What rpgs were you most pleasantly surprised by in the last few years?

What rpgs were you most pleasantly surprised by in the last few years?

I am always trying to expand my horizons and keep an open mind so suggestions are welcome. I have run 3 PbtA (AW, DW, Uncharted Worlds) , a few story games, D&d (most versions), Mothership, and Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures, and a random game here and there of various older systems.

Meanwhile, I have read a whole bunch of indy games in the last couple year. My biggest surprise lately was that I actually enjoyed Do: Pilgrims of the Air Temple. What do you suggest?

Edited: Added why this game surprised me and a link to the rules from the author/ where to buy it

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

This rpg is extremely light crunch. It is also focused on writing and solving problems without physical violence. I generally lean towards games with mid-level crunch (OSR games, Barbarians of Lemuria, PbtA) that kill monsters, punch-out the bad guy, or turn eventually to violence when manipulation doesn’t work (AW) so I was not sure I would enjoy this one.

The biggest nice surprise was the impact that using descriptors for the character name made. The two word names are just an adjective or verb with a noun to describe your character can really generate ideas for character depth (e.g. Flying Tiger, Silly Teapot, Flailing Button).

I was also surprised at the dynamism of the story as the different players take narrative control for less than two sentences. Also impressive was the way the game didn’t just devolve into strained story telling.

Finally, the incredibly simplistic rule for continuing stories (depending on which stones you kept more of ) where you change one of the two words of your name to show how your character changed during the adventure is shockingly effective in changing the future narratives.

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Retrostar from Spectrum Games is a great emulation of 1970s sci-fi television. It’s its own thing mechanically but clearly inspired by PbtA games task resolution, much as Icons Superpowered Roleplaying was inspired by Fate (and Marvel FASERIP). It’s called the Intention System. Character creation has some nifty bits where the GM (called the Showrunner) defines the roles needed for the series and the players cast the roles by customizing them when they make their PC. There are five dials to tweak to determine how important they are to the series: Theme, Plot, Recurrence, Special FX, and my favorite, Cheesiness (it is the 70s after all).

It really does a great job of capturing the feel of the genre and the era.

The meta is television production, the actual game is living the show.

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Fiasco: I came to the table totally unprepared, playing the classic western playset with people that I didn’t know (it wasn’t even a convention and I live in a small place where new players aren’t that easy to find, go figure). The lack of structure inside the “scenes” kind of overwhelmed me initially, then brought me to over-excitement about my first scene followed by fear of the blank page, then thinking “I thought I was good at playing rpgs but I’m not”, finally reconciling with myself with a nice finale. Luckily it wasn’t a fiasco to me :sweat_smile:

Mothership: I never thought I could go back to non story-games but I did because Mothership is such a pearl in presenting itself and its simple but clever rules. It does help that I love hard sci-fi to the death, and Mothership have a unique take on it in that you can take it as “hard” or as ironic as you want.

Fate: unfortunately I did not have the chance to play it yet. I did read Fate Core directly without going through any of its main incarnations because I’m not attracted from the themes they explore. The terrible esthetic of Core always drove me away from it but at some time I did hear so much about it that I “studied” it just for the sake of research. Well it really surprised me and I’m sure I’ll run something with it in the next future. Somebody suggested to me Usagi Yojimbo since the kickstarter currently going on for the new “pbta” game is not coming toghether in my opinion.

Also, the new edition of Over the Edge and Things from the Flood, that I’m still reading; I mention them because I’m getting very good vibes from both. Oh, and Freebooters from the Frontiers of course when it will be completed :slightly_smiling_face:

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Fate is my favorite game system. I came to it late via Icons supers and the Fate Core/FAE Kickstarter. I really feel like it’s the game I always wanted ever since I started with AD&D 1e.

I have read and watched Fate get played on YouTube and it just seems so mechanically boring. Every skill is treated the exact same. But, I have not tried it. Maybe if I found the right group…

That said, I do like games that borrow from Fate…

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I was kind of hoping of a “pixelated” esthetics (like in Sinclair ZX Spectrum). Like both visually and mechanically? (don’t know what it means by the way :sweat_smile:)

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Wow really? I dig so much the Aspects stuff that you can seamingly create during the game… skills yes in the Core rulebook are so much boring, but I think the group should personalize them (with or without the Toolkit). I don’t think you can play with basic stuff only. But I could be wrong.

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Although this is totally 80’s, when you said this I thought immediately of this 8 bit adventures :smiley:

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Oh wow, the covers look like really bad doujinshi hentai versions of the originals :crazy_face:

These aren’t new games, but they were both surprises for me, as I hadn’t played them before, and bringing them to the table was a real joy.

I played Dog Eat Dog, and was pretty blown away how powerful its simple structure and rules are. A very memorable experience! My fellow players brought in their knowledge of various historical atrocities (like residential schools in Canada), which made it both powerful and also educational.

Then I ran a My Life with Master campaign, which I wrote about here. It was a wintery Gold Rush setting and the game was extremely memorable.

For those curious, I wrote a bit about it here:

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I had Dog Eat Dog on my list for years but it was unavaiable so I crossed it off. Thanks for reminding me of it! I finally found it at drivethroughrpg.

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I don’t think Fate Core skills and the central mechanic are any more (or less) “boring” than D&D skills and the d20 + ability score modifier + other modifiers vs. AC or DC. Stunts for the Fate Core skills help to differentiate and customize PCs who both may have, for example, a +3 (Good) Deceive skill - one specializes in telling lies, the other at disguise.

That said I do prefer the Fate Accelerated approaches to skills, as well as other Fate builds that similarly use compact approach/skill lists like Fate Freeport’s six skills that correspond to the six classic D&D attributes.

Fate settings like Dresden Files and Dresden Files Accelerated, Atomic Robo, and Fate Freeport all show how you can customize Fate for your needs and setting in different ways and take a lot of that feeling of “sameness” away.

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Yeah; I agree – I don’t really see how you can say that Fate is ‘boring’ because ‘every skill is treated the same way’. D&D, GURPS, etc also all treat all skills the same way.

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Back to the original question: Libreté really surprised me. It’s a statless PbtA game where you all play children that have gotten lost and ended up in the world of rain, trying to survive. The game uses a currency called Bile which you accumulate by being humiliated, scared, etc. wich you then can spend to add to your rolls. If you survive too much and oversucceed, you get too much of what you wanted. If you miss, well things get brutal. This currency and the playbooks drive intense emotional relationships and struggles that really hit deep.

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I think skills could be seen as “boring” just because Fate Core/Accellerated don’t have a setting so they can feel a bit… well, generic? The other mechanics were immediatly interesting to me, but when I reached skills I thought well that’s standard stuff here. But personally the 4 actions framework makes even “standard” skills more interesting.

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Is it just a French language game?

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The quick start is in English, I think on DriveThruRPG. The larger text is slowly being translated.

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It has s not the skills per se, more that this is pretty much all the basic game offers from what I can tell. Plus, Fate is clearly built with railroading in mind. I much prefer to play to find out what happens and get surprised, even as the GM.

Could you expand upon that @Deckard?

I will expound in the new topic. Keep in mind, I have never played and only read / watched Fate get played. It could be that I have the wrong impression. Meanwhile, anyone else that was surprised by anything new to them, please continue to post here.

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