Holiday Gift Guide: Roleplaying Games

Have a player who’s rolled a natural 20 at being good this year? Need a suggestion on what to bribe your favorite Game Master with? Put these amazing roleplaying games in your shopping cart and you can’t go wrong!


Best GM Aid

How To Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck (Goodman Games)
MSRP $29.99 (print) // $15.00 (digital)
Available on Goodman-Games.com or at your local retailer

Few books get titled with such casual accuracy as this, but How To Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck is a guide to exactly that. It’s a compendium of decades’ worth of module writing experience from the team at Goodman Games, distilled into a short primer for any GM or aspiring designer in your life. I’d be willing to say that nothing else quite like it exists. Although the focus here is on traditional fantasy RPGs, the advice in this book is worthwhile regardless of preferred genre.


Best Licensed IP

Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook (Modiphius)
MSRP $59.99 (print) // $15.99 (digital)
Available on Modiphius.net, DriveThruRPG, or at your local retailer

Modiphius has only been on the RPG scene for a short while, but they’re already getting quite the reputation. Star Trek Adventures does nothing but solidify that. From the assembled talent who made the book (full of names any Star Trek or RPG fan should know well), to the elegant but still nuanced ruleset, to the layout and overall aesthetic, Star Trek Adventures screams “I understand and love Trek” in the best and most genuine of ways. For the Trek fan in your life, there’s no better gift this holiday season.


Best Book That Isn’t An RPG

Mobile Frame Zero (The Glyphpress)
MSRP $25.00 (print + digital) // $10.00 (digital)
Available on MobileFrameZero.com

Ever wanted to play a miniatures game without spending thousands of dollars on your army? Do you love LEGOs and mech fights? Mobile Frame Zero is the game for you. It’s not a new product by any means (being first released several years ago), but it deserves a place on this list all the same. You can even download the PDF rulebook for free if you’re on the fence. But I promise you, you shouldn’t be. And you won’t be once you look inside.


Best RPG For Children

No Thank You, Evil! (Monte Cook Games)
MSRP $39.99 (print) // $19.99 (digital)
Available on MonteCookGames.com or at your local retailer

Shanna Germain gets kids. I want to scream this from the rooftops every time I see a child running this game effortlessly and having a blast with it. She and the Monte Cook Games team have done something designers have struggled with for years: distilled what’s best about running traditional fantasy games like D&D into a ruleset that children as young as five can understand. No Thank You, Evil! has all the joy of a great children’s book with enough crunch left over to satisfy the adults at the table. But the real reason this game made the list is that nothing else I have ever seen, as a designer or educator, has so seamlessly taken young children from player to GM. It’s a feat for the ages, and once I hope you partake of with your own children.


Best Peaceful RPG

Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy Roleplay (Kotodama Heavy Industries)
MSRP $14.00 (digital)
Available on DriveThruRPG

Combat isn’t everything. Say it with me now: “combat isn’t everything.” As people, we recognize this as obviously true. But as players, we often forget it. Ryuutama is here to make sure we don’t. At its core, Ryuutama is about adventuring without fighting every obstacle. It’s about wanderlust and travel, and the people we meet along the way. Designer Atsuhiro Okada purposely made the game reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, and boy does that shine through. From the adorable aesthetic to the focus on the beautiful stories of everyday people, Ryuutama is a game that deserves a place on both your shelf and in your heart.


Best RPG For Horror Fans

Delta Green: Handler’s Guide (Arc Dream Publishing)
MSRP $59.99 (print) // $39.99 (digital)
Available on DriveThruRPG or at your local retailer

What can I say about Delta Green that hasn’t been said before? It presaged the X-Files’ insight into popular government conspiracies and the unknown. It revolutionized Lovecraftian horror when the first edition came out, and has kept it alive and strong ever since. And yet, somehow, the new edition takes everything further. The quality is higher, from the strong background narrative to the astounding layout and art. The rules are tight, supporting both action and investigation with equal aplomb. It’s a tome as occult as anything it references. Be careful – you might just find yourself lost within.


Best Indie RPG

Bluebeard’s Bride (Magpie Games)
MSRP $19.99 (digital)
Available on DriveThruRPG

Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson have created the most powerful, beautiful, terrible, fairy tale RPG I’ve ever seen. Bluebeard’s Bride is an accomplishment to be held up as a shining example of what RPGs can be at their absolute best. It’s an emotionally rough game, to be sure, taking you through some topics and experiences that many players might shy away from. But it is elegant, and it is powerful. It is a well-oiled pathos machine, ready to take you to darker places than you might dare. But if you dare, and I hope you do, you will be rewarded with something unlike anything before.


Best RPG For Fantasy Fans

Blades In The Dark (Evil Hat)
MSRP $30.00 (print) // $20.00 (digital)
Available on DriveThruRPG or at your local retailer

If you like playing a rogue, John Harper became your new God this year. Blades In The Dark is a dramatic and fundamental shift in how games about thieves and dirty, rotten scoundrels can function. Every piece of this games works in lockstep in a way that happens only once in a rare while, and they work beautifully both individually and together. From “clocks” that help track and fuel the meta-narrative accomplishments of your team, to the system of “Positions” and “Effects” that revolutionize how capers are carried out, Blades is full of new ideas I hope to see kept alive for years to come.


Most Interesting New Setting

Coriolis: The Third Horizon (Modiphius)
MSRP $52.99 (print) // $26.99 (digital)
Available on Modiphius.net, DriveThruRPG, or at your local retailer

This list is already chock full of great, inventive ideas. But when it comes to setting, Coriolis is in a league of its own. What if you took Arabian Nights and pushed it forward into the space age? That’s the central conceit of the universe of Coriolis, and every detail of it is wonderful. From the factions to the faiths of the future, there is no game that has so thoroughly captured my imagination this year. I’d recommend buying this game even if you never run it. Reading through it is great enough for the cost.


Honorable Mentions

Tales from the Loop
Veins of the Earth
Bubblegumshoe
Monsterhearts 2E


Think we missed a title that should have been included? Got another RPG you adding to your wishlist this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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