Do they make turn-based role-playing computer games any more?
August 30, 2007 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find turn-based role-playing computer games that don't have any real time combat. My favorite set of games is the old Dungeons and Dragons Krynn series: Champions of Krynn, Deathknights of Krynn, and Dark Queen of Krynn.

Please recommend any games like this. The Krynn games I've been playing on a Dos emulator on my PC. I remember that I enjoyed a few Super Nintendo games of my brother's way back in the day... I'm thinking they were The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and something with the word Dragon in the title. I'd love to find these original games for the PC, or anything similar.


1. NO real time combat requiring quick reflexes and pushing buttons in the right order to do tricks. I want to choose 'Attack X enemy with Y weapon' from a menu and let the computer make it happen.

2. Low computer processing/graphics requirements, although the first criteria probably guarantees this.

3. Has to be for the PC. I'm not going to buy a console. (Oh okay, I *might* get an old Super Nintendo off ebay if that's the only way to get this type of game, but I'd really prefer not to add any more clutter to the tv cabinet.)

4. Cheap is good, free is better, but price doesn't matter as much as playability.

5. It's okay if the graphics and music suck. I just want to have fun killing monsters, learning spells, and fighting evil.

6. I really really really hate real time combat. Have I stressed that enough?
posted by happyturtle to Computers & Internet (38 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
For low processing power, low price, and high playability you really can't get any better than roguelikes. Start with nethack and work your way out from there.

If you're looking for something a little more "traditional", try any of Spiderweb Software's games. They're not free, but are still inexpensive. Exploration is real-time, but combat is turn-based. And they're alot of fun.
posted by jammer at 2:29 PM on August 30, 2007

i know it's not what you want to hear, but: buy a used psone or ps2, they're super cheap and tiny, used games are easily available and cheap, and you'll get to play so many more fantastic games without ever having to worry about emulators or backwards compatibility with your pc. the awesomeness of chrono cross alone makes it worth getting a psone.
posted by lia at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2007

The Tactics Ogre games might fit the bill; You can get the emulators for the Playstation versions, or a S-NES emulator for Ogre Battle.

If you want to keep getting your old-school AD&D fix, check out the other gold-box titles like the Krynn games.
posted by The GoBotSodomizer at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2007

Have you tried any roguelike games? The ones I would recommend are nethack, dungeon crawl (stone soup mod) (though this one is the hardest), and angband (or some variant). These actually fit all your criteria quite well, but one thing that might bother you is that there's little plot. The roguelike ADOM has a plot, but I've never played it myself so I don't know much about it.

Also, how about fallout 2? It had an excellent turn-based combat system, and is one of the best RPGs I've played.
posted by advil at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2007

oh yeah, on post, +1 on the spiderweb games, given your criteria I bet you'd like them a lot.
posted by advil at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2007

It has to be nethack. Nethack is one of the most implemented turn based RPG games ever with both plain text and graphical versions for hundreds of different systems. There's a metric ton of information online about it, stories, spoilers, etc. There's bound to be a variety to suit you. The nethack homepage, linked above, might seem arcane to you, so another good place to start is the nethack Wikipedia entry.
posted by wackybrit at 2:39 PM on August 30, 2007

I prefer a plot, but I think I'll give the roguelike games a try to see how I like them.
posted by happyturtle at 2:44 PM on August 30, 2007

Seconding the fallout series (both part 1 and 2). The graphics aren't bad (but not good enough to require a videocard) and it has near infinite replayability. I have fallout2 on my laptop right now, and I play an hour or two a week. Still as fun as the day I got it, and always finding things I missed before.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2007

Just as a tip, if you're worried about lack of plot in roguelikes, try Angband first. Along with Nethack, it's one of the best known. The problem with Nethack is that characters tend to have very short lifespans in it, especially when you're starting out.

Your typical character life in Angband is a good bit longer, so you can have more of an extensive building feel to it as you slowly improve and train.

I like them both in different ways, but Angband is definitely more true to the RPG feel you may be used to. (Still not much plot, though.)
posted by jammer at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2007

You can make one of the greatest game series ever made for the PC, Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, into a turn-based game through an option in the menu. It's several years old and therefore undemanding of processing speed.

Bonus points for being very dungeons-and-dragons-esque and for being cheap. I can't stress how awesome these games are.

The Rogue and Nethack games can be infuriating in their difficulty but you should play them, in the same way that you should watch a Shakespeare play at some point, just because.

Chrono Cross is just like Final Fantasy and can probably be found on a playstation emulator.

I only found Fallout 2 after playing Baldur's Gate and it was very boring in comparison, so try Fallout 2 first.

Wow. My brother-in-law made me drink after the Mets lost to the Phillies and it sure has made me opinionated!
posted by billtron at 2:50 PM on August 30, 2007

It's more tactical and less RPG, but Jagged Alliance 2 has stats and equipment and unique characters. Really a great game.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2007

One more vote for the Spiderweb games.
posted by dfan at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2007

This is gonna sound very strange, but hear me out: the game you want is a real-time D&D game called Baldur's Gate 2.

Now, with all your emphasis on no freaking real-time, why on earth would I recommend that? Because you can set pauses at a bunch of different triggers, including 'end of round'. (you can also pause freely with the space bar.) So you can play it just like a turn-based game; you set it to pause at the start of combat and on every round. Each round, you issue orders, or don't do anything with characters that are just supposed to keep on hand-to-hand fighting.

In exchange for accepting a tiny, tiny bit of real-time -- but real time with no reflexes required, mind -- you get an absolutely OUTSTANDING pair of games. They are classic, second edition D&D, and the story is intricate and HUGE. The basic game is about seventy hours to play through completely if you do all the subquests and stuff, forty or so if you power on through the main storyline. And then the expansion, Shadows of Amn, adds another forty or so hours. Your characters will go from about eighth level up to the high 20s, and you'll be challenged in different ways at every step.

If you liked Krynn, you will LOVE this game. I promise. Just set the pause options and you will be happy.

What I actually do is set it to pause on spellcast, so I can leave it run until it needs attention -- this lets me cast maximum spells in minimum time. But you can just pause at round-end, at which point it becomes almost exactly a turn-based game.

TRUST ME. This is the game you want. It runs great on old PCs, it's cheap and easy to find on EBay, and it's absolutely, without even a tiny shred of doubt, the finest D&D game ever done.
posted by Malor at 3:34 PM on August 30, 2007

Oh, if you want to be a purist, you can start with Baldur's Gate 1 and work your way up from level 1, but BG1 is much less developed. The engine is much simpler. BG2 gets Second Edition D&D almost exactly, but BG1 had a number of simplifications, like no dual-wielding, that you may find annoying.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if BG1 has an end-of-round pause option either, so it might not meet your requirements anyway.
posted by Malor at 3:37 PM on August 30, 2007

I seem to remember that Neverwinter Nights is supposed to be D&D like, though I never tried it myself.

IMO nethack has at least as much "plot" as the average game, just that sometimes it happens at random, and unless you're way better at it than I ever was it takes years to play out, so you only get a little bit at a time.
posted by sfenders at 3:43 PM on August 30, 2007

For the past two months I've been enjoying the Kingdom of Loathing. It's a free, online, turned-based RPG.

One of the great things about this game is the many ways to play it. Some people play through the main quest many times, aquiring additional permanent skills with each run. Some enjoy PVP, improving their ranking and stealing toast from other players. Others choose to collect random items, earn trophies for accomplishments, or acquire tattoos.

I highly recommend giving it a try. Seal Clubbers (fighters) and Disco Bandits (rouges) are probably the easiest to play at first. Send me an email (in profile) and I'll give you some meat (the in-game currency) to help start you off.
posted by Hermes32 at 3:49 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you've been convinced to try the baldur's gate/semi-realtime thing, I actually think "planescape: torment" is by far the best of the infinity engine games. I don't remember if it has "pause at the end of the turn", but it can be paused at any time to issue orders.
posted by advil at 3:54 PM on August 30, 2007

I recently discovered ports of Dungeon Master and Chaos Strikes Back that I'd played on the Atari ST in the early 90s and really enjoyed them. They are dungeon crawls but loads of fun.
posted by camcgee at 3:58 PM on August 30, 2007

I was going to suggest the Baldur's Gate games, but since others already have, I'll mention Icewind Dale, which is very similar -- not technically turn-based, but you can pause at the beginning of combat and issue orders. IMO, the best, however, are Wizardry VI, VII, and 8. If pressed, I would probably still consider Bane of the Cosmic Forge to be my favorite -- I've played it countless times since it first came out in '90 and still enjoy it today -- but Crusaders of the Dark Savant/Wizardry Gold and Wiz8 are pretty damned good.
posted by worldswalker at 4:06 PM on August 30, 2007

Seconding fallout 1/2, baldur's gate 2, & the spiderweb games. Planescape: Torment is a better game than any of those, but it isn't turn-based. It does have pause-at-any-time as advil mentioned.

If you like the SNES style console rpgs, emulation is also a viable option.
posted by juv3nal at 4:12 PM on August 30, 2007

Dungeon Master (my personal all-time favorite) and Chaos Strikes back are both superb games, but they're realtime.

Definitely check out Baldur's Gate I and II.

As far as really old school stuff goes, have you looked into the Forgotten Realms games by the same company that made the Krynn games? Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Pools of Darkness. The gameplay is very similar to the Krynn games.

I also really enjoyed the Dark Sun games (Shattered Lands and Wake of the Ravager), Legend of Faerghail, and Dark Heart of Uukrul (though it turned out to be too difficult for me). Finally, Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams and Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire are interesting and different from typical elf/dwarf/dragon stuff.

Oh yeah, and The Home of the Underdogs is your friend.
posted by cog_nate at 4:18 PM on August 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Nethack is pretty much exactly what you want, although it is a very difficult game that is very unforgiving of stupid mistakes (I've been playing it for a decade and I've only ever beaten the game once, and that was with the strongest character class).

You might want to try the original Rogue first, to get a hang of the "roguelike" paradigm. Rogue has absolutely no plot, however -- it's just a dungeon crawl.

Nethack, despite the fact that it initially appears to be a dungeon crawl as well, does have a plot of sorts -- it just doesn't really materialize until later in the game.
posted by neckro23 at 4:30 PM on August 30, 2007

Just go pick up FF7 for the PC and call it done.
posted by Industrial PhD at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2007

Seconding Fallout 2. Turn based combat, great plot, and you kill monsters and battle against evil, only instead of swords and magic there's power armour and lots of guns (melee weapons too if you're into that). If you're a fan of Mad Max and post-apocalyptic stuff you'll love it, but if you looking for a classical D&D fantasy thing then probably not.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2007

Dungeon Master (my personal all-time favorite) and Chaos Strikes back are both superb games, but they're realtime.

Maybe I was trying too hard to read into the OP's intent, but I figured the combat system in these games wasn't the kind of thing he would object to. Yes it's real-time in a sense, but it's choose-and-click, not reflex based. Compared to FPS or arcade fighting, or even RPGs like Oblivion, this combat is so slow and linear as to be all but turn-based.
posted by camcgee at 5:09 PM on August 30, 2007

I'm an rpg gamer.

I've enjoyed dungeon siege I and II, Neverwinter nights 1 + expansions, and Neverwinter Nights 2. Also the Baldur's Gate series, Temple of Elemental Evil.

Personally, I have an intense dislike of reflex-based gaming, because my reflexes suck. All the games above either have pause options or a pause button, which I use with extreme prejudice.
posted by ysabet at 5:27 PM on August 30, 2007

As far as really old school stuff goes, have you looked into the Forgotten Realms games by the same company that made the Krynn games? Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, and Pools of Darkness.

These are also sometimes called the gold box games, and they are indeed excellent. And *very* old school -- the first two are EGA games, IIRC.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 PM on August 30, 2007

After your thirtieth or so Nethack death on a level higher (less difficult) than three, you might want to read The Saga of Ellora the Elven Archer. It does contain spoilers, including some that are flat out wrong, but it's mostly about the story and will definitely get you into the RPG mindset, much moreso then just playing NH straight.

Don't forget that not only is NH turn based, it actively rewards taking a long time thinking over each turn. To survive, you need to use your turns efficiently.
posted by anaelith at 7:11 PM on August 30, 2007

You should check out the Might & Magic series. These fit your criteria perfectly, I think.

I like M&M 6,7, and 8 the best, but I'm not sure where you can get them. The first 5 in the series are now on GameTap, so it is possible they will be adding the rest at some point.

DO NOT BUY M&M 9!! I can't stress this enough.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 7:23 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I prefer RPGs to any other genre, and I really dislike realtime games. (Caveat: I like FPS games. I just don't like anything that tries to combine a hectic, fast-paced feeling with rpg or strategy levels of complexity.) Anyway, I've been trying to answer this question myself for a very long time.

As mentioned, BG and BG2 are good games. They are not turn-based. They are awkward to play in pseudo-turn-based mode. I still do play them sometimes. NWN is similar. Planescape: Torment is the best game of this type.

Nthing Fallout 1/2. Arcanum is probably worth trying. The Spiderweb Software games are decent. If you're willing to deal with dosbox or some other mechanism for playing older games, try Betrayal at Krondor. Nthing The Underdogs in general. nethack, angband and adom are my favorite roguelikes.
posted by coined at 7:24 PM on August 30, 2007

I would feel remiss if I let this thread go by without recommending the Nintendo DS: if you take into account the huge library of Game Boy Advance games that you can play on the DS, it's practically a nexus of turn-based RPG goodness. Final Fantasies I-VI, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Golden Sun, Fire Emblem, tons of awesome stuff from Atlus (Riviera and Etrian Odyssey spring to mind), the Mario and Luigi games, the list goes on and on.

Oh, and Pokemon. Can't forget Pokemon.
posted by aparrish at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2007

I have zero response skills, which is the reason I'm guessing you don't like realtime games. I found Neverwinter Nights to be incredibly easy to play, especially since you can quite easily hit pause at any moment and tell your character what to do.

It's super fun, worth playing.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:03 PM on August 30, 2007

Heroes of Might and Magic
posted by sandking at 8:42 PM on August 30, 2007

I haven't seen Arcanum mentioned yet, but if you have any kind of interest in steampunk, you should check it out. Tons of character development, nice to look at, and quite extensive.

email me if you are interested in it -- I have a copy I'd let go for far less than the $45 Amazon is asking.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:45 PM on August 30, 2007

Nthing Spider Web Software's games. I spent months in front of Exile during my formative days. Now I waste my time in the green.
posted by charmston at 9:52 PM on August 30, 2007

SpiderWeb's games can vary by quite a bit. The best consistently reviewed seem to be Geneforge 1, 3 and 4, and Avernum 1 and 2.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:37 AM on August 31, 2007

Darklands! It's an older title, and notoriously buggy when released. Like the Baldur's Gate games, it is played in real-time, but allows you to pause at any time to change actions.
It has the most unique backstory of any game I've ever played, magic is a combination of Catholic Saints granting miracles and alchemists.
posted by Eddie Mars at 2:36 PM on August 31, 2007

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions. I started with Angband, and quickly got addicted, but I will be coming back to this thread for a long time as I beat or get bored with a game and want to try something else.
posted by happyturtle at 3:06 AM on September 2, 2007

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