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I have been the GM for my little circle of friends for a few months. We are having trouble finding an RPG system to be comfortable with.

On my part, I seem to be unable to settle on any particular system or adventure - I find something new and shiny and want to play that. My players, on the other hand, don't entirely grasp how to deal with RPGs. Two roleplay enthusiastically, but I find a lot of the time I have to prompt them or suggest courses of action, like that the Rogue checks for traps.

I need a tabletop that is simple and easy to grasp for inexperienced players and GMs - what should we use?

We've tried Paranoia, but that mostly ends up in bickering over the semantics affecting their demises. We tend to fall back on D&D, but we're not comfortable with it, and as I mentioned the players have difficulty with the mechanics. Today alone we considered three alternative systems - we're having trouble choosing.

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Sorry about the erratic nature of my question. I was up all night playing Paranoia with said group. As for being more descriptive: I'm fine with D&D or non-D&D, but I have more experience with D20 format (3.5 and 4). It needs to be a pen and paper RPG. Well, complexity-wise I want something around the same as D&D 3.5. (PC) Simple is good but I don't want them to feel like they're being babied. (System) I can work with most systems, but I had a hard time grasping Mutants and MAsterminds 3e (Might be attributed to lack of sleep). – Ashibayai Mar 29 '13 at 13:52
3.5 isn't actually very simple, comparatively speaking. Have you tried Mouse Guard? Haven't tried it myself, but I've heard very good things, and it's supposed to be 1) simple, 2) friendly to people who are new to RPGs entirely, 3) supportive of roleplaying (versus a heavy mechanical feel). – Oblivious Sage Mar 29 '13 at 15:15
Have to agree with Oblivious Sage about 3.5 Theres a lot of character options and complexity from the multitude of books out there and the way characters level up and shoot for prestige classes. If you stick with D&D I'd say try 4e again using Essentials characters or try D&DNext. Heyond that I would also echo the suggestion for mouse guard – Joshua Aslan Smith Mar 29 '13 at 18:55
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The game that could work for your group really depends on what they want to play. I could suggest several easy to grasp and free games (so that you can try something different without a money investment) but I think you need to focus on games that could work.

"Don't do things unless told to" could mean you have a player that wants others to tell him a story where he makes some of the decisions or that he only knows games like this and has never faced a game were, if you don't tell what your character does you can't do actions. Or maybe it just means finding traps is not what adventuring is about for that player.

I'd suggest you Dungeon World. It's free, it's fantasy, the players just describe what they do and based on the description you ask them to roll things. If the rogue does not disable a trap someone can activate it and that would be a consequence of some failed roll (when a player fails a roll, something bad happens). If the trap was found, that same failed roll would have lead to some other bad thing so while the fiction is different not seeing a particular problem is ok.

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Reading how to play right now, I like it so far. Old school, reminds me of my first game. – Ashibayai Mar 29 '13 at 14:05
Okay, thanks for the suggestion. We will try Dungeon World when we all get some sleep. A heavy set guy, two nerds wearing glasses, and a spaz said "Thank You". This seems like a perfect "first" game experience for them. – Ashibayai Mar 29 '13 at 14:27
Related:… I linked the post with the links but the opening of the thread has an explaination of why such a booklet has been written. – Zachiel Mar 29 '13 at 16:54

You're uncomfortable with D&D... so I'll recommend relatively straightforward games that have good rules, excellent support, and are fun for me... and avoid the whole D&D paradigms of Dungeon crawls and Class-and-level play.

I would recommend any of the following:

Edge of the Empire - The Beginner's box is $30, and is a paced instruction adventure for both GM and players. Further the adventure is actually decent, and the follow-on is nicely done as well. What it is missing from the full rules is about half the combat options, and character generation. The full Core rules are due out "soon" - within the next couple months as of this writing. Note that I drafted a short article on faking Character Gen, "Faking CGen", hosted over at RPGGeek. It's Star Wars meets Firefly... smugglers and ne'er do wells in the Star Wars universe.

Mouse Guard is another excellent option. Rules light to medium-light, highly structured play, and while thick, elegant. The rules are straightforward, and the setting incredible. It helps to be familiar with the comics, but it isn't essential. While character gen is included, play it with pregens first...

Pendragon Another medium-light rules game... very thematic. This is dark ages fantasy with a realistic, Arthurian edge. If you want to check out the mechanics cheaply, Book of Knights (for 4E, not to be confused with 5th ed's Book of Knights and Ladies) is a $5 PDF, and very short form introduction to the setting. It's a fully playable rulebook, too. And, even if you later buy the 5E rules, 4E character generation is preferable to many players, as 5E has done away with the random rolls. Also note: aside from character generation, the mechanics are pretty much the same throughout the line. If you want a magic system, you'll need the 4E core rulebook, which is available in PDF (or used).

With both Edge of the Empire and with Pendragon, there is extensive setting canon - don't let that scare you. Just pick a point, and say "all bets are off once play begins"... Some of my most memorable games have been explorations of holes in Star Wars canon and breaking the Pendragon Canon. (Where were the rest of the fighters from the Death Star? Fighting my PC's and their 4 squadrons away from the Death Star while 4 squadrons of ships attacked the star! Or Preventing Arthur from doing certain damned fool things...)

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I'm currently playing through Edge of the Empire, which is a new Star Wars themed system with a couple of adventures published for it so far. The game is fairly easy to learn, which is important as I've never GM'd before. There are some things I like particularly like about this game:

  1. The dice pool system. It uses custom dice which make a lot of sense once you learn to use them.

  2. No levels. Your characters spend XP to improve their skills and talents, but there are no character levels.

  3. Story elements focus on problem solving. There are usually viable alternatives to violence, such as stealth, charm, coercion, etc.

  4. Environments are typically towns, mines, spaceships, shops, cantinas, the occasional fortress, bandit hideouts and open country. Yes, there are analogues to D&D, but it makes a difference to the usual medieval settings and the inevitable crypts, tombs, dungeons, etc. As you'd expect from the title, the stories tend to focus around rim worlds like Tatooine, but in the future FFG (the publisher) has plans to introduce new campaign settings involving Rebels and the Jedi vs the empire which is likely to involve core worlds.

  5. It ships with a completely self-contained beginners box that has a manual, the dice, a first adventure, four character folios with pre-generated characters to play, a quality map and character and NPC map markers. The beginner adventure is designed to gradually introduce the rules of playing for GM and players alike, with the manual there as a reference. Everything in the box is great quality, as you'd expect from FFG.

The downside is obviously the newness of the campaign setting. If your PCs decide to head off in an unintended direction, you can't just reach for a book or website full of locations and maps like you can in the Faerun setting. Yes, Star Wars has plenty of planets and cities and other locations, but to make your own adventure you're really starting from scratch, so there is a stronger motivation to constrain and redirect your PCs within the confines of the adventure you're playing through.

Another way of putting it is that if we were playing D&D, I'd be more comfortable if the PCs decided that they just wanted to head off in a different direction or explore a novel solution, because I could look at a map of Faerun, figure out which town they'll reach next, or maybe just grab another adventure that seems like it will fit along their path.

All in all, I'd say it's fun to play. I tend to GM it with a little tongue-in-cheek as the films have a sense of humour and are generally light and optimistic in overall tone, and my players have really enjoyed it. As a newbie GM it's also been a well structured if steep learning experience.

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Welcome to RPG.SE, Marky Mark! Great answer, and a +1 to get you going. Answers from experience are always the best answers. Check out the help for more information about the site, but thanks for your input, and hope you stay around! – SnakeDr68 Jun 24 '13 at 14:45
I found Edge of Empire to be very refreshing indeed. Streamlined. +1 – karmington May 27 '14 at 12:36

I've found that d100 systems like Basic Roleplaying offer a rapid learning curve for players. Chaosium makes a free quick-start PDF of Basic Roleplaying so you can check it out and get an idea if it might work for your needs. BRP is a generic system suitable for pretty much any genre, and they support it with a variety of sourcebooks.

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To be honest I haven't had experience with many game-systems and we are commonly playing in German so our "medieval" game of our choice is The Dark Eye (also available in English). While our group doesn't experiment much with many systems we introduce new players to this game every so often, usually every half year or such. If they have a slight hang towards P&P RPGs they usually like this one. While it also depends on the group and the one I'm playing in never really left the somewhat-inexperienced-hero stage (despite playing since years) in my opinion The Dark Eye promotes an easy entry.


  • Character building is incredible fun and in every step of it you see your character grow as you assign talents to her / him. Even beginners tend to spend some hours on this (usually after discarding their first character after some sessions).
  • The world it is set in is very easy to grasp. Basically it is a medieval-Europe setting with some magic and fantasy creatures added to it. Not too much though, the main driver of the world is still politics and economics and not magic (low fantasy). There is plenty (literally thousands of pages) of background material and maps that illuminate this world.
  • Values on the character sheet do not matter so much. All Dark Eye groups I've played in so far put a focus on group interactions and non-rule based interactions with the world - for example we often accept a well presented argument to solve a conflict rather than rolling a dice.

To conclude, this system is very imaginable because somehow everyone has a mental image of medieval life and it doesn't force beginners to learn a chunk of rules (though there exists a vast complexity of them if it is desired).

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The Engli version isn't all tat clearly written. – aramis Apr 1 '13 at 8:52

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