Looking over my gaming collection the other day, I was struck by the fact that as much as I’ve looked at, perused, considered, and tweaked in gaming for the past three years, probably a good 3/4ths of my gaming in that period derives from two products:
Mongoose Traveller Pocket Edition, by Mongoose Publishing
Castles & Crusades, by Troll Lord Games
Now, during that period, there’s been a short Rifts campaign, a quick poke at Rolemaster, a Pathfinder campaign I briefly appeared in as a players, an abortive Stars Without Number campaign, and one or two old school convention games using something akin to Microlite 75. But my favorite games, the ones I feel most comfortable running, have to be Castles & Crusades and Mongoose Traveller.
Mongoose and Troll Lord catch flak sometimes on their editing, and I can't say they haven't had problems now and again. For my part, they’ve each provided me with a game that I absolutely love, that’s easy to run and adjudicate, and that provides a great basic framework for campaigns and adventures. They've done fine work at my gaming table, especially as I adjust my hobby experience to facilitate a family, expanded responsibilities, and the other passions in my life.
We’ve likely all bought that $50 RPG book that lies unused on the shelf. Maybe it has beautiful art, or a gimmicky system that draws us in. Perhaps it’s the trending flavor of the week, or we get seduced by a great sales pitch at Gen Con. Whatever the reason, we’ve all spent money on products that simply didn’t give us the bang for our gaming buck.
It’s nice to be able to point to books like my Traveller Pocket Handbook ($16, I think), or my C&C Player’s Handbook and Monsters & Treasure ($10 each, during one of Troll Lord’s great online sales), as bargains in this respect. I’m still a careful, budget gamer, but Mongoose and Troll Lord have proved themselves worthy of my attention for a long time to come. Relatively simple games, yes, but games that have proved they can provide what's needed to be the sort of game you can build your enjoyment of the hobby around.