Each year, the tabletop RPG scene expands in exciting new directions. Whether it’s new worlds for long-running games like Dungeons & Dragons or exciting debut projects that tap into unexpected corners of storytelling, it’s a great time to enjoy role-playing with others.
2022 saw an impressive array of new games to tempt playgroups into an adventure. Here are ten of the best, presented alphabetically, each offering new and exciting vistas for discovery.
And if you like your RPGs with a side of excellent board gaming, don’t miss our recent awards for the Best Board Games of 2022.
Coyote & Crow
Publisher: Coyote & Crow Games
The Native American-led team that created Coyote & Crow began with a simple premise: What would America look like if it had never been colonized? Throw in a robust mix of mythology, science, and mysterious individuals gifted with supernatural power, and you have the makings of a fascinating role-playing game.
The technologically advanced civilizations that players explore in Coyote & Crow presume that the last 700 years of history are different than how things happened in the real world. It makes for a intriguing exercise in exploring alternate history, and there’s a lot to enjoy about paging through the core rulebook to discover the engaging fiction that’s been crafted.
But the game makers have also built a nuanced game system with plenty of room for creativity in play. A d12-based resolution check allows for flexibility around a simple core mechanic. Set paths, motivations, and archetypes help shape your character. And traditional experience point acquisition is exchanged for a structure about building your own legend, as established through the completion of specific short and long-term goals.
Coyote & Crow is a rewarding and cleverly constructed game that embraces cultural traditions we don’t frequently see brought to life in the role-playing sphere, and certainly not with this level of purposeful intent. Its creators have been vocal in inviting both native and non-native players to enjoy the game, with guidance for both about how to do so in a welcoming and respectful way. Leave your preconceptions at the door, and expect to find something genuinely fresh.
D&D – Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
For D&D fans who grew up in the 1980s, Dragonlance was almost certainly on your radar. One of the earliest campaign settings for the world’s original RPG, Dragonlance had not only a run of awesome game modules but also a series of fantasy novel series that continues to this day.
The best parts of that setting have been revived in this new update for the 5th edition of the game. While the timeframe is roughly concurrent with major events from the novels, the adventure contained within the new book carves out its own corner of the War of the Lance, and sets players along an exciting path of battles and discovery.
In addition to offering details about the setting, players get access to some fun new options, including the Kender race, a lunar sorcerer subclass, and backgrounds to let you play one of the memorable knights or mages that are part of the Krynn world. But the biggest success is the adventure itself, which embraces a wartime RPG campaign that is fun and exciting, but without glossing over the horrors and brutality of mass conflict.
It’s a lengthy adventure, but in an interesting twist, the RPG campaign can be paused at certain points. If desired, you can then play through a full session of the separate Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn board game that recently released, which you can alternately snag if you choose to grab the Deluxe combined edition. The results of your board game excursion can then inform the RPG story’s forward pace. Of course, you can leave out the board game part and simply enjoy the excellent campaign.
Either way, this return to Dragonlance has been long anticipated by its fans, and the version that has arrived is a fitting update to an early fantasy gaming classic.
The Darkest House
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
The print version of The Darkest House was released this year after a successful digital launch in 2021. Either option is great, but the digital version is especially well suited to gaming groups that meet remotely, as the entire set up of handouts and other info is managed digitally and can be shared as gameplay progresses.
The Darkest House is a fascinating RPG product, built as it is to be slotted into any existing RPG campaign for a dose of existential horror. Simple adaptation rules translate your characters over into the system when you mysteriously enter the house, whether you’re coming from a fantasy game of D&D, a futuristic Star Trek or Cyberpunk campaign, or another Monte Cook Games world like Numenera.
While The Darkest House is effectively a giant haunted house, it’s a bit more complicated than that – imagine if the house itself was the malevolent entity intent on hating and destroying you. The encounters within are puzzling and disquieting. If you’re hoping to have all the answers to what’s happening inside after playing through, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want a dose of dread that can be added to any RPG you’re already playing, it’s an amazing twist to offer to your group.
Hunter: The Reckoning
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
The new edition of Hunter this year joins the broader universe of the World of Darkness games, and the results should please anyone who likes their gaming time to be focused on tracking down all the things that go bump in the night, and making them stop moving.
Where a game like Vampire: The Masquerade commonly focuses on mood and politicking, Hunter is a counterpoint focused more on action, missions, and deadly encounters. As mostly normal humans concentrating on hunting down supernatural threats, there’s a tension and desperation to the action represented in a cool way through additional dice rolled as things get especially dire.
Conflicts are usually against dangerous named supernatural baddies, or the broader societal orgs your small Hunter cell has determined to be compromised. It makes for a more approachable take on World of Darkness content, especially for players who may be more familiar with traditional tabletop role-playing with its quests and battles. If this dark fiction is appealing, but your group isn’t looking for the heavily atmospheric vibe offered by its cousin game, Hunter: The Reckoning could be just the ticket.
Into the Odd
Publisher: Bastionland Press / Free League Publishing
Originally published in 2014, this remastered and extended version of Into the Odd opens up the wonderful rules-light game for new audiences. Set in a mysterious and otherworldly industrial setting with hints of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, it’s an intriguing universe to uncover, even if it is only minimally detailed – leaving plenty of room for game masters and groups to make the game their own.
Players take control of explorers delving into the benighted tunnels and sewers beneath the city of Bastion, lending an old-school dungeon crawl vibe to the experience. From character creation to combat, the game system is extremely light on rules, encouraging a freeform and fast-moving approach to play that allows for plenty of experimentation. The threats encountered by a group of explorers are often devastating barriers to best be avoided. But the acquisition of mystical items called Arcana lets you solve any number of problems with creative thinking.
Into the Odd is purposefully strange and surreal – almost dreamlike in its presentation. It solves the dilemma of introducing complicated new game systems by keeping everything as bare-bones as possible. It’s a absorbing game that is easy to pick up and learn, with a unique flavor that should delight those looking for a twist on old-school RPG play.
The One Ring: Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
Late last year, players first tasted the lovely new edition of The One Ring, which adapts Tolkien’s intricate fantasy world for a new generation of role-playing fun. This year’s starter set is an excellent introduction for players who love The Lord of the Rings but may have been daunted by the big core book.
Beautiful components fill the box, from custom dice to a gorgeous map of some areas players will explore. You also get some pre-generated characters to take out into an opening adventure, mostly focused on the Hobbits and exploring areas around the Shire. There’s a big focus on that part of Middle-earth in this boxed set, with an included dedicated book on The Shire that offers plenty of seeds for adventure. Of course, there are also excellently pared-down rules to get you into the fun, and it’s all presented thoughtfully and streamlined.
This box is one of the strongest starter sets for an RPG in several years. If your group has been grumbling about trying something new, but the imposing weight of a new system might be a point of contention, this dip into the shallow end of the Middle-earth pool is a perfect option.
Publisher: Nine Arches
Undoubtedly, one of the most unusual gaming projects of the year, Nine Arches impresses with its experimental approach to play and discovery and especially attractive components that make it a joy with which to interact. It’s a hard game to categorize, but it might be most accurate to think of it as a role-playing game played in real life, in which the quest cards you draw guide you to actions you feel compelled to explore for yourself, or to take on new personas, skills, or experiences simply for the joy of confronting the challenge.
Nine Arches builds loosely from the framework of Tarot cards, but it has little, if anything, to do with astrology. Instead, the game includes 52 quest cards. When playing the game, you draw cards and either follow your instincts or use the included guide to help suggest the activities you undertake as indicated by those cards. You might write a poem, book a skydiving trip, or do virtually anything else. And, to be clear, these are actual real-life experiences you’re choosing to take on, not an imagined activity in a fantasy world. Afterward, you chronicle your actions and what you discovered about yourself to advance through the game.
It’s a strange and beautiful concoction that is best taken on if you feel you’re open to trying new experiences. Nine Arches is less about an evening of play with friends (though it could be that, in part) and more about a self-improvement journey wrapped in a gamified structure.
Pathfinder Book of the Dead
Paizo has wasted little time in fleshing out the 2nd edition of Pathfinder since it launched in 2019. Among the many supplements and adventures that have helped to further grow the breadth of the game, few are as enjoyable as Book of the Dead, both to read and for the many new options it brings to your game.
It’s become a near expectation that Pathfinder releases will look attractive both inside and out, and Book of the Dead maintains that reputation with some excellent art and layout considerations. The player options are extensive, providing new ways to fight against the undead, but also providing ways to play as undead PCs, from mummies and vampires to ghosts and ghouls. GMs get a ton of new monsters, undead-themed lands to explore, and a thrilling adventure that puts undead slaying front and center.
One of the best things about Book of the Dead is how much it allows you to take a traditional fantasy RPG setup and turn it on its head with all the undead theming you could want. If that’s always been a branch of the fantasy milieu that fascinates you, this one is worth exploring.
Transformers Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Renegade Game Studios has been gradually building up a stable of familiar action-focused properties as RPGs, including G.I. Joe and Power Rangers. With its many decades of fiction to pull from, the twist of transforming vehicles, and the overall cool factor of giant robots at war, the Transformers is especially well-suited to the system. It feels like the best implementation yet of the gaming engine.
For fans, a big part of the draw is undoubtedly getting to craft your own Transformer to take into the story. Character creation covers all the bases and lets you set up the kind of character you want to control, whether someone like Bumblebee, Starscream, or any other familiar archetypes from the toys, cartoons, and comics. There’s also a great system around how Energon (the power source for Transformers) can be deployed in clutch moments to turn the tide.
For long years, Transformers has felt like a universe that was an easy fit for an intelligent role-playing system. Thankfully, that’s exactly what fans got here – a mechanically sound, action-oriented game with plenty of flavor and fiction to enjoy.
Vaesen: Mythic Britain & Ireland
Publisher: Free League Publishing
One of the absolute best new RPGs of recent years is called Vaesen, which transported players to a dark twist on Nordic mythology set a couple hundred years in the past. With Mythic Britain & Ireland, that terrific game gains an entirely new setting to explore.
Set loosely in the Victorian era, players now get to investigate everything from the dim streets of London to foggy moors and all the creatures of folklore you might imagine, like Banshees, Leprechauns, and Boggarts. Unlike in the original setting, we also get to meet characters from history and fiction, like Oscar Wilde and Sherlock Holmes. But no matter who or what you explore, there’s plenty to discover or create on your own and three excellent new mysteries (adventures) to take on as a group.
Mythic Britain & Ireland is an expansion to Vaesen, requiring that book to glean play mechanics. But this book is also a robust and substantial expansion in all the ways that matter, including featuring new art by illustrator Johan Egerkrans – which is worth the price all on its own. If you haven’t yet tried Vaesen, pick that up first. If you have and are ready for more, Mythic Britain & Ireland is just what you hope it will be.
If you’re looking for more great recent tabletop role-playing games, feel free to peruse our previous years of of this same list, including the installment from 2020 and picks from 2021. And if you want to check out a broader selection of tabletop choices, head over to the Top of the Table hub.