This is kind of a fun topic for me although it is somewhat bittersweet. I really enjoy analyzing RPGs & seeing what makes them tick. It doesn’t take long to figure out the games have influenced each other and that you can begin to detect lineages and cross pollination. The only bitter part of this topic for me is the fact that I spent a good amount of time out of the hobby so I didn’t get to experience some of these influential games first hand. At least not when they first came out. Other games were available or at least published when I was first playing, but I didn’t have access to them.
All regrets aside, it’s still fun to see where ideas have come from and how very often what seems new and innovative is instead standing on the shoulders of giants. That’s not to say that newer games aren’t innovative and haven’t put all the ideas together and do an interesting ways. And of course there are always RPGs out there that have really managed to do something novel.
I’ve taken some very interesting trips doing detective work trying to piece together what happened over time. Among the most notable have been the current state of PBTA games, including the current accepted “Internet wisdom” or “best practices” for this family of games. What I find quite interesting is how different they are from the original apocalypse world, and even very often from the later and oft cited monsterhearts. The differences between those two games are quite interesting as well. However, this blog post isn’t about that.
Although there are several innovative games out there such as the pool by James West, the one that really impressed me the most with how much inspired other games is Ghostbusters by West end games. I had heard that this game influenced a tremendous amount of other games and came up with various novel ideas but it wasn’t until I read it a year or so ago that I realized just how influential it was. There are so many innovative concepts, procedures, and mechanics in that game that have influenced countless others that it is quite remarkable. It’s something you have to read for yourself.
Next time you pick up a new game and read it, and play it, try to see the lineage behind it. It may be quite surprising.