Popular Game Systems

This list includes several popular Tabletop Role-Playing Games with links to their official websites and information on who might enjoy them. Many of these games have materials available to download for free from their publishers’ websites. Take a look and see what catches your eye!

Dungeons & Dragons

An adventuring party battles a dragon
Source: Wizards of the Coast, LLC

Set in a high-fantasy world of fantastical creatures, powerful magic, and exciting treasures, Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, is perhaps the best-known tabletop roleplaying game. Due to its long history and popularity, D&D has oodles of official and “home brewed” (fan-created) adventures, books, and tools specifically designed to help players tell a story full of adventure, excitement, and most importantly, fun. Basic Rules and character sheets are available to download for free from the official website. Dungeons & Dragons is recommended for lovers of fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Witcher video games, and the work of Tamora Pierce.

Lasers & Feelings

Lasers and Feelings header image
Source: John Harper

This rules-lite science fiction adventure designed by John Harper is available for free as a PDF and is infinitely adaptable, with a number of hacks, or slightly tweaked versions of the game, available in every genre for free or at a low cost. Lasers & Feelings is recommended for fans of space-faring science fiction media like Star Trek and Cowboy Bebop.

Fate

Fate Core System book surrounded by tokens and dice
Source: Fate SRD

Fate is a generic RPG system that can be adapted to any setting or genre from high fantasy to superheroes to cosmic horror, and a wealth of supplemental material is available to further customize your game. The system’s rules are freely available on the Fate SRD (System Reference Document) website. Fate is recommended for players ages 12 and up.

Blades in the Dark

Blades in the Dark art of a young woman encountering a ghost in a luxurious mansion.
Source: John Harper

In this dark fantasy adventure by John Harper, players navigate a steampunk city full of political intrigue and occult mysteries.The Player’s Kit is available to download for free on the game’s official website. Blades in the Dark is recommended for fans of dark urban fantasy such as Netflix’s Arcane, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, ages 13 and up.

Scum & Villainy

A pair of space-farers take cover during a battle in Scum and Villainy
Source: Evil Hat Productions

In this science fiction TTRPG based on the same system as Blades in the Dark, you play as the scrappy crew of a spaceship in a universe dominated by the authoritarian Hegemony, powerful crime syndicates, and mysterious forces beyond your understanding. Basic game rules are available for free download from the official website. Scum and Villainy is recommended for fans of space operas like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy ages 13 and up.

Shadow Run

A group of shadowrunners do battle in a cyberpunk city.
Source: The Topps Company

In the dystopian, futuristic world of ShadowRun, players portray shadowrunners, scrappy outcasts fighting to survive in a world dominated by megacorporations. Along with futuristic technology, players have access to magic and can play as elves, orks, trolls, and dwarves in addition to humans. Quick Start Rules available for free on the game’s official website. ShadowRun is recommended for fans of cyberpunk films like Blade Runner and The Matrix ages 12 and up.

Call of Cthulhu

Two investigators running from an eldritch monster in Call of Cthulhu
Source: Chaosium

In this mystery horror game inspired by eldritch fiction, such as the work of H.P. Lovecraft, players are Investigators; ordinary people looking into mysteries that cannot be rationally explained– and that humankind was never meant to solve.The Quick Start Rules and character sheets are available to download for free from the game’s official website. Call of Cthulhu is recommended for fans of mysteries, science fiction, and horror, such as podcasts like Welcome to Nightvale and The Magnus Archives ages 14 and up.

Vampire the Masquerade

A rainy, dark city in the world of Vampire the Masquerade
Source: Paradox Interactive

In this reworking of a 1990s cult classic, players scheme, charm, and fight their way through the urban underworld as vampires with unique abilities… and deadly compulsions. Quickstart rules are available for free download on the official website. Vampire the Masquerade is recommended for fans of Melissa de la Cruz and Cassandra Clare ages 14 and up.