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The 7 RPGs You’ve GMed the Most, and the 7 RPGs You’ve Played the Most

Over on Google+ someone started the meme #7rpgs [1], which I think is quite clever. When I posted mine [2], I picked the seven games I’ve played the most often. The leap from that concept to the seven games you’ve the most run (#7rpgsrun [3], which I started last night) was a short one.

Years ago, our own Don Mappin wrote an excellent post on his now-defunct personal website about ranking your favorite campaigns. While I think the original is gone, my personal list of 10 [4] (as of 2007) survives on Treasure Tables, so you can at least get the gist of the idea.

I think this stuff is important to understanding one’s own tastes as a gamer. We only get so much time on this Earth, we don’t get to decide how much time that is, and we all want to spend a portion of it gaming. So why not pay some attention to how we’re spending that portion? I know I don’t do that as well, or as often, as I could, and things noodling about top 10 campaigns, rating games on RPGGeek [5], and taking stock of most-played and -run games are all part of an effort to do better.

I know I’m an odd duck in this respect, as the number of people who obsessively rate their entire gaming collections is pretty damned small, but I don’t mind. I think it’s valuable, and if you don’t that’s cool by me.

Most-Played, Most-Run

Here are the seven RPGs I’ve played the most since 1987:

…and the seven RPGs I’ve run the most:

What does it all mean?

I won’t bore you with the personal details — as I think the most interesting thing here isn’t my books, it’s your versions of these lists — but I will share a few things that jump out at me as starting points for considering your own experiences as a GM and a player.

The first thing I noticed about my lists is the easiest thing to notice: AD&D 2e is the #1 game on both lists. It’s not the first game I ever played, but it’s the first one I bought into and ran, and the one I got into at an age (12) that meant I had a lot of spare time to devote to it. The gap between AD&D and the next game in either photo is probably better described as a gulf, not a gap.

The difference in play time between the first and the last in both pictures is also huge. I’ve probably only run 5-10 Call of Cthulhu sessions in my life, compared to dozens and dozens for 2e; ditto with World of Darkness (a placeholder for a number of games), which I’ve played a ton less of than most things ahead of it in the most-played list.

The fact that Call of Cthulhu is one of my favorite games and yet one I’ve run only occasionally, and not played enough to make it into the top seven (though I’ve played quite a bit of it), is a bit depressing. Less depressing is that two of the games on my most-run list, Mage and Star Trek, were run within the last few years — which tells me that despite having a kiddo, starting a publishing company, and starting to look at 40 as a Real Thing That Will Happen, I’m still gaming my ass off.

I find the overlap interesting too, though I suspect others’ overlap will be more telling. Mine tells me that when I find a game I like, I wind up both playing and running it more often than not. Which seems like a good thing.

Not shown in the photos is the fact that I would be hard-pressed to play D&D 4e or 3e ever again, and would think pretty hard before playing AD&D 2e as written. Which means that looking back I’ve spent an awful lot of time playing games I wound up not enjoying that much mechanically (though in all cases, good gaming was had because of good people and fun times, and often cool campaigns as well). Inertia is a powerful thing.

So that’s where staring thoughtfully at these two photos while stroking my beard and going Hmmmmm in a deep, sexy baritone voice (*) gets me. What do your lists look like? And what do they tell you about yourself as a GM, a player, and a person?

For the record, no one has ever, nor will ever, describe my voice as “deep,” “sexy,” or “baritone.”
38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "The 7 RPGs You’ve GMed the Most, and the 7 RPGs You’ve Played the Most"

#1 Comment By Totally Guy On December 17, 2012 @ 2:11 am

Played: D&D 3.5, nWoD, Shadowrun, Burning Wheel, Serenity, Mouse Guard, Basic Roleplaying.

The Basic Roleplaying one was the worst and nWoD and Shadowrun tended to disappoint me too.

Run : Burning Wheel, D&D 4E, Mouse Guard, In a Wicked Age, Inspectres, Dungeon World, Lacuna.

When I run I get the benefit of knowing that I’ll like the intent behind the system. I wish I could play in more games like those I run.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 17, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

“When I run I get the benefit of knowing that I’ll like the intent behind the system.”

That’s an excellent point.

#3 Comment By Eric Paquette On December 17, 2012 @ 4:59 am

Run: AD&D 2nd, D&D 4th, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, Heroes Unlimitted, Fudge, Marvel Saga, D&D 3rd

All those years being a babysitter while I was a teenager helped me get GMing experience in running TMNT.

Played: D&D 3rd, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, AD&D 2nd, Tékumel, Marvel Universe, AD&D

#4 Pingback By 7 RPGs Played and Run « Refereeing and Reflection On December 17, 2012 @ 5:19 am

[…] over at Gnone Stew drew my attention to this #7rpgs and #7rpgsrun thing and I thought it looked like an interesting […]

#5 Comment By Vantage On December 17, 2012 @ 6:34 am

PLAYED: AD&D, 4e, FASERIP, Everquest, Shadowrun, GURPS, Twilight 2000

Years of First Edition back when it was basically the only thing there was, followed by more Marvel than was probably healthy. A full 1-30 run of its newest grandchild. One campaign (or less) of each of the others.


I ran GURPS for a long time, but I am starting my third very successful FATE campaign with my current group, and am confident it will claim the #1 spot. Wasn’t usually the GM back in the day.

#6 Comment By Razjah On December 17, 2012 @ 8:18 am

Played: D&D 3.5, D&D 4e, Feng Shui, Pathfinder, Star Wars Saga, Savage Worlds, Vampire.

Run: D&D 4e, Iron Heroes, Pathfinder, Mouse Guard, Savage Worlds, Burning Wheel.

Oh man, I haven’t even run seven different games. At college I had enough trouble getting people to play games that I was familiar with, trying to get the whole group to learn something was even more trouble. We had a club owned collection of books, but I always tried to get the other members to borrow them and step up to the GMing plate.

#7 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 17, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

A number of folks I talked to on G+ also hadn’t run seven games, so that’s my bad for assuming everyone runs lots of games!

In some ways I wish I was more system-focused. I feel like my gaming life would be simpler if I was, say, an AD&D 2e guy and that was that.

#8 Comment By Johnn Four – roleplayingtips.com On December 17, 2012 @ 8:31 am

Mine are here:

BTW, happy holidays Gnomes!

#9 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 17, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

Merry Christmas, Johnn!

#10 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On December 17, 2012 @ 9:42 am

My list is skewed – I played a lot in the 1980s and 1990s, but it tapered off towards the end of the 1990s.

Playing – AD&D 1e, Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP), Rolemaster, AD&D 2e, GURPS, Car Wars (yes, we played it like an RPG), and Shadowrun.

Shadowrun only made the list because of the numerous attempts to play that resulted in 1-2 session campaigns, as well as the overall lack of games I played for significant periods of time.

Running – WitchCraft, Victoriana, GURPS, 7th Sea, AD&D 1e, Call of Cthulhu. d20/OGL games and AD&D 2e probably share slot seven.

#11 Comment By Roxysteve On December 17, 2012 @ 11:32 am

Played: Empire of the Petal Throne (and boy do I want to play on Tekumel again but sadly no-one else around here does), White Box D&D, D&D 3.5, A Song of Ice and Fire (bizarre system, that), Gamma World, GURPS Tales of the Solar Patrol and Deadlands:Reloaded.

Favorite: Mike’s D&D 3.5 campaign, which was a riot, and EPT which was just the most beautiful and exotic place to lose one’s innocence in the dawn of RPGs.

Run: White Box D&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Villains and Vigilantes, Deadlands:Reloaded, Space 1889:Red Sands, and D20 Call of Cthulu/Delta Green.

Love them all.

#12 Comment By llachglin On December 17, 2012 @ 11:48 am

This is a fascinating question, because it actually gave me insight into some of my frustrations as a tabletop gamer.

There’s not a lot of overlap in my lists:

As a player, the top games in order are AD&D 2nd edition, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, AD&D 1st edition, Dark Conspiracy, Marvel Superheroes, Shadowrun, and Call of Cthulhu.

As a DM, the list includes AD&D 2e, Rolemaster, D&D 3e, D&D 4e, Pathfinder, AD&D 1e, and Werewolf, in order.

Lots more D&D, including the most recent editions that I’ve DM’d but either not played at all or played very few times (not in my top 7). And my typical feeling is that I wish other people would DM more so I could play, or be open to playing something other than the later editions of D&D (3.x, 4e, or Pathfinder). There are also a lot of really old games on the list, though Savage Worlds is close to making the top 7.

#13 Comment By drow On December 17, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

i’m just going to lump all of D&D together, since i’ve played in and/or run campaigns in all the major editions, and it would completely dominate my list otherwise.

most played: D&D, GURPS, Car Wars, Battletech (FASA), Call of Cthulhu, Star Frontiers, Gamma World.

most run: D&D, GURPS, James Bond 007, Star Frontiers, Star Trek (FASA), Star Wars (WEG), MERP.

#14 Comment By BryanB On December 17, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

I’m going to follow drow’s example up there (not sure I have ever said that phrase before) and will lump D&D of all stripes into the same category, otherwise I would also have just about nothing else on the list.

Most Played: D&D, Star Wars (D6), Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Top Secret S.I., Robotech, Talislanta.

Most Run: D&D, Star Wars (D6), Star Wars (Saga Edition), Top Secret S.I., Twilight 2000.

I have played and run other games as well. I’d say somewhere between 60-65 different games systems run and/or played in total. But those that aren’t on the lists were not played or run enough to make the cut.

#15 Comment By Scott Martin On December 19, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

I seem to need weird stuff in my modern day games, like super-powers or magic, at least historically.

I like the idea of Top Secret and Twilight 2000, particularly in the abstract. [I still like the idea of them, but would probably look for similar stories in a modern system these days…]

#16 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 20, 2012 @ 6:48 am

I loved the brief campaign of Twilight:2000 I played many years ago, and while the setting would be easy enough to port to another game I actually liked the mechanics. Firefights felt dangerous, and when we planned well for them our enemies didn’t have a chance; the language rules made communication interesting; and the lifepaths made for fun surprises during character creation.

#17 Comment By BryanB On December 20, 2012 @ 9:39 am

Much of my running of Top Secret SI and Twilight 2000 took place during the Cold War. After the Soviet Union “disbanded,” there wasn’t as much of an interest in continuing the WWIII scenarios. Top Secret SI continued for a time but we tended to focus on law enforcement campaigns such as an LAPD precinct or Vice Squad.

Twilight 2000 2nd Edition had one of the best systems for modeling personal firefights and vehicles. It was a scary place to be, especially when the other side had a tank and the group was down to their last RPG. Top Secret SI had one of the most inovative systems for its time. It is a little dated by today’s standards but it might hold up.

I have since moved on from both systems. One could revisit WWIII scenarios though it would be an altered scenario from the old Super Power v. Super Power days. Being a historian, the premise of the game would have to be within my scope of believability for me to buy in. Espionage games are still of interest but they can be tricky to pull off successfully.

Either way, I would likely select a different system today. And I usually am able to adapt espionage/war scenarios into my other games, particularly Star Wars adventures. I don’t think I’ve had a gaming idea in the last thirty years that couldn’t be ported into that galaxy far far away.

#18 Comment By Kyle Van Pelt On December 17, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

Ran: GURPS, Shadowrun 3e, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, D&D 4e, D&D 3.5, Dogs In The Vineyard

Played: Pathfinder, GURPS, D&D 2e

It’s tough being the only DM in the area. I’ve played a total of 6 sessions (not games, SESSIONS) as a PC in the 15 years I’ve been gaming. In contrast, I have pared my “most-run” list from roughly 30 to 7.

#19 Comment By Razjah On December 17, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

What game is under Shadowrun in the first picture? It has the red “Fantasy” label. I can’t read the rest, and I can’t get the picture to enlarge clearly. It is also in the second picture, under the AD&D book.

#20 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 17, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, first edition. I think I bought it as a kid solely because of the cover, but I loved the game and played/ran it for years with different folks.

I’ve played some 2e and 3e as well, but nowhere near as much.

#21 Comment By Razjah On December 17, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

Thanks, Martin. I’ve never seen it before. I’ve only seen the newest edition (3rd?) with all the toys and the giant box.

#22 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 17, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

3e is a very different animal than its predecessors; it’s fun in its own right. 2e is basically a tidied-up 1e, no major changes that I can recall.

It’s an enduring license, so I’m sure there’ll be a 4e at some point!

#23 Comment By Wilbry On December 17, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

In frequency order…

Top 7 Played: DnD (up to pathfinder), Vampire: the masquerade, Ars Magica, Deathwatch, WHFP (3rd ed), Call of Cthulhu, Torg, Cyberpunk:2020.

Top “7” Run: DnD (up to 3.5), Deadlands (classic), Ars Magica, Only War (beta).

I have been gaming at least fortnightly for 20 years, so it was quite surprising to see how few systems I’ve GM’d. Especially considering Only War came out this year! 🙁

Interestingly, the more recent traditional style games have been played more often than staples like CoC, which is more a special occasion game.

#24 Comment By Cloudyone On December 18, 2012 @ 6:31 am

Chivalry & Sorcery
Call of Cthulhu
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
d20 Modern

Call of Cthulhu
AD&D (1E)
Chivalry & Sorcery
D&D 3.5
Mutants and Masterminds
Star Wars d6

#25 Comment By Nadiv On December 18, 2012 @ 6:42 am

Run: Monastyr (Polish baroque dark fantasy), Deadlands, Fading Suns, 7th Sea, Legend of the Five Rings, Hell on Earth, Planescape (Savage Worlds)

Played: Earthdawn, WFRP, Star Wars (Savage Worlds), Dzikie Pola (Wild Fields; Polish role-playing game, set in the historical setting of the 17th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), Neuroshima, Call of Cthulhu

#26 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 20, 2012 @ 6:50 am

I’m so jealous that you’ve played Neuroshima. I really hope there’s enough momentum behind the IP for an English-language edition to come out sooner than later.

#27 Comment By Roger Brasslett On December 18, 2012 @ 8:49 am

I’ve been amazed at how many WarHammer books I’ve seen in these pictures, especially considering how little WarHammer talk there is on Google+.

Mine are here: [7]

#28 Comment By Martin Ralya On December 20, 2012 @ 6:51 am

For my part, although I’ve played 2e once or twice and 3e once in the past few years, the bulk of my WFRP play happened in the early ’90s. If it was a staple of my time at the table these days, I’d be talking about it more — it’s such a fun game.

#29 Comment By ironregime On December 18, 2012 @ 11:27 am

I found that I could list six games I’ve run and played multiple times, but the 7th place would have to be a tie among various things that I only got to try once.

RUN: D&D (all editions), homebrew rules, Top Secret, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Exalted.

PLAYED: D&D (all editions), Talislanta, Star Wars, Ars Magica, Vampire, Stormbringer.

#30 Comment By brain_cloud On December 18, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

RUN: Kult, Vampire, D&D (all editions), Unknown Armies, Cowboys, Spies, Star Frontiers (yes, I am that old).

Played: D&D (all editions), Vampire, homebrew rules, Mage, Shadowrun, DC Heroes, GURPS.

#31 Comment By Vinzent On December 18, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

Played the Most…
Star Wars Saga
Star Wars WEG D6
D&D 3E
WoD Battlestar Galactica hack

Run the most…
Star Wars WEG D6
Mekton Zeta
Savage Worlds
Tales From the Floating Vagabond
Star Wars Saga

#32 Comment By black campbell On December 19, 2012 @ 8:34 am

I don’t get to play anymore, but when I did, it was: DC Heroes (Mayfair), AD&D, James Bond, Car Wars, Traveler…not even seven.

The seven I run most: James Bond, Decipher’s Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica (Cortex), Castle Falkenstein (using the Space:1889 universe), Space:1889, The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic), DC Heroes (Mayfair).

#33 Comment By daDiceGuy On December 19, 2012 @ 11:48 am

I played and ran AD&D, Top Secret SI, Feng Shui, Fading Suns, Amber Diceless, Leading Edge’s Aliens RPG and Champions the most. Playing AD&D is how I met my wife. The games I had the most fun running was either Amber Diceless & Fading Suns. Both those campaigns lasted several years.

#34 Comment By kwixson On December 19, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

I’ve put in equally serious time running every edition of D&D through 3.5, including Basic (so that makes 4) plus Shadowrun 4A, Paranoia and Pathfinder, D20 Modern and Skull Bash, a never released RPG my college friends and I wrote. The games I’ve played the most are AD&D through 3.5, Pathfinder, and Beta Force, another unreleased RPG. That’s not seven, but I’ve only had a few sessions each of Paranoia, and Call of Cthulhu, and sampling of a handfull of others. There are a lot of games I would like to play and can’t find GM’s, and games I want to run and can’t find players. That list would be Vampire Masquerade, A Game of Thrones RPG, A Time of War Battletech RPG, a FUDGE based steampunk game, and D&D Next.

#35 Comment By Scott Martin On December 19, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

RUN: AD&D [1st n 2nd], D&D 3e, Mage: The Ascension, D&D 4e, Amber Diceless, Werewolf: the Apocalypse

PLAYED: AD&D [1&2], Shadowrun, Vampire: the Masquerade, D&D 3e, Mage: The Ascension, Palladium in its many flavors, WEG Star Wars

Like Martin, AD&D totally crushes everything that follows in the list, as both a GM and Player, due to it being the system I played from grade school through college. Even when I experimented with other games in high school, it was with the full knowledge that it was at least every other game we’d play. It continued to be important through college and into the Skellwoods…

I had a great deal of success and pleasure with Mage. It was popular with my college group, and was successfully introduced to everyone I played with for the next 10 years.

#36 Comment By BryanB On December 20, 2012 @ 9:44 am

I find it interesting that we both have D&D as the base of our core experience along with a heavy dose of D6 Star Wars. Shadowrun is also a shared experience as players but not as GMs (I ran a couple games at most).

We also played Palladium and have both moved on to other things. 🙂

#37 Pingback By The Seven Games « The Black Campbell On December 19, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

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#38 Comment By Lord Inar On December 20, 2012 @ 7:39 am

in roughly chronological order

top 7 I’ve run:
AD&D, The Fantasy Trip, Villains and Vigilantes, 1st ed Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Middle Earth Role-playing & Savage Worlds

top 7 I’ve played:
AD&D, The Fantasy Trip, Middle Earth Role-playing, D&D 3.5, Star Wars Saga, Savage Worlds, & new World of Darkness

If you count online games, V&V probably bumps AD&D from my top played list now that I think about it.

#39 Comment By ggodo On December 21, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

Ran: Shadowrun, Pathfinder, D&D4, Homebrews.
Played: Pathfinder, Star Wars Saga, D&D4, D&D2, Cthlhutech

The best part of this is that all of the playing is a buch of false-start Pathfinder camaigns, one three month Star Wars campaign, one even shorter 4e campaign that I ended up taking over as DM for, and a handful of one shots. Compare that to the amount of Shadowrun and Pathfinder I’ve ran, and it’s nowhere near. I am Forever GM, cursed to never have anyone willing to run games I can play in.

#40 Comment By Tsenn On December 23, 2012 @ 5:40 am

Run: Shadowrun, Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Vampire, Rogue Trader.
Played: D&D, Shadowrun, Vampire, Werewolf, Star Wars, Iron Kingdoms, Song of the Lioness (homebrew).

I’ve not included one-shots, or games I can’t remember without looking at the bookshelves. Aside from IK and SotL (which was specifically a short form campaign) most of my games as a player seem to have gone on for over a year.

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