Good games specifically to showcase non-D&D TTRPGs

Here is the situation -- I have multiple gaming groups, most of which have explored TTRPGs well outside D&D. One group, however, has always been current or 1-2-editions-previous-to-current* D&D. There has been some recent talk about looking at other systems and what they might do better for the group. This all started when a character hit a trap in the dungeon which was "perma-"death** for a character -- one that the player was emotionally invested in. This got us into a big discussion about whether we needed to be playing a game with surprise character death, would it be better if a trap was a horrid curse or transformation (one you can work to stop, or at least roleplay the attempt and experience), and of course if we're not playing the game to do the things D&D does well***, why aren't we playing something else. Since I'm the group member with the most experience with non-D&Ds, they are looking to me for ideas of what to try out. A one-off or short campaign would be a good bet. One major issue is that I am incredibly busy at work and do not have a huge amount of time to devote to GMing and managing a game.
*sometimes a lag in adoption
**it actually wasn't, just total-body-destruction -- which true resurrection can resolve, but that's beside the point now.
***side discussion about the old 'why are we searching a dungeon for treasure in 5e in the first place?''


I am looking for some suggestions on games which will:
  1. highlight the benefits of playing non-D&Ds towards certain types of play (be they high-RP, better social/exploration mechanics, differing balance, or anything else), and
  2. Not be a huge amount of work.
I know plenty of games that fulfill one or the other, but fewer that do both. Does anyone have any suggestions or preferences? Good explanations for how and why they do each of these well is of course appreciated (as is any insights into the situation, really). Thanks in advance!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

dbm

Savage!
Supporter
Some questions:
1 - what are you group trying / wanting to include in your games that D&D doesn’t support well?
2 - what genres are you looking for? Fantasy, sci-fi, something else?
3 - how much crunch does your group like? What about character customisation?
4 - what’s the best bit of D&D that you would like to retain in another game?
 

May I suggest the Maid RPG?

It's as different from D&D as you can get!
You really only need to grok three to five base game rules to play.
The book has tons of support in adventures, random tables, and in universe fiction.
 



billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
The funny thing is, players who get very emotionally attached to their PCs in D&D, sometimes thrive in other games where the expectation of death is more normal and common. Paranoia makes death kind of fun - I've seen attachment-heavy D&D players thrive in that game. Same with Call of Cthulhu - DESPITE the looming death.
I'm honestly not sure why this is the case. Maybe it's a bit of genre expectation since most fantasy characters fight and fight and don't die (John Carter, Conan, Drizzt Do'Urden, etc) plus all the means out there to survive (death saves, various raising magics, etc) - they add up to the expectation that you aren't gonna die easy. Whereas in CoC, you die pretty easy and it's obvious early on. That sets a different expectation.
 

Some questions:
1 - what are you group trying / wanting to include in your games that D&D doesn’t support well?
2 - what genres are you looking for? Fantasy, sci-fi, something else?
3 - how much crunch does your group like? What about character customisation?
4 - what’s the best bit of D&D that you would like to retain in another game?
1. Focus on character personality, roleplay, perhaps more robust general non-combat/non-spell resolution mechanics. Certainly better supporting* adventures where treasure hunting and combat are, at most, a subset of standard activities.
*out of the box. Yes, I know you can do most anything with D&D if you put in enough effort. The point is to find (or at least try out) things purpose-fit to some of these things.
2. I think Fantasy, Sci Fi, and urban fantasy would all be natural fits. Maybe Horror and Heist as well. Probably not anything like specifically anthro, giant robots, wacky comedy, or non-fantastical historical dramas or such.
3. As much as I would love a 1-10 page ruleset, I think the general consensus is a preference for not-rules-light. At the same time, I don't think anything like GURPS, Hero System, Shadorun 1e, or Aftermath is necessary. People are used to 3e/4e/5e level of mechanical-character-differentiation, so a reasonable number of toggles to play with.
4. I think a sense of adventure, where leaping into action is as often as not the right response, is a plus. Combat shouldn't be excluded, I think.

May I suggest the Maid RPG?

It's as different from D&D as you can get!
You really only need to grok three to five base game rules to play.
The book has tons of support in adventures, random tables, and in universe fiction.
I know it's practically sacrilege amongst online nerd-dom, but a significant portion of this group are not into anything anime-themed. That, and the sexual content, no matter how comedic or well-handled, is outside some comfort zones. If the game engine is used for other games, I would certainly be interested.
Blades in the Dark.

The game has hard limitations on character death - it can happen, but how & when is controlled by the group. Since your group had an issue with PC death, it might do the trick.
I love the concept of BitD. However, I am worried about having the time and energy to run it. Blades seems like it has a lot of tracking of resources and gang capabilities and faction relations/motivations and such. Do you find it to be the case?

The funny thing is, players who get very emotionally attached to their PCs in D&D, sometimes thrive in other games where the expectation of death is more normal and common. Paranoia makes death kind of fun - I've seen attachment-heavy D&D players thrive in that game. Same with Call of Cthulhu - DESPITE the looming death.
I'm honestly not sure why this is the case. Maybe it's a bit of genre expectation since most fantasy characters fight and fight and don't die (John Carter, Conan, Drizzt Do'Urden, etc) plus all the means out there to survive (death saves, various raising magics, etc) - they add up to the expectation that you aren't gonna die easy. Whereas in CoC, you die pretty easy and it's obvious early on. That sets a different expectation.
These same players have been fine with the DCC funnel, so it is all about expectations. In this case, however, I think they are looking for less meaningless death, not more (but expected). Good points, though.
 


Darth Solo

Explorer
I love the concept of BitD. However, I am worried about having the time and energy to run it. Blades seems like it has a lot of tracking of resources and gang capabilities and faction relations/motivations and such. Do you find it to be the case?

If you love the concepts, give it a good read, form a quick tale and run a one-shot. Then you can clear up your perceptions about the system. It's the only way. I've read some of BitD and watched a few live streamed games, and while I've never run it, it can't be anymore daunting than running HERO system (one of my current groups is enjoying a Champions 6e game). Trust yourself to do a good job running the kind of story you would like and, in my experience, the rest falls into place. Getting some good tips from GMs familiar with BitD is of course vital.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I love the concept of BitD. However, I am worried about having the time and energy to run it. Blades seems like it has a lot of tracking of resources and gang capabilities and faction relations/motivations and such. Do you find it to be the case?

I was going to suggest Blades. As @Darth Solo mentioned, the players have a lot of say about when a character dies. It’s a very player centric game. And there’s a lot of opportunity for character focus. There are things to track, but it’s certainly less work than is typically needed to prep for D&D, so it’s very manageable. I’d say to give it a try. There are also plenty of folks here on EN World who know the game well and can offer guidance. Alternatively, you could try Scum & Villainy, which is a sci-fi hack of Blades that allows for Star Wars or Firefly type games.

Another suggestion is Spire: The City Must Fall. It’s a game about drow insurrectionist in a city ruled by high elves. There’s a strong premise, and everyone will be familiar with a lot of the tropes, but the game does some unexpected things with them. Also, the core rules are simple, but there’s a good amount of player side crunch with class abilities. And the way harm works in the game is really cool, and makes for exciting play. The only drawback based on what you said is that sometimes leaping into danger isn’t the best thing to do. The PCs are spies and/or saboteurs… they’re part of a clandestine mission.

With that in mind, I can also suggest Heart: The City Beneath. It’s a spin-off of Spire and uses the same core rules, but it’s standalone. It’s a bit more combat centric than Spire, so the classes in Heart are designed with that in mind. It’s a dungeon delving game where the PCs go into a living dungeon that constantly changes and shifts.

Finally, I’d recommend Stonetop. It’s a Powered by the Apocalypse game, where the PCs are the heroes of a faux-iron age village. Play is focused on the characters and their attempts to defend and improve their village. I’ve played in a full campaign and have also run it for about five sessions so far, and it’s a really fun game. Very character focused as the PCs are very connected to the town and its people. Core mechanics are simple, and lots of depth based on playbook abilities. Characters are sturdy, but not superhuman… so character death is possible, but it also offers some potential new avenues of play.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top