PnP RPG Rule Systems: Your Faves


The two games I currently enjoy the most are Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars (Age of Rebellion specifically) and Stars Without Number.

If you like the setting, FF Star Wars is cool if you have the disposable income, because even the core rulebook isn’t exactly cheap and you’re likely going to want at least one additional set of their completely custom dice. The game itself is not perfect, but a lot of fun, with the so-called “narrative dice” bringing a lot of variation to skill check results: it’s completely possible that the dice dictate that you totally succeed at what you’re trying to do, but also have something terrible happen, or the other way around.

Stars Without Number on the other hand has a completely free version that has everything you need. There is a paid version of the core rules that has a few additional (but 100% non-essential) chapters, plus several supplements, but the free edition really is a full package.
The setting is a kind of post-post-apocalypse, with humanity and other alien species starting to come back from a psychic Scream that effectively disabled most of their technology.
The game is very focused on sandbox gaming, giving the GM lots of tools to facilitate this, mostly in the form of random tables and structural advice. The actual mechanics are relatively lightweight and purposely old-school so that it’s easy to import stats for things like D&D Monsters and reskin them to fit the sci-fi setting.
If you’re interested in this system, a revised edition has recently kickstarted and the beta version of the new rules is also available for free. I like the changes a LOT, especially character creation gives players way more tools to make their characters mechanically distinct.


My personal favorites are the Burning Wheel and the Powered by the Apocalypse families of games, as well as Blades in the Dark.

Burning Wheel is an dense and heavy game focused on drilling down into what your characters care about. It has extensive skill and traits lists and it’s character creation system lets you build anything from a ditch digger to an elven king. I’ve found it to be well suited to more social focused fantasy campaigns. Austin also played in an awesome campaign of BW over on Roll20. Other games in the BW family are Torchbearer, which is all about dark and dreary dungeon crawling, and Mouse Guard, which is about sentient mice protecting their country.

The PbtA game I’ve player the most is Dungeon World. In my AFK group we prefer it over D&D, as it’s really quick to get going and doesn’t have a lot of bookkeeping. Of course it also features all of the failing forward goodness that other PbtA games provide.

Lastly there’s Blades in the Dark, which is absolutely incredible. It’s also easy enough to modify that I’ve decided to build my own monster hunting themed RPG on top of it. Design for that has been going pretty slow, but I’ll ask around here when the time for playtesting comes.


All these games I need to check out! Some interesting systems described in here, particularly in regard to character development and storytelling.

Been wanting to expand my small collection, so all of your thoughts are super-appreciated.

Prolly going for BitD first. Sounds like something that I need to experience. :slight_smile:


I like Feng Shui a lot - mechanically it does a really good job of handling the action to emulate the feel of action movies.

I also have a special place in my heart for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, though I know it has some very real flaws.