The Best Tabletop RPGs (We Think) Besides D&D!
Do you find yourself developing an allergy and/or aversion to dragons? Are dungeons getting a little too drafty for you in your advanced age? Is Sword and Sorcery simply not your schtick?
Or maybe you have best friends who you just know would love TTRPGs, if they could get over their refusal to play Dungeons and Dragons.
Well friends, the good news is that some of the best tabletop RPGs aren’t D&D. Don’t get us wrong; we love D&D and play it on the regular, but we know it’s not for everyone.
For those craving a little variety, Dice Envy would like to recommend a few favorites of ours:
For the kids:
Maybe it’s raining, maybe you’ve got a small group you need to entertain for the next few hours. Maybe there’s a pandemic and all kinds of craziness in the outside world, and it’s better to just stay inside. Whatever the reason, you’ve rounded up your tots and handed them dice and paper. Here’s a few ideas of what to do with them that have a shortage of built-in violence. (Look, we get it. We, too, have been hit with improvised weapons by tiny terrors a few times too many when the hype grew too strong):
- Honey Heist- This one page tabletop RPG by Grant Howitt is one of the best classics. You only have two stats to worry about in this TTRPG; Bear and Crime. Your players are bears, they need to get some honey. It can be that simple, with characters rolled up at the table in a minute flat, or you can build on it, write yourself a whole world, and expand on the basics to cater to your group’s interests. That said, this game will require either fast thinking on your part, or a little preplanning in the form of a storyline. (We played a one shot over on our Twitch featuring a greedy King hoarding honey, a siege on his capital, and a group of fluffheads and their magic items trying to get fed and get out before the castle collapses on them. As a note: the game is kid friendly, our playthrough a little less so!)
- Brave Bunnies- Who is the best and bravest bunny? A softer tabletop RPGfor those looking to avoid battle, as well as a laborious set up. Brave Bunnies gets your players up and running in two flicks of a bunny’s tail, and as long as you have a set of TTRPG dice and a printer for the character sheets, you’re pretty much good to go! There’s also a built in snack mechanic, to help hold the interest of the most inattentive players.
- Starport- For something a little more problem solving oriented, and still lacking in sword play, take the crew on a trip to Starport. The setting of this tabletop RPG blends some of the best parts of different genres and tropes, so you won’t feel trapped in the fuzzy critters or medieval fantasy genres of game play. This one also lacks prebuilt modules, so again, it’s best if you have a chance to plan ahead and do a little set up before sitting down with your crew.
- Threadbare- A Powered By The Apocalypse game, which means you’ll only need a pair of D6s to get going. In this one, you’ll play as toys– patched up, repaired, and ready to ride. Together, you’re fighting entropy and obsolescence. Sounds a little deep, sure– but just pitch it as Toy Story with an invention mechanic.
No one wants to run it:
Everyone’s busy, no one has time or wants to have to prep, and you all want to play/ no one wants to be in charge? Great. We’ve got a couple of the best TTRPG suggestions for you! These games also offer a long distance friendly option, for those gamenights that can’t happen in person. And, wildly enough, none of these use dice. We know, we’re sorry. But trust us, they’re still worth checking out.
For the Queen- This one’s a card game, and is available on Roll20 for easy distance-play. Everyone tells a story cooperatively about the kingdom and Queen that you serve, as you explain who you are, who she is, why you serve her, and how your loyalty was built and changes throughout the course of the game.
(We built a cookie and murder based economy in our Twitch playthrough, which you can find here)
- The Wizard’s Querulous Dram- In this tabletop RPG, you take the best rule of improv- ‘Yes. and’ to new heights, playing as Wizards trying to arrange a marriage and form an alliance between two nations. The catch is, you can’t directly contradict another wizard. You can, however, look into your webcam like you’re on The Office and take a very pointed drink of your beverage of choice.
- Wanderhome- If horror and peril isn’t your thing, come sit around a campfire as a small, cuddly animal. If Call of Cthulhu is the Bloodborne of tabletop RPGs, Wanderhome is the best tabletop version of Animal Crossing. There are no weapons and no violence in the story, and it takes a more wholesome, emotional turn than many other fantasy and sci-fi RPGs.
Powered By the Apocalypse
These games use D6s and frequently feature fail forward mechanics, where your losses cause you to grow as a character. We’ll recommend you a few that we’ve played, but look around- this system has launched a zillion indie ships, and there’s always more to discover!
- Monster of the Week- to scratch your Scooby Doo/ Buffy the Vampire Slayer/ Supernatural genre itch. Characters each get a play sheet, the ‘keeper’ gets a how to sheet, and there are whole reddit threads of modules, but the rules are loose and allow you to tell any kind of story you like, provided it’s a little spooky and a little mystery based.
- Urban Shadows- Like MOTW but with a few added rules, mechanics, and moving parts. If you like to play with intrigue and reputation, along with a setting that feels like a character, this might be a good fit for you!
- Masks: A New Generation- our favorite super hero based tabletop RPG, because the mechanics behind it do the best job at keeping the group grounded (not literally) and help solve some of the power level problems that other games in the genre often experience.
- Night Witches- A little more rigid in its action economy and play cycles, night witches offers you playbooks based on the character you want to be, rather than the powers you want to have.
- Bluebeard’s Bride- A dark oneshot in which all the characters collectively control the eponymous Bride as different aspects of her personality.
Something a little different:
I know, I know, we’re tired of vaguely European medieval fantasy settings too.
- Ten Candles- zero prep, one shot. You’ll need ten candles, which work as a count down timer for your game. It’ll be tragic. It’ll be horror. There will be no survivors. There are several scenarios, each with different monsters, different survivors, and each time you play will be unique to the people around you in the darkness. There’s also plenty of room for the DM to stretch their imaginary wings and come up with a new variation or two. (We recommend checking out Hyper RPG’s anthology of Ten Candles play throughs)
- Good Society- You like that regency era restraint, the bridgerton style scandals, the downton abbey-esque snobbery? Maybe it’s time for you to be part of your own costume drama. This is the best TTRPG we’ve found for those demanding the satisfaction of polite society.
- Shadowrun- Science fantasy set in a future filled with cybernetics, robots, blasters, and magic. If you have a lot of dice, like to roll a lot of dice, and like to roll a lot of dice a lot of the time, this may be the game for you!
- Blades in the dark- In a slightly steampunky Victorian Industrial setting, your crew has to look out for ghosts, rival gangs, the cops, nobility, and your own greed as you plan heists, solve mysteries and try your best to make some money. This tabletop RPGis a close relative of the Powered By the Apocalypse games, but it also has a fairly interesting flashback mechanic that allows you to run a con or a heist much in the style of some of your favorite media of the genre. Explain how you actually solved the problem you currently face yesterday, by being three steps ahead at all times.
- Kids on Bikes- Hankering for some more Stranger Things? Nostalgic for those movies you grew up on? Kids on Bikes gives you the opportunity to explore the coming of age mystery adventure genre, while also collaborating with your friends! One of our top picks for best telling heavy RPGs, you work together to build the world of your small town and solve the mysteries it holds. As a bonus, there’s several variations on this theme– such as Kids on Brooms, and Teens in Space.
- Coyote & Crow- An alternate future setting that takes place in a world free of colonialism. No eurocentric mythology in this indigineous inspired version of North America. It’s a very fresh twist on a very different post apocalypse, with a lot of the technological tropes and opportunity for character development and storytelling. This game relies on 12 sided dice, so make sure you have a few handy!
- Vampire the Masquerade- you can always sink your teeth into the best gothic go-to TTRPG. VTM is a long running pulpy horror game that lets you play with the themes of power, corruption, and seeking to belong. Characters get to decide how they want to handle immortality, and all the scheming and thirst that comes along with it.
- Deadlands- Y’all like the old west? Do you feel, perhaps, that it could be improved with a liberal dose of spooky? This is one of the best tabletop RPGs for you. Depending on your character build, you may also need a deck of cards to go along with your dice, but the cowboy boots are only recommended, never required.
Looking for more rules, not less?
Pathfinder. You’re looking for Pathfinder.
Pathfinder has a range of classic RPG elements: high fantasy, tons of dice, and tons of rules. I mean, the guidebook alone is 640 pages long.
It’s highly complex, even more so than D&D because of the character creation options and min/maxing opportunities those present. If you want to dive deep into a world and get positively lost in a game, you’ll adore this.
The Best Tabletop RPGs Deserve the Best Dice
Hey, maybe we’re biased, but these are our top TTRPGs! We would absolutely love to hear from you and what games you think are the best! One thing we can all agree on, however, is how nothing beats the feeling of rolling some expertly crafted dice. Dice that are balanced well, look phenomenal, and can be treasured for a lifetime. Our dice sets are works of art, and we take great pride in them! No matter which RPG you choose, get yourself a good set of dice to go along with it at Dice Envy.