Simpler RPG Systems?


Other RPGs


I am a big fan of Pathfinder. I love the depth of the rules and the vast array of options and builds. I love the artwork in the books and I love the SRD.

That said, all the depth and rules and options makes it a difficult game to teach. I have a friend that has never played a tabletop before and I offered to help guide her through a summer Pathfinder game my friend is running.

Trying to explain all the different numbers to her made me wonder what other, simpler systems are out there and are any good. I find myself cursing the large number of magic items that are available and that any given character has to buy, the large number of spells and of class and monster abilities one has to be aware of if planning to make or to play through various encounters.

It may be a faux pas to ask this sort of thing on Paizo's forum, but I really like the community here, so I figured I would do it anyway.

What are some fun, simpler RPG systems that a Pathfinder player might enjoy? What do you like about said systems? How are they to GM?


Savage Worlds may be one, but it can be difficult to work a game into due to its supplements not always working well together. Better to spend the money on an established setting for that one. Can be difficult to GM because of that.

Then there's... um... Shadowrun? That one requires a lot of adjudication too due to the simplified rules leaving things incomplete.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Forgotten Futures is a steampunk/Jules Verne-style RPG with very simple rules, and it's open source, so the whole thing is free. I think the only rulebook is less than 100 pages, and a lot of that is reference tables.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Numenera is a great system for simplified play. It's got kind of a John Carter feel to it, set in a future so far removed from ours that technology is pretty much indistinguishable from magic.

Characters are incredibly easy to build, usually taking no more than 10 - 15 minutes once the players have figured it all out. Your character creation is literally making a sentence about your character, basically "I'm a *blank* *blank* who *blanks*" where the adjective, noun, and verb determine your mechanics.

So you might have a character who says "I'm a courageous glaive who howls at the moon", and you get the bonuses associated with the courageous descriptor, you get the basic combat chassis of the warrior class (glaive) which means you're tough and good with weapons, and during a full moon you turn into a werewolf and get big combat bonuses but might eat your friends.

All of the subsystems, combat, social, skill, etc. use the same method of resolution involving a d20 roll plus your relevant modifiers compared to the difficulty of whatever you're trying to accomplish.

GMing has a more cinematic feel as the rules are more designed to facilitate the story than to restrict actions, and all of the tracking is so simple that even someone who's never played an RPG before should be able to pick up the rules in short order.


Thanks for the suggestions! I will look into those. Anyone have any other favorites?


If you can wait til next month, then the D&D starter set might be a good bet.

Alternatively, there are various old versions or copies of dungeons and dragons that are a lot simpler than pathfinder. You can roll up a character in a few minutes and start playing. I like the swords and wizardry rules which you can get as a free PDF. Alternatively you could buy PDFs of the D&D basic set and keep on the borderlands on dndclassics.


One of my favorites is Over The Edge. Set on a remote, reclusive island nation (in the Mediterranean in the American version, in the Caribbean in the French version), it's a surreal take on modern espionage. Combining characteristics from Grant Morrison comics, Naked Lunch, The Prisoner, and every single conspiracy theory you can envision, the game can get quite bizarre--but it's loads of fun and filled with intrigue.

Characters have three talents and one flaw; these can be anything. I've played a Secret Service agent suffering from amnesia; an expert in ninjutsu and feng shui who assassinated people by rearranging their furniture; a languorous mutant with potent gastric fluids who came to me in a dream; and a precocious baby who just might be the return of some deity.

Also, it was written and published by Jonathan Tweet, Robin Laws, and John Nephew.


Pual wrote:

If you can wait til next month, then the D&D starter set might be a good bet.

Alternatively, there are various old versions or copies of dungeons and dragons that are a lot simpler than pathfinder. You can roll up a character in a few minutes and start playing. I like the swords and wizardry rules which you can get as a free PDF. Alternatively you could buy PDFs of the D&D basic set and keep on the borderlands on dndclassics.

If you want a simpler version of D&D to play I can recommend some retroclones of older D&D.

Castles and Crusades is a 1sr ed/3rd ed hybrid. It is basically Pathfinder for 1st edition and it has lots of adventures as well. It looks like Pathfinder in many ways (base to hit instead of BAB classes look similar etc)
https://www.rpgnow.com/browse.php?keywords=Castles+and+Crusades&x=0& ;y=0&author=&artist=&pfrom=&pto=

Adventurer Conquer King (ACKs) is a clone of the old BECMI rules although it only goes to level 14. Has some feat like options for the classes. Core book PDF is $10 and it is the MM,PHB and DMG in 1. It is compatable enough with the old TSR adventures assuming you can convert OSR/d20 ACs.
https://www.rpgnow.com/browse.php?keywords=ACKs&x=0&y=0&author= &artist=&pfrom=&pto=

Note you will have to get used to B&W art and ACKs art is less than great for the interior but it is designed to evoke the old D&D art form the 80's. C&C has great art but once again it is blck and white but Elmore and others have done some of the art work.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

You don't get much simpler than Minimus.


And this one as well.

http://basicfantasy.org/downloads.html

Free but very very basic. Based off the old BECMI rules but very stripped down even when compared with ACKs.


Seconding Savage Worlds. My personal preference is using Savage Armory fan-supplement and home-brewing alternate power point systems for spells.

Legend (by rule of cool), 13th Age, 4th edition DnD off the top of my head.

Dungeon World, FATE based systems (FATE core, Spirit of the Century) are also pretty numbers light.


Adventures in the East Mark is a fun frpg from Spain based on the BECMI D&D rules but expanded to include rangers and paladins. The pdf is available at Drive Thru rpg and there is also a pay-what-you-like quick start rules; more info about the rules and setting can be found here:

http://xdpublishing.com/adventures-in-the-east-mark/


Here is an old game that I played in the 90's TWERPS It was based on one stat, Strength.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ah TWERPS. That doesn't take me back, not at all...

Shadow Lodge

Swords & Wizardry. Free PDF on the Frog God Games website, LOTS of adventure support, and has its own SRD.

If S&W Complete Rules is still too complex, there is also the Core Rules version, and the even simpler White Box version.


Dragon age rpg is very good, very simple

Next seems like it will be simpler


Zardnaar wrote:

And this one as well.

http://basicfantasy.org/downloads.html

Free but very very basic. Based off the old BECMI rules but very stripped down even when compared with ACKs.

This is a really nice product. Definitely feels like B/X or BECMI but has separate race/class and ascending armor class.

As stated all of the PDFs are free, but you can order the core rules and several adventures as print-on-demand softcovers from Amazon and elsewhere for under $5 each (Prime eligible).


Vernon Fults wrote:

Adventures in the East Mark is a fun frpg from Spain based on the BECMI D&D rules but expanded to include rangers and paladins. The pdf is available at Drive Thru rpg and there is also a pay-what-you-like quick start rules; more info about the rules and setting can be found here:

http://xdpublishing.com/adventures-in-the-east-mark/

Also, very nice. I supported the Kickstarter for the English translation of this one and look forward to my red boxed set showing up soon. :-)

Note this variant uses race-as-class and traditional descending armor class. It also uses the metric system for distance and weight measurement, which may be a positive or negative (or don't care) depending on your perspective.


thenovalord wrote:

Dragon age rpg is very good, very simple

Next seems like it will be simpler

The boxed set rules for this game make it very easy to pick up and understand. It uses a straight forward 3d6 dice system with an added "Dragon Die" that tells how many stunt points you get to spend if your action succeeded. So if you get a few stunt points you might be able to shove an opponent backwards in addition to damaging them for example. I played the free RPG day adventure for Dragon Age as a one shot during a game weekend with friends last year and we liked it. The characters are race/class combos that are tightly coupled with the Dragon Age setting but that seems to help with role playing.

We also played in the Next playtest for a while and my first impression is that it combines the unified mechanics/concepts of 3rd edition with the old school feel and simple character creation of 1E/2E. The free 5E Basic Rules PDF due out next month should be a good option for a simple system.

Shadow Lodge

Because I didn't link them before:

Swords & Wizardry: Complete Rulebook
Frog God Games
DriveThruRPG
Paizo

Swords & Wizardry: Core Rules
Frog God Games
DriveThruRPG

Swords & Wizardry: White Box
Lulu

=====================================================================

Swords & Wizardry SRD

Support Materials from Frog God Games


I will always and forever tout the Cyberpunk/Fuzion/Interlock ruleset as simple, easy to learn, and dead-on fast to pick up.

One of the original "Stat + Skill + Die Roll VS Difficulty Number" resolution systems). Good, solid skill descriptions, and a very definite "plug and play" ability on the rules to remove or add whatever you want. You want super complex? You can have it. You want six stats and four skills? That works, too. You want pulp-era gumshoe antics? Easy. Giant robots duking it out on the surface of a gas giant? Done.

Bonus: The books are all rather cheap to pick up these days, too.

Liberty's Edge

Legendarius wrote:
The free 5E Basic Rules PDF due out next month should be a good option for a simple system.

I think this would be a really good safe bet. There will be heaps of support and you could 'grow into' full 5e if you liked it. No cash up front means no risk yet a 'modern' system.

Best of all miniatures play is optional so you can play your way vs d20's/4e's 'thou shall play on a grid' approach to combat.

Grand Lodge

LoneKnave wrote:
Dungeon World

+1 for Dungeon World! The GM never rolls dice, and the players mostly roll 2d6 plus a stat modifier. A 10+ means success, a 7-9 means success but with trouble/complications, and 6 or less means something bad happens (but on a 6 or less, you also get XP!). Everything is set up to keep the action moving forward. Combats are much more cinematic and not a long drawn out series of rolls that you see in rules-heavy RPGs (many of which end up being misses or failures).

The Exchange

LoneKnave wrote:

Seconding Savage Worlds. My personal preference is using Savage Armory fan-supplement and home-brewing alternate power point systems for spells.

Legend (by rule of cool), 13th Age, 4th edition DnD off the top of my head.

Dungeon World, FATE based systems (FATE core, Spirit of the Century) are also pretty numbers light.

I personally wouldn't call 4e simpler than Pathfinder. It's more stream-lined in some places, but like Pathfinder it's got lots of character-building blocks. I mean, if you're playing with the PHB only and none of the supplements it shouldn't induce any analysis paralysis, but beyond that there are just too many feats and powers to go around.

Also, thirding Dungeon World. Character creation is really quick, everything that you need to play a certain character class from start to finish (including the rules for each of your abilities) fits on two sides of an A4 (except for the Cleric and Wizard who of course need an extra A4 for their spells), and it really supports fast and loose play where the action never stalls and there's a constant momentum in the game.


Rules Cyclopedia D&D and its relatives are very elegant and straightforward. You can just ignore any of the funky stuff you don't like, and by the time your players are starting to look for more options, Pathfinder and friends will be waiting.

Savage Worlds is a good intro, too.


L5R is a bit simpler not sure it is what you are looking for though...

Fiasco is good for teaching the basics.

If you want I have a basic system I made that could work as it is just making stats and rolling a d100 for said stat when called by the GM.

EDIT: To save post count here is the system that I made. The name is a stand in and comes from the design philosophy of the system. Please Note: I might have missed something when copying it over from the main document so please let me know if something is off.


Games don't get much simpler than RISUS - six pages for all the rules. It's intended for more silly/free-form games than Pathfinder, though.


+1 on Savage Worlds. If you need a setting: check out Hellfrost (Triple Ace Games) for a High Fantasy with a twist, or Beasts and Barbarians (GRAemel) for a Conan-esq swords and sorcery setting.

Swords and Wizardry d20'd tribute to original D&D: They kept the rules the same, but streamlined and simplified them. It's a really good system for adventuring.

Likewise, Castles and Crusades (Troll Lord Games) is a simplified take on the D20 system. I've only played it a little but it plays well.

My group is playing a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics (Goodman Games) lately. Like S&W and C&C, DCC takes the idea that D20 games have gotten too complicated. It plays fast and well.

Remember, when you are talking about a simpler game, you are talking about a game that leaves out rules and leaves it up to the GM to adjudacate a lot of situations. This can make it harder on the GM and players when in play. Also, a "simpler system" means there are less customization tricks for PC's, so unless your players are decent role players and storytellers, all of the characters of a given class will tend to look alike. (I should mention that Castles and Crusades has a good game mechanic for dealing with this.)


FATE
and
PDQ and its derivatives.


Legendarius wrote:
Vernon Fults wrote:

Adventures in the East Mark is a fun frpg from Spain based on the BECMI D&D rules but expanded to include rangers and paladins. The pdf is available at Drive Thru rpg and there is also a pay-what-you-like quick start rules; more info about the rules and setting can be found here:

http://xdpublishing.com/adventures-in-the-east-mark/

Also, very nice. I supported the Kickstarter for the English translation of this one and look forward to my red boxed set showing up soon. :-)

Note this variant uses race-as-class and traditional descending armor class. It also uses the metric system for distance and weight measurement, which may be a positive or negative (or don't care) depending on your perspective.

Got my set this week! The red box includes the rules (which contains a short adventure), a set of red dice, a white crayon to color in the numbers, a pencil with the game logo and a GM screen which appears to have all the desired information and is fairly sturdy, but not as sturdy as the Pathfinder, 4E or Dragon Age screens for example.


Someone already mentioned it, but Castles and Crusades is what I'd suggest.

Think about Pathfinder Basic (not the beginner box, simpler, more basic than that), and it seems similar to what you may find in Castles and Crusades.

So it has some of the basic ideas of Pathfinder, but not all the complexity to learn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I'll second Fate Core, and for even faster play, there's Fate Accelerated.

If you want a super-simple sci-fi game, check out the one-page rulse for Lasers & Feelings.

It's a game based on a song by the Doubleclicks.

Dark Archive

Castles & Crusades. Built off the 3.X system devoid of all the heavy crunch of feats/skills. Also a lot of support material from the Trolls. Very easy to convert your old D&D and modern 3.x/PF stuff to the system. It is a Rosetta Stone of sorts.

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