Top 5 RPG Video Games Which Capture the Essence of Tabletop RPGs

The role-playing game genre has become a staple of the video game scene with many of the biggest and best games of all time being RPGs. While the vast majority of these games take key elements from their 1970s pen and paper roots, most lack the real-feel of playing the classic style of tabletop RPGs. Given how popular tabletop RPGs have been over the years and how relatively simple the video game versions would be to make, it’s a shame that there aren’t more, but for now, we’re going to take a look at five of the very best.

These games encapsulate the essence of the tabletop role-playing game, with plenty of storytelling, decision-making, side quests, looting, creatures to defeat, character creation, and possibly multiplayer options to enjoy. Many of the top RPG video games are adapted from original tabletop RPGs while others do well at paying tribute to the origins of the genre.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Based on the tabletop role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade, the 2004 PC release of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was the victim of a big publisher’s release schedule. Developed by Troika Games and released by Activision, it was seen as a mostly incomplete game upon release, earning a quaint audience mostly consisting of fans of the pen and paper original.

But the game which has you playing as a revived fledgeling vampire in Los Angeles who seeks the truth behind a relic which could put an end to all vampires earned a dedicated fan base committed to finishing Troika’s efforts. Through a long line of unofficial patches, the latest of which was released on 19 February 2019, Bloodlines has become much smoother and is now a very enjoyable experience.


The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure

Creating a PC version of The Temple of Elemental Evil adventure from Dungeons & Dragons’ Greyhawk campaign, The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure earned a great deal of praise upon its 2003 release for its representation of the 3.5e tabletop rules.

A fan-favourite element of the Troika Games creation is its use of turn-based tactical combat, but on launch, the video game was rife with bugs. Thanks to its ability to bring the classic tabletop adventure to the PC and successfully apply the then-latest D&D rule set, fans stuck by the game and continued to update it after Trokia’s three official patch releases.


Divinity: Original Sin

Prequel to Divine Divinity, Divinity: Original Sin was initially released to PC in 2014, followed by PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Linux in 2015. , Divinity: Original Sin is clearly very heavily influenced by its tabletop roots and has been praised as a title which modernised the genre.

The game’s customisation options are off the charts. Not only can you customise your protagonist, but you can even create your own adventures. Divinity: Original Sin comes with the editor and modding tool used to create the game, which was included to allow players to share their single-player and multiplayer adventures online.

 


Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is one of the finest digital tabletop renditions to date, nearly perfectly recreating the classic form of gaming. In the middle of 2018, the game was launched on PC, Linux, and Mac, and is set to arrive on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2019.

Its predecessor, the award-winning Pillars of Eternity, managed to create a new game with the real tabletop feel through taking all of the best elements of the best games of the genre, and now Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire further expands that vast universe while injecting welcomed doses of nostalgia for D&D fans.


Neverwinter Nights

Whenever discussing the ultimate tabletop role-playing game made for the digital platforms, Neverwinter Nights will almost always be brought up. Created by BioWare in 2002 for PC, Linux, and Mac, the game’s campaign is based on Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms with the legend’s third edition rule set used for its game mechanics.

Able to be played in single-player or multiplayer, with its original release intended to be a form of massively multiplayer online game, Neverwinter Nights was very successful and was given three expansions in the form of Shadows of Undrentide, Hordes of the Underdark, and Kingmaker before its sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, hit the shelves in 2006. In 2018, Beamdog released an Enhanced Edition of the classic game, giving it new life in the modern gaming space.

These superb role-playing video games do a grand job of delivering a comprehensive RPG experience akin to that of classic tabletop play.

Top 5 Upcoming Tabletop RPGs in 2019

The world of tabletop role-playing games continues to evolve. Most games these days come via Kickstarter-backed projects and appear to be the most successful of those which use the crowd-funding platform in terms of actually delivering a quality product at the end.

So, while there may be even more exciting tabletop RPGs pitched on Kickstarter or announced at events such as Gen Con, these are the ones that, as of March, look to be among the best of the bunch by the time 2019 is over.

Lex Arcana

lex arcana tabletop rpg

There’s a lot of hype around the upcoming release of Lex Arcana because of the exceptional original of the same name, which was released in 1993. Unfortunately, many English-speaking players didn’t get to play the original as it was released in Italy, so a team of the same authors of the original have been assembled to create a new Lex Arcana. The game itself takes place in a unique setting where Romans battle barbarians in the field while mystical powers, ancient monsters, and cults threaten the Caesar from within Rome’s walls. Lex Arcana is set for release around June 2019.


Pathfinder RPG: 2nd Edition

Pathfinder RPG, lovingly called D&D version 3.75, started as a modified version of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 as a means to offer players a way of continuing to play in a similar way to the much-loved D&D 3.5 rather than the controversial 4th Edition, leading to Pathfinder even outselling Dungeons & Dragons through many quarters. In late 2014, D&D returned to the top with 5th Edition, but there’s a good chance that Pathfinder will once again give the legendary game a run for its money in 2019 when Pathfinder RPG: 2nd Edition is released. There are many stages to get through yet, but the hope is that 2nd Edition will release at or shortly after Gen Con 2019, which takes place from 1-4 August 2019.


The Expanse

Inspired by the novels of James S. A. Corey, just as the excellent series which was saved by Amazon in 2018 was, The Expanse will be a tabletop role-playing game which takes players to the universe where humans have colonised much of our Solar System. In the game, the people of the Earth, Mars, and those known as Belters continue to struggle for power while an older alien force begins to stir across the universe. Originally slated for a late 2018 release, the Expanse RPG was approved on 4 March – coincidentally, the day of writing this article – and is now available for purchase.


Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition

In 2003, the creators of miniature wargame Deadlands: the Great Rail Wars revised the rules for the game and expanded it into a new role-playing system that they would then call Savage Worlds. After many revisions and expansions to the original, a new edition was announced 15 years later, Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition, which was fully funded to the tune of $15,000 in less than five minutes and has since been given in excess of $520,000 in funding. The creators, Pinnacle, say that they’ve taken on all of the feedback of their fans to create a faster, more furious, and more fun edition which is expected to be given a print release later this year.


Things from the Flood

Hot on the heels of the fast-selling Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood will be taking players back to the Loop in the 1990s, where you’ll try to balance your regular life with solving the mysteries of the dark times. The big difference here, according to creators Free League, is that the stakes are much higher – meaning that you can die. Final PDFs of the core rulebook were released in February, with printed copies on the way later in 2019.

While Pathfinder RPG: 2nd Edition and Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition are set to be huge hits with the tabletop RPG audience, Lex Arcana could challenge for the top spot with its very intriguing story and undoubtedly popular theme which blends history and mythology.

Getting Started with Tabletop Role-Playing Games

Some call them tabletop role-playing games, others pen and paper role-playing games, either way, this classic form of gaming is making a huge comeback thanks to pop-culture references and a new age of writers and designers from the original generations of players creating new worlds and adventures to explore.

The new age of tabletop RPGs is here, driven by classic titles like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder RPG, and bolstered by brand new creations in themes which expand far beyond the realms of fantasy, to offer a diverse range of games that can suit all audiences.
If you’re the one who’s looking to start an evening of gaming with tabletop RPGs, you will most likely be the one who plays as the Game Master for this first run. So, the advice here will be angled more towards that side of the table.

Let’s begin:

Find the games that will intrigue your group

You’re going to want to do a bit of research to find the games that will appeal to your particular group of friends the most as it’ll help to ease you all into the style of gaming. Luckily, unlike when tabletop RPGs initially became a craze, we have the internet that’s filled with conversations and blog posts to help you quickly find a bunch of games that may be right for your group.

Now, tabletop RPGs span many genres. There is, of course, in-depth high fantasy games like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons – which isn’t still the same publication from 1974, the 5th Edition was released in 2014 – quick mystery games like One Night: Ultimate Werewolf, horrors like Call of Cthulhu, and themed games like the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings/Middle-Earth creations.

There is plenty of information online to help you find games that suit the amount of time that you have, how detailed you’d like to get, and the number of players that can play the game at any one time. But the best place to go is still your local game store. The people who work in the stores will, more often than not, know the form of gaming well and be able to advise you on the best games for you.

If you’re not too sure if you’ll be in this for the long run, there are some free offerings around the web, including the Dungeons & Dragons free basic rules handbook.

 


Over to you, Game Master

Once you’ve found the right game for you and assembled a group to play, it’s time to put a bit of work in, to prepare for your role as the Game Master. You’ll most likely want to start with the standardised, formulated version of the game rather than develop your own – which is something that Game Masters of some experience like to do to deliver a unique story and customised challenge to their group – and use pre-set characters and attributes if possible.

Before everything gets underway, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with the game’s story and most importantly the format of its play. You can do this by learning from someone else who has played tabletop RPGs or by watching one of the many videos for beginners online, but the best way to start is by reading the first few parts of the material, getting to grips with the rules and the formats, and then padding your knowledge through videos. You don’t need to read the whole manual front to back and know the results of every dice roll in every encounter, but getting a feel for the game and understanding the playthrough is important.

Once you have an idea for how long the game will take and how the game is played, drop your group a message, arrange a time, and delve into the exciting worlds of tabletop RPGs!