Three for Thursday: Games to Watch For

We’re living through a Golden Age of tabletop roleplaying, which means games are being introduced in a seemingly endless stream. Some are completely new and some are overhauled versions of games that have been around for ages. Here are three upcoming titles that have piqued my attention.

Alien: The Roleplaying Game

The Aliens RPG looks to evoke the dark horror of its movie progenitors.

Fria Ligan (Free League) is a Swedish game company that has established itself as a purveyor of visually-sophisticated games that are easy to learn and tailored to the genres they explore. Tales from the Loop provides the kids-on-bikes feel of Stranger Things, while Mutant: Year Zero is a slick re-imagining of post-apocalypse mutants-in-the-rubble tropes, and Forbidden Lands delivers a clever fantasy survival sandbox.

Now they’re turning their talents to the Alien franchise. Alien: The Roleplaying Game will provide rules for campaign play and what Free League calls “Cinematic” mode, which is tailored for one-shots. While I do wonder how much replay value the game will deliver, I’m encourage by this:

Taking place shortly after the events of Aliens, the first RPG will propel players into the vast possibilities of the Outer Rim Frontier. From the pioneering colonists and scientists to the ever-present Company reps and Colonial Marines, the game promises a diverse range of characters and gameplay experiences far beyond the staple cat-and-mouse suspense and survival horror of the franchise.

OK, sign me up. Alien: The Roleplaying Game is due some time in 2019.

Pathfinder Second Edition

The second edition of Pathfinder will retain the same setting and visual aesthetics as the original.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Pathfinder was out-D&Ding D&D. Often referred to as D&D 3.75, Pathfinder provided a refined, well-implemented, crunchy d20 fantasy roleplaying experience. Paizo cranked out expansions, supplements, and adventures for the game, and it became arguably the most played edition of any tabletop RPG in the world.

But 5th edition D&D changed all that. By wooing newcomers, lapsed gamers, and edition warriors to the fold, it became a juggernaut that shows no sign of slowing down. Though Paizo has avoided acknowledging this directly, the company is playtesting a second edition of Pathfinder that promises streamlined rules that will make it easier to learn and more appealing to newcomers.

Most tabletop RPGs don’t compete with each other. D&D and Pathfinder do, though. Each is a highly-produced game that requires a substantial investment in rulebooks, and each uses d20 fantasy classes-and-levels rules that derive from earlier editions of D&D. It’s like Windows v. Mac. You might use both, but most people will choose one or the other and invest in that ecosystem. Paizo has a proven track record with Pathfinder, and it’ll be exciting to see what they come up with for this new edition.

The Pathfinder Second Edition core book is due August 1, 2019.

Shadowrun: Sixth World

Shadowrun has always been about guns and magic.

Thirty years ago a crazy mashup of cyberpunk and fantasy burst onto the roleplaying scene. Shadowrun allowed players to have their peanut butter and chocolate all at once. You could play an assault cannon-wielding ork mercenary, a jacked-in elf decker burning corporate ICE, or a spirit-summoning street shaman.

Dozens of supplements and adventures have been published for Shadowrun. It has spawned novels and video games, and is now in its fifth edition. But this edition has been criticized for excessive complexity, imbalance, and poor editing. Additionally Shadowrun has for years been accused of cultural insensitivity, particularly around the setting’s portrayal of Native American tribes.

The sixth edition, known as Shadowrun: Sixth World, is being billed as “easier to learn and play,” which is an acknowledgement that the game’s notorious crunch needed some reining in. I’m curious to see how they streamline the rules, and I’m equally interested to see if they’ll update the setting to address some of those criticisms.

The Shadowrun: Sixth World beginner box is due June, 2019 and the core book is due August, 2019.