What Game Should I Play, the RPG Conundrum.

Whether you are new to the Role Playing Games or a seasoned veteran, the question “What Game Should I Play?” always comes up. With a long-standing group it often comes up right after a successfully ran campaign, small burn out on the system we are playing,  or maybe we just want to try something new and different.

My latest group and I have played several different systems over the last few years, and the “Question” always comes up. We see new books on the shelves at our local gaming store and think “Hey, I wonder if the group would play that”. Often, at times we put it to the group and a new system is chosen.

This article is to help you and your group decide what you want to play. I have broken it out by some of my favorite genres and will give you a synopsis of each one with some games related to it.

What Game Should I Play

Fantasy

Ok, this by far one of my favorites. Save the prince/princess, kill dragons and monsters, gain epic loot, and level up. Fantasy games are the escape into the medieval/renaissance age that has magic and wonder.  Where else can you see a gnomish barbarian riding a unicorn? Fantasy

Game Systems:

  • Dungeons and Dragons – This is probably the most popular and has been around the longest, it the staple of what all Fantasy games want to be. Its currently in its 5th edition and has been updated in a very nice way. Bring your polyhedral dice set.
  • PathFinder  –  Think 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons revived. The pathfinder system brings back all those 3E adventures moments with some additional twists. Bring your polyhedral dice set.
  • Iron Heroes – Think 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons without Magic. The rules are easy to pick up if you have played the older version of Dungeons and Dragons. Without Magic, the game gets a lot harder.
  • Castles and Crusades – Runs a modified d20 System. The rules can get complicated if you are new to the RP scene but are balanced very well. The biggest thing I like about this system is the loot system. It takes getting loot from the bad guys to a different level.

Bonus off the wall System

  • Hack Master – Ok, 4th Edtion of this was very fun. Take Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition and then parody it. The monster names alone are worth the play.

Sci-Fi

Not feeling like killing a dragon? Looking for more robots and bionic implants? What about traveling the stars and fighting aliens? If you answered yes to at least 2 of the questions above, you might be in the mood for a Science Fiction Adventure. Most Sci-Fi adventures are placed in the near to far future and have technological wonders. They may also have magic that balances out the advance technology.

Game Systems

  • Star Finder – Pathfinder’s science fiction cousin, very well done and very fun to play. Bring your polyhedral dice set.
  • Shadow Run – My all-time favorite sci-fi game, currently in its 6th Edition. Besides a little tweaking done with character creation is backward compatible with previous editions. Bring lots and lots of 6 sided dice.
  • Star Wars the RPG Game – Who wants to play as a Wookie?! I do. The current system comes in 3 flavors. The gameplay though is still amazing. If you are running a nostalgia game, there is a d20 version and d6 version. Bring your polyhedral dice set.
  • RIFTS – Definitely SCI-FI, thought it could be considered post-apocalyptic. After scientists open a giant rift to another world all kinds of things started coming through. The game uses polyhedral dice, but you will be using your percentile the most. The biggest thing about this system is the ability to create your characters almost exactly the way you want.

Bonus off the wall System

  • Warhammer 40K – Based on the tabletop miniatures game. There are several flavors that this comes in. It is a dark, gritty, and very deadly game. Character creation and advancement are a little different from normal games but it does use the polyhedral dice set.

Historical

Hmm, so Fantasy and Sci-Fi are off the table. Ok, what about the Wild West or fighting in the armies of old? I mean showdown duels at High Noon are always fun. Plus, you get to explore history or alternate history from what it would be like back then.

Game Systems

  • Deadlands – Depending on which version you play it can be very interesting. This is an alternate reality wild west game, with a very big twist. There are monsters. The original version played with a deck of cards and a polyhedral set. The new Savage Worlds version plays with a polyhedral set, though I have heard there is a way to play with a deck of cards. The game is set in the wild west and you have to figure out where all the monsters are coming from, so that means duels, tall tellin’, and adventure.
  • Legend of the 5 Rings – L5R has been around a while, stemmed off the original TSR Oriental Adventures Guide. It puts the gaming group smack dab in the middle of medieval Asia. Oh, and all those mythical monsters that they told stories about are real.
  • Boot hill – Straight up old west style gaming. Create your character, then explore the world of the old west. Just don’t pick any fights in the saloon until you have leveled up a bit.
  • Sidewinder – Recoiled – Old west gaming in the d20 world. Compatible with Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. Runs the players through the wild west (similar to Boot hill) but you can pull out some monsters from the 3rd Edition Monster Manual to make it very interesting.

Bonus off the wall System

  • Space 1889 – Technically an Alternate History Sci-Fi, but if you like steampunk this is a good one. Based on Mars in 1889 with steampunk technology. You create a standard pulp fiction hero and fight the denizens of Mars. Now in the Savage world’s system.

Horror/Post Apocalyptic

Well, hmm. That means you might be in for something darker. That means horror or post-apocalyptic system, survival against monsters that go bump in the night. We are talking about Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves, oh my! Nothing to gets the blood pumping when you play a game designed around your fears and you do not have a dragon to back you up (Most of the time). Not to mention of the thought of pending doom because the planet went to hell (in some systems quite literally) still gives me chills.

Game Systems

  • Vampire: The Masquerade – This was the first system that introduced me to the World of Darkness [White Wolf’s Game world]. The twist is, you are the vampires. You have to survive not only without being noticed or exposed by humans but have to fight off monsters and other vampires. Bring lots of d10s.
  • All Flesh Must be Eaten –  Zombies, ah run! This is the zombie game if you are looking for a horror/post-apocalyptic game about Zombies. You play as a survivor and have to survive the onslaught of the zombies. The coolest thing about this game is the critical hit rules, very deadly.
  • Call of Cthulhu – Elder gods and a twist on how magic is done. The game is all about madness and monsters. Currently in its 7th edition and can be played in any timeline. My most favorite adventure was set on the orient express in the 18th century. Bring your polyhedral dice set but plan to use your percentile dice the most.
  • Paranoia – Satirical Post Apocalyptic game……….ok, so the real game is a lot more fun. First, you are a clone, well because now there is a supercomputer running the show. Second, the computer is not working right. Third, ZAP! The game is set up so that you do not get attached to your characters and in my gaming groups has often been the go-to game to help relieve tension. Bring your 6 Sided dice.

Bonus off the wall System

  • Chill – When I first played this one, my storyteller did it so well it scared me. You play a survivor/investigator looking into a “supernatural” matter. The game is deadly and if your storyteller was like mine, you will have amazing tales to tell.

General

So after all those, the only thing I can think of is a mash-up. That means you want to play something unique and different or you want to play all those I have listed before but in one setting. I have a few ideas on this. Maybe the game you want to play is not in the genre that I have listed. So here are a few general systems and interesting alternatives from the normal genres.

Game Systems

  • GURPs – Generic Universal Role-Playing System, this system is great for mashups. Want to fight vampires as a robot? Check. Want to fight Dragons as a Vampire? Check. The base system goes over a general set of rules and then you pick up additional books for the flavors you want to play in it. Bring your polyhedral dice set but plan to use your percentile dice the most.
  • Mutants and Masterminds – Super Heroes! What can I say? You get to make/create a superhero and battle the forces of evil. Runs with polyhedral dice. The system is very simple to use but allows a huge amount of customization when it comes to your character.
  • Scion – You are the son/daughter of a God. Learn to deal with your abilities and your absentee parent. I have played the original system a lot, it was fun and we had some very epic adventures. I am looking for a new rebooted system.
  • Dresden Files – Characters are not your normal heroes. They can be werewolves, wizards, and much more. You fight the forces of evil in this modern-day game setting.

Bonus off the Wall Systems

  • Blue Planet – This one should technically be put in the Sci-Fi bin but I am putting here because of the in-depth research done on it. You are on another planet due to a post-apocalyptic event that occurred on earth, environmental as it turns out, and you are now surviving underwater. The game rules can get complex but the game its self is an amazing work of art. It takes adventures under the sea to a whole new level.

Summoning it All Up

Whatever you and your group choose, it should be fun to play. The answering of the question “What Game Should I Play” quest is now complete or at least been researched more. So go out there and play and have fun. Role-playing games are all about who you play with and how much fun you have. So, no matter your decision I know you have chosen wisely. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions please post below!

-Archon Del Noche

8 thoughts on “What Game Should I Play, the RPG Conundrum.”

  1. There are a lot of great games on the list. My husband got me into D and D about 20 years ago now. We are thinking about setting up a family game night now that our kids are old enough to play.

    We thought we would start them off with D & D, but after reading your list, I now feel like maybe we should change it up.

    What game would you suggest for teenagers in the horror category? Both of our kids are horror fiends. But I would like it to be still appropriate.

    1. Dovey,
      For teenagers with a horror appetite, I would recommend: Chill, it is the bonus system I listed it under the horror/post-apocalypse genre. The reason for this is that it is designed to do short “scenes” or adventures and is fairly easy to get into. A plus is that you can make it as scary as you want. Also, character creation does not take hours to do but about 30 minutes, which is a major plus when you want to get into the game portion itself. As a storyteller and a player for this system, you are going to need only 1 book to start with and that is the Chill: Core Rule Book. You will also need a set of polyhedral dice for each player (you might get away with one set if you set up your scene right)

  2. Thank you Archon for the in depth reviews. I love Horror/Post Apocalyptic myself and I look forward now, to checking out Vampire: the masquerade. This is a great site and I’m sure many people will find it interesting and useful. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Yes, Dungeons and Dragons is probably the most epic fantasy game out there, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Pathfinder from a few friends. You definitely can’t go wrong there. I love how they’re adding twists and turns to historical wild west games as well; the presence of monsters just made these things a lot more interesting.

    1. Todd,
      Welcome to the site! Dungeons and Dragons have been in the business the longest and their current revision makes the game exciting to play again. I find Pathfinder fun and inventive and the fact that it is compatible with most D & D 3rd Edtion books makes extra awesome. We (my current group) have a Pathfinder game on hold while the DM for it catches his campaign up to us. (We took a few too many tangent quests and ended up on the other side of the world). Right now we are running a 5th Edition D&D Campaign from The curse of Strahd module book and a 3rd Edition Custom Campaign (I grabbed all my old favorite modules and did some impromptu conversions and I am running them through them) that allows for any d20 source. If you get a chance, check out the Deadlands Game system by Pinnacle Entertainment, it is the Wild West with a very big twist.

  4. Archon,
    I knew about some RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons but I didn’t know that there were other categories. I think I’ve been living under a gaming rock because I don’t venture out much to other games. But a good RPG is something that I’ve been looking for! That Star Wars the RPG Game looks really interesting, as it’s something that I’m familiar with. Thanks for categorizing the RPG games. It made it really easy for me to review each game and see which one I’d be most interested. Thanks so much!

    1. Bobby,
      Most people hear about Dungeons and Dragons through different references (movies, books, news, etc.), the other games I hardly ever hear about outside of Gaming news. There are so many more game worlds/rules to explore that just starting on some of my favorites had to do for now. So happy hunting!

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