Help finding the right "new" system (for us)

Sorry for being the anything BUT the first to bring this topic up, but I need help. Ok, I WANT help :p

Early last year my wife and I joined a friend's established D&D group running some hybrid between 1st edition D&D and AD&D. In the last couple of months the group has started to fall appart (through no fault of ours, I'd like to think) and we're down to just us, the GM and 1 other player. We've come to a point, where 2 of the last three sessions were morphed into boardgame sessions as too many players were absent.

I'm now contemplating offering to run a game or games to fill those gaps. I'm looking for some help in finding the "right" system for this and will begin by trying to define what such a system should bring to the table. This will probably start out rough, to be refined and iterated on. The list will be ordered from top to bottom reflecting weight, with the most important points being on top, less important ones towards the bottom. There will be a mix of System and Setting bullet points, there will be contradictions, this will be rough, but bear with me.

  • Simple rules. With the game being geared towards being a "filler", I can't have people fret over rules. And knowing my audience, that's bound to happen.
  • At least vaguely "Fantasy". I personally just don't dig Cyberpunk or 40k or Now and stuff, and I can't run what I don't dig.
  • Pre-made adventures are a must. And, since this isn't a big, involved thing (I already run two of those) I would really prefer "Episodes" over "Big Campaign". Even if the single adventures aren't connected by more than "We're playing the same chars", I'm good.
  • No Mega-Dungeon. I personally wouldn't mind trying to run one of those, but I know at least 2/3 of the players don't like the idea, so that's off the table.
  • A mix of "Indie" games instead of one single system / setting / party would be fine. Like, play Fiasco one night, something else in the same vein another. But, I don't know much about those games, so I need recommendations.
  • It doesn't HAVE to be D&D
Ok, I swear, as I lay awake last night, I had so much more. I guess, this will have to do for now. We'll see how things go from here and I will try and adjust with what I learn from replies.


How about pulp Cthulhu where you guys are adventurers in the vein of Indiana Jones? Less horror, more pulp action and adventure with fantasy and sci-fi. It's an easy system to learn.

My other suggestion is to roll up Adventurers League legal characters and do their one shot adventures using AL rules. The side benefit is that you'll have AL legal characters if you ever find yourself at a convention and want to do some D&D.
If you have any 5E material, you could pick up Five Torches Deep and use that. It uses the 5E mechanics, bit is a streamlined version of the game and will be familiar to anyone familiar with any edition of D&D. Conversion would be needed, but is minimal and usually consists of reducing enemy hit points, and that’s it.

Tales From the Loop might be worth checking out. It’s set in the modern day (well, close....the 1980s) and is about young kids getting involved in strange happenings near their town. Very much in line with Stranger Things and the films/books that inspired it. So it’s not fantasy in the elves and dwarves way, but still has fantastic elements. The core book includes some scenarios that you can run.

What about sci-fi? I know you said no cyber-punk, but what about something along the lines of “Alien” and similar stories?


Beyond the Wall and Old-School Essentials are solid recommendations. I personally really like the former.

If you want to stray a bit further from D&D-like things, you could also try:
  • Dungeon World - it tries to create an old-school D&D vibe, but via Powered by the Apocalypse rules, i.e. instead of skills you have so-called moves and they direct the flow of the story in a certain direction. Most notably: a failed roll here does not mean you failed at your task, just that your life becomes more complicated. If you do pick that up, consider reading the (free) Dungeon World Guide.
    Normally, you create your own worlds and adventures here, but there is also a large number of adventure frames available on DriveThruRPG if you prefer to have a starting point.
  • Forbidden Lands - this also has an old-school feel, but this time it is based on the Year Zero engine (the Free League Publishing house system), where you roll a pool of attribute + skill d6 dice and only a 6 is a success. However, if you fail, you can push yourself (re-roll dice that didn't show a 6) and generate a resource (in this case: Willpower) that you can later use to do cool stuff. Should you fail the second time, however, bad things happen :)
    There are two official adventure/campaign books: one a little shorter (The Spire of Quetzel), the other one longer (Raven's Purge).
And maybe if you are also ok with a fantastic thing that's less classic: Tales from the Loop is a really nice game (also running on the Year Zero engine), where you play a group of kids in the an alternative version of the 80s, where there is anti-grav ships, autonomous robots and a large particle accelerator called "The Loop" that creates all sorts of fancy effects. There are two pre-made settings in the book, one in Sweden and one in the US. Also, the core book comes with 6 shorter adventures that would fit your desire for an episodic game really well.

aramis erak

TO the OP...
The combination of simple rules and lots of content really limits the choices; the apparent rejection of campaign-length adventures limits it further.

I can suggest several simple rules games... but really, what you;'re describing really is D&D.

As far as indy games go, my personal favorites are Mouse Guard, Blood & Honor, Marvel Heroic RP, Sentinel Comics, and The One Ring. I'll make the leap that supers isn't your bag, either.

Mouse Guard's simpler than AD&D or 3.X, but not what I'd call simple; it is, however, fairly easy on new players, if they can get the mindset going.

Blood & Honor is hard-core mechanics control who controls the story narrativism. Fiasco is, too... but I've not played it.

The One Ring is comparable complexity to Mouse Guard. It's excellent for the Tolkien feel... but tinkering carelessly will break it in interesting (read "potentially campaign and GM Trust destroying") ways. It can be modded for feel a lot. Want a more movie feel? drop the 2 skill rune limit. Add to open stance "Combat Archery" - firing as a melee weapon, at TN 12+parry, but TN to be hit at TN9+Parry. Lots of published adventures, too. Perfectly episodic, so you can do episodic campaign.


One of the near-infinite OSR games would feel comfortably similar, and reasonably rules-light. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords and Wizardry would be my suggestions. All have free no-art versions. Here's a link to a site with a bunch of links to free versions.


Registered Ninja
If I can plug my own game, Abstract Dungeon is designed to be easy to learn. It also plays very fast since your dice are a resource you spend instead of rolling them for every action.

It is light on published adventures. There's three in the core book and we're planning to Kickstart a Zine soon that will have at least one an issue, but not much beyond that.


Rules light(ish), well supported with episodic adventures, handles traditional fantasy EXCELLENTLY while being flexible enough to easily switch genres/settings?

I can wholeheartedly recommend Savage Worlds for this. And if you hurry and pick up the Deluxe Explorer's Edition softcover on Amazon before they go out of print, you can get the core rules for $10.

(Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, or SWADE, kickstarted last year and is the latest version, but if you want to just try it out, the previous version is still a very, very good system.)

The other system that immediately came to mind was Fantasy D6 or Adventure D6, which you can pick up as PDFs for the price of free on DriveThruRPG.



I'm not sure if you can still get it - it's a late 80s game that was Kickstarted into reprint a few years ago - but Prince Valiant very much fits what you want: light and simple, vaguely fantastic mediaeval, no dungeons (except for the sort you'd find in a Robin Hood movie), and the core book has a good collection of scenarios (called "episodes" each of which is 1 to 3+ hours play) and the Kickstarter produced an Episode Book with more of these - they're a bit more mixed in quality because by various designers (the original is Greg Stafford and in my view his best work) but I've got a lot of play out of it.

Our game - 1st session writeup here, most recent sessions here - is around 10 or so sessions in, going well, and I have a good collection still of unused Episodes.