Just to confuse matters, these are in alphabetical order but to my mind they represent the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to roleplaying games.
Amber – The godchild of Zelazny’s novels, Amber brought us some really innovative methods of determining hierarchy and conflict resolution in a diceless roleplaying system. Re-defining the player character as a “godlike being” among tiny humans while also making them juniors in their own hierarchy.
Ars Magica – The definitive fantasy/Mythic Europe game brought us Troupe Play – the idea that you would maintain multiple characters in a single game. This concept has since been applied to almost every genre. Ars Magica still leads the way in running a Mythic Europe game out of the box.
Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu – One of the first games where the ability to hit someone was not the primary focus of creating a character. It was the first time it certainly when more people were interested in creating characters as “professors” and “archeologists” rather than “fighters” and “magic users”.
CyberPunk – What did it do for us? In such a combat-heavy game, it got us seriously thinking about initiative, armour, the damage that guns inflict and also how playing a bona-fide X-factor applicant (Rockerboy) was a real option. It also gave us Netrunning and helped us realise that a Netrun was really boring for the rest of the players.
Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP) – redefined the super-hero RPG genre by presenting the most flexible, most configurable game system of all time without compromising simplicity. Talk about a game that refuses to die!
Pendragon – a shot in the eye for recent indie games which attempt to force immersive roleplaying by pigeon-holing players into restrictive roles. You play a knight. That’s it. Not a priest or magic user. Playing a rogue is right out. Not only that – it pays to be a Paladin. It’s essential to your progress to act like a knight.
RuneQuest – the champion of Basic Role-Playing and also shouldering Glorantha, one of the most popular culture-game settings out there. It helped re-define the role of the magic user (in essence, everyone is a magic user) and gave real depth to the relationship between gods and their followers.
Skyrealms of Jorune – my personal favourite as a culture-game setting which stretched the imagination as to what could be really familiar as well as superbly alien. Not everyone could take Thriddles seriously but the background, a web of secrets, was enticing and rich, richer perhaps than any other man-made background.
SLA Industries – a relative newcomer but in spite of the not-entirely-shocking revelations near the end, we had some of the most involving gaming in this setting which, on the face of it, did more for trivialising murder than any other game. It was the first and last game to successfully meld horror and sci-fi.
Vampire – love them or hate them, White Wolf brought a much needed influx of people into the hobby and some of them remained. We’ve not seen a change in the market since to the same scale and it would be unlikely anyway. Vampire taught us that a game could be about humanity and character and not just about wearing black leather trenchcoats, mirrorshades and strapping a katana to your back.
WFRP – takes a lot of rap for being a game for losers – by this I mean, the game setting kinda reinforces even more than CoC that you cannot win. Even if you do find the demon possessing the guy who is on the throne, tomorrow you’ll catch some horrific disfiguring disease and die anyway.
These are mine.
What are yours?