D&D Isn’t The Only TTRPG System, And We Shouldn’t Act Like It Is

D&D Isn’t The Only TTRPG System, And We Shouldn’t Act Like It Is

Hot take incoming: Dungeons & Dragons isn’t the only tabletop role-playing system out there, and we shouldn’t treat it like it is. To clarify, no, this doesn’t mean I want you to pack up your hoarded d20s or retire your bard. However, I do want you to broaden your horizons when it comes to TTRPG systems, because your superhero sci-fi murder mystery homebrew game with Frankenstein-ed D&D rules would be a hell of a lot better if you just picked a different TTRPG to play. Trust me.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, particularly when Dungeons & Dragons has all but reached singularity. New adventures, core books, and campaign settings come out every year, and it seems like the game could truly encapsulate just about any adventure within its five stats, cozy d20 system and familiar combat rules. Hell, if you’re on the Baldur’s Gate 3 train, you might even suddenly want to reform your playgroup for a campaign just like the old days.

If it’s good enough for the team behind Critical Role, it’s good enough for us, right? And sure, for your swords and sorcery or Spelljammer-inspired campaigns, it probably is — Dungeons & Dragons is a fantastic TTRPG with so much to offer and has a massive player base willing to pass on the knowledge to newbies. But I’m the little Aasimar on your shoulder right now, telling you that if you’re having to homebrew multiple new rulesets, reskin every stat block and character build, and create additional systems, just pick a different damn TTRPG to run your game with.

Call of Cthulhu RPG
Image: Chaosium

If you’re kept awake at night reworking character classes to be a bit more like superhero archetypes, utilise the hard work of someone else who did the same thing so hard they made another game and just play Mutants & Masterminds. If you’re trying to work out how to scare the shit out of your players and give them existential dread for life, just grab Call of Cthulhu. If you want to play a nosey kid in a nostalgic small town with a top-secret scientific facility, play Tales From the Loop. If you’re all about that cyberpunk life, try Cyberpunk Red.

You may argue that reskinning or lightly amending Dungeons & Dragons is easier because many players are already aware of how the system works, and I hear you. But not only are you missing out on experiencing a wealth of (relevant) fantastic worldbuilding in each system that’s bound to inspire you (whether you’re a DM or a player), most of these games offer rules as simple to learn as D&D, with unique modes of play that make playing TTRPGs feel fresh and fun again. 

Take Tales From The Loop, for example. If you fail a roll (using d6s in this case, which must reach a 5 or 6 to count as a success), you can ‘push’ your luck and reroll. If you fail, your kid becomes broken and must have a one-on-one interaction with their pre-selected ‘trusted person’ to complete tasks successfully again. Mechanically it’s pretty simple – RP a conversation to be able to do things again. In reality, this plays out like your Kid having a heart-to-heart with a trusted adult (maybe a parent, their favourite teacher, or an older sibling) to help them recover from an overwhelming situation. You know, like an actual kid would do. It might not seem groundbreaking, but if you’re more of a fan of the roleplaying side of TTRPGs, this is honestly a game changer with a focus less on numbers and more on collaborative experiences. 

Tales From The Loop TTRPG
Image: Simon Stålenhag / Modiphius Entertainment

Plenty of your TTRPG forebears have already done the hard work for you on heavily modifying Dungeons & Dragons’ D20 system or simply creating a completely different system entirely. There’s no need to agonise over unbalanced, janky rulesets when there are already games that have been already playtested and optimised for exactly the setting and gameplay you’re after. On top of that, there’s a wealth of great indie TTRPGs with completely different rulesets and concepts that are well worth exploring and supporting.

For a tabletop session that’s more enjoyable for you and your playgroup, don’t rely solely on your Player’s Handbook next time you’re considering a whacky setting or a new way to play. Check out all the options around you because, hey, you never know, you might find your new favourite tabletop game.

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