Elves and gnomes and big swords and fireballs. Weird old women hiding in forests, waiting to feast on your brains (or offer you a very good deal on a definitely not cursed gemstone). Dungeons! DRAGONS! Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is the big man on campus, but extremely easy for new players. Pick a race and a class, get a bundle of awesome powers and go save the kingdom from undead trolls or mad wizards.

D&D benefits from having been around for an extremely long time. Everyone has heard of it, and most people have a basic idea about how it works. There’s a sort of 50-50 balance of combat/action and storytelling in your average game of D&D, making it a good choice if you can’t decide and want a well-rounded experience.

GOOD FOR… anyone who hasn’t played a tabletop game, people looking for a fantasy experience filled with magic and adventure, kids, players who want less rules and more play. You can’t really go wrong here. Something for everyone!

The moment you start to read about this game, you notice a dull throbbing in the front of your head. It was not meant to be read; you were not meant to be here. The floor is wet…

Call of Cthulhu is a tabletop game based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, meaning instead of fighting goblins in a forest you’re more likely to be uncovering a vast conspiracy that threatens to consume the world. Secret cults sacrificing children to dark gods, horrifying fish creatures emerging from strange lakes, murder victims rising up with torturous messages for the living. CoC characters are Investigators, not Adventurers, and they will almost certainly die before the end.

GOOD FOR… weirdos or fans of the weird, players looking for a mystery to solve, anyone who would rather something story-focused over a good fight. If you like spooky experiences where it’s often better to run than to fight, this is your jam.

Friend Computer has sent you a message, clearance level ULTRAVIOLET. Being a lowly red, you’re not authorised to read it, or have it in your possession. But you wouldn’t have it unless Friend Computer wanted you to have it; Friend Computer doesn’t make mistakes. You open the letter and it simply says “Try playing Paranoia.” You are immediately incinerated for treason.

Okay, I know I called Call of Cthulu the weird game, but this is really weird. Set in a dystopian world run by The Computer, you are a troubleshooter tasked with seeking out and eliminating threats to the Computer’s control. You also have secret motivations that absolutely make you one of those threats most of the time. Probably. You will fail, it will be funny, and it will be dark as heck. Paranoia is nothing like any other game on this page, which is the best reason to try it out.

GOOD FOR… totally normal people who just want to help out and aren’t secretly treasonous mutants, players that value fun over progress, clones who have the appropriate clearance level. Not playing is treason.

Look, I’m going to cut the fat on this explanation: in Starfinder, every party gets to design and pilot their own spaceship. Using the Pathfinder RPG system and building upon it to make a believable and exciting science-fiction universe, Starfinder is a bit like tabletop gaming you may be familiar with, like D&D, but there are aliens and space stations with nuclear reactors and planetary exploration and laser pistols. It’s very Star Wars, to be honest.

Also, did I mention you get your own spaceship? In addition to the ‘normal’ kinds of combat between friends and enemies, you can take part in mid-space battles on a hex grid, with different players taking charge of different aspects of the fight. It’s a somewhat complex system to learn, but very rewarding.

GOOD FOR… people who like spaceships and going “pew pew” when they hold a fake gun, those unafraid of lots of numbers, anyone after an epic space adventure with a character they made themselves. You get a spaceship!

Fantasy role-play, again, but gone deep. Pathfinder is based on the 3rd Edition of D&D, before 5th Edition slimmed down and simplified a lot of systems. So the main draw of the system is that it has systems and mechanics for EVERYTHING. Want to jump across a gap while attacking a flying creature and do a cool roll when you land? We have rules for that. Want to build a trap that will pickpocket people? That too. And there are thousands of options that will let you build any character you can possibly imagine.

Pathfinder has a lot of numbers, which can be off-putting to some, but those numbers are leveraged in a way that lets players pretty much do whatever they want and have the game react appropriately.

GOOD FOR… players who like a game that hits back, people who enjoy numbers and systems backing up their play, anyone with weirdly specific and outlandish character ideas.