With all the games out there, how do you decide which game to play? I am currently having that dilemma myself. I find myself wanting to stick with the traditional fantasy route. Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition seems like the logical choice to run a game in because it is popular and easy to get new players to try, but I want to break away from the standard entry game. It reminds me of Internet Explorer, or Edge as it is now called, you can use it and it functions well, but it lacks the flavor and features of some of the other systems. The advantage/disadvantage mechanic is interesting. I like backgrounds, bonds, and flaws and think that these simplified roleplaying hints are great jumping off points. The adventures are usually pretty good and the books they release are high quality. Wizards of the Coast has a great pace that they release content for the game, I feel like I can afford to collect what they release as it comes out. One thing that I feel is bad about the game is the D&D Beyond tools. New players are investing in these online tools, and they are nice tools, but they have forgotten how quickly Wizards shut down the 4e tools after 5th edition released. I also don’t like players using digital tools at physical tables because it is just one tab away from Facebook distractions.
Pathfinder 2nd edition is the next system that jumps to mind. It is an interesting system and adds a lot of complexity that 5th edition is lacking. I like the way racial features are gained as you level in the game. I think the feats are interesting and Paizo constantly churns out new things monthly to keep the game fresh. The Lost Omen setting that is attached to the game system is an interesting world with a little bit of everything. Their adventure paths are fun and creative, even if they are produced at a pace that it would be hard to ever run them all. The archetypes system is an interesting mechanic that I have liked since 1st edition and feel like Paizo has tightened it up for the new edition. The corerulebook is the most user friendly book I have ever seen. The 4 page character sheet in the back of the book is downright frightening though. Upon closer examination, it really simplifies the play process, but a 4 page sheet with that many boxes to fill in is definitely daunting. A beginner’s box is coming out in October so maybe the process will be streamlined for beginners.
13th Age is another system that comes across my radar often. I love the escalation die to speed up combat! The One Unique Thing mechanic adds instant roleplaying gold to any character. The icon relationships add an interesting take on alignment and provide a fun source of randomness to the beginning of each session. I like how the classes are sorted in the corerulebook by difficulty to play. 13th Age does require the ability to be spontaneous as a GM and is not designed for the novice GM to run. The pace of releases is slow, but there is so much meat to the game that the pace is just fine. There is a small but active community that has created some great stuff to support the game.
4th edition Dungeons and Dragons gets a bad rap, but I like it still. The powers give a lot of flexibility to the system and characters can be dramatically different. The biggest problem with 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons is that they kept the Dungeons and Dragons name. They killed too many sacred cows at one time. The constant criticism is that it is like World of Warcraft, the people who say this have obviously never played World of Warcraft, because the game is nothing like that. It is a tactical game and has more in common with a board game than a computer game. The board games that Wizards released based off of 4th edition rules were pretty cool. Due to sales however, Wizards made some dramatic and confusing changes to the line with the addition of the Essentials products and erratic cancellations and redesigns. I wish they would have kept consistent and released a Dungeon Master’s Guide 3 like the Player’s Handbooks and Monster Manuals. I liked their character tools but was discouraged when they were taken online and then cancelled. With the complexity of the game, the character builder was really helpful. The nice thing about 4e is that it is basically a dead game, so nothing more is coming out and it can be collected easily, most books are pretty cheap to pick up 2nd hand, although some of the items are a bit expensive.
The last game I am going to talk about is one of my favorite games, Dungeon Crawl Classics. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a great game with some awesome features. The magic system takes the old spell system from D&D and throws it out. You roll to cast a spell and look the effects up in a chart. If you roll below a target number you lose your spell for the day, but if you roll above the target number, you not only get to keep your spell but the higher you roll, the more powerful the spell is. Your spell caster can also spellburn and convert physical stats into additional power for spells. There is corruption that can happen on failed spell attempts. The critical hit and fumble tables are cool. Things that people may not like are that the game relies on nonstandard dice as part of its dice chain mechanic. The nonstandard dice can be simulated using normal dice, but having to buy a new set of dice can be off putting to some players. The game also returns to Basic D&D’s race as class mechanic, but there are third party products that have addressed this issue. I think it is cool, but I have had several players who felt like it stymied their roleplaying. DCC is not so much about roleplaying as it is about having fun doing crazy over the top adventures. Character creation is quick and after the initial level 0 funnel, characters are pretty powerful. It is extremely fun as a one shot and is one of my go to games. I have honestly never ran a campaign to see how the game carries over long term.
These are games I am thinking about running campaigns for in the future. The sad thing is that I really need to pick one or two and focus on them if I want to make a fun campaign happen. I am thinking about doing alternating campaigns and one shots each week. I will post more about my plans and how you can join if you wish later. I could also talk about Old School Essentials, Swords and Wizardry, and other editions of D&D. If I wanted to step out of the fantasy genre, Call of Cthulhu is calling my name. I have looked at Numenera, I love its art, but the initial pass through on the rules didn’t draw me in like I had thought it would. Fate seems interesting but is very different mechanically and I would have to read through it more before I could teach it to players and run games effectively in it. There are other systems that I haven’t had a chance to look through but am interested in such as Dungeon World and Warhammer Fantasy.