28 December 2016
TTG writer John Dodd rounds up the best RPGs this year has had to offer
In the next instalment in TTG’s ongoing Game of the Year features, writer John Dodd – responsible for the magazine’s regular Role Call roundup of RPGs – picks out his favourite roleplaying offerings of 2016.
It’s always good to look back on a year and see the good and the bad that have been forthcoming, and so it is with games. There have been a great number of releases this year, and they’ve brought not only new editions of older material, but also games that have changed the way we play, and games that have changed the way we do things.
For myself, there are a number of games that stand out in this year’s calendar, and I’m going to run through them all now in no particular order.
Pelgrane Press’ Dracula Dossier offers a massive campaign that I had the fortune of seeing played through in a single weekend; all the information, the contacts, the encounters, NPCs and, above all of that, the structure to run what can only be described as one of the most epic campaigns that has ever seen print. This has been a phenomenal achievement and a masterpiece in modern gaming.
Elsewhere, Cubicle 7 finally released the long-awaited crossover between Middle-earth and Dungeons & Dragons in the form of Adventures in Middle Earth. A marriage of the most successful setting of all time with the longest running game system of all time could easily have been given less perfect treatment and it would still have sold based on the crossover value, but C7 brought their best to the task, and the product that was forthcoming does justice in every way to all the parts of it. Excellent as both a starter set and a book to continue the adventures with, this has been rightly seen as one of the most significant releases this year.
Also from Cubicle 7 came the re-release of the updated Lone Wolf, bringing a whole new generation the joys of the worlds that Joe Dever (who sadly passed away earlier this year) had brought to many of us in the early days of our playing. I hope that this line will continue even without further input from its creator, and that there will be many more years adventuring to be had.
From independent publisher David Black came the Black Hack; minimalist roleplaying at its best, a touch of humour, the barest nod to rules to play with and all the attitude that OSR roleplaying came from all those years ago.
Following that, up came the Cthulhu Hack, one of several enhancements to the Black Hack, this one dealing with the setting of Mythos, particularly harking back to the original Lovecraft stories with new and interesting ways of handling the PCs going mad.
Mindjammer introduced the fascinating setting of the Far Havens, something that took all the different aspects of Mindjammer and put them together into a world setting that was both expansive whilst feeling claustrophobic. A perfect example of what can be done when people believe in the game setting that they like.
The long overdue Call of Cthulhu seventh edition, finally released by Chaosium, is a new book with new systems and all updated artwork and source material. In the first of what we hope will be a long running series of releases, Chaosium caught up with all its commitments and started again on the line to being one of the most popular games in roleplaying history.
Modiphius’ Mutant: Genlab Alpha, meanwhile, is an excellent fusing of Mutant with the flavouring of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from many years ago. The setting was interesting to begin with, but with the sudden access to so many different creatures, the range of possibilities opened up far beyond the original setting and we hope will continue for years to come.
The publisher also launched the newest version of Mutant Chronicles, updated and complete in every way. While a re-release of existing materials, it was a re-release that was updated and improved for the new generation – I always loved Mutant Chronicles from many years ago, so to see it reborn fresh was an excellent day.
But for the game that has inspired me most this year, I have to go overseas to Jarnringen, who produced the game Symbaroum. This game had a new style of playing, an interesting system, and above all, a world that was both dark and intriguing with so many new things to consider. Given the unique look of the game and the way in which it handled the nature of the unknown, how it left things open to interpretation and gave the referee endless scope to adapt things, it was a bold move that changed the landscape of RPGs and I hope, will continue to do so for some time.