3 FREE Role-Playing Game Systems Inspired by Dungeons & Dragons to Try When Your Looking For A New Way To Play
Read on to learn more about Dungeon Squad, Hi/Lo Heroes, and Risus: The Anything RPG!
Okay, intrepid adventurer of strangely shaped dice and coveted character sheets, it's time to talk about some role-playing game systems other than the infamous Dungeons & Dragons 5E.
As an avid gamer, I think D&D 5E (5th edition) is about as good as it gets, but this article isn't about BETTER. This article is about something different. I will present three alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons, and the best part is, they're all FREE!
Dungeon Squad by Jason Morningstar
Let's start with something very akin to D&D as a whole. Dungeon Squad is a game that clocks in at a mere four pages of rules and does a fantastic job of emulating all the essential bits that a seasoned D&D player would need to play an average game. Dungeon Squad's rules fit well for someone new to the hobby, but it doesn't mean that a group of advanced players can't have fun with it as well.
With Dungeon Squad, you won't find a myriad of stats to keep track of nor an exhaustive list of magical spells to horde. Instead, three "STATS" define a player's character: Wizard, Warrior, and Explorer, plus a handful of spells that any player can use if they decide to take them as part of their "Stuff." These Stats essentially replace the ever-growing list of "Character Classes" you will find playing traditional Dungeons and Dragons, allowing the player to define who and what they are within the game themselves.
As the Game Master, handling the foes your players will meet is even easier. All the creatures have a type of dice they fight with and a target number the characters need to meet to score a hit. Essentially everything in the game is a simplified and streamlined version of Yea Old D&D, and you still get to use those funny-looking dice. Find the rules here.
Hi/Lo Heroes by Jeff Moore
The Hi/Lo Heroes game system is a Superhero RPG, but hang on. Firstly, anyone interested in the hobby of role-playing games should try genres other than dungeon crawling and dragon slaying! Secondly, what makes this game system so interesting is how you create your character, instead of the traditional numbered stats like Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom Etc. In Hi/Lo, you have a template of three aspects, Build, Mentality and Temperament.
As the Player, you will decide if your character is Quick or Powerful, Logical or Intuitive, and Cautious or Bold. Depending on how you define your character will determine how you read the game's dice mechanic. Using just two six-sided dice, the Player and Game Master will read either the "High" number or the "Low" number depending on what actions take place. Having an ability or power to choose for your character grants a simple modifier to the high or low die roll.
The rules cover everything from Character creation, game mastering to a full-on adventure, all within 36 pages. I like this rules-lite game because, with a bit of imagination, a creative Game Master could make this game system fit almost any type of theme you and your group would like to play, even if it isn't about Super Heroes. Find it here.
Risus: The Anything RPG by S. John Ross
In my opinion, Risus: The Anything RPG is the most creative and dynamic of all the games listed in this writing. Risus is part of the Cumberland Games and Diversions group, an independent digital RPG publisher founded in 1999.
Risus stands out in contrast to virtually all other RPGs on the market. The game system doesn't rely upon pages or nerd-infused text with charts and tables breaking down some algebraic formulae to navigate a danger-infused adventure. Instead, this game takes a light-hearted look at what Role-Playing is at its core. Players merely come up with the Who, What, Where, and Why of their character—and off you go!
The game mechanics are all based around dice pools of standard six-sided dice that you'll probably have laying around from some other board game. As the Player, your task is to envision your Character and write about Him, Her, or It in long-form. I know this sounds a bit odd but bear with me. As a Player, you no longer have to get numbers and experience to play the character you envisioned.
Instead, you will try and describe your Character in four relative statements. These statements can be as little as "Champion of the Empire," or you could write out a full page explaining what makes your character the Champion of the Empire. After that, you'll assign a number of dice from a minimum of (1) to a max of (4), and these will be the number of dice you roll to navigate your way through the story—pretty simple huh!
Well, I hope the next time you gather with your Nerdling Horde, maybe instead of lugging out all those expensive D&D 5E manuals, you'll give one of these hidden gems a shot.
Happy adventuring, my friends.