Cover artwork for the Numenera RPG by Monte Cook Games

Top 10 D&D Alternatives You Should Be Playing

Published: January 16, 2023 4:07 PM

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If you haven't been paying attention to the TTRPG space, it seems Hasbro are forcing the end of an era. Their recently leaked OGL 1.1 not just puts greater restrictions on people wanting to create third-party content for Dungeons & Dragons, it revokes a version of the open game license that's been in effect since 2000. Their recent passive-aggressive apology and walkback wasn't received much better either. Because of this massive loss of goodwill and trust, the D&D community is moving on to other systems. Thankfully, there are D&D alternatives out there. Whether you like dynamic combat, rewarding roleplaying, or crunchy numbers and systems, this list will have at least one thing that should appeal to you.

Top D&D Alternatives – Variety and Complexity

Featured artwork from Achtung Cthulhu by Modiphius
WW2 and Cthulhu? Well this is a problem.

10. The 2d20 System by Modiphius Entertainment

 Modiphius Entertainment's 2d20 system has a lot going for it. While the core gameplay, roll 2d20s and hope for a low result, takes some getting used to, its robust RPG system has helped fuel tons of interesting experiences, be it the pulpy sword fights of Conan The Barbarian, the pulp sci-fi of Infinity, or the galactic politics of the world of Dune.

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Fantasy artwork from the Cypher system by Monte Cook Games
What is going on here? You can figure that out.

9.   The Cypher System by Monte Cook Games

This award-winning RPG system is extremely flexible, allowing for multiple genres as well as settings. It uses familiar types of dice like d20s as well as a robust and accessible challenge rating system, making things easy for GMs. Admittedly, the core rulebook is basically a giant handful of tools, which means you will need to put some legwork to make your own setting and campaign. But as far as foundations go, this is great.

Cover artwork of Fate Core
Mad scientists, rogues, cyborg gorillas, wizard detectives, yeah they're all possible here.

8. FATE Core by Evil Hat Productions

If the players at your table are much more interested in roleplaying complex characters than intricate systems, then the FATE system is worth a look. While there is some stat management, the building blocks of a character are determined by Aspects, small phrases that encompass the characters' key personality traits. It's a system that actively encourages three-dimensional character development due to how its core systems work, which is great for avid roleplayers.

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Artwork from the Cortex Prime RPG rulebook
This was used to make RPGs for Firefly and Superman. Make of that what you will.

7. Cortex Prime by Fandom Tabletop

If your tables are into more cinematic, theatre-of-the-mind style sessions, then Cortex Prime should appeal to you. The game encourages conflicts that can be resolved in a single session, has plenty of depth when it comes to dice rolls, traits, and mods. Finally, the GM can easily reward players or add complications thanks to hitches and Plot Points. Furthermore, the system has its own accessible content platform, making rules references a few simple clicks away.

Cover artwork from Monster of the Week
Anyone want to go on a roadtrip and fight this?

6. Powered By The Apocalypse

If you prefer more shared authority and even less rules complexity in your roleplaying experiences, then keep an eye out for games that run on this system. With just 2d6s and some imagination, you can go on fantastical adventures, both licensed such as Root and Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as original works like Monster of the Week, Dungeon World, and Masks: A New Generation.

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Top 10 D&D Alternatives – Dynamic Gameplay

A screenshot of the core rulebook of Mork Borg
Do you prefer a more death metal flavor of fantasy?

5. Mork Borg by Free League Publishing

Have the tastes of your gaming table leaned more towards the dark and apocalyptic? Are they really into extremely difficult encounters by fantastical monsters in a dying world?  Then this OSR (Old School Revival) TTRPG has just what they need. Not only does the Mork Borg rulebook provide tools to convert these challenges to different systems. It's a game packed with style and guaranteed to scratch a table's very specific itch.

Cover artwork for the TTRPG 7th Sea
Have at you, blackguard!

4. 7th Sea by Chaosium

If your players are more interested in thrilling setpieces and dangerous antics, then the swashbuckling adventures of 7th Sea are worth a look. There is a bit of complex worldbuilding that is in the game's setting, but once your crew are on the high seas, it is nothing but sword fights and ship battles. Also, you have to enjoy a system that encourages you mechanically to pull off daring or dangerous acts for stat bonuses.

Artwork from the TTRPG 13th Age showing a party fighting monsters
It is dark, you are likely to be eaten by a Grue.

3. 13th Age by Pelgrane Press

If you and your players are of an older persuasion, one that fondly remembers dungeon crawls but laments the complexities of AD&D, then 13th Age might just be for you. Not only does the game have familiar fantasy archetypes and tropes, they're all tweaked to have a solid storytelling focus. Plus, it does away with grid-based combat for a simple three tier system of Engaged, Nearby, and Far Away.

Cover artwork from Blades in the Dark.
Alright, time to take Duskvol for a ride.

2. Forged In The Dark by Evil Hat Productions

Have you ever wanted to pull off elaborate dangerous heists at your table? Did you not want the whole thing to devolve into a logistical nightmare regarding planning, scouting, and casing? Did you want the whole thing to not play out like a tedious exercise of optimal moves undone by bad rolls? Then check out Forged in the Dark, which manages to bring all of that excitement with easily understandable rules and streamlined elements. Plus, the system's original setting, Blades in the Dark, is a masterclass in industrial gothic worldbuilding, a must read for fans of the Thief or Dishonored series.

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Cover artwork from Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin Publishing
With enough triple rolls, this will be easy.

1. Fantasy AGE/ Modern AGE by Green Ronin Publishing

Have you ever felt too restrained by character options in an RPG? Do you enjoy encounters where your successes can cascade into impressive acts? Have you always wanted martial classes to feel as cool as magic-users? Enter Green Ronin's AGE system. Roll 3d6s for everything. If you roll pairs, you gain stunt points, which can be used for additional actions during a scene. That is exciting by itself, until you remember that enemies get stunts as well. It's a system that encourages you to get into the fray and take risks, leading to the kind of stories you will remember for years to come.

a candid selfie of the staff writer, husky build, blond hair, caucasian.
Author: | Staff Writer
Ever since he was small, Tyler Chancey has had a deep, abiding love for video games and a tendency to think and overanalyze everything he enjoyed. This passion continued into his adulthood as he… Read More