See-ming Lee GURPs is the building blocks, you build the colorful people.
The Generic Universal Role Playing System is the "evil twin" of Savage Worlds, emphasizing detail and nuances over ease of play. If you want to convert an alien or monster to GURPS then you will find rules for all of the weird stuff that sometimes gets lost in translation. Often in a gaming session you will hear people call out things like "Shouldn't I be immune to that? I'm a half-Orc and the book says they enjoy pain." Or "My character's a war vet, so clearly he would know that they set up an ambush." Then if you're running the game, you have to decide. Do you reward creativity? Or are the arguers skewing the game in their favor by being good at arguing and making connections?
GURPS avoids this by having rules for everything. Sure, your vampire drinks blood and runs fast, but can she disappear in the shadows? Is she allergic to garlic or flinch when she sees a crucifix? Maybe she returns from any death but decapitation. There are rules for all of this, with positive traits having a point cost and negative traits refunding points. The thing I like best about GURPS is that it pushes you to think deeper. Are vampires fertile? Can they withstand cold? Poison? Can they smell blood a block away or see in the dark? As long as you have time and energy you can make exactly what you want in GURPS.
7. The Queen's Cavaliers
Caoimhe Ora Snow Because if it ain't baroque...
I don't own this game as The Queen's Cavaliers Kickstarter just went live, but they have been play testing at the local L.A. gaming cons for a few years now. This game has a somewhat narrow focus: a mildly magical and mildly anachronistic take on France-like nation full of swashbuckling and high adventure. In theory almost any RPG can handle something like this, but what I like about Queen's Cavaliers is the fact that the system has been built from the ground up with one particular genre in mind. I think that this leads to a much deeper experience as instead of playing a little side-game within the main game, as swashbuckling tends to be treated in RPGs.
Basically, the game uses a system wherein successes rolled in combat can be spent in various ways, with damaging your opponent only being one option (actually two options, as non-lethal damage is already available). You can use successes to charge up style points or advantage dice, which instead of immediately being used on an opponent can be used later for a big spectacular attack. This gives you a good reason to engage an opponent for a few rounds before devastatingly counter-attacking. Seems like a good way to capture the feeling of fencing without those crazy metal helmets and those weird white suits.
8. Warhammer 40K Roleplay
Fantasy Flight Games RPG or cover of an awesome new metal album?
You may, at some point in your life, find yourself at a convention where people are playing Warhammer 40K. This will involve tables full of large miniatures, a majority of which are tiny men in armor. That isn't the game I'm thinking of, though. Warhammer 40K also has a sizeable RPG line, full of beautiful art and tongue-in-cheek prose that keeps thing rolling. Titles include Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, and more, although they all take place in the same setting. The world of Warhammer 40K is well summarized be the somewhat infamous quote: "In the grim darkness of the future, there is only war." Basically, the messiah arrived a few thousand years back, built the perfect society, leading humanity towards a golden age, but then he fell in battle. Then humanity tied his consciousness to his rotting corpse and used it to make a big beacon for people to travel through space. It's been a long time since then and things are really awful.
Warhammer's spaceships are massive, floating monstrosities that tend to be centuries old, if not older, since it's pretty difficult to find a shipbuilder these days. They're full of hundreds of people who live and grow old there on the ship, each performing some tiny duty that they barely understand. They actually have it good, though, since most people are starving or being eaten by monsters at any given minute. Not that the ship crew themselves are entirely safe, as most ships contain abandoned decks and levels that eventually fill up with savage cannibalistic descendants of lost crew, if not something worse. In summary, Warhammer 40K would be depressing to play in if it weren't so very depressing that it switches around to actually being quite funny in its own right.
9. Maid, the RPG
Star Line Publishing That about sums it up.
Full disclosure: I haven't played Maid the RPG. I bought the book on a whim after hearing some whispers of its existence, and I've read through it, but no games yet. Given the somewhat-objectionable nature of some of the things in this book, I imagine I may never get a game together and even if I did, it might be uncomfortable. Still, the strangeness and perversity of this game makes it impossible for me to leave it out of this list. What other games let you start with a gimp as equipment? Has an optional effect called "I Peed A Little"? Or has Nymphomaniac, Sadist, Masochist, Womanizer, Exhibitionist, and... uh, "Likes them Young" as special qualities?
The core idea of the game is that you play anime maids trying to please and get closer to a somewhat-mysterious "Master". Ways to do this include accidentally getting undressed in front of the Master, accidentally kissing the Master, and "forcibly seducing" the maid to your right (not sure how this helps; I haven't played it). You can also wear battlesuits, ride motorcycles, go into outer space, kill your parents, be kidnapped, be a former prostitute, be a cyborg, have a "World-Rending Grudge Sword", or learn a "World-Changing Song". This just barely scratches the surface of the weird stuff in here; in an RPG imported from Japan. An RPG imported from Japan has to be good, right?
Another Kickstarter game I have play tested, John Wick's Wield starts out as a fairly standard fantasy world. Heroes find magic weapons, and the weapons have strong personalities and goals of their own. Both the weapons and the heroes grow in power and legend over time. This is all stuff you can do with almost any version of D&D. However, Wield has one big twist up its sleeve. Instead of playing the heroes, you play the weapons. You dole out powers to your hero as you see fit, allowing them to win battles but also giving them more control over you.
The group actually splits the roles; each player plays both a weapon and the wielder of another weapon. The players adventure together, but the weapons often have long and sometimes bitter histories with each other as they are essentially immortal. In the game we played, I was a barmaid who wished to be the greatest hero in the world. She was trapped with a "Cup of Water and Healing" that had basically no combat abilities whatsoever. The only solution, of course, was to use the invincible (and large) cup as a mace. This made the pacifistic cup very unhappy, resulting in the cup trying to kill the barmaid. Such shenanigans are the basis of a Wield game, and they are both unique and hilarious.
Previously by David N. Scott