Lovely unplayable RPGs

Know any unplayable RPGs but loved the material anyway?

The World of Synnibarr is foremost in my mind on this subject. I used a few tidbits of this monstrosity in other games. It’s the proverbial kitchen sink of the multi-genre RPG cosmos.

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Burning Wheel falls into this category for me. I love the player centric nature of the game and I appreciate what the system is trying to do, but boy is it fiddly and demands way too much from the players.


I love Blue Planet for the setting’s detailed attention to ocean science and island culture, but I’ve always been at a loss for what to do with it. That’s my failing though, not the game’s.

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Rifts. The system does not finish character creation and it is a hot mess as to how to make it work.

The idea is a good one. I’ve noodled out with my son how to pull it off with d20. Mix D&D, Star Wars, Modern and a liberal dose of home seasoning and you have a game.

I’m with you on this. You might enjoy Savage Worlds Rifts, as they are doing a pretty good job of porting the thematic essence without a lot of the setting, and none of the system, baggage.

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The original Space: 1889. One of my all-time favorite settings, but an awful set of rules. I loved Clockwork Publishing’s re-release using Ubiquity (Ubiquity is not the best system out there, but it works and its internally consistent) - and even the Savage Worlds version was fun - but the original system was annoyingly bad.

Rifts has been called the best game never played. D20, Savage Worlds, anything but the Palladium system.

Kevin Siembieda is an odd bird. I’ve run into him a time or three at various gaming cons. I don’t know him. But his company never updates or revised anything. No game is perfect.

The only reason I know anything about Rifts is a potential player that worked there brought me a snot load of the Rifts books and I did read them. Confusing, incomplete. Judges’ Guild would not not let these out the door and they were known for sketchy editing.

Phoenix – Rising Above the Flames

Huh, really?

We never had a problem creating or playing our RIFTS characters. Or Palladium Fantasy, TMNT, Robotech, HU, N&SS characters either…

What was the problematic bits for you?

Now Synnibarr was quite the interesting system: missing tables, incorrect page references, and the power systems, ouch. Plus the cost tables were ripped right out of D&D, lol.

I’ve chatted with the author, seemed pretty nice at the time.

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I think the only game I’ve seen that is unplayable, and by that the stat pools were overly convoluted, is a game called Bounty Hunters from Myrmidon Press. Have a pair of other games from Myrmidon that are fairly straightforward, but the other is a bit of a hot mess.

I love everything about “Exalted” on paper, pun intended, however, playing it was a chore. Steal ideas from it to use in more approachable games. It suffers from the “if everyone is special, no one is special” trope on a new level. That is a thick-thick book to read for a game that will likely fizzle out after one session.

Rolemaster. Love the gameplay, struggled to get players through character creation.

One of my most memorable characters was built in Rolemaster. Fun system.