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Role-Playing Games of Note.md

Role-Playing Games of Note

First off, I should note that the definition of "Role-Playing Game" being used here is, intentionally, rather broad. It includes things like roguelikes, pen-and-paper RPGs, fictional RPGs, and computer games which may not be conventionally RPG-ish.

That said, here is my list of role-playing games of note.

Alphaman

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A post-apocalyptic roguelike which is alternately realistic (I'm thinking particularly of the weather patterns) and silly (you can be attacked by monsters called the Bush and the Quayle... and let's not forget the Venetian Blind!)

One of the best mutant powers to have is Mechanical Genius, which lets you take apart gadgets (like microwave ovens) and create new and interesting gadgets.

I had thought the name was an obvious play on "The Omega Man", given the post-apocalyptic nature of the game, but having just re-read the manual, the author claims it was inspired by the tabletop RPG's "Metamorphosis Alpha" (which was itself inspired by the novel "Non-Stop") and "Gamma World" (which was inspired by various post-apocalyptic novels and movies from the 1950's to 70's, which might well include "I am Legend" and "The Omega Man".) Of course, he doesn't say that the choice to combine "Alpha" with "man" came solely from Metamorphosis Alpha, and, while "Omega" refers to "last", "Alpha" and "Gamma" likely refer to the role of radiation, and well I mean it's all a bit of a Greek alphabet soup anyway isn't it.

Mazes and Monsters

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A fictional role-playing game that appears in the made-for-TV movie of the same name.

I'm not certain if the game itself is noteworthy, but the movie certainly is, for it is a window into the moral panic of the time, and it stars a young Tom Hanks.

The Spawn of Fashan

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Solid contender for the title of "Most incoherent pen-and-paper RPG ever". The review linked above is well worth the read. I only wish I could say I have seen it first-hand, but alas I have not.

The Prisoner

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Based on the television show of the same name, yet diverging significantly from it.

Below the Root

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I never played this much myself, but I knew two people who did; one on a Commodore 128 (running in Commodore 64 mode, of course) and one on an IBM PC. The Commodore 64 version seemed to have better graphics and a nicer user interface, but I may be misremembering, or indeed biased.

The game world is immense, and mostly located in the treetops. So this game naturally reminds me a little bit of the Ewoks cartoon (they made a cartoon about Ewok life after that third Star Wars movie was released, yes) and the arcade game The Legend of Kage, in which you play a ninja who can jump very high into the treetops (and which I am delighted to say I rediscovered the name of by it coming back as the first hit for a web search for "arcade game jump high ninja trees".) Even though those are otherwise unrelated.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land

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Sequel to Wonder Boy. It's an arcade game, nominally an action game, but it plays far more like an RPG. The game it's most like that most readers will most likely be familiar with is Zelda 2.

Adventure Construction Set

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(OK, this is not entirely correctly categorized, since ACS is a construction set for games rather than a game itself. Although it did come with a game, based on the Epic of Gilgamesh of all things, and it was pretty good, too. Anyway, let's just handwave over this for the moment, shall we?)

I'm a sucker for "construction sets" (games that come with a level editor), and a sucker for adventure games, so this would seem a natural fit. It's actually a construction set for role-playing games, though, although suited for ones containing some measure of puzzle-solving. The "language" in which the game is described is somewhat interesting; individual objects can have effects associated with them (such as summon monster, raise health, display a message, etc.,) and they can be stacked in a single square; the square can be told to trigger all the objects when the player walks over it, or bumps into it.

Sword of Fargoal

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An early roguelike for the VIC-20 and C64 which I keep confusing with the Temple of Apshai trilogy, which it isn't. I believe it was written in BASIC.

Dungeon Master

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A surprisingly intricate dungeon exploration game from the era of personal computers that didn't need internal fans. In first-person perspective, and in real time, a party of four adventurers hack and slash their way past various nasties, eating their remains, throwing switches, throwing pieces of clothing, triggering traps, casting spells, and watching the world fade to black around them as their last torch is consumed.