Since its release in 2014, the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons – calling itself the “world’s greatest roleplaying game,” and undeniably the world’s most popular one – has come to dominate the global market for games where you pretend to be fantasy characters fighting monsters, casting spells, exploring dungeons, and finding grand destinies.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed D&D’s popularity, either. "Virtual tabletops” like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds experienced tenfold increases in traffic as campaigns went virtual when the first lockdowns of the pandemic were imposed.
Whether you’re an old hand at dungeon crawling or were just introduced to D&D after the lockdown had already begun, you may find yourself in need of other diversions along similar lines. Whatever you’re looking for, these 10 games like Dungeons & Dragons will help you scratch that fantasy adventure itch …
Probably D&D’s most direct competitor for the title of world’s most popular roleplaying game, Pathfinder, put out by Paizo, has been around since 2009.
Initially adapted from the popular D20 system introduced in D&D’s 3rd edition, Pathfinder has filled out its own vibrant fantasy world, populated by creatures and peoples both unique and familiar.
Now in its second edition, Pathfinder offers a very different play style than 5e D&D, while still being familiar enough to players who like the character and tone of Dungeons & Dragons.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
If you want a different way to play, or just have trouble getting a gaming group together, there’s always the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.
Pathfinder reproduces character creation and roleplaying in the form of a cooperative strategy card game. Players gain new abilities and items, upgrade their characters, and face monsters, traps, and challenges in a dynamic story that spins out based on their decisions.
In some ways, it might be as close as you can get to the experience of a tabletop roleplaying game without a gamemaster to run things for you. Plus, it can be played solo, or with up to six players, so it’s great if you’re stuck inside without your gaming group.
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Tunnels & Trolls
Initially designed to be more approachable than D&D – not to mention optimized for solo play – Tunnels & Trolls was actually the second major fantasy roleplaying game to follow Dungeons & Dragons when it was first released in 1975.
It remains a favorite of many players to this day, with a new “deluxe edition” update of the rules having been released as recently as 2015.
If you like Dungeons & Dragons, but you’re tired of swords and … well, tired of faux-medieval fantasy settings, anyway, then Shadowrun might just be the game for you.
Originally released by FASA in 1989, Shadowrun takes Tolkienesque fantasy tropes like elves and trolls and updates them to a near-future cyberpunk setting.
Players take control of the eponymous shadowrunners, professionals who make their living heisting data or other valuables from powerful megacorps, combining advanced technology like cybernetics and drones with magic and fantastical beings.
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Descent: Journeys in the Dark
A number of board games have been put out, variously trying to simulate the D&D dungeon crawl experience for those who lack a GM, want a different experience, or simply lack the patience for a roleplaying game.
There are even D&D-branded board games available, reproducing popular D&D adventures like Castle Ravenloft and Tomb of Annihilation.
Of these various board games, the leader of the pack has long been Descent, which was first put out by Fantasy Flight Games back in 2005, with a second edition released in 2012. One of many games set in the high fantasy realm of Terrinoth, Descent will offer familiar challenges to players of D&D, while giving a new spin to the play style.
In October of 2020, Fantasy Flight announced a new version of the game, subtitled Legends of the Dark, which will incorporate app-based play to replace the original’s GM-like Overlord player.
Legacy of Dragonholt
Set in the same world as Descent, this choose-your-own-path game is perfect for those who want a somewhat more sedate version of roleplaying.
Capable of being played by yourself or with a group, Legacy of Dragonholt is reminiscent of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that many of us read growing up, as you read segments of a pre-written story, and your decisions help to shape the direction the narrative will take.
If you’re looking for something more closely tied to D&D’s immersive storytelling than you’re likely to get from Descent, but still want that board game approach, there’s the popular 2017 favorite Gloomhaven, which comes in an imposingly large box weighing more than 20 pounds!
While the theming of the game is similar to D&D, the play style is more heavily influenced by European board games, and randomization is accomplished using a deck of cards, rather than dice.
Sure, you’ve played as a brave adventurer, facing down hordes of monsters in search of fortune and glory … but what about the shopkeepers who sell those adventurers their weapons, armor, and magic items?
They have stories, too, and in Bargain Quest, from Renegade Games, you take control of one such shop owner. Try to sell your wares to passing adventurers so that they both spend their coin at your shop and survive to return and spend the spoils of their latest quest.
Dungeons & Dragons got its start as Chainmail, a set of rules for medieval miniature wargaming. When it comes to fantasy miniature wargaming these days, the leader of the pack is Games Workshop, makers of games like Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar.
That hobby can be intimidating from the outside looking in, though. If the aspect of D&D that you’re really craving is a small band of warriors doing battle in the depths of a dungeon, you can do a lot worse than the approachable skirmish game Warhammer Underworlds.
Set in the same fantasy universe as Age of Sigmar, Underworlds is comparatively easy to get into, as small, pre-built bands of no more than seven to nine fighters clash in head-to-head play.
Like Warhammer Underworlds, Relicblade is a small-scale fantasy skirmish game. It’s less isometric than Underworlds, though, and may feel more like playing a game of D&D.
Designed to be played in campaign form, with numerous skirmishes linked together, Relicblade allows your band of adventurers, monsters, and others to evolve, become more powerful, and gain new abilities from one game to the next.
It also feels more homebrew, since it’s largely the work of one designer, giving it a feel more reminiscent of the earliest roleplaying games.