So without further ado, here's the bottom (top?) three...
3. Battlestar: Salvation
System: Battlestar Galactica by Margaret Weis Productions
This is the only campaign on my list that I didn't GM. That's not a knock against anyone else's skills as a game master - it's just that I very rarely ever play as anything but the GM so I don't exactly have a broad and fertile field to harvest.
I wrote about this campaign once before and how it gave me the sweats. I loved it because it was tight, exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. I don't know if it was as cutting edge as I remember or if I was just not used to being a player anymore, but I had no idea what was going on or what to expect. You know how some games have those tropes, where you know who is going to be the bad guy, and who is going to swoop in to rescue the heroes at the last moment and all that jazz? This game had none of that. The GM kept us guessing, and I think the players kept the GM guessing, too. We all did things that surprised each other, like one of the other player characters randomly announcing that he was my long-lost brother without telling me or the GM beforehand. It made no sense whatsoever (especially since my character was a Cylon, but only the GM knew that at the time) but we ran with it and made it work. It led to some tense drama that culminated in my half-brother going nuts and shooting me (actually at that point I purposely sacrificed my character because I suspected he was a Cylon and I wanted to know for sure).
If I had been the GM for this one, I totally would have changed my mind at this point and said "Nah, sorry, fooled you! You're human."
Interesting to note that this is the only Play-by-Email game on this list. Since I've primarily run PBEM games for the past several years and none of them were noteworthy enough to make this list, this tells me a couple of things. First, nothing beats the fun and spontaneity of playing a role-playing game live. Second, I must be really bad at running PBEM games.
2. Gate and Necromancer
System: ADnD 2nd Edition (though we started to convert to 3E at the end)
This campaign is special for a few reasons. First of all, it was the first time I played with a new group (most of whom went on to become very good friends of mine) several years after having left the comfortable womb of high school. We were all working at the music theatre at Paramount Canada's Wonderland north of Toronto, putting on five half-hour long musical review shows every day throughout the summer. We had an hour long break between shows, and while we probably should have been cleaning the theatre and repairing gear and changing light bulbs, we instead rushed backstage after every show to play D&D in the costume shop.
It was a glorious time, probably the last time I really felt like a kid (though at 21 I probably should have fucking started growing up). I mean seriously - we were hanging out all day playing with colorful lights and pyrotechnics in the middle of an amusement park and playing Dungeons & Dragons in our down time (while still on the clock no less). Who wouldn't feel like a kid in that situation? And why the hell did I get out of that business???
The game itself was great fun as well. It was a direct sequel to the game I ran in high-school (see Part 1), though since it featured none of the same players no one actually knew it was a sequel except for me. But the long-running game from years before provided a wealth of background material I could use for this new game - the PCs kept running into old characters and locations from the original game that felt like they had a developed backstory because for once they actually did. I didn't just have to make up names and towns on the spot like I do for 90% of my games. And the best part was that I could re-use some of the traps and tricks from the first game, because this group hadn't experienced them! (Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity for the win!)
There's actually a terrifying number of these pictures on the Baldur's Gate forums.
I admit my memories of this campaign have been somewhat coloured by the fact that I used it as a basis for a fantasy novel I wrote several years later (and that you all may someday read). The characters in my book morphed and changed quite a bit between the way they were originally presented and how I eventually used them, so I'm a little hazy over what I actually remember and what I later made up. But some of it I couldn't make up, as much as I wish I had. The elf rogue that was unceremoniously turned into a woman and was totally fine with it, not even bothering to try to undo the magic. The ranger that became a werewolf and found out he was the long-lost heir to the throne but ultimately just spent the campaign chasing and trying to save a hot elf chick he only met once just so he could kiss her at the end of the story. The Rastafarian dwarf named Ruffo. I don't remember anything else about him; that was the entire extent of his character development.
1. Beware the Dark Side
System: Star Wars 2nd Edition by West End Games
Date: c. 1995-96
And this was the legendary campaign that I spoke of in one of my very first posts at Rule of the Dice, when I announced that Star Wars was the best RPG ever. I still believe that Star Wars is the best game, and that this might have been my favourite campaign.
This one is interesting as it is the only campaign that I plotted out pretty much entirely from start to finish. I wrote out an entire book detailing adventure-by-adventure and almost encounter-by-encounter how the game would play out as the struggling band of heroes started from nothing and became an epic band of Jedi Masters. I wish I could find that book. I wrote it in Novell PerfectWorks for Windows 95 (you can still read the press release on their website!) and printed it on my dot matrix printer. I felt like I was a big-time game designer!
It is very important to point out however that this game was not good because I had planned it out, it was good IN SPITE of it.
In reality the script I had created was way too restrictive and formulaic, and the guys had way too many ideas and ridiculous things they wanted to try for me to plot out the whole story arc. The core group was a 7-foot tall (human) quixotic Jedi named Wookie Nookie (yes, that's how he spelled it), a young Jedi apprentice named Kan Saga, a brash X-wing pilot named Chris Bahn and a bounty hunter who's name escapes me. They started out as a gang of loser stoners (based loosely on the cast of the film The Stoned Age). They had a ship called the Blue Torpedo and an archaic R1-droid named Snot Rag. The ship and the droid had a special mystique themselves - they specifically installed a faulty voice chip in the droid so that I had to speak in a dumb robot voice on his behalf (which was actually pretty fun).
Wookie was a favourite character of many because he was a goofy idiot who continually mocked his master (Luke Skywalker) for being a virgin (this was before Luke got married in the Extended Universe novels). Despite being a colossal fuck-up, he somehow became a Jedi Master himself in the end (and also a collector and connoisseur of fine art, for some reason). Kan also became a Jedi master, and his ultimate claim to fame was gleefully murdering Chris Bahn when in the final battle Bahn failed a Dark Side roll by ONE POINT and turned. Bahn didn't even get a chance to actually do anything evil - Kan jumped on him and slaughtered his ass without missing a beat.
Bahn: "Seriously, it's just one Dark Side Point. I can roll to remove it at the end of the adven-"
In retrospect, Bahn was probably the most interesting character. During character creation Bahn joked that he would destroy 12 Star Destroyers in his career. The joke eventually grew into a challenge, and over the course of the campaign he took part in destroying exactly 11 of the Imperial behemoths - but then Kan Saga killed him before he took out the 12th one. He became a Jedi during his adventures as well, but never reached the heights of his illustrious allies as he diversified his skills; not only was he an ace pilot and military commander, he also owned a galaxy-wide shipping corporation and got married and had kids.
Maybe that's why Kan killed him - he was jealous.
There were other memorable characters. The bounty hunter who was there for pretty much every game but made such epically-poor character advancement choices that his character was totally useless and had to sit on the wayside whenever the other players did cool stuff. The other X-wing pilot who nicknamed his droid "Cumbucket" (think about it - he would often spend long journeys alone in a spaceship). The actual wookiee who was put on trial by his people for using his climbing claws against a living being, and then read the entire lyrics to Gowan's "A Criminal Mind" as his defense. Of course, no one else spoke wookiee, so all they heard was "RROOOWWWWRRR! RAAAWWWRRRR, ROOOORRROOWWW!!"
Damn that was a fun game. Anyone up for a session or two of Star Wars?
What was your favourite games/campaigns?