The Best ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Alternatives
Although many people will jump straight to Dungeons & Dragons when the topic of tabletop roleplaying games comes up, there are tons of other systems and styles of TTRPG on the market. Whether you’re looking for a sword-and-sorcery fantasy game, a woodland-based adventure, a world of vampires and werewolves, or a sneaky rogue game where crime is the point, there’s a vast number of titles to suit your needs.
We’ll help you get started with eight of the best games like Dungeons & Dragons to check out.
Blades in the Dark
Blades in the Dark by John Harper is an original RPG system about a crew of rogue-like scoundrels attempting to survive and thrive on the shadowy, haunted streets of an industrial fantasy city. The core rulebook puts the character’s position (risky or desperate, for example) first, then bases mechanics off of it. There are seven character archetypes and rules for creating a crew using types like smugglers, cult members, and assassins.
Blades is a beloved RPG system that serves as the basis for Forged in the Dark, and its super-fast mechanics and fiction-first play style allow you to dig deep and really invest in your character and the world.
Glitter Hearts is the perfect marriage between sword-and-sorcery fantasy and Magical Girl anime, based on the Powered by the Apocalypse system. The core rulebook has more than 150 moves for players to choose from when building their characters, who are normal people with the ability to transform into powerful superheroes and fight evil.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a high fantasy TTRPG published in 2009 by Paizo Publishing. Its first edition spins out of the original Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License (OGL) released by Wizards of the Coast in 2000, and extends and modifies its System Reference Document (SRD). Pathfinder was originally developed to be backward-compatible with D&D 3rd edition (3e), and the 2nd edition released in 2019 is compatible with both Pathfinder 1st Edition and all editions of D&D, up to and including 5e.
In response to the controversy surrounding Wizards of the Coast’s proposed OGL 2.0, Paizo Publishing has announced plans to release its own creative license for third-party publishers, which will be “open, perpetual, and irrevocable.”
Players pivoting away from D&D will find a similar gameplay experience in Pathfinder, which also has a robust and active community that is sure to grow with the new Open RPG Creative License (ORC).
Quest by The Adventure Guild is a flexible fantasy RPG with a short, easy-to-understand ruleset and eight character types to choose from. It’s super expansive and heavily dependent on the player’s imagination, allowing them to create whatever character and world they want without restrictions.
The digital edition of Quest is free to play, and a variety of expansions are available as well.
Root: The Roleplaying Game
Root: The Roleplaying Game, published by Magpie Games in collaboration with Leder Games, adapts the popular tabletop strategy game into a full-scale roleplaying system based on Powered by the Apocalypse. In the original game, you play as one of several factions of woodland creatures fighting for control of the woods through military might, cunning mercenary tactics, or fiscal strongholds.
In Root: The Roleplaying Game, you play as a vagabond existing on the outskirts of the rest of woodland society. The core rulebook includes six playbooks, three factions, and a map creation system for generating your very own woodland. The Travelers & Outsiders expansion contains six additional playbooks and new mechanics and factions. There are also multiple tools for expanding and building your personal world, making Root: The Roleplaying Game friendly for all types of players.
Thirsty Sword Lesbians
Thirsty Sword Lesbians by April Kit Walsh, a.k.a. Gay Space Games, is an Ennies and Nebula Award-winning Powered by the Apocalypse-based RPG system that’s all about swordplay, flirting, and doing heroic things while navigating messy relationships. The core rulebook has nine character types, and the Advanced Lovers & Lesbians expansion adds 10 more. There are also dozens of settings and modified rules to spice things up.
If you’ve ever wanted to play a sword-and-sorcery style RPG with fewer rules and more opportunities for relationship and character development that’s inherently queer and inclusive, Thirsty Sword Lesbians may be your perfect match.
Wanderhome by Jay Dragon is an Ennies-winning pastoral fantasy tabletop roleplaying game about nomadic animal-folk and their world. If you’re looking to explore something similar to Root: The Roleplaying Game without the war aspect, this is the game for you. Wanderhome is built on the Belonging Outside Belonging engine by Avery Alder and Benjamin Rosenbaum, so it’s a game without a Game Master or dice or complicated math.
Essentially, Wanderhome is what you make of it. It can be a one-time, cozy little game or a long-running campaign. It’s also designed for any number of players, so you can make your playgroup as small or large as you wish.
World of Darkness
World of Darkness is home to TTRPGs, video games, books, comics, and more. Vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures live among humans, and you play a monster pretending to be human in an effort to blend in. However, your ultimate goal is to leverage every asset and advantage available to you in order to achieve supremacy over humankind.
The world (pun intended) is truly your oyster with this system. If you’re interested in supernatural stories and playing an anti-hero, you can choose from any of the World of Darkness titles and have a great time.
(featured image: Evil Hat Productions; Leatherman Games; Paizo Publishing; The Adventure Guild; Magpie Games / Leder Games; Possum Creek Games; World of Darkness / The Mary Sue)
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