As they wait for the release of One D&D, now is the perfect time for playgroups to try out some different tabletop role-playing games.
Dungeons & Dragons is the biggest tabletop role-playing game in the world, and it has more players than ever. The Wizards of the Coast-produced game appeals to a huge player base consisting of all different kinds of people. Although D&D does an excellent job of appealing to so many people, it is not necessarily the best game for specific types of experiences.
With One D&D‘s full release coming out in the not-so-distant future, now is a great time for groups to try out different systems while they wait. There are many more niche gaming systems available that are better than D&D for certain types of gaming, so here are five non-D&D options for RPG players to try out.
Pathfinder Offers a More Hardcore Dungeon Crawl
Dungeons & Dragons does a lot to simplify the RPG experience so it can appeal to a broad group of newer and also more enfranchised players. Due to these simplifications, some more experienced players started looking for a more complex option akin to the old D&D versions. This led to Paizo’s creation of Pathfinder, which has a more complex rule system and less character creation hand-holding than more modern D&D versions.
This complexity allows players more customization with their builds in both feats and attributes. It also allows for a more traditional dungeon crawl style of game since players can really min/max their characters to optimize combat. On the DM side of the game, there is a ton of free online Pathfinder content with a wide variety of options across different settings and difficulties.
Blades in the Dark Lets Players Run a Crime Syndicate
Evil Hat Productions’ Blades in the Dark is set in a world run by numerous crime families (picture The Godfather with vampires, werewolves and other fantasy tropes). Players start out as low-level thugs and grow their crew’s power through various heists and other schemes. Blades in the Dark is a unique system in the way it handles player missions, avoiding some of the less fun elements of preparation. Players do not have to spend much time planning ahead of time. Instead, there is a flashback system that allows a party to “remember” what they planned for in the middle of an event, and those prior plans can help achieve success. This gives basic missions a much more epic feel and can lead to some interesting solutions to problems.
Savage Worlds Boasts Plenty of Unusual Settings
Most RPG systems focus on one world type, and most of the time this is a fantasy setting. Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Savage Worlds is a more generic system that allows players to run a campaign in almost any world type they like. Everything from pirate ship battles to space exploration is doable with the system, and this really lets DMs step outside the norm for their groups.
Additionally, characters do not have one class type. There are no knights or clerics — instead, characters gain abilities more naturally to how the game is progressing. Combat is also relatively simplified to function well across multiple environments. What Savage Worlds may lack in depth of individual mechanics, it makes up for with sheer versatility.
Shadowrun Brings Together Cyberpunk and High Fantasy
Shadowrun from Catalyst Game Labs is a futuristic RPG where giant corporations control the world. It combines elements of high fantasy with classic cyberpunk storytelling. The game focuses on espionage through hacking and more traditional means, but there is also plenty of combat for players who are more into fighting. Die rolls are also handled completely differently than in other RPGs. A pool is used where players get to roll a certain number of dice based on ability scores, and then for each five or six that comes up, success is achieved. Actions pass or fail based on whether the successes break the necessary threshold. Shadowrun‘s setting and system are a great alternative to the traditional fantasy world of D&D.
Call of Cthulhu Leans Into the Lovecraftian Horror
Most RPGs, even if they have other elements, lean heavily into combat. On the other hand, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu is based on investigation. Players try to unlock the mysteries of frightening creatures from horror and other mythical lore. Players have a unique “sanity” stat that is tested as they explore more terrifying locations and run into different enemies and obstacles. If their sanity drops too low or an event scares them too much, the player can lose control over their character for some amount of time and get various penalties associated with this loss. No other system captures the terror of the world around the players as well as Call of Cthulhu.
D&D is an excellent choice for many role-playing groups. It offers many different scenarios and allows for a mix of playstyles. The upcoming One D&D release looks to expand on the system and create even more options for players. However, there are other systems that function better in their own niche. These systems give groups a very different experience and can lead to some great alternatives to D&D.