Please recommend a proper RPG!

edited February 2013 in Play Advice
Hello everyone, I’m just getting into RPG’s and I have a question.

I’m primarily a boardgamer but I enjoy reading RPG rules. Once a month my boardgaming group plays D&D (4th ed) and it’s..... well, boring (you know what it’s like: “I check for traps” DM rolls behind his screen. “You find nothing”. “OK, I check again”, **rolls**, “You find nothing”, “OK, I check again” etc. And as for the combat, roll, miss - roll, hit - roll, miss etc).

Recently I got my hands on Mouse Guard and it went down an absolute blast (after the players got over looking at their skills and stats to decide what their mice were capable of and began to actually roleplay).

So my question is this: If I want something hackable (and the ‘Nature’ stat in MG makes hacking problematic), what system do you recommend?

I’m looking at Apocalypse World (as I hear good things about Dogs in the Vineyard by the same person, plus stuff like Ghost Lines seems mindblowing and I like the apocalyptic/supernatural vibe).

Or should I choose a GM-less system like Fiasco which has various different scenarios? (This seems less likely to be able to be configured into a campaign).

Or should I stick with MG (a system I am growing to love) and try to hack it? (Not sure if I have the mental agility to turn sword-wielding mice into a supernatural apocalypse!)

I love the ideas inherent in games such as Ghost/Echo and Apocalypse World that require the players to contribute to the worldbuilding. Anything that encourages proactive roleplay rather than the traditional reactive one-dimensional player responses is what I need for my group.

Many thanks in advance for your suggestions.



  • If you like Mouse Guard, stick with it. It's great. You could try Burning Wheel if your group prefers fantasy.

    Apocalypse World is great and there's a fantasy hack of it, Dungeon World, which many people like.

    I would start with those. And I'd try Fiasco for one week, as a break from the norm, and see how you like it.
  • There is a huge amount of roleplaying games out there. You can play perhaps one different title per month, realistically (unless you're part of a larger community where somebody else preps the games). You can read one per week, easily. Conclusion: just go out there, read some rpg texts and figure out for yourself what you like. Keep playing whatever you're playing, and once that loses its sparkle, switch to something appealing that you've found. Over time you'll develop a rough sense of what all the 10 000 rpgs published over the last few decades offer, enabling you to navigate the field.

    Also remember that there are large numbers of free rpgs out there in the Internet, so selecting a new game doesn't need to be this elaborate ritual swearing of allegiance accompanied by a $50 tithe to the rpg company. Just read up, read up and discover what you like.
  • Cheers Graham, I initially looked at Burning Wheel, but the general concensus over on RPG-geek was that the slimmed down MG rules were a lot better (I don't want to snarl up the player's brains with extra BW rules - they had enough trouble thinking of a Goal in MG as it is).

    My ideal plan is to create a world with the players using Microscope, add further localised detail using something like The Quiet Year and then let the players run riot in said world with my system of choice.

    Active participation in the world/story creation is what I want for my players. I want it to be as immersive as possible with morally grey areas the players themselves create and react to, rather than them just 'tooling-up' to slay the baddies I've created.
  • Cheers Eero, I have seen many of the free RPG's and I love the look and feel of many of them (e.g. Ghost/Echo) but the minimalist nature of many of them may prove a sticking point for the players, who coming from a more tradition background require a list of stats to visualise their characters.

    Not to mention, running a game with minimal rules is very daunting for me!

    I like the idea of running something new each month, thanks for the suggestion.
  • Graham's suggestions are good. If you try hacking Mouse Guard and find Nature to be a problem, just post about it on these forums and I'll tell you how you can swap it out for "proper" stats, like Burning Wheel has.
  • Thanks Johnstone, simply talking to you all is helping me get to grips with my nervousness over possible MG hacks.

    This is an interesting and helpful community.
  • Using multiple systems to build a game over time is fun and totally worth trying.

    There are a lot of games out there that will look at the same problem from a different angle, and using a few different rule sets to make a world is a cool way to get people involved.

    Finding a game where you are all equally comfortable getting involved can be tricky. Don't get discouraged when some people aren't as "in to it" as other people are. Try and talk about why that is, but don't put them on the spot. Sometimes, people just can't put their finger on why a game isn't working for them.

    I wish you the best of luck.
  • Your interest in setting things up with Microscope and The Quiet Year makes me think you should also look at Universalis. But it's not the "proper" RPG you're asking for. For that, given your expressed interests, I'd strongly suggest Apocalypse World which you mentioned.
  • My ideal plan is to create a world with the players using Microscope, add further localised detail using something like The Quiet Year and then let the players run riot in said world with my system of choice.
    I suggest you get your plan started, then! After accomplishing the first step - the Microscope step - there will be a solid base in place for discussion, to narrow down the range of choices and find an appropriate ruleset for your step #3. Not just the general kind of setting, in broad "fantasy vs SF vs spy story" terms, but also what the real focal points are.
    Should you report back on a forum like this with your Microscope "actual play" report and a "what game to keep playing in this world?" question, I anticipate lots of interesting answers.
  • We have had good luck with Fiasco, Microscope and The Quiet Year playing with members of our local Board game group.
  • Great stuff so far, and welcome, VALIS. (Woohoo Philip K. Dick!)

    Check out the BW forums for some excellent Mouse Guard hacks.

    By the way, here's the deal with BW vs. MG—and I am an expert in both: MG *is* a tighter design, and easier to grok, to boot. But, BW is more expansive, the mini-games are more interesting, and it's designed to be played for many dozens of sessions, whereas MG campaigns top out at around a 10-15 sessions, maaaaaaaybe 20. BW's *not* truly harder to learn, as long as you follow the advice in the book and stick to the core for the first six sessions or so.

  • edited February 2013
    Lots of good advice here. Apocalypse World and all its children are a great place to start, if the setting(s) appeal to you. The system is easily "hackable" (hence all the hacks), but requires quite a bit of work to hack, so starting with the pre-made hacks is a good way to go, until and unless you have the time to do so yourself. But none of those (as far as I know) make for a good "generic" game which you can use in different genres, etc. - you need a separate hack for each different game you'll want to play.

    One game I'd highly recommend which might be well-suited to your group and your needs, as you describe them, is The Shadow of Yesterday, particularly the version called "Solar System", published by Eero Tuovinen. It's inexpensive (and there's even a free version online), easy to use in any setting you dream up, is lighter in rules than something like Mouse Guard, but has enough support for a "traditionally minded" group. It was the "darling game" in the Story Games community a handful of years back, and is a really solid and fun game.

    Another free and easily accessible game is "Old School Hack", for light and fun fantasy adventuring.

    Finally, an easy game to play (and also free) is Lady Blackbird, by John Harper.

    Do a search for those three (Solar System, Old School Hack, and Lady Blackbird), and you'll have a nice starting palette to add to the various Burning Wheel and Apocalypse World-based games.

    (I'm picking games that are free or easily accessible, tend to be enjoyable right away, and have good procedures for play which a group can grab onto very quickly and easily.)
  • edited February 2013
    And Lady Blackbird is itself a hack of The Shadow of Yesterday and parts of Burning Wheel/Mouse Guard. It's easily hackable, as you can see here. So it may be right in your wheelhouse. :)
  • Yes!
    The Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System is a great in-between role-playing game.
    A great mix of old school and new.
  • Everything mentioned so far is great. Really, there's is an abundance of riches right now in tabletop RPGs, and hacking stuff and enjoying other hacks is a major part of where the fun is, IMO.
  • I like BW, but TSoY is much easier to get your head around and has many of the same strengths.
  • Thanks for the suggestions everyone, I have placed an order for Microscope, Fiasco and Apocalypse World based on your suggestions.

    @Harlequin Some members of my (admittedly boardgaming) group are quite obviously into different RPG’s, hopefully talking to them and developing a hack can allow them all to play simultaneously and enjoy themselves.

    @Deliverator I’ll stick to MG for the time being. BW may be easy to learn, but you’re an expert! Some of the group hardly play any RPG’s so something that appears to be intricate can be off-putting (and yes, PKD is an author who was born to roleplay, shame he didn’t live to see the stuff that’s around today).

    @Paul_T TSoY looks interesting and it’s on my radar now, many thanks for that! @John_Harper states his Lady Blackbird is a hack of MG and TSoY so deriving something from whatever we create in Microscope will be fun. (And AW will allow me an insight into what on Earth is going on in Ghost Lines!)

    I like the MG mechanics and hopefully AW and Microscope will encourage the players to actively participate in the world building resulting in an adventuring environment to which they have a stronger bond.

    That’s the plan anyway!
  • Board gamer group should not be scared of a crunch IMHO. (that's comment about BW)
  • Hi @samwise, it's not so much the crunch they're scared of, it's how the crunch integrates with the storytelling element. Boardgamers who enjoy negotiation games such as Cosmic Encounter or Sherwood Forest are more comfortable with RPG's than players who prefer the more 'dry' games with 'Euro' mechanics where you build resource engines with minimal player interaction (such as Race for the Galaxy, Puerto Rico etc).

    At my gaming club I know those who are going to be more 'into' the new breed of indie RPG's (they're generally playing a game involving lots of shouting rather than those studiously examining a board in silence), but I don't want to exclude those who are more 'quiet' from the glorious world of RPG's.
  • If you've got a few sessions of Mouse Guard under your belt you'll (probably) find that the Burning Wheel is pretty familiar as most mechanics are the same as their counterparts in Mouse Guard but more detailed. It is true that the text of Mouse Guard is better but the games themselves are very similar).

    As for BW Beliefs vs. MG Belief+Goal, BW Beliefs are essentially a MG Belief coupled with a related Goal ("The Duke is a traitor, I must infiltrate the guard to discover who his contact is" vs. B: "The Duke is a traitor", G: "We must discover who the enemy contact is"). Especially if you have some guidelines about what different beliefs should be about getting three good beliefs down isn't quite as daunting. The standard grouping is something like this one: one belief about the current situation, one about your character's long-term goals, and one about your companions.

    And echoing Deliverator, if you haven't gone their already, the Burning Wheel forums are a good place for BWHQ-specific discussion.
  • I'm of the opinion that MG does thing ass backwards. AW and other light trad game captures the magic of roleplaying games. Paint with narrow strokes and create a living world that you try to interpret with the help of rules rather than dressing dice-game skeletons with story furs.
  • edited February 2013
    Coming in late to the party, but since a fantasy title was not on your pick list, you might want to check out the Zorcerer of Zo. Based on the PDQ engine, it's pretty easy to pick up and run. It's also brutally easy to hack since it's an aspect based rules system.
  • @cathexis Thanks for the encouragement to dip into BW, I’ve been on the BW forums and picked up a few campaign ideas for MG. I think I’ll play 4 seasons of MG before I introduce BW – some of the players are still looking at their stats as if they define their characters limitations – it’s infuriating, but hopefully they’ll snap out of it (I have two patrols, Red patrol have taken to MG like a duck to water, Blue patrol are proving a little set in their D&D ways).

    @Krippler I have AW ordered and winging its way towards me as I type. If it proves to be more intuitive than MG I will most likely use it to game in the universe we create in Microscope. Hopefully it will be a fully interactive fleshing out of the world. I have high hopes (which normally crash down around my ears!)

    @zircher Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m a little wary of using a fantasy setting as I’m trying to punch the players out of their D&D mindset, so putting them in an unfamiliar (non sword & sorcery) world will hopefully enable them to break free of their old ways. Rolling the dice in front of them (rather than behind a screen) is freaking them out but slowly they’re getting used to the idea of not levelling up, no money and no treasure accumulation. I fear a S&S world will re-engage their old habits.

    Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions.
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