Best Table Top Role Playing Games that are NOT Dungeons & Dragons (D & D)
Right in my wheelhouse, @Travis. Good list idea!
Played = I've played at least one session of the game.
Read = I've read the rulebook and know the theme and mechanics of the game, but haven't played it yet.
Aware of = I know this game is probably good because people are going nuts about it, but I haven't looked into it yet.
Science-fantasy, based on Pathfinder 1e which is a fork of D&D 3.5e. Extremely flavorful, very crunchy, and you can fly starships and get into space battles.
2. Cyberpunk 2020
Gritty future dystopian setting where you're kind of a zero trying to make it in the violent, twisted, crime-ridden world. High tech meets 1980s low-tech vibes.
3. Cyberpunk Red
Same setting as 2020, but fast forward the clock up to 2045 and see where the intervening period of chaos and war has left the landscape.
4. Pathfinder 1e
As mentioned, this is publisher Paizo's answer to D&D moving into 4th edition and leaving its 3.5-loving fans behind. Extremely number-heavy, just lousy with rules and tables, and it's a lot of fun to work on a character and fight against the odds.
5. Pathfinder 2e
A refinement to the 1e formula which streamlines some of the numbers-heavy gameplay but continues the brilliant tradition of lore and artwork and setting that Paizo is known form.
6. Dungeon Crawl Classics
This is the game that, I'll paraphrase the author here, Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons & Dragons) would have made today if he had the knowledge and resources of the 21st century. Off-the-wall, highly random numbers, but simple enough gameplay with some deep Sword & Sorcery pulp influences. Derived from the works of Appendix N - that is, Gygax's list of influential fantasy works that he included in the original D&D manual.
7. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
This is in the style of "old school revival" - the game genre that resurrected the rules and spirit of the original D&D sets, but updates them with more reasonable or relatable math, scope, and settings. LotFP is a little "edgy" for edginess' sake at times (it calls itself "weird fantasy role-playing"), but it's steeped in thematic content. I would suggest looking at other examples of the OSR like Old School Essentials, but that is almost in every way just a reprint of D&D and that goes against the spirit of this list.
A harder science-fiction romp through the cosmos that has your character focused deeply on their role in the storyline. Simple resolution mechanics, easy to pick up, probably not the easiest to run as a GM, but I would like to try it and report back on that.
People are nuts about Lancer. It's another science-fiction/fantasy style game, but leans more towards the giant-mech genre of manga like Macross. You can get into highly tactical mecha combat. Sounds incredible.
10. Mörk Borg
Another entry in the OSR pantheon, Mork Borg is extremely rules light - that is, the basic stuff needed to play is about 2-3 pages' worth of information. The rest of it is purely theme and tone and setting. You have to look at the rules and website to get a feel for it, but every campaign is a race against an inevitable doomsday clock where the world suffers a continuous series of cataclysmic setbacks. Very dark, dying Earth style of gameplay.
11. Blades in the Dark
A rules-light, story-driven game where your whole team is a group of thieves making their way through a medieval city carrying out tasks, heists, and plans. Gave rise to an entire system of play known as "Forged in the Dark" that others have taken and run with.
[Read, Played (solo)]
One of the ultimate independently designed RPGs of the modern era. You can play it solo, with a group, with a GM, without a GM. Its flexibility is rivaled only by its brilliant tone and story-bending mechanics. You're a Nordic-style adventurer whose destiny is to bind yourself to oaths (swearing on the iron) that you must carry out for yourself, your tribe, your oracle. It's just nicely done and clear as day. Free to grab the basic rulebook and get started as well.