When it comes to role-playing games, fantasy world-building, and character development, we have to give a lot of love to Dungeons & Dragons. Modern fantasy books and video games owe a lot to this classic tabletop. They put the role-playing (RP) in the game (G). There is a whole stack of RPG video games out there that also follow the same rules as D&D, like the Baldur's Gate franchise, but this list is specifically for tabletop games. Fear not, as there are heaps of those! Here are ten tabletop RPG games you'll love if you like Dungeons & Dragons. The list includes both vintage and new titles along with a variety of creative settings and adventure modules.
This could be the most popular Dungeons & Dragons alternative. It is a fairly recent game that dates back to 2009, making this one of the newer games on our list. If you prefer vintage, don't let that turn you off, as the gameplay is based on 3rd Edition D&D rules. It's intended to be compatible with the old game and the current new modules are specifically made for Pathfinder. The franchise is also home to card games, and books both in written and audio form, in addition to the tabletop games. An MMORPG was planned and is somewhat finished, but has never evolved out of early enrollment.
9 13th Age
13th Age is another tabletop RPG that has its roots in D&D culture. It also utilizes a class and skill system that D&D players will recognize. It was designed by Rob Heinsoo, the lead designer of the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and Jonathan Tweet, the lead designer of the third edition. This is also a recent addition to the RPG universe and was named RPG Geek's RPG of the Year 2013, only a few months after its release. The setting is determined based on freeform backgrounds and unique character skills, and you get to put together your time and place throughout the course of the game.
Here's a good choice if you're looking for settings, lore, and races that are similar to D&D but with more grit. This is what's called "high realism" and it doesn't pull any punches. Plague, famine, rape, execution, and other features of medieval or ancient life are often part of a session. Think twice about playing this game with your spouse and don't ever play with your kids. Often nicknamed "Harn," this game has been around since 1986 and is more so competition for Dungeons and Dragons than inspired by it. The game relies more heavily on realistic and historic scenarios than D&D and is based in the world of Harn, which is medieval Europe with some ancient Roman touches.
7 Star Trek Adventures
There are several movies and TV episodes from the Star Trek franchise that could be compared to modules you see in an RPG game, so why not an actual tabletop role-playing game based on this extensive and rich universe? You could even assign D&D classes to various characters. It seems like a match made in heaven, especially if you enjoy both Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons lore, and there's plenty of both to cover virtually any session. It's one way to go if you like gaming in fantasy genres but are looking for a switch to a familiar science fiction universe.
6 Legend of the Five Rings
The nation of Rokudan, inspired by feudal Japan, is the primary setting for Legend of the Five Rings. The fictional world includes myths and legends from all over Asia, such as magic, fantastic animals, and legendary places. It uses 10-sided dice exclusively and is known for its visceral battles and early deaths, making it similar to high-reality games like HârnMaster. There's also an amazing amount of literature attached to this game, which includes game guides, manuals, and a long series of novels. The game has stayed popular since it first appeared in 1997, and a new edition that was released in 2018 has a solid fanbase.
5 7th Sea
Imagine 17th century Europe but with each respective country an exaggerated and magical version of itself. The swords might be medieval, but the magic and legendary lore are Lovecraftian in nature. There's also a whole library of literature connected with the game, with novels about the different countries, specific modules, legendary treasures, religious mythology, and of course, swashbuckling. Although the game was discontinued in 2005, a successful Kickstarter campaign made a second edition possible in 2016. The genre continues to be a popular one.
4 The Dark Eye
The most popular RPG game in Germany for several years, and even outselling Dungeons & Dragons, The Dark Eye was finally translated into English in 2016. That was the 5th Edition of the game and it's still going strong. It was first introduced into the English speaking market as Realms of Arkania, which might ring a few bells. Your main character is your Hero, and you choose from five different classes, each of which already has a race assigned to it. It's a complex game based on a simple and straightforward leveling system with some features that are similar to D&D games.
There's an interesting fan theory floating around in the Marvel Universe. It connects the Avengers movies with the Guardians of the Galaxy by way of an RPG. If there was a real game where you could play as one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, it would be Bulldogs! Every character is essentially a mercenary, doing the jobs too messy or dangerous for regular folks and not prestigious enough for bone-fide superheroes. The corporation at the center of the game will hire literally anyone (that's actually their motto), so the teams end up being an interesting mix of galactic misfits doing crazy stuff every time.
2 World of Darkness
Playing the villain or an anti-hero might seem like a strange idea, but now that we have characters like Deadpool and Joker starring in their own big-budget Hollywood films, it makes more sense. There are several RPGs that allow players to roll a vampire, a werewolf, a wraith, or other characters from the dark side of fantasy and it's not a new thing. World of Darkness was first released in 1991 and it's most recent edition was released in 2018. The game is actually split into two categories, The World of Darkness, which was the version of the game that existed before 2004, and The Chronicles of Darkness, which has a more streamlined character advancement system.
Ask five gamers what GURPS means, and you'll get ten different answers. The letters in GURPS stand for Generic Universal RolePlaying System, which means it's designed for virtually any setting. The game has been around since the early days of gaming when tabletop adventures were heavily based on location or genre. It even won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1988. It's a great alternative if you like D&D but feel the settings are too restrictive and didn't fulfill enough of the storytelling aspect of role-playing.