Now, as I have stated before, I am a Dungeons and Dragon geek from way-back. I have loved the concepts of those games ever since I saw one of those books, though it was much later until I was able to play. I used to read through my much loved Fiend Folio (shown to the left) and assorted Monstrous Manuals, on winter nights, and my heart would swell with thoughts of adventure.
These games should be all about imagination. Promoting the players and the Dungeon Master (Game Master, Labyrinth Lord or Whatever) to create a world, and those who live in it, with a basic framework of rules to keep things in order.
Many people think you have to be "smart" to play tabletop rpg's (not realizing how many adventuring parties are wiped out by stupidity), or that you need to be a math wiz. This is untrue, as some of the BEST gamers I have met had all manner of learning disabilities (ADHD, Dyslexia, etc) or otherwise had a hard time in school.
The math aspects of these games cannot be ignored though. Most of the earlier game systems (such as Basic D&D) were "rules lite" games, that were fairly straitforward. But later games added layer upon layer of rules, transforming a narrative/storytelling guide into a math quiz, and the character sheet into an SAT exam. It is this process that was so skillfully lampooned by the wonderful tabletop rpg Hackmaster, and related products.
I personally prefer lighter rules, as I like to handle unforseen events in the story with "horse sense" and storytelling rather than cunsult a network of tables. Though I realize that not every DM can do this well. I'm just special that way I guess...
Recently, I have become enamoured with the concept of "Retro Clone" rpg's. These are independant publishers taking advantage of the Open Gaming Movement to create there own versions of Dungeons and Dragons more like earlier versions of that game. Rather than waiting for a larger game company to produce a game that they like, these folks are doing it themselves, largely out of sheer love of it.
Many of these retro-clone games are very well put together. The revised systems are professionally assembled, and the artwork has the same mixed quality of all those old game books from my childhood (like in the fiend folio). I personally recommend the following games:
Labyringth Lord (Goblinoid Games): For that Basic D&D feel. Great for kids!
Osric (Goblinoid Games): 1st Edition AD&D style.
Basic Fantasy RPG: Sort of a mix of Basic and 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Real classy stuff overall.
An Interview with "Venger" the incompitent bad guy from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.
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