15 Best Tabletop RPGs Loved By Millions Worldwide

Best Tabletop RPGs
A surefire sign of a developing personal problem...

The Best Tabletop RPGs To Play Today

A Roleplaying Game comes down to how it feels for the players. This is no less true for tabletop RPGs, where you and your party are using a game to tell a story together. After a point, the decision comes down to matters of taste.

Do you like rolling dice? Do you want to spend your time talking? Do you find yourself wishing there was another way to play? Let’s explore the best options and do a little accounting for taste.

15. Fiasco

Haven't you ever wanted to be an amateur criminal? 

Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco entertains 3-5 players with a handful of six-sided dice. It is ultra-lite on rules and lacks a gamemaster (GM). It thematically emulates the caper-gone-wrong genre. Gameplay is fast-paced with storytelling that shifts dynamically between players. The game comes with a number of premade scenarios with more available online. You need no preparation to jump in.

A game is played in four segments centered around two acts. The players roll for their roles and proceed to act I. The strength of the game lies in the simple formula. Dubious characters struggling to follow their dark motivations is a recipe for disastrous humor. You’re all at the mercy of the dice, and each other.

Fiasco Gameplay

14. Dread

For every moment of fear there's a moment of fun. Can you and your friends survive the horror?

Dread is a rules-lite horror RPG with an interesting twist. It is appropriate for any narrative in which most characters will not make it out. To play the game you need 3-6 players, at least 3-5 hours, adventure and character sheets and a Jenga tower. The game comes with four settings, and each setting has archetypal horror roles for each character to assume. Each role comes with a dozen or so questions to be asked throughout the game.

The plot of the game is progressed by player-driven events, with outcomes determined by a Jenga-like game. If the brick is removed and repositioned without bringing down the tower, the action is successful. If the tower falls your character dies. You can choose to fail by not taking a brick, thus averting death… for now. The fast-pacing and nerve-wracking brick-pulling are what keep you drawn in, innovatively compelling the game through fear.

Dread Gameplay

13. Dungeon Slayer

Your favorite dungeon crawler. No mouse needed.

Dungeon Slayer is like Diablo meets Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). It’s a German rules-lite RPG focused on dungeon delving, kicking in the door and looting the room. Styled in the manner of the RPGs of old, the game is about enjoying a more fantastical fantasy game. Evil is Evil and Good is Good, your sense of nuance can be kept at the door.

The gameplay is as straightforward as possible. This gives players unique and fleshed out characters that aren’t dictated to you by the rules. If you want to play out your favorite blockbusters, this action-oriented game with simplified themes is for you.

Dungeon Slayer Gameplay

12. Monte Cook’s World of Darkness (3rd edition)

Rediscover our world. See things in a strange new light. 

This is a post-apocalyptic modern world with a dark, supernatural twist. Think Supernatural, Buffy, and Terminator all rolled into one. A supernatural apocalypse ravaged the Earth a year ago, and humanity is struggling to survive. Some have found allies amongst the forces of evil while others are beginning to understand the workings of magic.

Monte Cook took a remarkable RPG world and made a stand-alone edition with his seasoned hands. The game avoids having underpowered wizards at low levels by having a magic system that is remarkably flexible. The modern survival elements are hard to find elsewhere and never are they this exquisite.

Monte Cook's World of Darkness Gameplay

11. Risus: The Anything RPG

Anything you can laugh about, you can play about.

Risus is from the Latin for Laughter. Simple, effective, hilarious and free; Risus really is the Anything RPG. Available in a number of formats and languages, this simple system was designed to be both perfectly reliable and easy to utilize. There are over 30 player communities for Risus that offer free content and game support.

A number of settings and adventures exist for the game, each one offering opportunities for laughs. A “joke game” with a “Cliche” system in place, expect nothing but lunacy when playing. Risus has infinite replayability, as there are as many jokes to be told as stories that exist. If you find you love the game, you can join the Order of Risus for even more content. Their motto is, fittingly, “To impose our iron will upon an unsuspecting universe.”  

Risus Gameplay: You Decide

10. Marvel Heroic RPG

Rise to heroic heights and channel your inner mutant. 

Set in the Marvel Comics Universe and designed for use within the Cortex plus system, Marvel Heroic is the fourth and most recent license from the comics legend. The game is fast-paced and event driven. It takes less than half an hour to learn and set up. The game encourages players to switch heroes often, allowing for a wide variety in storytelling and gameplay experiences.event-driven

You can start with one of the 8,000 existing characters in the Marvel Comics Universe or pick your own. The party plays through a classic Marvel event, with each players’ decisions affecting the outcome. You could draw on the successful movie universe, capturing your favorite movies in an RPG setting. Make superhero history in your own Marvel universe, one near-calamity after another.

Marvel HEROIC RPG Gameplay

9. Star Wars: the Roleplaying Game (Fantasy Flight 2012)

Experience endless adventure in a galaxy far, far away... 

What universe inspires more nostalgia and captures the imagination quite like George Lucas’ masterpiece? That basis alone makes for a compelling argument to play Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game by Fantasy Flight. The newest attempt at an SWRPG, this version is split into four product lines: Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, Force, and Destiny, and the Force Awakens. The first three are products for specific roles while the Force Awakens is geared towards beginners. Edge of the Empire is about being criminal scum, the Age of Rebellion is for resistance fighters and Force and Destiny is for Jedi Knights living in the empire.

The game uses proprietary dice which can be modified from regular dice. Character creation is straightforward. Each sourcebook also corresponds to a specific setting in time relative to the original trilogy. The strength of this system lies in the comprehensive level of information presented. Grab your blaster, find a droid and steer clear of that Imperial Cruiser.

Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game Gameplay

8. Vampire: The Masquerade  (2nd e)

Experience humanity through the eyes of the supernatural. 

One of the most flavorful and beloved games out there, Vampire is legendary for good reason. It was the first of many publications by White Wolf and arguably their finest. In an interesting twist on the usual RPG formula, you play as a vampire. Your challenges include maintaining self-control and surviving in a hostile world. The theme is gothic-punk, albeit in a much more distinct way than White Wolf’s later Dark World features.

The game runs on a modified Storytelling system that accounts for the problems afflicted by the vampiric condition. The game uses these traits and it’s bleak setting to explore themes of morality, power, and nature. There is a humanity scale which measures a vampire’s tendency towards Human Nature. Vampire is perhaps the most unique and reflective of all RPGs precisely because it makes you consider things from an inhuman perspective. If you’re all about the writing, this is the RPG for you.

Vampire: The Masquerade Gameplay

7. Dungeon World

Slap together some encounters and let the players lead the way!

Dungeon World wants to update classic RPGs with newer gaming innovations to reach a state of immersive, action-oriented gameplay. It uses the apocalypse engine as it’s gaming system with little modification. Game Masters are encouraged to keep things sparse for an organic gaming experience.

This game favors playtime over rules-time with quick action and rules resolution. The standard dice are d6, which are usually used to resolve “moves”. It can be thought of as D&D lite, with less combat focus than Dungeon Slayer. Roleplaying mad-libs are provided to help with character building.

Dungeon World Gameplay

6. Generic Universal Roleplaying System (GURPS 4th e)

Play however you want: the every system. 

Standing tall in RPG history is the Generic Universal Roleplaying System or GURPS. The idea behind the system was to create the first RPG independent of style and genre. This was one of the first systems in which character generation had no random elements. GURPS strives to give as much control as possible to the playgroup, allowing them to live out their fantasy in whichever setting they wish.

Players are given a number of points which can be spent on various character attributes, traits, and skills. Additional points can be gained in exchange for taking on increased restrictions to your character. This allowed players to play the game they wanted to play, rather than be held at the mercy of dice. Dice rolling is still featured in action and event resolution, taking into account character skill and situational factors. A system for the imaginative and unyielding, you’ll love GURPS if you want to go anywhere.

GURPS 4e Gameplay

5. Call of Cthulu (7th e)

Innovative, alluring and incomprehensible. Call of Cthulu is an unrivaled intrigue. 

Based in Lovecraft, Call of Cthulu is one of the most ensnaring RPGs available. The base game is set in a much darker 1920s, with other eras represented in supplements. With over thirty years of revisions, Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing system is only getting better. It is augmented, of course, with the infamous sanity system found within this game. The further back you peel the onion, the higher your risk of losing your mind.

This levelless RPG features an improving skill system for player advancement. In contrast to other RPGs, it never becomes harder to die. CoC is a system for those who like dark stories and intrigue. The gameplay is claustrophobic and paranoid. You’d be driven mad if you weren’t having so much fun.

Call of Cthulu Gameplay

4. Shadowrun (5th e)

Admit it. You've always wanted to open fire on a dragon while your best friend hacks into the matrix. 

Shadowrun is a science-fantasy RPG set in a not-so-distant future. After a supernatural catastrophe, the world is becoming more like its myths of old. Dragons reign, magic is blooming and humans are “goblinizing” into Orks and Trolls. Dwarves and Elves are often born to human parents. Kids grow up to become hackers, thugs or mercenaries on the fringes of society.

The game centers around Shadowrunning, a form of corporate espionage. A base game is available with a large number of rules supplements, which flesh out areas of the game ranging from combat to social rules. This RPG is good for beginners but a favorite of experts, allowing a wide variety of gaming styles and story options. The merger of sci-fi and fantasy is a unique blend that creates unheard of scenarios. No other RPG has the voice that Shadowrun has.

Shadowrun 5e Gameplay

3. Pathfinder

Dungeons and Dragons for the critcally dissapointed. Pathfinder is a great game that rivals the RPG legend. 

Made within the Open Gaming License, Pathfinder is a fantasy RPG that is backward compatible with D&D 3.5. A spiritual successor to D&D 3/3.5, Pathfinder was built to augment and continue the work of those editions in the face of D&D 4. The game’s main change comes from the work put into the base classes of 3.5. Pathfinder gives more depth and incentivization for mono-classing a character. Certain weaker characters also had their survivability improved and skills augmented.

The base game was used as a jumping off point for a number of supplements which add additional classes, rules, and class features. Later releases allow players to streamline and customize rules to their liking, making a truly dynamic gaming system for experienced players. This might be the most comprehensive of the classically styled RPGs, with an open design and overwhelming options that can make any fantasy a reality.

Pathfinder Gameplay

2. The Dresden Files

Enter a strange new world you thought you already knew. Reimagine your life with the paranormal. 

Built with the Fate RPG System, the Dresden Files is based on the books of the same name. Set in a supernatural but modern world, you can play in any city. The game is bound in two rulebooks simply titled Your Story & Our World. A third book, “the Paranet Papers”, explores specific aspects of the setting.

This game blends dark humor, horror, supernatural themes and detective stories into a unique world. Its strengths lie in the intimate, immersive and highly imaginative universe. One can easily go from their home office to an alluring world not unlike our own with only a few books. Friendly werewolves, dangerous cultists, and smart writing await you in this one of a kind RPG.

The Dresden Files Gameplay

1. Dungeons & Dragons (5th e)

Give life to your fantasy. Find your destiny. Test your will. Fortune and Glory await. 

The first RPG has quite the advantage. After 5 or so editions, they’ve finally arrived at something that’s both easy to use and masterfully comprehensive. The newest rules system provides players with a glut of options and house rules. These include rules for modern and futuristic settings in different genres. Within the fantasy genres, there are a number of distinct campaign settings each with annual product support and free content.

Despite the infamous number of dice, the game is much easier than you might think. Most results are determined by a d20 and everything else is something your DM would know. Once you get a hang for how the dice work, improvising rules is a breeze. The goal of D&D is collaborative storytelling and being able to make it up as you go along. There are no limits to where you and your friends can go.

Dungeons & Dragons 5e Gameplay

Also be sure to check out: 

More on this topic:
Alex traverses the multiverse in search of a greater understanding of storytelling. His Int is higher than his Dex and he’s put most of his skill points into writing, survival and arcana.
Gamer Since: 1997
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Torment: Tides of Numenera, Bloodborne
Top 3 Favorite Games:Baldur's Gate, Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, Mass Effect 2
This article makes me feel:

More Top Stories