What game would you recommend for someone suffering from OSR/PbtA burnout?


Disclaimer: I love a lot of OSR and PbtA games, but I’m tired of reading so many games with so many things in common system-wise.

To me, reading Blades in the Dark last year was very refreshing. Even though lots of things can be seen as PbtA-like (like the whole failure/partial success/success mechanic for tests), there are a lot of new interesting mechanics (although I assume I might get burnt-out on those when I start reading other Forged in the Dark games…). I also loved Dream Askew/Dream Apart for the same reason (still reminds me of PbtA, but is diceless, GMless, and includes “playbooks” for aspects of the world).

What are recent games you’ve read that build on more “modern” game design and diverge from the PbtA and OSR scenes? What is exciting about those games?


My favorite game of last year was Dialect. It’s a sombre game about a community in isolation. They have a language that is all their own. During the game you build/discover* the language through the lens of the characters. Throughout the game the language will die. This usually happens in one of two ways. The community getting re-integrated into society. The community dying out. Either way the language dies. There is a new roll20 module coming out tomorrow (April 19th, 2019), so you don’t have to go through all the work of building the decks yourself.

*I might argue that some of these words always existed in the community and the players are only just learning about them through play


We played Dialect together at GauntletCon last year! How could I forget? It was one of my favourites last year too (and the first TTRPG book that made me cry).


A wonderful new game is For the Queen. It’s a card based game where you create the characters as you play. Play happens by answering leading questions, and ends when the queen is attacked. Each character answers whether they defend her or not. The rules are simple and straight forward. It plays quickly, and every time I’ve played I gotten new and interesting characters, my own, other players and the Queens. While the physical version is still in production and should be out in June (go request your local game store to carry it, it’s totally worth it), the digital Roll20 version is available now.


Seconding For The Queen. It’s one of the most exciting new games to come out recently.


I will Third For The Queen but looking over my Kickstarter list the one that jumps out is @Keith’s Seco Creek Vigilance Committee. It is hard to get the feel of an American Western right in a game in my opinion, but Keith nails a very particular Western story in this game. It has a kind of influence economy which I don’t recall seeing elsewhere. It uses Keys from Shadow of Yesterday. And it forces all conflicts to be dealt with by having the players come to an agreement over what is going to be the final result. And if they can’t, the GM will decide and it will be bad for both parties.

The other game that comes to mind is Stephen Dewey’s To Serve Her Wintry Hunger The dice collection mechanics do a really great job of reinforcing the feelings of hierarchy and favoritism. And of course ritual phrases.

Interestingly both of these are games that require an exact number of players (5 and 4 respectively).


I’ve recently become deeply enamored with Good Society. It is 100% character-focused and uses an incredibly light framework to tell engaging stories. Characters begin play with a desire, a relationship to another main character, reputation tags, and some affiliated side characters called Connections, who have their own limited resources to affect the narrative. Part of them get played by other players.

With the aid of the facilitator (who might play a main character as well), players frame scenes and do free roleplay to advance their goals, using Resolve Tokens to bargain with other players to manipulate the narrative according to their agenda. Orchestrating your character’s struggles is one of the player principles.

I went in not expecting anything (I wasn’t particularly interested in the subject matter — Jane Austen novels), and it has quickly turned into one of my favorite games. But any game that has dramatic monologues and letters as part of the rules was bound to win me over.


Not exactly what you asked for but maybe this is working for you, too: I like to read very old games from time to time, like eating ginger between sushi rolls, to neutralize this “new/light” feeling.
Latest example is Bushido which I wanted to own for decades and I find very hard to read and grasp. Coming back to Blades or PbtA or OSR gives me a light feeling and new energy. And… you always can learn something from the old games, not only setting-wsie but mechanics, too.


My F2F group has been having a blast with Swords of the Serpentine, a GUMSHOE-based sword & sorcery game from Pelgrane Press.

Mechanics are very simple and narrative-focused, yet completely different from both the OSR/D&D family and PbtA.

It’s still in a preview/playtest edition, available from Pelgrane Press for free upon request.



Kai Poh’s ECH0 (2019; https://roleoverplaydead.itch.io/ech0). Takuma Okada’s Alone Among the Stars (2018; https://noroadhome.itch.io/alone-among-the-stars) and its various offspring. For bringing exploration to indie rpgs, a kind of “walking sim” experience that looks very promising.


Not sure how I could have forgotten it but @rabalias and @BeckyA’s Lovecraftesque! It is, in my opinion, the truest cosmic horror game out there. I adore the shifting roles of Narrarator, Witness (ie PC), and Watchers. I love how the emergent mystery and the final horror just work with no planning at all. (It’s gmless and zero prep.)


While we’re at horror games, I would mention Trophy by @jesseross - the character creation is very simple, the game is very chilling, and the game structure is absolutely neat and I love it.

If you want something even more free-form, you can’t go wrong with Archipelago III. Card-drawing is the only randomizer, and the story prompts are just there to guide you into making something even more dramatic.

For slice-of-life games, I really like @Luiz’s Melody of a Never-ending Summer, which centers on a group of teenagers training little monsters, building up various projects and finding friends.


If you really want something different, Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine will bend your brain five ways to Sunday. It comes from a deeply different place in RPG design and it’s fascinating.


Just be ready to read a massive text…


For really interesting ideas, solid writing, and a strong voice I’d recommend @Chad_Walker’s Cryptomancer and Sigmata. Great reads all the way through. I often skim rpg books, but as with Blades in the Dark I found myself working through the whole thing. Ryuutama’s also quite good and an example of a striking different way of approaching design. Finally, even if you’re not into Fate, Evil Hat has some recent projects worth looking at. Uprising, based on the universe of The Resistance card game, has a lot of cool ideas about handling characters working at cross purposes. Several of the recent Fate Worlds of Adventure (Clockwinders, Iron Street Combat, Til Dawn) showcase great writers doing tight world-building and presentation. They have the added advantage of being PWyW on Drivethru.


Thanks @shanel! For my own recs, I would point to Itras By and Swords Without Master.

EDIT: Apologies! The request was for recent games, and these two do have a few years under their belts. Still amazing games, though.

Itras By is a surrealist game that uses custom decks of cards for resolution and to introduce fantastic elements. It’s corny to say, but every time I’ve played or run it, I’ve seen something beautiful about the human condition.

Swords Without Master perfectly emulates Sword and Sorcery fiction using different micro-games and two dice, one for Glum and one for Jovial. Of all the games I’ve played, I think it gives you the greatest license to narrate amazing events.


I was reading @seaandsailor’s request as newer games, but I think I misunderstood - because Swords Without Master was the first thing I thought of!


I would recommend @Kyle_Simons’s action spy thriller game Operators! It has a brilliant resolution mechanic using Fate dice in a new and cool way, and it promotes collaboration at the table while also strongly structuring the narrative of the game. It also has a evocative card based mechanic for doing fight and chase scenes, and plays through a whole movie in one session. I ran it at GauntletCon last year and it was a big hit with the players!


Wait, a d20 mechanic? I Kickstarted the original game and have the cards and hardcover book, and I’m trying to understand how or what the dice would be used to emulate. Although I also admit that I have been wishing I could play it online and not really feeling like I understand how it could be done well, so maybe i’m just still too new to playing things online to really understand the many ways in which analog game mechanics can be worked out digitally. . :confused:



I’ll give a brief breakdown, but I think you’d be better off reading Zedeck Siew’s terrific post about it. While you’re at it, read everything else he’s ever written if you haven’t already.

Troika! is partly inspired by British RPGs of yore, and partly from Planescape mixed with Peyote. Thematically it’s completely out of this world, and my mind has already expanded just by reading it. The book art will also remove any remaining bits of doubt that this is something utterly original.

Essentially you roll on a d66 table to produce a completely random and “out there” character, loosely defined by a description and some starting Skills & items.

Here is an example:

There is a simple dice mechanic for most actions (including Spells), a slightly modified version for combat, and then a completely original Initiative and Inventory system that will make you scratch your chin at first. Then you realize how… tense it makes things, and how crazy it is that this uber rules-lite game has tiny crunchy (and likely optional) mechanics for these usually hand-waived components.

I could say more, but really it’s kind of amazing and everyone should read it.