The most popular tabletop Role-Playing Games in 2015

We based our list on the games that are being talked about the most instead of looking at the ones that are being sold the most. Playing an RPG isn’t about spending a lot of money, so, many more persons could play it and just use the material that is for free. But if you find something you enjoy you will talk about it and there are a lot of places to discuss about RPGs online. Let us look at the ones about which there is the most hype on the Internet. We will only offer a short presentation here but we promise to cover them more in-depth in the future.

10. Call of Cthulhu

The most popular tabletop Role-Playing Games in 2015

The horror RPG is one of the most acclaimed in the genre and was first released in 1981 with the Basic Role-Playing system from Chaosium, adding special sanity rules. H.P. Lovecraft reigns supreme in this game and most of the themes are drawn from his work. The 7th edition was released in 2014 and throughout the years it won several awards for the outstanding atmosphere.

9. AGE systems – Dragon Age and Fantasy AGE

The most popular tabletop Role-Playing Games in 2015

The Dragon AGE RPG brings the world of Ferelden to tabletop gaming and was released in 2009, at the same time of the video game. It used the Adventure Game Engine and an innovative stunt system that made spellcasting and combat more interesting. Now the designers work at a more generic system entitled Fantasy AGE which doesn’t have a world attached to it. It became more popular due to the promotion it received from the Geek&Sundry show Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana and it provides a flexible system showcased greatly in the combination of fantasy and sci-fi provided by Titansgrave.

8. Savage Worlds

Combining role-playing and miniatures wargame, Savage Worlds is a generic system oriented on speed of play, so it is quite great for quick adventures or one-time gatherings. The game was released in 2003 and received several awards ever since like the Gamers’ Choice Award at Origin 2003 for the best role-playing game. There are several campaign settings designed for it such as Evernight, 50 Fathoms, Necessary Evil, Rippers and Low Life so there are plenty of options to choose from.

7. Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition

With this one, things got quite controversial because most people either loved the new approach or considered it not to be role-playing at all. Wizards of the Coast took the approach of making a system that would recreate the dynamic nature of MMORPGs and thus many things were simplified. The abilities became powers and skill points were eliminated. It was more combat oriented and the persons who enjoyed previous editions for the role-playing elements were disappointed by the edition, although on first release (December 2007) it was sold out and people still enjoy it today since the next edition is more of a comeback to the classical days.

6. Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition and 3.5

The 3rd edition was a major revision of the AD&D system released in 2000, converting to the d20 system, replacing THAC0 with a bonus to attack rolls and changing some of the rules that seemed useless or too complex. The prestige classes were added and skills became fundamental. Three years later they updated the system with a revised version to make it more stable and it expanded the DM Guide as well as the Monster Manual.

5. World of Darkness

The game offers three distinct universes and each of them was designed by a different person, so we have Mark Rein-Hagen, the people from White Wolf Gaming Studio and Monte Cook making up the three worlds. The original World of Darkness was created in 1991 when Vampire: The Masquerade was released and its theme is considered “gothic-punk”, resembling a contemporary world with the vampires, werewolves and wraiths fighting for control. The New World of Darkness has a different approach, using a “Storytelling system” with no specific setting material so that it can be used for any campaign and its flexibility brought the game the Gamer’s Choice Award at Origins 2004.

4. Old School Revival

Ok, this might be considered cheating since there are so many games in this category (Castles & Crusades, Monsters and Magic, Dungeon World, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Carcosa, The Dragon’s Path, to name a few), but they are usually gathered up into this single title and the people interested in one game should also try out the others. They want to bring back into modernity the rules and mindset of the original Dungeons and Dragons and if you want to find out more about this movement read our short history here.

3. FATE

This generic RPG system is one of the most minimalistic ones available (if you take the FATE Accelerated system) and its first edition was released in 2003 by Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue. The system used is based on FUDGE (Freeform Universal Donated Gaming Engine) and the character creation starts with a long list of skills at which characters are considered average, after which you have “aspects” that will underline your proficiencies and are described through short sentences that define your character. It received many awards and it managed to change the approach we have to role-playing since there are so few dice rolls. When Evil Hat Productions ran a Kickstarter campaign to release a new version they asked for $3,000 and raised $433,365, so saying that it is popular might be an understatement.

2. Pathfinder RPG

The most popular tabletop Role-Playing Games in 2015

Paizo Publishing took the Open Game License published by Wizards of the Coast and made their own version of D&D 3.5 in 2009, making a game that is even more popular than the one they took inspiration from. You can run D&D 3.5e campaigns in Pathfinder and the other way around, so it was nicknamed D&D 3.75. The moment when it came out was critical since many persons from the RPG community were giving up D&D 4e to return to the former edition and thus Pathfinder was a breath of fresh air, bringing them a lot of awards and thus allowing them to develop a huge line of products such as other games, novels, miniatures, comic books etc.

1. Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition

The most popular tabletop Role-Playing Games in 2015

After thorough testing this is now the latest D&D edition and it came out in the second half of 2014, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the game. Instead of making it as simple as 4E or as complex as 3.5e, this time the game had its rules reduced to what felt intuitive and left the focus more on the adventure itself. If in previous editions magic items were all over the place now they felt special and Wizards of the Coast changed their approach to the adventures they release, working on providing us with fewer materials but of a higher overall quality. It’s really new and yet still contains the old-school feeling. The characters have a background system that gives some insight into their past and their motivation, making them feel more alive while the combat is friendlier to the theater of the mind approach that increases the immersion of the players.

9 comments

  • I loved your blog article. Really Cool.

  • Pierre Savoie

    Most games you mention offer a small, free “quickstart” edition, which is a great trend.

    Some of the games like Fate Core (FATE was first published in 2003 but the new Fate Core represents about the fourth edition of the game I believe, and that was published in 2013) and the games based on the Apocalypse World system (“Powered by the Apocalypse”, such as Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, Monster of the Week, Uncharted Worlds (SF), The Sprawl (cyberpunk) and Spirit of ’77 (funkadelic 70s)) take new approaches that are difficult for old-school RPGers to follow. Lots of things are qualitative and loosely rendered, trying to make story and narration more important than numbers.

  • Anymore, it’s just called and written as “Fudge” rather than FUDGE, not being an acronym, anymore.

  • Considering Burning Wheel?

  • What were your sources and numbers for this? As it stands, it’s hard to see how representative this is…

    • The list was based on the research made by ENWorld that tracked around 1000 sites and how often the RPGs were mentioned. It didn’t differentiate the positive mentions from the negative ones from what I understand though. http://www.enworld.org/forum/hotgames.php

      • Fate Core was not released in 2003. Also the blurb for it is… weird. “Long list of skills at which characters are considered average”? “Managed to change the approach we have to role-playing since there are so few dice rolls”? I’m guessing that whoever wrote the blurb has never played it — which is fine, because there’s only so much time to play games, after all — but… it’s weird.

        Anyway. Good to see it placed so highly, either way!

        • Well, the first edition of the game was released in 2003. Indeed the wording is a bit odd…

        • Pierre Savoie

          What they were trying to say is that Fate Core has a set of all-encompassing skills (the list may vary with different settings) and you are asked to pick one outstanding skill (+4), two next-ranked skills (+3), three next-ranked after that (+2)and four skills at +1, leaving all other skills unmodified at mediocre rank (0). There are also five Aspects set up, which are key traits of the character that might find use for both advantage and disadvantage, and Stunts which represent special abilities in defined situations (for a +2 bonus). There is no attempt to rate the different advantages of each Aspect; spend a Fate Point to apply an Aspect and it is always a +2 bonus or a re-roll.

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