So each year I put up a post to get a feel from Wellingtonians what RPGs published that year have been their favourite. Though this thread is aimed at RPGs published in 2013 only, please feel free to mention supplements or any other RPG you encountered this year that stood out. Like last year, this one is a little earlier than previous years (I tend to post in late November) as I am confident that the following will be accurate for the remainder of the year.
This year followed last year's trend (in fact a trend now since the low point of 2010) in being an amazing year for RPGs. Where 5 slots may have been a struggle for me in some years, this year 5 slots is not enough. This year the top 4 of 5 being not only great RPGs but ones I want to run and play right now. Its at that point you realise that the standard for judging RPGs has been raised. I think Kickstarter remains perhaps the main driver of this trend. As major RPG publishers started to loose ground from around 2006, KS reversed that trend for small publishers in 2011.
For me, this year saw the rise of the all round RPG. An RPG that was solid in all aspects without needing either a gimmick to make it appealing, whether mechanical, setting-wise or some kind of new approach. This has been a challenge as these kinds of games suit regular gaming more than one off Con style gaming, so I haven't had as much actual play with my top 5 as I would like.
Before leaping into the top 5, I have to give a nod to Dungeon World, which I got a lot of actual play experience with in the first half of this year. It only got a notable mention on the year of its release but thanks to it I finally got to revisit some of my older D&D modules.
My top five for 2013 are:
1. Atlantis: The Second Age: I love Sword and Sorcery. I also think its a perfect genre for gaming, more so than the more common heroic fantasy found in D&D and its many imitators. However, I had not found a S&S RPG that appealed to me, despite some great attempts. They proved either too gritty and specific (Stormbringer) or too OTT and unspecific (Barbarians of Lemuria). This is very much the dichotomy of the genre though, with OTT heroes in a gritty world that has a specific flavour but no grand concept.
Atlantis: The Second Age is the perfect balance for me. It is a gritty world with powerful and motivated protagonists that has a strong flavour but lacks a lot of detail. Its can handle the 30s classic novels, the 70s revival in books and comics and the gonzo 80s Hollywood movies. Its system is straightforward and approachable, but also gameable and supportive. With the nearly completed Beta already out, I am highly anticipating the final book, along with the setting/bestiary book already being KSed.
2. Double Cross: This RPG is a dark X-Men conspiracy RPG. It came out of the blue and is an English translation of a popular Japanese RPG. I think it also will earn its way into my top 5 RPGs of all time in time. It didn't beat out Atlantis for top RPGs this year, purely on it having less playability. However, its design is pretty amazing and finally presents a modern supers RPG that I think I could really get my teeth into, with D&D4e lite tactical mechanics and a "limit" system much like that found in Tenra Bansho.
3. Warbirds: This is a diesel punk dogfighting RPG set in an alternate universe based on the Caribbean (though in the sky). This RPG also took me by surprise, though I had only encountered the designer's superb previous RPG, Remnants, earlier this year. This RPG is just a joy, with traditional mechanics that pitch just the right balance for an incredibly fun dogfighting system, complete with the ability to pimp out your plane without a degree in accounting. The setting is also filled with enough hooks and guidance to get you started, but with lots of room to explore. Its not a world I thought I would enjoy but I find myself wanting to run it.
4. Lords of Gossamer and Shadow: I missed out on Amber Diceless, but this spiritual successor really won me over. I couldn't even imagine how a diceless RPG could work until I read it, but now I think it would be a great outing for Kapcon. Also, the move away from the setting specifics of Amber to something reminiscent of that, but also more generic and accessible is a great combination. Added to this is superb art direction, with many pictures looking like great artworks. A heady combination and truly awesome.
5. Golden Sky Stories: This is also a joy, an RPG in which the PCs are magical shape-changing animals, helping people with everyday problems and having fun along the way. Perhaps not my natural cup of tea, hence its fifth placing, but well executed and with lots of love. It is also great to see an RPG without physical conflict as its focus. It also got Sam back into the GMing seat, so that's awesome.
A notable mention goes to Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, showing that good RPGs from big publishers aren't a thing of the past. Though a little confused at times, its a decent attempt at combining several successful RPG ideas into a cohesive whole that will appeal to a lot of RPGers out there.
My 2012 choices: Tenra Bansho Zero, Shadows of Esteren, Marvel Heroic , Hellas 2nd Ed., Legends of the Wulin.
My 2011 choices: One Ring, Mistborn, Fabled Lands, Vampire the Masquerade 20th Ann. Ed., Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.
My 2010 choices: Eclipse Phase, Gamma World D&D4e, Dresden Files, Eoris, Icons.
My 2009 choices: D&D4e, Mouse Guard, Summerland, Anima, WFRP3e.
My 2008 choices: CthulhuTech, Dragon Warriors, D&D4e, Dark Heresy, Grimm.
My 2007 choices: CthulhuTech, Star Wars Saga Ed., Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Solomon Kane, BlissStage.
My 2006 choices: A Game of Thrones OGL, Spirit of the Century, Qin, Burning Empires, Agon.