The best table-top indie RPGs of 2021 include Wanderhome and .dungeon

Following the scene of tabletop indie role-playing games can be intimidating. New titles seem to drop every day, and they all live on relatively obscure storefronts like Itch.io and DriveThruRPG. That platform’s detection and management features are far from the likes of Steam, and so procuring a new standalone TTRPG can feel like a lottery system for both players and creators .

But the effort to keep tabs on the indie TTRPG scene is always worth it. The design landscape is beyond the shadow of Dungeons & Dragons interesting, strange and seemingly limitless. Some games bend and turn the flow of established conventions into bold shapes with new destinations, while others flip rocks upside down just to explore a small but Lively with inspiration.

This list of games, presented in alphabetical order, hopes to draw some attention to the unfortunate five blobs in the overcrowded sky that many tabletop players may have overlooked. Some are the culmination of the previous decade’s value trends, while others are prominent in emerging ramifications. Still others force the hobby to interrogate its longstanding influences in the West and uncover the shape of stories devoid of ingrained antics.

ARC: Doom Tabletop RPG

If the apocalypse was on your doorstep, would you rush to greet it with a weapon in hand and a curse on your lips? Or will you worry about the minutes on the clock as they count down to your impending doom? ARC: Doom Tabletop RPG, the latest game from the designer potato, make room for both. The stories are tightly motivated, story-centered, driven by urgency and built on a foundation of precious moments.

ARC Mechanize this tension with a real-world timer that counts down to the end of each game. ARCThe Doomsday Clock is set at the beginning of the campaign and advances in real time. A four-hour campaign is actually only four hours long. Players suddenly have a very realistic action economy to deal with. The brief respite, which passes in the blink of an eye in other systems, means taking five minutes in the real world off the table when another key narrative moment extends beyond the event horizon.

Spells and abilities can also require the player (non-character) to perform rituals, such as closing their eyes for three minutes to gain True Vision or agreeing to any request for half an hour to do. shake the mind of the guard. This combination of perspectives, coupled with a perfectly designed set of genre-agnostic rules, makes playing ARC Feels like an ice bath – mentally prepared and invigorated.


A sample of two CBR+PNK essential booklets, with dark artwork outlined in yellow.

Image: Emanoel Melo

I was as surprised as anyone else to find a cyberpunk game on my list for 2021, given the recent pop-culture saturation that has peaked with debut started Cyberpunk 2077. Emanoel Melo is thin and ugly CBR + PNK Win your place by not being too welcoming.

Fully contained in two three-fold pamphlets, Blade in the darkEngaging RPG that creates a lightning-fast explosion of chaotic gameplay. It achieves this by focusing the action on a job that is ultimately done by a group of desperate hackers. The crews are either pushed to their limits by the oppressors in their company, or may just roll their snake eyes too many times in a desperate gamble, eventually to rise to the top. Players find their characters at their lowest and use cinematic action to discover the how and why of a tragic ending.

Like other similarly inspired games, CBR + PNK using flashbacks tends to grant the characters keys to new and unexpected doors. Digital corruption seeps into their devices, and the breakneck pace means teams have to roll with the punches. The choice isn’t going to get any easier, and only group grinding can happen before something happens. But that’s the whole point. CBR + PNK simply not allowing myself time to look myself in the eye, this is my favorite way to engage with this particular genre of fiction.



Prices are at the time of publication.

Playing .dungeon is a strange experience that bends conventional wisdom about role-playing even as it tries to crystallize a time when rules were more important than having fun with your friends. Annwn’s world seems designed to evoke mid-2000s MMO play, where GameFAQs are sacrosanct and online connection is an indissoluble landline call. Everything ends up in the file extension and discrete adventures can be included .dungeonrules like mods.

Character avatars allow your wildest high school dreams to run rampant, but it’s the game’s character classes that steal the show by tying real-world actions to feats in the real world. game. For example, Hackers can hide a dice from a GM or add the result of a d20 to their roll once per session, while Mage uses circled words and phrases from an actual book to do magic in the digital world. Tattoos become summons, compliments become compliments, and the group’s patron can create a personalized mixtape for added effect.

Using all this charm is a fleeting mood of happiness, and .dungeon Sessions often feel like tapping into halcyon memories makes it hard to remember in the best way. The group had to recount how their time together ended after each campaign ended. That could mean drifting away, going back to school after the summer break, or showing up on the last day of play before the last servers close.



Prices are at the time of publication.

Gubat Banwa

Three warriors with tattoos crouched in the woods. Light wan and yellow, but the tree is green.

Image: Makapatag

Sales pitch for Gubat Banwa To be wuxia fiction with classical Filipino folklore, decorated with a heavy dash of Fire Emblem. And while that description alone makes it one of the best mashups I’ve read all year, it still doesn’t capture the attention to detail and dedication that the designer has. Design Makapatag has created this rich and satisfying desktop experience.

A love letter to the maligned 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons and the tactical video game style that inspired its fight, Gubat Banwa devotes a considerable amount of its pages to related actions, positioning, and effects. It knows there is an audience that craves crunchy battles, and it sets up a meaningful buffet for that crowd. Those less inclined to gobble up the next XCOM should mull over dozens of evocative character concepts such as swordfish fin warriors, flower witchcraft, and deadly musicians known as Strifesingers.

If location advantage and damage affinity are the wheel of this game, its narrative engine is the catalyst rather than the melodrama and politics. The most dramatic actions are often the ones most likely to succeed, and the epic enemy-turned-lover-and-enemy plot is its bread and butter. Gubat Banwa uses the surging emotions of well-dressed, aristocratic warriors locked in eternal conflict to create an homage to Philippine history. It challenges any reduced framework about the Philippines and its folklore even as it provides players with the resources to describe the game’s cultural ties with both accuracy and respect.


A pair of weasels, a snake, a marsupial, a rabbit and a pair of lizards sit around the fire at night. A simmering stew.

Image: Danny Kyobe / Possum Creek Games

Wanderhome respectfully request the attention of the indie RPG community in 2021 like a grandpa who won’t let you visit without providing a hot meal. Possum Creek Games’ Jay Dragon took the framework of healthy travel – using an adjective close to dangerous when misused – and offered a much deeper post-violent role-playing treatise than thesis on early beekeepers and apes would suggest.

Is built in Belongs Outside Belongs the first principles established by Avery Alder in Dream Askew and Dreams outside, Wanderhome Cut both the dice and the game master from its play calculation. Instead, the player uses simple questions to establish two-part characters, serious and melancholy, safe in knowing who they are until another traveler awakens the craving. persistent in them.

Like I said in my review, it’s all too easy to play Wanderhome like a cozy time simulator – not such an attempt is wrong. But what has elevated and earned the game a reputation is its quiet insistence that conflict takes many forms, and that the scars of violence do not heal easily. After all, the wisdom of grandparents springs from experiences that are both endearing and haunting.

Honor mention

https://www.polygon.com/22812103/best-indie-ttrpg-2021 The best table-top indie RPGs of 2021 include Wanderhome and .dungeon

Aila Slisco

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