Recommend unto me a good pen-und-paper RPG that likely no one will play with me

2300 AD (aka Traveller 2300)

Bunnies & Burrows

Empire of the Petal Throne

The Fantasy Trip


RuneQuest (but not the Avalon-Hill edition)

Skyrealms of Jorune

Space: 1889

Villains & Vigilantes

Play through the sort-of-gamebook character creation system for one of the earlier editions of Tekumel (Empire of the Petal Throne). Pretty weird, and definitely pretty cool. The books were called “Adventures in Tekumel”, vols. I-III. Very out of print, but you can find scans online if you know where to look.

Also, not online in any form I know of, but if you want a long read that’ll take some time to wrap your head around, there was an old RPG called ARIA:Canticle of the Monomyth, that seriously tried to out-pretentious White Wolf. Full of lots of pseudo-academic gibberish, more Randomly Capitalized Words than You can Stand, it nonetheless had some really cool ideas- players roleplaying whole cultures, lineages, etc. across centuries, dropping down into single Personas when Circumstances Demand it.

For more accessible stuff, I definitely second the recommendations of Nobilis and Unknown Armies. Really cool settings, and the writing is top-notch. In that vein, Rebecca Borgstrom (author of Nobilis) also did some really cool writing work in “Weapons of the Gods”, apparently based on the wuxia comic book of the same name (though I’d never heard of it before I bought the book, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of it at all- hell, I still don’t know anything more about the comic than the fact that it exists).

You can probably pick up an old Everway set for cheap. Lots of neat ideas there.

I have Aria. That just sounded too cool to pass up, ideawise. I hear it doesn’t really play well, though.

This time two years ago I was pretty dejected about my prospects for running or playing in games. (I think that’s about right. I may have some minor details of the chronology wrong, and I’m not gonna scour my chat logs for evidence of what I was doing in April 05, but that’s immaterial.) I figured I was pretty much out of the hobby.

I was wrong. It took a few false starts, but I put together a game by going through a long process of suggesting games, expanding on that, and sharing other people’s suggestions. It only ran eight sessions, but it was that way on purpose because I wanted to try something less ambitious and actually finish it. After than game, I ran some more short-term stuff, then threw together a long-haul IRC chronicle that’s now into its 15th session or so and is a lifeline to the far-flung friends I left behind when I moved.

If you really just want to read an RPG book, that’s fine. I’ve certainly done that. There are plenty of good suggestions along those lines in this thread. (Nobilis is my vote; start with the gameplay example chapter and THEN read from the beginning.) But don’t think you can’t run a game if you aren’t persistent about it.

Talk to people. Present and solicit ideas. Think small to start; come up with a short-term game tailored to the intersection of your players’ interests (and your own, because it’s vital that the DM have his own passion for the game too). Contemplate it, read up on it (including both game books and out-of-game stuff), watch appropriate films or TV shows if you can think of any, assemble music that gets you in the mood to run it, and think, think like a motherfuck about the thing. Come up with the characters, polish them, make them distinct – it’s okay if they’re a little crude to start with. Think about the setting and likely situations and stuff that would be cool if it happened in the game. Work with the players on their characters – most games will benefit from a collaborative character creation session.

Once you get the ball rolling, the rest will come more easily. New games will form, new people will want to play. Every gaming community goes through periods of inactivity, but all it takes is somebody who really, really wants to run a game to kick it into motion again. If worst should come to worst and my present game falls apart, I will think about it for a while, assess my mistakes, and come back with new ideas. The failures are a learning experience; they teach you what to avoid.

I’m very sympathetic to your plight. I’ve certainly been there. If you decide to run something online, I would – schedule permitting – be honored to play in it. Unless it’s some kind of rules-heavy, frequent-combat thing, because I don’t swing that way, baby. But other than that, I’m there. And while online play can take some getting used to, logs of every game session are a hell of a bonus.

Another vote for Nobilis. :)

Aria and the Worldbook are a pair I’d buy for any game developer working on a setting. It’s got some good tools for sorting out how a world might work, how cultures might be organized and the role of heros and myth in changing the nature of a society. In fact, that’s the whole idea behind Aria - that the player characters are in the middle of making a society changing myth. They just don’t know it, ICly, at the time.

You’ll see the same approach to storytelling in Fading Sun’s adherence to the “Passion Play” concept. Characters are treated just like regular folks in each session but the players, and the storyteller, know that whatever the outcome of the campaign it will have huge reprocussions in the universe and the result of the saga will be written up as a legend. The difference is that Fading Suns takes a more traditional DM/player model while Aria’s approach to world building and mythmaking is cooperative and designed for carrying out successive campaigns that continue shaping the world into the future - complete with systems to help manage it.

As folks have noted, of course, Aria’s actual playability is sketchy and the rules can seem clunky too. Fading Suns is pretty easy to play and the “Passion Play” mode is only one of several approaches you can take to it. It also comes with a very developed setting, a shelf full of decent quality sourcebooks, and a design that borrows so much from so many places it would be very easy to run any kind of campaign, or recycle content from other games, from horror to space opera to fantasy with the tools, people and places invoked.

Edit: Weapons of the Gods seems like more of a deliberate experiment. Some folks sitting around having coffee talking about different ways to get players invested in the setting. The idea is pretty neat. Players instead of just spending points on skills or stats can also spend them on plot hooks that tie their character directly into the setting’s backstory. They can invest a little and have a passing connection to the theme, and the potential rewards for resolving that connection, which is the purpose of having a setting in a game anyhow, isn’t it? They can invest a great deal and be a key player in that aspect of the setting or at least in how it may eventually go. Each thread is detailed with narrative text and linked to associated themes and threads.

This seems to make for a really organic feeling to the setting but immediately a couple potential problems cropped up for me - if this were actually to be played. The organization of the background is scattered all throughout these seperate entries and so it’s not very easy getting a handle on how everything works. And it might be hard for players to get a really good handle on what they’re buying for their points if they can’t go through and read all the backstory up front themselves. Will they want to? And to what extent will that spoil surprises for them given how the arc of these elements is all but spelled out in the text?

Seconding Unknown Armies. Great setting, shit system. Though the rulebook spends less time on the setting than I would have liked.

In Nomine’s a good one, but stay away from the splatbooks, where the writers forget that the original game was meant to be a lark.

White Wolf’s Adventure! is also pretty awesome. Pulp adventure, just one book, digest sized. Good stuff.

If you can find it, Ray Winninger’s Underground is also readable.

Unknown Armies’ run of sourcebooks were pretty much all universally excellent, too. Although deviating from the thread’s thesis of never-playing, the “One Shots” supplement has one of my favorite intro adventures that I’ve ever ran, involving some escaped convicts and a couple hostages home-invading and holing up in an old farmhouse with a spectacularly creepy couple with dangerous secrets of their own. It had me at the tagline: “Four convicts. Five hostages. One gun. Do the math” and the rest did not disappoint.

I’d suggest Scion too if no one has already. It’s got a ruleset somewhat similar to Exalted, but is a more real world setting.

And unicorn’s advice is good for getting a group together. When I moved back to here, I had no prospects, didn’t know anyone to play with, was pretty sure I was done PnP gaming. Then I went and joined up at a local hobby shop with a bunch of kids and some adults. I found through a couple of sessions those adults were playing games at one of the guy’s house and from there I’ve had as much PnP as I can handle. The group has changed a bit, but we’ve always got people waiting in the wings ready to play. We’ve actually got to separate groups that started out together and three people that are wanting to play something as soon as we have room.

I think Rifts and Earthdawn are the best for this sort of thing. Both are fascinating reads, and going through the spells/abilities/options is a lot of fun in both cases.

One I’m rather fond of is 7th Sea, although it might be a bit hard to find as it’s been out of print for several years. It’s a low-fantasy Renaissance setting that is premised around swashbuckling high adventure, encompassing everything from Three Musketeers to Jack Sparrow to Indiana Jones. It also uses AEG’s roll/keep d10 system, which is one of my favorite systems of all time.

Gahhh. How could I forget Underground- superhero ‘veitnam’ vets waging a terrorist war against the US government!. That game was soooo well written, I was scared to run it. I mean, I’m prettty politically savvy, but there was no way I could do that setting justice. It and all it’s supplements were fucking gold.

Whoa. I’m shocked anyone else here has even heard of Aria. Like I said, some cool ideas wrapped up in an absolute mess of a pair of rulebooks.I’d love to see a compter game like that- guide a civ, then when big events start to happen, drop down to a single character/family/party and resolve stuff, when its done, zoom back out again.

And as for WotG, I think the point of the story-hook system was that there was no need to read all the setting info ahead of time. You just picked one (at random, whatever), and it gave you all the info you needed to know about that aspect of the world. It may or may not have worked in practice (I haven’t played, and loved the things so much I just went ahead and read them all), but I’m pretty sure that was the idea behind them.

Linking related thread so nobody misses it.

I’d almost forgotten the absolute best RPG book to get if you’re just looking for reading entertainment:

The Ultimate Powers Book for the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG.

Just thinking about that instantly transplants me back to 1987.

I loved the way at the beginning of that scenario they set it up by having the PCs attending a suburban housing association council meeting. It really set the tone. Also, having grown up in a suburb of Kansas City in an area with housing developments like Oak Tree Meadows and Bedford Downs and Vendome Estates, they pretty much got it right.

Ah, my go-to book for bathroom visits for years. Who needs USA Today when you can read one of the weirdest lists of super powers ever. I especially liked the description of prehensile hair where the book basically makes fun of you for having rolled such a lame power.

It looks like those are still in print. If they’re the ones you are referring to, I’ll definitely snag them. The solitaire play sounds interesting. I can’t recall where I came across Tekumel before, but I’ve definitely heard of it fairly recently. Is the Empire of the Petal Throne worth picking up as well?

Empire of The Petal Throne is the original name of the product. It was the second RPG TSR ever published - right on the heels of the original D&D game. It’s kinda neat in that it’s a world as developed by a linguist only this one, unlike Tolkien, studied Indian and Pakistani languages rather than Saxon eddas and he too has three initials in front of his name - M.A.R. Barker. The world he came up with was rather different to say the least. So exotic, in fact, I don’t think many folks felt really comfortable running it and to this day few settings come off as being nearly so original.

The downside of Tekumel is the very dated, pulp, feel for some of the sci-fi elements and non-human races. The upsides are the vicious politics, exotic cultures and the dark sorcery. Anyone into Lovecraft will find something to enjoy in The Book of Ebon Bindings.

My favorite version, and I’ve only been able to locate a photocopied one last I tried, was Gamescience’s Swords and Glory. It piles on the detail in the rules, excessive and unplayable levels of detail, that interweave the setting with an anal-retentive approach. It might not be a great game but it does help a reader grasp how Barker thought things should work in a way that tends to get smoothed out of later versions and never occured to anyone in the original EoPT - a game that was essentially D&D with funny names.

Edit: Damn. Just thinking about all the games folks have talked about in this thread reminds me yet again how generous I have to be to even contemplate the settings and concepts behind computer and videogame RPGs. Tekumel, that ancient ancient setting, makes Morrowind look like kid stuff.