View Full Version : Good RPGs for $25 or less

2013-05-10, 08:03 PM
After a comment in the Next thread that someone wasn't aware of any good RPGs for $25 or less that weren't free I thought I'd make a thread devoted to games available in print for that price as MSPR/RRP. Much as I'd love to recommend Leverage (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/85727/Leverage-Roleplaying-Game) as the best con/heist game ever with a $14.99 PDF it doesn't qualify) and it must be a full RPG. Shipping and Handling doesn't count against the price - but $25 is a hard limit so Apocalypse World (http://theunstore.com/index.php/unstore/game/83) alas is $3 over the limit. (And yes, that was my way of giving two other recommendations in this thread). And all the games I'm recommending are ones I own.

Name: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (http://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Heroic-Roleplay-Basic-Game/dp/1936685167)
Cost: $19.99
Type of Game: Comic Book Superheroes
Ideal duration: Campaign
Why it's Awesome: It's a fast playing superhero RPG that encourages narration, makes heroes feel and behave differently and can happily have Tony Stark, Hawkeye, and Thor on the same team while allowing them to all shine in their own ways. It's the ony supers game I know that produces a comic book feel.
Who should avoid it: People who want the rules to set hard limits on their character rather than to set them themselves and have the rules measure disputes. People who really dislike author stance or metagame mechanics such as Fate points.
Intro or Overview: Along Came a Spider (http://exploring-infinity.com/2012/05/29/along-came-a-spider-choose-your-own-marvel-adventure/)

Name: Fiasco (http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/product.php?productid=17106)
Cost: $25
Type of Game: Heist gone wrong/Cohen Brothers movie
Ideal duration: One-shot, zero prep
Why it's Awesome: It's a game that with no prior prep (and just downloading a playset (http://www.bullypulpitgames.com/wiki/index.php?title=Fiasco_Playsets) on the night), and a two hour play time I have literally never seen a game that is other than incredibly entertaining. An excellent game to keep for those "DM couldn't make it" nights or just for a few hours of running a very funny game.
Who should avoid it: People who really dislike author stance. People who can't stand their characters failing.
Intro or Overview: Tabletop playthrough (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXJxQ0NbFtk)

Name: Fate Core (http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core/)
Cost: $25 (planned)
Type of Game: Pulp action
Ideal duration: Campaign
Why it's Awesome: For those who already know FATE (e.g. Dresden Files, Spirit of the Century (http://www.faterpg.com/dl/sotc-srd.html), Legends of Anglerre it's a lighter and faster playing version - and one with only five aspects per character, and those categorised so there's much less to keep track of. For those who don't it's a light fast and highly narrative RPG in which characters are encouraged to display their weaknesses and munchkins regularly tap out of contests.
Who should avoid it: Anyone who dislikes metagame mechanics such as Fate points.

Name: Dread (http://www.tiltingatwindmills.net/buystuff.html)
Cost: $24
Type of Game: Horror
Ideal duration: One Shot
Why it's Awesome: It's simply the tensest horror game I've ever found. The resolution mechanic is a jenga tower, leading to people being incredibly scared to take actions and hands literally shaking as they pull. Probably the best game to play at Haloween.
Who should avoid it: People who don't like horror games.
Intro or Overview: Dread: Jenga Beat Up My Dice (http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?194714-Dread-Jenga-beat-up-my-dice!-My-results-from-the-indie-horror-RPG) thread on ENWorld.

Name: Savage Worlds: Deluxe Explorers Edition (http://www.amazon.com/Savage-Worlds-Deluxe-Explorers-S2P10016/dp/1937013200/ref=pd_sim_b_2)
Cost: $9.99
Type of Game: Pulp
Ideal duration: Campaign
Why it's Awesome: Billing itself as "Fast! Furious! Fun!", Savage Worlds normally lives up to that billing with a fast resolution system, exploding dice (that mean that playing low skills is very entertaining), and highly customisable characters it works well and fast.
Who should avoid it: People who intensely dislike metagame mechanics. Other than that it's an excellent "compromise game".

Name: Dogs in the Vineyard (http://theunstore.com/index.php/unstore/game/1)
Cost: $22
Type of Game: Setting the stakes and seeing how far you'll go
Ideal duration: 1 session or short campaign.
Why it's Awesome: Gameplay is intensely competative with opponents continually raising on each other - and deciding when to escalate and back down. What are you prepared to risk getting shot for? And when's the time to just back down?
Who should avoid it: People who don't like (light) PVP or playing chicken.

Name: Montsegur 1244 (http://www.lulu.com/shop/frederik-j-jensen/montsegur-1244/paperback/product-4330133.html;jsessionid=AA0915A4DC6ECDC1516A2A5927 EB6DC7)
Cost: 11.75
Type of Game: Building your character before an agonising decision
Ideal duration: 1 shot, 4 hours
Why it's Awesome: It's the purest RPG I know. Getting in character as one of the Cathars at the siege of Montsegur, with everything including reverses and hope building to the agonizing final decision: Do you recant your beliefs or do you choose to burn. An amazing game and one with more replay value than the description indicates.
Who should avoid it: People who want resolution mechanics. People who don't like there being a single framing story for all games. People who immerse too deeply into their character when they are going to have to make a very difficult choice.

Name: Monsterhearts (http://buriedwithoutceremony.com/monsterhearts/)
Cost: $25
Type of Game: The bloodiest, sexiest HBO supernatural teen series ever
Ideal duration: Short campaign
Why it's Awesome: You read the type of game? Either you love that pitch or you hate it. If you love it, it lives up to the promise with a fast and easy system that leads to people getting only some of what they want, well thought out character classes/monsters for the PCs to be and have some internal turmoil that maps to real world teenage struggles. And a game that leads to a messy and dramatic teenage knot of emotional problems.
Who should avoid it: You read that pitch? Is that a sort of game you want to play? And with your gaming group? If no, don't play it.

Name: Dungeon World (http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/product.php?productid=18774&cat=0&featured=Y)
Cost: $25
Type of Game: Kick the door down dungeon exploration
Ideal duration: Short campaign.
Why it's Awesome: Light, fast playing, evocative, it really works for having adventures in dungeons.
Who should avoid it: People who want to explore the dungeons in detail; equipment is abstracted to the point where you get equipment points rather than write down what you have.

Any other suggestions and quick write-ups? I'd love someone to do one for Monsters and Other Childish Things (http://www.arcdream.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=21) as I've heard it's very good but don't actually own a copy. And any comments on the games I've written up? (Especially the "Why it's Awesome" and "Who should avoid it" sections).

2013-05-10, 08:41 PM
I thoroughly approve of this thread.

Name: Adventurer Conqueror King (http://www.autarch.co/)
Cost: $10 USD ($20 if you also want the purely optional Player's Compendium)
Type of Game: Retroclone
Ideal Duration: Campaign
Why it's Awesome: It has, IMO, the best elements of Old School play as defined by the Rules Cyclopedia and BECMI touched up with more modern design elements. Your characters start out at first level, still head and shoulders above the 0th level NPCs who make up the majority of the world, and either rise up to become kings and queens by their own hands or die horribly in a harsh and majestic world. The rules on the Player side are simple and mostly intuitive, while the DM is given a vast toolkit to work with as well as top-notch advice for running this type of game.
Not to mention that any BECMI or Rules Cyclopedia module can be converted with trivial ease, giving access to a huge amount of classic content like the famous "Keep on the Borderlands."
Who should avoid it: People who want to play heroes right out of the gate; even with a really generous Mortal Wounds table PCs go through a meatgrinder until they hit about 4th level, and the 3d6 down-the-line generation means that most characters will have at most one or two outstanding Abilities. While the first issue mostly takes care of the second in my opinion, this kind of "natural selection" approach to building PCs into Heroes is not for everyone.

Name: Primetime Adventures (http://www.dog-eared-designs.com/)
Cost: $8 USD when I bought it, but now I can't freaking find it for sale.
Type of Game: Rules-light Narrativist system
Ideal Duration: Nine session "season," plus "pilot" session
Why it's Awesome: It's pretty blatantly designed to model Joss Whedon style TV dramas, but it can do pretty much anything structured in a TV format; from medical dramas to daytime soaps to biopic miniseries. While I wouldn't call it "cinematic" exactly, it's certainly got a very good structure which naturally produces drama and satisfying character arcs.
Who should avoid it: People who want to play as a character and make IC decisions which advance their character's goals. This game is far more of a Storytelling Game than a Roleplaying Game, to use that terminology, and is much much more concerned with narrative than personal consequences of actions.

Tetsubo 57
2013-05-11, 07:05 AM
I would like to suggest a game that can be found on the used, secondary market as it is out of print, Everstone: The Blood Legacy. It does wonderful things with the D20 OGL. Also Radiance, but it is outside the price limit by $5. The rules themselves can be downloaded for free however.

2013-05-11, 08:15 AM
Hm well there is All FLesh Must Be Eaten, the MSPR/RRP is $30 but amazon and other stores sell it for $23.89 so Im not quite sure if it qualifies.

It is a very good system for smaller Zombie campaigns the core rules have everything you need from character creation,skill usage, weapons, items, cars, zombies, different settings and even conversion rules from unisystem (d10) to d20 rules.

2013-05-11, 10:17 AM
Crossposting from the RPG.net thread...

Name: Monster of the Week (http://genericgames.co.nz/)
Cost: $20
Type of Game: Monster hunters
Ideal Duration: Moderate length campaign
Why it's Awesome: Friggin' monster-hunting, yo. The AW engine drives a story from "investigate the monster" to "slay the monster", and the various "moves" in the game lead players towards in-genre narrative in a cool way.
Who should avoid it: If you have qualms with a game that lets you directly engage with the culture (you might find it a bit metagamey to do so), and if rolling non-physical stats like Cool, Hot, and Weird is a strange idea to you.

Name: Burning Wheel (http://www.burningwheel.org/)
Cost: $25
Type of Game: Epic (but low-magic) fantasy in the vein of LeGuin and Tolkien
Ideal Duration: Very long campaign
Why it's Awesome: It's all about organically growing characters and sparking off of their motives and ethics. You get awesome character dynamics, and because of the hugely varied skill list, everyone gets their chance to shine in the spotlight. There's also really cool (and intense) subsystems for combat and social conflicts, and for a few other neat details. Also, Tolkien homages everywhere.
Who should avoid it: If you're philosophically opposed to metagaming, find the idea of 500 skills daunting, or don't fancy learning a large number of subsystems.

Name: Hollowpoint (http://www.vsca.ca/Hollowpoint/)
Cost: $19.95
Type of Game: High-violence action movies (Kill Bill meets James Bond)
Ideal Duration: One-shots, or a few sessions at most
Why it's Awesome: The dice pool system is the fastest I've ever seen, when it comes to running a combat scene, and as characters fight, they have to burn personal traits in order to stay in the game. It captures a really interesting genre, and it can lead to an almost Tarantino-esque commentary on violence. It's a lot more substantial than it might sound at first.
Who should avoid it: People who are squicked out by the premise of hyperviolence. People who dislike rules-lite systems.

2013-05-11, 05:04 PM
Name: Eclipse Phase (http://robboyle.wordpress.com/eclipse-phase-pdfs/)
Cost: Free (for the PDFs)
Type of Game: Science Fiction Conspiracy/Horror
Ideal Duration: Moderate length
Why It's Awesome: Unique and engaging setting with all manner of adventures and characters; a great take on transhumanity; a cool way to have effectively immortal PCs while still retaining an element of risk and incentive to avoid failure and harm.
Who should avoid it: People who don't like rules-medium to rules-heavy games.

2013-05-12, 09:14 PM
Name: Terra Incognita (http://www.fudgerpg.com/products/terra-incognita.html)
Cost: $22.95
Type of Game: Pulp/ Secret History
Ideal duration: Campaign
Why it's Awesome: The core concept of a secret pulp history and benevolent society involved in it is itself a lot of fun. That the game includes a year by year chronology of interesting pulp events all over the world pulled from real history from 1890 to 1930 just makes it better, as does the focus upon characters who can function in society as a whole.
Who should avoid it: People who really like heavy mechanical interactions, people who favor dungeon crawls.
Intro or Overview: A benevolent secret society sends its members all over the world, investigating mysteries of a secret history.

Name: Qin: The Warring States (http://shop.cubicle7store.com/epages/es113347.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es113347_shop/Products/CB7401)
Cost: $20-$25, used. Sometimes. $40 new.*
Type of Game: Historical/Wuxia
Ideal Duration: Campaign
Why It's Awesome: First of all, it is set in Warring States China, with as much or as little fantasy desired, and it provides plenty of setting details for any degree of fantasy. It also has several interesting mechanics, such as the use of the five elements for attributes, as well as just being well made.
Who Should Avoid It: If you don't like complex systems, stay away. The setting can basically just be lifted and the book is useful for that alone, but it can be a bit rules heavy (though it is below the D&D 3.x level).
Intro or Overview: Lower-powered wuxia in Warring States China.

Name: InSpectres (http://memento-mori.com/inspectres/)
Cost: $20.00
Type of Game: Supernatural Investigation.
Ideal Duration: Session to Short Campaign.
Why It's Awesome: This is basically Ghostbusters the RPG, and it is excellent. It's built around investigation in a big way, includes a mechanic for soliloquizing and flashbacks, and is generally good at what it does while doing what few games do.
Who Should Avoid It: People who favor very traditional RPGs probably won't like this.
Intro or Overview: Ghostbusters, the RPG.

Name: Chronica Feudalis (http://chronicafeudalis.com/)
Cost: $20.00
Type of Game: Historical Medieval Adventure
Ideal Duration: Campaign
Why It's Awesome: Chronica Feudalis embraces the historical setting, covering that well. Mechanically, it is based upon four equally developed subsystems - Chase, Combat, Parley, and Subterfuge - which include excellent things like a developed system for tool use in social situations (e.g. clothing, jewelery, documents). Oh, and it is written entirely in character, as if it were made by a group of medieval monks, so it is a joy to read.
Who Should Avoid It: People who want magic in their medieval settings won't enjoy it. People who like having lots and lots of crunch also won't.
Intro or Overview: Medieval Monks present the adventure game of their time.

*This is, strictly speaking, over 25 dollars. However, you get multiple copies, so it works out to more like 20 dollars for the hardcopy and another 20 for the .pdf.

2013-05-13, 11:28 AM
Name: Terra Incognita (http://www.fudgerpg.com/products/terra-incognita.html)

Name: InSpectres (http://memento-mori.com/inspectres/)
Cost: $20.00
Type of Game: Supernatural Investigation.
Ideal Duration: Session to Short Campaign.
Why It's Awesome: This is basically Ghostbusters the RPG, and it is excellent. It's built around investigation in a big way, includes a mechanic for soliloquizing and flashbacks, and is generally good at what it does while doing what few games do.
Who Should Avoid It: People who favor very traditional RPGs probably won't like this.
Intro or Overview: Ghostbusters, the RPG.

No. No it is not. This is: http://www.gbfans.com/games/ghostbusters-rpg/

The Dark Fiddler
2013-05-13, 03:55 PM
No. No it is not. This is: http://www.gbfans.com/games/ghostbusters-rpg/

Yes, yes it is. The fact that there is an actual Ghostbusters RPG does not stop InSpectres from being basically Ghostbusters the RPG.