I talked about familiarity and how it plays into the popularity of certain game systems and settings — d20 and fantasy. The “obscure” propt sent me down the opposite direction. Those that look for something out of the ordinary or novel for their gaming. I know a local gamer whose thing is “indie” games, and pretty much just that. He’s more interested, I think, in system design than actual play (I could be wrong — you know who you are!), but there’s also the joy of playing something no one else is. It’s like buying a Moto Guzzi as a motorcyclist, or a Polaris Slingshot as your car; it’s an attempt to be anachronistic.

It’s not a new thing for gaming, either…

From the start, there were obscure RPGs hitting the market. Dungeons & Dragons was still garnering a following when Games Design Workshop pushed Traveller out the door in 1977. The game quickly became the gold standard for sci-fi games for quite a while, but it wasn’t the only sci-fi game. There was Universe, an adequate platform for sci-fi gaming…but it had a way cool map of local space. There was Space Opera — a truly execrable attempt at game design that wouldn’t be matched for awfulness until the 5th edition disaster of Traveller. It you can find a copy of Space Opera, place it on the ground and back away very slowly.

Someone always thinks they can do it better.

To be fair, I’ve liked obscure games, myself. James Bond: 007 qualifies, because it was seriously outmatched in sales by Top Secret — a d20, TSR release. I loved Space: 1889, which was unknown outside of a few players I knew, but as sci-fi picked up on the “steampunk” trend, Space:1889 would be joined by more fantasy versions of Victorian speculative fiction like Castle Falkenstein — still one of my favorite systems, once we tweaked the combat system to be workable. We did that by using a far superior, and even more obscure game, Lace & Steel, as our compass. I liked The Babylon Project, despite the “a bit too fiddly” mechanics that Chameleon Eclectic used for the game, but on reflection had a lot of Fate’s (or more precisely Fudge’s) DNA in it. I ran it for almost three years.

What’s your obscure game? (I suspect the military folks that read the blog will trot out Twilight:2000 or it’s more awful variants.)

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