2020’s greatest tabletop RPGs (up to now), as chosen by followers

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Cover artwork for the in-fiction yearbook in BFF! — Best Friends Forever
Image: Taylor Dow/Heart of the Deernicorn

Many individuals consider tabletop role-playing games as a monolith, an area occupied solely by heavyweights like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and a handful of different AAA titles. Of course, that’s the identical as saying that the one two video games are Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto Online. In fact there’s a superb spectrum of contemporary tabletop RPGs, stuffed with novel games ranging in measurement from self-published micro-games to full-fledged make-believe worlds.

One of my favourite methods to maintain monitor of the very best tabletop RPGs is the annual Ennie Awards, handed out annually since 2001 on the annual Gen Con tabletop gaming conference. Gen Con is moving online this year, and so are the Ennies. This week, organizers introduced the nominations for Product of the Year. We’ve included all of the nominees in our roundup beneath.

The Ennies are distinctive amongst gaming awards. Judges are volunteers, who comply with a strict set of ethical guidelines. Chief amongst them is the vow to not have any skilled relationship with any RPG writer within the lead as much as the awards. They assist make sure that the Ennies aren’t only a reputation contest by winnowing down the handfuls upon dozens of submissions to solely the easiest. Once the quick listing has been created, voting on the ultimate winners is open to all.

This yr the voting interval runs from July three by July 12. You can discover the entire listing of nominees for each class at the Ennie Awards website.

BFF! — Best Friends Forever

Created by the mom and son crew of Terri Cohlene and Ross Cowman, BFF! — Best Friends Forever is an exquisite role-playing game that celebrates “girlhood, friendship, and adventure.” Players choose from 17 completely different standees to symbolize themselves on the desk, each delightfully illustrated by cartoonist Taylor Dow. Then they head off on an journey through a lavish map, hand-painted by Veta Bahktina. Gameplay is heavy on improvisation, with scenes set in main faculty and center faculty.

The Deck of Many Things

The Deck of Many Things isn’t an RPG in any respect, however a complement for the fifth version of Dungeons & Dragons. They are reference playing cards, with data on all the spells within the Player’s Handbook — together with cantrips — up by stage 5. The high-quality, lenticular playing cards have an eight-frame animation that reveals the impact of the spell in query in a Tarot-sized format.

A whole set — which features a bonus deck of Animated Things, primarily based on the wondrous item from D&D lore — runs for $300.00, and is at the moment on sale for $249.00. The crew at Hit Point Press additionally gives a digital version.

Mörk Borg Artpunk RPG

A skeleton, rendered in black ink, on a yellow background.

Image: Free League Publishing

From Free League Publishing — the identical crew behind the award-winning Tales From The Loop-themed RPG — comes a hardcore game known as Mörk Borg Artpunk RPG. Described as a “pitch-black apocalyptic fantasy RPG,” it’s firmly entrenched within the old-school revival (OSR) style, which celebrates the unique tabletop games of the 1970s. Anyone who misses the devilish themes of first-edition D&D or who revels within the Dark Souls universe will get an actual kick out of it. Otherwise, it additionally serves as a wonderful espresso desk guide.

Mörk Borg Artpunk RPG is on sale proper now by July 6 at 50% off on the Free League on-line storefront. It’s additionally accessible on Amazon.


Quest represents a profound rethinking of the RPG style, one which has been custom-made for people who find themselves new to those types of games. The core guide itself is described as extra of a information than a reference handbook, and character creation is completed through Mad Libs-style fill-in-the-blank character sheets. The game was created by T.C. Sottek, managing editor at our sister website The Verge, and edited by Polygon’s editor-in-chief Chris Plante. The attractive artwork is the work of Celia Lowenthal.

You can buy the game on the official website, the place there’s a number of free downloadable materials — together with a starting adventure.

[Disclosure: Chris Plante has no direct affect over Polygon’s tabletop gaming protection.]

Royal Blood

An out-of-focus stained glass rose.

Image: Rowan, Rook and Decard

Royal Blood is the most recent rules-light RPG from the crew at Rowan, Rook and Decard. Perhaps greatest identified for Honey Heist, a comedic single-page RPG about bears stealing honey, this time round they’ve gone a barely extra conventional route.

To play the game, all gamers want is the foundations booklet, a deck of Tarot playing cards, and some cash. Players tackle the position of the human characters within the deck, and are up in opposition to the decks’ extra ephemeral characters. From the official description:

YOU are a Royal – half-magic, half-human. You’re one of many courtroom playing cards from the tarot deck – the impetuous Princess of Wands, the calculating Knight of Pentacles, the empire-building Queen of Wands, and so forth. You use magic like a brick by the window of the world.

THEY are the Arcane – Death, The Hanged Man, The Devil, The Lovers, The Star. They are reality-bending monsters that put on human pores and skin like a go well with.

TONIGHT, earlier than daybreak, you will nook certainly one of them and take their energy in your personal in a heist the likes of which the worlds have by no means seen. The metropolis goes to burn. It’s going to be stunning.

You can discover the game — which is offered as a softcover and as a digital model — on the official website.

The Excellents: Excellent Princess Roleplaying

A brightly colored character sheet with room to draw your character and their party.

A personality sheet from The Excellents
Image: 9thlevel Games

Fans of high-fantasy, femme-forward adventuring ought to try The Excellents by Adriel Wilson and Chris O’Neil. The RPG runs on the Polymorph system, created by the crew at 9thlevel Games, and solely requires a single die for every participant on the desk. To run an journey, gamers should fill out a Princess Diary, kind a band, after which comply with the lead of the Game Mistress. Stats embody Crown, Heart, Sword, Shoes, Books, and Beast. You can decide up a replica on the official website.

Thousand Year Old Vampire: A Roleplaying Game

Tim Hutchings’ Thousand Year Old Vampire has been getting plenty of consideration since its Kickstarter marketing campaign was funded in 2018. It’s a solo game — though it will also be performed with teams — that depends on written prompts. Players tackle the position of an immortal, and should cope with the results of their immoral acts as single-sentence experiences. That sentence then turns into a reminiscence. Players are restricted to solely 5 recollections total, and should make the troublesome determination on what to overlook and what to maintain with them as they transfer on of their journey.

A downloadable model is offered now on itch.io.

Trilemma Adventures Compendium Volume I

Trilemma Adventures Compendium Volume I by Michael Prescott is a celebration of old-school RPG illustration, and a unbelievable assortment of quick dungeons and adventures besides. It’s totally appropriate with fifth version Dungeons & Dragons and loads of different programs, and would make a great gift in your favourite Dungeon Master. Available as a hardcover guide for $66, it consists of an illustrated bestiary, distinctive magical objects, and plenty of bonus materials like journey hooks and in-fiction handouts. It additionally comes with a free PDF model of the guide. It’s additionally accessible on DriveThruRPG.

Witch + Craft

Witch + Craft is an add-on complement for fifth version Dungeons & Dragons impressed by Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service. It provides a brand new talent set often called “domestic magic” to the game, including to the colour and texture of fantasy worlds. It lets you construct a fighter who can also be a carpenter, a wizard who occurs to be an award-winning chef, and extra. The guide additionally comes with an all-new journey setting known as Cape Verdigris, a land stuffed with expert craftspeople and a enjoyable journey to discover. It’s accessible in a print and a digital version for $35 and $10 respectively.

Zombie World

Zombie World is a card-based RPG that ought to be simply the factor for followers of The Walking Dead or Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Players start by creating their enclave of survivors, after which make their manner out right into a harmful world stuffed with the undead. The game boils down extra advanced ideas into bodily programs which are simply managed on the desk. The full equipment features a slim, 36-page rulebook, play mats for the Game Master and as much as eight gamers, over 100 playing cards, and a dry erase marker. Copies vary from $24.99 to $59.99.