What TTRPG Defied Your Expectations (in a good way)?

I'm going to say Wanderhome. I ran it because a friend wanted to try it on her stream, and I'd heard good things. But reading it, I was surprised by the fact that the game has almost no rules. Like I'd played "rules light" games, but this was a whole different level. Instead, it tries to hang the game on tone, setting, theme, prompts, and mutual trust between players. And like what the book did, it seemed to do well, but I was very worried about whether that would all result in an actual game. But to my surprise, it went perfectly smoothly. It's really made me question what makes something a "game" and what a game actually needs to work.
 

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Randomthoughts

Adventurer
But then you get a chance to play it or read through it and it changes your mind. Despite your initial reservations, you end up really liking it. It defied your expectations, in a good way.
Fallout 2d20. I was enjoying almost a year playing SWADE exclusively (still playing tho) and then tried this game. Having played STA, I expected something similar. Instead, I found myself really enjoying this for a few reasons:
  • Much simpler system than STA
  • I understood the CRB much better than STA's (which tbh I'm still parsing out) partly because it's much easier to read
  • I am a casual fan of the Fallout games but the system seemed to capture the evocativeness of the setting well - so much so that I've started to play Fallout 3 (which I've never completed). My main post-apocalypse setting had been Gamma World. FO is now competing for the top spot (which really surprised me).
Most of all - I was blown away when two players REALLY got into the setting, asking constantly when we can play next. One is my resident FO expert (i.e., one of my kids) with whom we've had had several hours-long discussions of the rules and adventure and setting design. The second is my sister, who HARDLY plays RPGs with us but seems to have taken to this game (and she had no clue of the FO setting). Haven't been this excited for a game in a long time!

EDIT: cleaned up typos
 
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aramis erak

Legend
Marvel Heroic Role Play (Cortex Plus). I wasn't sure about it, but Cam convinced me to give it a whirl. He was quite right in the more dice, keep 2, means more consistent results, and I had enough math background to know that, but until I'd run it, I didn't really grasp how well he nuanced it.

Savage Worlds ... I bought the Pirates of the Spanish Main back in 2006 or so... but never brought it to table. I bought Deadlands Classic - immediately loved the setting, but my players hated the char gen... So I finally gave it a whirl... and it's a hit with the Wednesday Group. It's not going to be my "every-setting universal" - as I can see where the settings I want to run would break against it... but it's still a solid game, and very much a good fit for the dueling.
 

pemerton

Legend
I backed the Torchbearer 2e Kickstarter because I'm a big fan of Burning Wheel and so was curious about it, and happy to send some financial support Luke and Thor's way. I wasn't really expecting to play it, let alone play a campaign of it.

I back the Prince Valiant re-release Kickstarter because I was curious to see Greg Stafford's neglected but apparently brilliant "other" Arthurian RPG. I wasn't surprised that it was great, but was surprised by how popular it proved with my group.
 

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