The Magnificent Seven

There’s this “10 RPGs that had an impact on you in 10 days” activity going around, and I figured I’d do mine.

Gamma World

Gamma World 3e was my first roleplaying game and still has the best cover art of all time – look at that fucking cyborg otter and his power armor bunny sidekick, whom he keeps around only for his thumbs. It stays with me to this day – Glow in the Dark is my love letter to this game and how “my” Gamma World would look.

Marvel Super Heroes FASERIP

My local group STILL plays this.
If you squint, the white/green/yellow results map nicely to PbtA’s 6-/7-9/10+ mechanic.

Top Secret/S.I.

I had the High Stakes Gamble (for car chases) and Commando (for fancy army guns) supplements and my middle through high school years were filled with poorly done juvenile Die Hard and Schwartzenegger homages. I still have the hit locations memorized.


Notable for having similar but COMPLETELY DIFFERENT hit locations than Top Secret SI, Reign was and still is my favorite One-Roll Engine treatment. The Company rules and one-roll chargen were mind-blowing back then and are still worthy of your time. My group hacked this for Firefly-style space homesteaders as well as China Mieville-inspired steampunk.

Burning Empires

Burning Empires is fairly adversarial play restricted to a set campaign length and riddled with interesting minigames. Our single campaign of this was probably my favorite overall gaming experience, and I don’t think I’ll ever play or run this again despite that. This taught me that rpg campaigns don’t need to peter out – you can plan for an ending, like an HBO miniseries. It taught me that playing hard is rewarding when you have a good system supporting play, and finally its use of simultaneous actions is something I’m still chasing in my own designs.


Fate aspects are genius. I would love to be able to describe my character with natural language and have the system respect that at some level in just about every game.

Fate is also very, very hackable. In fact, you kind of need to hack it to get it singing for your table, but since I’m hacking just about everything anyway, having that kind of welcome invitation in the rules is liberating.

Blades in the Dark

Of course Blades is gonna be in this list, considering it’s what I hacked for my first real big boy game. This is the game that got me into Hangouts/Roll20 gaming, which in turn put me back in touch with some old friends. I’m grateful to this game and its community for that.

Mechanically, killing the “planning phase” is worth it alone, but flashbacks, how gear works, the fact that it’s d6 pools with keep highest, all these things make Blades in the Dark my favorite recent system.

4 thoughts on “The Magnificent Seven

    1. BE’s based on the Iron Empires graphic novels by Christopher Moeller (Faith Conquers and Sheva’s War) but BWHQ did a kickstarter to fund a third one a few years ago, Void. They’ve got that sci-fi-religion vibe you get with Warhammer 40k but without the excessive gothicness. The bad guys in BE are the Vaylen, brainworms that “hull” humans (well, I believe they can infest other species but BE’s focus is on humans because that’s what you play) for their experiences. A Vaylen’s a worm, and worms suck, right? But if they’re riding a human they have all this awesome capability to sense and feel and experience life differently, and that kind of drives their need to invade and conquer. They want a better world for their billions of brainworm kids.

      Some humans in the setting also have psychic powers, and they can sense Vaylen and if the psychic is hulled, they lose their psionics. There’s some cool conflict and intrigue that can happen with that if you have psychics on either side.

      Speaking of sides – the players play the Human side and the GM plays the Vaylen side, and plays as many fully-statted-up NPCs as there are Human players. Each side gets a set number and type of scenes to play out each session, and at session’s end you make this opposed infection roll and keep a tally of who’s winning the war so far. I liked the resource management aspect of the scene economy – it let me dig down into my “mean GM” side because I could rely on the rules to keep things fair. GM fiat is immensely reduced. For example, if I only have one Conflict scene (firefight or duel of wits or what have you), I might have to decide whether I want to raid the PC spymaster’s safe house with religious men-at-arms hoodwinked by their infected priest-captain, or I might rather try to convince the PC prince to open shipping lanes (full of Vaylen freighters) in a Duel of Wits. Can’t do both in the same session.

      It also introduced me to I Corner Him And Stab Him In The Face, which is a single opposed rock/paper/scissors roll that leaves someone dead or severely wounded. The end of our campaign featured, like, a The Departed amount of those.

      I found that the game needs a lot of reading, and I’m sure we didn’t do all of it right. I think the players’ side needs at least ONE player who knows the rules too (this was my brother when we played), but more importantly this didn’t feel like a “show up and roll dice” kind of game. Get people who want to delve into this thing and can provide some of that authorial power for their own color scenes (where you establish stuff about your planet and the ongoing setting) and who can compromise goals at the player level but play hard for them mechanically.

      Liked by 2 people

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