(14+, horror, thriller sci-fi, system: Year Zero)
“In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” but on RPG night everyone can. A space horror role playing game set in the universe of frankly the best sci-fi franchise. Year Zero is mostly a d6 system where you can push your luck to succeed and/or risk greater failure.
Was one of Tabletop Gaming magazines top 100 games of 2021.
A 104-page rulebook with a fast and effective ruleset designed specifically to support the core themes of ALIEN: horror and action in the cold darkness of space
The 48-page complete scenario Chariot of the Gods by sci-fi novelist Andrew E.C. Gaska, taking you on a thrilling, terror-filled ride into deep space where no one can hear you scream. Chariot of the Gods is designed for 3–5 players plus the GM.
Five pre-generated characters to play.
A huge full-color, double-sided map, with one side depicting chartered space in the year 2183 and the other floor plans for the Chariot of the Gods scenario.
84 game markers for keeping track of characters, motion tracker pings, and more.
56 high quality custom cards for weapons, personal agendas, and initiative in combat.
A set each of ten engraved Base Dice and ten Stress Dice, designed specifically for the ALIEN roleplaying game.
(no age mentioned, horror, mystery, system:Basic Role-Playing BRP)
Call of Cthulhu (CoC)is a based upon the worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, often called the Mythos. Playing the role of steadfast investigators, you travel to strange and dangerous places, uncover foul plots, and stand against the terrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. You encounter sanity-blasting entities, monsters, and insane cultists. Use strange and forgotten tomes of lore to discover revelations that humans were not meant to know. You and your companions may very well decide the fate of the world or go insane trying.
Basic Role-Playing (BRP) is a role-playing game system which originated in the RuneQuest (also on this list) role-playing game. A percentile skill-based system where you need to role beneath a target number to succeed, the target being your level in that skill.
Unique to starters from Chaosium is a solo adventure for the Game Master to play and learn the system before trying to teach it to others. A great idea.
Book 1: Introduction and Alone Against The Flames—a solo introductory adventure, teaching you the basics of Call of Cthulhu as you play through a mystery.
Book 2: Call of Cthulhu Starter Rules—the essential rules, everything needed for starting play.
Book 3: Adventures—three starter adventures for your players to explore.
Ready to Play Investigators—five ready to play game characters.
Blank Investigator Sheets—ready for creating your own investigators.
Roleplaying Dice – a set of six polyhedral dice for use in the game.
Player Handout – a set of ready to use props.
And 4 Adventures! Alone Against The Flames, Paper Chase, Edge of Darkness, Dead Man Stomp.
(14+, honour, samurai, monsters and magic, system: L5R)
The only game on this list that is, in part, set in the real world. Taking much of world of Samurais and Courtiers from actual medieval Japan means that Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) has one of the deepest and richest of any role-playing game going. Of course, magic and monsters have been added to make it far more fun.
The system uses custom dice (provided in the box) with symbols rather than numbers, each test needs a certain number of successes and the number of d6s you roll is based on your skill. So no annoying math, just roll and look for the success symbols.
A complete set of rules including a play example
Four pre-made character folios
A set of 10 custom dice
A map of Rokugan on one side and a town with castle on the other
(6+, Family friendly, be a pony, 1 to 3 players, system: simple)
Yes! You read correctly, there is a MLP role playing game. Though more of a choose your own adventure than role playing. Designed for role playing parents who want to introduce children to using their imaginations early. I think the publisher’s blurb says it really ‘Tails of Equestria is a pen-and-paper role-playing game by River Horse and Hasbro. Because story-telling with friends is magic!’
And yes, I have played the adventure in this box and had a blast (no children actually required).
1 adventure A Dragons Bounty
Over 30 tokens
1 map of the Dragon’s lair
(13+, exploration, science-fantasy, system: Cypher System)
The most successful Kickstarter RPG campaign when originally launched in 2013. In no small part due to the amazing art and simple Cypher System. All skill checks require only 1 dice where your various skills and use of XP increase your chance of success. Characters earn XP when they make new, interesting discoveries. They also earn XP when the GM "intrudes" on the action of the game to introduce new complications. Lastly, players have the ability to award XP to other players for great ideas, useful actions, or other reasons. A very different way of treating XP.
The second edition of the rules make the exploration and discovery aspect of the game even more central. Set on the 9th World there are 8 previous eras to discover. The second edition has even better art by the way.
All the rules you need to play out of the box
5 Beautiful pre-generated characters
An adventure (plus a link to a free second adventure online)
Player cheat sheet
12 GM intrusion cards
10 XP cards
And of course, a poster sized map (wouldn’t be much of an exploration game without one)
(16+, heroes, sword and sorcery, system: Basic Role-Playing BRP)
Runequest was once upon a time as big a seller as D&D but company changes and poor support meant it fell off the radar of many players. The game has gone full circle and returned to its original company and boy have they delivered with this starter set. It is almost the thinnest box set of all the games on the list but is easily the heaviest. Literally packed full of amazing content including Chaosium’s trade mark solo adventure to let the game master learn the system by using it before teaching others.
Basic Role-Playing (BRP) was originally designed for RuneQuest and has returned to its roots (also used by Call of Cthulhu). A percentile skill-based system where you need to role beneath a target number to succeed, the target being your level in that skill. Oh, collecting and using Runes makes your characters more powerful, its more than just a name it’s a way of playing.
As mentioned, it is packed full of goodies
4 books – Rules, introduction to the world of Glorantha, solo quest and three more adventures
14, yes 14, pre-generated characters, the most of any starter box by far
Blank sheets for even more variety
3 maps, yes 3 again more than most
1 standard set of RPG dice.
Age of Sigmar RPG (+14, fantasy, epic adventures, system: Warhammer System)
Could have any one of three starter boxes here as there are three Warhammer RPGs – the 40K science fiction setting, Fantasy – there original medieval styled RPG (closer to D&D) and this one, Soulbound, set in a multilayered more futuristic fantasy (far from D&D) world were the many gods of good and evil fight through their minions and occasionally in person. Fight as a hero to save the Mortal Realms from evil and probably destruction.
Uses the Warhammer System which is a d6 system so learn one and you can pretty much play in any of their settings. The better your skills the more dice you roll so the greater chance of success.
Like Numenera the art work in Soulband is amazing and has a range of miniatures from Games Workshop that can be used in all of their RPGs.
Faltering Light, a 48-page adventure that sees the heroes venture into the ancient Agloraxian ruins beneath the city of Brightspear. The adventure teaches you and your friends how to play as you play!
Brightspear City Guide, a 64-page guide to the city of Brightspear. Filled with strange and wonderful locations, unique characters, story hooks, and featuring eight one-page adventures set in Brightspear, this is the perfect way to continue your Soulbound campaign.
An introduction to the world of Warhammer Age of Sigmar
5 gatefold characters sheets with pre-generated characters, each with their own goals, background, and connections.
Three two-sided rules reference sheets with rules for Tests, combat, and spellcasting.
A two-sided sheet with a map of Brightspear on one side and the lands of Aspiria on the other.
Tokens for tracking Mettle, Soulfire, and Doom.
A set of 8, six-sided dice.
(14+, space, sci-fi, the Final Frontier, system: Modiphius 2d20)
Adventures is the latest in a series of Star Trek role playing games but unlike the others this has books for all the time lines from the Original series to Discovery and everything in between. This box introduces you to the system and responsibilities of being a member of Starfleet and from here you can dive into the time line you prefer or simply down load one of the free adventures Modiphus periodically makes available on their site without ever spending another cent.
The 2d20 system uses, as per the name, mostly d20s where you get to roll a minimum of 2 each time to reach a number of successes to succeed, your skill levels allow for extra dice or auto successes. It uses d6s for damage allocation. The system is used across Modiphius range of games - Star Trek Adventures, Achtung! Cthulhu, John Carter of Mars and Connan. Learn one and you are ready to play any of them.
So go boldly where no one in your family has gone before….the Final Frontier.
A Three-Mission Campaign Booklet: That guides you through the game mechanics as you play
6 Pre-Generated Character Sheets: Including 5 Starfleet officers and 1 Galaxy-class vessel
Dice: 2 twenty-sided dice (d20s) and 4 custom six-sided dice (d6s)
Tokens: Tokens for Momentum, Threat and characters
Poster Maps: For locations in the campaign.
(14+, Sci-fi, space, sabers and the force, system: Narrative Dice System)
Like Star Trek there has been a number of Star Wars RPGs but it has found a home with Fantasy Flight Games. There are actually 4 beginner boxes for Star Wars each set in a different part of the empire or in a different time line – Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, The Force Awakens and Force and Destiny. Again, learn one and you are ready for any of them.
The Narrative Dice system is possibly the most intricate one on this list. The core mechanic of the system is a skill check made with several dice. The character's skills add positive dice to the pool, whereas the difficulty is set by a number of negative dice added. If the player rolls more successes than failures, the action is a success. However, the dice show other symbols which may provide side effects or even trigger a critical success or failure. A similar system to that used by Vampire the Masquerade.
Get your light sabers ready and use the force for good or you may turn to the dark side.
Contents (example from the soon to be released Force and Destiny beginner box)
1 Adventure book 32 pages
1 rulebook 48 pages
1 Introduction sheet
4 Full Colour character Folios
1 Full Colour Double sided foldout map
14 Custom Dice
8 Destiny Tokens
55 Character Tokens.
(+14, dark, treasure hunts, sword & sorcery system: 5e compatible)
Though it essentially uses 5e rules and dice it still makes the lists because it is awesome. Much darker than D&D and full of Northern European mythology this starter box is also designed as a much deeper exploration of the rules and setting than some on this list. So, it is not a case of open and play like some on the list which is a plus or minus depending on your own preferences.
However, it was good enough to make Tabletop Gaming Magazines top 100 games for 2021 so deserves to make the list as well.
Symbaroum has been successfully kickstarted more than once and has a large number of fans worldwide, time to find out what the fuss is about and start your own treasure hunt in the dark forest of Davokar with its many hidden secrets and horrors.
A 64-page illustrated rule book, introducing the game’s easy-to-learn and highly flexible ruleset along with its dark and mysterious game world.
A 64-page adventure compendium, including two adventure locations for your players to explore and rules for designing adventures of your own.
The Symbaroum Bright Davokar Dice Set, with all the dice you need for combat, problem-solving and social challenges.
A double-sided map, with one side depicting the game setting at large, and the other the treasure-hunters’ town of Thistle Hold.
A second double-sided map, showing the main locations of the two pre-made adventure landscapes, meant to be used at the gaming table.
Six character sheets, describing five readymade player characters and one mystical companion for you to play.