Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons (Photo by Adventures with Jerry on Shutterstock)

Tabletop Roleplaying Games [TTRPGs] have a simple premise: tell a collaborative improvised story with a group of players and a referee or game master who serves as the general narrator of events. Undoubtedly, the mainstream success of “Dungeons & Dragons” has opened up the hobby to new gamers. Our list of the best Tabletop Roleplaying Games most recommended by experts could be a great resource for game night.

“Dungeons & Dragons” first entered the national pop culture spotlight in the 1970s from legendary game designer Gary Gygax. Since that time, TTRPGs have grown into many differing brands with corresponding genres. Fantasy, grimdark, sci-fi, cyberpunk, and gritty noir are all common narrative settings that can be found in TTRPGs.

TTRPGs are often grouped together with board games, and with good reason, as the two genres share many similarities. Fortunately, board games like Monopoly and Othello can enhance young children’s mathematical abilities, according to a new study. Prior research has established that playing games can contribute to learning and development, including reading and literacy skills. However, among children between three and nine years old, number-based games can significantly bolster their math skills. They aid in improving counting, addition, and the ability to distinguish whether a number is greater or lesser than another. These findings could potentially apply to TTRPG gamers as well, considering that nearly all roleplaying games involve some level of math.

Roleplaying games are a great pastime for players of all ages and could offer similar benefits to those gained from team games in general. A new study finds that sports, board games, and video games prepare people for conflict and cooperation in real life and even keep groups together. No matter how diverse a group of people is, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology discovered that games are an integral way of bonding. Competitive games can help groups where there is conflict, while cooperative games can aid team harmony.

There are many different titles available that are fun for groups of two or more, but which ones are the best tabletop roleplaying games? We consulted our trusted sources to find out which TTRPGs are getting the most love. Let us know your favorite roleplaying games in the comments below!

Dungeons and Dragons die
Dungeons and Dragons die (Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash)

The List: Best Tabletop Roleplaying Games, According to Experts

 

1. “Dungeons & Dragons” (1974)

“Dungeons & Dragons” is marketed by Hasbro as “The World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game” and with good cause. D&D’s brand owner Wizards of the Coast [WotC] claims that there are over 50 million D&D players worldwide. Gaming offers a rave review, “Four decades down the line, this game is still much more potent than ever. If you are looking to play a classic tabletop RPG that has stood the test of time, ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is the way to go. Created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, this game has undergone several modifications, with the 5th edition having the best mechanics and gameplay style.”

Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set 5th Edition kit - Dice in Black Bag - Fun DND Rolling Board Games for Adults - New Magic 5e Beginner Popular Pack Die Book
Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set 5th Edition kit

“You can’t create a list of the best tabletop RPGs and leave out ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’ If you’re looking for newer, fresher alternatives, skip this one — but if you’re looking to learn the ropes with a time-tested fantasy classic, check out this D&D starter set,” states Inverse.

Games Radar+ offers the following praise, “For many gamers, ‘tabletop RPGs’ and ‘D&D’ mean the same thing. And that’s hardly surprising. Besides being one of the oldest games in the business, it’s also the most popular. Particularly now – there’s been a resurgence of interest thanks to shows like ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Critical Role.’ Basically? It should be your first port of call if you want that traditional pen-and-paper experience.”

2. “Call of Cthulhu” (1981)

This game is a gritty noir take on the cosmic horror mythos most often associated with author H.P. Lovecraft. Players step into the roles of deadbeat gumshoes, unwitting occult investigators, and supernaturalists in this highly creative game. Gamer’s Decide writes, “Any fan of cosmic horror will adore this creepy, atmospheric TTRPG published by Chaosium Inc. The most interesting thing about this game versus others of its kind is that buy and large, the characters are completely ordinary people. Often, TTRPGs place players into the hero role, with supernatural abilities and strengths that make them more effective at handling danger than a ‘normal’ NPC [non player character]. Characters in ‘Call of Cthulhu’ follow the design of characters from the original Lovecraftian mythos – normal people faced with the unfathomable, thrown into these situations whether or not they’re prepared for them.”

Call of Cthulhu Rule Book on Amazon
Call of Cthulhu Rule Book

Wargamer adds, “A cosmic horror and investigative saga that will almost certainly end in your character going insane, ‘Call of Cthulhu 7E’ is one of the most well-known and beloved tabletop RPGs on the market. Originally published by Chaosium in 1981, the game takes place in the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s endlessly popular cosmic horror novels, and turns players into investigators, travelling through a 1920s setting full of paranormal and mind-bending mysteries.”

“Speaking of classic horror campaigns, the granddaddy of horror role-playing… [can] hook friends into roleplaying who are currently just board gamers. The excellent ‘Call of Cthulhu 7th’ edition offers a classic 1920s setting that still has a lot of modern conveniences for familiarly like guns and cars but the historical settings offer a hint of pulp exoticism,” adds Nerdist.

3. “Pathfinder” (2009)

Some TTRPGs focus on storytelling while others offer plenty of rules to make the experience feel more like a game rather than an improv session. This trait of having rules and gameplay mechanics is referred to as “crunchiness.” Crunchy games often feature quite a bit of number crunching. Wargamer explains, “‘Pathfinder’ is for gamers who love crunch, real crunch. It’s got heaps and heaps of ‘Pathfinder’ classes, ‘Pathfinder’ races, spells, and other player options – to the point where ‘Pathfinder’ character sheets start to look a little stuffed. This can be a little overwhelming at first, but the reams of rulebook eventually give you an enormous amount of freedom.”

Pathfinder 2e Rule Book on Amazon
Pathfinder 2e Rule Book

“The system is designed around building characters, monsters, magic items, etc., from small simple pieces. For each piece, any of countless others can be substituted, allowing near-infinite customization and variety,” praises /Slant.

HGG states that, “‘Pathfinder’ is one of DnD’s biggest competitors, and for very good reason. It was originally based on WotC’s 3.5e after the contentious 4e was released, but has since developed its own identity. Just like DnD, it’s set in a Tolkienesque high fantasy setting, complete with elves, dwarves, and dragons. The biggest difference is in the character creation, with ‘Pathfinder’ giving a wider range of options. This could be overwhelming for players that want more simplicity, but might be very welcome for players who want more choices than DnD’s rigid class system provides.”

4. “Monster of the Week” (2012)

On the far opposite end of the crunchiness spectrum is “Monster of the Week.” This is a faster-paced party game that is easy to jump into. Polygon offers, “This rules-light RPG uses a variation of the Powered by the Apocalypse system to tell the story of an eclectic group of monster slayers using their various tricks, tools, and magical powers to hunt down creatures of all shapes and sizes. The game’s playbooks (pre-generated character templates) allow you to create a wide range of characters by making a series of set choices and start playing in minutes.”

Evil Hat Productions, LLC Monster of The Week: Hardcover Edition - RPG Book for 3-5 People, Supernatural Mysteries, Adds 2 New Playbooks, Start Hunting,...
Evil Hat Productions, LLC Monster of The Week

CBR explains the core dice system, “Players use two six-sided dice to determine the outcome of attempted actions and use their chosen moves in order to investigate and solve the mysteries their Game Master presents. Inspired by monster-hunting popular media, ‘Monster of the Week’ lets players live out their fantasies of defeating evil creatures.”

“Each playbook features a classic archetype that helps hunt creatures in their own way and at the end of character creation, everyone connects the crew together so you all can come together and fight the creatures terrifying normal folks. As one of the best Powered By The Apocalypse games out there, it puts all of the rules on one or two pieces of paper right in front of the players, and the book is a wonder guide to the genre that’s useful even if the GM runs a different system,” writes Nerdist.

5. “Blades in the Dark” (2015)

“Blades in the Dark” offers a dangerous steampunk criminal underworld setting. This game is highly rated among our sources. Gaming expands on this, “This Evil Hat Productions’ [game] has gained immense popularity among its players. ‘Blades in the Dark’ takes a modern-style approach, balancing flawlessly between the mechanics and fantasy storytelling of the game. Here, you will play as criminals that are part of a heist crew whose primary goal is to raise the ranks and become bosses of the underworld. It also stands out for its unique setting that offers a creepy, dark, and thrilling steampunk world.”

Evil Hat Productions Blades In The Dark Tabletop Roleplaying Game,
Evil Hat Productions Blades In The Dark Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Inverse also offers positive feedback, “In Evil Hat Productions’ ‘Blades In The Dark,’ you’re part of a ‘crew of daring scoundrels’ looking for fortunes on ‘the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city.’ Your crew will do anything to rise to power, but with ghosts, heists, occult happenings, and neighboring gangs, it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

“‘Blades in the Dark’ is the most focused game on this list: it’s the story of a gang of scoundrels who try to carve out their own piece of a big, dirty city. The details of who they are and how they go from small-time crooks to bosses of the underworld (or die trying) are up to you. It may sound limiting – and certain game mechanics, such as territory acquisition, feel more like a board game than a TTRPG – but ‘Blades in the Dark’ pushes that narrow remit to its fullest potential,” according to Games Radar+.

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