Three Alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons.

The nice thing about all of the games listed is that there is wide open ground for GMs to convert or create fantasy game settings all their own. The systems are all user friendly and players can roll with whatever they imagine their characters to be. All three are just as easy to learn if not easier than D&D.


I felt this might be a good time to discuss some Non-D&D games.

FATE

FATE. from Evil Hat Productions. This game has a lot going for it and cool artwork. If you love the roleplaying element of D&D, then this is probably a good system for you.

It’s easy to learn, easy to run and has cool dice. Honestly, any D6 can work, but their plus, minus, and blank dice are pretty cool. It’s another rules lite game where you can go as in depth or as vague as you’d like. I love it for its simplicity and adaptability as a writer and as a GM.

There is no officially published fantasy realm for this game (as far as I know,) but with little effort, a plucky GM could probably cook one up in a short amount of time. If nothing else, it would be easy to port characters, spells, items, and so on over to FATE from another game.

Cypher

Cypher by Monte Cook Games. Let me preface this mini-review by saying I’ve sold these guys short for years now. (Sorry MCG family. I kinda owe you one.) Originally, many moons ago, I game up on Cypher and recently one of the staffers at Monte Cook mentioned it on Twitter. I dug my copy out, went over it again, and I honestly have no idea why I disliked it now?

*Also, if you visit the Monte Cook Games website, please look around at some of their other work. They make a lot of great games and supplements for 5E. Some of the staff at MCG are gaming royalty having worked in the RPG industry for decades. They also have a really spiffy social media presence.

The system for Cypher will seem intuitive for most players if they are familiar with D&D or other D20 based games. Roll 1d20, add modifiers, and celebrate (or cry.) The Skill system will also look pretty familiar, so might Effort. Then the system takes a diversion from what one might expect.

Cypher is conceptually deep in places. Character generation is more like FATE in that it is based on what you prefer the character does and how well. There are really no hard and fast classes. Also, cyphers are spells, powers, unusual talents, and other abilities above and beyond the normal.

One of the most appealing features for me is that the GM never has to roll dice. Player rolls to attack vs monster’s defense. Monsters (controlled by the GM) cause players to make a defense roll. The GM never has to pick up the dice, leaving them free to come up with cool characters, plots, and control the flow of the action.

Cypher as a system is derived from the acclaimed RPG, Numenera. While Numenera isn’t really what I’d call a true medieval fantasy game, it does have a lot of neat sci-fi and fantasy elements being set in the far future. It’s a well-loved, expanded, fleshed out RPG that sci-fi and fantasy gamers alike can enjoy. There’s also a Community Content page on DrivethruRPG for those who wish to sell Cypher and Numenera content of their own.

Cypher is a core ruleset, much like FATE, Powered by the Apocalypse, Open Legends, or Cortex. As far as I’m aware there’s no official fantasy setting yet, but with the Community Creator program, there very easily could be one in the future. I’ve got a much more in depth article covering Cypher coming at a later time. Thanks Monte Cook Games for producing a real winner.

Open Legends.

Open Legend by Brian Feister and Ish Stabosz. Like FUDGE, this game is community based and basically FREE. It’s another generic system that does fantasy extremely well. You can certainly emulate other genres with it, as shown in the core book. Mixing genres is easy and practically encouraged.

I was attracted to this game because of its, well, openness. If you want to create your own sourcebook for it, they encourage it! Just make sure credit is given where due. It takes the idea of Open Game Licensing to a new level.

Again, it’s a fairly rules lite, easy to learn game. If you can master D&D 5E, Open Legends is easy and fun to pick up. It’s got the wholesomeness of Essence20 and similar games going for it. Roll 1d20+other dice vs Target Number. The spells and equipment are a bit more fluid in this system. It really does look like what a generic set of core rules should look like.

The nice thing about all of the games listed is that there is wide open ground for GMs to convert or create fantasy game settings all their own. The systems are all user friendly and players can roll with whatever they imagine their characters to be. All three are just as easy to learn if not easier than D&D.

Thank you for stopping in. More to come. Game on.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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