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.
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?
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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