I want to start playing Role Playing Games — what RPG should I get?
There’s been an explosion in tabletop gaming recently, especially in pen & paper Role Playing Games. But many people new to RPGs are still unsure about what is the best way to get started on their journey as a gamer. So most people simply start with Dungeons & Dragons which has become synonymous with fantasy gaming the way Hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to RPGs there are lots of choices, to suit all levels, age groups, and budgets, so here a few suggestions that I hope people will find useful.
Dungeons & Dragons
The big daddy of RPGs, and the one that everyone has heard of, is Dungeons & Dragons. At least half the people playing RPGs at any one time will be playing some variation of D&D. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s a lot of fun. It also suffers from being a bit bloated and clunky because when it was invented people didn’t really know much about how to design a good RPG. Luckily D&D has been through several improvements and editions, and the latest one, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is by far the easiest and best version yet.
The biggest advantage D&D has over the others is that it is very widely supported and there are tons of adventure supplements you can buy to keep you playing for years and years. On the downside you definitely pay a premium — you need three big books just to get all the rules and that’s going to set you back a good 100 bucks or more.
If you definitely want to play Dungeons & Dragons, and don’t mind paying some money, you can’t beat the 5th Edition Starter Set — it’s a decent price and it has a great beginning adventure.
D&D Starter Set | Dungeons & Dragons
The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is your gateway to action-packed stories of the imagination. This box contains the…
However this Starter Set only contains a limited version of the rules, so once you’ve played this adventure you’ll need to get hold of some other D&D supplements in order to continue playing. So you will be paying for the other books eventually.
However, if you really don’t want to spend any money, all is not lost! The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules are free to download, so you can get playing without spending a single penny:
Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons | Dungeons & Dragons
Set in a medieval fantasy world, D&D allows you to experience stories and adventures full of endless possibilities and…
You can also find a list of loads of free adventures at this link:
Free D&D Adventures from Wizards of the Coast
I often see DMs (new and experienced) asking about where to find free adventures and similar content for D&D Fifth…
That’s more then enough to keep you playing D&D for months (or even years), all for the low, low price of $0. But I guarantee you, you will get hooked and want to buy everything else eventually ;-)
Other Great Fantasy Games
Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is a simplified version of D&D specifically about teenagers coming of age, and perfect for kids. It’s not expensive, and also has lots of free downloads you can use to expand it. If you’re a parent or teacher wanting to introduce young people to the wonders of fantasy gaming, this is a great system to start with.
Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures, a zero-prep OSR roleplaying game you can play in an afternoon
Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is a zero-prep roleplaying game you can play in an afternoon
Symbaroum is a new RPG from Sweden, and it’s well worth checking out if you like your fantasy grim, dark, and gothic. The rules are well-written and easy to learn, the book is a work of art, and the whole thing is just generally beautiful and elegant. I love this game, and I highly recommend it. See my more complete review here:
D&D and other fantasy games are great, but what if you want to adventure in space instead? Or be a superhero? No problem! There are RPGs that model pretty much any setting you can imagine, and even some that are designed to model all of them. That means you can buy just one game and effectively get dozens. Universal RPGs give you great flexibility and can save you money in the long run too, so they are well worth considering.
Adventurers! is a simple universal system that is very nicely designed, whose rules fit on only 2 pages— and it’s free (or nearly free). Not only that, you can add cheap supplements that enable you to adventure in King Arthur’s Camelot, be a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, or fight gothic horror, all for only a couple of bucks each. It’s perfect if you want something quick, easy, and very portable — just download the PDFs and print out the rules for each player on a single piece of paper or card.
Savage Worlds is my personal favourite universal system. It is by far the most popular universal system because it’s not only easy to learn, it’s incredibly flexible. You can use it to run games in any setting, from fantasy to superheroes to SF, from the Roman Empire to Victorian times to the modern day.
You can download the free Test Drive rules here, which includes a simple adventure to get you started, set in the classic fantasy world of Lankhmar:
Savage Worlds Test Drive (Lankhmar) | Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Have you ever wanted to try a game of Savage Worlds? This absolutely free version of the Savage Worlds Test Drive rules…
If you like it (and I’m sure you will), all you need to keep playing is to get the core Savage Worlds Deluxe book, which is surprisingly cheap, and contains everything you need including several pre-made adventures, so you really get your money’s worth. If you want to expand beyond that there are also dozens and dozens of supplements, settings books, and adventures, pretty much all of very high quality. You really can’t go wrong with Savage Worlds — in my opinion it’s the best overall buy in role playing.
That’s just a very short and quick summary of my favourite systems for beginners. Any of the above will give you a great experience in role-playing, so I encourage you to try at least one with your friends or family. You’ll have a blast.