Good games specifically to showcase non-D&D TTRPGs

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
Running HERO isn’t the real problem. 90% of the time, everything you need to play besides the Speed Chart is on a player’s character sheet, and you won’t touch the rulebook.

What takes time & effort is character creation/advancement.

And I’ve run or designed a fairly broad array of Fantasy HERO campaigns- including a multi-edition D&D simulation- so I know it can handle a wide variety of styles.

Besides a toolbox system like HERO or GURPS, I’d recommend something from Chaosium’s product line (I always enjoyed their Moorcockian-themed games).

You could also try something from the World of Darkness games. Just because they’re mostly set in modern times out if the box doesn’t mean you can’t run them in other time periods.

(And TBH, the same could be said of a lot of TTRPGs.)

I’d love to get into/run a Strange/Cypher system game someday.
 

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In my experience, one of the best indie horror/mystery games (and pay-what-you-want, too) is Beyond the Fence, Below the Grave, about supernatural practitioners in the Old Norse world investigating otherworldly disturbances in a community, finding the cause of the problem, and getting rid of it. It's a rarity indeed - a Viking game that's not about combat (while you can crack heads, there's no dedicated combat system, it's just an ability roll like everything else in the game). I've had great fun running this for groups between 2 and 4 in size, and the mysteries are the right size for one- or two-shots.


The research into pre-Christian Scandinavian societies (and their mythical monsters/spirits) is top-notch, despite being condensed into a relatively short rulebook pdf. The three adventures available for it are really good, ranging from a wedding between warring clans at Uppsala to a naming ceremony in a frontier community during winter.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
In my experience, I have two recommendations:

2400 (Link) is a super lightweight rule set. You basically get a ton of three pages pamphlets that all focus on a specific flavor of Sci-Fi. It's incredibly simple, lightweight and easy to run. I wouldn't run an incredibly long campaign as it might lack in progression, granularity and options. But for a one-shot, palate cleanser or even a short campaign more focused on the story it's perfect. My favorite was The Venusian Job.

For a slightly denser experience, I'd recommend Orbital Blues (Link - I think you can get a physical copy on their website). It's focused on the Space Cowboy genre (Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, etc). It has some simple rules, easy to understand; but it offers options. In a way your characters are doomed (because of a stat called Blues), but you do get to go out in style with a mechanic called Swansong which makes you almost invulnerable, incredibly skilled for a scene, at the cost that you die at the end of it. My "death-averse" players actually enjoyed knowing it would come, but that it would be epic.
 

innerdude

Legend
Can absolutely recommend Savage Worlds if your group is into more action-adventure style gaming. It's classless, with robust, competent heroes at the start, but with lots of room to grow. It's quite a bit different than D&D mechanically, but still meant to be played in "traditional" style.

Can also highly recommend Genesys / Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars for a "medium" crunch set of rules that's got good character build options and fun combat, but much more freeform and definitely less deadly.

If you want to go even more rules light and less traditional, and focus on character depth and story, Ironsworn is one of the best RPGs I've ever played. And the core rules PDF is completely free. Ironsworn is seriously amazing; I can't recommend it enough.
 

GreyLord

Legend
How close to D&D type rules do you want.

Easiest to learn that's not exactly D&D, but very compatible with almost every version (0, AD&D, 2e, BX, BECMI, 3e, 5e) is Castles and Crusades. Easy to understand and pick up by those who have played D&D before.

One that's different but very easy to understand overall (simple mechanics) in my opinion is Star Wars WEG (D6 version).

Even simpler would be the Fighting Fantasy RPG. Here are some links. It may even be too simple for your group, though the first link is for a quickstart which is free to try.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy Quickstart

The Rules (which do cost money)

Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e

and the deluxe version

AFF Deluxe
 

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.

Well there goes my suggestions of the Konusuba TTRPG, Monster Hearts, and Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

The Dresden Files RPG???
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
MUJIK IS DEAD is
  1. Innovative and different, with all players controlling the same character
  2. Thematically distant from traditional gung-ho adventuring, instead focusing on terrifying, down to earth, horrors of life like domestic violence, drug addiction, soul-crushing job and mounting medical bills
  3. Smol and fits on one page
My hack of it, LOVECRAFT IS DEAD goes for way less terrifying lovecraftian horror instead.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
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.


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.
Would The Troubleshooters from Helmgast be too much anime-like for them? It is based on Franco-Belgian Comics like Tintin, Spirou, Yoko Tsuno... Though the creator has said that Lupin III was one of the inspirations.

At the site you can download quickplay rules and a couple fo scenarios. I am guilty of the adventure The Minoan Affair (it was quite heavily edited by the creator of the game to be publishable).
 


dbm

Savage!
Supporter
@Willie the Duck - awesome, in that case I would also recommend Savage Worlds. Here’s why:
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.
The latest version, Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (commonly referenced as SWADE), is really quite good in this regard. Characters can pick Hinderance (which give them ‘build points’ to buy other things at character creation) which could be physical, mental, or social complications. These help put some mechanical weight behind characterisation, without being as strongly focussed on these as a game like Fate would be.

The game also has a simple system for Networking - i.e. talking to people to get information, and this can be stepped up into a Dramatic Task if you want more emphasis on it. Dramatic Tasks are great in general. They give you a system where players can use their skills and creativity to address non-combat challenges with a level of detail comparable to combat (not quite as crunchy, but close), meaning these types of encounters can have a similar, satisfying, game component rather than being completely free-form or just boiling down to a skill check. One of the really nice things about Dramatic Tasks is how they mesh with all the Edges (think a cross between feats and class abilities in D&D terms) that effect initiative and so on. Dramatic Tasks are IMO the best non-combat resolution system I have come across in 40 years of gaming.

Finally, there are Interludes, which are intended to represent those quiet time where characters relax and talk around the camp fire etc, and the GM nominates a player to tell a short back-story about their character in return for a small meta reward.
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.
SWADE has all these covered out of the core book alone - it is truly one of the most complete core books of any game I have played. There are Companion books which add more detail for specific genres. Fantasy, Supers and Horror are already out and Sci-Fi is probably due next year. SWADE also has one of the best third-party support communities of any game, definitely top five, maybe even top three. So there is a crime focussed third-party campaign book, for example. And many third-party game worlds with new edges, equipment, adversaries and so on; all to a good standard in my experience.
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.
I would put SWADE as very comparable to 5e in terms of mechanical widgets to play with. The advantage is that a lot of these things are opt-in so you can start with just the more core rules and build out from there as you go. For example there are rules for called shots, disarming foes, grappling and so on but you don’t need to bother with those until the moment comes. Such manoeuvres are very rarely locked behind Edges so anyone can try them when they need to; this avoids build-traps and lock-outs.
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.
SWADE’s moto is ‘fast, furious, fun‘ and is built to simulate pulp adventure of every kind by default. Pulp fantasy, pulp sci-fi, pulp horror and so on. Some people will argue they don’t find the game fits its brief but in my fairly extensive experience it does. You can adjust the dials and make it more gritty or more heroic but pulp action is the default. Another interesting feature of the system is that characters start out fairly competent and resilient and while they do grow through progression it isn’t as marked as in D&D so play remains manageable throughout. It’s like they took 3-12th level and dropped the rest (though again, in some of the expansion things can get much more gonzo - the Wish spell now exists for SWADE, for example, and there is an excellent official adaption of Rifts using SWADE, too).
 
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