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Games that are more fun to read than to play


As per the title. What games have you found more interesting to read than to play?

There are a lot of games that I have loved to read that I was never able to play for any length of time, because
  • I could never get anyone else to play it because the game was too 'out there',
  • the fluff was better than the crunch,
  • The ideas in the game excited me, but in the end they weren't as playable as I had hoped,
  • the theory was great, but the implementation was poor,
  • they were beautifully presented, or
  • they were just really fun to read

Examples for me include:
  • Amber DRPS
  • Burning Wheel
  • Nobilis
  • Ars Magica

I would still gladly play these games, if I could get the chance!

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Rifts. Great fluff (at first), horrible system.
Shadowrun. I'd really rather not touch that system again.
Anything White Wolf/World of Darkness. Or possibly it was just I had the Storyteller From Hell - but the mechanics lead to a different game from the one indicated by the fluff.
Anything full of tables (e.g. Rolemaster)
Any rules heavy superhero system (M&M, GURPS supers). Supers must be treated as rules light to stay in genre.
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First Post
Pretty much anything by Palladium. They really jam pack all sorts of interesting flavor in their books but then you play a game and... eh, I'd say majority of good role play is down to how the GM adjudicates the game and the player's enthusiasm and no Palladium game I've played in had a good GM or enthusiastic players. They wouldn't be around for so long if this weren't the case but I've never found a good group.

Jan van Leyden

Castle Falkenstein: all good things were there, but it just didn't work out to be a fun game; the players didn't get in the right mood.

Hôl: well...

Shadowrun: when you need two hours to resolve one second of game time, even the most fantastic background becomes utterly irrelevant.

Lord of the Rings (Decipher): it felt like visiting a movie museum; nice to look at but they (or our GM) took pains to keep the players out of the picture.


Semi-Professional Author
Aces & Eights - Great looking book, full of flavor and great fluff, but it is horrible complex.


Gotta agree on Rifts (and most of Palladium's systems). Excellent story, ideas and flavor but horrible rules. I've many times heard it called "The most awesome game no one plays".

L5R is another game that I absolutely love the story and background, but the rules can be kinda "meh". It's certainly more complex than it needs to be places.


First Post
Toon. Funny to read but my group, at least, couldn't capture that Tom and Jerry feel in play.

Planescape. Boatloads of awesome fluff. Awesome setting, imaginative monsters, well developed NPCs, fun to play, but not as much fun as it was to read.

The Star Wars RPG from West End Games.

Those sourcebooks were extremely influential in the early days of the expanded universe. They provided detailed insight into a universe that was still much more fluff than crunch, and flushed out the details of a world that was still in its infancy. For an awesome example, check out the Imperial Sourcebook on Scribd: d6 Star Wars (2e) Imperial Source Book Heck, some of the sourcebooks were better writing than the actual material they covered (I'm looking at you, Jedi Academy Trilogy).

The game, OTOH, was kinda clunky and unbalanced. And with the skill system, every plot was an eigen plot :)


Blue Planet An sci-fi rpg set on a waterworld that's been colonized by humanity. It was written by a marine biologist and the setting was very internally consistent and an interesting read. But I could just never figure out what to do with it in terms of adventure design.


First Post
All the World of Darkness games.

Great reads, but the basic resolution mechanic is flawed. It particularly saddens me in the case of Exalted and Scion, which have a really neat initiative system for combat. :/

Diamond Cross

First Post
Hero System.
Many Gurps settings, such as Voodoo and Illuminati.
Twilight 2000.
Lord Of The Rings.
Warhammer FRP.
World Of Warcraft RPG d20.
Wheel Of Time.
Everquest RPG d20.
Aberrant d10.
Babylon 5 and Stargate SG 1 d20 RPG.
d20 Modern.
DC Heroes, any edition.


Yes, the GURPS sourcebooks. Didn't even think of them, as I didn't associate them with a specific game!

Great, great reads, could see using ones I have had for years years in the future.

But I seriously doubt I would ever play GURPS.


1E rulebook, especially the DMG. I love picking up the old books and picking a page at random - there's always something to get my creative juices going and put me in the mood for a game. But I'd never try to run an actual 1E game now. I've been spoiled by newer systems, including retro clones, that are much cleaner systems.


Staff member
King of all games in this category for me has to be RIFTS. To me, there is no more imaginative a setting in gaming...and few hindered as much by wonky, often untested, mechanics & supplementary material.


First Post
Scion. The setting is fantastic, but the game rules are horrible and only get worse as the power level increases.

Hero System. I love the potential, but I've never been able to get more than a few people over the years willing to even consider playing it. There is just too much math for most of the gamers I know.

Many things by Palladium. They had great settings but lousy rule systems. Honestly, this is only half in this category because while the fluff was often good to read, the rules were often very difficult to read.


Staff member
Hero System. I love the potential, but I've never been able to get more than a few people over the years willing to even consider playing it. There is just too much math for most of the gamers I know.

As a non-math whiz AND devoted HEROphile, I've heard this time and again and never really understood it. I mean, it's basic addition & subtraction, multiplication and division...with charts provided where the worst multiplication & division are done for you.

And after that, all you do is roll N(d6) for everything. The harder math is all in character creation.

Diamond Cross

First Post
Yeah, the character creation is exceptionally complex. I personally don't like complex, and so won't really use the system and would rather adapt the settings to another system if I played in that world.


First Post
Until recently, I ran Nob on every other Saturday, but at least for the time being it's now been replaced by Changeling: The Lost from White Wolf.

Personally, I don't purchase RPG material that wouldn't see at least a slight amount of use in actual play. There's always bound to be something in every book that can be cannibalized or converted into a gaming scenario.

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