RPG a Day 2018 – Day Twenty-Four – Which RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?

Which RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?

This is a really difficult one, because what I think of as an obscure game and what actually is can differ quite a bit.

I’m not the fastest person. When the d20 glut and slump was over and the dust settled, the big dogs were D&D and the (then) New World of Darkness. There were some games like Legend of the Five Rings and Spycraft which I considered ‘indie’ as they simply weren’t those two.

When I moved beyond those games for a few years, away from RPG.net and regular socialising with other GMs, I simply assumed the community went with me. I skipped Pathfinder, lost track of what the hell Onyx Path/White Wolf were going through and started following the RPG communities on G+. I got into The Gauntlet who are my benchmark for RPGs and started checking out a lot of their recommendations.

If not for them, I’d say Final Girl deserves some love, but it’s something they’ve raved about a ton. The same goes for Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne. These are both stellar games and should be in the discourse more for the things they do. The same goes for Psi*Run, which one of my players brought up as a retort for what I love about 7th Sea. It does similar things of placing dice in different boxes for different results. It’s a really neat game and reflects a very specific, set challenge. You’re on the run, you have psychic powers and you’re slowly regaining your memories.

My choice for this is Cthulhu Dark. It’s a system which has been around for a while in a free, tiny format. It’s actually perfect for all you need in a Cthulhu game. Call of Cthulhu, like old school Paranoia, is a system which exists almost invisibly. People don’t really notice or care that much what it is. The story and the setting is king. Cthulhu Dark pares absolutely everything down to how you play the story and the rules help with that.

It uses a roll many, pick the highest kind of system which you see in games like Blades in the Dark and Spire. You’ll only ever be rolling a few dice unless you want to risk your stability (which is also their nice bypassing of the problematic ‘Sanity’). No matter what, you’ll always be succeeding to enough of a level where you’ll be able to progress with the story, even though often that’s a bad thing for a Lovecraftian character.

Making a big book of Cthulhu Dark is an amazing idea. As a challenge or a dare, Graham Walmsley made a giant book covering. The system is there, intact, but with a lot of tools including concentric drilling down into clarifications and variant uses of the two types of rolls (investigating, things other than investigating). It goes a long way into telling you ways to build mysteries and then has four scenarios in interesting settings beyond the standard 1920’s Arkham locations. So far I’ve only run the DLC scenario, “As Good as a Feast” which was a bonus for backing the project on Kickstarter, but it was the best GM’d Lovecraft system I’ve played. No one survived and the players became gloriously unstable as they turned on each other. I’ve heard some people complain that you’re always succeeding if the rolls won’t stop your progress, but actually they’re removing the logjam of failed ‘Library Use’ checks and driving you deeper into the horrors. If you roll badly, you get enough to carry on but not always in a good way. If you succeed too well, you might glimpse beyond the veil. Cthulhu Dark doesn’t pull its punches, despite being small enough to print into a bookmark.

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