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D&D General What Compels YOU to a new RPG?


The High Aldwin
So, I got my copy of 13th Age today and skimmed through it. Honestly, it isn't for me. And I realized, I have played several RPGs over the years, more so in my youth, but by and large kept "loyal" to 3: D&D, Shadowrun, and Vampire. I periodically have played others, some I really liked (such as SW d20), but they never kept my interest for long, and I return to one of my beloved three.

Like many here, I even wrote my own RPG about 20 years ago and played it with friends for a while, but dropped the project.

There are SO may RPGs out there, but I have little interest in playing anything new. It led me to wonder, as I have read about many of you playing different systems, what compels you to a new RPG? And why do you stick with it?


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Lowcountry Low Roller
I‘ve played a bit of FFG‘s Star Wars RPG (and have more books than I can count). I also have 7th Sea though I’ve yet to kick the tires, the idea of just living in a swashbuckling world without constant leveling is appealing.

I also own Monster of the Week and Tales from the Loop but both are just waiting for the opportunity to play. Perhaps when my main group is done with our 5e campaign we’ll try one of those for a break.

I actively look for new games, because they're fun to collect and read, but I won't buy a game that I have no chance of playing (or running). When it comes to deciding whether or not to buy a game, I have basically two criteria:
  1. Do I care about the thing that this game is trying to do?
  2. Is there a chance that this game does the thing better than other games?
The first one is pretty straightforward. I'm interested in fantasy, science fantasy, space opera, and soft sci-fi. I'm not interested in pulp, "cinematic" anything, or hard sci-fi. If the premise doesn't sound interesting, then I'm putting it back on the shelf.

The second one is responsible for most of my collection. These are games that have potential (on paper), but which generally fall apart in practice, or the ones which are subtly flawed in such a way that I have to read the book in order to see.

I'm still looking for a good fantasy game, for example. Every fantasy game I've ever seen has been horribly flawed. If someone pitches a new fantasy game, then I'll probably be interested, until such time as they say something to sell me off of it. Most likely, if it isn't too expensive, I'll end up buying it and only later discover what's wrong with it.


I have more chances to buy a new RPG if the setting and the ruleset are meshed together into one cohesive product. For example Forbidden Lands is a really well made hex crawl system with a grim dark fantasy setting. Coriolis the Third Horizon presents very interesting firefly+arbian nights mix which the rules complement very well. Numenera was designed to run Dying Earth style games. I'm looking for a full experience between two covers.

I also like generic systems if they have a toolbox design approach that let me combine and modify rules easily. That is why I bought Modern AGE. I know I will be playing this game for a long time because it so open as a system. Also I can mix in parts of Fantasy AGE and the Expense RPG because they are of the same family. It is far more flexible than Modern d20.

D&D is a special case. It is not generic and it does not contain a unique setting. I've been playing it for so long its like wearing an old pair of Levis jeans. It is very comfortable. But 5e is the last edition of D&D I will buy. It really is what I wanted when WoTC announced 3e. When no one wants to play 5e anymore I will stop playing D&D. I'll play other systems.


a) Someone must present it to me with enough enthusiasm to "spirit" me and my friends away.
b) The game must interest me enough to present it to my friends with enthusiasm and spirit them away.

But when on my own, it often starts with art.

Good art doesn't make a game great, but it makes me look into it. Art should also give me a good feel of what the game is about.

Then I look at the game mechanics. First place to look is the character sheet; most of the "main themes" and game skeleton will be there. 4 stats - ok, doesn't look too complex. Water, food, and torches supply. - Oh, exploration must be a big theme here, etc.

Character sheet is also a good place to gauge the production value at a glance; visuals vs clarity. Points for good balance. Too whimsy and I already start to frown. Too dry and I'm likely to drop it right there, unless some of the concepts hinted by the character sheet really interest me or piqued my curiosity.

Then, a 5 minutes scan will give me a rough idea of how the game works. At least enough for a more thorough read - the next step - if I like what I see. Nowadays, I'm more and more interested in games aiming at a relatively narrow theme and representing it well mechanically. I like games that play relatively easy, but I want enough complexity to give me different options in character creation, "leveling" up, and gameplay.

TL;DR: The setting must interest me. It must interest my friends. The mechanics should be simple but offer options in gameplay and character generation/"leveling". Game mechanics should represent the setting and its themes.


I generally like to play a system for up to about a year, then switch it up with something else. Keeps things fresh. Of course this is not always the case, we played 4e for 4 years I think.


It has to capture my imagination.

I'm mostly D&D because there is so much resource you can grab and use and so many stories you can tell.

I loved Numenera because of the brilliant setting (again the setting leaves it wide for you to create whatever stories you like) and the ruleset that gives players more agency (although for a simple ruleset it can get complicated a bit too easily).

I bought The Strange which uses the same ruleset as Numenera, but found when I read the book that I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to be able to run a game with it. Funny, I'm all up for high fantasy, but require a bit more verisimilitude with games set (partially) on Earth.

I have not played any other games for a very long time. 2e Shadowrun I think.


Generally D&D holds my interest. It was my first rpg and has the power of nostalgia. Like you, I try other games that might catch my interest or play whatever my friends want to play but I tend to fall back on D&D. Other genres generally don't interest me unless I'm in the mood for something a bit different.

For something else to interest me, it should not do what I'm already doing. I don't need another rpg that plays the same genre as D&D. It also need to have caught my attention based on other interests. Battle Tech didn't interest me and only one of my friends so I rarely played it. Same with Ninjas and Superspies. Traveller was a bit more my style and I played more of it and I don't mind scifi RPG's. Same with Villains and Vigilantes for a brief while but Champions was better game and I moved to that.

Different RPG's in the D&D genre do not generally appeal to me but Sword & Sorcery does because magic is generally treated much differently and I liked Conan when I was younger. The current Stargate testing caught my attention because it's a different genre and I also liked watching the show (and original movie).

If another system does not play differently or appeal to my interests in some way then I don't bother. I care more about how I envision my character than some different mechanics to accomplish the same thing.

My opinion.


A good RPG will have a compelling setting, well conceived gameplay, and be mechanically sound especially in its fundamentals.

The RPGs that have impressed me over the years are D&D 3.0, Call of Cthulhu (4e, 5e), WEG Star Wars (1e, 2e), and Chill 2e. I'll happily play or run those games.

I'm familiar with a lot of game and have played several not in the above list, but they either lack a compelling setting (to me, tastes vary), or more critically they have no clear idea what their gameplay is or how to make it a group activity, or they are fundamentally mechanically unsound and fixing them would be equivalent to making a new game (I have a lot of very particular peeves about mechanics).

Pet peeves about gameplay: No description of how to play the game. Gameplay as described by the book always has examples featuring a single player. Gameplay as described by book doesn't match game play achieved by the mechanics. Minigames are generally solo activities without compelling cooperation.

Pet peeves about mechanics: Skills are neither discrete or space filling. Skills are too narrowly defined. Player choice is actually window dressing. Resolution is too random. Computation of difficulty/chance of success takes a computer. Achieving results through system mastery is counter-intuitive. Mechanics rely heavily on GM whim, illusionism or the expectation that the GM will selectively ignore the results the system calls for.
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