About a week ago I wrote a post about several tabletop RPGs you could check out if you want to turn your backs on D&D. This post proved quite popular, so here are more fantasy tabletop roleplaying games worth your time.
Numenera and the Cypher System
Numenera is a sci-fantasy roleplaying game set into a far future designed by Monte Cook who is probably most well-known for his contributions to D&D 3rd Edition. Compared to D&D 5th Edition combat is much less tactical since the game focuses on exploration and discovery. The world is delightfully weird and gives GMs a lot of freedom. Personally Numenera is one of the games I had the most fun running as a GM. If you don’t mind some science fiction in your fantasy TTRPG, Numenera might be worth a shot. It doesn’t hurt that the rules are pretty easy to learn and share some aspects with D&D. You use a twenty-sided dice for most rolls, the three core classes are basically fighter (called glaive in Numenera), wizard (nano) and rogue (jack), there are countless “dungeons” to explore and ancient artifacts to find.
If Numenera is a bit too weird for your tastes, Monte Cook has you covered. After the success of Numenera Monte Cook Games released a setting-agnostic version of the so-called Cypher System which can be used for almost everything. Since then several genre sourcebooks have been released which not only contain genre-specific rules but also their own unique settings. One of these books is called Godforsaken and is focused on using the Cypher System for all-kinds of fantasy settings. Using these rules for a D&D-like game is definitely possible.
Last but not least there’s Ptolus, Monte Cook’s fantasy setting which he specifically designed for D&D 3rd Edition back in the day. Ptolus is a cosmopolitan city basically built on a megadungeon, a place where adventurers from all over the world flock towards in hopes for glory and riches. Monte Cook Games recently rereleased the 1000-paged book compatible with both their Cypher System but also D&D 5th Edition. If you are looking for as close a D&D experience as possible, I highly recommend checking out Ptolus.
Have you ever wished there was a tabletop RPG which felt like one of these JRPGs you’ve played as a kid? Are you a huge fan of video games like the Final Fantasy series? Then Fabula Ultima might be for you. The 360-paged book contains all the rules players and GMs need to play in a setting inspired by Japanese console RPGs. Fabula Ultima doesn’t contain a setting but helps players and GMs come up with their own. Character creation allows players to mix and match 15 classes to create exactly the kind of character you want to play. The first time I laid my eyes on Fabula Ultima I immediately fell in love with it. If you’re unsure if this is for you, you can check out the free quickstart rules here.
The Generic Universal Role Playing System by Steve Jackson Games shares some DNA with In The Labyrinth which I mentioned in the last post on D&D alternatives, but it’s potentially a much more complex game. Like the Cypher System it can be used with almost every genre and setting. At its core GURPS uses a simple 3d6 roll-under core mechanic but it’s many options often overwhelm players and newbie GMs alike. GURPS is basically a toolbox you can use to create your own game. Picking and choosing which rules you want to use is the first choice a GURPS GM has to make.
Luckily GURPS has always had great support through genre sourcebooks. There are several sourcebooks helping GMs with coming up with their own fantasy settings, several magic systems, bestiaries and so on. There’s also Dungeon Fantasy which made the above-mentioned choices for you. It’s a completely stand-alone dungeon fantasy (pun intended) game in a nifty boxed set, ready to play. Unfortunately it can be quite daunting for new players since it’s on the crunchier side of the spectrum. Dungeon Fantasy also tries to be “realistic” which mostly shows itself in quite lethal combat. If you are coming from D&D you should take this into consideration. Even experienced adventurers can easily be killed by lowly peasants or a few goblins easily. But using GURPS is definitely a solid choice.
Dragonbane aka Drakar och Demoner is the latest iteration of a classic 40-year old fantasy roleplaying game from Sweden. As far as I know it started out as a version of Runequest with its serial numbers filed off and then turned into its own thing. Recently Free League Publishing kickstarted a new version of the game. The beta versions have already be sent out to backers and the game looks pretty awesome. It definitely has some old-school vibes and I can’t wait for the final product to shipped. Like D&D the game uses a twenty-sided dice for task resolution with results equal or lower your skill level being successful. You can check out the free quickstart rules here. Please note that this document is based on an earlier version of the rules.
I own almost everything Free League Publishing has released over the last few years and they never disappointed me. Their games are a lot of fun, the books look great and the overall production values are through the roof. All of their games are also pretty easy to learn and play, much easier in fact than D&D 5th Edition which can be pretty clunky at times. By the way, if you want to be among the first to check out Dragonbane, you can still support the project via a late pledge.
There’s even more …
Of course this list is far from complete. Fantasy is the most popular TTRPG genre by far and there are countless games which could be of interest to players who want to move away from D&D 5th Edition. Perhaps this whole OGL kerfuffle is actually a good thing. Many people started to look into new games for the first time ever and there’s the slight chance that the hobby will diversify.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!