Top Ten RPGs of 2019

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.

Full stop.

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.

 

Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Guide

My Pendragon guide was very popular. One of my top three blog posts! So I’m doing more for other RPGs I love.

Thus, I present to you, Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Book Guide!

I adore The One Ring (also called TOR.) My love of Tolkien runs deep and nostalgic, and TOR captures everything I adore about Tolkien into a game that I consider near perfect. Cubicle 7 crushed it. Their team has made an amazing game that I’m always excited to buy and play.

I’ve divided these into categories, start with Must Buy, and getting all the way to Optionals. You can click on the titles or the pictures for links to the purchase site (all of them on Cubicle 7’s website). I’ll primarily focus on The One Ring Edition (not Adventures in Middle-Earth, but AEM is amazing!) because it’s both readily available in PDF and Print and because I’m wildly biased (again, my favorite Tolkien RPG ever).

Note, just because something isn’t “Must Buy” doesn’t mean I think it’s bad or don’t use it. Often the opposite! But if I am coming into the game, or recommending purchasing orders to folks, this is how I would recommend it.

 


MUST BUY

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The Core Rulebook: You have to always start with the corebook! Luckily, this scorebook is a 336 page tome full of gorgeous full-color art, easy to read and learn rules, and everything you need to play!

Bestiary, pregens, a small adventure, storytelling advice. It’s pretty much spot on and perfect!TOR_Dice3

 

The Dice SetWhile the dice set is not officially required, I really like having the official dice for this game. They make play much smoother, it’s easier to teach, and it generally improves the experience.

I consider them a must buy if you’re going to play TOR. You won’t go wrong.

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The Adventurer’s Companion: Us roleplaying fanatics love our options, and The Adventurer’s Guide gives us so many more options. A useful book if you want to expand outside of the core options, this book is a must have at any table.

It also includes some unique Fellowship Phase options, and some extra rules to add a bit more crunch and character development to the very streamlined ruleset.

It also has a catalog of all the Fellowship options up to that point, and it adds Generational Play (a favorite of mine design-wise.) Yes please.


BEST OPTIONS TO BUY FOR MORE AWESOME

If you want to add more awesome to your already awesome The One Ring game nights, these books will serve you nicely. I have all of them and regularly use them all.

JourneysAndMaps600Journeys & MapsI love this product. Big, folded maps that I can lay on the table and teach folks with, or show their travels and journeys? Yeah, this is a win.

With the beautifully thought-out travel rules in the core, I consider this product just below Must Have, and it’s an absolutely valuable resource at my table.

The only real issue is that future & new maps aren’t/won’t be in it. Here’s hoping for a Journeys & Maps II or similar product.

 

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The Loremaster’s Screen: Well, how are you going to go wrong with a Loremaster’s Screen for TOR? The back end of it is fantastic, with tons of useful rules information and guides to playing.

Plus as a bonus, you get the Lake-Town rules (for playing Men of the Lake) and some new Fellowship options.

Unfortunately (kinda?), those are reprinted in The Adventurer’s Companion, so if you aren’t the sort of LM who wants a screen, you might not find full value in this.  It’s still beautiful, and I still consider it useful, but I don’t consider it a must have.

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The Heart of the WildThis book introduces River Hobbits, so it’s pretty much perfect from the get-go!

However, it also adds a lot more detail to the Wilderland (the default locale in the corebook), more enemies, more Cultures, and lots more excellent options, like those above.

However, lots of this book (new cultures, added Fellowship phase options) is repeated in The Adventurer’s Guide, so it’s hard to justify on the table at times (for me.)


MORE AWESOME OPTIONS (BUT LESS ESSENTIAL THAN ABOVE!)

So, this is where it gets weird. These options are pretty great! And I love and use them all, but they’re a bit more…precise in what you might want or need.

The books below expand the core experience out of the Wilderlands (the area around The Lonely Mountain) and add new cultures and locales to the game.

However, if you’re not planning to travel to these locations in the game, nor play a culture from there, they are relatively superfluous in your game.

Instead of going over which is in each of these in particular, I’m going to simply show you what they are, and give you a brief overview of how these are all set up.

  • They generally introduce a new culture or two.
  • They introduce specific rules for that culture (such as Horses for Rohan, Dragons & Dwarven Artifacts for Erebor, etc.)
  • They add a new map and new pregenerated characters.

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ADVENTURES!

The One Ring has oodles of adventures. Just so many. And they’re all great. But if you don’t do premade adventures, they’re less useful.

So, mileage might vary! Most of the adventure books are tied to one of the locale expansions above (Tales from the Wilderland being tied to the Corebook, and The Darkening of Mirkwood being stand alone.)tfw_fc800.jpg

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That art though… *faints*

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Tiny Wastelands is on Kickstarter!

Tiny-Wastelands-Logo---Full-Render-02On Kickstarter today, Tiny Wastelands is the next genre game in the TinyD6 line published by Nocturnal Media!

Based around the minimalist ruleset popularized in bestselling roleplaying game Tiny Frontiers and it’s expansion Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters, Tiny Wasteland brings the post-apocalyptic wastelands to your tabletop in a small, affordable and easy to learn package!

Play as scavengers, mutants, tyrants, road warriors and more in any of the amazing micro-settings written by contributing authors! With every stretch goal, we add a new micro-setting to the game! These micro-settings are specifically engineered to get you playing quickly, and prompt your game master with awesome ideas that let YOU fill in the details!
So rev up your engines and get ready to scavenge for survival!
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RPG Spotlight: Corporia

This column is part of an ongoing series highlight RPGs that I like and feel are not as well known as they deserve. 

So, I’ve stopped reviewing RPGs on this blog (you can see the post why HERE), but not reviewing RPGs has caused my already sporadic blog output to drop. So, I need to do something else.

I decided to highlight RPGs I love, and try to increase awareness of clever, fun, or interesting RPGs that I wish more people played. It’ll be hard to distinguish why this is different than a review (I won’t give ratings for starters). Consider these less a “review” and more a “recommendation” as if we were talking in person and you asked me to refer a lesser known RPG for you to purchase.

So let’s start with Corporia!


http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product_info.php?products_id=127226&filters=0_0_44825_0_0&manufacturers_id=6049

Cover Image from DriveThruRPG


I love Arthurian RPGs (Pendragon first and foremost and I’m very fond of Keltia), and I love science fiction in it’s many and sundry forms, so that’s pretty great. I reviewed it previously (HERE) and I was pretty positive.

I still am, and I chose this game for my first spotlight for two reasons.

  1. This is a great game that deserves more market penetration. It’s not perfect, but it’s clever, innovative, and different, and I think that’s well worth taking a look at it.
  2. Mark is a talented designer who knows how to put together an useful and stylized product, and I want more Corporia stuff, so if I highlight this and he gets more sales, maybe I’ll get more Corporia stuff!

(Hear that Mark? I want more Corporia. We should talk.)

So what is Corporia? It’s near-future corporate dystopia where you play characters who are supernaturally empowered (or straight reincarnations out of Arthurian myth) attempting to protect the world (a la X-Files, Angel or Torchwood). It’s sort of Shadowrun but less punk, and a bit more mythical, and very well done.

It takes place in a generic city, with lots of cool details, some groan inducing plays on Arthurian mythos (the X-Caliber laser pistol for one), and a lot of potential for fun, dramatic, and cool play.

I’d suggest you take a look. It’s on DriveThuRPG and RPGNow as a Print on Demand product.