Looking for RPGs with Concrete Stats focused on Problem Solving

I’m looking for RPGs that my partner might like. He’s described his favorite parts of games, and I’d appreciate help identifying some keywords or genres I could use as search terms.

In general, he likes mechanically crunchy games focused on group problem solving.

In particular, he’s looking for a games with fairly concrete and well-defined PC abilities. For example, he likes D&D (at least, he liked 3.5 and 4e) because the skill list and other character abilities are clearly spelled out.

For example, he likes how in D&D, if you want to pick a lock or move silently, you roll Lockpicking or Move Silently. In contrast, he is less of a fan of PbtA games where, if you wanted to pick a lock or move silently, you might roll to Do Something Under Fire (or a similar move).

For his tastes, PbtA games are too mechanically simple (your roll +Cold for all Do Something Under Fire moves even though a character might be much better at picking locks than moving silently). He’s also found them to too focused on relationships and interpersonal drama.

I think he might be looking for an Old School Revival game, but I don’t know that genre very well. Do OSR games sound like something he’d enjoy?

I’d love to hear your game recommendations! Thank you!


tbh why not D&D5e or Pathfinder 2e? Presuming you want something (relatively) new. I’ll give a big suggestion for Symbaroum! Crunchy in character creation and mechanics, but also very customizable.

On the other hand, Blades in the Dark might fit — it’s crunchy, but not necessarily in character creation (though there is a some of depth, imo). BitD is urban fantasy, tho, but there is Band of Blades, which is military fantasy (uses the same system). As for OSR, I’m not too familiar. From what I’ve seen, though, OSR seems as simplified as PbtA, tbh

ETA: Let me throw in 13th Age and Fantasy AGE, those might scratch that crunchy itch!


Blades in the Dark or some other Forged in the Dark game could work well, as darren noted, and I second Pathfinder 2e if he likes D&D 3.5 and 4. GURPS could also work, though that usually requires the GM to do some prep with trimming down the skill list and such. FFG’s Star Wars games (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny) could also be a good fit.

As for search terms, I’m not sure if I can recommend anything beyond “trad RPG” and that is only half-right at best.


OSR games hit the “group problem solving” criteria very well, and, depending on the ruleset, might hit “well defined character abilities”, as well. However, they will generally not hit “mechanically crunchy”.

It’s worth a try, because your partner might find “group problem solving” (an actual play preference) to outweigh “mechanically crunchy” (which really doesn’t do much to say what kind of play you like). But who knows! You can only try and see.


I’m skeptical of how well OSR games are going to work if they take issue with PbtA mechanics, which are, if anything, more rigorous than many OSR games.

Honestly, I’d suggest going for some basic traditional game. Call of Cthulu or BRP or something. Hard stats. No real GM judgement except target numbers, and almost all of them are focused on “collaborative problem solving”


One modern game system that could be worth looking up is Gumshoe. It’s focused on investigations and it definitely has group problem solving in focus since you need everyone’s skills.


Also, you have a bunch of abilities that you can invoke for unique specific effects.


He might like 4th Edition D&D. The combat system is very puzzly. If you really despise D&D you could do something like Gamma World 7th Edition which uses the 4e SRD but has a really wacky setting and character building system where you make modular PCs by putting two character types together (Robo Plant, Ghost Squid, etc).

1 Like

Okay. Great. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!

(More are always appreciated if someone else has some.)

I second the suggestions made so far:
+1 on OSR, Blades in the Dark, Gumshoe.

I find also Fate Core/Condensed (not FAE = Fate Accelerated) a good system with a solid generic skill set. You can get quite creative in collective problem solving by creating & exploiting situational aspects (Create Advantage).

I’d like to know if your partner would rather enjoy:
A). solving a riddle with collective OOC (out-of-character) player creativity, or
B.) solving a riddle by rolling dice based on in-character PC skills?

If the answer is A), OSR, Dread or clever murder mystery plots could be fun.
If the answer is B), systems like Gumshoe may provide a helpful framework.