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Me and some friends are looking for resources to help us begin playing a RPG. Preferably themed fantasy (magicians, etc...)

Problem is, none of us ever did this sort of thing. But we are set on doing this by ourselves, i.e. not introduce someone else into our group (including a DM). So, any ideas?

Specifically:

  1. We want fantasy. Think Tolkien, D&D, Final Fantasy games, etc. (Setting only, not rules or anything.)

  2. For the rules, I just had a look at Risus, (found a link on the "duplicate" question). This is interesting, but I would prefer something a little bit beefier in terms of combat mechanics/ character evolutions rules: experience levels, special abilities/spells, etc.

  3. Team composition: need to be flexible enough. Not all wizard, though.

  4. We all are quite imaginative, (I think), but I would appreciate some module, prewritten story to begin with.

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Ultimately, this is probably not a duplicate of the linked question, but you have to give us more information. I suggest looking at that question: it's very well written, laying out exactly what the group is looking for. Supplying your own answers to the same questions will distinguish your question from that one and allow us to answer you more specifically and correctly. As is, just the fact that you're all new is not really enough to go on. –  KRyan Feb 1 at 20:01
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Welcome to Role-playing Games Stack Exchange! As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 1 at 23:57
    
The answers to this have been bad so far because the question's poorly scoped. @OlivierH please consider that there are thousands of extant RPGs and that we only allow game-rec questions on the site when they're pretty specific. Look around at other game-recs for other discussions of games and see if you can clarify. –  mxyzplk Feb 3 at 3:26
    
To answerers - if this gets changed into a "how do I get started," then your answers might be on topic. We have other questions like that. This is a game-rec so far, and answers that don't fit that will be going away. This isn't "chat about noob help." –  mxyzplk Feb 3 at 3:26
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closed as too broad by KRyan, wax eagle, mxyzplk Feb 3 at 0:54

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

4 Answers

The trouble with recommending RPGs is that they are, in very large part, a matter of taste and there are thousands of RPGs to choose from. You've already identified D&D in your question, and there's nothing wrong with just playing D&D! It's extremely easy to find, and it's definitely a rolelpaying game. Even if it's not the "perfect" game for you, it's a great place to start and you'll be in good company—most roleplayers got their start with some edition of D&D, and it hits all four of your requirements.

However, since you mention D&D but you're still asking, I'm going to continue with the assumption that just picking the default isn't what you want to do. (But if D&D works for you, go for it, really.) And recommendations aside, there are lots of resources of the kind you're asking for that I can point you to.

The best answer to this would be a tool that would guide you through the process of not only selecting your first RPG, but also learning what the relevant features are that you can base your choice on.

Fortunately, I don't have to write that! Someone has helpfully already written it here: Learn Tabletop Roleplaying Games. There is also The Beginner's Guide to RPGs, which is also good but contains different material. Finally there are the pair of guides by game designer Greg Stolze, How to Play Roleplaying Games and How to Run Roleplaying Games, which won't give you any game recommendations, but will explain what roleplaying games are like and how to be a good player or good GM in pretty much any game you eventually pick.

Two other tools that aren't obvious now but will be invaluable later can help you, as a group, figure out what your preferences are in RPGs. You don't know one RPG from another right now, but you'll very soon discover that there is a lot of variation, and the experiences that different RPGs deliver can be extremely different, as different as the experience of reading a poem is from reading an engineering textbook is from reading a romance novel. To figure out what your tastes are, these two tools are very useful:

  • The Same Page Tool – helps you decide as a group what kind of RPG experience you're aiming to create, and prevent anyone from being surprised by it
  • Metagame Rewards, or the Different Kinds of Fun – a way of understanding what different people enjoy in RPGs and hopefully enable you to tailor your gameplay to accommodate the desires of as many of your group as possible
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This is kind of a null answer, because ultimately it is a composite of two things.

First, I want to echo SevenSidedDie’s excellent answer.

Then, I wanted to repeat my answer to another question about games for new groups, since a lot of your requirements are quite similar.

I will highlight some things, however:

I don’t think D&D 3.5 or its Pathfinder spin-off are a great fit

In both of these systems, magic is incredibly dominant. Since you want your team to be “Not all wizard,” this indicates to me that you want both magic-users and non-magical characters to be on a fairly even playing field, and this is not the case with “3.PF” as the systems are known. Furthermore, both are poor systems for new groups, as their rules are lengthy and convoluted, and more than a bit arbitrary. Many of the options presented as nominally equally valid are, in fact, quite disparate in power, leading to “traps” that none of you will have the knowledge to avoid.

Ultimately, however, these systems are definitely playable for a new group. Many people have started with them. And both have a ton of prewritten adventures, more than any other system most likely. I simply think there are better options.

D&D 4e might be a really good fit

4e is still fairly complicated, but its rules are much more consistent and coherent than 3.PF, and various options are much closer in power. Unfortunately, it does cost money, unlike basic 3.5 or all of Pathfinder (but then, those free offerings are notoriously difficult to learn from, since they are designed more as reference material for people who already know the game), but a simple subscription to Dungeons & Dragons Insider gives you access to everything in the system, and you only pay for it for as long as it actually interests you. You ultimately can get a lot for your money there.

And there are definitely a lot of prewritten modules for 4e. Probably not as many as 3.5 or Pathfinder (much less both combined), but definitely a lot.

Legend doesn’t have prewritten modules

I’d really love to recommend Legend, as it hits a lot of your desires very well, I think, but ultimately there simply are no prewritten modules for it at all. As a small, indie game, there’s also not nearly as much resources for it, either.

FATE is still an excellent suggestion

I haven’t read Risus, but FATE has a lot of options for taking character’s actions, even if they are not as tactical as D&D or similar. I don’t think it will let you down there, and there’s quite a lot of FATE material for you to work off of. Plus the system is fun, engaging, and reasonably easy to pick up (much easier than anything D&D-derived).

Conclusion

I like D&D 4e or FATE best for your group, for the reasons I’ve stated here and in my linked answer to the other question.

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Most new gamers find a local gaming store or gaming convention that's friendly to beginners. Conventions are a great way to experience several game systems in a day or two. In Colorado Springs, we have a local convention, "Micro-Con" that specializes in short, 2 hours or less sessions that allow people to experience several game systems in an afternoon. If you wanted to do something similar, but only with your group, you could peruse rpgnow for free quickstart rules for settings and games you would like to try and run a quick encounter in each system/setting.

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Please, please, when they say quite clearly that they want to do it themselves, don't just say "do it with someone else". –  Miles Rout Feb 2 at 2:57
    
I said it was a risk :-) –  Wyrmwood Feb 2 at 2:58
    
Fair enough, I will tune my answer –  Wyrmwood Feb 2 at 2:59
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My recommendation would be to start with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition. The reasons are:

  1. It is a fantasy game, which is what you want.
  2. It has fairly beefy mechanics, and its rules are set up such that you can quite easily modify them. This seems to be what you want as well.
  3. You can play as a variety of classes, each with their own role in the group. Up until about level 12, magic is not too dominant in the game. And frankly, Wizards and Druids are only really overpowered when they're heavily optimised. If you play Wizard and Druid as you'd expect them to be played normally - picking up a spell here and there as applicable to the current situation of the campaign, etc. - then for the most part they're not going to be hugely overpowered compared to the other members of the party. Magic is dominant at higher levels though, but IMO that's a good thing. Magic should be more powerful than non-magic, that just makes sense.
  4. There are quite literally hundreds upon hundreds of prewritten modules out there.

  5. Most important, there are untold thousands of blog posts, forum posts, wikis, etc. explaining how some people have run campaigns and created worlds for Dungeons and Dragons. It's the most popular RPG, and so there is just an incredible amount of content for it out there.

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Level 7 is a much more reasonable statement than 12 (though it can start from level 1), and druids are remarkably easy to “intuitively” break things with (I’ll stipulate on the wizard, that takes effort, though new players have “stumbled upon” overpowered playstyles in the past). Your points 1, 4, and 5 are very good, though. –  KRyan Feb 2 at 3:15
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