In 1974 the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons was published. By 1979, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons came out. In '89, AD&D got a controversial second edition in response to some whacked out parents. From there, you got your 3rd edition in 2000, then tweaked again in 2003 for your 3.5, a seemingly polarizing love-it-or-hate-it 4th edition in 2008, and then finally, 2014 gave us 5th edition. D&D has been around for a long time.
I ran the beginner box set for a couple groups, played as a player in it with another, ran a couple homebrew campaigns, joined another, and then eventually just sort of, well, just plain burned out. Yes, I had fun, but, like a stale relationship, I started to wonder what else was out there. I felt like I had seen it all, done it all, killed and got killed a million goblins, kobolds, gelatinous cubes, seen my fair share of the oh-so-edgy evil paladin, emo necromancers, and played with all types of players from mature and old school, to cringy and goblin-voiced even after the game. I just wanted something else.
One of my friends came in one day and ran a one-shot of Savage Worlds for myself and a handful of my friends. I was nervous because all I knew was D&D. How different was it? Would I not know what to do? Turns out, this was the something I was looking for.
We played as super villains in a module called Necessary Evil. The human race got their cans kicked by invaders, and all the super heroes have been defeated. Humanity's last hope depended on who was left, the lowly villains. That's us!
The story was quick, the dice were exciting, and combat was fast and fun. At the end of the night, our GM told me that Savage Worlds was a generic system and you could literally run any world or setting with this one 10 dollar book.
What?? Has this system existed the whole time? What else was there?
Thus began my period of enlightenment. There was other things, not only as fun as my hay-day of D&D, but, to be frank, better too! Here's a quick list of my personal recommendations for RPGs for after you outgrow D&D:
1. Savage Worlds
Ah, my first mistress. And wow, what a literal game changer. It didn't matter that the book was $10, but it was about its simplicity and absolutely unparalleled adaptability and ease of gameplay. Think of a setting, any setting, any world and you can run it in Savage Worlds. Think of a movie or a tv show universe that you like. You can run it in Savage Worlds. Space opera? Easy. Wild West? Cake. Jurassic Park and Home Alone? No problem! Cavemen and dinosaurs where all you can do is grunt and pantomime at the table? One of my biggest hits.
Character creation is a snap and literally can be done in 5 minutes. The dice are exciting with its exploding re-rolls, and I've yet to see a system that rewards players for playing into their characters flaws and weaknesses, as well as just being engaging at the table like in Savage. Hands down, would recommend. The benny system (token rewards) allows players to re-roll dice, save their bacon, or make things happen. The Orc Man says, check it out. A new edition has recently come out at the time of this post.
Rating: 5 d12+2's out of 5.
2. Mouse Guard
Based on a series of graphic novels by David Peterson, I can't praise this game enough. Think of a world without humans, where you stand tall as one of nature's most tiniest of creatures against the overwhelming odds. You take on the role of a brave guard mouse who is part of a faction of mousekinds greatest protectors, The Mouse Guard.
Headed by the guard matriarch of Lockhaven (the guard's central location), Lady Gwendolyn, you are given missions like helping keep the peace, settle disputes among the mouse territories, deliver mail, escort other mice safely between towns or villages, clear the paths, and just all around defend all of mousekind from the threats that exist in nature to ensure the survival of your species.
There are predators everywhere, and non can forget the horrors of the recently ended Weasel War. Animals are animals, but mice are sentient and you can't help but feel their tiny little plight. They are small, and things like weather, a trampling moose, annoying woodpeckers, or even a pair of eager beavers building a dam too close to a mouse settlement, can be the difference between feast and famine and life and death. Redwall lovers, do I need to even say it?
This game warms my heart. Character creation is deep and rewarding. You have friends, family, a hometown, a rival, a mentor, personal goals and beliefs, and they all feel so real. Combat is narrative and everyone get involved as is the same for any die-rolling trait tests. The comradery in this game is like nothing I have ever seen. You will find that these tiny mice are the big humans we should be. Again, I just can't say enough of it. Orc Man says, must play.
Rating: 5 giant walnuts out of 5.
So maybe you still want the keep your magic, elves, dwarves, spell casting, and those fantasy tropes, but you need to get the heck out of The Forgotten Realms. And I mean like, get way away. Well, grab your smart guns, polish your chrome, jack up the wifi, and hit the streets of the year 2080. Life sucks out there and you need to survive, and that means doing things your mother might not be too proud of.
Shadowrun has a long history, originally released in 1989 with its newest 6th edition being released in 2019. It's the cool guy's RPG, part of an almost exclusive club much like Vampire: The Masquerade. Things are more than a little different than D&D, one thing is, you're throwing fistfuls of d6 and 4's, 5's, and 6's are successes. Throw enough of those, and you're golden. Throwing down 12 or more d6 for your short isn't unheard of, and you'll feel like a real badass when you do it.
You play as a Shadowrunner, usually some sort of scum off the streets who gets hired by a megacorperation to do "shadowruns" to screw over another rival megacorps. Stealing plans for new tech, sabotage, wet-work, breaking legs, collecting for loan sharks, assassinations, repossessions, you name it, you're prolly doing it to get by for a few measly credits. You're not really a hero, you're a professional. Time to put on your big boy pants, there's no princess in this castle.
Cyberware, hacking, guns, swords, street samurai, mechs, dope, magic, and babes. Ready to grow up? Shadowrun is a nice choice. The Orc Mans says, buckle up, chummer.
Rating: 5 broken cyberlimbs out of 5.
4. Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG & Genesys
Not gonna beat around the proverbial bush. My favourite dice system of all time belongs to Fantasy Flight's Star Wars and Genesys systems. But why are these two things grouped together? Because they are the exact same base mechanics and dice. Same company, just one is for Star Wars specifically and the other, much like Savage Worlds, is meant to be generic, meaning you can run any setting with it and keep the cool dice. Trust me, they look random at first, but there's nothing like them!
I wasn't exposed to Star Wars growing up so I never was a fanboy of the series. In fact, I knew almost nothing of Star Wars when I joined a Star Wars RPG group. Once I got my over-zealous group to stop rolling all the click-clacks (dice) for me, I really got sucked in. Never have a seen such cinematic results. You can succeed and have disadvantage (threat as its called) at the end of your rolls or fail and have advantage, which means something happened but also, this extra thing also happens too!
You failed your shot at the storm trooper but have advantage left over in your dice pool? Well, your shot grazes the trooper, slightly singes his armour, but does no damage, HOWEVER the laser blast from your holdout pistol hits the wall behind him instead, sparking the electric panel which closes the door behind him, sealing him off from his reinforcements! Time to make your getaway!
It feels like a movie, plays like a movie, and even non-fanboys like myself will love it. Don't want to deal with Star Wars? That's cool, literally run anything else with Genesys. Fantasy, cyberpunk, western, modern, ancient greece? Genesys, like Savage Worlds, has your back. Roll those same dice and enjoy a system that D&D just can't replicate. On the GM side of things, planning and playing is easy as pie as well. The Orc Man says, do or do not, but seriously, do it.
Rating: 5 cantaloupes out of 5 watermelons.
In conclusion, I know D&D is the trendiest, most mainstream RPG out there, but by no means does it mean that's all there is. There is a HUGE world out there with some amazing systems to play and explore. Taking a break sometimes to try another game can be exactly what you and your group might need once in awhile, and no one says you should quit D&D. Play what you enjoy, but, like all other aspects of life, don't be afraid to try something new. You never know what is just around the corner.
I run other systems at The Orc's Lair all the time! If you're looking to try something else out, make sure you check out the events page of our website!