You’re going to roll dice and slay monsters. But what game are you going to play?
These days, you have a lot of choices.
There’s the classic Dungeons & Dragons. There’s Pathfinder, which now has a second edition. There are other fantasy RPGs such as Dungeon World and Warhammer Fantasy.
But what are the most popular games? What games are you most likely to find? How many people are playing them?
To find out, turn to the Orr Group Industry Report. It’s compiled by the good folks at Roll20, the virtual tabletop service, and it examines all the games played on the popular service.
(If you’ve never used Roll20, imagine taking the maps and miniatures and character sheets and dice and monster stat blocks from your physical table and putting them online. It’s free, and it lets you play with friends without anyone having to leave home.)
Anyway, the report analyzes every account and campaign played on Roll20 to show a cross section of the tabletop RPG industry.
So what’s the most popular? We looked at the most recent findings to figure it out.
Dungeons & Dragons
D&D is easily the most popular game being played. The game’s current iteration, 5th edition, is at the top, making up more than 54% of all games. It is far and away the most popular game system (and edition) played by tabletop roleplayers.
Though it’s new and popular, it’s not the only version of D&D being played. People are still playing D&D’s previous editions such as 3.5, 4 and AD&D. They’re all in the top 25.
Call of Cthulhu
Coming in at No. 2 is Call of Cthulhu. Surprised? For all the attention other game systems get, this one’s actually played by more people. Nearly 10% of all campaigns on Roll20 are using this horror fiction ruleset. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, the game positions players as investigators uncovering dark mysteries, and it has a unique Sanity system.
Next on the list is Pathfinder. Since 2009, Paizo has published Pathfinder, a fantasy RPG based on D&D’s then-discontinued 3.5 edition. It’s been pretty popular, publishing dozens and dozens of adventures, supplements and rulebooks. And now there’s a new edition. In August 2019, Pathfinder’s second edition was released with an all-new Core Rulebook, Bestiary and adventures. And lots more is on the way. (The release of Pathfinder 2 will likely push the game back up the Orr Group’s list.)
If your favorite flavor of fantasy is more of the epic and dark variety, you might dig Games Workshop’s RPG version of its Warhammer world. A new edition of the game was released by Cubicle 7 last year, and it’ll feel familiar to anyone who has played the Warhammer miniature wargame.
World of Darkness
If you didn’t get enough vampires and werewolves by playing the D&D adventure Curse of Strahd, maybe you should give the World of Darkness a try. The game is the combination of the distinct worlds of Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension. So if you dig horror-like monsters and rolling lots of d10s, this is the game for you.
Interestingly, after you get through the fantasy RPGs (what most people probably think about when they think about tabletop roleplaying), you run into three straight sci-fi games. Starfinder is from Paizo, the makers of Pathfinder, and it’s essentially a space-faring version of the fantasy game. Have you heard of Star Wars? Of course you have. The currently published Star Wars RPG is from Fantasy Flight Games, and it uses their innovative Narrative Dice System. Then there’s Shadowrun, which is more of a science fantasy game (something of a magic/sci-fi/cyberpunk hybrid) from Catalyst Game Labs.
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