Good games specifically to showcase non-D&D TTRPGs

aramis erak

Legend
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.
QFT!
Hero is one of those games where "Session 0" is really "Sessions -1 and 0"... Session -1 is figuring out the campaign setting and making certain players grasp it, as well as initial backstory, and 0 itself being character generation, which usually benefits from the week of downtime...
If running hero without paranormal abilities, over half the rulebook is unused. (Thinks about Danger International.)

On the flip side, tho', getting players familiar with the 8 priamary and 7 secondary attributes and what they do is a cognitive load that scares many players off of hero. Especially Ego/Pre/Com. Each is a nuanced subset of what D&D or D&D does with Charisma, and Ego also doubles as D&D Wis...

A well run one shot with pregens in a non-supers/non-magic setting can showcase the benefits.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
QFT!
Hero is one of those games where "Session 0" is really "Sessions -1 and 0"... Session -1 is figuring out the campaign setting and making certain players grasp it, as well as initial backstory, and 0 itself being character generation, which usually benefits from the week of downtime...
If running hero without paranormal abilities, over half the rulebook is unused. (Thinks about Danger International.)

On the flip side, tho', getting players familiar with the 8 priamary and 7 secondary attributes and what they do is a cognitive load that scares many players off of hero. Especially Ego/Pre/Com. Each is a nuanced subset of what D&D or D&D does with Charisma, and Ego also doubles as D&D Wis...

A well run one shot with pregens in a non-supers/non-magic setting can showcase the benefits.
Once I got past the process of running Champions! (as HERO was originally called) for a few gamers, I almost never ran into experienced players who didn’t grok the primary attributes in minutes.

The secondary attributes were slightly more challenging, but not significantly so.

The big hurdles were analysis paralysis because of the myriad ways of modeling any ability and only having the one book for EVERYTHING…and EVERYONE.

The first was alleviated somewhat by showing players NPCs- ideally with similarities to their concepts.

The second? Well, you needed more books. 🤷🏾‍♂️ I did some of that over time, but not for every edition.
 

Vaslov

Explorer
I saw FATE suggested. I think it might work well for the gaps you mentioned upthread. That said, I would not go with basic FATE core. While there can be complexity in the system it takes players who know the system to understand how. Coming to it new I'd suggest going with an established setting in FATE that has already extended the rules for you. Tianxia or Bulldogs is what I would recommend. Both do a nice job of introducing players to FATE, with some strong illustrations on how to extend the core rules to make a setting work. The older Dresden Files can work as well, though I've had some groups love it and others bounce completely off it as the magic system does take some work to get into. YMMV.

A bit closer to 5e is SotDL. Early on characters can die, but after they have a few levels under their belt that goes away generally. The rules were super simple to pick up and tailor to my own setting. They were also meaty enough both the DM and players had a lot to work with. Solid mid-level crunch.

I am running a BitD game now. I could see it meet the goals of story first game. As a DM what I need to prep is very different vs. other games. I find I can only do a little to flesh out other organizations. That's about it for prep. It's a fantastic game if the DM is good with improv, or if you want to work on your improv. What I do find challenging in game keeping is all the rule systems in mind in game. It's getting better with time spent with the system. The rule cheat sheets are invaluable.

Hmm. What else? Tephra. Godbound. Witchcraft (by CJ Carrellas). Swords of the Serpentine. So many good games to try.

And on a few systems I saw others mention that I would not recommend in my extremely myopic view of your scenario:
While I am a fan of Savage Worlds, given your tale of how this discussion got started I would not recommend. The system by nature can have some wild swings in it. Great if that it what you are looking for, but it also means your character is never safe.

Also, Heart and Spire are interesting games. The end game for both of them is basically dramatic character death. While there can be happy endings, it is the exception. The system pushes hard for PCs to go out with a bang scenarios in how the character powers work. Going back to your player who was attached to the character this might not work so well. That said, they can make excellent stories.

Good luck to you.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Once I got past the process of running Champions! (as HERO was originally called) for a few gamers, I almost never ran into experienced players who didn’t grok the primary attributes in minutes.

The secondary attributes were slightly more challenging, but not significantly so.

The big hurdles were analysis paralysis because of the myriad ways of modeling any ability and only having the one book for EVERYTHING…and EVERYONE.

The first was alleviated somewhat by showing players NPCs- ideally with similarities to their concepts.

The second? Well, you needed more books. 🤷🏾‍♂️ I did some of that over time, but not for every edition.
Your players and mine differed. Understanding Ego vs Presence was a constant battle for several. Body and Con were also problematic for a few.

My first encounter with hero system was Danger International. I only encountered champions a year later... I didn't make the connection between the two until half a year later still, when I got copies of both...
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I mention Cthulhu Dark, because (i) it's free, (ii) it's 4 pages so the investment time is low, and (iii) it'll produce an experience pretty different from D&D. In my experience it is easily used to play an off-the-cuff one shot.
Related to this, because there's some shared DNA, I'll recommend both Trophy Dark and Trophy Gold. Rules light and slick as goose poop.
 


Again, so many insightful and helpful responses! Again, no comment means I have nothing specific to add, not that I have ignored or do not appreciate the suggestion (and will look into all of them).
It's a long time (I think about 30 years) since I've had much to do with geese, and I didn't inspect the slickness of their excrement!
There's a 'Ducks vs. Geese' joke* in there to be made, but I'll let someone else follow that trail of bread crumbs. :p
*particularly as a Minnesotan, where we have the old "it's 'duck-duck-grey-duck,' not 'duck-duck-goose'"-thing going on.
I mention Cthulhu Dark, because (i) it's free, (ii) it's 4 pages so the investment time is low, and (iii) it'll produce an experience pretty different from D&D. In my experience it is easily used to play an off-the-cuff one shot.
Looking at this, I think I might have a player revolt. I think this group would want a little more character creation and structured how-tos. I'm trying to get them into the pool of outside-the-box gaming, not into the deep end without floaties.
@Willie the Duck --- just wanted to mention, since I didn't make it entirely clear, that Ironsworn is an FitD / PbtA hybrid. If you're okay looking at things in the realm of FitD, don't discount Ironsworn just because it's not a direct BitD descendant.
I have nothing against FitD or PbtA. I simply fear that BitD in particular might have more faction and resource tracking* and downtime prep than I have the time and energy to pursue at the moment. I actually think I ought to include a FitD/PbtA game in the mix, as they are one of the main avenues of 'narrative-esque' games out there.
*reasonable for a heist game where funds, reputation, and who likes you/owes you favors vs. dislikes/has a grievance are dominant main qualities of a group.
I saw FATE suggested. I think it might work well for the gaps you mentioned upthread. That said, I would not go with basic FATE core. While there can be complexity in the system it takes players who know the system to understand how. Coming to it new I'd suggest going with an established setting in FATE that has already extended the rules for you. Tianxia or Bulldogs is what I would recommend. Both do a nice job of introducing players to FATE, with some strong illustrations on how to extend the core rules to make a setting work. The older Dresden Files can work as well, though I've had some groups love it and others bounce completely off it as the magic system does take some work to get into. YMMV.
FATE is another of those main avenues. I'm worried about Fate, though. Both the 4d3* mechanic and the notion of players having the ability to shape the events are again kinda thrown in the deep end, as it were. Certainly one with some solid structure (at least in 'this is who you are, this is what you are likely to make your in-game goals' and so on) would help.
*(-,0,+)
Hmm. What else? Tephra. Godbound. Witchcraft (by CJ Carrellas). Swords of the Serpentine. So many good games to try.
Is there anything about these games which would make them good or bad for this scenario?
Once I got past the process of running Champions! (as HERO was originally called) for a few gamers, I almost never ran into experienced players who didn’t grok the primary attributes in minutes.
The secondary attributes were slightly more challenging, but not significantly so.
The big hurdles were analysis paralysis because of the myriad ways of modeling any ability and only having the one book for EVERYTHING…and EVERYONE.
The first was alleviated somewhat by showing players NPCs- ideally with similarities to their concepts.
The second? Well, you needed more books. 🤷🏾‍♂️ I did some of that over time, but not for every edition.
I love me some Hero System. The only think I'd say against it in this situation is that, like WEG Star Wars, it just offers an alternative trad TTRPG rather than really push their boundaries.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I have nothing against FitD or PbtA. I simply fear that BitD in particular might have more faction and resource tracking* and downtime prep than I have the time and energy to pursue at the moment. I actually think I ought to include a FitD/PbtA game in the mix, as they are one of the main avenues of 'narrative-esque' games out there.
*reasonable for a heist game where funds, reputation, and who likes you/owes you favors vs. dislikes/has a grievance are dominant main qualities of a group.

The Faction element of BitD is not that difficult to manage. There is a sheet you print up as GM, with lists of all factions, and as each is introduced to the game, you give them a starting rating (typically zero); this is their status with the PCs' Crew. The statuses range from +3 at best, to -3 at worst, with +3 being a trusted ally who will actively help the Crew, to -3 being actively hostile and at war with the Crew.

After each score, you evaluate what happened in play, and look to see if the Factions involved would adjust their status with the Crew. It's usually limited to a few possible Factions, and you make the adjustments on the sheet. There are also Entanglements which can affect Faction Status, and those are pretty straightforward choices the players make.

I think you're likely worrying about it too much. It's not that complicated nor time consuming.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The Faction element of BitD is not that difficult to manage. There is a sheet you print up as GM, with lists of all factions, and as each is introduced to the game, you give them a starting rating (typically zero); this is their status with the PCs' Crew. The statuses range from +3 at best, to -3 at worst, with +3 being a trusted ally who will actively help the Crew, to -3 being actively hostile and at war with the Crew.

After each score, you evaluate what happened in play, and look to see if the Factions involved would adjust their status with the Crew. It's usually limited to a few possible Factions, and you make the adjustments on the sheet. There are also Entanglements which can affect Faction Status, and those are pretty straightforward choices the players make.

I think you're likely worrying about it too much. It's not that complicated nor time consuming.
@Willie the Duck I have to echo Hawkeyefan here. I've played a bit of BitD, and am currently playing Scum and Villainy, the SF version of it, and the GM tracking is <10 minutes a session, maybe 15 later in a camapign when needing to update multiple clocks. Heck, played online and we had a shared spreadsheet that had tabs for crew/ship, everyone's playbook, factions, and clocks. Made it quick.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
The only think I'd say against it in this situation is that, like WEG Star Wars, it just offers an alternative trad TTRPG rather than really push their boundaries.
Because of its age, I do think of it as a traditional TYRPG. But I’m not sure I understand your point. Can you clarify?
 

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