The new year is full of a lot of resolutions for people. Lose weight. Eat better. Be kinder. One resolution we can get behind? Play more games. It’s never a bad time to try out a new RPG but the new year is a great time to get together a group to play a new RPG before the campaign kicks back up…or maybe kick off a new campaign if everyone has fun. Many RPGs have starter sets that offer a sweet, sweet sample of the fun to be had playing pretend for a few hours with good friends. We’ve chosen some of our favorites and collected them in one spot to make shopping for a new game that much easier.
Dungeons & Dragons
The Fifth Edition Starter Set is at the top of the list for several reasons. For people that have never played Dungeons & Dragons it packs in a lot the things that make D&D fun; exploration, combat, and interaction with fun NPCs. For people that haven’t yet tried the new edition, the boxed set offers a look at how the new rules work with an adventure that’s one of the best we’ve seen for the game. It’s also very, very cheap. The boxed set is normally $20 but if you look around or get lucky, it can be found for far less. It’s also widely available at big box stores so gift cards can be used to pick it up.
Call of Cthulhu
At this point, we think more people are familiar with H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos through the games it inspired rather than his original writings. Call of Cthulhu is a big part of this with a groundbreaking RPG on its 7th Edition featuring exotic investigations into the Great Old Ones. The boxed set offers a chance for players to pit pre-generated investigators (or create new ones from a few limited options) against classic cases like “Dead Man’s Stomp”or “Paper Chase”. It also includes a solo adventure, “Alone Against The Flames”, that can be tackled old school with a numbered Choose Your Own Adventure style book or in a modern way through the Cthulhu Chronicles app.
Cramped corridors, deadly creatures and fantastic worlds aren’t just for fantasy RPGs. Mothership brings the terror and action of films like Aliens and Event Horizon in a tiny booklet full of tantalizing hints of dead planets and murderous xenomorphs. The bad news is that this is more of an alpha test rules book than a smaller part of a full game, but the good news is that its available as a Pay What You Want PDF while the developers work on the rules. The first module, Dead Planet, isn’t free, but it’s chock full of haunted ships and compromised bases that can be run straight up or cut apart to suit the GM’s nightmare whims.
Star Wars: Age of Rebellion
Fantasy Flight has been killing it with their Star Wars games and their current RPG offers three lines focused on different aspects of the universe. Edge of the Empire focuses on scoundrels, Age of Rebellion covers the Rebellion and Force and Destiny is all about Force users. (They also put out a reprint edition of the classic West End Games system that also works pretty well as an intro to RPGs.) Each of the lines has a Beginner Game that runs players through the basics of the propulsive system. All three boxes are good, but the Age of Rebellion adventure feels the most like the original movies by focusing on a small group of heroes taking out an Imperial listening post. If everyone has a good time, the FFG website has additional resources for the game, like extra characters and a follow-up adventure that expands on the fallout from assaulting the base.
Sentinels Comics RPG
We discussed our excitement about where Sentinels of the Multiverse has been, but Greater Than Games has put out a taste of where it’s going. The Sentinels Comics RPG Starter Kit features a series of adventures that teach players how to play the game using the iconic characters from the card game. Each session is structured like a comic book and the rules were developed by members of the late, lamented Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game such as Philippe-Antoine Ménard, Clark Valentine, Dave Chalker, and Cam Banks. The full version of the game will be coming to Kickstarter in the new year with the intent of letting all new heroes created at tables across the world taking the setting into dramatic new directions.
What’s your favorite intro RPG? Let us know in the comments!
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Images Credits: Wizards of the Coast, Greater Than Games, Fantasy Flight Games, Tuesday Knight Games, Chaosium
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.