Dungeons and Dragons is to roleplaying, what Kleenex is to tissues. Some people think that ALL roleplaying is Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons was the first tabletop RPG and the 5th Edition is one of the best designed tabletop RPGs out there. It’s incredibly easy for new players to learn, but still has enough content to engage regular diehards.
But what if you want to try something new? Here are a few other awesome games you might enjoy:
- StarFinder – StarFinder is ultimately derived from Dungeons and Dragons’ 3.5e Open Game Content, so its rules and mechanics will feel very similar to DND players. It brings heroic adventure to the stars and has a very well-thought-out world that combines the best of Star Trek with the world of fantasy. It’s more than just a “re-skin” of DND or Pathfinder (a more rules-heavy fork of DND’s rules). It offers a different health system, character classes with unique gameplay mechanics, and a full set of rules for starship combat.
- Forged in the Dark – Forged in the Dark is the generic name for the game engine that powers Blades in the Dark and Scum and Villainy. This system is designed for heist capers. In my experience, stealth missions in Dungeons and Dragons can be very irritating. One blown stealth role and your party is done for. In the Blades in the Dark family of games, players have the option to burn a resource called stress in order to push through when they need it, reducing the chance that one bad die role blows the whole mission. It also spares the players the need to have a huge planning session before the caper. By burning stress the players can do flashback scenes where they establish plans, equipment or arrangements their characters made in order to pull off their daring heist. Scum and Villainy is about intergalactic capers, whereas Blades in the Dark has a steampunk fantasy setting.
- Dread – Dread is a diceless horror RPG that uses a Jenga tower. Each action your character takes requires pulling a certain number of blocks from the tower. The creaking tower serves as a metaphor for the impending horrors that await your characters. If the tower collapses on your character’s pull, your character dies. Best not get too attached to your characters in this game
- Numinera – Numinera takes place in the far far future. Several civilizations have risen on the Earth’s surface and many have collapsed. You play adventurers salvaging the ancient technology of these civilizations. What defines Numinera’s game play is the salvage mechanic which constantly gives your characters one-time powerups that represent the bits and pieces of ancient technology they find. In addition to the salvage mechanic, players can push their characters to give them more control over dice roles.
- FateCore / Fate Accelerated – Disclaimer: I have yet to play this one (I have played all the others on this list!). Fate Core is a game I hope to try out soon because it allows you to roleplay ANYTHING. Characters are defined in terms of five Aspects, which are short phrases that describe a character’s ideals, drives or personality. Players can choose to spend Fate Points to get a bonus when an action intersects with a character’s aspect. If they accept a story complication due to a character’s aspect (aspects often imply character shortcomings!) they can gain a Fate Point. The system is rules light, focuses on narrative, and leaves the players tons of freedom to build the hero they want. If you want the rules even lighter, there is Fate Accelerated. Fate RPGs use special Fate Dice, but if you don’t have those you can use this dice roller I made (link goes to my martian.earth website, which is currently under construction. A prototype of the dice roller is ready for action though!).
Regardless of the system you choose to play, remember that the most important rule of any RPG is The Rule of Cool! If you are using your imagination and telling unforgettable stories, you are doing it right!
Oh and one more thing: if you want an RPG that fits on an index card there is this little beauty.
Missing the adventures of C’therax and his merry band of news reporting Martians? More short fiction will be coming soon . . .
As for Martian.Earth, it will be a fan site with various web apps that spread the love of gaming and science fiction. I aim to have the site ready by August.