Try an Indie Game
What defines an indie game? Definitions vary. But for our purposes here they are produced by an individual or small team, and tend to be tightly focused on a particular theme. There are loads of indie games to be found, and this is just a small sample of the range of intriguing, ground-breaking games produced by indie designers. Many of them have had a strong influence on the development of more well-known games.
“…I think indie games bring lighter rules via focus and an emphasis on storytelling to the table.” — Mike Mearls
A Thousand and One Nights – Meguey Baker – “Mysterious strangers. Beautiful women. Enchanted swords. Talking camels. You play members of the Sultan’s Court, whiling away the sultry nights by telling pointed stories to advance your own ambitions. Navigate the social maze and you could win your heart’s desire; offend the wrong person and you suffer the Sultan’s wrath.” – PDF – Print
Blade of the Iron Throne – Phillip Jones and Michael Heider – “Blade is tightly focused around the Sword & Sorcery literary genre as created by Golden Age authors such as Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Catherine Lucille Moore, and Henry Kuttner. Mechanically, Blade features a cinematic combat system that emphasizes player tactics over character sheet numbers.” – PDF – Print
Blowback – Elizabeth Sampat – “You play spies blacklisted after a job goes awry, as well as the people who care about them. It’s heavily inspired by the American television show Burn Notice and movies like the Bourne trilogy. As much as Blowback is about pyrotechnics and car chases, it’s a fish-out-of-water premise: spies stranded without their agency, normal people swept up in intrigue. And, like all multiplayer games, it’s about relationships—how much can you ask of someone, how much can you disappoint them before they turn their back on you?” – PDF
carry. a game of war. – Nathan D. Pauletta – ”carry is a game focused on the experience of being a soldier in the Vietnam war. Heavily inspired by the films Platoon and Full Metal Jacket and the novel The Things They Carried, carry is designed to provide a serious roleplaying experience in the tradition of these sources.“ – PDF
Community Radio – Quinn Murphy – “Your town has deep secrets, terrifying monsters, unspeakable evils, a clandestine city council making strange decrees…and a public radio station! In Community Radio, a group of 3 – 10 people gather to improvise scenes that show what life is like in this town, with accompanying public radio broadcasts. It’s a game of dark humor and fast thinking that can entertain for 1-2 hours.” – PDF
Infestation, An RPG of Bugs and Heroes – Eloy Lasanta – “Take on the role of bugs who gain strange intelligence from a house-wide event called The Awakening. Go on crazy adventures in various rooms (each with its own dangers) and battle for control over This House, the most disgusting domicile on the block. Every room, from Cabinet City to The Stinker, is a treasure trove of garbage and filth and just waiting for your bugs to explore them.” – PDF/Print
Kagematsu – Danielle Lewon & Renee Knipe “… a small, nearly indefensible village is living under the horror of a dangerous threat that casts its long shadow over the village. Without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed. Enter Kagematsu, a wayward ronin fleeing a troubled past. Here is a defender for the village, if only he can be swayed from his meandering course. So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affections and steer him to their cause… .” – PDF/Print
Nobilis – Jenna Moran – “There is a hidden world of spirit that surrounds us. Within that world dwell the Nobilis. They are creatures half-human and half-god. Each holds dominion over a single concept in the world. You have heard the stories and rumors of the Nobilis. You have heard of the fates of those who encounter them. Herein you will find a guide to dealing with these Powers and their attendant spirits.” – PDF
The Quiet Year – Avery Alder – “The Quiet Year is a map game. You define the struggles of a post-apocalyptic community, and attempt to build something good within their quiet year. Every decision and every action is set against a backdrop of dwindling time and rising concern.” – PDF/Print
Shock: Social Science Fiction – Joshua A.C. Newman – “Inspired by the works of Bruce Sterling, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Philip K. Dick, the game pushes the players to make stories that matter to them — stories about politics, philosophy, love, and death. At the core of the world-creation system is the Grid, a method of world creation that crosses social concerns with Shocks to build a fictional world, custom-built for the type of story the players want to experience.”
Wushu: Black Belt Edition – Daniel Bayn – “Wushu is a roleplaying game where groups of friends sit safely on their asses and tell each other a shared story of high-flying, hyper-stylized action. The emphasis is always on entertainment; this isn’t a game where smart tactics and careful resource management lead to clearly-defined victories. It’s more like improv theater or a radio play or a drunken bull**** session.” – Web/PDF
There are also a few indie games that snuck their way into the Find Games to Play page.