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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 ...


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 magic ...


36

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 ...


30

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 ...


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” &...


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

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 ...


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

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 ...


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

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... ...


21

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 ...


21

The Case for Eberron, Itself Yeah, I know, no one’s ever written, or ever will write, an Eberron book for Pathfinder. That would be in violation of some copyright and trademark law (unless Wizards did it, but obviously they won’t). But setting information doesn’t mind itself very much with mechanics. Eberron Campaign Setting has only a limited amount of ...


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

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

4e, like all RPGs is exactly as good as its GM. With that said, it depends on what your requirements are. I've experienced a campaign that went from 1-30 in 4e. It had significant RPing in it. With that said, 4e offers few rules (but a few excellent books on suggestions) of how to guide RP. If you're looking to simulate a world, it's not the best system. ...


19

I'd heartily recommend Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay (WFRP), 2nd edition. (It's not the most recent edition of the game, but it's the one I have experience with, and I'm pretty sure you can get a copy of it even these days.) Let's see how it meets your requirements: low fantasy (where magic is very rare or virtually non-existent) + grim theme (dirty, gloomy, ...


18

While the choice is not mutually exclusive between the Essentials line and the classic 4e line I have to strongly recommend the essentials line if you are starting out, especially if that start is the Red Box. Reasons: Adventure continuity. From Red Box you can play the DM kit adventure Reavers of Harkenwald and from there jump into the Monster Vault ...


18

FATE The core of the system comes down to describing the character and the kinds of skills you can effectively use. The systems uses Aspects, Skills, Stunts and Extras to do this. Skills are easy, they are ratings on a ladder from -1 to 8 of just how good you are at doing something. You get a good handful of these from a well-rounded basic skill list. What ...


18

If you remove death as a consequence, institute a new threat to threaten loss with. I used a time limit with infinite respawns and world-reset on party TPK with player precognition-through-death allowed. Happy Groundhog's Day from daydreamsofmelissa These insights were taken from my run of a Fourthcore game. Instead of death being the threat, I made time ...


18

Risus: The Anything RPG would fit the bill perfectly: Character creation lasts about 20 seconds if you know what you're doing. Simply divide 10 d6s into three or more clichés and you're done. It's probably 5 minutes or less if you need to explain the rules. The rules are very simple: generally there are just TNs or opposed checks where you pit one cliché ...


18

I’ve successfully used Fate Accelerated Edition in a similar situation. My game group had been on hiatus for a while, I wanted to put together a session with very little time to prepare or teach a new RPG, and my players wanted to use the Shadowrun setting (which is similar in depth and complexity to D&D). Mechanics: All actions in Fate determine ...


18

GURPS is a pretty good ruleset for the kind of game you describe. It's got good rules for pretty much everything, and the pointscale that the system is built on works pretty well for a game where it's assumed that people will have guns. I'll go through each of the requirements you list, and how well GURPS deals with it. "roughly equivalent to earth Europe'...


18

You are describing something I have quite a bit of interest in. Check the number of questions tagged realm-management for related information. I would suggest a pair of games to meet your needs: First, the winner and still champion... Reign Reign contains detailed rules for Companies - organizations ranging from a gang to an empire. The linked Reign ...


17

Make it up yourself. The basic idea of a game master who presents a situation and can tell players what their characters are doing, and that they can have lots of fun exploring their options, is really intuitive for small children. The assumptions most RPGs about numeracy, literacy and genre savviness are deadly to most of this audience, on the other hand. ...


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