Tabletop RPGs in 2022

Those early games Quinns mentions are all very famous and widespread RPGs. For values of famous that skip over D&D, as it is obviously so much more well known than any other RPG at all ever that it skews the curve.

Edit to add what I’m referring to, hehe.

The One Ring: Strider Mode (solo play)

Looks like this is available in pdf now at drivethrurpg.com (maybe elsewhere too). Whooohooo! Now I’m building a nice PnP backlog to go along with my Digital backlog!

The Cypher System is going Open Game License.

One of the first announced projects to take advantage of this is a game based on The Mystery Flesh Pit National Park.

The Blade Runner preview PDFs are out. No time to really read them yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192053011/blade-runner-the-roleplaying-game

I picked up a copy of EZD6. I’ve only flipped through it after watching some videos and reading reviews. It seems like a fun little system, but I fear that it may be a little too “rules lite” even for me. Despite enjoying stuff like Fate and Index Card RPG, EZD6 seems to strip too much of the “crunch” away and leaves the GM (here called the “Rabble Rouser”) and players to fend for themselves.

I think this may end up in the same niche as Quest for me as just being a nice table diversion.

DM Scotty and his buds (or customers, al YTers…) are all the rage on the YouTubes proclaiming its the best thing evar! There is a Blastmaster class! And you roll em some bones, from what I hear. Please report back.

Update: Since you asked previously, I only use dungeon fog now for actual interior Maps. I use Hexographer for tactical wilderness maps now too when I need them.

I’m about to run my first mini campaign at the roleplaying club I’m part of (RP Haven). I’ve always been a player for the past 2 years.

It starts this Wednesday.

It’s slightly intimidating but should be good fun. 2 players have signed up so far. I’m looking forward to it!

What’s in the taller container?

A painted owlbear and a dragonling mini from Descent. Both will come in handy. :)

For those interested in Citizen Sleeper, I just ran across Orbital, a very similar-sounding TTRPG. Not to say either one is a rip-off of the other, though- Orbital came out over a year ago, and video games have a long development time, even indie ones like that. But I digress.

I have Artefact and Bucket of Bolts (single player Journaling RPGs) in physical zine form by the same author, and they seem cool, but I haven’t dug into them yet. This is a lot meatier-looking, though. You can get all three for $20 at the above link for the next day or so, maybe.

Trying times are hitting all over, unfortunately.

Even dark days have bright spots: “and D&D 5e’s Inspiration has been completely forgotten.”

Inspiration is a ton of fun if the players and GM actually buy in and fuck with it – we get some excellent RP moments out of really digging deep into character traits, flaws, and bonds in our Curse of Strahd campaign. I prefer to house-rule it to work more like Mutants & Mastermind’s Hero Points, though (on an Inspiration re-roll-via-Advantage, rolls 10 or less get 10 added), and I also do away with the stupid “any amount of Advantage cancels out any amount of Disadvantage and vice versa” nonsense and actually count 'em out.

Which is maybe a way of saying, okay, fine, Inspiration-as-written maybe does suck, but I love mechanics like that when they’re done competently.

My reactionary take mostly shows my discomfort with more-narrative mechanics. I have a plan to at least get more exposure and build some skills to appreciate and adapt story-oriented mechanics. I’m gearing up to run 7th Sea second edition. I’m not sure how many sessions to carve out before reverting to baser instincts. I can already feel the urge to swap to first edition rules or maybe All for One: Regime Diabolique.

Oddly, I feel comfortable improvising and keying off of player actions. The discomort arises from something about the orientation of fiction-first rules, sometimes a reversal of action and result, sometimes a detaching from anchoring (numerical?) truths about the world. Because 7th Sea has so little numerical description of things in the world, there might be less of those feelings. There should be fewer occurrences of one system presenting a certain view of likelihood being contradicted by another.

E.g., a system for falling damage and a system to land-safely-with-explanation. I’m more used to the former. It says something true about that world. The latter reduces the amount of truth in the system without adding new truth, as a mechanic in its own right. I think that’s why the story approach feels more nebulous. But, I think I like what I see about 7th Sea. If someone’s falling off a high tower, it asks me to explain how bad of a fall is this likely to be without action on the Hero’s part. It never told me up front with formula for distance, ground material, number of awnings. I guess I’ll see how players interact. I hope for “richly”, like whipping their belt off and hooking around a laundry post–and not “technically”, like I’m best at Wits+Taunt, so I roll that and spend all five Raises to cancel the damage.

Detailed mechanical systems might have encouraged patterns of such technical responses. Fairly so, even. The system did all of the work of explaining what was going on. We witnessed the result, then acted from that point.

The.trick, to repeat myself, is ensuring my group gets enough experience in this style so we can appraise what we like best. These are folks who’ve only had me as a GM, 95% of our sessions in two D&D campaigns. Even if this trial doesn’t work out, though, I know I’ll circle back later, until I feel I have reasonable fluency in running a fiction-first game. (A next pass would likely be Blades in the Dark or Thirsty Sword Lesbians.)

I think you’re grasping onto the right ideas in ways that make me hopeful it can work out for your group, and for what it’s worth, I know at least one guy in our larger RPG collective who strongly feels the way you do about “neutral” numerical systems producing formulaically generated situations/complications to respond off of, so it’s not like you’re off the reservation for liking how you do things already and the mechanical support that a game like D&D offers to enable that kind of play. Mind, the guy in question with us also basically spends every waking moment in our Discord whining about how no one else wants to play joyless zero-player-input death-march campaigns like he does, hah :)

But yeah, a narrative-forward game is generally gonna ask more of the players, and in some ways, there’s an element of “it’s as fun as everyone is interested in making it” inherent to a lot of those. Not that there isn’t some of that to D&D, too, right? You can easily lock yourself in “I swing my Longsword 3 times and Second Wind to heal 1d10+3 every single turn until we win or we die” style mindsets with certain classes, and unless the GM does a lot of heavy lifting to force people out of the rote ruts they dig themselves, they’ll tend to stay there and then wonder why the game “got so boring.” Alas, the human mind is infinite in its capacity to ruin its own fun :)

Whereas, yeah, if you want to roll a slightly fantastical, stylish swashbuckling action movie style campaign where people are whipping out belt buckles onto oh-so-convenient flagpoles midway down the thick-walled tower of Lord D’Arcy Montague III, his semi-imperial fuckfacery, you can certainly prime the pump to an extent – explain the tone and timbre of the game, ask people how they do a thing repeatedly, have NPCs behave stylishly themselves – but at the end of the day, you’re a little bit at the mercy of the players willingness/ability to stop waiting for a formula to tell them they’re in danger and decide decisively that they should do awesome shit to escape the situation.

Maybe it helps to say, “In D&D, you know you’re on 20HP and facing a 4d10 fall of the cliff that statistically puts you unconscious and 120ft below your nearest ally every time, so maybe now’s the time to risk a nasty Counterspell and cast Feather Fall or rely on their Rogue’s Defensive Roll. Here, if you allow all these Fictional Uh-Ohs and No-Nos (whatever your system of choice might choose to call its mechanic for ‘ending up in progressively more fraught situations’), the world is gonna have free reign to do things to you on the scale of fucked-up-life-ruining-shenanigans of Count of Monte Cristo that will make you wish you’d just gone SPLAT!, so it’s time to get creative and let loose your inner Errol Flynn, dammit!”

I wish you luck, @_aaron. I think getting out of a comfort zone can be very liberating and VERY inspiring in getting you to rethink how, and why you do things when GMing. I’m going very much the opposite route with a lot of open sandbox play (as I’ve prattled on and on and on to Mando offline) very dependent upon player responses, choices and reactions engaging with a world “that is.” Which has been a blast, because I have generally run campaigns with very structured narrative ideas for as long as I can remember. Doing things really differently has really just juiced me up and invigorated me in a big way.

Thank you both for the encouragement. I would want to quote Armando’s line directly, but I would feel quite the poseur for not having seen any of Flynn’s films yet. That these Zillennials wouldn’t know who he is might permit the line. Navarone, you’ve ventured in a direction that’s unique to my ears: from strong narrative to sandbox. I’m heartened that variety inspires and difference teaches. Me want. Maybe get!

I like narrative-first RPGs in small doses. You get that fun feeling of story-telling with friends. It almost feels like a whole different genre though. I like the way you put this…

… which in non-story-games leads to the problem of way too many rules to try to add more truth to the game. There’s some magical middle ground where there’s enough core rules to make judgment calls easy, but not so many core rules that I need a rulebook at the table (I hate referencing rulebooks during a game). I think ideally in a traditional rpg an action falls through these steps:

  1. Resolution is handled explicitly by the rules. If not covered…
  2. DM infers a reasonable ruling based on adjacent rules. If there aren’t any adjacent rules…
  3. Use a generic resolution system (eg “Athletics check DC 13”) or Rule-of-Cool.

The more often you’re hitting 1 or 2, the more coherent the world feels, which helps a lot with making in-world decisions feel meaningful and effective. Lately I’m really drawn to traditional RPGs where the brunt of the rules are not in the combat section. I feel like these games are way more likely to have adjacent rules for any given ruling a DM needs to make.

There was some blog post I read a while ago about a similar structure idea for DM prep (I can’t recall the source). It was saying if players ask a question about the world, you go through steps like:

  1. Answer the question using explicit notes you’ve taken. If no notes cover it…
  2. Answer by rolling on random tables you’ve prepared. If no tables cover it…
  3. Wing it.

Similarly, the more you’re hitting 1 and 2, the more coherent the world feels, and the more impactful decisions feel in it. I’ve been prepping a lot more random tables lately which makes prep shorter and gives plenty of reference material at the table. Like if players are going into a castle, I’d write up a table on common furniture in castle rooms. That way instead of putting a description in every room, I can just roll up some furniture if players ask about it.

Sorry I’m just rambling, but these posts got my brain bubbling in some random direction (I blame recent lack of sleep). Sometimes I think my tastes in RPGs are the opposite of @ArmandoPenblade’s so it’s always surprising to me how much I agree with what he posts. Having the right number of rules in the right place allows “fucked-up-life-ruining-shenanigans of Count of Monte Cristo” to feel fair and fun! But buy in is essential in either case, whether it’s narrative style for a story game or the ruleset / tables that creates those narratives.