Role-Playing in the Aftermath: A Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Tabletop RPGs

There are many ways to enjoy post-apocalyptic stories. From novels and films to comics and TV series, everybody has seen, heard, and read at least one particular tale about the end of the world in one medium or another. Some people, however, choose to experience it firsthand by immersing themselves in the fictional narrative set in the aftermath of a doomsday event. Playing post-apocalyptic video games, whether on console or PC, appears to be the most common way to do that, but it is not the only option. Another popular choice is the equally fascinating tabletop RPG. Although it might not involve controlling characters as they blast through hordes of zombies or silently slither into city streets full of aliens and monsters, post-apocalyptic tabletop RPGs offer a different kind of excitement thanks to the seemingly limitless story developments and strategic gameplay. Of course, you also need a healthy dose of luck to secure victory. Some of the most popular titles in the genre are as follows.

Apocalypse World

Sitting at the top in probably every list of recommended tabletop RPGs anywhere, Apocalypse World is praised by fans for its simplicity, focus on storytelling, and worldbuilding aspect. Like many games in the genre, it requires you to survive in a world that basically doesn’t even want you to live. The wasteland is dark and borderline disgusting, which seems to be the other attractive point for the vast majority of players. One of the most unique features of Apocalypse World is how the GM (Game Master) is never actually in control of the narrative. The GM is meant only to respond to every action without knowing how the story is supposed to end. Due to the grotesque world and potentially violent narrative, proper preparation is of the utmost importance.

Simple gameplay is a strong point as well. Instead of rolling a 20-sided die to perform an assault, acquire a bonus, or inflict any particular damage type, Apocalypse World opts for the conventional two 6-sided dice with no more than a handful of modifiers. Every single action, whether attacking a villain or engaging in a manipulation tactic, works through the same mechanism as well.

Mutant Year Zero

The first Swedish RPG to have entered the international market, Mutant Year Zero sets the players in a safe zone known as The Ark, where they take the role as the last living remnants of the human species. While combat plays a major role in determining victories, Mutant Year Zero places emphasis on problem-solving abilities outside the scope of direct battles. The game rewards players who showcase a willingness to think creatively rather than pure aggression.

Players are provided with all sorts of tools to implement a broad range of fantasy and sci-fi elements into the story. For instance, you can create a murderous robot vacuum or monstrous talking animals without having to go through a complex sequence of actions. The game’s straightforward rules allow you to focus more on building characters and embarking on adventures.

Post-Apocalyptic Tabletop RPGs

Wasteland Express Delivery Service

Even if the apocalypse has come and the entire world has been decimated to rubbles and ruins, there are still some survivors out there who need valuable resources to energize and fuel their will to beat the odds. Players are at the forefront of cargo management and distribution in Wasteland Express Delivery Service. Regardless of the dangers lurking behind every corner, delivery orders must be fulfilled.

The game comes with a massive load of parts, which means it might take more than just a few minutes to unpack or organize everything. Some portion of the unpacking actually happens during gameplay; once assembled, it is just impossible not to feel that everything is worth the effort. Players are free to choose which cargo they should deliver, what missions to take, and how to modify their delivery vehicles.

Tiny Wastelands

Micro-settings are major parts of Tiny Wastelands as there is no single primary gameplay model, although it does include some rules for settlements, vehicles, and mutations. The versatility of settings also allows players to explore some unique aspects of the post-apocalyptic genre. Gameplay is pretty straightforward, and players can utilize the basic rules to wander around every imaginable world. Or, you can take advantage of popular references like The Matrix or even Mad Max.

The entire game runs on a simple D6 system, in which it makes use of three 6-sided dice to move the story forward. All characters are created from the Archetypes with some options for additional abilities and traits. Apart from the simple mechanic for testing characters and performing combat actions, Tiny Wastelands also has some optional rules to help characters gain improvements and acquire new abilities.

We think every post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG has its own strong and weak points. In other words, there is no single best game in the genre because players have different preferences. Apocalypse World might be the most popular, but it is not always perfect for everybody. For example, players who enjoy complexity and intricacy for tactical gameplay will not likely enjoy the narrative-focused RPG. The good thing is that no matter the preferences, chances arethere is going to be the ideal option for everyone.

What post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG do you enjoy playing the most? Do you think tabletop RPGs are played mostly by adults or children? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Popular post-apocalyptic board games:

– 51st State

– Convoy

– Maximum Apocalypse

– Radlands

– Hit Z Road

– After the Virus

What was the first post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG?

The 1976 Metamorphosis Alpha is believed to be an early example, if not the first, of post-apocalyptic role-playing games ever.

Upcoming post-apocalyptic video games:

– BioShock 4

– Clockwork Revolution

– Death Stranding 2

– Frostpunk 2

– S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl

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