Treasure Tables is in reruns from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Over on Abulia Savant, my friend (and fellow GM) Don Mappin recently posted an intriguing exercise: Rank your 10 favorite RPG campaigns, and see what your list reveals.
This is a great idea — let’s give it a shot, shall we?
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Don’s post for the guidelines (no one-shots, can include games you’ve run or played, etc.), as well as to comment on the original concept.
Martin’s Top 10 Campaigns
- AD&D 2nd Edition solo campaign (me), late 80s
- Twilight: 2000 (Stephan), 2001
- Marvel Super Heroes (Dave), late 80s
- Mage: The Ascension (Matt), late 90s
- AD&D 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms (me), late 90s
- Stargate SG-4, d20 Modern (Don), 2004
- D&D 3.5e Forgotten Realms (me), 2003
- Shadowrun solo campaign (me), late 80s/early 90s
- Paranoia (Stephan), early 90s
- Warhammer FRP solo campaign (me), late 80s
The thing that stands out about my top three is that they were all just fun — they were detailed and lovingly crafted, but also freewheeling and off the cuff.
#1 was a solo campaign I ran for my best friend growing up, Bud, that lasted several years. It spanned several D&D worlds, and every time I learned something new, I incorporated it into the game. (Luckily, Bud was a great sport.)
#2 was just sublime — Stephan is an amazing GM, and the sense of a post-nuclear-exchange world spiralling out of control in that game sticks with me even today. It was a blast to play, and it made a big impression.
Dave’s MSH game, in the #3 spot, was also a solo campaign. I played my entire superteam, and I traced silhoeuttes from Dragon Magazine and drew on their costumes — we got into every little detail, and had tons of fun doing it.
The fact that I GMed half the games on this list doesn’t really surprise me — I’ve GMed a lot more than I’ve played. Ditto the fact that 4 of the 10 games are solo campaigns.
I had a few good friends growing up, but they were in different places and didn’t really know each other — so we played solo. I’m sure that had an impact on my perceptions of what gaming is all about, but I’d be hard pressed to pin down exactly what that impact was.
In his original post, Don mentioned that he was concerned about the dates on his list — most of them were years ago, not at all recent. My list looks very similar, but I’m not concerned about it, for three reasons: I gamed a lot more growing up than I do now; I had less other stuff to do, so we played longer and more often; and nostalgia played a major role in making up this list. (I’d contend that nostalgia is a powerful force among geeks in general.)
Don’s format also leaves out some of my best recent gaming, which has been at conventions, as well as some of my best early gaming, which took the form of one-shots of Call of Cthulhu. One of my all-time best gaming sessions ever, for example, was a Burning Wheel event called “The Gift,” run by Luke Crane at GenCon 2005 (man, that game rocked!).
I guess there were two surprises for me in making this list: How high MSH ranked, and how low my own Selgaunt campaign ranked (#7). The former was a surprise because that game was so long ago, and I didn’t know a fraction of what I know now about gaming — which, I suspect, was part of what made it so much fun.
That my 2003 D&D campaign ranked so low is interesting to me because in nearly 20 years of GMing, it’s the game I’ve put the most concentrated work into. It also got me into RPG freelancing, and indirectly led to my starting Treasure Tables.
The problem was that I concentrated so hard on some aspects of the game (like an extensive buildup) that I neglected others, and was so intense about it that I lost sight of the bigger picture — just running a fun game.
How about you — what are your top 10 campaigns, and what did you learn by ranking them?
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post, and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums?