6 Roleplaying Games You Should Try – RPGaDay 2022
The question was: Roll 1d8+1, and tag that many friends and suggest a new RPG to try.
But, I hate being tagged or intrusively engaging people in social media activities, so instead:
Suggest 1d8+1 RPGs to try, it is. I rolled a 5, so I will be suggesting 6 RPGs.
I’m not saying that they’re the best of the best or anything. I’m also not listing my own games – Cthulhu Hack or The Dee Sanction, because they’re fantastic, you must play them, and that’s a given. And I’m not saying D&D, because you should play it but that’s altogether too easy.
- Pathfinder 2e. Why? Because, I think, it delivers the package that D&D 5th edition didn’t, offering a highly modular fantasy system with all the trappings of what D&D should be. Since it took the torch from D&D 3.5 edition back in the day, it has always tried to deliver something very specific to those who appreciated a certain kind of game. I have never enjoyed it as a player, but I suspect that comes down to game runners who don’t run good games and no one has ever challenged them on it. But, Pathfinder 2nd edition impressed me with the present of the game in book form and the Gamemastery Guide took me a step further in seeing the block elements that make it work. D&D Next sounded like it was trying to do this but it never did. Your experience will vary.
- Girl Underground. Why? Powered By The Apocalypse is a series of games that leverage play sheets for characters, simple mechanics for handling success and failure, and structured approaches to moves that force the player to own their choices. Girl Underground goes a step further in creating a game where the players generate the second half of the session through storytelling about the life of a young girl – akin to Alice or Dorothy – and the experiences that shape a fantasy world that will trap her unless she learns a life lesson and escapes. In the second half of the game, the Girl falls into the other world and players take turns playing her as a shared character and one of her companions, as the game’s narrator improvises the challenge she must overcome. It’s glorious, warm, wonderful and engaging stuff, that does something I have never quite done before.
- Savage Worlds or Cypher System. Why? Both of these games provide generic rulesets that the game runner can build up from, adding whatever complexity they choose, and run games in all kinds of sets. Both probably have strengths and weaknesses in settings, but they’re also well supported by a great community. My personal favourite of the two is Cypher, but only because I haven’t grokked just how to run Savage Worlds nor played a game that I felt fully sold it. However, as someone who designs games, I have the gut feeling I’m missing something and I remain positive that I will get it one day!
- Symbaroum. A gorgeous game with a D20 system that isn’t Dungeons & Dragons, where the players take on the roles of treasure-seekers and explorers, but who might just be the bad guys. The illustration in all the books is glorious, rich and invites exploration, but the background too offers slight spins on your expectations. The core conceit that you are (often) one of a nation of blood-soaked conquerors under the guide of desperate refugees is something that can be built upon over time and become increasingly troubling. Everything isn’t right in the state of Ambria and even the great war that ravaged their old homeland might have been something they could have avoided. Symbaroum offers layers of questions, competing factions, and a long campaign you can sink your teeth into.
- Into the Odd or Troika! Why? Simplicity with a subverted character generation system that takes the process (pretty much) out of your hands and leaves you to have fun with a character you almost don’t know. Both games do things that will make traditional gamers scratch their heads or weep, like not needing to roll to hit something or pulling initiative chits out of a bag blind, so the player characters might not even get a turn on a round. Odd has a wonderful industrial squalor in a fantasy world setting filled with odd personalities, while Troika! leans into the surreal using the core rules, but sings in other ways if you indulge yourself with Acid Death Fantasy (Dune means the Arabian Nights with a dearth of slippers) or Very Pretty Paleozoic Pals (you get to play dinosaurs, no less).
- Something old school that isn’t Old School. Why? I think if you didn’t get a chance the first time around (often because you weren’t born yet), then trying games from the 80s or 90s can be an eye-opener. And, I would suggest, that you go in with energy, interest and engagement. In recent years I have run games of Dragonquest 3e (TSR), Judge Dredd (Games Workshop), Star Trek (FASA) and others, and the process is fascinating. Dragonquest is like a technical manual, while Dredd is underpowered and over-engineered. Star Trek is a really simple game where you roll against percentile values, but the counter-intuitive element is that you add modifiers to your roll rather than adjust your target. And character generation starts with your goal (“I’m going to be the Chief Engineer“) and you keep running through it until you get there, even if your character ends up a bit old. It’s a strange experience sometimes (“Aftermath combat can result in life-threatening injuries to almost any part of the body?”), but well worth the time.
RPGaDay is a prompt-driven experience in tabletop roleplaying, initiated by Dave Chapman of Autocratik, and powered by me and you.
The prompts for this year are as follows — and you can find out more on Dave’s website.