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Help me figure out which bullshit PnP RPG I want to run

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
The past few months I’ve been running D20 Modern for my friends via Skype, but I’m getting ready to wrap that one up and I’m looking for a new game to run. The problem is I don’t know what I want to run, so I’m looking for suggestions.

Criteria:
  • One of my friends may be running a D&D Dark Sun game in the near future, so let’s rule out D&D/Pathfinder for now. I’m not opposed to D&D like systems, just not something that is straight up a D20 derivative.
  • I’m burnt out currently on Grimdark fantasy setting, so no Warhammer/Zweiihander, Shadow of the Demon Lord and the like. On similar note, no Warhammer 40k RPGs. Basically any game were the premise is roughly “What horrible thing(s) can we use as an antagonist that would justify the players aligning themselves with an inquisition/figurative nazis/literal nazis?”
  • We’re collectively burnt out on Savage Worlds I think. By the same coin, let’s avoid other Omni systems that claim to be able to run everything. Games derived from another game are fine, as long as the mechanics are changed enough to give the game its own unique feel.
  • Opinions on World of Darkness/Storyteller system games are divided, so let’s avoid those.
  • Nothing with specialized dice, cards, etc. Since we can’t play together due to ongoing pandemic issues, we can’t just borrow what we need from the person who just happens fudge dice, event decks, poker chips with X amount marked as legendary, and so on. Just games that use d4s, d6s, d8s, d10s, d12s, and/or d20s because I know everyone has those.
 
Currently mulling over buying this game:
http://kotohi.com/ryuutama/the-world-of-ryuutama/
I keep hearing it described as... "Hayao Miyazaki's Oregon Trail"???

Also I am having problems with this Kickstarter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/legendsofavallen/legends-of-avallen
As in I want to kickstart it.

Currently running and playing games using Beyond the Wall. I don't know if it does anything to strongly recommend it, but for certain types of players, it's restricted/grounded mechanics and collective storytelling guidelines are extremely useful.
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
My current obsession is Lancer.

It's a far-future (flexible-setting) sci-fi mech-focused TTRPG (with fantastic art) that, in my opinion, solves the ancient problem of trying to get one system to do everything. D&D and its ilk are combat games that a lot of people also use for narrative-heavy RP, even though the mechanical support for that often feels extremely limited (I've grown to hate non-combat D&D sessions because we'll often sit there without rolling a die more than once or twice an entire session, or a streak of bad rolls means you just fail or get bad results over and over for what feels like flimsy reasoning - very unsatisfying). But a lot of the more narrative-focused games (PbtA system as I understand it) don't get quite as satisfying to some people with things like combat and strategy and character building - they excel at building satisfying systems around flexible freeform roleplaying, where D&D lacks, with systems that encourage failing forward or succeeding with consequences, things like that; but being less intricately specialized for one thing (like, say, D&D-style strategic combat and building & optimizing your characters), they often don't scratch that same itch that the more traditional war-game descendants do.

Lancer basically just goes "OK, have both - here are a bunch of mechs with crunchy combat, like D&D and its ilk. But also, here's a whole different set of freeform versatile rules for out-of-mech play." Instead of trying to cram the square peg of combat systems into the round hole of narrative RP, it just gives you two pegs and two holes.

In combat, it's a complex hex-map mech-combat game with a lot of cool character building options that reward engagement with the systems and optimization. You can mix and match your mech licenses as you level up to customize your build, with a wide range of weapon, skill, and talent options to get deep into. You've got what amount to multiple HP bars so your mech starts losing structural integrity as it takes damage, engine heat to manage (or use to your advantage for some builds), tech attacks like hacking or jamming which kinda fill the role of magical effects; melee weapons, guns, sniping, missiles, drones, all of it. Despite all that, it only needs a d20 and a couple d6. (It also has an app to manage your mech with that frankly puts every other character-sheet program I've ever seen to shame.)

But then, its downtime/character-RP sessions are basically an entirely different system. They're pretty freeform, with up-or-down rolls modified by a couple broad skill categories you build into - roll a d20 to scavenge for spare parts, +X if you put skill points into "acquire things," over 10 succeeds, over 20 "criticals" (iirc, don't quote me on that). I haven't played Blades in the Dark but I've read the book, and the narrative sections of Lancer reminded me a lot of a slightly-less-intricate BitD. You have a small range of gear and stats but it's essentially the bare minimum so you can still get through fights without completely winging everything; you have downtime mechanics, personal character-related triggers, all that jazz. A lot of "if you can convince the GM that this item helps on your roll, they may give you a bonus to the roll" kind of freeform stuff.

ALSO it was included in the itch.io social justice bundle so there's a good chance that a lot of people own it already even if they don't realize it.

Um sorry I took this opportunity to word-vomit all over here but I've played it twice and I very much want to play it a lot more and haven't been able to find an opportunity to do so. Does... does anyone wanna play Lancer with me
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
Split off into a separate post for obvious reasons: I have the book but have yet to play Blades in the Dark. That one looks really cool to me, maybe your group might like it too. Only needs a handful of d6, not even a d20. And it was ALSO in the itch.io racial justice bundle so a lot of people may already own it. You probably already know about it, I'm halfway just advertising for people I can maybe play it with. (Does anyone want to play BitD with meeeeee)
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Currently mulling over buying this game:
http://kotohi.com/ryuutama/the-world-of-ryuutama/
I keep hearing it described as... "Hayao Miyazaki's Oregon Trail"???
I've heard a lot of good stuff about this one. The DM interacts with the party in an interesting way.

Split off into a separate post for obvious reasons: I have the book but have yet to play Blades in the Dark. That one looks really cool to me, maybe your group might like it too. Only needs a handful of d6, not even a d20. And it was ALSO in the itch.io racial justice bundle so a lot of people may already own it. You probably already know about it, I'm halfway just advertising for people I can maybe play it with. (Does anyone want to play BitD with meeeeee)
BITD is a lot of fun. We ran about 4 or 5 sessions with it. I do felt like it benefited from a bit of extra prep from the GM. You don't want to plan out every detail of a heist, but it helps a ton to know the city and different gangs, and to have a lot of obstacles ready to throw at them. On the other hand, players don't have to prep at all and can really jump right in and get to the fun part right away.

I didn't feel like our campaign was building toward anything bigger, but the moment to moment and character stuff was great.
 

Dr. Nerd

(He/Him)
I only got the book a few weeks ago and haven't been able to play with a group, but #iHunt looks super cool. The idea is that you're a monster hunter in a gig economy (kinda like the Witcher, but in a modern setting). It uses the Fate Dice system, but the rules make it clear you don't actually need the special dice to play. You can just use a D6, as far as I understand.

My group never got to finish their campaign, but I had a good time with Into the Odd. It was fun and breezy to play through, though it may or may not qualify as grimdark (it has cosmic horror tropes, and you play as lower-class citizen forced to work as a treasure-hunter in a proto-Victorian dark fantasy setting). It also only requires a few d6 to play.

Split off into a separate post for obvious reasons: I have the book but have yet to play Blades in the Dark. That one looks really cool to me, maybe your group might like it too. Only needs a handful of d6, not even a d20. And it was ALSO in the itch.io racial justice bundle so a lot of people may already own it. You probably already know about it, I'm halfway just advertising for people I can maybe play it with. (Does anyone want to play BitD with meeeeee)
I haven't played but I've been meaning to try this one out too for a while! You have my attention.
 
Numenera is often a fantastic and very customizable game to your needs. I'd definitely look into it as 2e just came out not long ago.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
If you want to get away from fantasy entirely, consider Eclipse Phase? Mechanically it's pretty simple. Very Shadowrun but with percentile dice instead of giant handfuls of d6s, with this odd whole-solar-system-colonized setting where genetic nonsense and computer nonsense mean you can be a human, octopus, ape, or computer program and also swap your brain into a human, octopus, ape, robot, internet server, or weird custom thing largely at will. Plus the devs are overtly chill about PDF distribution so you can just pass the book out to everyone to learn it and get feet wet.

Also consider Shadowrun. It's like Eclipse Phase, but with giant handfuls of d6s instead of percentile rolls, and a cyberpunk setting that also has elves and wizards and dragons and stuff running around Because.

Also consider Honey Heist.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Honey Heist is neat, as is Lasers & Feelings.

I haven’t had a chance to run it, but I enjoyed reading Lady Blackbird. It’s basically a one-shot RPG with a ton of character & a strong setting. it’s free & only a few pages long, so it’s at least worth reading through.

And even though I’d never run this, I have a lot of admiration for the design of 3:16 Carnage Anongst the Stars. It’s basically Starship Troopers, but on a galactic scale. You have two stats: Fighting Ability and Non Fighting Ability. Combat is on a 2D map, and you roll to see how many aliens your attack kills. Instead of levels, you gain promotions & get progressively more control over troops under you. You eventually get to make decisions about where to attack next and take over tasks that were initially handled by the GM. Higher ranked soldiers also get to know more about what’s really going on. It’s a clever idiosyncratic design that unfortunately I don’t think my friends would enjoy playing through. It’s a good read, though.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I have been playing Blades in the Dark online for a few weeks. It's been fun, but I have found that there are fewer opportunities for roleplaying since there are so many systems governing everything, unless you work to add it in. So if you prefer an RP-heavy game I wouldn't recommend it.

Call of Cthulhu is fun if you like horror.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
I just want to say I'm honoured that you felt my title was worth riffing on.
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
I have been playing Blades in the Dark online for a few weeks. It's been fun, but I have found that there are fewer opportunities for roleplaying since there are so many systems governing everything, unless you work to add it in. So if you prefer an RP-heavy game I wouldn't recommend it.

Call of Cthulhu is fun if you like horror.
Honestly that's not a turnoff for me and might in fact be a plus.
 

Nich

stuck in baby prison
(he/him)
Seems like nobody is recommending PbtA games (my personal favorite TTRPG engine), so here's a few that I like:

Masks, a superhero game focusing specifically on being a team of young up-and-coming heroes in conflict not just with supervillains, but the old guard who thinks they know better than you
Monster of the Week, in which you play X-Files-style monster hunters in a modern-day setting
Armour Astir Advent, a game of magic-powered mechs and their pilots. Has more of a science fantasy tinge to it than something like Lancer; think Escaflowne rather than Gundam. (currently in active development)
The Sprawl, a cyberpunk game of corporate intrigue and data raids.
Eidolon, for if you want to play something like Jojo or Persona, basically. (currently in active develpment)
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
On the same topic: I had a request from one of my players for a steampunk game, something like fighting demons summoned into Victorian Europe with steam-powered contraptions. My impulse was using World of Darkness / Mage, but does anyone know any better choices?

(I just finished a D&D 5e campaign that was the players running rampant over the plot of The 7th Saga. Before that, I ran Ultramodern, which is a pretty decent sci-fi hack of 5E that I can totally recommend.)
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
There is Victorianna, but at least in earlier editions it has some... questionable choices in its world building (cough... African Orcs... cough...). There is also Castle Falkenstein, but it used cards over dice, so I’m not sure if your group would be into that.

Also, my group eventually settled on Dungeon World for my next game, in case anyone was wondering.
 

Syless

<internal screaming>
(she/her)
I'm gonna cast my vote for Pokemon Tabletop United, which is pretty much what it says on the tin. It's a tabletop system designed for Pokemon campaigns. I'm in the middle of running one and it's been my most successful campaign by a wide margin. It's a very crunchy system, but there's automated google sheets that do all the hard parts for you, and since you're playing online, that should work just fine. Dice are standard, so there's no complications there. If you're not into Pokemon it's obviously a bust, but I still want to mention it.

Alternatively, if you want extreme crunch and elaborate, generational storytelling, there's Ars Magica, which is basically 'what if 13th century Europe had actual magic'. It's very much about mages living lives of research and seclusion, hunting down secrets and monsters to build their legacy, while mundanes do the more high adventure stuff. Everyone has one Magus and one Companion, so people don't have to feel shut out of the action because their mage is in their third straight year of working on an immortality ritual. It's a little dark of a setting, but not exceptionally so- it's 13th century Europe, warts and all. It's also a bit Christian-normative, but that comes with the setting. God objectively exists (and is anathema to magic) and demons exist, while pagan gods are a different kind of being with their own nature of magic. Islam only exists in the periphery, so there aren't as many in-depth rules for it, though the era makes Muslim characters very tempting- one of my favorite characters was a highly educated woman from the Ayyubid lands, running as far away from prophetic visions of the Mongols as she could. She ended out in Ireland.
 
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