We have this habit of calling all RPGs by a single name: Dungeons & Dragons.
There’s good reason for it. It’s the biggest and the one that started them all. Even the next biggest game, Pathfinder, is an off-shoot of a past edition of D&D.
But not all fantasy RPGs are created equal.
There are lots of different games with different systems. Whether you’re looking to try a new flavor of tabletop games or simply wanting to branch out and find a rules system that fits your playing style, we can help.
To help you get started in your quest, we consulted the top lists on DriveThruRPG, Amazon, and Roll20 to identify the most popular games out there.
Dungeons & Dragons: The mother of them all is still immensely popular. The game’s 5th edition is its latest, and it’s popular for a few reasons. The rules allow for multiple styles of gameplay whether they’re battle-heavy, roleplay-focused, or rules-light. It combines favorite aspects of previous editions, and its hardcover adventure books take delight in referencing popular old D&D adventures.
Pathfinder: This one’s an off-shoot of D&D’s 3.5 edition and has been published continuously for more than 15 years. Therefore, Pathfinder has an immense number of rules, character classes, variants, and adventures from which to choose. If there’s a character type you want to try, Pathfinder has it. If there’s an adventure flavor you want to take for a spin, Pathfinder has it. It’s grown so much that Pathfinder is currently working on a 2nd edition.
Adventures in Middle-Earth: This uses D&D’s 5th edition as its basis for rules, but the game offers so much more in terms of flavor, new rules, and play style. If you adore J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and all the hobbits and orcs and wizards contained therein, you’ll dig this game. It’s all about epic journeys and world-changing battles. Playing it makes you feel like you’re in one of the books or movies.
Dungeon World: If you like old-school RPGs, this might be the game for you. It has that old-school feel but with modern, updated rules. The classes and basic things about the game are very similar to D&D, but you roll d6s instead of a d20. The results of your roll can mean success, success with a slight problem, or trouble. That makes the game fun and adaptable.
World of Darkness: If you love horror, this could be your new favorite. World of Darkness is the catch-all for the RPG settings Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and others. It’s full of supernatural wonder and scary monsters.
Legend of the Five Rings: Based on feudal Japan, the empire of Rokugan is full of mythical beasts and loads of magic. The game uses 10-sided dice exclusively and is dangerous. Characters are known to be killed if they’re not careful. A new edition of the game was released in 2018.
Song of Swords: Calling itself a “realistic” swords and sorcery RPG, this game is focused on combat. That makes it fun for anyone who wants weapons and armor based on historical fact. It’s also considered low-fantasy, so not everyone is running around slinging spells. It was funded on Kickstarter and released in 2018.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The RPG version of the popular wargame, Warhammer, this one is high fantasy and filled with doom and darkness and secret cults and mutants and rat-people. A brand-new edition was released in 2018.
Amazing Tales: Do you have kids? Then you can finally game with them. This is a rules-light game focused on having fun with your children in any setting (fantasy, pirates, space!) that they might like. It starts by taking you through creating a new character with your kid and then leading them on fun adventures.
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