Tabletop roleplaying games are pretty incredible. The best RPGs are capable of transporting you and your fellow players to entirely new worlds, populated by fascinating characters and filled with places to discover, tabletop RPGs are really unlike any other interactive experience out there. Whilst Dungeons & Dragons 5E is certainly popular, it’s not the only roleplaying game out there. For players who might what a different experience than the one that D&D 5E can offer, there are dozens upon dozens of RPGs that provide their players with something completely unique.
Best tabletop RPGs 2022
- Blades in the Dark
- Call of Cthulhu
- Cyberpunk Red
- Vampire: The Masquerade
- Lasers & Feelings
- Monsterhearts 2
- Coyote & Crow
Whether you’re looking for an accessible game to welcome your friends into the hobby, or for something heavier that requires some careful consideration, our list of the best tabletop RPGs features a wide variety of both challenging and easier games. When it comes to setting, we’ve thought of everything from fantasy to science fiction to horror to genres that can’t be pigeon-holed, so there’s bound to be something regardless of what mood your group is in. Our list also features a diverse collection of gameplay systems, some of which you might recognise whilst others are a little bit off the beaten path.
From cyberpunk dystopias to steampunk fantasy to sexy modern horror, all roleplaying tastes are catered to with our list of the best tabletop RPGs you can play right now.
1. Blades in the Dark
Pull off elaborate heists using an unusual flashback system with this steampunk RPG
The city of Duskvol is a dangerous place. Its streets are filled with gangs, guards and even ghosts. It’s also the setting for the steampunk fantasy roleplaying game Blades in the Dark. Created by John Harper, Blades in the Dark is an RPG about crawling your way out of the darkest holes of society using wits, connections and instinct. Players in Blades in the Dark are members of a crew who dream of making a steady life for themselves through the less than steady line of thievery. Duskvol is a city of extreme wealth and poverty, where the rich noble families live in luxury over the sewers and hovels of the poor. Which is why there’s nothing wrong with you and your fellow crewmates taking a little of that luxury for yourselves.
Each session of Blades in the Dark is shaped around a job, which can be as simple as stealing a valuable item from a wealthy resident or as complicated as pulling off a full-blown bank heist. However, unlike many other heist stories, this one won’t have you devising your plan beforehand. Instead, the players are able to pause in the middle of the action to describe a flashback sequence that will somehow explain how their character was prepared for a sudden obstacle or setback. This gameplay system allows the pacing of each session to flow smoothly, rather than having one very long section at the beginning where the players make their plan. It also adds an element of improvisation and chaos to the experience, echoing the characters’ own feelings of potentially feeling in over their heads.
If the players manage to complete their jobs without getting locked up by the authorities or taken out by a rival gang, then they’ll go onto accept more and more ambitious work. Luckily enough, their experiences will also enable them to gain new skills and acquire some impressive equipment from their contacts. We haven’t even touched on the supernatural element of Blades in the Dark! (Some players are able to communicate with the dead.) Safe to say, there are many reasons to play this particular tabletop RPG.
Buy Blades in the Dark on Evil Hat Productions.
2. Call of Cthulhu
A horror classic that’s endured for decades
What Dungeons & Dragons is to fantasy roleplaying, Call of Cthulhu is to horror RPGs. First released less than a decade after D&D, Call of Cthulhu swapped beefy warriors and powerful spellcasters for hardy – but nevertheless fragile – humans. Instead of paladins, clerics and rogues questing across fantasy worlds in search of gold and glory, players took on the roles of investigators, scholars and journalists delving into forbidden knowledge in the hope of saving the world from any manner of cosmic horror.
What made Call of Cthulhu unique was that running from fights was often a better choice than trying to hold your own against otherworldly monsters, with the RPG notorious for dispatching characters through deadly combat or the erosion of their psychological wellbeing as they uncovered cults and conspiracies. Instead of the 20-sided die made famous by D&D, Call of Cthulhu used the d100 – two ten-sided dice, for a percentile result – Basic Roleplaying system that previously powered ‘70s fantasy RPG RuneQuest.
Over the decades, Call of Cthulhu has evolved through multiple editions – as well as inspiring horror board games such as the Arkham Horror series - but it remains one of the best RPGs in 2022 for those after a spooky story and a stark contrast to D&D’s power fantasy. (And, in some places, is even bigger than Dungeons & Dragons.) Whether you’re uncovering mysterious happenings in a mansion, travelling around the world to halt a world-ending ritual or even coming up against the formidable Cthulhu itself, Call of Cthulhu hasn’t lost any of its terrifying atmosphere.
3. Cyberpunk Red
The classic sci-fi RPG has gotten a modern update
First hitting the scene in 1988, Cyberpunk is a series that’s become synonymous with dark corporate schemes, transhuman technology and jackets with the largest collars you’ve ever laid your eyes on. Since its release, Cyberpunk has received multiple editions, each one pushing the game’s setting a few more years into the future, to ensure that its speculative technology continues to remain, well, speculative. Its most recent edition is Cyberpunk Red, a streamlined version of the sci-fi roleplaying game that takes place during the 2040s, in the years before the popular video game adaptation, Cyberpunk 2077, is set, inviting players to step into the seedy and exciting world of Night City.
Don’t let Cyberpunk Red’s snazzy retro-futuristic aesthetic fool you, as it’s an RPG that dives into all sorts of heavy topics from the consequences of uncontrolled capitalism to environmentalism to what it means to be human. Players are able to choose from a variety of different classes for their characters, with each one having their own bizarre way of interacting with Night City. If you’ve always fancied yourself a musician you can create a rockerboy geared up to lead a revolution, or if you’re a fan of the 1995 film Hackers then you can live the dream of breaking into top security networks with the netrunner class. Navigating Night City’s various gangs, corporations and major players is essential to your party’s survival in Cyberpunk Red, potentially teaming up with a particular faction or otherwise pushing back against the forces that seek to conquer the metropolis.
Regardless of who you do and don’t ally yourself with, you can choose how you’re going to tackle the various jobs or missions that your party chooses to take on by putting points in attributes and skills. Whilst some characters will be more accomplished at kicking down the door all guns blazing, others are sure to prefer a more subtle approach. As your party gains experience, they’ll be able to improve at these approaches and branch out from them as well. Don’t' forget about all the cool weaponry and equipment you’ll be able to acquire as well. Take a trip to Night City and try to stay alive with Cyberpunk Red.
4. Vampire: The Masquerade (5th Edition)
Become a creature of the night on the streets of LA
Though Vampire: The Masquerade is technically a horror RPG series, featuring the undead and supernatural, it’s always veered into more of a pulpy Lost Boys territory than that of an actually frightening one. Arguably the scariest part of Vampire are the player characters’ reactions to the loss of their humanity, with the opportunity to explore the consequences of gaining immortality and having to cut ties with society at large. Vampire began its life as an edgy and ‘adult’ roleplaying game that made strides to set itself apart from the power fantasy that games such as Dungeons & Dragons represented, offering players a darker and more mature experience. Since then, after multiple controversies and poor creative decisions, Vampire has evolved into a more self-aware title whose recent creators are trying to steer it into more inclusive and less regressive territory.
The world of Vampire is filled with people whose hunger for power drives them to corruption, leading to the creation of the player characters – who are the result of a mortal colliding with a member of the undead, before willingly or unwillingly being turned into a vampire. Whilst there are plenty of advantages to being a member of the beautiful and the dead, they're also forced to shun human society in order to maintain the ‘masquerade’ that vampires don’t exist. Players can find companionship amongst their clan members, from the physically tough Brujah to the glamorous Toreador to the ambitious Ventrue, but clans in Vampire are too often the source of plots and schemes that player characters can find themselves getting wrapped up in if they’re not careful.
Ultimately, how your character approaches immortality is your decision. Characters in Vampire can find themselves thriving in their new un-life, embracing their found family and enjoying their powers, or they could suffer under isolation and their near-constant need for blood. Without that precious red liquid, player characters can gradually lose control over themselves and become unable to perform some of their key abilities, sacrificing their wellbeing for their morality. Despite the incredibly stylised, semi-Hot Topic style aspects of the RPG – which are a big reason for its appeal – players in Vampire will be able to explore topics with a lot of depth and potentially even discover something about themselves.
Perhaps the most accessible tabletop roleplaying game ever made
It’s too often the case that people go straight to Dungeons & Dragons 5E for their first ever tabletop RPG experience, and as good as D&D is at elements like character customisation and development, it’s not as good at welcoming newer players into the hobby. The reams and reams of available information on character creation, spellcasting, initiative and more can be very overwhelming for people who aren’t as familiar or as confident with roleplaying. This is where RPGs like Quest really shine, as they’re entirely intended to ease beginners into the experience. Rather than bombarding its players with the details, Quest focuses outlining the key actions of roleplaying – explaining what your character is doing and having the games master respond to that – and immersing players into its world.
Performing an action in Quest is as simple as stating what you want to do and rolling a single d20, with the GM relaying what happens as a result of your roll. Rather than having traits, features and such, player characters just have special actions they can perform depending upon their class, with these actions encouraging players to be descriptive rather than crunching numbers. Creating characters in Quest takes about five minutes and involves filling into a one-page sheet that works similarly to a Madlibs game. Preparation for one-shots and campaigns is more about providing your players with fun storylines for them to follow and characters to interact with. All of this, plus the rulebook’s clean and uncluttered design, is perfect for introducing fresh players into roleplaying.
It can be a struggle to get people into TRPGs, especially when they often come across as requiring players to do a substantial amount of reading, learning and understanding before they can even create their characters. Which is why games like Quest are such a godsend because they help players and GMs to cut through all of that and get to the actual roleplaying parts. It’s also a great RPG to help get children into TRPGs for the first time, meaning that we can use Quest to pass the hobby along to the next generation too.
Buy Quest on Adventure Game.
Pilot a giant robot and explore a far-flung galaxy
Who doesn’t want to control a massive robot in space? Sci-fi RPG Lancer draws on classic mech anime such as Gundam and Evangelion to bring to life its vision of a far-flung future much more upbeat than the grimdark likes of Warhammer 40,000.
Players control pilots working on behalf of various factions, who hop into their powerful mechs to solve whatever problem is required of them. The RPG mixes deep narrative storytelling with a tactical edge in its mech-based combat, with the ability for players to highly customise their machine and deploy onto hex-based grids for battles.
Lancer’s futuristic setting mixes crunchy combat with more fantastical elements, while players progress the story and development of their characters both in and out of the mech. While the game’s universe isn’t quite a utopia – someone still needs to employ the players’ pilots to solve problems, after all – it's a much more hopeful and bright look at sci-fi than the recent trend towards dark, dystopian horror.
Lancer finds a thematic sweet spot between the flashy cinematic scope of Saturday morning cartoons and a serious commentary on human society, wrapped up in a complex, visionary take on an ever-popular genre: big robots fighting. One of the most original RPG settings of recent years accompanied by rewarding gameplay, it already looks set to become a modern classic.
Buy Lancer on Itch.io.
7. Lasers & Feelings
Blades in the Dark creator’s sci-fi RPG that’s light on rules but full of potential
Even some of the best RPGs out there can sometimes be... well, a bit much. Juggling dozens of stats, abilities, items and traits on top of plotting out your character’s narrative development and relationships can be exhausting for some players. Sometimes, you just want something simple to let you enjoy the ride.
Lasers & Feelings is the definition of simplicity, boiling gameplay down to just two stats. You got it: lasers, and feelings. Every test in the game comes down to one or the other, with lasers representing a more scientific, reasoned approach to things and feelings being a more spur-of-the-moment reaction from the heart. Each character has a single number to represent both lasers and feelings, with players needing to roll a single six-sided die under lasers to succeed or over to succeed at a feelings challenge.
The straightforward format comes courtesy of Blades in the Dark creator John Harper, whose original Lasers & Feelings release put players in the red shirts of the crew of the spaceship Raptor as they encountered various threats out in the galaxy (handily provided by a random roll table, if you can’t think of your own), from space pirates to cyber zombies.
Lasers & Feelings’ cleverly compact ruleset has also seen it become the basis of many standalone RPGs since, including the likes of Boy Problems – based on the music of pop star Carly Rae Jepsen - and Dark Souls-inspired RPG Sword & Board. Whether you pick up the original or one of its descendants, Lasers & Feelings is the perfect RPG when you’re looking for something entertaining but not exhausting to play.
Buy Lasers & Feelings on Itch.io.
8. Monsterhearts 2
Supernatural beings experience intense amounts of angst in this tabletop RPG
Being a teenager is super hard. Having to deal with all the change, the social pressures and understanding who you are is plenty to have to cope with. Monsterhearts 2 is an RPG that takes all the challenges of adolescence and makes them exponentially more troublesome by adding in supernatural elements as well. A game about the trials, tribulations and joys of growing up, Monsterhearts 2 sees players becoming some classic supernatural beings – such as vampires and werewolves – as well as some more unusual creatures, like living toys called the hollow, attempting to navigate the world of youth. Though the game’s supernatural elements certainly allow it to stand out, it’s an RPG that’s more about finding and developing relationships than anything else.
The player characters in Monsterhearts 2 will find themselves struggling against their own worst tendencies in order to better realise themselves. Each supernatural species in Monsterhearts 2 has its own unique vice that the player characters will have to wrestle with if they’re going to build healthy relationships with other people. These relationships can be romantic and/or sexual in nature – with queer relationships being actively supported by the text – but can also be platonic connections, with the back-and-forth exchange of giving and receiving power being backed up by the game’s mechanics. Players will be able to perform different interactions with other characters, depending on their supernatural identity, with the outcomes being affected by their characters’ traits. Besides altering their relationships with other people, certain actions can change a character’s relationship with themselves – causing them to better understand who they are or gradually become more confused.
Monsterhearts 2 is a fantastic tabletop RPG because it takes some of the classic tropes of melodramatic teen drama – angst, passion and self–discovery – and turns them into a meaningful exploration of the self and of our need for connection. For an RPG that’s brimming with interpersonal relationship drama and gothic stylings, then play Monsterhearts 2.
Buy Monsterhearts 2 on Buried Without Ceremony.
Emulate the neo-noir movies of the Coen brothers in the roleplay that goes wrong
Pulling off a perfect plan without a hitch is satisfying, but sometimes the most memorable moments come from everything going south. Dropping players into the botched setups of foolish criminals, Fiasco is the best tabletop RPG where nothing goes your way.
Fiasco leans into its cinematic debt to crime capers like Fargo and Burn After Reading – along with basically all of the Coen brothers’ movies – by breaking gameplay into a number of scenes. Players create characters that have relationships with each other, but who are mostly out for their own benefit – with tragic and comedic (sometimes at the same time) consequences.
There’s no game master, with players taking it in turns to describe what happens during each scene. A handful of six-sided dice in two colours – representing positive and negative aspects of the story - are used, which players pick during scenes to influence the flow of the plot.
Fiasco’s simple movie-like structure allows it to translate to a number of different genres and settings, from classic neo-noir crime films to westerns, sci-fi and fantasy. At the end of each of the game’s two acts, there will be a tilt – where things suddenly go sideways – and, finally, the aftermath, where players describe what happened to their characters. Normally it’s not good news for the characters, but it’s a lot of fun for the players.
Its uniquely cinematic format, potential for tragicomic stories in any number of settings and GM-less, rules-light gameplay make Fiasco one of the best RPGs for new players looking for something original when it comes to roleplaying. The RPG’s original rulebook has since been replaced by an even more beginner-friendly boxed set that swaps dice for cards, allowing newcomers to jump straight in and let the chaos play out.
10. Coyote & Crow
An Indigenous RPG that imagines a post-colonial world
At first glance, Coyote & Crow treads familiar ground. The tabletop RPG's setting presents a future vision of Earth, transformed in the wake of a global climate crisis, for players to explore. Both on and off the table, however, Coyote & Crow represents something new. Created by an Indigenous-led team, headed up by Cherokee designer Connor Alexander, the RPG imagines a world where colonisation never occurred, breaking free of the Eurocentric influences and philosophies established by the likes of Dungeons & Dragons.
Coyote & Crow’s setting of Makasing is an alternate North America that was never colonised by European settlers. Hundreds of years after a meteor collision almost wiped out humanity and plunged the world into inhospitable winters during a period known as Awis, players control inhabitants of the world’s five Indigenous-inspired nations as they use advanced technology and a force known as Adanadi to thrive in the post-apocalyptic landscape.
The RPG’s gameplay uses 12-sided dice in a system akin to Shadowrun or World of Darkness games such as Vampire: The Masquerade, with a focus on solving encounters creatively without immediately resorting to violence. While the rules have plenty of depth, Coyote & Crow also puts an importance on weaving meaningful narratives and character development, drawing inspiration from Native American storytelling. (The rulebook provides advice to non-Indigenous players on respectfully portraying characters and stories without veering into cultural appropriation.)
Between its engrossing setting and gameplay, Coyote & Crow is a literal world away from some of the aspects of “classic” roleplaying that are better left in the past. One of the best RPGs to emerge in recent years, it paints a bright future for tabletop storytelling.
Buy Coyote & Crow on the game's website.