#RPGaDAY2023 Day 7: SMARTEST RPG you’ve played.
[I’m a day late, but started drafting this yesterday.]
Again, a very problematic answer.
By way of preface, let me say that I try to judge my own work with the same measuring stick as other people’s. There are two voices in my head: One is an excitable little child that believes in own its genius, and that enthusiasm is a necessity for art. The other is an adult editor and product-line manager with three decades of experience encouraging and critiquing other writers. That side has learned to tell writers: “This bit is wonderful! But we both know you were lax on this other part. The thing is, the wonderful bit deserves to have the lax part brought up to its level. And only you can pull that off!”
(My youngest daughter recently convinced me that having two people in your head is a neuro-divergent way of coping with creative stress. Common to autism and ADHD. We shall see. At 67 years old, I’m finally seeking counseling.)
So, back to the question: smartest RPG I’ve played?
Lots of RPGs have genius creativity in one feature or another, usually the setting. Only a few have a genius of game mechanics. When the two fit together, it’s magical.
Of those magical ones, I’d list Lost Souls and WEG’s Star Wars (see my previous post.) I’d add Malix Nystul‘s Whispering Vault as third, with its ritual adventure structure, and a dice mechanic that feels just a bit ritualistic itself. Though I think I’ve seen that dice mechanic elsewhere, this was my first exposure to it, and it fits the game.
And I think I accidentally hit that mark, or close to it, with the Bookmark No HP RPG and a few of its settings–likely “Supers! and “Bookmark Cthulhu!” I can’t claim that other things I’ve designed over the years reach that level, but in this case my editor brain thinks my child brain pulled it off.
Of those RPGs, which is the smartest? Right now, I’d have to say that Lost Souls may be the very best.
And nowadays it’s free! http://hauntedattic.org/