Tabletop RPGs 2021

And that’s how I find that Space Marines are actually Fremen. Huh.

I just recently discovered Free League and have been drooling over most of their games. I initially ordered some Forbidden Lands material (waiting on the shipment), but I could see potentially owning much more from them including Vaesen, Symbaroum, MÖRK BORG, and Coriolis. I’ll be patient though and see how I enjoy Forbidden Lands first, before sampling other titles. Their printed books look very polished and well produced.

Symbaroum is very cool in a couple of ways.

1st, the system is an action tactical RPG (think D&D -you can have other stuff but tactical battles make up a lot of the rules- with a little of dark Souls in that combat is more lethal). BUT the players are the only ones rolling dice. The enemies never roll (the players roll against the enemy to avoid the attack).

2nd, they are releasing a multi volume campaign that evolves the story of the world looks amazing. Lately I’m getting into a headspace were baked in campaign stuff (like the awesome Band of Blades) make for a very attractive proposition (more specific game design around the specifity not only of the world but the campaign).

That is great to hear, sounds right up my alley!

I’ll need to look this one up. Is this related to Blades in the Dark in some form? I also recently ordered the rules volume for Blades in the Dark and quite looking forward to receiving and reading that manual.

It is a Blades in the Dark adaptation. However it goes further than BitD and other related products in how it ties the “metagame/campaign” progression. In BitD it is open ended (you keep growing in importance in the city, but in Band of Blades you are fleeing from an undead army and need to get to your hold in a set amount of missions, including a map with branching paths, resource consumption and discovery and other stuff that gives it a very clear throughline (the missions themselves are pretty open).

I have maybe half of Free League main books. Good construction, binding, and they all are laid out to reinforce the theme of the game. Coriolis must have given license holders confidence picking them to create and print Alien. I’ve never had a book so black as Coriolis. It wafted inky smells for years. I just picked up MÖRK BORG, and it surprised me by being so tiny. With a tad more reflection, that’s actually perfect for an OSR sort of game. 96 heavy (paper), metal (music subjects and style) pages. They give credit to “Typefaces: Over a hundred”.

My personal tastes interfere with appreciating the games themselves. I dislike the family of games based closely on the Year Zero Engine. I need more rules to hang my play on, mechanical crags to provide anchors for story and interpretation. The chances of success for an average roll also look low, making me think they run the games like down/mixed/up beats from PbtA without encoding that knowledge in the rules. There’s a hazy thought that Fria Ligan merged with another Swedish publisher some years back, so perhaps not all their games from the past worked this way.

Action, tactical RPG sounds great to me. I need to give Symbaroum a read. A play, ideally, but it’s hard to find more compatible people to play RPGs with. The current ones have their time already filled with what they like. It leaves only small chances to try a few of all these other interesting RPGs.

Band of Blades is basically what got me into RPGs. I played it mostly solo last year during quarantine—eventually tried it with a group who did not take to it (it’s frequently brutal; pretty sure it’s impossible to play without having several character deaths, mostly during ‘side’ missions)—and thought it was excellent. The ending is a bit of letdown, but it makes sense as the core mechanics aren’t really meant to handle combat at the scale the endgame simulates.

If you like the illustrations, I know that it’s based on an artbook that I might look into as well to better set the theme:


(probably more readily available within Scandinavia. Never mind, the link is to the Swedish publisher!)

Nice, thanks for the extra information. The brutal quality paired with character deaths is appealing to me since I prefer the earlier editions of Dungeons and Dragons and the ‘Old School Revival’ where characters are not guaranteed survival and the tension remains high. I even like systems with a ‘funnel’ at the beginning such as Dungeon Crawl Classics where you run a group of fragile characters through an adventure where most die then you continue playing with the one that actually survives at the end and has stories to tell.

Recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons have a lot going for them, but they tend to make superhero-style characters that have no fear of death.

Funny we should be talking about Free League stuff right now- Forbidden Land is up on Bundle of Holding for cheap. And @Intuitionist, you missed the whole Blades in the Dark line being on there just a few weeks back. I highly recommend bookmarking that site and checking it out every week or two- there’s some crazy good deals if you don’t want physical books (like me).

Or just subscribe to their newsletter. they only send it out once a week, and you’ll always hear about the new deal.

I know, I am kicking myself! I just recently started getting back into tabletop RPGs again and saw I missed a lot of great bundles there in recent months since I wasn’t paying attention. I will keep an eye on it and I am currently eyeing the Troika bundle. I may also be getting ahead of myself as I will have a ton to read at this point, lol.

No need to kick yourself. They’ll usually bring back offers at least once, and Blades was a new one.

The core of the game is about making the best of bad situations. You frequently face enemies that are better equipped and naturally more powerful than your squad. It gets incredibly tense when your whole party is wounded and you really need to roll a 6 (4-5 are successes with a cost you probably cannot afford at late mission). There’s a well-designed campaign layer too that ramps up the tension. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, but I liked it a lot.

About to finish our one shot in the Aliens RPG.
Things have not gone well. Would love to discuss more with someone who has played. My DM likes to F with players so he is having a blast with this game and so have we. I think my only complaint is that the one shot feels a little railroady.

Hmm? A solo RPG? Details, please… looking at this RPG I don’t see a solo mode, is there one?

Coincidently, we did a playthrough of the mini-adventure included with the Alien RPG hardcover last Saturday. (I meant to post about it here, but forgot.) It was my family and a buddy, with me as GM.

We all liked the stress mechanic. It really did spice things up when the poop hit the fan towards the end of the session. There was a lot of sweating when folks were building up high levels of stress and rolling on the panic table.

The only real complaint everyone had was that it really seemed like the studio wanted you to buy their dice, so their goofy crosshair and chestburster symbols are used all throughout the rules in place of the six and one faces of the die. This made it difficult for us to quickly parse what we were rolling since we didn’t have the official dice. We were using regular 6-sided dice - a black set with white pips for the base, and a red set with black pips for stress. We were constantly stopping to remind each other which outcome was the better/worse roll. “Wait. The two ones are bad on the red, right? But I have three sixes on the black!”

I don’t think we’ll buy the official dice. While we liked the system and the game is good for some laughs, we all agreed the setting is pretty limited, so our go-to RPGs will likely remain D&D5E and Fate. We’ll come back to this every now and then.

I’m not sure how he did it, but the BoD Bundle of Holding I picked up a few weeks back had solo rules included, called Alone in the Dark. The DrivethruRPG listing is here. They can probably be adapted somewhat to BoB, I’m sure.

Thanks for the writeup! Its interesting, that if you purchase the starter set, you get 2 x 10 dice of their own with it, along with the rules and such. Its a pretty decent deal.

Which adventure is this? I keep hearing that the starter set adventure, Chariot of the Gods, is quite a bit longer than the 4-5 hours the box claims it is.

That’s the one. We’re not done yet. I’d say we’re just starting Act 3. We’ve played 3 sessions late at night easily each 3 hours. I’ll follow up once we finish next Tuesday.

Yeah, but I really wanted the hardback book.

And actually, this is a complaint in general for the hobby. The boxed starter sets frequently have an adventure that’s better than the one included with the actual full book. I get that dice, figures, GM foldouts and the like should be exclusive to the starter box, but it annoys the heck out of me that the more expensive hardcover books come with such poor intro adventures in most cases, and in some cases, none at all.