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Is there such a thing as a newby friendly tabletop RPG?

BuzzwordsBuzzwords Registered User regular
edited August 2012 in Critical Failures
So, a friend of mine keeps mentioning how we should play dungeons and dragons, and i'll admit i'm curious myself. i can think of another couple guys we could probably convince to try it with us, so getting a small group together should be no problem.

the issue is that the closest thing any of us has ever played to dungeons and dragons, (at least on a tabletop) is probably monopoly... and i don't think any of us have ever actually FINISHED a game of monopoly. personally i hit this up after a little google searching, and my brain melted. perhaps it's simply a lack of context, but that is an intimidating wall of possibilities, and that's just PART of the SETUP?


now personally, i don't really care if we play "dungeons and dragons". i'm sure we'll run into a dragon or a dungeon in any rpg sooner or later. i'm more interested in getting the group together in a situation where one guy can't screw over the whole team with his poor reaction time and another guy won't be compelled to check the leaderboards after every match... (i love videogames but my IRL associates vary wildly in talent)

so if there's a more newby friendly tabletop RPG out there i'd love to hear about it. or even some advice on where to start in D&D?

Buzzwords on

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  • MorranMorran Registered User regular
    If you are looking for something more of a blend of monopoly and adventure/roleplaying game I would recommend HeroQuest or Talisman:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeroQuest
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talisman_(board_game)

    HeroQuest is basically DnD light. It's a boardgame with one "dungeonmaster" who controlls all monsters, and then a team of heroes, who try to survive. The rules are quite easy to learn, and each game is over rather quick. It might be hard to obtain a copy of this game, since I'm not sure there has been a new print since the 90s.

    Talisman is a more classical board game. Roll a die, move around the game board, build up your character, kill monsters.

    I played both of these games a ton when I was younger.

  • Dex DynamoDex Dynamo Registered User regular
    Second the recommendation for HeroQuest. Great game!

    For a different approach, I would recommend Risus: The Anything RPG by S. John Ross. I think it's a great introduction to the idea of tabletop RPGs, and the core tenents of RPGs, without taking itself too seriously or bogging itself down with rules.

  • lowlylowlycooklowlylowlycook Registered User regular
    So I'm in the same market because I'm thinking of trying out some RPing with my nephews and nieces at some point. I'll be watching these recommendations.

    Things I've considered so far:

    Star Wars Saga Edition: Rules are pretty simple. They are pretty big Star Wars fans so they'll have examples of characters that they already role play sans dice, rules, etc.

    One of the "remakes" of old D&D\: There are quite a few of these. I think ideally I'm looking for the old Red Box D&D but without THACO and maybe a few other modernizations. Not sure I've quite found that but Heroes Against Darkness seems not too complicated and free. With this I'd be able to use the mini's I'll get from the Reaper Kickstarter for some simple dungeon looting.

    Random Thoughts:

    I think pre-generated characters to start with could go a long way to simplify a more complicated game because normally you are offered just too many choices with too little context just as you are starting to play. In the same way, for a new Dungeon Master just running the starter adventure that basically all RPGs come with will make things easier.

    That said, the character generator is making things look more complicated than they really are since it just lists out every option from every 4th edition D&D book not even limiting itself to 1st level characters. When you make a character the actual method will be to read a few class descriptions and decide that one sounds cool. Then you'll make a few choices to customize your character.

    A lot depends on what you want to get out of a game. Are you looking more for storytelling or just skipping the story and going right to killing and looting bad guys?



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  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    Buzzwords wrote:
    So, a friend of mine keeps mentioning how we should play dungeons and dragons, and i'll admit i'm curious myself. i can think of another couple guys we could probably convince to try it with us, so getting a small group together should be no problem.

    the issue is that the closest thing any of us has ever played to dungeons and dragons, (at least on a tabletop) is probably monopoly... and i don't think any of us have ever actually FINISHED a game of monopoly. personally i hit this up after a little google searching, and my brain melted. perhaps it's simply a lack of context, but that is an intimidating wall of possibilities, and that's just PART of the SETUP?


    now personally, i don't really care if we play "dungeons and dragons". i'm sure we'll run into a dragon or a dungeon in any rpg sooner or later. i'm more interested in getting the group together in a situation where one guy can't screw over the whole team with his poor reaction time and another guy won't be compelled to check the leaderboards after every match... (i love videogames but my IRL associates vary wildly in talent)

    so if there's a more newby friendly tabletop RPG out there i'd love to hear about it. or even some advice on where to start in D&D?

    That page is awful. It's almost exactly the worst website layout I've ever seen, and the worst way to present all that information. So there's that.

    4th edition D&D is probably the most newbie friendly version of D&D, and is not bad compared to most RPG's. The big thing is that the site there has every single possible option for every kind of class and race, for every level, for every book that's come out. If you just buy a standard player's handbook, and start at level 1, it becomes much more manageable.

    If you want something REALLY simple, you can look at Spirit of the Century, or other games using the FATE system, which I haven't played, but is supposed to be very simple and quick. Paranoia is also very simple, but has a very specific tone going for its games, that your group might not be into.
    A lot depends on what you want to get out of a game. Are you looking more for storytelling or just skipping the story and going right to killing and looting bad guys?

    Yeah, this is important. If you want maximum battle tactics, monster killing and loot gathering, you want 4e D&D. If you want more storytelling and character driven stories and choices, the white wolf games like werewolf and mage might be good. If you want a mix, the warhammer fantasy and 40k systems are good as well. These are all roughly about the same level of complexity, I'd say.

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    Savage Worlds is a pretty simple system with easily understood rules. I would absolutely recommend it for players intimidated by some of the heavier rulesets. The nice part about the rules is that they're flexible enough to encompass whatever you want to do with them. While it does favor pulp action, you can do everything from superheroes to scifi to fantasy. And typically with just the core book, though campaign settings and genre rules expansions are available.

    However, if you want something more robust, there's absolutely nothing wrong with D&D 4E. Just start at 1st level and you'll find the breadth of choices much less intimidating. I would actually recommend you start with the D&D Essentials playset. It incorporates a lot of the rules changes the game experienced during its evolution and strips out a lot of choices to make character creation more streamlined.

    Mikey CTS on
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  • BuzzwordsBuzzwords Registered User regular
    allright so if we just found one of these we'd be allright? cool.

    and thanks all for the other suggestions. but if D&D can work it'll save me the work convincing people that "this is just as good, better even. trust me . the internet said so."

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    Yep, that's a good place to kickstart from. If you decide it's the game for you, the players can pickup the Heroes of ... series to get more character options. The DM should look into getting copies of the the DM's Kit and Monster Vault. Really that's enough material to keep you gaming for a years. Anything else is just expansions.

    // PSN: wyrd_warrior // MHW Name: Josei //
  • The WalrusThe Walrus ChicagoRegistered User regular
    I'll add http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71061/dungeonquest-third-edition to the mix for intro fantasy boardgames, I prefer it to Talisman.

    and man did I looove Heroquest as a child.

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  • Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    D&D 4E is about the simplest true RPG you'll find outside of print-on-demand stuff.

    Although if you're okay with print-on-demand stuff, you should check out Kill Puppies for Satan. You kill puppies. For Satan. Best played with copious alcohol.

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  • AppfiyAppfiy Registered User
    D&D 4E is about the simplest true RPG you'll find outside of print-on-demand stuff.

    Although if you're okay with print-on-demand stuff, you should check out Kill Puppies for Satan. You kill puppies. For Satan. Best played with copious alcohol.

    Whitewolf has gone to on-demand printing, but it's a lot simpler than my experiences with D&D... only one type of die, simple stats, don't need to spend much time buying equiptment.

    In another vein, I am drumming up funding to develop an app to handle the rules, rolls, and points. That way character set up is a lot faster & intuitive, like a videogame. If you're interested, vote for my Live Gaming app here and support intuitive RPGs!

  • Mikey CTSMikey CTS Registered User regular
    Actually, yeah, I'll back that. I started my gaming career with the second edition of Werewolf: the Apocalypse. Any WW game is pretty inituitive, though it's not without its flaws. Rolling fistfuls of dice to resolve a single action is a hassle. It's pretty easy for players to (even accidentally) min-max to godlike power. And you never want to have a mixed group (a changeling, a lupine, and a vampire all walk into a bar...). I hear this is less of a problem in the new WoD material but still to be avoided.

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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    edited September 2012
    The problem with WW for newbies is much the same as the problem with most print-on-demand type RPGs. It is trivially easy to find and use pre-published adventures for D&D or most of the D20 variants. If you don't have access to a store that sells such, a subscription to DDI gets you the entire archive of Dragon magazine's adventures. And if you can't get that either, for some reason, you can have a reasonably good time just drawing squares at random on a sheet of graph paper and rolling percentile dice to pick monsters and traps off of a list.

    WW games tend to assume that you'll spend most of your time role-playing and that there will be things like politics and machinations and whatnot. Some of them don't even offer that much in the way of structure, making it decidedly non-obvious how you're meant to even run a game with the system (I'm looking at you, Wraith: the Oblivion). For a full group of newbies you need a game that not only has an easily understood system, but a game that can hold the DM's hand while he's learning the ropes.

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  • NullzoneNullzone Registered User regular
    edited September 2012
    I've found Old School Hack is a great game for RPG newbies...I think there's a basic adventure in the kit, though I can't remember for sure and the website isn't loading to check. The rules keep everything loose and entertaining.

    Nullzone on
  • FlimflammeryFlimflammery There's always money in the banana stand... Oxford, UKRegistered User regular
    There's always Advanced Fighting Fantasy... Very simple d6-based system.

  • InkSplatInkSplat 100%ed Bad Rats. Registered User regular
    I recommend Dread. It is essentially Narrative Jenga.

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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    InkSplat wrote: »
    I recommend Dread. It is essentially Narrative Jenga.

    Novelty RPGs like Dread, while awesome, are going to be largely lost on new players. I've introduced a few people to RPGs over the last couple of years. The primary question they have, in one form or another, is "What are my options?" The concept of a game where the answer to that question is, usually, "Whatever you want." is just foreign to people who haven't played RPGs before. A game like D&D (or Pathfinder, or D20 Modern, or one of the throwback systems, or whatever) gives you very solid, easily-categorized options for character creation (even with an online tool to walk you through it, for 4th edition D&D).

    Character creation in rules-light RPGs tends to be pretty nebulous and puts new players in the position of not knowing the answer to the "What can I be?" question. Having a set of pre-generated characters in a published format (rather than making the newbie DM have to figure out character creation rules for 5 different people on his own) helps enormously, but just being able to say "You can be a Wizard, a Fighter, a Thief, or a Priest. Now, you can be a Human, a Dwarf, or an Elf." helps. Everyone knows what those things are, at least to some degree, and it's a nicely limited set of options to pick from.

    Having a solid set of rules helps, too. You'd think that a game where everything is a matter of rolling out of a d6 dice pool or is just a stat roll or whatever would be easier for new players, but my experience is the opposite. A game that has ten or fifteen things with individual, discrete rules and things to roll against in various situations gives new players ideas about what they can do.

    Someone who has never played an RPG isn't going to come up with creative solutions to problems or extemporize potential abilities for their character off the cuff. Even folks who dive straight into role-playing their character's motivations and dialog are, almost universally, going to balk when presented with the equivalent of, "You're in front of a locked door. There's an orc on the other side of it and he has your pie. You want that pie. What do you do?" The immediate answer, 90% of the time, is "Uh... What can I do?" while looking at one or more sides of their character sheet.

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  • Dr_KeenbeanDr_Keenbean Dumb as a butt Planet Express ShipRegistered User regular
    I'm gonna jump in on the HeroQuest tip. It literally is like 'Baby's First RPG' and I mean that in the best way.

    I've gotten countless people who would otherwise not be interested in tabletop RPGs (girlfriends, wives and CoD-addled teenage siblings of friends, and friends themselves) into it. It's wonderfully simple and extensible.

    I think the last complete copy I found in basically new condition on eBay ran me like $160 so keep that in mind.

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  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    I'm gonna jump in on the HeroQuest tip. It literally is like 'Baby's First RPG' and I mean that in the best way.

    I've gotten countless people who would otherwise not be interested in tabletop RPGs (girlfriends, wives and CoD-addled teenage siblings of friends, and friends themselves) into it. It's wonderfully simple and extensible.

    I think the last complete copy I found in basically new condition on eBay ran me like $160 so keep that in mind.

    Descent does pretty much the same job, if not quite as well, and has the benefit of being in print. I believe the 2nd edition even comes with campaign rules for tracking character advancement.

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  • Professor PhobosProfessor Phobos Registered User regular
    Many tabletop games are actually quite simple. Try something like Runequest, Unknown Armies or Call of Cthulhu- simple, easy to grasp percentile systems.

  • SweetdaddyGSweetdaddyG Lisburn, Northern IrelandRegistered User regular
    I find that the 4e red box is a pretty decent jumping off point to be honest. And you should be able to pick it up cheap.

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  • Void SlayerVoid Slayer Very Suspicious Registered User regular
    You are going to certainly want to go with either a game with very clear and specific rules like 4E or a RPG themed board game.

    It saddens me that you can't get Hero Quest since while it is generally simple it includes a long campaign with a narrative arch and keeping achievements between sessions and such. Any board game like that would not be a waste even if only played a few times, as they typically have counters and models and boards that you can adapt to use with "real" RPGs.

    My suggestion would be if you are going with a more traditional pen and paper like 4E that you arrange to set up characters before your group meets up, it not only allows you to get right into the action but you can alter your scenario a bit to make it more fun for the specific class combinations that they choose. Many games also have a rather poor method of explaining character creation so even when it is really simple (2E D&D is a perfect example of this) and it can seem complex the first time someone does it, don't hesitate to just ask them questions then make the character yourself based on what they say.

    He's a shy overambitious dog-catcher on the wrong side of the law. She's an orphaned psychic mercenary with the power to bend men's minds. They fight crime!
  • BuzzwordsBuzzwords Registered User regular
    well, it's been a couple weeks now, we're prolly 10 hours into the D&D 4E red box... tutorial campaign? i dunno, feels awful long for a tutorial.

    if i have one critique it's that things really do feel slow. i'm enjoying it but at the end of a 5 hour session it feels like very little progress was made.



    also, what do you do when one party member decides he's gonna be a "badass"? like we met a dragon, spoke with it amicably, and got his blessing to search for the box. so long as we don't steal or kill the kobolds. so what does this guy do? steals everything that's not bolted down and kills the kobolds of course!
    now the dragon is pissed and he made my character a jerk? (since i made all the diplomacy checks, cuz my paladin has all kinds of charisma, i feel like it was "my" word on the line there.)
    it doesn't feel like a very "lawful good" thing for him to have done. do we have any in game recourse, because looking across the table and saying "dude, don't be a dick." didn't work, and the only solution the DM has offered is "don't play with him anymore"

    does D&D have a shock collar we could maybe trick his character into wearing?



    the DDI character builder was a huge help as well BTW. so ty on that one. it's even a much "cleaner" character sheet than we could ever have made ourselves.

  • FlimflammeryFlimflammery There's always money in the banana stand... Oxford, UKRegistered User regular
    edited September 2012
    Is his character playing lawful good? Sounds neutral or chaotic evil to me. Your paladin should kick the shit out of him.

    Flimflammery on
    Buzzwords
  • BuzzwordsBuzzwords Registered User regular
    Your paladin should kick the shit out of him.

    i can do that? <3

    well then, it may be time for a little street justice.

  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    Well, you should take comfort in knowing that you're going through what every new rpg group does, which is exploring a wide new wonderful world, where you can be assholes to each other and everyone you meet.

    But yeah, feel free to convince everyone else to help you take him down a peg, or even go back to that dragon who's pissed off at you, and try to get his help. Step 2 of learning rpgs is learning the plethora of new consequences for their actions which can exist.

  • kaortikaorti Registered User regular
    Buzzwords wrote: »
    Your paladin should kick the shit out of him.

    i can do that? <3

    well then, it may be time for a little street justice.

    D&D combat works off of the assumption that the characters are all on the same team, and will work together to overcome challenges. The rules don't prevent in-party conflict or combat, but they don't do anything to make it work either. You can have your character attack another character, but the system tends to break down, and it probably won't be fun for anyone.

    Since D&D is a social game, it's usually best to let people know that they're doing something that is making the game less fun for the other players. If they insist on being dicks, it really is best to just stop playing with them. Trying to force people to play a certain way can get messy. Having fun with a RPG is about playing in a way which is fun for everyone at the table. People shouldn't just think "what would my character do" but should also consider "what would help my friends have more fun."

    Alternately, if you really want to keep including this person, maybe you should try playing a game which assumes that characters will be dicks to each other? Paranoia is a weird blend of slapstick and dystopia which lends itself to characters screwing each other over in hilarious ways, and Fiasco is a great game about grand ambitions and poor impulse control which works fine when characters have opposing goals.

    Good luck, and remember that not everyone is a fun person to play RPGs with, even if they're a good friend otherwise.

  • lowlylowlycooklowlylowlycook Registered User regular
    OK, like I said before I'm looking for an RPG to play with my nieces and nephews. They range in age from 7 to 11. The youngest is pretty bright though. Well they all are, really. The three youngest played the "Heroes of Hesiod" game a while back and had a good time.

    1) Basic Fantasy. This is basically the Basic D&D from my youth but with ascending armor classes.
    • Pros: Pretty simple and I'm basically familiar with it and it's free.
    • Cons: A lot of the old rules are painful to read now. Why give thieves all those abilities if they are just going to fail the vast majority of the time? Why have mages start so weak and become so powerful.
    • Overall: Maybe not the best system but could still be fun for those that don't know any better (like me back in the day). I've actually cut down the lv 1-20 rules into a players handbook that is for levels 1-4 to give them something a bit more manageable.
    2) Old School Hack. A "modern" rpg inspired by the old Red Box emphasizing simplicity and fun.
    • Pros: Simple. Gives the players more agency with both the narrative and rewarding other players with "awesome points".
    • Cons: The kids having more agency will make it harder for me to teach them.
    • Overall: Seems like it might be the best choice if it works but then again it might not work.
    3) 4th Ed
    • Pros: The should be able to get the idea of picking which power to use. Can easily justify buying tiles and minis to use with the combat. Overall pretty well balanced. Nice looking books will help draw in the kids.
    • Cons: Not as simple as the others because of skills and feats. Giving them pre-gen characters could overcome that but still, I don't see them deciding to read up on 4ed themselves where there might be a chance on the other two.
    • Overall: Probably a bit too complicated but has some attractive features.

    Anyone want to help me decide?

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  • MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizard Registered User regular
    I never hopped on the DnD 4e Train. Don't like the system.

    I stick with Pathfinder as my game of choice, and honestly its not hard to run. The vast majorty of PA forumers play 4e -- so its more difficult to find good advice for Pathfinder.

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  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    OK, like I said before I'm looking for an RPG to play with my nieces and nephews. They range in age from 7 to 11. The youngest is pretty bright though. Well they all are, really. The three youngest played the "Heroes of Hesiod" game a while back and had a good time. [/list]

    Anyone want to help me decide?
    For an oddball choice, the first RPG I ever played was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. It is a Palladium system back before it got bogged down by RIFTS. All of the annoying bits and bobs that I hate in RPGs (like rolling for attributes, backgrounds, d20 systems in general, etc.) actually work well within the context of that game. Character creation is a blast (when you are a child, there is no shame in being a furry!), with lots of crazy tables and an overall narrative structure that lends itself to beginning gamers. Because the default setting of TMNT is in modern times (or, at least, late 80s), it might be easier for your nieces and nephews to come up with stories with their animal-mutant characters. If you need to make pre-made characters, I guarantee that you'll be able to make some nice anthropomorphic animals from any cartoon within that system.

    You can also try Mouseguard (a great system that lends itself well for younger players), a simple FUDGE-like system like Castle Falkenstein (that particular system might be too highbrow, but it's just an example and may be more appropriate for folks who like steampunk), or one of those new DnD boardgames that I'm hearing about lately (more structure, so it might be easier to run, but you might want to vet the content first before playing with younger kids).

    Rewarding "awesome points" isn't something that you have to restrict to a system, either. You can give each kid a card that has some "gift" on it, and tell them that they can give it to someone else for doing something cool. In our current gaming group (a bunch of 30-somethings), we have both "MVP" awards that are voted by the group and we give XP awards to folks who do cool and unexpected things. Last time we played Shadowrun, I got some Karma for staging an intervention for one of our targets, as it was an unexpected way to get crucial information out of him.

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  • Der Waffle MousDer Waffle Mous Blame this on the misfortune of your birth. New Yark, New Yark.Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    There's a bunch of pretty good options but I'm going to go off the reservation and say "Don't start with D&D."

    There is just too much baggage.

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  • DenadaDenada Registered User regular
    @lowlylowlycook
    I would suggest Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

    Pros:
    -They get to be super heroes.
    -The sheets are easy to understand.
    -They get to roll lots of dice.
    -The system is so ridiculously easy to run. Seriously so easy.
    -It's like $15 max to buy the one and only book you need.
    -It can easily be re-flavored to fit literally any genre you want.

    Cons:
    -Some of the rules explanations in the books aren't particularly helpful.
    -You need a lot of dice.
    -You also need a bunch of coins or beads or something to use as counters.

  • MrBodyMrBody Registered User regular
    Mansions of Madness? It's basically a tad meatier Hero Quests in a Lovecraft setting. Heavy on atmosphere and story, not too heavy on rules.

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    It's long out of print, but West End Games' version of Star Wars using the d6 system was incredibly fast, intuitive, and easy to learn. I'd recommend any of their d6 stuff, the Star Wars is mainly because everyone likes Star Wars so it's easier for people to get ideas about characters and stuff.

    On the "just out of print" side of things, the Mouse Guard RPG seems to get really good press as a sort of "my first RPG". It's got features in it that actually touch some of your bullet points - players earn special points to use on later checks for role-playing their characters well (part of your character creation is giving your character personality traits and a motto) and there are various rewards that are dealt out by popular vote at the end of sessions, so you don't have to worry about any one person hogging the spotlight.

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  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    Anything from AD&D onwards lies on what I'd call the more complicated side of RPGs. Each version has its merits, but I wouldn't personally use it as an introduction for new players. If you had to choose a version to run, based on the impression I get of your group, I'd go with 4th edition.

    Preferably I'd strip it right back to something like Microlite 20 or Swords & Wizardry, with the added benefit that they're both free. Some more substantial suggestions would be Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. In the long term the players might want even more in the way of mechanical character customisation or tactical combat, in which case I'd look back to AD&D, Pathfinder or 4e.

    Of course, this is all D&D-based stuff but that's where the bulk of my experience lies.

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