I don’t review RPG products, but I can certainly tell you what I loved and make recommendations. I love playing games and talking about the games I love is big source of joy to me.
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 (either through reading, playing or other methods.) There are of course, dozens more games and while these games were the ones that spoke to me, they won’t speak to everyone (nor will all games speak to me!)
Consider these recommendations, but there are so many great RPGs out there. It was hard to choose the “best of” and I certainly can’t play and read everything. 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.)
This was a hard year to do. I have ended the year (my first full year doing GKG full time), and I have not felt positive about 2021 as a whole. It was a difficult year in a lot of ways, but that’s a bigger conversation, and I don’t want to have it here. Just suffice it to say, this post was a struggle.
But there is a lot of fantastic creativity out there, and I owe it to the creatives who make the games I love to talk about them. So lets go.
I’m young enough I never had a chance to get into Twilight 2000, so getting at the Free League version was wonderfull.
I love this game. It’s everything I love about military fiction (I grew up on Tom Clancy), combined with the best in modern, stream-lined gaming, as well as
If you want alternate history, military fiction, or awesome hexcrawls, I adore this game and recommend it for all of those things.
The One Ring roleplaying game is in my top five RPGs of all time. I mean, I even wrote a purchasing guide for it (here) because I love it so much.
Unsurprisingly, I love the new edition from Free League. It’s not perfect (I am not sure I like it more than 1e), but the gorgeous art from Martin Grip, the stunning layout, and the revisions to mechanics all add up to create an RPG that feels like Middle-earth in a way that none other have (excluding 1e, obviously.)
I can’t recommend this game enough.
Full disclaimer, my own Heirs to Heresy came out from Osprey Games this year.
Sigil & Shadow is a great d100 modern occult RPG. It hits that sweet spot between toolbox and settingless RPG with an RPG that inspires you to create your own setting.
It uses the well-tested d100lite system, which flows great in this game, with a zippy, quick resolution, lots of fun genre specific rules, and great advice for setting up and structuring a game.
I intend to hack it to run a quick campaign of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace in the near future.
Anyone who knows me knows I love wuxia roleplaying, and Hearts of Wulin hits all the rights spots in the melodramatic wuxia genre.
It’s got a really slick focus on different tiers and areas of play, along with a really comprehensive look at the wuxia genre (as well as lots of great advice for playing in the genre.)
It’s also gorgeously illustrated throughout.
David Kizzia is one of my favorite RPG writers/designers working right now, and this expansions for his Downton Abby meets Addams Family RPG Bedlam Hall is a satirical, dark comedy delight.
This particular adventure is a lot of fun, with little nods to Lovecraft, cosmic horror, delightful puns (a thing I never thought I’d hear myself say), and loads more stuff.
Seriously, if you want darkly comic roleplaying, look no further than this adventure.
ZineQuest 2021 was a bit of a overwhelming abundance for me ( in terms of what I picked up), but ALL MUST BOW really stood out.
You play as the heralds, servants and instigators of the dark gods of space and horror, attempting to evoke, consume, and bring your Gods to the forefront.
It’s system-agnostic ruleset really slots in well to games like Traveller, Mothership or Death in Space, and fits really nicely with all of that.
I’ve known Kris McClanahan for a few years now, and I happen to think he’s a wonderfully talented artist. With the release of 3DIE6, I now know he’s a wonderfully talented game designer too.
3DIE6 has you playing as Roan (insects) in The Shimmer, a mystical, weird fantasy underground ground environment. The real trick is that 3DIE6 has you playing as THREE of the bugs, a single hive-mind inhabiting three Roan.
It’s fun, clever, and chaotic in all the right ways. Plus, as befits work by Kris, it’s gorgeously illustrated.
From the illustrious LFOSR and Kent Bonifield comes Sand & Bone, a really, really, great desert themed adventure that is system agnostic.
It’s gorgeous, clever, and delivers on all the weird desert fantasy you could want in an adventure. It *really* pairs swimmingly with Undying Sands from Games Omnivorous (which you should really get and deserves an honorable mention here).
As an added bonus, LFOSR does really high-quality handcrafted print runs, and you get a stellar, heirloom style product for your purchases. I cannot state how much I love this.
I’m no secret lover of A Town Called Malice, considering it one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I always welcome more Malice, and with Acts of Malice, vol 2., Kizzia brings me more of that sweet nordic noir, just….not in the nordic countries anymore.
These settings and playsets take you out of the common milieu in the books to Colonial era America, post-industrial modern towns and modern urban noir.
It’s a lot of fun, it’s a darn good game, and having this really helps enhance your Malice games.
Good times all around.
I love 60s & 70s weird fantasy and science fantasy. Adore it. And apparently so does LFOSR.
Which is lucky for me, cuz LFOSR makes high-quality products, and Lost Fantasy is just…. *chef’s kiss*.
It’s so good. It’s imaginative, inspiring, system neutral, and it evokes so much of what I loved about that weird science-fantasy and science fiction of the 50s-70s.
This is easily the most evocative zine I’ve gotten all year.