Like last year, I’m doing a non-review of my favorite RPG products of the year.
I don’t review RPG products anymore, but I can certainly tell you what I loved. This is simply my impressions and responses to products that have come out throughout the year that I felt were some of the best I had the chance to experience.
Consider these recommendations, but there are so many great RPGs out there. It was hard to choose the best of list, and there are many more I wish I could mention. And I barely play and read a fraction of the games that came out, so if you have recommendations or your own list, fire it at me!
I also never put my games on this list. (That feels wrong to me.)
10.) Band of Blades: This game is clever. And it can be hard to find clever games.
It’s basically the plot of Glen Cook’s Black Company novels, wrapped around a really slick Forged in the Dark system that plays out over a limited campaign number of sessions, towards a fixed endpoint.
It’s got lots of cool campaign frames and customization built into the narrative, and I’m a really big fan of what’s going on here.
I haven’t ran it yet, but even reading it was really inspiring. It’s tightly made.
9.) Savage Worlds Adventure Edition: Shocking no one, a Savage Worlds product appears on my list! It seems to be a yearly tradition, because the fine folks at Pinnacle keep putting out AMAZING games.
This new edition is damn near perfect. It streamlines the game in all the right places, while still remaining noticeably Savage Worlds and keeps all the bits I love.
In my eyes, it’s the definitive all-purpose action system and I am constantly ransacking my brain on a way to run it…
I’m sure I can figure something out…
8.) Afterlife: Wandering Souls: The team at Angry Hamster Publishing is one of my favorites in the industry, and I think this is one of their strongest books. It certainly is my favorite of theirs.
It’s weird, afterlife centered horror and exploration, around the goal of recovering memories, exploring a bizarre and unknowable afterlife where despair and hope are juxtaposed against it’s surreal inhabitants.
It’s delightfully different, and as befits my tastes, has wonderful rules-light mechanics. You want to try something unusual and esoteric? This is your game. Don’t miss out on it.
7.) Miseries & Misfortunes:
This is one of the best books I bought at GenCon and bought it again just to have a spare copy.
It’s a delightful blend of life-path mechanics, Burning Wheel-style character driven mechanics, with one of the most interesting XP systems I’ve ever read, coupled with an OSR inspired resolution system, all tied to a gritty Dumas-style French setting.
I’ve been vocal about my adoration for Luke Crane’s design philosophy and I’m 100% in love with this game.
6.) Shadow of Esteren: Book 3 – Dearg: The team at Agate RPG is one of my favorites to read and every product they make is of the highest quality.
Dearg is one of the best RPG campaigns I’ve ever read, and coupled the rest of the moody, Byronic Esteren line, it completes the game in a delightfully fantastic way.
The art, layout, and text are stunning and top notch, and the game aids provided create one of the most complete campaigns I’ve ever read.
High marks for Agate, as always.
5.) Five Torches Deep: I like Ben Dutter on a personal level, and I like Ben Dutter’s game design work a lot.
FTD is a fantastic 5e adaptation that takes all the good elements of 5e, all the good elements of the old-school revival movement, and mashes them together in a compact, beautifully arted, and stunningly concise book.
It’s worth every penny and is one of my new favorite go-to fantasy dungeon crawler systems.
More of this please, Ben.
4.) Praxis: House of Keys: I’m a big fan of post world games and jim pinto’s work in RPGs. He writes really great narrative style systems with lots of awesome character and story hooks in his games.
This one is a beautiful horror-themed game inspired by Eastern European cultures and folklore. It’s evocative, creepy, and just loads of cool fun.
This version uses his Praxis system, but he’s also got a Protocol Squared version if you’re into that. I think either one is a steal, though I prefer the Praxis systems myself.
3.) Fateforge: Fateforge is a new setting for D&D 5e from the folks at Agate RPG (the Shadows of Esteren team I raved about earlier.)
It’s a fresh and new feeling fantasy setting, with all the wonderful detail, art, and writing that Agate RPG always brings to the table.
It made 5e feel fresh again, after a small drought and I’m really excited to dig in to this and play it!
If you’re looking to kick up your 5e game, this is the one for me.
2.) A Town Called Malice: This one was a surprise to me this year.
I managed to catch it on POD on DriveThruRPG (missed the Kickstarter) and I’m just head over heels for this game.
It’s a nordic noir storytelling game with a strong horror bent. Think The Snowman meets The Thing and you’re on the right track. I’ve always wanted a nordic noir RPG (it’s a favorite literary genre for me).
David Kizzia does a fantastic job of creating a wonderful atmosphere and the feel of the book is spot on. I love this game and I can tell it’s going to become a go to for me.
1.) Hypertullurians: Hypertellurians is the best RPG I’ve read this year.
It’s exceptionally well-written, well-grounded, thematic, fun to read, and beautifully laid-out and illustrated.
It evokes all the great pulpy paperback covers I remember laying around houses when I was a kid (not my house, but houses we’d go to). It’s just peak 70s pulp science fantasy and I love everything about it here.
I love this game and it’s now my go-to science fantasy game.