Role Playing Games
A Role-Playing Game is a storytelling game. The players each take on a role within the narrative of the story and work together to go through the story. Some RPGs have a special role called a Game-Master (GM) or sometimes Dungeon-Master (DM) who runs the game, leading the story and playing all of the minor characters. Some games are very rules-heavy with a lot of dice-rolling and some are rules-light, relying on the players to keep things on track. Some games are played in single, one-off sessions, and some require many many play sessions and tell a long continuous story.
This is a list of games that I would like to try (in no particular order):
The original RPG. This is a fantasy game (usually set in the Forgotten Realms setting) that allows you to play as a grizzled Warrior, a sneaky Rogue, a wise Wizard, or a holy Cleric. There's a ton of other options as well but the gist is that you'll get drawn in to some kind of quest, defeat evil, and level your character up (gaining new skills and abilities).
I have a starter set that comes with a bunch of pre-generated characters and a campaign that could probably last around 10 sessions (at a guess). The overall idea is that you've been hired by a Dwarf to drive supplies to the nearby town of Phandelver (which you all want to visit for different reasons) but along the way you are beset by Goblins.
The previous few editions of D&D got a bit complex and the current (5th) edition deliberately pares this back to something a bit simpler.
If you want to slice goblins to ribbons and drink healing potions, this one might be for you.
One of two horror-themed one-shot RPGs I can run. Dread is unique in that it puts tension and fear in a tangible form in front of you. The characters are all placed in a scary situation and every time they do anything a little difficult, they must participate in a shared game of Jenga happening in the middle of the table. The trick is, if the tower falls, your character dies!
This one is designed to run a whole story in a single sitting. It requires very little prep unless you go through the character creation system which requires players to fill in a brief survey and submit to the GM before the game begins.
I thought I had a PDF of this somewhere but I can't find it. Ah well, it's $12. I do already have a wooden block tower (I can't call it a Jenga set because it isn't an official one). One day I want to play this with one of those giant Jegna sets you get for weddings and stuff.
The other horror-themed one-shot RPG I can run. 10 Candles is played by the light of 10 tea-light candles and this is to represent that all light in the world has gone out. The sun is gone, the power is failing, and in the darkness They await. You don't know what They are (and they will be different every game) but you do know they are afraid of the light. And they hate us.
Each character in the game is represented by attributes written on bits of index card and to use them you have to literally burn them away using the candles. Not only that, but whenever a player fails a roll, the scene immediately ends and one of the candles is extinguished. And when all the lights are gone, They will get everyone.
Obviously this one plays in a single session and you can't really "win". You aren't meant to. It's about telling the final days/hours of these characters at the very end of the world. This and Dread would make for some cool Halloween gaming.
One thing about this one, you need to be in a place where you can have fire.
I do have the PDF of this one. I backed it on Kickstarter.
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire or Age of Rebellion
Both of these games use basically the same system but they have slightly different themes. Obviously they are set in the Star Wars universe. Edge of the Empire is focused on smugglers, criminals, and bounty hunters. Those who live on the edge of "civilized" space. Age of Rebellion focuses on the Rebel Alliance with players going on missions to help overthrow the evil Empire. You can even combine characters from each game so you can be a Smuggler working for the Rebellion.
I have a Beginner Box for Edge of the Empire which has 4 pre-generated characters and enough content to run a couple of sessions. The idea is that you are all fleeing a small Tatooine town after abruptly leaving the service of a local Hutt. You gotta get a ship and get off-world. Fast.
The system itself relies on assembling pools of custom dice and then interpreting the results. Thematically for the Star Wars universe you can succeed in a bad way and fail in helpful ways. There will probably be a few opportunities to say "I have a bad feeling about this." :p
Eventually Phil will figure out there is a 3rd game in the series called Force and Destiny. I'm less excited about that one but I leave it in for completeness. You can always play a Force and Destiny character in an Age of Rebellion campaign and who knows, if enough people want to play it, it may end up being my favorite.
Remember when I said that D&D got a bit complex in the 3.5 and 4th edition stages? Well around that time, Paizo Publishing made their own streamlined version of the 3.5 rules and called it Pathfinder.
The Pathfinder setting is a world called Golarion, a huge sprawling world filled with different cultures, monsters, gods, and all kinds of madness. Want to be a pirate? Head down to the chain of islands known as The Shackles and steal yourself a ship. Want to fight demons? The Worldwound sits in the northern regions and there are regular crusades to keep the forces of evil at bay. There's a crashed-spaceship that leaks tech into the world. Dense jungles. Mummies and pyramids. A continent inspired by Asian cultures. You want it, it's probably there.
The thing I really like about Pathfinder are the Adventure Paths. These are 6-book story arcs designed to take a party of characters from level 1 to level 20 over a period of (literally) years. And there are currently 19 of these (with 2 more already announced) and I have digital versions of many of them from a humble-bundle.
I would love to run one of these but I recognize that it's a pretty big commitment so I don't think we'd start here. There's a ton of shorter modules available as well.
I have a Beginner Box for Pathfinder that comes with 4 pre-generated characters and a single dungeon for the players to explore. The local townsfolk have been complaining that their sheep and cattle have been going missing. The only clue, a large black fang.
One of the coolest things about PF is that the ruleset is all available online for free. If you just want to make characters and play, this is pretty much all you need.
There is also a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which is a simplified version of the RPG. It doesn't offer the characters anywhere near as much freedom and it can degenerate into monotonous dice-chucking if you aren't invested in the story. I still like it :)
Finally, there is new product coming from Paizo later this year called Starfinder. It's set in the same solar system as Golarion only that planet has mysteriously disappeared! Now you can play as aliens or ratfolk, or whatever. Grab a spaceship and explore the cosmos. It will also have adventure paths but at a much slower rate (one per year I believe). I'm intrigued given the amount of effort and energy that gets put into Pathfinder APs.
John is not well. He hears voices. And those voices are the players.
The way this works is that each voice in John's head has some secret goals and special abilities. Maybe you drive cars really well and want to lock doors, or you're great at wood-working and really need to propose to people. Whatever it is, John will listen to you and try to do accomplish whatever you want.
When John wakes up at the beginning of the game, one of the voices will gain control and John will do whatever they say. Until John fails at something and suddenly a struggle for the control of John will begin and potentially a new voice will emerge. The trick is how to spin the story so that John does what you want to earn you points at the end of the game.
This one should require almost no prep and is played as a one-shot. Everyone needs a d6, some paper, and a pen. That's it.
This one is free.
The only game on the list with no GM. Fiasco has the tagline "Powerful Ambition & Poor Impulse Control". You know Cohen brothers movies? The ones where a bizarre collection of characters come together into a swirl of chaos and terrible hilarity ensues? That's what Fiasco is.
Each player is a character in the world with relationships between each other and needs that drive them. Players take turns either establishing scenes OR determining the outcome of the scene (with the other players taking the other option). About half-way through the game, something incredibly disruptive will happen (known as The Tilt) and the players must deal with it with a second round of scenes. At the end of the game, each player gets a resolution based on the outcomes they have collected throughout the game.
This is a game where things can go wrong, fast. But it's OK. They're supposed to.
I don't own this one but it's another $12 PDF. It should be pretty easy to pick up.
At some point this will exist (they are working on it). An RPG system set in the world of Sentinels of the Multiverse (the superhero co-op card game). I have to try it.