If you are looking to learn to role play and want to decide which RPG is the best for the task, you are in the right place. Even if I chose Dungeons & Dragons to start role playing after a 25-year hiatus, I wanted to know what else was in the market, discarding anything but the exceptional. And thus I came up with this list of the best tabletop RPGs for beginners.
No “best ” list is objective, and thus, you may miss a game on this list that you were recommended by other sources. That’s understandable and I would hate it if you stuck to this list so tightly that you didn’t play anything else. I just wanted, for you and me both, to filter a little bit.
The reason I put a lot of stress on the most popular RPGs too. I don’t necessarily always believe in the power of the masses, but as the beginner I am. It would be too arrogant to discard the games that thousands of people play and believe are amongst the best. Also, I think that, by choosing popular role playing games, I make sure that you will find a local community or at least a couple people interested in it, so you don’t have to play online exclusively.
And now, finally, with no further ado, here are the best tabletop RPGs:
1. Dungeons & Dragons
If you thought that a beginner in the world of Role Playing Games would write anything else but Dungeons & Dragons as the number one entry on an article about best tabletop RPGs you are a peculiar type. D&D his the history and legacy of the game and, let’s face it, if it wasn’t because of it and its recent appearance in popular culture via, among others, Stranger Things, most of us would have not gotten back to rolling dice.
And it’s all good, to be honest. There is little to dislike about a world of worlds and a universe of universes revolving dungeons, dragons, and pretty much anything else you can think of. There is possibly more official material on D&D than on all the other nine games combined, and that’s without taking into consideration the realm of fan fiction.
The greatest thing about a game that everyone plays is that it should be the easiest to get around when finding people to start and learning how to play comes into consideration. Oh, and Dungeons & Dragons’ Basic Rules PDF is free. You can download it here.
- Current Edition: 5th edition, published on 2014.
I believe there are mainly two answers when asked what are the best tabletop RPGs. The generic one, by default almost, is to say Dungeons & Dragons and leave it there. The second one is making sure you don’t choose Dungeons & Dragons.
The reason behind the second answer can come mostly from two different schools of ideas: the first school is the people that think that everything that is popular is bad, the second school is the hardcore old-school role-player with decades of experience who genuinely and consciously believes there are other games that are better than D&D.
Both of this schools, however, have a predominant favourite: Pathfinder. Pathfinder started as an evolution of the rules for the third edition of D&D. It became so popular that it was the best selling RPG until D&D’s 5th edition was released.
Pathfinder has remained strong, and the release in August of 2019 of its second edition, right when role playing games are at an all-time popularity is reason more than enough to think it will maintain itself in this exclusive position amongst the best tabletop RPGs for beginners.
The first two entries of this list of best tabletop RPGs for beginners were of the medieval fantasy genre. In there you can find knights, dragons, and a world were technology has, mostly, little to no impact. Our third entry changes dramatically this pattern and takes us to a near-future in what is the most popular cyberpunk fantasy role playing game: Shadowrun.
With the release in 2019 of the Sixth Edition of Shadowrun, the game also reached a milestone. Twenty years since its inception.
4. Vampire: the Masquerade
Are there really many cooler characters than vampires? If you leave aside certain representations that may be too teen-friendly for my taste, there are very few ideas that combine so beautifully a sense of loss of humanity mystery and darkness.
In the roleplaying game Vampire: the Masquerade you can be, yes, a vampire, but many other things too. And all of them are awesome.
5. Call of Cthulhu
If I had to pick one role playing game out of the list, I have no doubt that Call of Cthulhu would be my choice as I’m writing this lines. I love the Cthulhu Mythos and the setting on the 1920s is an uncommon one.
The fact that you can skip buying the Keeper Rulebook and get the outstanding Starter Set to begin with should make up for any doubts you have regarding trying this RPG out.
6. Star Wars RPG
Fantasy Flight Games picked up were West End Games took me almost 30 years ago. And the worlds of Star Wars are in a very healthy place for fans of role playing games.
You don’t need to be a Star Wars geek to enjoy this game. Of course, if you are, you will love it. But as long as you like settings on the space and distant worlds, this game works too.
The video game may have taken ages to appear and was underwhelming to put it lightly. But there is something us role players have been waiting for longer than that. The latest edition of the Cyberpunk RPG.
Luckily, while we wait, the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit is here and is the perfect start for a beginner. Make sure you check it if you like futuristic cyberpunk (term never better used) RPG settings.
8. Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS)
GURPS is the role playing game for those who want to play the most customised experience possible. Do you and your friends have an inside joke no one else understands? You could create a whole role playing campaign around it with GURPS.
The only limit is your imagination and the amount of time you want to put into the story. There is not a more flexible role playing game than this one.
9. Savage Worlds
Savage Worlds is another role playing system that allows you to play at any given time or universe you can think of. This is supported with special supplements to the core rules.
Amongst its peculiarities you can find that the dice use will vary depending on your level of attribute/skill and that a deck of cards can be in use for certain occasions.
You can learn more about this particular role playing game by checking this introduction video by Hollow Tale.
10. Warhammer RPG
We end this list of the best tabletop RPGs for beginners with Warhammer RPG.
The main difference between Warhammer RPG and other medieval fantasy role playing games is that this could easily be considered the darkest and grimest of them.
You are not going to be starting your journey as a hero, but you will instead be one of the lowest classes in the setting you choose and will have to go through great trouble to survive.
Only if you manage to get very lucky, you will ever be powerful enough to be considered a renouned character.
What is the Best Beginners Tabletop RPG for You?
There is no such thing as the best tabletop rpg for a beginner like you. It very much depends on who you are and what you like.
If you and your friends are very interested in medieval fantasy, then choosing one of the games that fit that category makes total sense.
The same goes for someone who has a fixation on the space or futuristic dystopian realities.
All of these games have great entry points and a huge following that will definitely help you get settled, whether it is by finding other players or having someone that can solve your questions.
Just go ahead, pick one, forget your analysis paralisis since you cannot go wrong, and start from there.
At the end of the day, you are just starting to learn to role play. Eventually, who knows, you can try all the best tabletop rpgs for beginners!