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Editors' Choice

2010 was a mixed bag in the tabletop world as we saw Pathfinder settle in to a comfortable niche in the gamersphere, Wizards of the Coast trip nostalgia buttons everywhere with the return of boxed sets (including a red one), Dark Sun, and Gamma World. We also had White Wolf disappear off the radar for six months only to return doing almost exactly as they were with no real explanation as to what happened. We saw Margaret Weiss Productions make excellent use of a license for a change. The small press gaming scene continued to expand and innovate with numerous exciting products. But we’re here to celebrate the very best of the industry and here they are.

Best Tabletop RPG
Dresden Files Volume 1: Your Story & Volume 2: Our World

The FATE system has always been recognized as having unique ideas that aren't always suited for extended campaigns, which is why one sees the aspects and mechanics incorporated into other games. Dresden Files addresses these concerns in FATE with a number of new mechanics and updates to existing rules that leave players excited to return to the game week after week. There is no part of Dresden Files that is not superlative: a level system where players can trade raw power for free will and luck and give them away to build up either of those resources, an amazing character creation system that makes traits real mechanics, then parlays that rules set into co-operative setting creation, and a wonderfully flexible magic system. Beyond the game's rules we also have a brilliant adaptation of the setting of the books. Licensed games will often get all the places, people and objects of a setting, but it is a rare thing to capture all of the feel and style of a setting. The rules text drips with the feel and attitude of the original setting and characters. These two books are a wonderful concept amazingly executed, without a single nit in the text to pick on. Game of the year.

Second Place - Deadlands: Player's Guide and Marshall's Handbook

In real life the transcontinental railroad was a triumph of engineering, planning, and the abuse of migrant workers. In the world of Deadlands, it's a six-way war between a mad scientist, a triad boss, a coven of witches, the ghost of Ulysses S Grant, zombie Abe Lincoln, and Baron Samedi. That is the sort of alternate history Deadlands builds; real events and personages layered with supernatural awesomness. The US Marshals have MIB-style neuralizers, the Buffalo Soldiers have jet packs, Wild Bill crawled out of his grave after being shot by Jack McCall, Santa Anna is backed by an Aztec mummy sorcerer, and players play poker with demons for the mojo to take down steampunk automata. This amazing setting is matched with the wonderfully fast and fun rules of Savage Worlds make this one of the finest products released ever, the only reason it isn't in the number one spot is that it's only a small set of revisions to my 2005 tabletop product of the year: Deadlands: Reloaded.

Third Place - Progenitor

Greg Stolze once again shares his paradoxical love of minutiae and care for their macro-level repercussions in this world book for the Wild Talents system. Imagine if superheroes got their start in the 1960s, and there were no artificial limits on how their powers impacted the world's technology, economy, or politics. Stolze has provided one such world, and he does it with style. Yes, it's another take on "superheroes if they were real" (whatever that means). Unlike most authors, however, Stolze doesn't automatically equate "real" with "sleazy" or "corrupt." The 376-page tome has sleaze and corruption to spare, but there's also room for hope, wonder, and a psychic Jay Edgar Hoover who's one of the most powerful men in America. The bulk of the book is taken up by the world's history and key NPCs, but they're presented in a way that encourages the PCs to elbow them out of the way when the world gets too small.

The "do-anything" powers system is ambitious in scope, and to be honest the core system isn't the strongest part of the book. Far more interesting is the sub-system that traces PC influence on the world at large. Are the hyper-schmoozers manipulating the stock market while encouraging conflict with super powered Vietnam? Time for a trip to the Imperialism (economy+warfare) table. What if they're trying to show up the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards by curing cancer and ending pollution? Better keep on eye on the technology matrix to make sure that it doesn't have any unintended consequences. Perhaps a spot of memetic warfare would fix everything? Progenitor is certainly an imposing setting to dig into, but there's so much good stuff going on that every handful contains at least a few specks of pure gold.

by Scott Wachter

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