#RPGaday2015 – Day 17: Favorite Fantasy RPG

We are back to a series of difficult questions as we roll into Day 17, which will stretch on to Day 21. I will endeavor to persevere. As with previous posts on the favorites theme, please understand that for me these are for the most part favorites only in the sense of being among my favorites, and for specific reasons given, chosen specifically for this post with the whole month in mind. The question for today asks us to identify our favorite fantasy RPG. While I imagine this will generate lots of responses on other blogs, for me this is the category with the least of amount of draw. Looking back for this series, it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that fantasy was not a genre that got a lot of priority attention in my gaming. Still, some of my best experiences as a gamer were in fantasy games, so I am fortunately not drawing a blank here either. I am going to disqualify games I have not played, as I think direct experience of a thing is required for it to enter the territory of ‘favorite.’ That will exclude the excellent Torchbearer, and the monumental pile of Warhammer Fantasy I have been reading these past few months. Be thee warned~


The fantasy RPG that I have played the longest, or at least have been willing to play if time and interest permits is Palladium’s Fantasy. Even after all these years (clumped into decades now) I still love the world, its peoples, and its magics. I admire the line it walks between toolkit and setting, and I still find it to be a whole hell of a lot of fun to run and play. Is it my favorite? I am not sure. It shows its age in places, and while things which were not a problem when I first played the game still present no problems to me, each time I pick up the rules to generate a character, introduce a new player, or start a new campaign, I have to sigh. An updated, reorganized book would be a lovely thing. Does that added bit of effort to get back up to speed with the game detract from its position among my favorites? Perhaps.

There have not been many fantasy RPGs that I have played since leaving AD&D for Palladium lo these many years ago. Later, I would discover Stormbringer (then in its 4th edition) and would follow it on to Elric!. These games were excellent, but I never managed to get groups to forgo their interest in the rising tide of WoD games to try them out for more than a few sessions. As a result, they ended up getting shunted to the ‘some day’ pile, and when I moved to Korea were all but forgotten. As I pondered this and the fantasy games which I have liked and played, I thought I would have to include Shadowrun among them, although it straddles a lot of genre lines. Would I cite it as my favorite fantasy game? I am going to have to say no, because it means more to me for its other genres than for the fantasy elements. Still, Shadowrun without magic and the reappearance of lost creatures and races would not be the game it is, nor hold my attention. I do not class the Dark Ages lines from the WoD as fantasy, although I see the obvious connections. When I ran them, there was a distinct effort made to downplay any drift toward ‘classical fantasy’ and keep things closer to the personal horror root.

A few attempts were made to interest me in Fate through the vehicle of fantasy, and they were resoundingly unsuccessful. The characters and sessions were very cool. The games…? not my favorites. Moving on~

When I found Desolation, I was surprised by how much it made me want to run a fantasy game. I even started a year-long exploration of different fantasy games as a result. That year has now lasted more than 2 years and will soon hit 3. That search led me to RuneQuest 6 and revived my interest in Stormbringer. I have been running a fantasy campaign with RuneQuest, heavily inflected with Moorcockian elements, for more than a year. Our group has put that campaign on hiatus to try RQ6 out in a different format via the Mythic Britain Arthurian setting. These two games, Desolation and RuneQuest, have very different design approaches, but bring the same themes and thoughts out in me. Desolation plays fast, and with a great deal of threat. It’s default is a broken world with remnants of incredibly high magic possible within it, but which is for the most part a low magic world of post-apocalyptic survival. RuneQuest is whatever I might want it to be, whenever I might want it to be that thing. That is attractive. It is more work than running and preparing to run Desolation, and it plays at a more reserved pace, but it is powerful, flexible, and inspiring. Of all the fantasy games I have played, these have the sort of systems which satisfy me the most, and are built around character ideas which speak to me deeply. They are also easier to share with newcomers than Palladium, which is meant as an observation, not a slight of that grand old game.

How can a person narrow such things down to one? The question itself is about game, and later on there is a question about setting, so that has an influence. Desolation and Palladium Fantasy I enjoy primarily because of their settings, while RuneQuest is a system mainly without setting. All three are supported by a ruleset which sees service in other games, but only RuneQuest of the three is a ruleset intended for you to make a fantasy game out of entirely on your own. Not only that, it is the most carefully put together of the three for its express purpose. Desolation is a license of a system, and Palladium is a patchwork of compatible ideas and good practices. As a result, I would have to say for the purposes of this question, RuneQuest 6th Edition by the Design Mechanism would have to stand as my favorite Fantasy RPG. Were I not to focus on system over setting, however, I suspect the honor would go to Desolation.

What is your favorite fantasy game?



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