In the haze of popular media like Critical Role and Stranger Things, it’s far too easy to catch what I call Tabletop Roleplaying Tunnel Vision. Dungeons & Dragons is everywhere and systems like Starfinder and Pathfinder are known to even the greenest of players. However, the world of TTRPGs is vast, beautiful and reaches far beyond d20s, initiative rolls and inspiration dice. Stories and settings that have taken years to be meticulously crafted by their creators.
The following baker’s dozen are just a few examples of what lies beyond the now mainstream world of TTRPGs (most blurbs crafted by the amazing Mike Perna of Innroads Ministries). All with a variety of settings that range from Norse ships to dueling samurais. So enjoy your D&D game with your clumsy warforged bard on your Tuesday nights—because there are 6 other nights of the week to introduce any of the following. Is there really anything else better to do?
Mutants and Masterminds
You play as superheroes. No further explanation needed.
A cyberpunk setting filled with hackers, robots, and enhanced individuals in a dystopian Seattle (there are other settings, but Seattle is the most prominent). Magic screams back into the world turning parts of the populace into elves, dwarves and trolls. Oh yeah, and the world is secretly ran by corporations of dragons.
The End of the World
A series of RPGs where players play as themselves about to start a game night when the end of the world happens in one of a handful of flavors—Wraith of the Gods, Zombie Apocalypse, Rise of the Robots or Alien Invasion.
Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars TTRPG series
There are a few different Star Wars RPGs out there if you dig deep enough as multiple companies obtained licenses to the franchise—but one of the better ones, in our opinion, is the Fantasy Flight series. The special dice designed specifically for the system are both a blessing and a curse as they may take a few bucks out of your wallet but also make the game easier to learn and teach than other systems.
Numenera is set on earth 1 billion years in the future. The continents have once again collided to form a Pangea like surface. The earth as we know it now is considered to be of the 1st world—but in Numenera, they are living in the 9th world. 9 great civilizations (not all of them human) have risen and fallen, leaving behind mutated flora and fauna, and technology so advanced that it feels like magic.
A stemming dark tied has engulfed the mythical land of Midgard. Will you heed the call? Instead of d20s, runes decide the fate of your daring Nordic heroes as they traverse a hostile world in a system that rewards team play and good strategy. With a mobile app, an ever expanding collection of adventure books, creator written novels and a beautifully crafted book of lore—you and your gaming group will be lost in a land of Vikings, Jarls and giants for weeks on end.
A two player, GMless game where you play as one of two samurai about to face off in a duel to the death. A game of role-playable scenes depicting the two samurai becoming friends, their betrayals to each other, how they almost make up, and eventually finding themselves at the moment of their duel. There is only one die roll in this entire game—to see who lives and who dies.
Kids on Bikes
An RPG system that mixes flavors of some of your favorite things: The Goonies, Stand By Me, Scooby-Doo and Stranger Things. A collaborative story about small town life, mystery and adventure.
Ten days ago the sun went dark and the monsters came. You are trying to keep moving and survive as the world is ending around you. A game about storytelling to be played in a dark room at night, the only light being ten candles on the table that get blown out through the course of the story.
Instead of dice deciding whether or not your plucky teenagers make it out of a horrific scenario or not, why not leave your fate in the hands of an anxiety driven game of Jenga? Meet Dread, a game where the characters choose actions that the GM assigns a number to—then pulls on a tower of blocks to see if they succeed. If the tower falls, death is always a possibility.
East Texas University
A mishmash of supernatural horror and a college movie. You play as a student at ETU experiencing things like haunted buildings, teachers turning into zombies and annoying roommates.
Dogs In the Vineyard
You play as leaders of a religious community in a harsh, western wilderness. You’re responsible for the civil and religious well-being of your people and sometimes have to decide whether to rain down vengeance or mercy on those under your guidance.
An RPG that’s more like an action movie in Hong Kong cinematic style with storylines that spread across four time periods that will definitely keep gameplay interesting and engaging.