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Systems & Reviews
SYSTEMS & REVIEWS
I have a lot of material on specific RPG systems -- both commercial
and freeware. Below I have the articles and reviews organized
alphabetically by the name of the game. For each system, I usually
have a review of the core book(s), as well as a variety of notes
and articles about it. The articles include analysis, expansions,
game utilities, optional rules, and so forth. For articles on
role-playing in general, see my
RPG Theory page.
List of All Reviews
- This is a list of my RPG system and product reviews. This is
just the straight list of reviews -- no links for other
articles and notes.
- A near-future superhero/conspiracy game, released in 1999 by
White Wolf. To me, the outstanding feature of it is including
comic-book superpowered heroes but lacking any true villians --
which makes for an interesting twist on the genre.
- Amber Diceless Roleplaying
- A fantasy RPG based on the series of novels by Roger
- Ars Magica
- A mythic medieval RPG by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein•Hagen.
I like the design a lot. I have not game-mastered a campaign of
my own, but I played in a few campaigns -- the longest being one
set in 767 A.D., at the time of the founding of the fictional
Order of Hermes.
- Blue Rose
- A romantic fantasy RPG set on an original fantasy setting,
released by Green Ronin in 2005. It is inspired by novels
by Diane Duane, Mercedes Lackey, and Tamora Pierce -- and
uses an elegant variant of the D20 System ("True20").
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- A modern-day supernatural RPG based on the TV series, released
by Eden Studios in 2002. This actually seems to be one of my
favorite RPGs of recent years. The system is simple and clean
and handles the genre well, and even retains a fair degree of
- Call of Cthulhu (added Jun 22, 2006)
- A classic horror game originally released in 1981, but continuously
in print with many adventures and supplements. I've played in
games from time to time, including a long variant campaign in '96-'97,
several one-shots, and a new campaign in '06.
- Code of Unaris (added May 1, 2005)
- This is a diceless fantasy RPG released by Goldleaf Games
in 2004. It is designed for play over the medium of Internet
chat, but is published as a more-or-less traditional book
rather than as online software or online.
- Dead of Night (added Feb 1, 2007)
- This is a small-press monster-movie horror RPG in a pocket
format, well-designed for quick pick-up games.
- Dogs in the Vineyard (added Sep 1, 2005)
- This is a fantasy Western RPG released in 2004, with the PCs
as religious enforcers in a fictionalized version of the early
Mormon community in Utah.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- This is the original tabletop role-playing game from 1974, and
still the dominant game in the market. My notes mainly concern
the "3rd edition" released in 2000. It is a swords-and-sorcery
genre fantasy game.
- A universal system released in 1986 from Steve Jackson Games.
While I am mostly ambivalent about the rules system, GURPS
has among the best line of supplements. It has well-researched
sourcebooks covering a huge range of genres and topics.
- A detailed system designed for a lavishly detailed medieval
fantasy world, published since 1983. In tone, it is a cross
between Tolkienesque fantasy (with elves, dwarves, and magic)
and historical England of the early middle ages. What sets
it apart is the mass of carefully-constructed detail which
is paid to the regions, cultures, and races of the world.
- Hero System
- One of my favorite universal system designs, since I grew up
learning it. However, it is very difficult to learn.
It is a universal system similar to GURPS, though its sourcebooks
are have a different style and focus than GURPS.
- James Bond 007
- One of my favorite system designs, this is an excellently organized
and designed system aimed at emulating the feel of the James Bond
- The Lord of the Rings RPG
- A fantasy RPG based on Tolkien's works, released by Decipher
in 2002. I am not that fond of the system, but Middle-earth
is an intriguing setting for role-play.
- My Life with Master (Added November 21, 2004)
- An intriguing indie horror RPG released in 2003 from Half
Meme Press (an independent imprint of the author, Paul Czege).
The game is about the deformed minions of an evil mastermind
in an unnamed central European town in 1800.
- A horror RPG by Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze, which uses the
ORE (One Roll Engine) mechanics originally developed for
the WWII superhero game Godlike and also adapts the
madness meter rules from Unknown Armies.
- New Style Games
- This is a series of six low-cost RPGs from Hogshead Games, which
push the envelope by focussing on narration, short play times
(roughly an hour), and experimental roles.
- Parlor Larps (added Jun 22, 2006)
- A series of one-shot larp scenarios published in the 2000's.
Each has eight characters and is designed to be playable in one
room with minimal prep.
- Polaris (added Mar 10, 2006)
- This is a GM-less storytelling game about fairy-tale knights in
a mythic age at the North Pole, who are fighting hideous demons
that ripped apart their once-proud city.
- PS238: The Roleplaying Game (added Aug 20, 2011)
- This is a version of the HERO System / Champions that was
adapted for the PS238 comic series by Aaron Williams, about
a public elementary school for kids with superpowers.
- The Shab-al-Hiri Roach (added Sep 27, 2006)
- A horror role-playing game set in a 1920s New England college,
which mixes academic status fights with Lovecraftian horror.
I have played in three runs of this.
- Shadows in the Fog
- This is an occult horror game still in development, subtitled
"Horror Roleplaying in Jack the Ripper's London". I playtested
the alpha version in 2003, and include it here for anyone else
- System Reference Documents
- This is a collection of the "open source" mechanics released
using Wizards of the Coast's Open Gaming License. I have
collected a variety of material as browsable HTML, as well as
some data in XML and database formats.
- This is a universal, cinematic diceless system from Backstage
Press. I played two campaigns using variants of it.
- Truth & Justice
- This is a rules-light superhero RPG by Chad Underkoffler.
I gave it a mixed review, and it isn't really my thing, but it is
a solid effort and should appeal to others. I include a play aid
and some sample characters in my notes.
- Weird War II (Pinnacle Entertainment)
- This is a D20-based system from Pinnacle Entertainment set in an
alternate, fantastical history of World War II. I looked at this
in 2001 as a case study in using WotC's SRD as a generic set of
rules. Overall, I was disappointed in the results.
- Magic Systems
- A collection of articles on RPG magic in general. Most of it
should be applicable in any system, as long as you are willing
to tinker with it.
- GM Advice Books
- As part of my RPG Styles effort, I
have reviews of some books about RPGs and advice on role-playing
And I should mention a
John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Fri Jan 18 09:52:01 2008