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43

They are all fun, so you don't need to worry any on that count. For cheap, you're in luck—Basic D&D 5th edition (the current edition) is free to download and play right now. Fifth edition is an edition designed to be easy to get into for new players, while still being the full D&D adventure experience. The free PDFs contain the complete rules, but ...


41

Currently available The Mongoose Publications flavor of Traveller is able to handle quite a bit of that. The core rules cover ships (to about 28,000 cubic meters in size... not really that big!), have a simplistic system for cargo availability (it's no good as a simulation, but it plays well and serves dramaturgically), has a psionics system that works ...


40

Ars Magica Ars Magica may not have everything you asked for, but it has bookkeeping requirements for areas you probably never imagined. It doesn't go into the inventory-control detail of Torchbearer, but the nature of the game adds bookkeeping on: your age your history of anti-aging potion use your inventory not just of spell components, but of raw ...


39

All of these games play excellently as one-shot games. I've run many of these at cons, sometimes as part of my "RPG speed dating" event (Indie by Storm) where I'll run 4-6 games in 4 hours. If I can give you a feel for a game in 40 minutes, then you can have a blast with it in 5 hours! I have updated this answer with other folks' excellent answers, but ...


34

From my experience, your number 3 is key: Availability to PCs. If something is supposed to be mythical, it gets scientific automatically. Once players know the mechanics behind it, their brain will do calculations in their head. Thats not even a conscious process. People cannot "un-know" things. Example: D&D, the party encounters some random guy, he ...


33

Ars Magica seems to fit your requirements quite nicely. Let's go over them one by one: Freeform magic system. Ars Magica's magic is very flexible, being comprised of five Techniques (Create, Destroy, Move, Change and Know, roughly) and ten Forms (the four elements, Body, Mind, Animal, Plant, and so forth). Any spell is a combination of Technique+Form. The ...


31

Your situation sounds perfect for Dungeon World Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure. A world of magic, gods and demons, of good and evil, law and chaos. Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory. - Dungeon World p. 7. Dungeon World relies primarily on d6s You need a handful of dice other ...


29

Dungeons & Dragons 3.x – Too Many Traps The first tabletop RPG I played was Dungeons & Dragons 3.5ed. I recommend against 3.5 (or Paizo’s “3.75,” Pathfinder, which is really not all that different). It’s complicated and has a ton of rules, plus a lot of options that are (apparently intentionally) “traps” &...


28

Well, to a degree "more than surviving combat" is what you put into it... But here's some good ones I own and have read or used. All Flesh Must Be Eaten uses the Unisystem like most of Eden Studio's games; it has a large number of supplements for everything from kung fu zombies to wild west zombies. It's a toolkit game where you can make the zombies work ...


27

Ars Magica Ars Magica has a set of 5 techniques (to create, to perceive, to change, to destroy, and to control) and 10 forms (animal, air, water, body, plant, fire, image, mind, earth, and power). You can combine the techniques and the forms to quite literally create effects of that combination on the fly, and then research spells for easier/more powerful ...


27

Talk to your players, and you don't need to trick your players into playing a game they don't like. My advice is to actually sit down and talk to your players about running a sci-fi style game and for your entire group to actually sit down and pick out a game that suits everyone's needs. "My problem is my players" is the wrong atitude to have in this ...


26

Firstly, have everyone who has never roleplayed before read Greg Stolze's How to Play Roleplaying Games. This is an excellent primer that takes the reader from zero knowledge of roleplaying apart from curiosity about it, to a fully fleshed-out idea of what it actually looks like to sit down and play a roleplaying game. Just having this knowledge will solve a ...


25

The system that comes into mind for me when reading your criteria is GURPS. One of the good things about GURPS is that it's exactly as complicated as you want it to be. Any bit of bookkeeping that you would want to do is likely supported in some book somewhere. For your specific criteria: A developed magic system There are multiple books fleshing out ...


24

There are thousands of role-playing games in many genres, and hundreds (at least) of free ones. So in general, there's lists like the Free RPG Blog that catalog them all. Fantasy, science fiction, cyberpunk, horror, superheroes, artsy stuff, etc. If you specifically want something like Dungeons & Dragons, the successor to D&D Third Edition, called ...


24

I was in exactly the same boat as you a year ago: introduced to Fate with Diaspora, loved it, and then wanted to capture than in a fantasy setting. This is where I went with it: Dresden Files RPG has a comprehensive, flavourful, flexible, and very Fate-like magic system that easily translates to a fantasy setting. For an incredibly-good explanation of its ...


24

Roll for Shoes It's got technically no character creation (although you might want to name your PC). You collect stats/abilities as you go. The rules, in their entirety, consist of seven lines (eight sentences). The phrasal nature of character abilities can lead to very amusing characters if your group plays that way, though it doesn't have to. Turns are ...


24

Fate characters are proactive, competent and dramatic It may seem like that's a given for just about any game: who wouldn't want competent, proactive, dramatic characters in their games? But some genres don't work that way. Horror is a notable example. Most horror games turn on characters feeling powerless, which is not what Fate does - horror in Fate ...


23

I would heartily recommend you try Dungeon World. Let's take your points in order: No requirement of miniatures or maps. All game play is conducted through verbal description. Dungeon World, like all games derived from Apocalypse World, is centered entirely on the fiction. The rules come in the form of moves. All play begins and ends in the story. ...


22

Sadly, I suspect this isn't the answer you hoped for... D&D 4E is highly combat focused. Not that it can't be used otherwise, but the rules and the product line both focus on the battle aspect far more than anything else. The Retail Play You are unlikely to find extant modules for your desired style of play for D&D 4E below 10th level. That said, ...


22

The One Ring Published by Cubicle 7, The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild is, afaik, the most recent and most modern rpg adaptation of Tolkien's immense world. It's a relatively simple and modern game systems-wise (and you can always decide to leave off some rules to help yourself and your players ease into them later), with both the beautiful ...


21

Dungeon World is an award-winning modern RPG with an old-school feel. Yes on adventuring for fun, profit, and personal goals. Yes on class-based system. There are eight classes, with the barbarian forthcoming. Not rules heavy. You can make new rules, but, in general, fudging rules is not necessary. There are distinct spells, but they're also open to ...


21

Yes, The system you're looking for is 4th edition with the house rule of "level up every session". This is actually a remarkably popular house rule and it doesn't impact 4e adversely at all. I would, personally, recommend every other session just to allow people to be used to a level (when I levelled every session, the changes (especially in epic) were... ...


20

D&D 4e has Skill Challenges whereby the group has to succeed at multiple skill checks (the number depending on the difficulty) before accumulating 3 failures. The choice of skills boils down to whatever the players can justify. The Essentials red box (spoilers ahead!) has a nice example in the prewritten adventure "Talking to the Dragon" which gives ...


20

Just play whatever the rest of your group wants to play. I was like this when I first started with my current group. I contributed almost nothing to the story other than the actual actions of my character, and frequently had to be explicitly asked what I wanted to do. Fast forward about 15 years, we still game together, and sometimes when we reminisce ...


20

Try Dungeon World. It's an adaptation of the Apocalypse World system, and is simple and rules-light. You can create characters quickly by checking off a few boxes. Dungeon World really provides the setting & narrative essence of classic fantasy adventure gaming, without all of the complex rules systems. I've played it multiple times by sitting down ...


20

Pathfinder includes kingdom building rules that were initially introduced in the Kingmaker Adventure Path (which is a prewritten campaign that sounds a lot like what you are describing). Being a traditional Fantasy D20 game, it handles non-human races without a problem. The system handles exploring and claiming land, building settlements (and specific ...


19

Well, Tunnels and Trolls, produced by Flying Buffalo, has a series of adventures that are designed specifically for a single player. They're similar to Choose Your Own Adventure type books, but you have a character that has stats that you roll for, you equip them by purchasing equipment, and then, when adventuring, you roll dice and try to defeat monsters, ...


19

C°ntinuum, a game from the 1990s, is about this very thing. Player characters are time-travelers who range up and down the timelines of their existence, having adventures and trying to avoid or resolve paradoxes that arise. Complicated, but fun. If you're not looking to add a new game system entirely, consider giving your time traveler a certain number of ...


19

For some reason a lot of the Western RPGs out there have a lot of mystical junk mixed in, Deadlands being the coolest of the lot. You can always "file off the magic" but if you are looking to use published products without fooling around, you definitely want a Western RPG tuned for that. I own two of those. The first is Boot Hill, the original Western RPG ...



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