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A great Role Playing Game should above all facilitate the telling of memorable stories. In order to do that, it should not only meet but excel at two criteria: concept and system.

First, it should have an engaging concept. This could be a unique world setting or interesting premise. Whatever it may be, players should want to tell stories within that concept. This could be facilitated by great artwork, great writing, or simply an idea that is so interesting that people will choose it over others.

Second, it should have a refined system. The rules and mechanics define an RPG as a game. Without them it is improvised storytelling. The rules can be simple or complex, with a GM or without, but they must be easily defined, understandable, and not get in the way of the storytelling component.

Don’t forget to cast your ballot in our 2019 Fan Favorite voting.

We’ll be announcing the rest of the nominees over the next few weeks; then check back on Friday, January 17th when we announce the winners of the 2nd Annual Diamond Climber Awards.

A Town Called Malice

A Town Called Malice brings players into a world combining isolated small-town suspense stories like Twin Peaks and Nordic Noir stories like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Secrets and underlying darkness pervade every step the characters take.

A Town Called Malice uses the Story Pillar System, similar to Fiasco, where players develop the narrative and character relationships as they struggle to keep it all together.

Publisher(s): Monkeyfun Studios
Designer(s): David Kizzia
Artist(s): Novo Malgapo

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game

This new RPG based on the classic sci-fi horror movies sets you in “a universe of body horror and corporate brinkmanship, where synthetic people play god while space truckers and marines serve host to newborn ghoulish creatures.”

ALIEN: The Roleplaying Game can be played two different ways:

Cinematic can be played in a single session. It focuses on the dread and horror found in the films with high stakes brutal outcomes. It is not likely everyone will survive.

Campaigns allow for the same group of characters over many game sessions, allowing for sandbox-style exploration of the ALIEN universe.

The rules of the game are based on the acclaimed Year Zero Engine, found in Tales from the Loop but adapted for the core concept of ALIEN: “horror and action in the cold darkness of space.” We particularly liked the Stress Dice mechanic. As your stress level increases you receive extra dice to roll on checks. These dice allow for more chances to succeed but also more chances to panic resulting in erratic behavior.

Publisher(s): Free League Publishing
Designer(s): Tomas Härenstam
Artist(s): Christian Granath

For the Queen

This card-based story-building game casts you and your fellow players in the retinue of a Queen who takes a long journey fraught with danger to broker peace with an enemy nation. As you play For the Queen, prompt cards help you develop your characters, the world in which they live, and ultimately decide how the narrative of the journey proceeds. Love, betrayal, doubt, and devotion are all in the air and you will all decide the fate of your Queen.

For the Queen is available in both physical and digital formats and features beautifully illustrated tarot style cards including 14 unique Queens.

Publisher(s): Evil Hat Productions
Designer(s): Alex Roberts
Artist(s): Various

Pathfinder 2nd Edition

The long-awaited 2nd Edition of Pathfinder, the now-classic fantasy RPG, debuted with an impressive rules overhaul allowing for quicker play while still retaining the deep character customization that made the first edition so popular.

The lore of the Pathfinder setting remains mostly intact, so much of the 1st edition setting material is still perfectly viable in this new edition but now in a system that allows for creative characters and focuses on getting back to the story.

Publisher(s): Paizo Publishing
Designer(s): Logan Bonner, Jason Bulmahn, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, and Mark Seifter
Artist(s): Various

The Expanse Roleplaying Game

The Expanse Roleplaying Game immerses players in the universe of James S.A. Corey’s award-winning series of science fiction novels. Built on Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system, The Expanse adds in all of the mechanics needed for life and exploration in space.

From the publisher: “The Expanse takes players to a far-future solar system where humanity is divided: Martians, Belters, and the people of old Earth struggle for political power and resources, but even older, alien, forces are stirring in the universe, and human history is about to take an unexpected new turn.

The Expanse applies the fast-playing and action-based AGE rules to spaceships, solar colonies, and adventure and intrigue in the far-future, where the actions of the characters may change the course of history!”

Publisher(s): Green Ronin Publishing
Designer(s): Steve Kenson, Seth Johnson, Ian Lemke, Rich Lescouflair, Rob McCreary, Jason Mical, Neall Raemonn Price, Zack Walters, Nicole Winchester
Art Direction: Hal Mangold

Star Crossed

Star Crossed is a two-player game about really, really wanting to, when you really, really can’t. It’s about the excitement, tension, and heartbreak of romance!”

In Star Crossed, two players play characters who are powerfully attracted to each other, but are unable to act on that attraction for some reason. Using a Jenga-style tower of blocks you will attempt to increase that attraction. As the attraction increases, blocks are pulled and placed on top of the tower until it all comes crashing down and they act on their feelings. Will that spell doom or success for the star-crossed lovers? Only you can decide!

Make sure to check out our interview with the designer of Star Crossed, Alex Roberts!

Publisher(s): Bully Pulpit Games
Designer(s): Alex Roberts
Artist(s): Jess Fink, Brennen Reece

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Than Gibson

Than Gibson is the Associate Editor for RPGs at Meeple Mountain.
He is a writer, artist, and lifelong Dungeon Master. He loves all things RPG-related and is the creator of Chronicle, a fantasy RPG setting and webcomic.

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