333 RPG's That Changed Our Play

You play D&D, but then you come across that one rpg, or two, or three, that really changes how you play or run a role-playing game.

Thanks to Blake Ryan for the inspiraton.



While World of Darkness was the game set that changed everything for me, in the early 00s I met a bunch of WoD Larpers whose main game was Vampire, with lots of social pvp - constant scheming for and against the other players goals, and when they played Mage, Changeling, Werewolf etc they brought the scheming with them. Hence what Brett said about Your first game being your default style until you try something different.


I always thank my friend who introduced me into Vampire: the Masquerade and White Wolf. I also occasionally damn him for introducing it then moving away. I spent years playing online in chat rooms and reading ravenously and playing with so many people through that medium.

The game introduced me to different GMing styles and completely changed how I looked at the RPG hobby as a whole. It was no longer racking up XP. It became telling a better story, and blew my mind.


I started with the Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons and dabbled in AD&D when I could get my hands on it. To be honest, I’m not even sure I knew what the differences were when I was younger. I grabbed anything I could get my hands on that said Dungeons & Dragons on the cover.

From there I have to revise what I said during Monday’s recording because I realized there was an important step for me between D&D and Vampire the Masquerade.

West End Games’ Star Wars the Roleplaying was the game that introduced me to RPGs outside the mold of D&D. My family wasn’t well off but my parents cobbled together enough money to take us to Disney World because the Star Tours ride had just opened in '87. We were huge fans of Star Wars. As we left the ride we passed through the gift shop and that is where I discovered Star Wars the Roleplaying Game and The Star Wars Sourcebook. My young mind was blown! I didn’t have much money for souvenirs but I bought both books (and had just enough left over for a Pirates of the Caribbean rifle).

That game opened my eyes to a wider world of RPGs. Because I was so familiar with Star Wars, I immediately fell into the groove of telling stories in the Star Wars vein that were nothing like our D&D adventures. I started branching out from there looking for other games and soon I found my way to Robotech, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Heroes Unlimited (all Palladium Books, of course).

In '95, I played Call of Cthulhu for the first time and I was not ready for that game. I knew how to play adventurers and superheroes and I also had no idea who H.P. Lovecraft was. My horror lit education had gone no further than horror movie adaptations and a little bit of Stephen King. The game was great, I still remember most of it to this day but I wasn’t in the right mindset for it yet.

In late '95, my friends introduced me to Vampire the Masquerade and the wider World of Darkness. That’s when I got really deep into the storytelling side of gaming (and not just because that was the name of their system, hehe). White Wolf’s work changed my world for the better and I loved the community (quirks and all). I eventually becme one of the moderators on the White Wolf forums but that is a story for another time. VtM taught me about creating a real character and diving deep into that persona with that group.

My gaming world spread out from there. I did eventually return to Call of Cthulhu once I had properly educated myself and it is one of my favorite games to play now.

Anyway, great episode! Thanks for churning up the nostalgic memories. :smiley:


Since listening to this episode, I’ve been trying to think of any particular games that changed how I look at and play RPGs. For the most part, I do think it was the overall movement of narrative-based mechanics brought on by The Forge, PbtA, Fate, PDQ, and others. There was none in particular so much as elements my other game designer friends were borrowing for their games we were playtesting at the time.

Then came Marvel Heroic. While I’ve only played it a couple times, that sucker changed everything for me. How to present a game, how dice are more than just numbers sometimes, and so many, many things. It was such a game changer for me that I saw Cam Banks (one of the lead designers) at a convention and totally ran over, interrupted his conversation with other people, and shook his hand to thank him for making it. It completely changed how I look at game design by thinking outside the box while pressed up against it.


Yes! We’ve used variations on Marvel Heroic for Star Wars Jedis, for (completely crazy) Transhuman science fiction, and X-Files/Dirk Gently mash-up.

(by Marvel Heroic I mean Cortext Plus - at least I think that’s the other name for it).

Anyway - incredibly flexible, as narrow or broad as you want to make it. I love your description - “thinking outside the box while pressed up against it”.

Stole that one from Big Bang Theory. The show geeks love to hate, it seems.

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