Best RPGs of 2020

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Best RPGs of 2020

Postby Luke » Wed Sep 30, 2020 2:44 am

So each year I put up a post to get a feel from Wellingtonians what RPGs published that year have been their favourite. Though this thread is aimed at RPGs published in 2020 only, please feel free to mention supplements or any other RPG you encountered this year that stood out.

Last year's thread is here:

Despite all the other things going wrong with this year, it didn't seem to have any impact on the RPGs that were released. In fact, this year seemed to climb to even greater heights than the previous year which was a surprise. For example, my number one spot for 2020 looks to become my favourite one book RPG of all time and I was very pleased to have run it as an impromptu game at Kapcon to my satisfaction. Also, Labyrinth also looks like it will become my all time favorite family RPG release as well.

However, the big story was that this seemed to be the year in which the rest of the world has finally caught on to the wonder that is Free League. With the success of Alien last year, the company seems to go from strength to strength. Not only did they deepen their base offering with the release of Vaesen and the kickstarter for Twilight 2000, but they also showed expansion with the hit success of Mork Borg and announcing that they are publishing The One Ring 2e.

My top five for 2019 are:

1. Voidheart Symphony: This was the perfect year for Voidheart to be released. It provides an urban fantasy game that tackles real world issues in a way that feels meaningful and enjoyable. Not surprising given that Persona 5 had the same impact in Japan and the RPG is clearly based on that computer game. The RPG is an unusual blend of my preferred OTT fantasy action with my also preferred heavy drama and deep introspection. Along with a great set of mechanics, the RPG hit so many beats with me that I found that I could run it off the cuff, in a way that felt like games that I had mulled over in detail and prepped heavily for. It just poured out of me.

2. Vaesen: I really struggled to chose between Vaesen and Mork Borg for second spot. Mork Borg certainly has had wider industry impact and probably deserves to be higher, but Vaesen is more my cup of tea. Its a simply fantastic historical monster hunting RPG that took most of my problems with Call of Cthulhu and the like and fixed them. Not through indie mechanics or mass changes to the formula, but rather with solid design and understanding of what actually makes such gaming fun and accessible.

3. Mork Borg: Initially, I was not sure why Mork Borg seemed to be grabbing people's attention as their had been lots of well designed dark fantasy RPGs released in the OSR space over the years. But there is really something special about it. It manages to jump feet first into all the dark glee that I had as a kid with fantasy RPGing but in a way that is fascinating and able to be respected by me as an adult.

4. Labyrinth: This RPG is a great example of some out of the box thinking to create a product that is not only true to RPGs in general but also readily usable at the table for a non-RPG crowd. It did this in an unconventional manner by turning the book itself into a game, much like a solo gamebook, which cuts through much of the difficult to understand parts of RPGs for newcomers. The IP is also a great example of something that is suitable for RPGs and well loved by RPGers and non-RPGers alike.

5. Shinobigami: This RPG was years overdue but it is yet another interesting offering from Japan. It feels years ahead of its time in the way it reduces the GM's role and encourages PC v PC conflict. It does a great job of providing fun mechanics that are precise yet also embrace the open ended nature of roleplaying. After my successes with impromptu GMing of Voidheart, this could well be my next offering along those lines.

A notable mention goes to Librete. In fact, there are a whole bunch of PbtA RPGs that could get a notable mention such as Flying Circus, Last Fleet and others. However, I chose Librete for two reasons. The first is that it added a wonderful twist to the core mechanic of PbtA, which I have not seen in RPGs before. Essentially, you are left with a choice of either making success more likely but that success being at a cost, or risking failure more to get a clear success. It has a real push your luck element which I think will add real tension in play. The second reason is the wonderful layout. Whilst not as astounding and chaotic as Mork Borg, it shows a real out of the box approach which makes the book easier to read and leaves an impression.

My 2019 choices: Alien, Liminal, Impulse Drive, Zombie World, Elysium/Things from the Flood.

My 2018 choices: Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2e, Esper Genesis, Kult: Divinity Lost, Forbidden Lands, The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power.

My 2017 choices: Tales from the Loop, Masks, Conan, The Watch, Blue Rose (AGE).

My 2016 choices: Godbound, Coriolis, Adventures in Middle-Earth, Amethyst, Genlab Alpha.

My 2015 choices: Shadow of the Demon Lord, Urban Shadows, Mutant Year Zero, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, Exalted 3e.

My 2014 choices: Far Away Land, D&D 5e, Ryuutama, Icons: Assembled Edition, Book of Cairn.

My 2013 choices: Atlantis: The Second Age, Double Cross, Warbirds, Golden Sky Stories, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.

My 2012 choices: Tenra Bansho Zero, Shadows of Esteren, Marvel Heroic , Hellas 2nd Ed., Legends of the Wulin.

My 2011 choices: One Ring, Mistborn, Fabled Lands, Vampire the Masquerade 20th Ann. Ed., Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.

My 2010 choices: Eclipse Phase, Gamma World D&D4e, Dresden Files, Eoris, Icons.

My 2009 choices: D&D4e, Mouse Guard, Summerland, Anima, WFRP3e.

My 2008 choices: CthulhuTech, Dragon Warriors, D&D4e, Dark Heresy, Grimm.

My 2007 choices: CthulhuTech, Star Wars Saga Ed., Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Solomon Kane, BlissStage.

My 2006 choices: A Game of Thrones OGL, Spirit of the Century, Qin, Burning Empires, Agon.
Playing: Star Wars Saga Ed
Running: Genlab Alpha
Planning: Vaesen
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