Brian Holland

by Brian Holland

Without D&D, Roleplaying and RPG’s as a genre would in no way exist today. At least not as we know them. The now-familiar concepts of classes, levels, and statistics are peppered across the gaming industry, especially on the digital side.

As I’ve said before, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is especially important, as it’s revitalised the hobby and introduced it to so many people that would otherwise never have sat down and spent hours on end pretending to be an Orc.

For me, D&D is a gateway, and not just to adventure. D&D is the foundation upon which all other Roleplaying games are built, and the hobby is more widespread and fresh than most people realise.

If you’ve played D&D, I highly recommend you take the time to check out some of the other games of the genre- I guarantee you it’ll be worth it.

Here are some that I personally recommend.

Tales From The Loop (2017, Free League/Modiphius)


Roleplaying in the 80’s that never was. Tales From The Loop, like Scythe before it, is a game built on a collection of evocative artwork.

Players take on the role of Kids aged 9-15 in an alternate history 1980’s where robots are peppered through society, anti-gravity ships loom overhead, and strange things are happening in your home town- which just so happens to also be home to the world’s largest particle accelerator.

There is a lot to like about Tales From The Loop, not least of which is the unique setting that grabs you by the creative-juice and gets your mind whirling with possibilities. Rather than a Class, you’ll choose a type of Kid to base your character on (Bookworm, Jock, Weirdo etc.), and much of the information on your character sheet is informed by the pre-existing relationships you’ll have with adults, the other Kids, and Non-Player Characters.

Tales is a game about Kids saving the world, but the world never notices. A simple D6 system keeps the game mechanically accessible, and while the Kids cannot die in this game, they can get Upset, Scared, Exhausted and Broken- the only way to heal is to be mentally or physically close with someone who is important to you.

The stories you can tell with Tales are sure to pull on some heartstrings, especially to the players out there who are a little nostalgic for the 1980’s.

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition (Chaosium)


Most people who swim in geek circles know at least a little bit about the Cthulhu Mythos based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

The great thing about this game is that, unlike a lot of other RPG’s, the barrier to entry when it comes to knowledge of the setting is an all-time low.

Call of Cthulhu is about everyday people being thrust into the machinations of ancient evils that they can neither control, nor comprehend.

As such, a player can discover the world of Call of Cthulhu as they play- at the same time as their character!

Sandy Petersen’s Sanity mechanic (Sanity here being more a measure of your character’s ability to deal with and comprehend unspeakable evils that mankind was not meant to witness), is so ingrained in the game-play, that it never ceases to remind the players that the game is about hanging on to anything you can in the face of utter hopelessness.

Call of Cthulhu is a game you play not to level your character and unlock cool powers (though you can do that- it’s very costly!), but rather a game you play to see how long your character can go on. How much evil can they face without breaking. Will they do the right thing for humanity even if it means they will perish, or lose their mind?

Featuring a roll-low percentile mechanic, Call of Cthulhu is relatively rules-lite and perfect for horror one-shots with your gaming group. There is nothing quite like some no-holes-bared roleplaying as a group of everyday folks are thrown into the belly of the beast!

Starfinder (2017, Paizo)


Thanks to the Open Game License (OGL), when D&D 3.5 died and was replaced with the very contentious 4th Edition, Paizo released Pathfinder, a Sword and Sorcery RPG based on the rules of D&D 3.5, with a few tweaks and changes.

Years later, they took the Pathfinder system, along with everything they’d learned, and developed Starfinder, a science-fantasy RPG allowing you to dungeon-crawl in space!

Starfinder presents a lavish world(s), and continues it’s predecessor’s mission of offering players a high level of detailed customisation options for their character.

While your character sheet may end up resembling a tax return, the focus put on the minutia of each aspect of your abilities makes progression and success very rewarding.

Like Pathfinder before it, Starfinder leans into an almost comic-book feel of bright colours, daring heroes and wicked villains.

While it’s possible to play out your game in whatever setting you wish (say, if you prefer to draw on the comedy stylings of classic sci-fi Event Horizon), Starfinder comes into it’s own with witty one-liners, over-the-top action and a vibe reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy.

You can even play as a space rodent.

Vampire: The Masquerade, 5th Edition (2018, White Wolf Entertainment)


Vampire has been around for a long time. It’s a storytelling game for players that perhaps prefer a game with a stronger focus on emotion and introspection.

You play a Vampire in the modern day, and you’re constantly at battle between your waning humanity, and The Beast- an almost demonic entity that lives inside you and drives your hunger for blood and other terrible things.

It’s also a game of political horror. You’re trapped in a web of machinations of elder Vampires that you cannot escape, nor properly understand.

Vampire still offers a system that will be familiar to you. Instead of a class, you choose a Clan, the type of Vampire you are which determines your Vampiric powers, as well as the unique way the Vampire curse manifests in you.

Vampire is a tool for telling powerful stories with your play group. The 5th edition launched this year at GenCon, and remains the most accessible and balanced version of the game to date. You can read more about it here.

Numenera (2013/18, Monte Cook Games)

numenera 1

If you’ve ever played any D&D, chances are you’ve been influenced by Monte Cook. The prolific writer and game designer stepped away from Wizards of the Coast some years ago, and has since created Numenera.

A Science-fantasy game set one billion years in Earth’s future, Numenera is a game about exploring the past in order to build a future.

Eight grand civilisations have come on gone by the time your character steps into the world. Exploring the ruins and discovering long-lost artefacts of advanced technology evokes a setting somewhere between Indiana Jones and Horizon: Zero Dawn.

A distinct stat pool system where your traits act as both a resource and as your relative health, character creation that sees you develop a one-line descriptor that also determines your starting abilities, and an experience system where players can trade XP between each other for one-off re-rolls al make Numenera stand out in the market.

The setting of the game is somewhat established, but broad enough to let the Game Master (and the players) imagine whatever they like (after all, the past civilisations could be anything!). Coupled with a system for finding and using ancient artefacts that is very much open to player creativity, Numenera is the perfect game to let your imagination run wild.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (2013, Fantasy Flight Games)


The first in a series of RPG’s set in the Star Wars galaxay, far, far away, Edge of the Empire is perhaps the best version of Star Wars Roleplaying that has ever been.

While the early edition from West End Games or the D20 version that released in time with the prequel films may be near and dear to your heart, Edge of the Empire offers a ground breaking and surprisingly seamless narrative dice system, which turn every roll made into a story.

While the game line has since expanded in Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny, Edge of the Empire puts the players into the shoes of smugglers, bounty hunters, diplomats and mercenaries all scouting the outer rim during the years after the fall of the Republic but before the destruction of the Death Star.

While the inability to play a Jedi may have some folks turning their nose up, Edge of the Empire feels much more like Star Wars than any of the other games out there, and if you’re reminiscent for the stories told in the original trilogy, you can’t go wrong with this product.

Coincidentally, I can’t think of a better system to set a Firefly game in, either.


This is by no means a definitive list- there are many games I haven’t mentioned that are just as unique, and offer a brilliant escape from reality like the games above.

Roleplaying is an amazing hobby. It’s like therapy- everyone should do it! And while Dungeons & Dragons has and will always have it’s place, it’s important once in a while to branch out and see what else this excellent genre of games has to offer.


All the games listed above are available through your local Good Games store! Speak to the friendly staff today about trying out a new roleplaying game.