Sunday, August 17, 2008

Table-Top Heroes: The Top Five Best Games You May Not Have Played

Everyone's heard of D&D. Love it or hate it, everyone knows it's there. And then there's the World of Darkness, spear-headed by Vampire, Mage, and Werewolf. White Wolf, their creators, do a few other games you may or may not have heard of, and I'll be naming at least one of those here for you. This is a list for people who are getting tired of playing the same game every time, or for people who are looking to get into gaming, but haven't been interested in the traditional mainstays. Some are hard to find, but they're all entertaining games with interesting back-stories and a lot of potential.

Little Fears
When it comes to horror games, everyone's heard of Call of Cthulhu. What everyone has NOT heard of, but definitely should have, is Little Fears, The Role-Playing Game of Childhood Terror. Little Fears crafted a potent mythology combining the simple fears of children with the very grown-up fears for children. It's very mechanics-lite, but under the hand of a creative story-teller, Little Fears provides the background for some of the scariest games you've ever played.

Nobilis is hard to find. Nigh-impossible to find for an affordable price, in fact. But, if you can download a copy of it, or find one at a used bookstore, Nobilis is one of the most unique fantasy role-playing games you will ever see. In it, you play the fundamental force of...something. You choose what. Some are taken by NPCs already, but you can be anything from the Power of Pointless Betrayals to the Power of War to the Power of Automatic Weapons. I played the Power of Small Cracks in Things, and I had a blast. It's well-suited for stories that range from obscenely epic to as intimate as can be, and it offers the players more customizability than you can shake a stick at. Even though you could, technically, shake a stick at the book. I don't know if it works that way.


Scion is one of the best games I've ever seen for experiencing the transition between the mortal heroes of legends to the gods they represent. You begin the game a Hero, the living child of some ancient god. Your powers work because of your divine lineage, and as you grow in power, you move up to Demigod, and then, finally, to God. Your enemies can be other gods, but often, it's the Titan-spawn, the agents of the Titans of myth. The game does an excellent job of keeping to White Wolf's traditional d10 system while still making you feel like the most epic thing that ever lived. And you can be that epic at anything - politics, language, gunfights, whatever fits your character best. As action games go, it's hard to beat Scion...


...but X-Crawl does. X-Crawl just might be the best thing ever to come out of D&D. Imagine D&D set today. Imagine all of history re-written to fit these standards. Ben Franklin, the First Archmage of America. Dungeon Crawling is the most popular extreme sport in the world. DJs make their career running these death-traps, and the heroes are the dungeon-crawlers themselves. Do well in the crawl, establish a catch-phrase, a signature look, and you could become a millionaire. Groupies flocking to you, movie deals come your way. If you fail in the Crawls, though, disgrace awaits on the outside. The combat is great, and with the right DM, you'll soon find yourself living and dying over the ratings you get each 'episode', and how it effects your life outside the Crawl.

Exalted: The Fair Folk

Exalted is a great game, filled with cool ideas and epic heroes. A lot of the time, though, it becomes a fairly standard hack 'n slash game. The players often degenerate into douche-bags, playing Solars or Abyssals and playing them as stupidly as possible. When run well, though, the intrigue, excitement, and mythology of the setting can be a huge asset. But there's a subset of Exalted that deserves a special shout out: the Fair Folk. In the Fair Folk, you really can't just play it as a hack 'n slash. The mechanics of the game are confusing, but when you do them right, it turns each player into the story-teller, and turns combat, be it social, physical, mental, or something else all-together, can be laugh-out-loud hilarious or relatively heartbreaking. The Fair Folk is a great game for a creative group of players.

So, there you have it. Five table-top RPGs that deserve some notice. If you and your group are getting sick of D&D or the World of Darkness, these are a few entertaining alternatives. There's something for everyone in this list, so I hope you and your gaming group enjoy trying some of 'em out!

1 comment:

Melsenschlap said...

Hey - Brendan LaSalle here, creator of Xcrawl. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Look for the new Edition, Maximum Xcrawl, due in early 2010.

Thanks again!