As far as role playing games go, Dungeons & Dragons has always been a gold standard. People jump into it and play for months or years, or sometimes try it out for just one game. Many of us here at Nerdarchy have grown up on D&D, having played everything from the original Dungeons and Dragons, to the new fifth edition powerhouse that’s bringing everyone back to the table. Many people ask how people can just play D&D and not get burnt out. The fact of the matter is you can’t. I’ve played and tinkered with D&D since 1989. I’ve delved into each edition and each of it’s variants, but there have been times even I have said, “Lets see what else there is.”
Roleplaying games have been helping fight of boredom and expand creativity to the point of there being very few innovative ideas left. As such, the hobby has flourished and created a cavalcade of genres and styles. We’re going to look at some of the genres I know of today and look at some of the games that fall under them. Let’s set aside our standard sword and shield, take a break from that dragonborn paladin, and step through the RPG looking glass to see what’s out there. If D&D is the gateway game, what lies past it once we step through?
Science fiction and cyberpunk
This is a favorite category of many. This goes about as far in the opposite direction as possible for the D&D fan. In the aspect of trying to prevent the article from becoming a small book I have combined both even though they are different. Cyberpunk settings tend to take the users into a dystopian future. Corporations rule the world, machines have evolved to the point of being as or more important than humans. People live in poverty or in the shadows doing the work of a desperate few.
Games that fall into this section would be classics like Cyberpunk 2020/2077, Shadowrun, Halcyon, and Cyberspace. In these realms you’ll find humans are no longer the only race, machines are sentient, and a man with a keyboard is just as dangerous as the guy with the gun.
On the flip side of the coin, the leap from beyond here is the science fiction genre. Taking a leap and bound among the stars this genre includes Starfinder, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Fading Suns, Etherscope (which also falls into Cyberpunk and Steampunk), Star Frontiers and many more. These games tend to take the player and his imagination to the far dark reaches of space, with lightsaber-wielding Jedi and intrepid space captains. Even D&D has dabbled in space exploration with it’s Spelljammer setting. Who could forget those lovable giant space hamsters? If you want to explore a galaxy instead of a dungeon, grabs your lasers and head to the dark abyss in the sky and see what the stars are hiding.
This is always a fun one. Some days, things aren’t going your way and you just want to throw a car at someone. From super strength to dastardly villains this genre lets you hulk out with the rest of them. This genre has epic titles such as Mutants and Masterminds, Marvel Super Heroes, City of Mists, Champions, Villains and Vigilantes, Enforcers, and Trinity. In this realm of chaos and confusion you’ll find everything from anthromorphs to cyborgs, mutants to aliens, and the poor character stuck in the background that’s a master ninja. This genre is about doing the wild and outlandish is with snappy one-liners and innuendos. This is a great style of game to pull out after a blockbuster has hit the theaters. However, that will also run the risk of ruining the movie for players who haven’t seen it yet.
While it is true you can add horror to any setting, what I’m more referring to here is that dark sinister suspense thrillers. This would include all of the World of Darkness series (Vampire Requiem, Mage Awakening, and Werewolf Forsaken to name a few), Dread, Call of Cthulhu, Witchcraft, the Everlasting, and Dead Reign. These are the games that go bump in the night. The monsters lurking under the stairs, the voices whispering, and the deepest fears of the soul. The games will drag you into the darkness and keep you there out of fear and morbid curiosity. This genre tends to be a favorite of mine, as it takes you into stories like Dracula, the Wolfman, or even things more twisted like In the Mouth of Madness and The Shining. Now to be fair, side effects of this genre may include paranoia, nightmares, and sleeping with the lights on.
This is a great genre for just having a laugh, or maybe you’ve had a few too many and you know the session won’t be taken seriously. Many of the titles here are odd and just out to lunch. These titles include games like Kobolds Ate my Baby, Bunnies and Burrows, Ghostbusters, It came from the Late, Late, Late Show, Ninja Burger, and Beach Bunny Bimbos. Yes, all of these are real. These were designed for the sole purpose of a good time. Break one of these out after a long week and your session will be nothing more that a series of fits, giggles and quotes from the most bizarre movies someone can think of – and that’s a good thing.
This category is a little odd. These are all games with a book of core rules then expansions running off in all different directions. Settings here include Modern D20, Savage Worlds, Rifts, Palladium, GURPS, Iron Kingdom, and Numenera. I think I’ll also toss Fate in this section as well since it’s also way out there. All of these games have add-on books that let you explore other possibilities. For example, Savage Worlds goes all over with Dead Lands, Rippers, Weird Wars, 50 Fathoms, Achtung Cthulhu, and Deadlands Noir. To set that into perspective, you can go from zombie infested wild west, to chasing Frankenstein’s monster, to werewolf Nazis, tracking down Cthulhu cultists, raiding in the Spanish Main, to finish off the day looking over the latest murder case. All these games have multiple settings and adaptations to allow you to play any style of game with one rule set.
While a lot of people just think D&D there are many more in this genre. This section is home to players the likes of Pathfinder, Riddle of Steele, Swords and Sorcery, Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Dragon Age, Elric! and Stormbringer, Legend of the Five Rings, Seventh Sea, Enclave and many more. This is your standard, wizard hires fighter to get trinket from dragon genre. All the heroes meets, go to kill the dragon, dragon turns out to be a bartender, good times are had by all. Okay maybe not, but this is your standard sword wielding fire throwing mystical magical trip. This genre is more as an alternative to D&D. You may still want to go kill a dragon, just not with the ruleset of D&D.
If D&D wasn’t the game you were looking for, or maybe you’re just burnt out and need something different, I hope this gives you some leads on where to look. While D&D will forever be close to our hearts here at Nerdarchy, there are other fantastic games out there as well which we encourage you to explore. This isn’t everything out there, just a selection of options at the buffet table of gaming. Though don’t actually game at a buffet table, food gets in books and dice get in food, and the establishment is always cranky.
What RPG first brought you to the table? Are there any gems out there you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
Explore, enjoy and have fun folks!
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Long time RPG enthusiast, I first started with D&D back when I was 7, then jumped back into it again at 14 when I could understand what I was reading. I’ve tinkered as a story teller in many different game systems from Gurps, to Vampire, to most recently in Savage Worlds: Rippers Ressurected, though I’ve never forgotten my love for D&D.