Find Tabletop Roleplaying Games to Play
Just as there really are no best books or movies, there are no best tabletop roleplaying games, or even best in a particular category. But if you’re looking to find interesting new games to play, this selection should help.
These were selected to cover a wide spectrum of game mechanics, settings, and play styles. Some are well known, others relatively obscure. Some are licensed from video games, movies, TV shows, or books. Some are free for download, and several provide free quickstart PDFs. Even if you primarily play one kind of game, exploring new games is a great way to find new bits to level up your play.
Each of these links will take you to a full writeup about that game, including overview information, three of the things that make the game stand out out, purchasing information, and links to reviews and community sites.
December Featured Games
Games by Category
This list of games is by no means exhaustive; it’s designed to showcase the range of quality games available. Many excellent games aren’t included here, but I’ve provided tips for finding even more games if this list doesn’t give you what you need.
These games provide well-detailed settings and are supported with published adventures and other supplementary materials. They all have vibrant, active fan communities with actual play streams, podcasts, and forums. If you want to run a one-off, a short series of sessions, or a long-term campaign and don’t want to come up with your own game world, one of these games may be right for you.
- 7th Sea – Swashbuckling tales of blades and magic in a fantasy version of Europe.
- 13th Age – d20 fantasy from two of the designers behind 3rd and 4th edition D&D.
- Atlantis: The Second Age — Swords & Sandals Bronze Age fantasy.
- Dungeons & Dragons — The original and most popular roleplaying game of all time.
- Iron Kingdoms — Magic and gunpowder collide in a grimy, dangerous setting.
- Pathfinder — High-crunch d20 fantasy with a well-defined setting and loads of supplements and sourcebooks.
- Pendragon — Players control noble families across generations in this highly-influential game of Arthurian fantasy.
- RuneQuest: Adventures in Glorantha — Gritty combat, lots of magic, and possibly the most detailed setting in fantasy roleplaying.
- Shadow of the Demon Lord — Grimdark fantasy built for rapid character advancement and campaigns of 10-20 sessions.
- Symbaroum — Dark fantasy in a land where adventurers seek to unearth old treasures while avoiding the taint of magical corruption.
- Call of Cthulhu — Arguably the most popular horror RPG of all time, this game is supported by a vast library of published adventures and supplements.
- Night’s Black Agents — Like chocolate and peanut butter, Jason Bourne-style spies taking down vampire conspiracies actually works.
- Vampire: The Masquerade — The original game of gothic horror returns.
Licensed from Books & Movies
- A Song of Ice and Fire — The official adaptation of the Game of Thrones books incorporate lots of social combat and maneuvering between royal houses.
- Doctor Who — The licensed game of everyone’s favorite Time Lord and colleagues.
- Dragon Age — Dark fantasy based on the video game franchise of the same name.
- Star Wars — Three different games in one galaxy mean you can focus on the seedy underbelly, the Rebellion, or the Force, or mix and match.
- Degenesis: Rebirth — Five hundred years ago a meteor strike nearly wiped out humanity; now the Primer it carried may finish the job.
- Mutant: Year Zero — Take your band of mutated adventurers out of the Ark into the dangers of irradiated ruins in this low-prep game.
- Eclipse Phase — A super-detailed trans humanist sci-fi future in which death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to characters.
- Numenera — Humanity has adapted, lived through a million years of history, and now lives on an earth where ancient technology is like magic.
- Tales from the Loop — In an alternate 1980s reality, teenagers uncover strange goings-on in a world of robots and mysterious secrets.
- Godlike — WWII superheroes are deadly effective in the battles they’re thrown into, but they can also be killed in this gritty, unique superhero game.
Some Assembly Required
These games deal with a specific genre but do not come with a fully-detailed default game world. Instead they provide guidance and tools to assist the gamemaster who wants to create their own setting. Each has an active fanbase and plenty of material online to help you build and run one-shot adventures or a full campaign.
- Burning Wheel — High-crunch fantasy with unpredictable magic, deadly combat, and belief-driven character advancement.
- Dungeon Crawl Classics — A uniquely-styled game mixes an emphasis on old schol gaming principles with several unique mechanical twists.
- Dungeon World — A lower crunch system that strives to evoke the feel of early D&D.
- Mythras — d100 fantasy with deadly combat and several types of magic.
- Monster of the Week — Investigators take on horrors of all kinds, keeping the world safe for the blissfully unaware.
- Apocalypse World — The mechanics from this influential post-apocalyptic game of interpersonal struggle gave rise to a multitude of Powered by the Apocalypse games.
- Atomic Highway — If you’ve ever wanted to create your own Mad Max-style adventures, have a look.
- Icons — This is a low prep, fast onramp to superhero gaming.
- Mutants & Masterminds — Arguably the most popular current superhero RPG, M&M uses moderately crunchy d20 mechanics.
- Valiant Universe — With story-driven mechanics of this game and premade heroes from the Valiant Universe, this game is aimed at newcomers.
These games provide core rules that can be used by the gamemaster to create their own unique settings. If you want to replicate your favorite book, TV show, or movie but there’s no game for it, you can use one of these games to build out your own version. You can also mix and max genres, for example creating a sci-fi superhero or fantasy steampunk campaign. Some are also supported by supplements for a variety of ready-to-go settings.
- Fate Core — These mechanics, which emphasize the flow of story and competent, action-oriented characters, have been used in many other games.
- GURPS — A toolkit for creating custom settings with tailored crunch, GURPS is supported by dozens of sourcebooks.
- Hillfolk — This game comes with several settings for use with its DramaSystem narrative mechanics.
- Mini Six — An adaptation of the mechanics used by West End Games back in the day, these simple, quick mechanics favor pulp action settings.
- Savage Worlds — These fast prep, quick action-resolution mechanics favor pulp action, and are supported by many supplements.
Looking for games that require minimal (or no) prep and are particularly well-suited to one-off play? Look no further.
- 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars — Space Troopers, you have a mission. Wipe out the bugs before they wipe us out! Now go, go, go!
- Dread — If you’ve ever played Jenga, you can imagine how scary a game that uses it as the core mechanic for a horror game could be.
- Fiasco – Do you like Coen Brothers movies? Create your own tale of people reaching a bit too far and getting in way over their heads.
- Flatpack — What if after the apocalypse there was a way to rebuild, and there were people trained and ready to do it?
- Lady Blackbird — Download it, read it, play it all in one night.
- Microscope — With this game you can create a history for your custom setting that goes as broad and as deep as you like.
- Night Witches — World War Two Soviet women pilots battle the Nazis and deal with the challenges of life on the ground.
- Paranoia — Everything is fine because The Computer says so in this darkly humorous AI-ruled dystopia.
- Risus: The Anything RPG — A two-page game with a tongue-in-cheek style, Risus is suited to pick-up games and campaigns alike.
Some games hone in on a particular playstyle, explore a specific dramatic situation, or bring players into a specific kind of action. If you want to expand your gaming horizons and experience the breath of tabletop roleplaying, check these out. Many of these games are also excellent for introducing newcomers to the hobby.
In setting, theme, and mechanics these are quite different from D&D and its close cousins.
- Blades in the Dark — Industrial-fantasy heists using heavily-modified Powered by the Apocalypse mechanics.
- Ehdrigohr — A truly unique fantasy setting in which characters work to heal a damaged world.
While many tabletop RPGs are suitable for younger players, these games are particularly well-suited for adults who want to run some sessions for younger folks.
- Beyond the Wall — Old school fantasy with an emphasis on easy gamemaster prep.
- Hero Kids — For adults looking to provide kids an easy introduction to RPGs.
- Michtim — Small critters work together to avoid catastrophe in this kid-oriented game.
Love & Romance
There’s no dramatic theme more eternal than the challenge of romantic love.
- Shooting the Moon — No GM, just three characters trapped in a love triangle.
These games are all broadly compatible with each other and with early versions of Dungeons & Dragons, so while they aren’t all supported by a range of supplementary materials, an enterprising game master can leverage a wealth of easily-found OSR fantasy publications for one-off or campaign play.
- Castles & Crusades — One of the earliest and most influential OSR games, with an extensive set of published adventures.
- Spears of the Dawn — Old school fantasy in an African-inspired setting.
- Swords & Wizardry — A retro-clone of the original three-booklet D&D rules.
- The Black Hack — Aimed at D&D veterans, these lean and clean rules pare d20 fantasy down to its essence.