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Best tabletop RPGs (that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons)

We here at Jelly Deals love Dungeons & Dragons, but the world of tabletop roleplaying goes so far beyond that! You can explore worlds of fantasy, science fiction, horror and more, all with your friends and family and drawing upon beautiful books full of inspiration and artwork, as we lay out the best tabletop RPGs that aren’t D&D!

Of course, this is all part of our larger celebration of World Book Day! Check out all the best pages at the link, where we’ve got all manner of material dedicated to helping you make your own personal library at the lowest possible cost!

Deadlands

Deadlands rpg core rulebook

Deadlands is a game that’s gone through numerous incarnations over the decades – with a revived version on the way soon – but the easiest version to buy and leap into right now is likely the Savage Worlds version, which mixes a fascinating world with an easy-to-grasp system.

Put simply, Deadlands is a Western unlike any you’ve seen before. It’s an alternate history where a new fuel source has opened up new technological advances, but brought with it calamitous ruin and supernatural terror. Now gunslingers walk across a ruined frontier alongside spellcasting hucksters and steampunk inventors, watched from the shadows by bandits, monsters and the undead. It’s a superb world that draws you in and refuses to let go. Books can be a little expensive, but grab the three below and you and your friends will be set to ride the trail forever.

Shadowrun

Shadowrun tabletop rpg sixth edition

Another genre-mixer, some might also know Shadowrun from its video game successes as well. A slightly deeper, more nuanced system is used here to portray a classic cyberpunk dystopia, but this time the twist is that there’s fantasy elements threaded throughout. Human mercenaries hang out with elf street samurai, troll mages, and dwarf hackers, all the while working for mega corporations run by scheming dragons and AI.

It’s a more complex system, but not without good reason, as the creators use the chance to flex some more unique ideas. Magic is not a simple resource you burn up for spells – instead you fight the mental feedback that can threaten to knock you unconscious, overcharging your spells to dangerous effect for more powerful effects. Meanwhile your allies are piloting drones, summoning monsters, wielding nuanced cybernetic enhancements and adding to the delightful chaos of techmagic conflict around you. Get in, get out, and get paid.

Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhlu sixth edition rulebook

Ah, the creeping, drippy, cosmic horror of Lovecraft. Call of Cthulhu might be named after his most famous story, but it draws upon all manner of inspiration for setting its tone and world. Set in the 1920s, the players are investigators and academics who study the mystical and the malevolent in whatever form it reveals itself. Don’t expect climatic battles with powerful gods here; the focus is very much on horror and individual weakness. Even simply witnessing an elder god could drive a character irreparably insane.

It’s more often about prevention – battling cults, dark magic, madmen and the occasional envoy of the void – though the specifics are always up to the Gamemaster. You also don’t need to worry about Lovecraft’s uglier views coming into play – the creators have been very careful to purge all his more bigoted ideas and provide a wholesome (if terrifying) platform for players to use as a jumping-off point. Buy the Keeper Rulebook and Investigator’s Handbook for a more long-term approach, or try the Starter Set for some homemade adventures to run on-the-fly. Draw yourselves into the endless horror outside of time and space, and find what inhuman menace awaits you beyond.

Star Wars: The Role Playing Game

Star Wars RPG force and destiny rulebook

The Star Wars RPG covers all the greatest aspects of the Star Wars canon, but divides it into three books focused on certain elements. Age of Rebellion focuses on the conflict between Empire and rebel scum, Force and Destiny is all about being a Jedi, while Edge of the Empire is about being a dirty smuggler in the more remote sections of the Galaxy. All three are technically compatible and can work together, but all work on very different levels and you only need one to play (as well as the special dice). Talk to your friends about which setting appeals most, find out how many of them want to be Gonk droids, and may the farce be with you.

Paranoia

Paranoia RPG rulebook

Paranoia is an openly comedic take on a very dark idea: the dystopian, controlling, technological society defined by stories like 1984. It’s a world run by an AI attempting to act like your friend, while you and your friends play disposable clones constantly trying to one-up each other and survive for the duration of the mission. If you ever played Beneath a Steel Sky, you’ll likely understand the kind of tone this is reaching for.

It remains funny though, partly because of the way the game openly encourages deception and unpredictability. Even your allies might be out to get you, and the chaotic nature of the mechanics means that any interaction carries a risk of death. There aren’t many RPGs that have you play against each other and even less that actually work, but Paranoia is enormously fun and stands as an exemplary example of a less-cooperative kind of role-playing game.

Of course, if you do love D&D, we’ve got you covered! Check out everything you need to play the game here, or the best campaign/adventure books here! Alternatively, head to the Jelly Deals Twitter and follow us for all the best discounts around the web! Or you can always head to our sister site Dicebreaker and see what other RPGs they recommend!

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