Wes Baker

#RPGaDAY2020 Day 5: Tribute

August 5th, 2020

A lot of the games I enjoy reading and playing are tributes to prior games. A huge swath of RPGs are clones or heartbreakers of some edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In particular, I’m drawn to tributes to Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons due to it’s simplicity and emphasis on problem solving over combat. In fact the combat isn’t that great unless the players and GM make it so. What makes the game interesting is finding interesting ways to avoid combat, to go around the fight, to weigh the scales in your favor. There are many great games paying tribute to old school Dungeons & Dragons: you can go light weight with The Black Hack. Maybe you want some science-fiction with your Dungeons & Dragons, in that case look into Stars Without Number. Or perhaps you want to retell a coming-of-age story as a group of friends goes out to defeat some local villain and realizes theres a bigger world out there and maybe they can make their dent in the world, in which case you should play Beyond the Wall.

Now we’re starting to see more tributes to other games. Troika is a tribute to Advanced Fighting Fantasy (a game I’ve never played, but Troika is great!). Warlock! is a tribute to both Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

In some cases, things have moved beyond tribute and become their own game. In particular, Electric Bastionland and Into the Odd come to mind here. They’re sorta about going into dungeons and if you squint they sorta look like Dungeons & Dragons, but they’re mechanically different and push beyond the expectations.