Best RPGs of 2018

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Best RPGs of 2018

Postby Luke » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:25 pm

So each year I put up a post to get a feel from Wellingtonians what RPGs published that year have been their favourite. Though this thread is aimed at RPGs published in 2018 only, please feel free to mention supplements or any other RPG you encountered this year that stood out.

Last year's thread is here:

2018 surmounted the peak of 2017 and reached new heights. In all previous years, though I list 5 RPGs, I know only the top 2 or 3 will see regular play at my table. However, this year is the first where I expect the same of the top 4 or 5. Some of this is from a shift in my own gaming to focus on games that are playable as well as being good quality. Some of this also ties in with GMing shorter run campaigns and being prepared to offer games when the opportunity arises.

The two mainstays of my RPGing at the moment feature prominently in my list. The first is the Powered by the Apocalypse RPGs that continue to gain my favour both for being well designed and also highly playable in my current lifestyle. As predicted, this is the first year where a PbtA RPG has made the top spot and I already have 5 PbtA RPGs lined up as contenders for 2019. The system is also seeing broader application in the likes of Kult and even more farther afield in the Fria Ligan RPGs that meld many of the PbtA concepts with those of traditional RPGs of the 80s and 90s. Fria Ligan's are the all-stars of the industry at the moment, and this is shown in the track record of having every one of their RPGs in my top 5 over the last 4 years.

The second is D&D5e, which has proven to be such a reliable edition of D&D and reaching new heights of popularity. Though this year has seen the release of a number of dubious release reminiscent of the dark days of 3e, there have been some strong releases. Adventures of Middle Earth and Amethyst have both made my list previously and they are joined this year by Esper Genesis. Its combination of sticking close to the tried and tested system of 5e but with a new space opera reskin is just fantastic.

My top five for 2018 are:

1. Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2e: This is a solid example of a PbtA RPG that has been extended in new directions with a generational mechanic. This enhances the post apocalypse setting as it emphasises the idea of time and changing civilisation. The RPG balances evocativeness and versatility well with great rules, player options and art. This has been demonstrated with a series of alternative games/settings, each which look appealing yet quite different.

2. Esper Genesis: I already discussed this above, but Esper Genesis avoids the most common pitfall of OGL products of straying from the heavily playtested core D&D system with new less robust mechanics that stick out like a sore thumb. This is often emphasised by having the RPG require the use of the D&D books, literally putting those rules side by side. Instead, Esper Genesis provides an entire replacement for the D&D rules but for a space opera setting. It sticks close to the core D&D system but reskins it entirely to present a cool new genre and setting.

3. Kult: Divinity Lost: This is an excellent throwback to the horror RPGs I loved in the 90s, but with a brand new PbtA derived system. Though the PbtA system here has moved quite some way from Apocalypse World towards a more traditional system, which I am sure will upset some purists. However, the rules seem well thought out and, from my listen to an actual play podcast, it works well for horror. I am excited to combine my 90s nostalgia with my current favourite system.

4. Forbidden Lands: Like Kult, this is an excellent throwback, though this time to my favourite fantasy RPGs of the 80s. As with other Fria Ligan RPGs the production on this just excellent, with the black and white line art from renowned Swedish artist Nils Gulliksson. The system shows no hint of the older RPG systems that are generally seen in a throwback RPG of this kind, yet it still retains the feel and charm of those RPGs. In addition, the mechanics for sandbox play and support for aspects of RPGing that are peculiar to those older RPGs, such as domain management, also really shine.

5. The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power. This is a dark fantasy political PbtA RPG. At first, it didn't appeal as the presentation was quite dense. However, on further review, it proved to be actually a good take on the genre and wide enough to run games in the style of First Law and Game of Thrones. Behind the dense presentation was a robust yet economic system for this style of play. It now sits in the traditional fantasy space where Urban Shadows sits for urban fantasy.

A notable mention goes to Familiars of Terra. This is a new RPG from a new publisher. It mixes the vibe of Legend of Korra and Pokémon for an RPG that is suitable for all ages. I particularly liked how the system is light, but during combat used Pokémon card game style tactics to further its emulation of its inspirations.

My 2017 choices: Tales from the Loop, Masks, Conan, The Watch, Blue Rose (AGE).

My 2016 choices: Godbound, Coriolis, Adventures in Middle-Earth, Amethyst, Genlab Alpha.

My 2015 choices: Shadow of the Demon Lord, Urban Shadows, Mutant Year Zero, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, Exalted 3e.

My 2014 choices: Far Away Land, D&D 5e, Ryuutama, Icons: Assembled Edition, Book of Cairn.

My 2013 choices: Atlantis: The Second Age, Double Cross, Warbirds, Golden Sky Stories, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.

My 2012 choices: Tenra Bansho Zero, Shadows of Esteren, Marvel Heroic , Hellas 2nd Ed., Legends of the Wulin.

My 2011 choices: One Ring, Mistborn, Fabled Lands, Vampire the Masquerade 20th Ann. Ed., Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.

My 2010 choices: Eclipse Phase, Gamma World D&D4e, Dresden Files, Eoris, Icons.

My 2009 choices: D&D4e, Mouse Guard, Summerland, Anima, WFRP3e.

My 2008 choices: CthulhuTech, Dragon Warriors, D&D4e, Dark Heresy, Grimm.

My 2007 choices: CthulhuTech, Star Wars Saga Ed., Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Solomon Kane, BlissStage.

My 2006 choices: A Game of Thrones OGL, Spirit of the Century, Qin, Burning Empires, Agon.
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Re: Best RPGs of 2018

Postby Paul » Wed Oct 10, 2018 6:14 am

It is a really interesting list this year.
What do you see on the horizon we should care about?
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Re: Best RPGs of 2018

Postby Luke » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:33 am

Paul wrote:What do you see on the horizon we should care about?

My list of contenders for 2019 are currently (in no real order):
- Things from the Flood (a darker 90s sequel to Tales from the Loop)
- Zombie World (a card based con friendly zombie PbtA RPG)
- Impulse Drive (a sci fi PbtA RPG, currently being KSed)
- Flying Circus (a Porco Rosso inspired PbtA RPG)
- Dragon World (a fantasy comedy anime PbtA RPG)
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