5+ Alternative Games to Dungeons and Dragons

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It seems like everyone and their cousin are playing Dungeons and Dragons these days. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s great! In fact, we can probably thank the revival of the game to all these online content creators such as Critical Role, High Rollers, and so many others for bringing new life to the franchise. It’s like an Intertops Casino Red community of gamers!

However, there’s an entire world of Tabletop Roleplaying Games outside of dungeons and dragons, complete with their own settings, rules, and styles of play. If there’s something about Dungeons and Dragons that isn’t clicking with you, the chances are that one of THESE alternatives will have something you’ll love!

1) Pathfinder

Let’s get the easiest out of the way first. Did you think that Dungeons and Dragons is a little too streamlined? Then look no further. Pathfinder has rules for just about everything you can imagine if you can be asked to do the research for it.

When I was first getting into Tabletop Roleplaying, I had no idea where to begin. I began surfing YouTube for reviews of Dungeons and Dragons books and found a guy that recommended Pathfinder instead. I bought it, and now, a decade later, I have a shelf of Pathfinder rulebooks, Codexes, Bestiaries, and supplements.

What really made these books stand out to me was the competency at which they were put together. Everything is presented beautifully and clearly, and despite the (admittedly) dense rules, I was absorbed just reading about the various monsters and hints at the greater world that surrounded them. This is easily the system I have the most experience with, and I’ve had a blast playing it.

However, one of the nicest features is that technically, it’s completely free! Any rule or book, or character sheet that you want to download is available for free on Paizo’s website. Now, I highly recommend the physical books, but if you don’t want to spend out the wazoo to see if you’ll enjoy it, everything you need to get started is available right now.

Alternatively, Paizo has also released Pathfnder’s 2nd addition, which is supposed to be quite good. I haven’t played it yet, I’m afraid. I have, however, played Starfinder, the science fiction edition of Pathfinder set thousands(?) of years in the future of the same setting. It’s a blast, with a core rulebook that’s even better put together than the base Pathfinder book.

2) Warhammer

Let’s tick off another big name on the list. Warhammer is Dungeon and Dragons goth BFF that nobody takes seriously. Everything about this game is designed to be EPIC, all-caps, with pyrotechnics.

So how does it play? Well, you and a buddy create an army of mini-figures, set up on a table, and roleplay as generals while your two armies clash. The rules can get pretty complex, especially if you try to play “correctly”, but it’s important to remember that in general, Warhammer is about the “Rule of Cool”.

For instance, in the rulebook, there’s a “Stand your Ground” rule, where if a character stands still against a charging vehicle, they have a chance to empty their magazine into the vehicle. If they successfully destroy the vehicle, the vehicle swerves and explodes, allowing the little soldier to live instead of being smashed into a paste by one hundred tons of fiery metal.

Or there’s another rule where if two named “Hero” characters meet on the field of battle, they can challenge each other to a duel that the other isn’t allowed to turn down, and none of your other troops are allowed to interfere.

And the lore of Warhammer is completed suited to match. Now, I’m far, far from being an expert because there are hundreds, if not thousands of wiki pages, books, expansions, figures, and factions that each have their own books detailing their history, language, and favorite colors.

The gist of it all is that everyone’s at war. Nobody is particularly “good”, and there’s no end to the war in sight. Humanity has reverted into religious zealotry that serves a God-Emperor, who requires a thousand sacrifices a day to retain his immortality. Orcs rampage across the universe in a never-ending horde of chaos and mayhem. The barriers between dimensions have broken down, and the forces of hell and chaos pour out into the cosmos.

And so on and so forth.

However, the REAL fun of Warhammer is the Minifigures. They are SO fun to collect and paint, and that’s probably what you will spend 98% of your time doing if you start getting into Warhammer. Be warned, though, that these figures aren’t cheap, and that’s probably the biggest deterrent to the Warhammer universe. Still, if you’re willing to fork out a bit for it, this is a game that will quickly grow on you. The process of painting these Minifigures is incredibly satisfying.

3) Call of Cthulu

Was Dungeons and Dragons not spooky enough for you? Was Warhammer too silly? Perhaps, then, you would prefer a game where you and your friends are slowly driven to madness as unfathomable monstrosities from across the cosmos suck the remnants of your sanity and leave your empty carcass behind to be forever locked away in an asylum chanting in hymns and raving?

You – you would?

Well then, look no further than the Table Top Roleplaying game, Call of Cthulu. Inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft that bears the same name, this game is all about solving mysteries and unearthing terrible, dark secrets. Cults, monsters, aliens, and a noir aesthetic bring this game to life in a way that the other systems just don’t.

Typically, Call of Cthulu games are set in the 1920s, in small, quiet towns on dark lonely nights. Our heroes might be librarians, mafia men, private eyes, professors, or archaeologists. This isn’t a game about saving princesses from towers. This is a game of survival. Death, or at least insanity, is inevitable in this game. It’s just a question of when.

Incidentally, there have been quite a few attempts to gamify H.P. Lovecraft’s work, the most recent of which being “Call of Cthulu”, the video game, and “The Sinking City”- also a video game. Neither of which hold a candle to “Call of Cthulu”, the Table Top Roleplaying game, which captures Lovecraft’s work better than any other game to date.

4) Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

The recent Star Wars movies are… controversial… to say the least. The Mandalorian was a hit, with an awesome second season finale, off the back of which Disney announced something like twenty new spinoffs and adaptations (I think their new strategy is to throw money at a wall and see what sticks).

However, regardless of what our Disney Overlords are doing, you and your friends can have fun playing out your own Star Wars canon in Star Wars: Edge of the Empire! Star Wars is a universe full of fun, magic, and adventure, ready and waiting for compelling characters to sweep in and save the day.

I don’t really have all that much to say about it. Edge of the Empire is a solid tabletop system for playing out adventures in the Star Wars universe. If you like Star Wars and you like Tabletop Roleplaying games, you’ll love Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

5) Honorable Mentions

While there are so many great systems, I frankly just haven’t the opportunity to play most of them. The other systems that I have played, however, don’t really deserve their own spot on this kind of list, so I decided to lump them all together as one large entry! Here we go:

Cogent Roleplay

Developed by YouTubers “Jazza” and “Shadiversity”, Cogent Roleplay is a really solid but flexible system that can be adapted to almost any setting. You only need a bunch of six-sided dice to play, and the rest is available for download, for free. They are currently working on an app that will have all the rules available for quick and easy use, plus dynamic character sheets and a digital dice roller, so you will literally require nothing to pick up this game and start playing.

However, it’s currently still in development. The app hasn’t been released yet, and the game system itself hasn’t even been released as a “first edition”, yet. You can download and play it, and it’s great fun, but that’s why I didn’t give its own spot on the list.

Fatal

Do not buy this game. I mean it. It’s awful. It’s so terribly, hilariously awful that you should know of its existence just so that we can all laugh at it together.

Just to get an idea, the rules are mind-bogglingly dense and complex. The character sheets are like ten pages long, double-sided, and just playing out a simple scene is a nightmare. Everything about is NSFW, from the cover art to the core rules, as if the creators thought that people wanted to play a 900 page long, BDSM version of Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, the creators were so proud of it, they made a sequel that’s even bigger!

That’s not even the worst part. The game has all sorts of disgusting mechanics built into it, like stats for the size of your character’s genitals and rules for handling rape.

It’s bizarre, it’s disgusting, it’s just plain bad, and now you’re cursed to know of it too.

Shadowrun

Basically Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, but in a modern setting. Magic just suddenly appears one day, and so do all the various monsters and fantasy races. Now the world has become a sort of cyberpunk, fantasy hybrid, and that’s about it. I haven’t had the chance to play it, but the premise seems really cool.

City of Mist

Another modern setting, but set in a misty city, where magic is hidden like in Percy Jackson. The magic in this system revolves around Mythos or stories that possess people and grant the power of their fiction to the characters. You might be a plumber who is possessed by the stories of Sherlock Holmes, who has to go up against a mob boss possessed by Harry Potter. Again, I haven’t played it, but it seems really cool.

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About Kristin

Master reviewer of all types of products. Love XL Fountain Sodas!! Cheer Mom extraordinaire. Socialite to all things small town and founder of ItsFreeAtlast.com. Come socialize and connect with me.

Comments

  1. Shannon Gilchrist says

    I always thought Dungeons and Dragons was an 80s and 90s thing. I can’t believe how popular it still is!

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