 4
    5. Traveller 5

    It is still being published today, and there are several authors who got their start writing Traveller adventures.

  8. Played 9 of the ten mentioned, one that isn’t mentioned and has a loyal fan base still is Ken St Andre’s. Tunnels & Trolls
    This game had a wealth of solo adventures as well as the deviously classic Grimtooths Traps Vol 1 & 2 .

    It was a game that never took itself too seriously . Character creation took minutes and dungeons could be complex or done on the fly.

    1. Loved Tunnels and Trolls. Liz Danforth’s art is second to none, and the solo dungeons were deadly. They had a great little magazine in Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Sorry to see that not as successful as it could have been.

  9. The lack of superhero games is the major observation – with Champions, Marvel Super Heroes and DC Heroes all making a splash in the 1980s. So did the Judge Dredd RPG (if that counts as a supers game).

    The rest of the list I generally agree with, albeit not necessarily the placings or some of the commentary. One has to take into account that some of these games were big in the UK, which is linked to the availablity of games through the, then independent gaming magazine, White Dwarf. D&D, Traveller and the Chaosium games were all distributed through deals with Games Workshop, while WFRP was a homegrown game. This accounts for much of their popularity at the time. It also should be noted that, at the time, gaming sales were still heavily dominated by D&D/AD&D, regardless of the competition.

    1. I noticed that too, as did a large number of my friends. No Supers? Superhero games were all the rage in the 80s. There were so many! Marvel, DC, V&V, Champions, Heroes Unlimited, Golden Heroes! Many we played a lot of these in those days.

  10. You missed a number of other ‘dark’ roleplaying games, notably Kult – which was a successful translation of a Swedish game, and more obviously Cyberpunk 2020. Feng Shui created a splash against this tendency, as did Castle Falkenstein and so did Deadlands, although this was still technically a horror game (just more jocular in tone). One should also take note of the rise in Mind’s Eye Theatre (LARP) gaming, and diceless gaming which was pioneered with Amber Diceless.

    Fudge, I’m afraid, barely registed in significance at the time, while Heavy Gear was a lot more prominant in game circles than Mechwarrior ever was.

    In terms of Call of Cthulhu, in fact, it was regarded as a bit stuffy in the early 1990s compared to all the other horror RPG games that emerged. A number of popular 70s and 80s games suffered a bit of a hiatus in the 1990s – RuneQuest was barely seen, for example. However, Call of Cthulhu reclaimed a ‘cool spot’ in the later 1990s with the emergence of the Delta Green supplements (that essentially tied it to The X Files).

    1. I almost put Cyberpunk 2020 on the list. It was the last game I cut to get it down to ten. And I honestly forgot that Amber was a thing.

      I’ll disagree on Fudge though. As someone who spent most of the 90s a broke teenager with equally broke friends, Fudge’s free rules were a godsend. It’s also the only game other than D&D I remember getting a lot of play in online chatrooms in the 90s.

  11. Call of Cthulhu’s mechanics are heavily-based on Runequest’s as they were both from the same Chaosium “Basic Roleplaying” skills/percentile house system, though where Cthulhu triumphed was in the tremendously high quality of its (award-winning and deeply researched and well-plotted) supplements and adventure scenarios / campaign books.

  12. Rolemaster is hardly as bad as you make out. In fact, several of the games listed above MERP involve heavier die-rolling mechanics. Consider a standard combat action between RQ and RM for example (and I prefer RQ)

    RM: Calculate first strike, roll d100 hit, roll again if open-ended. If fumble, roll again, check chart, apply results. If hits, apply, If hits and critical, roll again on critical chart and apply.

    RQ: Calculate first strike, roll d100 to hit. If hit, opponent rolls parry or dodge (or subracts Def for RQ1 and RQ2). If parry, roll damage, subtract weapons AP, apply results. If parry fails roll hit location, roll damage, subtract armour, apply results. If miss, roll parry or dodge, apply results – this may include the defender rolling damage against weapon. If fumble, roll against fumble table, apply results.

    Rolemaster does have a lot of charts, but they’re not complex. If it erred, it’s because most of what it included in charts could have been achieved in calculation (which is something GURPS does instead).

  13. TMNT and Ghostbusters were brilliant.
    I’d add/replace with
    Toon
    Space Opera
    Stormbringer
    In the Labyrinth
    Bunnies & Burrows (original)
    Boot Hill
    Flashing Blades
    Champions
    Empire of the Petal Throne
    West End’s Star Trek the Roleplaying Game

  14. Nice article but I was surprised Champions didn’t make the cut. That game dominated the NC Triangle area in the 90’s.