5 Amazing Tabletop Role Playing Games (That Aren’t Dungeons and Dragons)
This is a Nerdbot “Nerd Voices” contributor post from reader Sophie Dearden. Follow her on Twitter for more RPG fun and mania!
Even if you’ve never picked up a D20, you’ve probably heard of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s pretty much THE tabletop roleplaying game to most people. Which is unfortunate because the world of TTRPGs is much, much wider. Below is a list of five great ones for groups looking for something beyond the standard D&D experience.
Created by RPG veteran Monte cook, Numenera is a science fantasy game that strives to be as unique as possible, while being welcome and accessible to newcomers to tabletop gaming. The world of Numenera is large and vibrant, focused first and foremost on being weird, on providing an immersive, quality experience that’s also welcoming for those just starting out in tabletop RPGs. The trick they use to do this? They made the system as simple as possible, providing streamlined mechanics, so that players are able to devote the majority of their focus to the setting, and embracing the weird of it as much as they can.
This is how you can juggle campaigns taking place in underground caverns made from the hollowed-out bones of a dead monster, with the political machinations of the scientist-priests that also call those caverns home. Whether you’re new to the RPG scene, or just looking for something new, you’ll find something to love in Numenera.
4) Stars Without Number
This game (currently on its second edition) is a useful game for those looking to transition from D&D to a different style and setting of game without having to learn a whole new set of rules. Stars without number uses much of the same base mechanics as D&D, but rather than a fantasy epic setting, the game is a sci-fi setting which calls on the GM to create a sandbox full of words for characters to traverse and explore.
Set in the distant future, after humanity has expanded to the stars, colonizing empty worlds into an empire spanning galaxies, only for a cataclysm to cut off the members of this widespread civilization from each other, leaving many to wither, and all others to have to find their own way. Now things have started to be repaired, but all that time in isolation means a lot of time for worlds to grow in their own, often unpleasant ways.
Stars without number provides GMs with all the support they need to craft planets and storylines to keep their players immersed and having fun for ages, with the resources to conduct stories of all different kinds, unique, yet still able to mesh in terms of tone. And as if that’s not enough for you, they’re providing a fully playable version of the game free on PDF! And you can pay extra to get a version with expanded rules, including for space magic.
What are you waiting for?
3) Changeling: The Lost
Changeling is a game that’s designed to get under your skin in the most respectful way. You play as the titular Changelings, humans who were taken by beings called the True Fae, stolen away to the realm Arcadia. Here they were twisted and changed to match the task their new keeper snatched them for, tasks which twisted and traumatized them inside and out. But eventually, they escape back to the mortal world, able to see the magic in it, with new powers and knowledge, and a chance to build a life of their own again.
The setting of changeling is full of amazing, fantastical elements drawn from fairy tales and myths from all over the world, woven expertly together to create a deep, vibrant, engaging world for players to interact with. A world where you can strap on bulletproof vests and shoulder shotguns before running through ancient forests to hunt for dragons.
But it’s not just a game of fantasy. Underneath the adventure and magical drama is a game that asks its players to think about abuse, the way it twists and changes you into something you probably didn’t want to be. Asks players to decide how they move on now that they’ve been through what they’ve been through, suffered what they suffered, and come out the other side. Changeling puts to metaphor these themes to allow players to better engage with them, in a way that’s safe and cathartic, and above all, empowering. A must play for any gaming group that can handle more mature content.
2) Demon: The Descent
From the makers of Changeling, Demon: The Descent is a game that took one simple conceit and then ran with it from one end of creation to the next; what if God wasn’t just God, but a supercomputer? And what if angels where just programs?
In Demon, the players play the titular beings. Also called the Unchained, they are former servants of the God-Machine that for whatever reason, have rebelled, and now out of Pride, conviction, necessity, or even a twisted loyalty, they wage a hidden war against a machine so vast and powerful it is literally built into the earth.
This is a game about having incredible cosmic powers, but still having to hide from an enemy with even greater power. It’s a cold war espionage game set in the modern world, where any door could drop you into enemy hands, and every mission could be your last. It’s about fighting hard for the right to be free and live on your own terms, because you know the alternative, and you know that serving in heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
This game was released just this year and shows its commitment to being uniquely its own thing right from the word go. Taking place in an apocalyptic future, the world is doubly scarred-once by a species of super-powered zombies known as the brood, and again by the nuclear fallout that came from trying to fight them off when they first rose. Humanity has been crippled and brought to the edge, struggling to pick up the pieces, but unlike so much post apocalypse media, there is no doubt that humanity can recover and is already making strides in that direction. Because despite the darkness and death, Sins is a game of optimism, of pushing forward beyond your past, and that’s clear in the player characters.
The players will be taking the roll of beings called Nemessaries, humans who died and became members of the brood, but through force of will and communion with mysterious stones known as shards, they retained their humanity and with it, incredible powers. As a game, Sins lets even starting characters have a selection of fun, flashy powers because powers aren’t the point. It’s about character. It’s about your characters goals and ideals and beliefs, and how those things change and how they grow from those changes.
The mechanics are as unique as the setting as well, with numerous interesting possibilities for your character and for your character to interact with the world. The complexity though, means it’s likely not a game for groups or DMs new to roleplaying.
Do you have a favorite Table Top Role Playing game? Have you played any of these games we listed? Are they totally amazing? Tell Nerdbot about it in the comments and get the conversation going!