Dungeons & Dragons has grown massively in popularity over the last few years, and shines light on the tabletop RPG form of gaming, but with that popularity comes a tendency for other TTRPGs to be sometimes overlooked.
Whether players are looking for a change of pace, to branch off from D&D for the first time, or to find a system and game that more accurately reflects the kind of story they want to participate in, there are plenty of tabletop RPGs out there that offer players something unique.
Blades In The Dark
Blades in the Dark is a gothic, urban fantasy game based on the detailed city of Doskvol, a place that roams with ghosts in its eternal night. Players of the game are members of one of many criminal organizations working to gain influence in the arduous underworld.
The rules focus more on a character’s skills than combat, and players can make use of the flashback mechanic to retroactively help themselves in dangerous situations, for a price. That Blades in the Dark the source book is very detailed but not overwhelming, making it a great choice for first-time gamers, with a memorable setting that remains adaptable to a group’s playing preferences.
Mix of key elements from the western and horror genre, Deadlands’ The “Weird West” setting sees players face down against monsters in a steampunk-colored show about the United States in the late 1800s, from legions of undead to watchmakers.
A memorable aspect of Deadlands comes from its spellcasting mechanics, which cause players to use a set of playing cards next to the dice, through which they must draw 5 cards and collect the best possible poker hand to determine the effectiveness of their spell (or hex). This extra bet gives any use of magic additional bets, further informing about the chaos in the surroundings.
The quiet year
The quiet year is the work of Buried without ceremony creator Avery Alder, a game centered around a settlement after the apocalypse working together to build their community over a quiet year.
Instead of dice, the game uses a set of cards – each representing a week in that year – and through each card, a new scenario emerges that players must find a way to work their way through, while also jointly creating a card that reflects the events. in their history. No matter what, the last card in the pile will put an end to both the silence and the game and enforce a limited time frame that encourages thoughtful choices.
Star Wars role-playing games
To D&D fans who want a TTRPG with similarly large amounts of lore, the Star Wars role-playing games by Fantasy Flight Games is a great fit, takes themes off Star wars saga and divide them into three independent games to suit the kind of characters players want to embody.
One of these, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, where players can become bounty hunters and smugglers, has received special praise as one of the best sci-fi tabletop RPGs, in part because of its focus on the harsher aspects of sci-fi life, allowing players to experience obscure corners of the galaxy.
Based on the comic book of the same name, Mouse guard is a role-playing game full of charm. By using a more streamlined version of the Burning Wheel system, Mouse guard allows players to take on different roles in its title order, ranging from newcomers to veteran champions.
Characters form patrols and embark on mighty missions in medieval settings that have real stakes, while being aware of its (and any game’s) purpose, to be fun for both GM and players. Since each character has an instant goal, role-playing motivation is built into each background story, while there is also mechanics that GM can use to help with the flow of gameplay.
Although first released in 2021, Hostel made a big impact on the TTRPG scene and won Polygon’s best indie board game of the year. A nature-inspired fantasy, player characters in Hostel are are animal people who travel from place to place and experience the wonders of their world.
With inspiration for the game inclusive Studio Ghibli‘s Hayao Miyazaki and Moomin author Tove Jansson, The Lush World of Hostel has a pointed connection to the natural world that is not too sweet. Perfect for fans looking for a more exploratory world, Hostel attaches great importance to the small things.
That Symbaroum Source books are full of amazing art that will spark the imagination of anyone who flips through them. A Swedish fantasy RPG, Symbaroum has dark and atmospheric surroundings centered around the forest of Davokar, full of intrigue and monsters.
One of the most compelling things to know Symbaroum is its flexibility in terms of the kind of campaign it can be used to run, with both an intuitive system that makes it a great choice for one-shots, and deep lore that can support long shots.
While magic is often a feature of tabletop RPGs, it is by no means a necessity, as evidenced by Good Society, a Jane Austen RPG in which players create characters formed from archetypes of regent societies, which then have to navigate the social dynamics of the era.
As is the case with some of the best film adaptations by Jane Austen, Good Society balances its attention to detail with good humor, turns downward on family dynamics and shocking scandals in a way that feels true to the author it mimics, while bringing something new to the TTRPG space.
Tales From The Loop
Based on the book by the Swedish author Simon Stålenhag – also the basis for the 2020 show of the same name – Stories from the loop takes place in the 1980s, where players take on roles as members of a group of teenage friends who encounter live machines around their hometown and take on mysteries related to them.
While the show off Stories from the loop had some major differences from the book, the RPG is largely true to its source material, creating an environment filled with both wonders and spooky creatures that thrive because of both its nostalgic and sci-fi elements.
To tackle the magical girl genre with style, Glitter hearts is an RPG that draws on the aesthetics of works like Sailor Moon with a loving hand, making it an action-packed game where heroes balance their ordinary everyday lives with calls to use their wonderful power holdings to save the day.
One of the most exciting parts of Glitter Hearts is that it lends itself to character customization. Players can choose from their hero’s abilities from over 150 “moves”, which means that there are a large number of ways to construct a character that suits a player’s desired aesthetics, and always chances to learn something new.
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