Tabletop gaming is the best. You get everyone over, order a pizza, and get ready to step into another world for a few hours. It’s a great time! And, if you’re like most tabletop gamers, you’re probably well-acquainted with Dungeons and Dragons, the world’s most popular RPG.
However, if you’re growing tired of D&D, that’s okay! You might not always want to play Wizards of the Coast’s fantasy-flavored sword-and-sorcery game. There are plenty of other options out there for gaming groups ready for a change of pace! Here are some of our favorite RPGs that aren’t Dungeons and Dragons.
You’ve heard of Cyberpunk 2077, the controversial single-player RPG video game that was released back in 2020 to mixed reviews. But did you know the video game was based on a tabletop system that’s been around since the 1980s? It’s true! Originally titled Cyberpunk, it’s been through a few edition changes in the intervening years.
The modern version of the game, called Cyberpunk Red, is a blast. It’s a fast-paced, hyper-lethal system that gives players a chance to live out their favorite 80s action-movie fantasies. Just don’t get too attached to any characters you make! One wrong move can see your character reduced to a pile of spare parts in a matter of seconds.
Cyberpunk has robust rules for cybernetic augmentations, too, so if your playgroup likes the idea of playing in a gritty, futuristic setting, then this unforgiving system is perfect for you. Just don’t forget to bust out your mirrored shades and leather jackets and crank up the techno before you get started.
Fantasy Flight Games’ popular Star Wars RPG system is a great alternative to traditional D&D-style tabletop games. The surprisingly in-depth system uses specialized dice instead of regular polyhedral sets. These dice vary in shape and color but roughly correspond to “positive” and “negative” modifiers for each check your character makes.
The system allows for checks to succeed with drawbacks or fail with upsides, adding some interesting narrative consequences to the tense moments that lend Star Wars adventures that classic, pulpy feel. Maybe your character misses their blaster shot but manages to hit a control panel behind their target that closes a hangar door, preventing further reinforcements from pouring into the room.
The Star Wars RPG demands a deep love and appreciation for the source material, as you might expect. It also rewards creativity in ways that some “crunchier” tabletops don’t, giving players plenty of narrative wiggle room to make their characters their own.
Horror fans have no shortage of options when it comes to tabletop RPGs. The foremost horror system is Call of Cthulhu, a creepy adventure RPG that tasks players with retaining their sanity in the face of overwhelming cosmic forces. The game is based on the horror stories of HP Lovecraft, including the tales of the titular Cthulhu, a sleeping elder god that lives beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
In Call of Cthulhu, players uncover evidence of a secretive world of deities from beyond reality. Faced with the overwhelming vastness of the cosmos and with the minuscule nature of humanity revealed to them, the characters must try to retain their wits as they battle the dangerous cultists that worship the Elder Gods.
Players aren’t expected to become triumphant heroes in Call. Instead, they’re just tasked with surviving. After all, there’s no way to “defeat” a creature that exists outside of time. The best you can do is try to contain the damage it can cause on Earth and try to live your life without remembering the monsters that lurk in the dark.
Okay, sure, Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons share a lot of similarities. However, the two systems are different enough that it’s worth mentioning Pathfinder to your group if they’re growing bored with D&D. Like D&D, Pathfinder is an epic fantasy system that gives players the tools to become legendary heroes in a world of myths and monsters.
Unlike D&D, Pathfinder is an extremely “crunchy” game with a lot of math running under the surface. If your group is ready for a tabletop game that has rules more in line with modern video games, as opposed to the streamlined rules in D&D, then you might enjoy Pathfinder.
Just be ready to do a bit more math than you might be used to if you’re coming from D&D!
Shadowrun is something of a hybrid between D&D and Cyberpunk. And, yes, if that sounds wacky, it is. The Shadowrun setting is a futuristic, dystopian setting inhabited by fantasy creatures like dragons, vampires, and ogres. And it’s a blast.
If you’re looking for a game to give your group a break from D&D, but you still want to enjoy some fantasy trappings, Shadowrun is perfect for you. You can recontextualize many fantasy tropes and pair them with cyberpunk themes, offering a “chocolate and peanut butter” situation that blends two great flavors together.
The game expertly marries fantasy and sci-fi in ways that will entertain long-time RPG players, defying their expectations and giving them plenty to enjoy.
This one might be the strangest entry on this list, as it’s a single-player notebook-based RPG. Thousand Year Old Vampire is a journal composed of creative writing prompts. Your character is a vampire who will live for a thousand years, and as they grow, they can take only a handful of memories forward with them.
It’s a compelling narrative adventure that lands somewhere between an RPG tabletop game and a creative writing exercise. Since the system includes dice rolls and role-playing, it’s certainly a game, it’s just one that asks a lot of your imagination.
If you’re the kind of person who likes heavily narrative-driven experiences, Thousand Year Old Vampire is perfect for you. And while your vampire character might end the “game” with only a handful of memories from their impossibly long life, you as the player will walk away having experienced a one-of-a-kind adventure.