Weird science fantasy, planetary romance, and Dying Earth RPGs

This is a list of roleplaying systems, settings, and campaigns representing several niche genres that cannot be easily classified using popular contemporary distinctions. If they are fantasy, they have very little to do with Tolkien or the idealized European Middle Ages. They often contain some elements of futuristic technology, but are too fanciful and unscientific to fit current understanding of science fiction.

A significant portion of the games included here were inspired by older pulp sci-fi works, such as the Barsoomian “sword-and-planet” tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Flash Gordon comics and serials, or the various worlds of Jack Vance. Later influences include fever dream fantasy films such as Zardoz (1974) and Krull (1983), as well as Saturday morning cartoons such as Masters of the Universe. But it’s not all retro: some of the games have their own, unique visions of strange worlds, more akin to the New Weird genre in fiction than anything truly old-school.

My original source list for this category was much longer, and I had to make significant cuts to make it more targeted and manageable. Accordingly, the list does not include:

  • space fantasy games with Star Wars vibes that feature extensive interplanetary travel; I only made an exception for super-retro settings that do not depict outer space as coherent or close to modern scientific understanding;
  • post-apocalyptic games in the vein of Gamma World and Mad Max, centered around mutants and lost artifacts of past civilizations (which are related but ultimately form a genre unto themselves).

I only included adventure modules if they were large enough to provide jumping-off points for an entire setting; smaller adventures were not listed.

The list