Want To Play A Tabletop RPG That Isn’t D&D? Try Out These Options

January 16, 2023 by brennon

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Following the news surrounding Dungeons & Dragons and the evolution (or regression) of the OGL under Wizards Of The Coast and Hasbro, a lot of folks have decided to go elsewhere for their roleplaying games. Well, with a lot of folks looking to explore other tabletop roleplaying game options, I thought I'd have a look at what's out there.


Gizmodo's Dungeons & Dragons OGL Article

It should be stated that, as many others have said online, no one is telling you what you should and shouldn't be playing. If you have fun with your group of friends playing D&D (or any other game for that matter) then go for it. No one is here to tell you how to have fun. But, there will be some folks out there right now who haven't looked beyond Dungeons & Dragons or were entirely new to tabletop roleplaying games with the coming of 5th Edition. This is here to potentially help them if they'd like to look elsewhere.

The Big One - Paizo's Pathfinder

One of the most obvious options for someone looking to look elsewhere when it comes to roleplaying games is Paizo's Pathfinder. Born out of dissatisfaction with 4th Edition D&D and built on the skeleton of D&D 3.5, Pathfinder is a fascinating beast. Reading through the rules, a bunch of familiar DNA of D&D is there but Paizo has gone to great lengths with the move to 2nd Edition to provide a game that feels distinct and different enough as a system.


Packed with absolutely beautiful artwork and an immense amount of world-building that makes it incredibly inclusive as a system, Pathfinder offers up a great alternative to D&D. If you've played 5th Edition then the systems of Pathfinder will be quite easy to get your head around but the additional ways in which the game plays with action economy might be a bit of an eye-opener. Tie that in with the ability to be "more heroic" from the off and I think Pathfinder is one of those games that has managed to work out what makes your chosen Classes and Ancestry (their word for Race) exciting and ratchet up the cool factor for players.


At its heart, Pathfinder is also about the same things that 5th Edition is. It's about High Fantasy heroic individuals exploring a fascinating world, battling monsters and saving the kingdom from terrible threats. It also helps that the Core Rulebook for Pathfinder brings together a lot of stuff into one place and you just need that and the Bestiary to get going really. There are, obviously, a host of published adventures out there for the game and Starter Sets which will ease you in.

If Sci-Fi is more your thing, the hugely successful Starfinder is also an option and takes allows you to take your adventures into the stars!

Osprey Games' Offerings

Another company that it's worth talking about is Osprey Games. Over the last few years (especially in 2022), Osprey Games has been expanding its offerings for roleplayers. There is no one system that defines their range but instead, they take ideas from a collective of authors and designers and offer fascinating glimpses into a myriad of different genres.


One of my favourites from the last few years is Those Dark Places. Written by Jonathan Hicks, Those Dark Places is a fantastic "one shot" resource where you get to play out horrifying encounters akin to those in the movie Alien or video game, Dead Space. The system is simple and easy to use and there is a real focus on the narrative being foremost in your games. We've played the game on the channel (see our Let's Play Here) and talked about it a few times. Make sure to give it a look.


Another roleplaying game that I would highly recommend from Osprey Games' collection is Alan Bahr's Crescendo Of Violence. Much like the musical influences that you'd expect from the title, Crescendo Of Violence isn't so much Cyberpunk but a sort of Sci-Fi Jazz Noir. Games of Crescendo Of Violence build and build until they explode like a hard-boiled Hong Kong action movie and it's one of the few games in recent memory where I've read the rules and immediately (no joke) wanted to play.

There are a wealth of options from Osprey Games for you to explore including Gran Meccanismo for your Assassin's Creed vibes or Jackals which delves into Bronze Age-style Fantasy adventuring in an era of shields and sandals. Make sure to explore their Roleplaying Game section and I bet you'll find something you like.

Cubicle 7 - Fancy Some Grimdark Or Epic Fantasy?

If you're a long-time visitor to OnTableTop then it won't have escaped your notice that we're quite big fans of Cubicle 7 and the roleplaying games they produce. What's quite nice about their range is that it also works incredibly well with the worlds of Warhammer that so many of us enjoy.


We've talked quite a lot about their three core games for Warhammer, namely Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory and Warhammer Age Of Sigmar Roleplay: Soulbound. Each of these roleplaying games offers up something quite distinct that there isn't room to get into here BUT I urge you to check out our reviews of their systems on the links above.


If you want to play hapless grimdark heroes who have been thrust into situations beyond their control, try Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. If you want to be a mighty Space Marine battling hordes of enemies on far-flung worlds, give Wrath & Glory a go. Want to be bound into a sometimes unlikely fellowship and feel like a freckin' superhero, give Soulbound a shot (honestly, you'll feel like one of the Avengers).

Cubicle 7 are also working on developing worlds of their own. Broken Weave is coming soon and they are also going to be revisiting the world of Victoriana in the future too. You can also dive into the Sci-Fi awesomeness of Doctor Who if you want to go in a different direction.

Free League Publishing - The Nordic Giants!

We also reported recently that another company, Free League Publishing, are also working on developing their own OGL that works for a couple of their game systems. The Year Zero Engine has led the way for a lot of different roleplaying games including Mutant Year Zero, Tales From The Loop, Vaesen, Alien, Blade Runner and more.


The system is incredibly adaptable and is used to great effect amongst all of the games we've mentioned here. Much like with Those Dark Places, the YZE tends to focus on narrative and "fail forward" mechanics. If you've not heard of this before, failing forward means that you might not have achieved success in a task but the story keeps moving forward and you and the storyteller are encouraged to work out a solution. Did you manage to pick the lock but set off an alarm perhaps? Maybe you broke through the door but fell as you went through and how have to untangle yourself from the splinters?

What's nice about the options from Free League is that they offer something very, very different. Their games are less about your classic High Fantasy adventures and delving into dungeons but instead playing as 80's kids in their own E.T style movie or, in the case of their licenced material, playing as beleaguered space couriers in Alien and replicant hunters in Blade Runner. You can even be monster hunters and explorers in a game like Vaesen!

Dragonbane (Drakar och Demoner) also recently finished its Kickstarter last year and will be coming to tabletops soon. This is a revisiting of a favourite roleplaying game from Europe, made available in English for the first time, and I could see this being a very big contender when it comes to Fantasy adventuring in tabletop roleplaying games.


All this and we haven't even mentioned their other BIG games. The One Ring is THE best way to roleplay in Middle-earth in my opinion (see my reviews here) and Symbaroum is the perfect way to dive into a Dark Fantasy world with their own unique system. You've also got Forbidden Lands which goes back to the days of hex-crawl adventures (and also features stunning artwork!).

Free League have also been working with a lot of indie designers to help publish their work more broadly. The likes of MORK BORG, Death In Space, and more are all fascinatingly experimental roleplaying games that are worth your time, especially if you want to get weird for a session or two!

The World Of Darkness

Another system that I think is worth having a look at is World Of Darkness. With roleplaying games focusing on the likes of Vampires and Werewolves, World Of Darkness is certainly more on the more mature end of the spectrum compared to some of the games we've seen here but they are absolutely fascinating roleplaying experiences.


Their games, Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse are games about being the "evil" creatures in the night but also exploring the humanity of these monsters. Vampires scrabble and fight for dominance in a society with a constantly twisting and turning hierarchy whilst in Werewolf you find yourself as guardians of Gaia facing down those people intent on destroying the natural world. There are more nuances within both of these descriptions of course but I imagine that might have been enough for some of you!

World Of Darkness has also seen a shift in the last few years towards being more inclusive and addressing some of the problematic elements in its earlier iterations. To that end, they are fascinating (if dark) ways to explore roleplaying in a very different way.

There Are Many, Many More...

It is worth noting that the games I've mentioned here aren't the only games out there. There are a LOT of different roleplaying games and companies that are worth having a look at. A lot of them supported Paizo as they moved towards creating the Open RPG Creative License (ORC).


Kobold Press, Green Ronin, Chaosium (the lovers of Cthulhu!), Legendary Games, Rogue Genius Games and more have all come on board to help create a safe place for third-party creators to make amazing content and themselves are working towards bespoke systems that will sit under ORC.

MCDM, who have been working on D&D content for a while have also thrown their hat into the ring and will be working to bring their own system to the tabletop soon. Matt Colville and his team produce some fantastic resources for tabletop roleplaying games and I'm eager to see what they do next.


I'd also urge you to have a look at Pinnacle Entertainment Group's Savage Worlds if you want a system that lets you do pretty much anything (and I really mean that!), R.Talsorian's Cyberpunk RED and the utterly fascinating Blades In The Dark.

Some more options...

I would hope that the key takeaway here is that there are a huge amount of roleplaying games out there that could be your home if you want to leave Dungeons & Dragons behind. As I mentioned at the start and will reiterate here, no one is telling you how to have fun. But, if you're looking for something new, maybe give one of these games a try.

The vast majority of the games mentioned here will have free Quickstart Rules or samples for you to have a go at. So, go nuts and experiment until you find a system that works for your group.

Drop your own roleplaying game suggestions in the comments below!

"No one is here to tell you how to have fun..."

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