Heropress' and The Underdark Gazette's Old School Renaissance tabletop gaming posts got me thinking about the RPGs I used to play, back in the day. I've reminisced about the internet and films before, so time for a short post about RPGs (not sure about "old school" though).
Sure, like everyone else D&D was probably the first game I knew existed, but the first game I actually played was ICE's MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing). Probably this was due to how much my friends liked Tolkien's books. It's a great little game, based on rolling d100s against tables of results and adding/subtracting the relevant skill/penalty. With the critical tables, it was also potentially quite lethal where single hits could kill a person no matter how many hit points they had. Plus MERP's spells were generally less powerful and certainly less flashy than those in D&D; more in keeping with the magic seen in LotR books, I guess.
I'm not sure my best mate took it too seriously though. He had a Dunedain fighter who, when faced with attacking orcs, would hide under the nearest table. Not very valiant nor in keeping with these "High" Men.
Next came Games Workshop's Golden Heroes, my first superhero RPG. To be honest, I spent far more time rolling up characters (it uses a random stat and power generation system) than actually playing the game. Compared with many modern day systems, it was refreshingly lightweight. It has since been reborn as Squadron UK, which rules that appear to be unchanged from the original.
At university, the system I played the most was ICE's Rolemaster (1st and 2nd editions), which was MERP's big brother. We played a huge, drawn-out campaign weekly for a couple of years only diversifying occasionally to play the odd game of Chill, Paranoia, Warhammer FRP, Tales from the Floating Vagabond and others. When I think back, I still don't think we completed that campaign created by our GM, Skippy. All I remember now is that I first played a young trainee mage - Ewart Caradoc - who luckily got hold of a powerful (though evil) shortsword, and then a Beastmaster - Qassam something-or-other - a nomadic, southern warrior who was great to play.
Rolemaster is still one of my favourite fantasy systems and I went on the play a number of RM PBeM games once I left Uni. I love it's complexity, the long lists of skills, and the combat tables (a different one for each weapon!).
Weirdly, I think the only time I played AD&D (2nd ed) was when I was around 30. Unfortunately, that was with a group who didn't take it seriously and just joked around. Characters would often die every other session, we'd go up 2 or 3 levels between sessions, the DM would try to kill us off in the most amusing way possible, that sort of thing. It was entertaining to begin with, I suppose, but I soon grew bored. I actually found PBeMs (or similar) and their writing elements more to my liking.
So, since then, I tended to play superhero PBeMs - first using the Aberrant system, then the HERO System (which I love), and briefly Silver Age Sentinels (SAS) and Mutants & Masterminds (M&M). Though I did play one long, epic fantasy PBeM which started using the AD&D 2nd edition rules and then moved onto Pathfinder.
Sadly though I no longer play tabletop RPGs as I don't seem to have the time nor the people with whom to enjoy them.