Five Underrated RPGs

There are always games that are cool, but aren’t as well-known as the “big guys.”  I present to you five of my favorite, most underrated RPGs, in no particular order.

1.  Palladium Fantasy RPG

Yes, the Palladium house system has issues; it’s in serious need of an upgrade for one.  Yes, some of the Palladium worlds are very unbalanced and suffer from bloat (cough..Rifts..cough) but the Palladium FRPG is actually enjoyable.  It doesn’t worry about MDC, the classes are more-or-less balanced and the sourcebooks for this game’s second edition are some of my favorites for the detail and ideas they have, particularly the Gods and Dragons sourcebook.  If you try to combine it with the rest of the “Palladium Megaverse,” you run into the standard problems of doing so, but taken on its own, by itself, it’s quite fun.

2.  Earthdawn

Originally by FASA, now licensed out to Red Brick (and licensed at one point by both Living Room Games and Red Brick), Earthdawn 3rd edition was released fairly recently.  This was one of the RPGs that was known for being fantasy, but “not D&D.”  The world is interesting, it has one of my favorite systems for magic items, the system is great and the 3rd edition streamlines many of the clunkier bits of the original system.    If you like your fantasy with a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, this is your game.

3.  Grimm

Last week, I wrote a full review of this game by Fantasy Flight Games.  Check it out.  Definitely an underrated game.

4.  Fireborn

Also by Fantasy Flight Games, Fireborn is what I consider to be the biggest victim of the d20 glut of a few years ago.  Yes, the book (especially the Player’s Guide) has some bad editing issues, and errata is sorely needed, but the underlying engine of the game as well as the concept is great.  The system gives you four different pools of d6s, and depending on what you are doing, you can move the dice around from one pool to a different; say you need to concentrate on defense, you can move dice from your attack pool.  Concept wise, it’s the near future and magic has returned.  Yeah, you’ve heard that before, but technology’s not as advanced as in say, Shadowrun, and you play a dragon that’s been trapped in a human guise and are regaining your dragon powers and draconic form.  As a further twist, you get to play yourself during mythic times in “flashback” sequences in which you a fully powered dragon.  Unfortunately, at the time it was released, a new IP just couldn’t compete with the shelves choked by third party d20 SRD releases and this game died a swift death after releasing the Player’s Handbook, GM’s book and a (free) small sourcebook (and, IIRC, an adventure).

5.  Scion

Scion is put out by White Wolf, so you’d think it’d be more popular but you don’t hear a lot about it.  Basically, you play the child of one of the gods of old, though you are unaware of your heritage at first, who gets drafted into the gods’ wars with the Primordials when the Primordials gain the upper hand.  The core rulebooks for the system are Hero, Demigod and God, and they take you through the differing power levels all the way up to the point where you could go toe to toe with Zeus.  There’s also a Ragnarok themed sourcebook (titled, appropriately enough Ragnarok) and a companion that has additional powers.  A few of the powers are a little unbalanced (such as Untouchable Opponent) and firearms need some love witht he Scion powers (the game is set in modern day)).  Think Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and you have a good idea of this game.

So there you have it, five good games I feel are underrated.  What games make your list?

[tags]gaming,Role Playing Games,fireborn,palladium,scion,fantasy,earthdawn,grimm[/tags]

9 thoughts on “Five Underrated RPGs

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  1. Scion is a victim of it’s own marketing strategy. Instead of giving you a complete set of rules like the Trinity series did, they took a game and divided it’s rules out into “Chapters” for a lack of better term. The fact you got less then 1/3rd the game at the start was enough to turn off a lot of people, and the world is really, really vague. Even by the time I reached Gods, I still didn’t really understand the whole Primordial thing, or how it really related to the mythos where the Primordials really didn’t fit in.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a blast with Scion when I’ve had a chance to run or play it. It just would have been better if it had been a complete game from the get-go.

    I’d like to throw in Dreampark as a under rated game, also. It’s not really built for long campaigns, but it’s really good for what it’s really designed for, which is short convention adventures. The idea that it’s really okay to be harsh and cruel on PC’s, and then let the dead ones come back as monsters for the finale really works well for the convention circuit, and I think if people could have gotten past the “You are playing a game in which your character is someone who is playing a fictional character in another game”, they would find it was a really slick system.


  2. There are several that didn’t make the list this time around…maybe this article needs a Part 2.

    Over the Edge, 7th Sea, Feng Shui, Ars Magica..maybe even Deadlands Reloaded and/or the Savage Worlds system, though it might be too “popular” to fall into this sort of category.


  3. On Scion, yeah, it probably would have been better served with all the rules in one book. They definitely could have pulled it off by cutting out the adventures in the book Hero, Demigod and God rulebooks…those were LONG.


  4. Shonobicow,

    You can get .pdfs of the Fireborn books form Just search for “Fireborn.” At $5.00 per book, definitely worth getting. I haven’t seen hard copies of the books in ages.


    Yeah, Deadlands is pretty well-known, but it’s nothing like it was back in its heyday before the d20 glut almost destroyed Pinnacle and they decided to swap over to the Savage Worlds rules (though in some ways the SW rules play better..Classic is still my choice when I have one).


  5. Oh man, Feng Shui. I was lucky enough to sit in on a pre-release game at a con. with some of the development team, and it was one of the best one-shot games I’ve ever played.

    I never understood why it didn’t really take off.


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