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15 Tabletop RPGs That Are Simpler Than D&D

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Dungeons & Dragons is the most well-known tabletop RPG on the market and has been since its inception. Some gamers tend to forget that it isn’t the only one. The market of TTRPGs is incredibly diverse, including games that go more in-depth on rules and games that exist with only 6 rules total.

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Since there are so many TTRPGs out there, it is easy to get bogged down in choice. As D&D grows and adds more rules and aspects, players may want to play a game with simpler rule systems. There are thousands of games to choose from. These include adaptions of widely published systems and one-page games that are just waiting to be played.

Updated January 10th, 2023 by Isaac Williams: Dungeons & Dragons is a very popular game, but its complexity can put some people off. Fortunately, there are many much simpler games out there. This list has been updated to highlight even more of the RPG space’s easy-to-learn games, particularly at a time when many might be thinking of branching out from D&D.

15/15 Monster of the Week Is Based On Buffy And Supernatural

The cover art of Monster of the Week, a Powered by the Apocalypse TTRPG

Monster of the Week is one of the many Powered by the Apocalypse games. It has become a popular D&D substitute over the last few years. Thanks to the intuitive gameplay and the lighter rules, Monster of the Week is an easy game to pick up. The game is based on and inspired by shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Like in D&D, each Monster of the Week character chooses a class that comes with a variety of weapons, abilities, and extras. The gameplay is more narrative-focused, and players use social skills to figure out what the monster is, then combat skills to stop it. Character sheets are 2 pages each and have all the necessary information on them for quick and easy games.

14/15 Fate Is The Classic Simple RPG

The logo for Fate RPG

Fate is known for being an early, simple RPG. It’s also designed to be a universal system. There is no preconceived narrative or setting. Instead, its rules can be applied to almost any sort of story. It favors those with combat to win and obstacles to overcome, but can apply to any genre of fiction.

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Fate‘s rules make use of flexible, player-defined stats and simple dice rolls. It’s designed to be easy to jump into and very malleable. In addition, there are several licensed RPGs that use the Fate rules. These include The Dresden Files, Fate of Cthulhu, and Starblazer Adventures.

The header for Oh Dang Bigfoot Stole My Car With Your Birthday Gift Inside one-page RPG

Oh, Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside is a quick, one-page game. Bigfoot steals the characters’ car, and players have to hunt him down. During the road trip hunting him, players constantly change the story by taking turns, adding something new, and rolling dice.

The dice system uses a 1d6 as the standard. Players can add one if prepared and another if the character is an expert in what they’re doing. The game is designed to be played in one sitting and can bring out fun stories with friends. Oh, Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside was made as a birthday gift by the creator.

12/15 Don’t Rest Your Head Is Simple Horror

A clock tower and a nightmare woman in Don't Rest Your Head RPG

Don’t Rest Your Head has a longer rulebook than plenty of RPGs. However, a lot of this book covers the game’s fictional setting, or additional content for the GM to use. The rules themselves are quite simple. Any action requires players to roll a number of d6s equal to one of their stats against a pool rolled by the GM.

A player’s abilities, powers, and more all exist to give them more options. They don’t have pages of rules unto themselves. Despite its simplicity, Don’t Rest Your Head manages effective horror. Players control people who have fallen in the Mad City by staying awake too long. If they fall asleep, Nightmares will come and make their lives a living hell.

11/15 Honey Heist Has Bears Committing Crime

grant howitt's honey heist ttrpg

Released in 2018, Honey Heist was immediately taken to by major gaming influencers like the Critical Role team. The game takes place at HoneyCon, a fictional convention about honey. The characters, who are criminal bears, pull off the greatest heist in history.

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The GM sets up the players with story and settings, rolled on a d6. These include the grand prize and convention location, plus two security features that players find out over the game. Honey Heist also features a system where the character’s states change. This can lead to them going full bear or betraying their team.

10/15 Fiasco Is A Game Of Total Improvisation

The cover art for Fiasco roleplaying game

Fiasco sets itself apart from other TTRPGs. The game has no objectives or goals in its own right. Players aren’t striving to succeed. Instead, it’s a game that will inevitably go wrong. The point is for the group to play through to see how things go wrong and whether anybody can resolve them successfully.

Fiasco is inspired by films like Reservoir Dogs. Some sort of caper has to go wrong. Players don’t act out the caper. Instead, the game focuses on its aftermath. The game uses very simple ways to resolve a scene. Everything else is down to how players choose to roleplay things. There is a particular rhythm to the game, but it’s easy to learn.

9/15 Dread Uses Jenga Instead Of Dice

Cover art for the Dread RPG, featuring a bloody handprint

Dread is a horror roleplaying game that switches out standard tools of the genre like dice and playing cards. Instead, it uses a tower of blocks like the game Jenga. The setting and overall plot are set by a host who acts as the game master. Players embody characters that have to make tough decisions in true horror movie fashion.

Each time a player does something risky, they have to pull a block from the tower. A successful pull means success in the game, while refusing to pull is a failure. Like in Jenga, the blocks will eventually topple. This can either mark the disastrous end of the character’s story or perhaps their ultimate victory.

8/15 Masks Lets Players Be Teen Heroes

The cast of a superhero team in Masks, a Powered by the Apocalypse RPG

Another Powered by the Apocalypse system game, Masks is a teenage superhero game based on teams like Young Avengers and Teen Titans. Players create powerful teenage beings from character archetypes, including the Protégé and the Doomed. Each archetype has different power sets and special abilities that can shape the game.

This system is meant to explore the emotional impact of heroism in addition to the violence and action of superheroics. Failing can earn the characters just as much growth as succeeding. Masks can create rich and complex narratives in a single one-shot or in a longer campaign.

7/15 Lasers & Feelings Recreates Classic Science Fiction

Cover art for Lasers and Feelings one-page RPG

Lasers & Feelings is a one-page RPG that tries to capture the feel of classic, cheesy sci-fi like Star Trek. Players choose a role for their character from classic ship crew archetypes. They also decide their character’s single stat. This number determines if they’re better with logic, technology, and “lasers,” or if they’re better with other people, passion, and “feelings.”

Additionally, Lasers & Feelings‘ one page contains rules for creating a spaceship and several ideas for adventures. It’s a lot to cram into one page, but it’s well laid out and accessible. Players can get started with wacky sci-fi adventures with a minimum of preparation and some easily learned rules.

6/15 Supernormal Puts Powers In The Background

A superhero father on the cover of SUPERNORMAL TTRPG

SUPERNORMAL is an RPG that asks how beings like Superman deal with being Clark Kent without exposing their powers. It’s a superhero game that focuses on the everyday lives of heroes outside the mask. Each player is extremely powerful, but that doesn’t help them get through a birthday bowling party.

SUPERNORMAL uses a 3d6 system where, unlike D&D, low rolls are better than high. For those that want to scratch the super-powered itch, the game also includes a Super event that allows the heroes to use their powers against their foes.

5/15 Roll For Shoes Has 6 Rules Total

An adventurer wearing a pair of boots in Roll for Shoes TTRPG

Roll For Shoes is a Tabletop RPG Microsystem that began life as a joke. It makes use of an incredibly small rules list. Roll for Shoes doesn’t have a book of tables and mechanics. Instead, it uses exactly six rules to tell a story.

Players say what they want to do, then roll a number of d6s based on the level of relevant skill. If the roll is higher than an opposing roll, the thing happens. If it is lower, the thing fails, and the character gains one XP. If the player rolls all sixes, they can create a new skill based on their current action. Players start with one skill: “Do Anything.”

4/15 The Quiet Year Is A Collaborative Map-Making Game

A ruined society in The Quiet Year TTRPG

The Quiet Year is a very different type of RPG. It isn’t based on players having character interactions and combat, but on the players coming together after the collapse of civilization. The group works together to draw a map and collaboratively create a community. The map is the core item of the game, as it sets a defined area to work within.

The Quiet Year game uses a deck of 52 cards. Each of these triggers different events which can help or hinder the plans of the players. The game ends when the civilization comes to an end. The result is a somber and bittersweet game that’s different every time.

3/15 Goblin Quest Is All About Funny Deaths

A goblin playing music in Goblin Quest TTRPG

Most D&D players want to keep their characters alive. Goblin Quest is the perfect game for those who don’t. The game follows players as they play five goblins who all die while attempting to achieve simple goals as the bottom-tier fodder of an army.

Each player character only has two hit points. The entire world wants them dead, and even the smallest actions come with a risk of damage. Goblin Quest is designed for dark comedy and gallows humor. It also has numerous hacks for playing other easily threatened characters, such as redshirts or Sean Bean.

2/15 Blades In The Dark Is Dark Fantasy Heisting

The cover art of Blades in the Dark RPG

Blades in the Dark is more complex than many other RPGs. It contains seven different “playbooks,” which are like classes, each of which has its own abilities and playstyle. Players also need to manage their own crime guild and get to grips with new mechanics like the “Flashback” system.

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Nonetheless, Blades in the Dark isn’t too complex. Its character playbooks are all much simpler than Dungeons & Dragons classes. Its mechanics also tend towards the intuitive. Even systems like Flashbacks become part of a routine gaming experience before long. Blades in the Dark requires some learning, but stays on the easier end of TTRPGs.

1/15 The Dadlands Makes Players Wasteland Dads

A sunglasses-wearing father on the cover of The Dadlands TTRPG

The Dadlands is a one-page RPG created by the McElroys, the hosts of The Adventure Zone. It is a game set in a world where only stereotypical dads, like Car Dads and Grill Dads, exist. Each player portrays a dad from a different domain as they search for the greatest artifact of The Dadlands, the remote.

The Dadlands is played as a tongue-in-cheek joke game. The characters get stats in both law and chaos, equaling seven, which gives them access to a variety of moves made up by the players. On their journey, the dads bond and grow, but if one of their stats falls to zero, the character fails the game and becomes a terrible dad.

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