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So you wanna be a hero?

As with so many, my earliest memories of roleplaying were linked to Ian Livingstone’s mainstream Fighting Fantasy book series and that shameful Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.

Hold on a moment! What’s a roleplaying game?

Click here for enlightenment.

It wasn’t long however before my friends and I began to dabble in fully-fledged tabletop roleplaying games (Basic D&D, Paranoia, Gamma World, Advanced D&D, Call of Cthulu and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) and miniature wargamming (Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40k and MechWarrior).

My arrival at university introduced me to the wonders of live action laser tag (e.g. Quasar, LaserQuest, etc.), CCGs (Collectable Card Games, e.g. Magic the Gathering), network computer games (e.g. Doom II, Quake, etc.) and LRP (Live RolePlaying).

Over the years, a couple of games have stood the test of time (in chronological order of play rather than merit):

WFRP (Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay)

Undoubtedly my favourite game of all time (having played it for 7 years and GMed it for 20+!). The reason is not WFRP’s game mechanics (while I admire the careers system, the remainder is mediocre at best), but rather it's campaign world (i.e. the setting). WFRP offers an wonderful blend of medieval/Renaissance Europe and a Tolkien fantasy with a heavy dose of dark conspiracies to finish. The result is a grim, perilous world of adventure and intrigue… Read more on the world’s finest roleplaying game ;)

Call of Cthulu

Set principally in the 1930s, our heroes attempt to solve the mysteries surrounding the supernatural, heavily based on the literary works of H. G. Lovercraft. The game mechanics may be far from perfect and the character development may be somewhat limited ("OK so your character failed their second SAN roll. Hmm, well your character now has the mental fortitude of a submerged box of Kleenex…"), but the atmosphere more than compensates for it. A further factor is the exceptionally high quality of virtually every rulebook revision, module and sourcebook. The great uncle of roleplaying games, Call of Cthulhu simply oozes class.

Vampire the Masquerade

A game in which the heroes play vampires. The principal aim being to uphold "The Masquerade" (i.e. evade discovery and the inevitable subsequent persecution in order to maintain the illusion that vampires do not exist while surviving the predatory vampiric society and other supernatural beings). Sounds a little odd and gothic? Indeed it is. But definitely worth trying. Great game mechanics support an original and fresh approach to roleplaying.

HARP (Highly Advanced RolePlaying)

It may be a while since I last played it (what revision are we up to now Mark? HARP 9th Ed. ?), but I harbour deep admiration for this game. While it is easy to eulogise any RPG written by a friend (simply because it is usually tailored to your particular gaming tastes), I genuinely believe that this home-grown system’s game mechanics represents the best trade-off between realism, speed and tactics. Not to mention the historically accurate, yet exciting campaign world spanning the late Dark Ages, Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Let’s hope that a publisher does one day recognises its potential.

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