What Are Currently Your 3 Favorite Modern RPGs

edited March 2018 in Story Games
List 3, no more, no less

Define modern anyway you like, but be honest about it, don’t just define it in a way to add some old ass game to your list that you like.


  • "As books only" cuts some of the top of the list off, but I'm still left with Dog Eat Dog, Monsterhearts, and... Fiasco, I guess. In that order.
  • edited March 2018
    "As books only" cuts some of the top of the list off, but I'm still left with Dog Eat Dog, Monsterhearts, and... Fiasco, I guess. In that order.
    I changed the post to be more inclusive. Change your favorites if you like :)
  • 3. Annalise
    2. Nobilis 3e
    1. Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine
  • Tough call.

    Maybe Dog Eat Dog, Monsterhearts, and Dogs in the Vineyard.

    But my list would probably change if you asked me again in an hour.

  • I changed the post to be more inclusive. Change your favorites if you like :)
    Well in that case...
    1. Dog Eat Dog
    2. Dream Askew
    3. Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist, and Weaver of Their Fates

    The last one is pretentious and dumb, but I've got so much out of it despite never having succeeded in playing it that I feel like it has to be on the list somewhere.
  • Blades in the Dark
    Dungeons & Bananas (not sure how old this is)
    Um... does Burning Wheel Gold count? :)
  • I am really enjoying Red Markets more than any RPG I've read in a long while. Have yet to play it, though.

    Masks: A New Generation

    Third spot is reserved for whatever the hot newness is.

  • edited March 2018
    I am really enjoying Red Markets more than any RPG I've read in a long while. Have yet to play it, though.
    Do you think Red Markets is crunchy...would it take along time to learn the rules and play? It looks cool but I don’t have tons of time to learn and play crunchy systems.

  • 1. Apocalypse World - stealth traditional, actually teaches good GMing techniques
    2. Den Yttersta Domen - extremely tightly wound clockwork of drama & destruction
    3. I have not played many RPGs I actually like, Mutant: Year Zero had a good idea but flawed execution
  • @Krippler, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Mutant: Year Zero. Everything I've heard about the game has been high praise, a very well-received game. What do you see as flaws?
  • My favourite (modern) game will forever be 1.) Ghost/Echo. I was just coming back to RPGs after a long hiatus, and it's elegant system and spare play-to-find-out (PtFO) setting both shocked and amazed me, I hadn't imagined a roleplaying game could be like that. But I didn't quite grasp the play-style completely until I read Vincent's otherkind-dice post on his blog, Anyways, and saw 2.) Otherkind the game. It was an epiphany for me. I thought, and still think, the resolution mechanic was beautiful. Fortune-in-the-middle is my favourite kind of system. These might not be modern enough so, my most modern favourite is 3.) Kingdoms of Ooo. It's not very well known, it seems. It's another PtFO game hacked by Mike Wight from a WoDu chassis (so it's 2d6+stat), but with lots of nifty innovations of its own. Players write their own moves. Your role and moves have an efect on the world building and narrative which is collaborative and backed up by a token system. The setting is the world of Adventure time. It's only 16 pages. You can find it here https://rpggeek.com/rpgitem/167181/kingdoms-ooo

    My favourite game, modern or tradtional, will always be Ghost/Echo. So...

    1. Ghost/Echo (by John Harper)
    2. Otherkind (by Vincent Baker)
    3. Kingdoms of Ooo (by Mike Wight)

    Honourable mention goes to The Mesopotamians (by Nick Wedig). The mechanics are really interesting and the setting and character combination is so strange that I can't imagine it wouldn't be fun. I've only read the rules. You can find it here https://rpggeek.com/rpg/27012/mesopotamians
  • effect
    Adventure Time
  • The Black Hack—simple, fast, fun. Very hackable.
    Into the Odd—excellent science-fantasy setting, mechanics are easy to grok.
    Danger Patrol—John Harper.
  • Primetime Adventures
    Dead of Night
    Blood & Water (sorry, but I really do love my own game)
  • Freemarket - I've waxed lyrical on another thread recently
    Houses of the Blooded - IMO it does Aspects better than Fate and has everything I want for tragic stories
    Dog Eat Dog - every game of this I've played has been a powerful experience and the design is perfect

    I have a list of games I've missed out on playing in the last few years, and I'm sure there's are others I just don't know about, so perhaps I should start a new thread about that...
  • edited March 2018
    Three isn't enough! >_<

    Okult, by @Wilhelm Person, definitely makes the top three. It's a pinnacle of minimalist RPG design.

    And I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't mention Apocalypse World, the game that (1) made it fun again for me to be a GM (which lead to my re-discovery of Sorcerer, of all things) and (2) made me care about "post apocalyptic" as a genre for the first time ever, got me excited for SF again for the first time since my 1990s affair with cyberpunk, as well as (3-ish) really advancing my understanding of and appreciation for the contemporary (American) English language.

    Can't make my mind about the third spot - too many games vying for it. I may get back to this thread eventually.
  • edited March 2018
    I will define modern broadly since I have not played very many games but they were all from the modern era. So I will go with:

    Paranoia for setting, atmosphere, humour, and fun
    Maze Rats for minimalist OSR dungeon crawling
    D&D 3.0 for heady fantasy simulationism, still waiting to be supplanted by something that does the same thing better
  • I wish more people would tell the stories behind why these games are their favourites.
  • Sorcerer, Apocalypse World, The Veil.
  • edited March 2018
    @Paul_T I have only played two session in a campaign that fizzled out. Mutant was originally the Swedish rip off of Gamma World and went through several iterations since the 80's (the most interesting setting imo being Undergångens Arvtagare [heirs of the apocalypse] where the protagonist society was a warped version of 18th century Sweden).

    The Good Idea of Year Zero is having a community as a constant in the campaign. The community is both the homebase, source of new player characters, driving force for exploration (the mutants are sterile and dying off) and tangible progression. By donating scrounged artifacts or using your skills on downtime project the players raise the various societal levels of the mutant community (tech, defense, culture and food iirc) and the projects provide tangible benefits to further the exploration game as well as provide definite flavor and evolution of the community (projects you build include everything from shrimp farms to defensive bunkers to cannibalism, emancipation and communism).

    The problems are the constrained and flavorless playbooks/talents/skills and the dice mechanics. It's hard to buy into the world as the options seem fake. In their effort to create distinct and flavorful playbooks that fit into the setting they ended up stifling instead of helping player creativity. When you read the Apocalypse World playbooks your (at least my) head explodes with possible character concepts. The brainer will be a mind-rapist in scuba gear 90% of the time but an equally valid character concept is someone who builds a giant antenna and keeps the peace by hurting people with psychic radio waves. The dog handler in M:YZ will be someone who has a dog that's either good at tracking or fighting. You have some auxillary skills too but nothing that makes the character stand out.

    At the same time the skill system is not naturalistic enough to give the feeling of a simulation. The different colored dice is a large part in this, every action is taking part in something transparently artificial. Everything feels balanced and constrained, like you are in a video game where having access to expert swordsmanship from the get go is going to ruin the pacing. Warhammer RPG 3rd edition had this problem too where cute dice and tokens degraded the immersion and versimilitude.

    To compare a talent from M:YZ to a very similar move from AW

    Advisor: when you help another player character he gains +1 to the roll but only if he follows your instructions.


    Oftener Right: when a character comes to your for advice, tell them what you honestly think the best course is. If they do it they take +1 to any roll they make in the doing and you mark an experience circle.

    I think you can see why the AW move is a vastly superior execution of the same idea here, both from fictional/mechanical clarity and changing the dynamic between characters. This problem runs through most of the book. I haven't played or read the newer campaigns, perhaps they changed the core to be more exciting but I doubt it. I think the campaign would be an A+ experience if you used a more complimentary system.
  • I'm going to define "modern" as "currently in print."

    1) Pathfinder - I'm a well heeled D&D player, and I am accustomed to using this sort of detailed tool for crafting fantasy campaigns. Pathfinder was the evolution of that. Pathfinder could be the last D&D-ish game to play this role, though. Pathfinder 1e feels pretty complete and I am deeply invested in it, and 2e sounds like it will be more Golarion specific, which is not what I am looking for in my robust fantasy games.

    2) Masks: A New Generation - My current, possibly short-lived, obsession. I played lots of supers games, but found that many of them were a bit too combat-enginey, and wanted something that had a bit stronger mechanical encouragement for drama and story development. I wasn't specifically in the market for a young supers game (though learning about Young Justice moved the needle that way). But I love the way the playbooks give the players fists of dramatic hooks.

    3) Gumshoe. Sort of cheating here, because I don't like all Gumshoe; some variants I find too simplistic. But the more robust games like Nights Black Agents and Timewatch work for me. I like how easy it flows, and the whole idea of preparedness checks to simplify management of gear.

    Honorable mention) Fate. It feels a bit samey to me, and often a bit hard to make players feel challenged, but it's light and flexible and easy to build a lot of campaign ideas quickly.
  • Thanks, @Krippler! That's tremendously interesting to me, and a good overview.
  • 1. Remember Tomorrow (GM-less Cyberpunk campaign-play - all three big plusses, really invites me to invest in other people's character and faction-ideas, fast-changing conditions drive the game and keep consistency, it's all about the lives and circumstances of alienated characters in an urban environment instead of the more common party- or drama-based approaches, as Gregor Hutton says "At the end of the day they [the characters] come and go in a world that is bigger than the little snapshots of them that we get to see.")
    2. Dog Eat Dog (it is amazing to watch the simplest things become profound interaction in this game, from the first scene onward this reliably draws me into the life on and tragedy of the island, I call this the best-designed rpg I know.)
    3. Kagematsu (I love how the imposing structure of this game is essentially about a small thing: getting the ronin to give you a promise, some drama rpgs tend towards grandstanding and overacting, whereas Kagematsu is kind of an opposite to that: with hidden love and pity small gestures too might get you a long way, like my top 2 it has that different points of view-thing, where we get windows into the lives of more or less ordinary people.)

    These games have been solid favourites for a while now and I don't expect that to change soon.
  • Awww yeah, Remember Tomorrow is brillo!
  • Lady Blackbird, Ghost/Echo, Ghost Lines
    (John Harper basically)

    Yes, these are three games, yes, they are very different mechanically, but I'm counting them as one entry. Think of it as a stand-in for less than 10 page games that provide a vivid, limited sketch of the setting in the fluff and mechanics, that then let you run and build the story as you go.


    Follow's broadness can make it hard to play when coming in cold. However, its flexibility is incredible and its mechanics allow it to consistently create contained, directed stories. These strengths really shine when playing it as an aside to a different campaign, using a prebuilt world that the players are already invested in. I love it for that reason (this also applies to Kingdom).


    I generally play a one-page FATE-like system for my longer form games. I really love aspects, and while the system isn't thematic, and it does play very well and encourages strong character work. I do have some problems with the core rules' 'gaminess,' but I've ended up just working around that part.

    I haven't spent enough time in PbtA games, but plan to in the near future, and wouldn't be surprised to see my FATE hack get kicked to the curb in exchange for a wider array of more thematic PbtA games.
  • Remember Tomorrow and Kagematsu are both very high on my "want to play" list.
  • Heh, if we can lump all Gumshoe into one many-headed game, then that’s number 3.

    I think the basic mechanics of Red Markets are really simple and easily hackable: one red d10 and one black d10 for everything, you burn charges of various resources to get bonuses.
  • I think I need to differentiate between (A) favorite-to-GM and (B) favorite-as-player. The reasons for this are pretty complicated, but basically boil down to the fact that I am very often frustrated as a player by GMs' lack of system knowledge. So the things on my favorite-to-GM list are often things where I've had pretty bad experiences as a player!

    A) Favorite-to-GM

    3) PbtA generally.

    I love the way these games support functional strong GMing practices, as so many others have said. A little bit of prep goes a long way. Easy to make custom moves to support different scenarios. There's also a lot of unexplored potential for crossing over between different PbtA games at the same table.

    2) 5th Edition D&D.

    I find 5E natural and easy to run in a way that makes both the fiction and the characters' individuality matter... but only because of my training on lots of other games, all indie darlings. Advantage / Disadvantage are easy to adjudicate, and characters can gain lots of interesting and fun powers. It's also not hard to challenge PCs because of the way Bounded Accuracy works: you can throw 8 Orcs at a high-level party and the Orcs will still be a little scary / do a little bit of damage before being taken down.

    3) Burning Wheel, including Mouse Guard.

    I've run these games enough that they're simply very easy for me to adjudicate; MG I can actually run just about without cracking the book. Although I generally find "failure porn" frustrating, I've found that by leaning into GMing hard while still "being a fan of the characters," I can help players have satisfying experiences and overcome challenges.

    B) Favorite-to-Play

    3) Beyond the Wall, with some hacking of the XP system.

    BtW is an OSR game that aims to emulate Young Adult fantasy novels like The Chronicles of Prydain. The playbooks have evocative names like Heir To a Legend, Fae Foundling, Student of the Dark Arts, Gnomish Godparent, and so on. However, every playbook is just a specific instantiation of the OSR classes Warrior, Rogue, and Mage, or multi-class Warrior/Rogue, Warrior/Mage, or Rogue/Mage.

    Everyone chooses a playbook, and then you make characters together. The character creation process involves generating your character's backstory, mostly randomly though with some control, and in the process gaining stats and skills. Even more important, at various points during chargen, you are prompted to create new NPCs and new locations in the town. Another PC is always present during some moment of conflict or crisis in your background, and that PC also gains a stat mod as a result.

    The second book, which is really necessary if you're going to play a campaign and not a one-shot, introduces a fun procedure for making a wilderness hex-map around the main town. The players have a hand in crafting what populates it, but the GM rolls in secret to see how accurate their information is.

    What we're finding in our ongoing game of BtW is that it is low-powered relative to a lot of fantasy RPGs, but not low-magic: all of our characters are magi (although some of us are multi-classed), and there is a whole lot of weirdness in our game. We've gone to another dimension, found and activated a Dwarven battle-bot called the Dwarfinator, spoken to spirits, overturned a sacrificial altar, fought and negotiated with Goblins, and met Elves who were cursed into horrid and painful animal-hybrid forms.

    Bonus: My stuffed pig Lord Sloppingham is an important NPC in our game, because I chose the Assistant Beast-Keeper as my playbook, and the Magical Talking Pig as my animal companion.

    2) RuneQuest 6th / Mythras, with some hacking.

    The combat system combines much of what I like about BW with Riddle of Steel, and the Passions rules (at least the way we used them) are like more-active Beliefs. Our campaign, which was about 28 or 30 sessions over 2 and a half years (once a month), evolved into a "relationship sandbox" where the complex web of the setting as a whole mattered almost as much as the individual PCs; many NPCs would be played, troupe-style, in different scenes, and thus took on lives of their own. It's also the only campaign I've been in where I've had a character get killed, then made a new character and just kept playing. I also loved the variety of magic systems in play, and especially the brutality of the main human sorcery system, which was fueled by human sacrifice.

    1) Godbound

    Also an OSR game, but this time at the very highest possible end of the power spectrum, since the characters are literal demi-gods. This is a game set in a crapsack world, but you have the power to change it for the better. Lots of scary extra-dimensional weirdness and monsters, human suffering, immensely fun and creative PC powers, simple and easy to play (though not to GM). This game has also given me the opportunity to play the most aggressively meta character concept I've ever been able to pull off, as I documented here.
  • Tenra Bansho Zero (Okay, it was made in 2000 in Japan, but it released to most of us in 2013). I still can't get past the awesome fusion of moderate crunchings with the Karma engine and the sheer PULL of the world.
    Blades in the Dark; There's been plenty said about this one already. We've been playing since one of the early quickstarts, and it has treated us well.
    Uh... tough one for #3. Maybe... Ben Robbin's Follow? Oh hey, someone mentioned this one already. Rockin'. Okay. I guess I'll put Fall of Magic here instead.

    Honorable mention to The One Ring since it seems to just -print- Tolkienesque fiction.
  • edited March 2018
    Noticing how many times Dog eat Dog was present in this thread I picked a copy of it. Very clever design and very interesting in the author's notes. It really deserves the appreciation you are showing.
  • Yeah! I'm kind of surprised (but pleased) to see it getting so much love. Despite being such a well-designed game, it's not one of the usual suspects in terms of indie-RPG attention (contrast anything PbtA).
  • edited March 2018
    I agree. Dog Eat Dog is probably either first, or tied for first, when it comes to the best designed GMless-ish games I’ve played. I really wish the author would offer it in print and I really wish he would design more games. It’s crazy that such a good game isn’t more widely known and offered in print anymore.
  • It's also just... SO well written. There aren't many games a total RPG novice can just pick up and thoroughly understand on the first reading.
  • edited March 2018
    Quick FYI for those who are interested but I think I have a spare copy of Dog Eat Dog in print if anyone would like it sent? I've recently moved house so I'll have to hunt about, but pm of yr interested and we can work something out (perhaps swap me something or pick up one of those newer games I've been eyeing up as exchange). Heck, I also have the suppliment for it that I don't really use any more and would be willing to part with.
  • That said you will have to pry the tokens for it out of my cold dead hands as they are some of the best feeling tokens I've ever received with a game.
  • ...there are tokens and a supplement for Dog Eat Dog?!?!?!?
  • edited March 2018
    @Paul_T - Yeah, they were part of the kickstarter rewards. I'll get a photo of them up if you like? (I'm feeling like an ancient wanderer that has returned to their homeland carrying with them lost wondrous artifacts of a bygone age)
  • edited March 2018
    ...there are tokens and a supplement for Dog Eat Dog?!?!?!?
    Jeez, Paul, and to think, I thought you we one of the cool kids. ;)

    ...I had to look it up. I guess it’s called Asocena. Who knew?
  • Whoa. I'd love to see some photos, sure!
  • 1. Blades in the Dark - Best toolset for player-driven, long term play (earning rep, upping tier, taking claims, etc) with great built-in consequences (status with other gangs, haunting, heat and wanted system, etc). Favorite system without a doubt.

    2. Mouse Guard - Great structure for play. Scarcity of actions during player turn make choices feel meaningful. One of my favorite character creation systems. A lot of what I loved about Burning Wheel pared down (it's less like doing your taxes).

    3. Masks: A New Generation - Systems like conditions and teamwork reinforce the genre in play. The playbooks themselves are evocative while letting players bring a concept to the table and match it to moves. The only mark against it is that it tends toward being more GM-driven than player-driven, compared to its PbtA precursors.

  • edited March 2018

    I changed the post to be more inclusive. Change your favorites if you like :)
    ...Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist, and Weaver of Their Fates

    The last one is pretentious and dumb, but I've got so much out of it despite never having succeeded in playing it that I feel like it has to be on the list somewhere.
    Can you explain what you mean when you say you “never [have] succeeded in playing it?” Do you mean that you’ve never played it, or that you’ve never had a successful session when you have played it, or do you mean something else? Thanks :)

  • Den Yttersta Domen - extremely tightly wound clockwork of drama & destruction
    Do you know if this is available in English? Thanks :)
  • Dog Eat Dog
    Apocalypse world
  • Sign in Stranger

    (Close: Within My Clutches, Monsterhearts, Dogs in the Vineyard. Delve and Puppetland would be top 3 but I don't think they count as "modern"...?)
  • Sign in Stranger

    (Close: Within My Clutches, Monsterhearts, Dogs in the Vineyard. Delve and Puppetland would be top 3 but I don't think they count as "modern"...?)
    I think they count as modern. Which one specifically would be in your top three, if you included them?
  • All fall down (Ryan Ó Laoithe)
    Lady B (John Harper)
    my jewel
  • I think they count as modern. Which one specifically would be in your top three, if you included them?
    Sign in Stranger

    Although as a one-shot I'd probably rate Kagematsu # 2.
  • 1. Follow (I really like how the group might succeed, or not. Something that sometimes bothers me in Fiasco since the group always fails there :(

    2. Final Voyage of the Selene
    (I really like how the hidden goal changes and pushes the narrative in the second act)

    3. Microscope

    No Boundaries, the fast setup, familiar setting, and limited scene selection make playing very easy. A couple of additional playsets could dethrone Follow for me.
    Fiasco, because of all the playsets, but it feels samey after a while.
    Downfall, I love the world creation, but sometimes I am greedy and do not want to share characters. Also, if we are not 3 players, it is hard to play.

  • 2. Final Voyage of the Selene (I really like how the hidden goal changes and pushes the narrative in the second act)
    Does happy dance.

    However, it would not be fair to mention The Selene without mentioning it's inspiration, Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne.

  • 2. Final Voyage of the Selene (I really like how the hidden goal changes and pushes the narrative in the second act)
    Does happy dance.
    James, why no hard copy version?
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