It’s the end of the year and that means we continue to look back at the 2019 that was. We’ve had the Best Board Games and Best TV, but we thought it would be good to do one for our favorite Tabletop RPG releases for the year. Just like with board games, it was really hard for the game writers to come to a consensus on this. We also realized that, unlike board games, there was a lot of differences between our selections (accessory vs. book, rulebook vs. supplement) that made ranking them feel a little unfair. Rather than keep fighting, we just decided to toss our absolute favorites together and say “hey, we love all of these.” So, here is our unnumbered, unranked, chaotic good list of the best Tabletop RPG releases of 2019
Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus Platinum Edition
Published by: Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium Warehouse
This pick is admittedly a way to get two birds stoned at once, because Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus was one of our favorite D&D campaigns we’ve seen. It has everything: murder, deceit, infernal warmachines that traverse the fiery landscape of hell, a flying elephant. But the release from the boys at Beadle & Grimm really put it over the top with all of the tools and supplements needed for a DM to turn a great campaign into a legendary one. From maps to badges to an infernal menu straight from the game, and a partnership with Syrinscape, it was another win for the less than two year old company founded by a group of friends in LA. It also had some insanely cool collector items, like a Lulu plush and a custom War Rig from WizKids complete with spinning death blade mounted to the front.
Like all releases from the Pandemonium Warehouse, the Platinum Edition was a limited run and is sold out. However, you can still get some of the big ticket items from their store, like the badges, the massive metal Soul Coin, and a Lulu plushie. They’ve also started taking orders for their Eberron: Rising From The Last War Gold Edition, which will come out in the second half of 2019 and feature their first ever sourcebook. And be sure to keep an eye out for more looks behind the scenes at the warehouse as well as a FULL, three-part unboxing of the Platinum Edition by Dan.
John Carter of Mars: Adventures On The Dying World of Barsoom Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius Entertainment
Modiphius had a very good year this year, with standout publications like Star Trek Adventures letting fans of many properties finally play around in their favorite universes. The most unexpected and, in many ways, most interesting of those was the adaptation of Edward Rice Burroughs’s Princess of Mars books. Using the 2d20 system common among many Modiphius releases, the RPG covers the bizarre and oftentimes trippy world of Barsoo, where players can make their marks on Martian history and even interact with John Carter himself. The game follows the source materials unique mix of science-fiction and fantasy in a way that is satisfying for fans and still interesting for newbies. Plus, it’s printed in landscape and takes full advantage with gorgeous art and maps.
You can pick up the Core Rulebook, and all the supplementary material, on Modiphius’s store or on DriveThruRPG. And check out Molly’s full review for a closer look.
Pathfinder: Second Edition Core Rulebook
Publisher: Paizo Publishing
A longtime torchbearer for tabletop fans who like more “crunch” in their gaming (famously dubbed “3.75 Edition” when it launched in response to D&D 4th Ed.), the new edition for Pathfinder is a chance to move the venerable system into a new decade and help it find its own identity in the increasingly crowded tabletop marketplace. Keeping many of the things that made the system a hit for years, like the insane customization and flexibility a crunchier system offers, it also did some new things to streamline and adapt to a new audience, most prominently in their three action move economy. The game also makes character creation much more modular, with builds looking more like video game skill trees than linear paths as they are in other games. Paizo also moved the story of the world forward, changing the landscape and integrating it more tightly with sister game Starfinder.
You can pickup the Core Rulebook, Bestiary, and other supplements on Paizo’s store as both physical books and PDFs. If you’d like to learn more, keep an eye our for a full review of the new system coming soon to kick off the New Year!
Delta Green: Control Group
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
Just has horror movies are having their time in the sun, so too is horror gaming becoming more popular within the exploding tabletop scene. One of the top purveyors of horror RPGs is Arc Dream Publishing, with their flagship game Delta Green taking the mystery and madness of Lovecraftian horror to its darkest, bleakest extreme. Originally a spin-off to Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green recently relaunched with a new edition that lets players take part in the clandestine missions of the titular organization. It can still be a pretty daunting task to get into, but Arc Dream fixed that with the release of Control Group earlier this year, a group of scenarios meant to help new players learn the game and the world of Delta Green. Each one develops the same story through new perspectives, starting with a satellite repair gone wrong and culminating in a big raid on a cult at the center of it all. It’s a fun and deeply disturbing set of stories, pulling no punches for new people. You will die. A lot. But it’s fun.
You can pick up Delta Green: Control Group on Arc Dream’s store or on DriveThruRPG.
Things From The Flood
Publisher: Free League Publishing
Another spooky game, Things From The Flood is Simon Stålenhag’s followup to his smash-hit Tales From The Loop RPG, which lovingly homaged the science fiction and fantasy movies of the 80’s with kid heroes, wondrous robots, and fun mysteries set in an alternate 1980’s that never was. Things From The Flood, however, takes a darker turn. Set in the 90’s, the subtle darkness of Loop has exploded as the world goes south and the truth of the Loop becomes more obvious. Players can create teenage heroes or bring in their aged-up characters from Loop to solve another mystery, but with higher stakes: this time they can die. It’s an insanely cool world to live in, and the included scenarios that make up the “Prophets of Pandora” campaign are a good jumping off point for new players.
You can grab Things From The Flood from Modiphius.
Warhammer Fantasy Starter Set
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Games
2019 could be called the “Year of the Starter Set” because, hoo boy, there were a lot of them. Seems like every company was at least coming out with a quickstart guide for their game, with most also doing a little box filled with dice, sheets, and other useful tools to get a game going quickly. We picked the Warhammer Fantasy starter set because it was probably one of the best designed and detailed of the lot. The pre-generated characters are integrated into the adventure from the start, and there’s enough info for GM’s to create their own stories for a while before investing in the full game. The character sheets also can stand up and unfold for reading. The best part is probably the box, which acts as a map, GM screen, and rolling tray all at once in a rather genius use of space we’ve not seen replicated elsewhere. The Warhammer Fantasy universe is an incredibly fun sandbox to play in, and this is a great way to get your group introduced.
You can grab the Warhammer Fantasy Starter Set on Cubicle 7’s website
Uncaged Anthology Vol. 1
Publisher: Ashley Warren/DM’s Guild
The DM’s Guild launched alongside Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition as a way for Wizards to cultivate independent and fan-created work for the new system, and it seemed to finally come into its own in 2019. There are some wild adventures, classes, races, and more on the Guild, with more being added every day. Our favorite, and one of the most successful, has been the Uncaged Anthology series of myth and folklore-themed adventures. Conceived as a feminist rehabilitation of the female monster, a veritable who’s who of creators shattered the stereotype that D&D is just for white dudes. Their adventures reinvent classic creatures like the hag, harpy, or Medusa with stories that address many of the real-world problems that female-identified people deal with. The adventures are fun and thought provoking all at once, and all three volumes have proven just how talented the D&D community truly is.
You can pick up Uncaged Anthology Vol. 1, Vol 2., and Vol.3 on the DM’s Guild as both PDF or hardback book.
The Expanse Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Green Ronin Publishing
Just in time for the new season, Green Ronin’s adaptation of the Expanse has been the talk of the tabletop world since they teased it at GenCon 2018. Released fully this year, the game adapts Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) to James S.A Corey’s epic sci-fi saga. Thanks to direct input from the authors, it faithfully replicates characters and locations from the books while also fleshing out Earth, Mars, and the Belt in new and exciting ways. Not only is there the expected on the ground combat (with your Fortune being tracked rather than your health), there’s a really neat system for starship combat and even a system for the “downtime” between battles to allow players to develop character. They’ve also released a Game Master’s Kit as well as their first Adventure Path, Abzu’s Bounty, built to help new characters find their feet in the universe just like the crew of the Rocinante.
You can pick up all of the books, including a free Quickstart (see?) on Green Ronin’s website, or through DriveThruRPG.
Humblewood Campaign Setting
Publisher: The Deck of Many
It’s D&D with little woodland creatures. We’re not sure what more you need to hear to justify our pick, but we can explain more. A new setting for Fifth Edition, Humblewood was one of the biggest Kickstarter successes thanks to it’s fun premise and gorgeous artwork. Set in the titular forest, Humblewood adds a brand new set of playable races and classes into the system, both feathered and furry. You can play as a rabbit knight or a owl sorceror, or even a thieving chicken, and it never treats its subject matter as anything but serious. It’s the perfect game for fans of Redwall or The Guardians of Ga’hoole, but really anybody who likes D&D should give it a shot.
Humblewood is available from The Deck of Many as both a hardback book or PDF.
The Tingleverse: The Official Chuck Tingle Role-Playing Game
Publisher: Chuck Tingle
A bit of a dark horse choice, but one that was just too weird and wonderful to not include. Written by the man himself, self-described “World’s Greatest Author” and Hugo winner Chuck Tingle, Tingleverse adapts the strange and often erotic world of his stories into a playable RPG experience. Set in the town of Billings, Montana, Buckaroos can saddle up as a talking Velociraptor, a Bigfoot, Unicorn, or Human and take up the “trot” of a bad boy, charmer, sneak, true buckaroo, or wizard, using their ways and cool moves to defeat Ted Cobbler and the forces of The Void before they ruin the Billings Community Center.
Since its release, the ever-prolific Tingle has released a Monster Guide, which adds in new foes like the voidal clown or slamwich, and the Living Object Guide, which finally lets you roleplay the sexy Living Bicycle of your dreams. You can get all of the books as a digital or hardcopy through Chuck’s Amazon.
All Images via their respective owners.