Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 5: Vampire spinoffs

While starting these articles with Vampire was a no-brainer, I was unsure whether I should continue chronologically or by game family.  After some thought, I decided to go by game family, since most subsequent spinoff games don’t warrant an article of their own. (“Collecting Wraith: The Great War: Buy a copy of Wraith: The Great War. You’re done.”)  Vampire had three spinoff game lines of various sizes, but only one of them is big enough for its own article, so I’m lumping them all together.

Vampire: the Dark Ages/Dark Ages: Vampire

At one point White Wolf planned to release alternate versions of their core games set in earlier time periods.  Four of these were released: besides VtDA, there were Werewolf: the Wild West, Mage: the Sorcerers Crusade, and Wraith: the Great War. (Changeling got left out, since it wasn’t really being supported by the time its turn would have come.) Of these, WtGW was a single book rather than a game line.  The Werewolf and Mage games weren’t terribly successful, but VtDA was wildly successful; more books were released for it than some of the core games.  In 2002, the line was rebranded as Dark Ages: Vampire (the core book of which is essentially the Revised version of VtDA), and Dark Ages versions of the other games were released as well.  The Dark Ages line was originally intended to continue when the cWoD line ended, but it became clear that retailers wouldn’t support this, and some titles were listed on White Wolf’s WoD checklist but weren’t released.

Under the “earlier is more common” principle, none of the VtDA products are especially hard to find.  The main rulebook can be found for under $10, and the only supplements that have a noticeable demand are the Clanbooks for the clans/bloodlines that didn’t get them in modern VtM (Baali, Cappadocians and Salubri).  Therefore, the main part of this section will be focused on the later DA games.

Two VtDA notes: A four-part adventure, the Transylvania Chronicles, had its first two parts released with the Dark Ages trade dress and branding and the last two parts as modern VtM.  It’s up to you which game line(s) you consider these adventures to fall under.  Also, the splatbooks for the clans that existed in the modern era were combined into four books in the Libellus Sanguinis series.

Core books. The regular DA:V core book costs a bit more than the VtDA version, but isn’t prohibitively expensive.  The limited edition book is the easiest to find cheaply of all four limited core books (I won it for around $15 on eBay three times, although two of those sales fell through).  Note that the “Penance by Firelight” book in the limited set has never been released elsewhere, unlike the art books from the other games.

While they’re not full standalone games (in that they don’t have the core Storyteller rules), the DA versions of Werewolf, Mage, Fae (Changeling) and Inquisitor (more or less Hunter) fit best into this category.  The Mage and Inquisitor books (and their single supplements) run about the same amount as any other core book.  The Werewolf book is sought after (cheapest copy on Amazon=$50) and the Fae book, being rare due to being the last released and covering an aspect of the setting that doesn’t have much support, is extremely sought after–the cheapest copy on Amazon is $80, and I’ve seen it go for $150 on eBay. (I got my copy for half cover, or $15, at a local game store–showing the advantages of keeping your eyes open.)

Core supplements. The DA:V Storytellers Companion is the book that came with the ST’s screen.  It’s very useful, containing rules for bloodlines that aren’t available elsewhere, and not super-common.  It’s running around $30 on Amazon right now but can be found for less.

Rather than release splatbooks and a Players Guide, there were two books that covered the same ground: The Players Guide to Low Clans and High Clans.  These are key sourcebooks and much sought after.  The Low Clans book can be found with a bit of effort and will run around $15-30.  The High Clans book was another late release that’s very hard to find, and can run $75+. (Or if you’re me and religiously watch your Amazon wishlist, $15 when somebody doesn’t pay attention to other sellers’ prices–see what I mean about keeping your eyes open?)

Splatbooks: See above.  There were also five books released for the various paths of morality, the Road of X series.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Road of Sin runs the most expensive, but they’re not that hard to find.

Setting books: Only two of these were released for DA:V, Europe and British Isles (Italy was announced but not released).  The Europe book is useful as a general overview, while the British Isles book is relatively uncommon; they can run from $20-40.

Other supplements: There are only two of these, Right of Princes and Spoils of War, neither of which run to all that much.

Non-rules fluff: The Dark Ages equivalent of the Book of Nod is Erciyes Fragments, which is a lot less common and harder to find. Demand seems to have gone down, since Amazon has several copies in the $10-20 range.

Other merchandise: There is very little of this: I believe there’s a Dark Ages pin, and some of the Dark Ages era clans/bloodlines got pins in the Mind’s Eye Theater Kickstarter.  There may be some T-shirts but I don’t specifically know of any.  There were several Dark Ages novels, including a Clan Novels series.

Kindred of the East

Various Vampire books had indicated that Asia had its own vampires, but the early attempts (Clan Gaki and Clan Bushi) were embarrassing and found in some odd locations (Clan Bushi appeared in the Werewolf supplement Dark Alliance: Vancouver).  1998 was White Wolf’s “Year of the Lotus”, in which they released a bunch of Asian-themed expansions, including a new game, Kindred of the East, which gave the “real” rules for Asian vampires.

KotE functioned as its own game line, albeit a small one, with its own trade dress, splatbooks (one of only two non-core games to have books for individual splats, the Dharma Books) and expansions, but it’s connected to the VtM setting more directly than most of the games were intended to connect to each other.  San Francisco by Night, the game’s only setting book, covers the war between the Western and Eastern vampires in that city, and while released as a KotE book it works for VtM as well.

There’s not a lot to say about collecting KotE, because there are only fourteen books and none of them are especially rare or expensive; it was the first line I finished collecting (if you don’t count Wraith: the Great War), and you can get all the books for under $10 each if you’re patient. (Amazon’s lowest price for Dharma Book: Thrashing Dragons is currently around $20, but I suspect this is an outlier–I’ve never noticed it being particularly expensive elsewhere.)

I know of only one piece of KotE merchandise: a pin of the logo.  I don’t know of any novels under this brand.

Note: There are two historical KotE supplements. Blood and Silk is the Dark Ages supplement, although it’s released under the general WoD line rather than either KotE or Dark Ages and has its own unique trade dress.  Sunset Empires is the Victorian supplement (see below) and is only available as PDF and PoD.

Victorian Age: Vampire

A late historical release, there are only three books in this line (not counting Sunset Empires): the core book, the Companion, and London by Night.  These are very well-written books and hard to find, so they tend to be expensive.  Low price on Amazon is around $45 for the core book and LbN and $75 for the Companion.  The first two can be found for less if you pay attention, but the Companion is hard to even find, let alone for a reasonable price.

The only merchandise for this line is a few novels.

Up next: Werewolf!

Gamma World is to weird post-apocalyptic mutants as _______ is to ______

When I did my previous article on the ubiquity of D&D and looked for equivalent games, I ran across some game that have been around for a long time, but for whatever reason don’t dominate their respective fields like D&D does.  These aren’t games that have been around for twenty years and define their genre; these are the quirky games that mostly define themselves, and bounce in and out of print and between publishers.

Gamma World is a good example of this.  There have been seven editions between 1978 and 2010, and depending on how you count, had up to three publishers and six different rules systems. (The first two used a system based on D&D, and had conversion rules in the 1st edition DMG.  The third edition fell into the fad at TSR for color-based charts along the lines of Marvel Super Heroes.  The fourth edition was closer to 2nd Ed AD&D.  The fifth was the first released by WotC, as a worldbook for Alternity.  Sixth edition was based on d20 Modern and released by Sword & Sorcery Studios, in a release that apparently removed the endearing goofiness of the setting.  Seventh edition was released by WotC again, this time based on 4E.  How many rulesets that is depends on how similar you consider the different editions of D&D to be, since there was a version modeled on each of the four editions to date.)

GW can’t be said to dominate its genre so much as define it.  The “default” post-apocalyptic setting isn’t as well-defined as fantasy’s is, but GW’s weird stew of influences and elements is recognizable as its own. (It’s partially derived from James Ward’s earlier Metamorphosis Alpha.  Of the two other post-apocalyptic RPGs with mutant animals, Mutant Future makes no bones about its source. Palladium’s After the Bomb was originally a supplement for the TMNT RPG, so the presence of mutated animals makes sense.) A GM is less likely to come up with a campaign idea and reach for GW as a base system than to start with GW’s setting and work outwards.

What would define other games in Gamma World‘s niche?  As described above, the concepts of the game world are integral to the way the game is perceived and used, and as a result the property has its own definable feel.  Its publishing history has longevity but not continuity–it hasn’t been continually in print but has gone away and come back, sometimes from a new publisher or in a new game system. (The difference between the d20 versions of Call of Cthulhu and Gamma World is that for CoC it was another rules system in addition to the existing one; for GW it was the return of a setting that hadn’t been around for a while.)

Here are some examples.  Unlike the D&D article, I’m not breaking them down by genre, since they’re too individualistic for that.  I’m not including licensed games (with one exception), since the game’s identity comes from the source material first and the game second. (Not that licensed games can’t have their own identities–West End’s d6 Star Wars feels different from Edge of Empire–but it’s outside the scope of this article.)

Ars Magica. Five editions from four publishers between 1987 and 2004.  A game of wizards in a medieval Europe that conforms to the beliefs of the era, this game was originally published by Lion Rampant, one of the companies that merged to form White Wolf Publishing.  Some of its terms and concepts carried over into Vampire and Mage.

Earthdawn. Five editions from three publishers between 1993 and 2012.  A game that was a bit ahead of its time in presenting a distinctive spin on the generic fantasy setting. It has some overlap with Shadowrun.

Paranoia. Five editions (plus a couple of major revisions) from two publishers between 1984 and 2009. A good example of a game whose identity comes primarily from its setting, Paranoia is a game of dark humor set in a post-apocalyptic future.  The game is set in an enormous underground complex run by The Computer, whose commands in the struggle against Commie Mutant Traitors must be obeyed–or, more accurately, the PCs’ goal is to avoid being caught disobeying its commands.  There’s nothing in that description that could be considered even vaguely generic.

Shadowrun. Six editions from three publishers between 1989 and 2013.  I covered this in the D&D article, but as an example of a game that defines its own subgenre, which qualifies it for this one as well.  Neither the cyberpunk nor fantasy elements that went into this game are especially original on their own, but the combination of the two is distinctive and well-done.

Tekumel. This is the exception to the no-licensed-games rule.  A setting created by Professor M.A.R. Barker, it was the basis of four games from five publishers (one was a reprint) between 1975 and 2005.  I make the exception because, while there is more to the setting than the RPGs, the games were the way the setting was introduced (the first Tekumel novel didn’t come out until 1984) and therefore the primary association in most gamers’ minds. (Empire of the Petal Throne is by far the best-known of the four.)

Traveller. Up to nine editions from six publishers between 1977 and 2013, depending on how you count adaptations and spinoffs.  Another game I covered in the D&D article; while I found that it was the closest to a D&D analogue for science fiction, it had strikes against it that didn’t make it a perfect fit, and those strikes make it fit well here.

Honorable mention: Metamorphosis Alpha (five editions from four publishers between 1976 and 2007) and Deadlands (five rulesets from four publishers between 1996 and 2006, plus three spinoffs–the winner for highest ratio of editions to time).  While there have been many versions of these games over the years, they’ve been largely overseen by their creators, James M. Ward and Shane Lacy Hensley, respectively.  I exempt them from the main list for this reason, since this gives them a continuity that the other games on the list don’t have.

Can anyone suggest any other games that fit this model?

Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “I reject your reality and substitute my own”.

 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Color me disappointed but not surprised that The Emerald City of Oz is the last of the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young Oz adaptations for Marvel.  Shanower had said that they’d keep adapting them as long as they kept selling, but I remember thinking when they announced that they were going past the first book: “Are they going to try to adapt all of them, including the not-very-good ones?”

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To explain why I’m not surprised, there are two things it’s important to know about L. Frank Baum.  The first is that, like many entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age, Baum dabbled in a lot of things but wasn’t successful in most of them.  He tried everything from owning a general store to running a movie studio, but the only thing he was really successful at was writing, and his most successful writing overall was the Oz series. (The three Oz books from 1914-1916, Tik-Tok of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, and Rinkitink in Oz, were all repurposings of other writings, the last two starting out as non-Oz books but becoming Oz books because those were easier to sell.) Much like Arthur Conan Doyle, he got tired of his most famous creation, and tried unsuccessfully to end it several times. Emerald City was his “The Final Problem”, as it ended with Oz being sealed away from the rest of the world forever.  It was clear in the books leading up to it that his interest was flagging.

The other thing to know about Baum is that he wasn’t a very disciplined writer, and when he wasn’t reining himself in he tended to throw in whimsical ideas that didn’t do much for the story.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was one of his best-plotted books: it has a clear structure that allows all the characters their moment to shine both before and after the Wizard gives them their gifts (a structure which the MGM movie threw out with the entire third act, but never mind).  However, there was one point where he got carried away.  Remember the China Country chapter? The one that doesn’t advance the plot at all and could have been omitted without affecting the structure of the book in any way?

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Well, The Emerald City of Oz is about 75% China Country-type chapters.

The first three books in the series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz, are all excellent.  The quality started to drop with the next book, the awkwardly-titled Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz; it’s the first in the series that’s a collection of episodes that don’t have a spine beyond “Get from point A to point B”, and it only introduces one character of note, Eureka (Zeb and Jim don’t count).  The Road to Oz I’ve always thought is better than its reputation–it’s widely regarded as one of the weakest in the series–but the “point A-point B” plotting is explicit in the title, and the last chunk of the novel is basically a string of cameos from Baum’s non-Oz fantasies. It did give us Button-Bright, the Shaggy Man, and Polychrome, however.

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Emerald City removes even the A-to-B travel and is mostly a picaresque of Dorothy and her aunt and uncle visiting the various whimsical communities in Oz–the biscuit people!  The jigsaw puzzle people!  There is a threat to Oz in the form of the Nome King gathering up various monsters to attack the Emerald City, and those chapters are interesting, but they don’t even affect the Oz characters until the ending.  In light of the threat to Oz, however, Ozma throws the country off the Reichenbach Falls and the series ends for good, or at least for three years.

The seventh book in the series, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, was a return to form.  The break seems to have revitalized Baum, and he broke away from the pattern of the previous three books.  The protagonist, Ojo the Unlucky, is the first non-Dorothy protagonist since Tip in Land, and several characters of note are introduced.  We meet the creator of the Powder of Life from Land, Dr. Pipt, and the Woozy, who’s a good secondary character.  Two excellent new characters appear in the forms of Bungle the Glass Cat and Scraps, the titular Patchwork Girl.  There’s a spine to the book again (Ojo’s quest to restore his uncle) rather than just a series of episodes.Image

Sadly, it appears that my worries have come to pass: sales presumably dropped enough on the adaptations of books 4-6 that Marvel wasn’t willing to continue the series through to the point where it gets good again.  This is a shame on multiple levels: not only is Patchwork Girl one of the best Oz books, a character that’s as crazy as Scraps would have been perfect for Skottie Young’s style, and I’m sorry we won’t get to see his version of her.  If another publisher wants to hire these creators to continue the adaptations, I’ll be right on board.

Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?”

Dem bones

Like a lot of gamers, I jumped in on last year’s Reaper Bones miniatures Kickstarter after it became clear that the basic package was going to be ridiculously good from all the stretch goals.  I paid for it and my friends bought the ones they wanted off me, so I still have a large number (and most of the monsters, since I’m already the one with a large-ish mini collection).  I’ve been painting them in my spare time, and while I’m still learning the ropes to some degree I thought I’d post what I’d already painted.  (The number remaining is much larger.)

(Note that some of these look better in person than they do in close-up photos with a flash–this has shown me some that need touching up, though, which is useful.)

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I started with rats to learn how the Bones material worked, since I had a bunch of them and they’re hard to mess up.

Arachnids 2 Bugs 1

Various bugs were next, again for practice. (The bodies of those beetle swarms are easy but getting every little crevice the right color can be a pain.  I need to go back and do the spider swarms as well.)

Skeletons 1

After that, skeletons, since they’re a great way to practice both drybrushing and washes/inks.

Zomies 1

Zombies! The ones in the middle are the result of drybrushing over a dark base (which produces something that looks like a character out of Black Hole).  I’m not as happy with the ones on the outside, but I also don’t like that sculpt as much.

Goblins 2

Four of the Pathfinder goblins.  The one on the front left was bent in shipping, and I hadn’t read the suggestions on using hot water to bend them to the right shape until after I’d already painted it, so it appears to be intently looking for coins on the ground.  Since their armor seems to be patched together from random pieces I used different colors of metallic paint to play up its haphazardness.

Ghost 2

One of the first ones that really turned out exactly as I wanted.  An undercoat of black and a metallic topcoat do wonders.

Ghast 1 Monsters 1

A ghast (the eyes look better in person) and a mimic and rust monster, or as Reaper calls them, a “copier” and an “oxidation beast”.

Golems 1

Clay and flesh golems.  The flesh golem turned out particularly well; that’s a green undercoat, a few different fleshtones, a drybrush of Army Painter’s Necrotic Flesh, and a black ink.

People 2

A mix of humans: an elf wizard, a serving wench, and a pirate.  The wizard is apparently supposed to be a wood elf, but there’s nothing in the sculpt that points strongly to that, so I went for a more celestial look.  The wench has a bit of a skin condition because I really haven’t mastered eyes yet and there was a lot of correction.

Assassin & ranger 2Ranger 1

A couple of PC types: an assassin and two rangers.  The assassin shows the places where I missed the topcoat on the inside of his cloak, unfortunately. (It’s hard to tell where the leg leaves off and the cloak picks up.)

Lizard men 1 Dragon man 1

Reptile types, male.  The dragon man on the right is unfinished because he got misplaced temporarily after Thanksgiving cleanup. (I like the detail that his shield is made from a turtle shell.)

Snake women 1 Snake women 2

Snaky types, female.  The photo makes it clear that I need to apply the red ink to the marilith’s torso a little more consistently, but she was another one I had to touch up a lot.  I started with a red base on her and decided to go for a coral snake pattern, since it looks striking and coral snakes are underused; that gave me her overall color scheme.

Orcs 1 Orcs 2 Orcs 3

My latest completed project (except the bases): orcs! Part of me thinks I should darken the armor a little more, since orcs aren’t noted for using a lot of spit and polish, but I wanted their palette to be a bit distinct from the goblins.

Armor 1

The WIP: guys in armor. (I’ve taken to doing figures that group together well in batches, so I can basecoat them at the same time and use the same colors for multiple figures.  These had a black basecoat on the armored bits and a first layer of either gunmetal or plate mail metallic paint added. (The guy second from the right is almost finished just from that; I need to paint the axe, fill in the bit on his right foot that I missed, and paint a few straps and highlight or shade some bits for added texture).

I meant to, but forgot, to take a photo of the unfinished minis I have as well.  I got some of the bigger pieces but am saving them for later, since I don’t want to take on a $75 skeletal dragon model until I’m sure I can do it justice.

Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”.

D&D is to fantasy as _________ is to ___________

Nearly 20 years ago, I and a bunch of my college friends met up in Pittsburgh for the Confluence SF con.  One of the panels I attended was on non-traditional fantasy writing (to which I’m grateful for introducing me to War for the Oaks, which was a major influence on my reading and interests).  A point the panelists discussed is that traditional fantasy has a long shadow cast over it by Lord of the Rings, which creates issues that writers in other genres don’t necessarily have to contend with. (There are some subgenres I can think of that have similarly significant progenitors; anyone writing Victorian London-based or English cozy mysteries has to contend with Doyle and Christie, respectively, but there are a lot of subgenres that those writers don’t directly affect.)

In the world of fantasy roleplaying games, the partially Tolkien-influenced Dungeons & Dragons in its various incarnations casts a similar shadow.  (As an aside, I’ve seen some critics–admittedly on Usenet–suggest that D&D is a direct ripoff of Tolkien, and the parts that aren’t like Tolkien are because it’s imitating Tolkien badly.  The influence of LotR on D&D are clear in some areas (*cough*halflings*cough*), but the average adventuring party’s behavior owes much more to Howard or Lieber.) D&D was not just the progenitor of RPGs as they exist today, but many gamers’ first RPG, and has been around for nearly 40 years at this point.  It’s waxed and waned somewhat in its influence, and other games have loyal adherents, but within its core genre, pseudo-medieval pseudo-European fantasy, no other game has significantly eclipsed it.  Its concepts influenced large portions of the industry during the 2000s through d20 and the OGL, and the pull of its gravity can be seen in such areas as the “fantasy heartbreaker”, OSR and Pathfinder.

As with the question of Tolkien-like figures on other genres, the question becomes: Do other genres of roleplaying have a colossus similar to D&D?  Let’s start by defining some of the factors that contribute to D&D’s role in the field:

1. Primacy. D&D was the pioneer of its field, and set the tone for many other games that followed, fantasy or not.  A D&D-like game should either be an early entry in its genre, or the game that causes a major paradigm shift.

2. Longevity. D&D has been around since 1974, and has been around more or less continuously during that time.  A D&D-like game should have had a similar run, or at least been active longer than it’s been inactive. (This category is somewhat subjective, because importance in the field is driven by play as much as by publication–what’s important is that the game is sufficiently prominent that designers working in the genre need to be aware of it.)

3. Ubiquity. D&D allows a broad range of settings even within the published game material, without even getting into d20 or hacks & ports.  A large portion of what’s considered “fantasy” can fall into its sphere, which greatly increases the range of games that are potentially affected by it.  Third-party products have been written specifically for it since its earliest days.  The wider an influence a game casts, the better it fits into the D&D mold.

4. Prominence. D&D is a game most people have heard of (good or bad), and been the basis of two movies, a TV show, and a large number of novels and computer games, both official and inspired-by.  The importance and influence of a game can be measured in part by how well known it is outside the tabletop RPG field.

(There are certainly subgenres of fantasy that don’t fit very well into D&D’s traditional wheelhouse; it wouldn’t be terribly good for a subtle wainscot fantasy, for example.  However, the subgenre that D&D dominates is a major subset of the fantasy field, to the point that it’s the first thing many people will think of when “fantasy” is mentioned, which at least adds to the appearance of ubiquity.  Gameability is also a factor; the fantasy of, say, Jorge Luis Borges may be significant in the field of literature and influence games such as Mage, but it’s not the sort of thing that can become a good game in and of itself.)

Having established those, let’s look at some genres and see if anything stands out. (I’m not factoring in supplements for generic games here unless they stand alone as their own game.)

Science fiction. This is too broad a category to consider as a whole, but much as the pseudo-medieval epic is a prominent subgenre of fantasy, there are a couple of subgenres that stand out for importance and ubiquity. (There’s an entire separate article in whether there can be a game that encompasses SF to the extent that D&D encompasses fantasy, although WotC did have a try with Alternity.)

Space opera.  This is what the average vox populi will think of when asked about SF: robots, rockets, and rayguns, with varying degrees of scientific plausibility.

The first game that comes to mind in this area is Traveller.  (According to Mark Miller, it was intended to be D&D in space, so it definitely falls into the scope of this article.) It scores well in primacy and longevity.  It was first published in 1977, and I can’t think of a more significant SF game that predates it.  Some version of it has been in print for most of the time since then.  However, it doesn’t do as well on ubiquity.  The career-based character system imposes limits on the scope of character concepts, and while it can be used for games outside the Third Imperium setting, various versions of that setting have been the default. (Traveller 2300 was a separate game in both setting and ruleset.) As far as prominence goes, it hasn’t made much of a splash outside the tabletop RPG world. It’s the best candidate, but I don’t think it approaches the D&D level of dominance.

Other significant space opera RPGs have either been licensed games (West End’s Star Wars) or focused on a particular setting or subsection of the genre (Fading Suns, Space: 1889).

Cyberpunk. The aren’t a lot of major games in this genre, but there is one that definitely qualifies within its own subgenre. Shadowrun wasn’t the first cyberpunk RPG, but it carved out the cyberpunk/fantasy hybrid niche and hasn’t had any real competition.  It’s been around since 1989, and while there have been some gaps it’s been in print more often than not.  It dominates its field to the point that, while a game could combine cyberpunk and fantasy elements in other ways, any combination of the two runs the risk of being seen as a Shadowrun ripoff.  Its computer game adaptations have been popular independent of the tabletop game, and there have been tie-in novels and a CCG, among other spinoffs.  Shadowrun isn’t the D&D of cyberpunk, but it’s definitely the D&D of fantasy cyberpunk.

There haven’t really been any other cyberpunk games with enough long-term success to potentially qualify.  While Shadowrun has been updated to factor in advances in real-world technology, games like Cyberpunk 2020 feel dated nowadays.

Superhero. Many of the significant games in this genre have been licensed products, and their fortunes have been linked to the parent company’s hold on the license (the Marvel license in particular has been passed around through multiple companies). Mutants and Masterminds and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying have both had some significance in the field (in more or less opposite ways, M&M having much of the crunch of d20 and MHR being relatively abstract) but are too recent to evaluate their long-term prospects.

Champions isn’t the first superhero RPG (Villains & Vigilantes, at least, predates it) but it does have primacy in the point-buy superhero field, while V&V was much more in the D&D mold.  It first came out in 1981, and while it has some lacunae in its publishing history (the 1990s were fairly thin) it and/or the Hero System can be said to have passed the test of time.  The degree of ubiquity it has is mostly through the Hero System’s influence on point-buy systems; Champions itself has less impact on other types of superhero game.  There have been some tie-in comics and an MMO, but it’s not a well-known brand in general.  No better example comes to mind, but its influence isn’t broad enough to fully fit the D&D niche.

Horror. Two subgenres stand out:

Traditional against-the monsters RPG. This was the dominant horror RPG genre through the 1980s.  There were horror elements in some fantasy games in the 1970s (including the original Deities & Demigods for AD&D), but the gamechanger was 1981’s Call of Cthulhu, which is the standout candidate for the D&D of the classic horror genre.  It has primacy both in being the first significant horror RPG and in making investigation primary rather than combat.  It definitely has longevity, with occasional slowdowns but no major gaps in publication.  Its ubiquity and prominence are to a certain extent tied in with the Cthulhu Mythos in general.  Although there are other Lovecraft RPG adaptations, they have to be aware of CoC’s design space.  However, its influence is less direct on non-Mythos RPGs.  It is definitely prominent in the RPG field, as witnessed by the number of third-party products and adaptations, but outside the RPG arena its impact is mostly felt in the general popularity of Lovecraftian concepts and their role in organizing and popularizing them (much like West End Games’ influence on the Star Wars Extended Universe).  Still, CoC is definitely the D&D of Lovecraftian RPGs, and can stake a strong claim for classic horror RPGs in general.

Modern play-the-monster RPG. The exemplar here is the World of Darkness in general, and Vampire: the Masquerade in particular.  It wasn’t the first game to explore those concepts (Nightlife deserves a nod here), but it was the paradigm shifter not just for horror, but for roleplaying in general with its emphasis on character and story.  Although VtM wasn’t supported for several years, the new WoD and Vampire: the Requiem occupied the same conceptual space, so the WoD idea has longevity.  Its ubiquity was clearer in the 1990s (Legacy could not be clearer as an attempt to mix Highlander and Storyteller), but Storyteller’s success helped pave the way for other story-based games.  VtM in particular has a high level of prominence; it’s the WoD game the most non-gamers have heard of (again, for good or bad) and has a wide variety of spinoffs, including a short-lived TV series.

There are other types of horror game that don’t fall into these categories, but they often stand alone (there aren’t a lot of games that could be said to be in the same subgenre as Unknown Armies or My Life With Master).

I know I’ve done a lot of generalizing, and there are probably subgenres (or even entire genres) I haven’t examined, but it’s a start at examining the content.  There are few games that cast as long a shadow as D&D, but there are games that loom large in their own respective fields.  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “The killing of humans and other intelligent life for the purpose of profit is basically held to be the antithesis of weal”.