Top 5 Best Alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons


Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG), but it certainly isn’t the only tabletop role-playing game.  To some it isn’t even the best game.  This incredible hobby of ours is jam packed with systems, games, and settings — old and new — from some of the most amazing and imaginative people who have created their own alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons.

There are games with amazing worlds of hidden and ancient mysteries, worlds young and vibrant in need of protection, and worlds shattered and in need of restoration.  Whatever you desire in a fantasy setting is out there, waiting for you to take hold of the reins.  Waiting for you to take that next step to becoming a legend.

Whether as a one-shot or a campaign, you do not want to miss out on some of these fantastic worlds.  Let’s take a look at five alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons.


Forbidden Lands Core Game (PDF)
Forbidden Lands: Raven’s Purge campaign (hardcover)
Forbidden Lands: The Bitter Reach campaign (hardcover)

Forbidden Lands is a modern take on old school roleplaying.

What’s modern?

The game mechanics are simple but meaningful. At first glance you may scoff at how few statistics and items your character has, but when you see how it all integrates into a meaningful, consistent, and neat package you’re going to wonder why it took this long to make Forbidden Lands your go-to game.

What’s old-school?

Forbidden Lands perfectly captures the balance between combat, social, exploration, and survival. The combat is deadly and requires a team mindset in order to survive. Social encounters have a meaningful list of considerations to facilitate both narrative style role-players and the less verbose wargamers. Exploration comes in the form of the beloved hex crawl, where every new location provides surprise, and a chance for death or riches. While Forbidden Lands does not get lost in the bean counting or spreadsheet style of inventory management, it certainly reminds you of the importance of food, water, torches, and ammo.

On top of those exciting features, Forbidden Lands also adds a fifth element, one that is often missing or that takes a backseat to the previous list, and that come in the form of the character’s stronghold. From the start of play the PCs begin to create and fortify a base of operations to use as protection, storage, and growth.

I cannot say enough good things about Forbidden Lands — from the game lore, to the rules, to the variety of in-game options — there is something for everyone, and you are bound to have a fantastic time playing this game.

How to create a Forbidden Lands character

Forbidden Lands is a new take on classic fantasy roleplaying. In this open-world survival roleplaying game, you’re not heroes sent on missions dictated by others – instead, you are raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world. You will discover lost tombs, fight terrible monsters, wander the wild lands and, if you live long enough, build your own stronghold to defend. Contents:

  • Player’s Manual including rules for fast character generation, visceral combat, lethal magic, dangerous journeys and for building your own stronghold – easily be ported to your own favorite game world.
  • Gamemaster’s Guide including a rich and detailed description of the Forbidden Lands setting, a large illustrated Bestiary, extensive random encounters, and three complete adventure sites.
  • The Legends & Adventurers booklet, letting you flesh out your characters and give them unique backgrounds.
  • Full-color map, giving you the freedom to explore the Forbidden Lands any way you want, hex by hex.


Palladium Fantasy RPG, 2nd Edition
Palladium Fantasy RPG – Book 2 – Old Ones
Palladium Fantasy RPG – Monsters and Animals

Palladium Fantasy RPG has been around since the early 1980s, and is one of the original alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike some other games that are on their 5th edition or even 8th edition, Palladium Fantasy RPG is such a well functioning game that it is only in it’s 2nd edition!  Since it’s creation PFRPG has been going strong… with good reason!

Often derided as ‘crunchy’ by people who only give it a cursory glance.  Anyone who’s played Palladium Fantasy RPG knows it is a cinematic experience with a lot of room for a good game master to move the game along through “rulings-not-rules.”  Palladium Fantasy RPG has been one of my favorites since I first played it in the mid-1980s.

The Wolfen Empire prepares for war in the Great Northern Wilderness, while the Giant kingdom of Mount Nimro threatens nearby human, elven, and dwarven settlements. On the high seas, pirates abound, sailing to islands like the Isle of Zy and the Island of the Cyclops!

Mystics, Knights, and Barbarians call upon the gods for powers both new and arcane to bend the world to their will. And the politics of Game of Thrones, will not hold a candle to the intrigue and back stabbing found in the high courts on this world.

Do you have the stout backbone, the dragon-forged will, the deceptive guile to survive in the world of Palladium Fantasy.


Lion & Dragon

Want to run a medieval roleplaying game? Want to simulate living in the middle ages? You’ve picked up the right book. Lion & Dragon is designed for use with most OSR rules systems and focuses on providing clear instructions for putting together a medieval world and creating adventures that feel like you are exploring what it was really like to be alive at the time.

Until now, you only thought you were playing “medieval fantasy”!

With Lion & Dragon, the rules of the original tabletop RPG have been adapted to create a more historically authentic medieval experience, to reflect the grittier and yet more mythic world of a magical medieval Europe.

L&D includes new rules governing social class and materials on culture to help a GM craft a world that feels closer to the world of the 100-years war or the War of the Roses. It has a grittier and more dangerous feel to reflect the cheapness of life at the time. Also included are sections on medieval economics, law & justice, and chapters with monsters and magical items based on authentic medieval legends. Finally, a completely revamped magic system is based on actual grimoire-magic as the medieval magicians really envisioned it.


Conan 2d20

People simply cannot stop sharing their excitement and enthusiasm for the Conan 2d20 role-playing game.  If you have not had the opportunity to play this game, you really are missing out on a hidden gem.

Robert E. Howard’s Tabletop RPG Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of takes you into the world of Conan the Barbarian, where heroes raise blood-spattered swords against dire sorcery, exotic lands beckon to the daring, danger and treasure lurks in forgotten ruins, and where loathsome creatures haunt the spaces beneath the earth… as well as in the throne-rooms of mighty kingdoms!

Seek your fortune in forbidden tombs or upon blood-soaked battlefields. Cast dark and terrible spells of unimaginable power, at the price of your soul. Sail upon untamed seas to lands where no human in living memory has walked. Fight for the fate of civilization — or barbarism — on a savage frontier!

  • Create your own legend in this decadent and violent world.
  • Complete 2d20 game system, including combat, skills, talents, sorcery, and equipment suitable for adventuring in the age before history.
  • An extensive gazetteer covering the whole of Conan’s world: featuring fair Aquilonia, gloomy Cimmeria, magic-haunted Stygia, all the way to the far-off steaming jungles of Khitai.
  • Extensive guidelines for running scenarios and campaigns in the Hyborian Age, allowing gamemasters to create suitably Howardian adventures.
  • Fearsome foes, ranging from bandits to sorcerers, apes to giant serpents, Children of Set to frost giants, forest devils, and characters of renown such as Conan or his most deadly foe, Thoth-Amon.
  • Art a team of iconic Conan artists, including Tim Truman, Simon Bisley, Esteban Sanjulian, Maroto, Mark Schultz, Tomás Giorello, and more.
  • Developed in close consultation with award-winning Conan scholars, this is the most authentic depiction of Conan and his world ever published for games.


Earthdawn 4th Edition: Player’s Guide
Earthdawn 4th Edition: Game Master’s Guide
Earthdawn 4th Edition Companion

While most of my Earthdawn experience is with the 1st Edition of the game, it remains my all time favorite high magic fantasy TTRPG. The Step System is phenomenal, and the world is incredibly rich. Earthdawn may be a bit daunting for new gamers, but once you put your hands on this game you won’t ever want to put it down!

An age of magic once existed in our world. Lost to history, this time is remembered in the echoes of myth and legend. Humans lived alongside the other Namegiver races—dwarf and elf, troll and ork, windling, t’skrang and obsidiman. The wild places of the world were home to griffins, shadowmants, and other fantastic beasts.

The land was once besieged by the Horrors, foul creatures from the depths of astral space that sought to feed upon and destroy all that was living and good. Their time—the time of the Scourge—has passed, and the people have returned to the surface, reclaiming the lands that were once their home.

Brave heroes band together to explore the land of Barsaive, fighting the Horrors that remain, and protecting their homes and families from those that would enslave them.

All right! There’s a list of five games to get you started on your heroic journey away from Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder.  Every one of the games above I have played and thoroughly enjoyed!  I know you will too!  Check’em out… give’em a try… and fall in love with them as so many others have!
I’ll introduce you to five more TTRPGs in the near future, but don’t wait until then! Grab one of these wonderful games… now!


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