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hello my name is strob airy and i like to throw math rocks

So part of this post is a grievance. I don't like D&D, I feel absolutely smothered in D&D in TTRPG spaces, it's really difficult to get away from and everything essentially lives in its shadow. And contrary to what its stans will tell you, it is not, in fact, a one-size-fits-all that you can just magically homebrew into being what you want. To homebrew the things I dislike about D&D out of D&D would effectively be more work than making my own system from scratch, because it isn't just "this one thing" or "that one mechanic," it's a whole lot of its core rules (class systems, racial benefits, how xp works, how milestones work, the actual options for character creation on offer, EVERYTHING about its combat, the d20 system in general...

Yeah, when I say "I don't like D&D, I mean it. I don't like Pathfinder either since that's just D&D but again and with even more crunch.

"Okay, so what DO you like?"

I have found SO many cool game systems that I've fallen madly in love with, and that all my friends bounced hard off. Some of them don't even have combat, a lot of them don't have death mechanics, and all of them are way easier to deal with than D&D. (They often use simpler math, or success/failure rolls like FATE.) Unfortunately, all my friends want the crunchy bits that I abhor, and finding players for even one-shots has been a constant uphill battle.

I just want to know if there are any players out there like me, who like the structure TTRPGs provide, but have been turned off by how frontloaded game systems like d20 or d100 are? I'd love to actually build or join a community of people who are interested in indie systems, or simpler systems in general, and I'd be willing to GM some one-shots in the game systems I am interested in if anyone is curious but at this point I have interest in way too many to list here. I can at least say that most of them are a tenth the size of D&D's PHB so it wouldn't even involve a lot of reading...

But really, I just want to get this frustration out. I've vented about it in more TTRPG-centric places but those places tend to be filled with the kind of people who build mute bricks and min/max so it's not like I've gotten much in the way of relation there...

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I've never tried this in a PBP environment, so I'm not 100% sure how well it would translate from sitting around in the same room, but it was LOT of fun with a focus on telling cool stories and hardly any crunch.


Wushu


Despite the name, I suspect you could play nearly any setting with it. And based on what you've said, I think it would be right up your alley!
Aardbei Topic Starter

It might be, but I also have a long list of systems I would love to play in or run.
These are just a few, admittedly I also have a number of others that looked interesting, but that I haven't gone over as thoroughly so I'm just listing the ones I have enough familiarity with to actually run right away:

Animon Story
Golden Sky Stories
Wanderhome
Journey away (Defunct, impossible to find now but I have its PDF.)

The systems I'd like to play in or run are below, but my familiarity with them isn't thorough enough to GM without giving their corebooks a thorough once-over.

Mitchtim
OVA
Ironclaw
Knights of Underbed
WuDe: The Five Powers

Really, I can't say these links are exhaustive lists of everything I've seen that looks interesting to me, but if we're sharing links, I figured I would share some of my finds. I have the curse of Too Many Corebooks and not a lot to do with them, heh... Still always willing to collect more that seem interesting to me though, and continue to harass my friends about trying systems outside their comfort zone.
Claine Moderator

I DMed Ironclaw for years. Here is a photo of my cat with the core book:
QTp7I2q.jpeg

It's a good system with a big fat asterisks. Great worldbuilding, good artwork (in the earlier books at least) really easy to homebrew. The one asterisks that makes it a little difficult to recommend is the fighting system-- It's so complex I don't think any of my players ever really got it. It might be a better system if fighting takes a sideline but 1) most of the classes available are specifically geared to fighting so players want to hit things and 2) That's not the kind of long-term story I enjoy playing/writing.

But if it's a system if you ever have any questions about, I feel like I am very equipped to answer them.
Aardbei Topic Starter

Claine wrote:
I DMed Ironclaw for years. Here is a photo of my cat with the core book:
QTp7I2q.jpeg

It's a good system with a big fat asterisks. Great worldbuilding, good artwork (in the earlier books at least) really easy to homebrew. The one asterisks that makes it a little difficult to recommend is the fighting system-- It's so complex I don't think any of my players ever really got it. It might be a better system if fighting takes a sideline but 1) most of the classes available are specifically geared to fighting so players want to hit things and 2) That's not the kind of long-term story I enjoy playing/writing.

But if it's a system if you ever have any questions about, I feel like I am very equipped to answer them.

I... never thought I'd find someone who knows about Ironclaw. I'm very curious about it, honestly, and generally, I agree. Combat isn't really that interesting to me in TTRPGs either. I prefer storytelling, puzzles, or resource management. I did notice that it had a fair amount of combat options compared to what normally interests me though, but combat in any TTRPG in my experience really depends on the GM.

Admittedly, I'm terrible at running combat as a GM, which is probably why I go for combatless systems, haha.
Oh fuuuuck, Ironclaw! I always wanted to learn it! For, uhh, perhaps too obvious reasons. But back on topic, I can relate to your pain, and it's a shame, for I did really enjoy D&D. Once. But too much of a good thing and all that. The group I played TTRPGs with exclusively played D&D for everything. And just because D&D isn't a one-size-fits-all system doesn't mean people don't try it. The most egregious example I was faced with was when someone was trying to sell me on a whole murder mystery thing in a steampunk, Victorian setting using D&D. Like, Speak with Dead is right there, and the Artificer is the only vaguely steampunky class. They ended up pruning like a good 90% of the character creation options, and tried swapping out skills like Nature and Arcane with Technology and Coding and like, just use a different system, even a d20 one--just anything else! You're just handicapping yourself! Predictably, I sat the campaign out and it dissolved before even session two.
Aardbei Topic Starter

Jadugar wrote:
Oh fuuuuck, Ironclaw! I always wanted to learn it! For, uhh, perhaps too obvious reasons. But back on topic, I can relate to your pain, and it's a shame, for I did really enjoy D&D. Once. But too much of a good thing and all that. The group I played TTRPGs with exclusively played D&D for everything. And just because D&D isn't a one-size-fits-all system doesn't mean people don't try it. The most egregious example I was faced with was when someone was trying to sell me on a whole murder mystery thing in a steampunk, Victorian setting using D&D. Like, Speak with Dead is right there, and the Artificer is the only vaguely steampunky class. They ended up pruning like a good 90% of the character creation options, and tried swapping out skills like Nature and Arcane with Technology and Coding and like, just use a different system, even a d20 one--just anything else! You're just handicapping yourself! Predictably, I sat the campaign out and it dissolved before even session two.

I've had so many people try to pitch me whodunnits in D&D and I'm like "Uh, Call of Cthulhu or Blades in the Dark might be better for this?" Just among the game systems I know of, there's probably a better one out there for that than even I have thought of. Or, if someone is willing to put in the work to homebrew the pants off D&D, maybe they would be perfectly happy making an adventure in FATE which is a LOT of DIY.
Iron Claw is my favorite outsider RPG. The 2nd Edition, Squaring the Circle, simplifies and fixes a few mechanical problems from the 1st edition (mostly racial dodge dice and the removal of magic points). Its dice system is simple, and the character races/options are colorful. Combat is swift and dangerous, as it should be. If you wish to kill, you must also be ready to be killed. But alas, with the Trove down, I find myself without the PDF. I would have loved to create a flowchart explaining how combat works, but I did find some information regarding the topic here: Iron Claw.
Kim Site Admin

So a few years ago my mom asked me if I would run a one-shot for the family & friends that attended Thanksgiving. This surprised me because a lot of the people attending had NO prior TTRPG experience AT ALL. My mom had only played a few sessions of D&D herself and clearly found that deeply overwhelming. Getting everyone all onboard, aware of how to play (and RP!) and all the way through a story seemed like a pretty tall order.

I went with the Monster of the Week system and it was so popular I now run another episode set in the original holiday world every single time there's a family & friends type gathering. The only guaranteed episodes are Thanksgiving and Christmas but sometimes there are like... birthday or anniversary episodes, if that's what the person whose day it is wants.

Character creation is based on tropes and is so easy that I was able to let everyone generate their own characters on that first thanksgiving episode instead of providing them with pre-made characters that I dictated.

Dunno if it's gonna be the sweet spot of not too crunchy but just enough crunchy for you, but it's been a miracle for doing family DMing for me XD
Warhammer Fantasy 4th and 2nd ed are very different from DnD while still being in a fantasy setting. It's also no where near as strict on classes. There is the Witcher System with it's interesting life path mechanic that builds a history for your character based in dice rolls, but you need to have an enjoyment of dark fantasy for either of these systems

If you like Mechs, there is Lancer which is a D20 system, but also different from DnDs style of D20 while also letting your rock around in big stompy robots


There is the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness systems, which are both dice pool games set in a modern supernatural setting. Popular systems in it are Vampire the Masquerade and Hunter the Vigil (Modern vampire movie or The Supernatural TV show respectively).



Then there are Cyberpunk set games, where the big three are Cyberpunk RED which is similar to the Witcher System, Cyberpunk 2022, which is the OG and old but very fun, and then there is good old shadow run, which is Cyberpunk fantasy.


For samurai funsies there is Legend of the Five Rings, which is a roleplay heavy system as players get bonuses for roleplaying them doing things a certain way
XXXKILLZONEUS wrote:
Warhammer Fantasy 4th and 2nd ed are very different from DnD while still being in a fantasy setting. It's also no where near as strict on classes. There is the Witcher System with it's interesting life path mechanic that builds a history for your character based in dice rolls, but you need to have an enjoyment of dark fantasy for either of these systems

If you like Mechs, there is Lancer which is a D20 system, but also different from DnDs style of D20 while also letting your rock around in big stompy robots


There is the World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness systems, which are both dice pool games set in a modern supernatural setting. Popular systems in it are Vampire the Masquerade and Hunter the Vigil (Modern vampire movie or The Supernatural TV show respectively).



Then there are Cyberpunk set games, where the big three are Cyberpunk RED which is similar to the Witcher System, Cyberpunk 2022, which is the OG and old but very fun, and then there is good old shadow run, which is Cyberpunk fantasy.


For samurai funsies there is Legend of the Five Rings, which is a roleplay heavy system as players get bonuses for roleplaying them doing things a certain way

Also if Class systems are something that's is a grievance, Every Warhammer 40k system from black crusade to Dark Heresy second edition basically throws the class system out with the bath water. Nothing is stopping players from doing whatever they want outside of exp costs.
I haven't played any myself, but Year Zero-like systems look good. I've seen streams of Tales from the Loop which uses the actual Year Zero Engine, and it definitely seems like it'd be fun. Very RP heavy. Simple attribute/skill system. Entirely d6-based.

There are a nice selection of games based on the Year Zero system as well, such as the Alien and Blade Runner RPGs. I've also seen a number of RPGs with a similar system that isn't actually the official Year Zero Engine itself.

I will say.... I don't know if YZE is based on an older common system or its popularity has led to look-alike systems. Mostly because most of the non-D&D TTRPGs I've done have been custom-made by the GM of said games and thus I don't actually have much experience with published systems beyond D&D.

Another system I like the look of (but have never played... heard good things from friends though) is the Serenity RPG, which uses the Cortex system. It's good for sci-fi... good enough that a friend of mine was involved in a game that was a reskin of the Serenity RPG set up for a Farscape-based setting (because, I'm told, the official Farscape RPG is abysmal). The trait system is really interesting, as you can really personalise your character. Like... does your character have friends in high places? Do they have a strong alcohol tolerance? A lot of money? A military rank? Do they have a special talent? Are they disabled in any way? Have a deadly enemy always chasing them? There's traits for a whole host of things that are worked into the gameplay mechanics.

Honestly, I've kinda always wanted to try out a more RP-focused game system, but never found a group for it. Which is a shame. I love D&D (though I'm not sure I could DM the TT versions of pre-5E D&D... great for video games, but I have trouble as a DM just keeping up with 5E stuff... I can't imagine what would slip by me with more number crunching... as a player though, I'd be totally fine with pre-5E D&D), but at the same time, I also love the idea of more freeform RPs as well. The Serenity one for instance has been on my radar for maybe a decade or so now and I still haven't had a chance to play it. Even the entirely-custom-made RPs I've been involved in were pretty crunchy (though spreadsheets and progams did most of the work... so glad my GM was a computing student with good programming knowledge!). So it would be a good change of pace to what I'm used to. And I also welcome the freedom.
Aardbei wrote:
hello my name is strob airy and i like to throw math rocks

So part of this post is a grievance. I don't like D&D, I feel absolutely smothered in D&D in TTRPG spaces, it's really difficult to get away from and everything essentially lives in its shadow. And contrary to what its stans will tell you, it is not, in fact, a one-size-fits-all that you can just magically homebrew into being what you want. To homebrew the things I dislike about D&D out of D&D would effectively be more work than making my own system from scratch, because it isn't just "this one thing" or "that one mechanic," it's a whole lot of its core rules (class systems, racial benefits, how xp works, how milestones work, the actual options for character creation on offer, EVERYTHING about its combat, the d20 system in general...

Yeah, when I say "I don't like D&D, I mean it. I don't like Pathfinder either since that's just D&D but again and with even more crunch.

"Okay, so what DO you like?"

I have found SO many cool game systems that I've fallen madly in love with, and that all my friends bounced hard off. Some of them don't even have combat, a lot of them don't have death mechanics, and all of them are way easier to deal with than D&D. (They often use simpler math, or success/failure rolls like FATE.) Unfortunately, all my friends want the crunchy bits that I abhor, and finding players for even one-shots has been a constant uphill battle.

I just want to know if there are any players out there like me, who like the structure TTRPGs provide, but have been turned off by how frontloaded game systems like d20 or d100 are? I'd love to actually build or join a community of people who are interested in indie systems, or simpler systems in general, and I'd be willing to GM some one-shots in the game systems I am interested in if anyone is curious but at this point I have interest in way too many to list here. I can at least say that most of them are a tenth the size of D&D's PHB so it wouldn't even involve a lot of reading...

But really, I just want to get this frustration out. I've vented about it in more TTRPG-centric places but those places tend to be filled with the kind of people who build mute bricks and min/max so it's not like I've gotten much in the way of relation there...
dark heresy is a fun one
I've been experimenting with different TTRPGS with my friends over the years. I don't have D&D fatigue or anything like that, but I do feel comfortable enough branching out in different types of games. We've had a few systems that really stuck with us that might tickle your fancy! I do apologize ahead of time tho I do not know the terminology for the life of me. It's possible some of these titles use the exact same system and I wouldn't even realise.

City of Mists
Out of all the games outside of D&D I've tried, City of Mists is my absolute favourite. It is a game where you have a massive amount of freedom and a minimal amount of dice rolling. The game has a very comic/storybook feel to it and its mechanics encourage treating it as such. It's highly customizable so if you dislike combat and instead prefer, for instance, a detective story, it's an absolutely valid way of playing. But even combat is pretty easy as your players will do all the work describing moves and effects, making running combat very manageable.

Not to mention, the entire concept of having a mythological something trying to live their stories through your otherwise mundane character makes for a natural storytelling device. I found it super easy for new players who had never roleplayed before to get engaged. Big recommendation from me!


Prowlers & Paragons
Much like City of Mists, this game is very light on rules and prefers narrative action over mechanics, but it's all about superheroes. It's very easy to learn, and it can get as silly or as serious as you make it. Admittedly, it has been a few years since I tried playing this one so I can't tell you too much about how it plays, but I've had some very memorable moments with my friends. You can't go wrong with a hero team that consists of a shapeshifting alien blob, a dude that literally surfs the internet, a superpowered time traveller from the prohibition era and a psychic hamster.


Dungeon World
This one's not for everyone. If the idea of dungeon delving sounds boring to you, you won't have fun with this one, but I enjoyed the system quite a bit. To me Dungeon World is classic D&D from the 80s but without the complexity. If the number crunching was the only thing keeping you back from playing something like 1st edition, then give this one a go.


Those are the simpler ones I can think of off the top of my head. We've also played Shadowrun, which was amazing, but it is admittedly also hella difficult. I've played for about 3 or 4 years now, two of which I DMed a game to its completion, and I still don't understand half the rules. But if you're big into resource management into the tiniest of details, it's also worth checking out.

I was a part of Claine's Ironclaw campaign too and I can attest it is good fun! I did not really get combat, but I didn't need to. Everything surrounding it was great, and pretty easy to understand too, considering I was a total idiot regarding new systems at the time.

I hope you get some interesting recommendations out of this!
Aardbei Topic Starter

I appreciate everyone turning this thread into what could hopefully be considered a useful repository for tabletop systems that aren't D&D or Pathfinder. I think it's useful to talk about different systems and I hope others who might follow this thread also find things that would better suit what they want.

For my part though... Outside of the things I linked myself, I couldn't find anything that I would want to try, either because I know it exists already and was just never grabbed on it, or because its setting is massively off-putting.

To be honest, I get the vibe by the replies that I've probably gone farther down the rabbit hole looking for things that work for me than most people, specifically because the common settings that appear in TTRPGs (generic Tolkien fantasy, dark fantasy, dark sci-fi, Firefly-style sci-fi, horror, etc) just don't appeal to me and I'm looking for something completely different. I've only ever managed to find those doing my own deep dives though, and admittedly, I find most of those things rooting around on the obscure corners of Itch.io's TTRPG scene because if anyone is likely to make something wildly unlike the normal experiences, it would be weirdos on a random indie game site.

I think, of all the common TTRPG genres, the one I find the easiest to deal with is the superhero genre. I don't particularly like that stuff either (unless it's MHA) but it's the easiest to bend into something I do like without going full-blown homebrew.

Yeah, I know, agnostic systems exist, and for people like me who don't really like the most common themes, those are the only option most of the time. Sadly, it takes a lot of energy and willpower to GM an agnostic system to the point where I'd rather just throw up my hands and run a ruleslite game instead. (Shoutout to the people insane enough to run GURPS btw. I could never do that.)

I don't know how reasonably long I can make the first post of this thread but I am debating on linking every system I know of, including the ones others have posted, in the OP as a comprehensive repo just to save other people the grief of scrolling the thread, though I don't really know how useful that would be or if I would have the time to keep up with it in the event this thread gets much longer, haha.

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