Top 5 . . . Tabletops That Should Be Made

As a long time tabletop veteran, I’ve played a lot of different games. I’ve seen plenty of systems, settings, and sourcebooks from space travel, to cyberpunk, to fantasy, to standard “hack-n-slash”. Over the years, some systems and settings have been flat-out winners (D&D, Shadowrun, World of Darkness). Others failed to really take off in the market such as the World of Warcraft RPG (because World of Warcraft players are too busy playing World of Warcraft to play the tabletop).
For all the awesome RPG settings you’ve enjoyed, I bet you have at least one you just can’t wait to see in tabletop form. I’ve got my own list, and my ideas may be unorthodox, so you’ll just have to bear with me. However, coming from a pretty comprehensive gaming background (both analog and video), I can attest to the merit of the suggestions. Some of my ideas do indeed come from video game settings; most RPG video games have a rich history already developed into them, and any tabletop gamer can tell you that a good setting is a lot of hard work. I give you my wish list of the 5 tabletops that should be published quickly:


5. Final Fantasy

Every quality tabletop needs a good setting, and the Final Fantasy universe has no shortage of those. With dozens of games already published (14 in the main series alone, two being MMOs), there’s certainly no lack of source material. Add to that the wide variety of mechanics each game lends to the series, and there’s plenty of material to tap for a core sourcebook. However, that’s where your biggest obstacle lies: with so much material to source from, it’s hard to pick what makes the cut. There are so many races, classes, jobs, mechanics, roles, moves, spells, and everything else that has been thrown into the Final Fantasy series in its 20+ year history. The biggest obstacle of fully developing something like this is picking your mechanics idea and sticking to it. At least the Chocobos are guaranteed.


But haven’t I seen this before?

You certainly may have, and it may not have been all that long ago. An RPG core was fan-developed in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and it still has a following online. (You can grab the free 3rd edition PDF here). Its current 2d6 system has some promise, but it needs the support of Square Enix as well as a big publisher to really make it work. The free PDF is decent (I haven’t play-tested it, but it seems solid on paper), but with such a large universe like Final Fantasy, it deserves some full-fledged funding and support.



4. Zombies

Behold! The zombie’s natural enemy.

Maybe the zombie fad is on its way out (though fans of The Walking Dead and Resident Evil may declare otherwise), but the tabletop world should get a crack at it. With so many interpretations of a zombie apocalypse out there, why has it not been given a proper tabletop setting? It doesn’t have to prescribe to a specific iteration, but there’s plenty of inspiration for one to exist. Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t found one yet dedicated to our shambling former friends.

But haven’t I seen this before?

Of course you have! Any regular tabletopper would have a hard time avoiding a zombie-type game, but the majority of zombie tabletop stories have come from other settings. Most systems have plenty of source material for all sorts of undead and at least one deals with a post-apocalyptic zombie future, but where’s the game system that’s all undead? (Sorry White Wolf -Vampires don’t count in this). It’s certainly not a setting that would have huge commercial success, but a few quality books would all the system really needs.



3. Borderlands

Bonus points for a Max Rockatansky Easter Egg.

When you think of a crazy, apocalyptic world where anarchy rules, a nasty corporate dictator screwing everything up, and plenty of crazy guns and ammo to keep a healthy resistance active across the entire planet, it’s hard not to have something so closely aligned to Gearbox’s successful Borderlands environment. While there’s a low number of “classes” to start with, the setting has plenty to offer already. Borderlands has its own history, plenty of unique factions, a wide variety of zones/areas to explore, and plenty of space for creativity to flourish. It falls short of having a solid skill set, but this flaw can be overcome with development. With some effort to enhance the setting further (such as going into detail with all the other manufacturers or outposts), the Borderlands universe could be an enjoyable, shoot-‘em-up table top.

But haven’t I seen this before?

The fan-based start-ups for a Borderlands table-top RPG are weak at best. Sure, there are some other game systems that can offer a similar setting to the Borderlands universe, but given the fan following of the Borderlands franchise, a fully developed RPG like this could really boost the table top fandom.



2. Dune

At least we still have the board game!
…Oh, wait…

The epoch of science fiction, Dune has been the inspiration for tons of the space fantasy we enjoy today (including Star Wars). Its interstellar setting with rich planet owners vying for control of resources and wealth across a vast galaxy is widely developed with the base novel, several sequels, a movie, two miniseries, a computer game, and even a couple board games. Even with such a fantastic setting, however, there is no solid basis for mechanics. Yes, while one could easily take an open-ended d20 system and transpose the Dune setting over it, it just wouldn’t do it justice. A lot of the science fiction we know today has Dune to thank for it, and it deserves nothing less than its own fully-developed tabletop.

But haven’t I seen this before?

More likely, you’ve heard of it. If you are one of the few fortunate people to have actually seen it (and not some pirated PDF version of photocopies), you are in a very select crowd. Over a decade ago, a small gaming company began development on a Dune tabletop RPG. Before long, the company was bought out by Wizards of the Coast in their Hasbro-led gaming consolidation of the late 90’s. Ultimately, the book never saw mass publication, and WotC only printed about 3,000 copies before the entire project was scrapped. Not much talk seems to be happening with the idea of resurrecting the Dune RPG, and the rest of the gaming community ultimately loses that battle. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to sit down and enjoy a rich, expansive, developed RPG world based in Frank Herbert’s ground-breaking materpiece.



1. The Elder Scrolls

This is something I’d love to see. If you’ve played any of the games, you understand the complexity that has gone into its universe. Nearly every big tabletop system requirement is already developed. You have races. You have a diverse pantheon. You have a solid skill system that, in part, transcends the idea of classes (though it can easily accommodate a class system). You have magic and spells and artifacts. You have such a diverse world and rooted history of that world: one massive continent with several islands along with it. It’s all there. It’s all waiting to be built into an RPG system. While Bethesda is probably in an “all hands on deck” mode for their upcoming MMO, they should certainly look towards licensing their material out to a quality developer who can take this fantastic world and set it all up for dice.


But haven’t I seen this before?

There’s a good chance you have. Search around online and you can find a couple of solid attempts at putting together a core system for an Elder Scrolls tabletop. So clearly there is the interest level for it to be done. By all means, find these free systems and give them a play test. A lot of valiant effort has been put towards the idea, but just like some of the others presented here, to be done right it needs the support from the creators, a quality developer, and a publisher. I am optimistic though. Don’t be surprised if an Elder Scrolls tabletop is developed and released within a couple of years and becomes the next popular tabletop setting.


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