Beginner Friendly Tabletop Roleplaying Games That Aren’t D&D

Photo by Clint Bustrillos on Unsplash

We’ve all heard of Dungeons and Dragons. However, if you’re completely new to RPGs (role-playing games) I personally don’t think Dungeons and Dragons is the best place to start. There’s a lot of rules, prep time and demand placed upon its participants. Whether you’re the dungeon master creating the tale or the player there’s a lot going on. DnD while it allows for a lot in improvisation and creating your own content (homebrew) if you wanted to be in a different world, different time or different genre it can be hard to move the game to suit your needs.

On top of all that, the long format of a classic campaign can make it hard to schedule, manage and continue on a regular basis. There’s isn’t enough discussion on how to engage people completely new to tabletops, crafting shorter sessions and what guides/rulesets can fit this.

If you’re planning on doing a campaign for some workmates, family or friends there are a lot of options beyond Dungeons and Dragons. So here are some picks on different tabletop RPGs for your first or next campaign:

Everyone is John

Image from The Spokeman Review

It couldn’t get simpler than this game. Everyone plays the same character, John. As the voices in John’s head, you all have a hidden obsession and the amount of times you are able to get John to complete this obsession is how scoring works. Turns are determined by dice rolls and how much willpower you have left.

This game is perfect as all you need is six-sided dice (d6), notepads and pens for players, and something to indicate willpower points. Plays this at the next family game night, work social meet-up or a fun night with friends. It’s a great way to teach the basics of role-playing RPG’s and dice rolls. Best of all it’s free as the rules are online.

Honey Heist

Art for Honey Heist

You are a bear, you have a complex scheme and you can’t screw it up. Welcome to Honey Heist. Each player plays a bear with two sides to themselves, the bear animalistic side and the criminal side, if either one gains too much power you lose. Successful steal the honey and whatever else you need to steal and win the game.

This game is a lot of fun and if you want to see it played out you can see Critical Role giving it a go. Similar to Everyone is John, you don’t need too much and it’s completely free.

Monster of The Week

Cover Art of Monster of The Week

If you’ve ever watched a show like Buffy, Supernatural or Grime, each episode is a new monster that the main cast has to discover, defeat etc. Monster of the Week runs on the same premise. Based on the Apocalypse World RPG, this game is more in-depth than the other two but is based on shorter playtime.

With ready to play mysteries and archetypes for you players to choose from, this is a great introduction to cooperative play in a more DnD style environment.

The PDF for this is available on DriveThruRPG.

RPGs to Try for Larger Campaigns

These below are just some RPGs available to construct larger games. You could make these one-shots but these are suited to over-arching narratives and longer campaigns. I would suggest for beginners crafting a simple campaign, following one of the prebuilt campaigns and potentially giving players pre-built characters.

World of Darkness

Image from DiceBreaker

Now, this is a complex game world. World of Darkness encompasses a bunch of titles such as Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Acesencion, Werewolf: The Reckoning and many more. Basically, if you are looking for a supernatural RPG with horror elements where you aren’t the good guy, these are the games for you. They all run on the same Storyteller system but each book/edition has its own set of rules. If you are a seasoned RPG player or just really want something edgier these are the books for you.

There are some really great introductions online, my personal suggestion is to start with Vampire: The Masquerade 20th anniversary edition. It’s the most popular, has an active community behind and has plenty of resources to help you craft a narrative.

Pathfinder 2e

Image From DiceBreaker

This is a system I’ve been graciously invited to play on and let me tell you, I like it more than DnD. It has its own complexities to it but I appreciate the different ancestries, worlds and really the ability to make this your own world. A rule I really like in this is secret rolls. In DnD usually, you roll and try to hit a certain success (i.e rolling a 20 sided dice to get an 18) and the DM would keep it secret if you hit that success or not. In Pathfinder, the DM rolls for you, meaning you don’t know if you got high or low, whether you passed or failed. It makes roleplaying a lot more fun in my opinion.

It also has a beginners box for people interested in starting out.

Conclusion

There’s so much more out there. A few other honourable mentions are Dungeon World, Starfinder and Gloomhaven. If there’s a specific theme, ruleset or idea you want to explore, there’s an RPG out there or it’s being made.

If you want to know my thoughts on more tabletop RPGS, games, etc feel free to follow me here on Medium, clap and comment on any other RPGs you want me to talk about.

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Current PhD Candidate in Australia. Studies in Human-Computer Interactions and Games Design. Owner and Editor of The Games Development Journal

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Nicoletta Tancred

Nicoletta Tancred

Current PhD Candidate in Australia. Studies in Human-Computer Interactions and Games Design. Owner and Editor of The Games Development Journal

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