Many popular tabletop RPG systems see dinosaurs occasionally appearing as enemies, but a few true dinosaur RPGs focus entirely on dinosaurs and other wonderful megafauna. These dinosaur RPG systems and settings tell of prehistoric fantasy worlds, scientific expeditions to forgotten lands and jurassic park-style theme parks where dangerous creatures come to break free from their cages.
Ever since paleontologists began to excavate, study and show the fossilized remains of creatures of the clade Dinosauria (sense “terrible lizards“), people have created works of fiction where humans have the chance to meet living dinosaurs. Jules Verne described Mesozoic-era creatures in the underground setting of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Arthur Conan Doyle placed living dinosaurs and primordial hominids on top of an isolated plateau in The lost World. Most recently, Michael Crichton’s series of books jurassic park and its film adaptations envisioned theme parks filled with prehistoric creatures resurrected by genetic engineering, while James Gurney’s beautifully illustrated film Dinotopia books described an isolated island continent where humans and sentient dinosaurs lived together in a harmonious and decentralized utopia.
The following sci-fi and fantasy RPGs take inspiration from these landmark works of dinosaur-focused adventure fiction, while also incorporating more contemporary breakthroughs in paleontology (dinosaurs with feathers, for example). Basically each of these dinosaur RPGs lean heavily on the fundamental “cool” of prehistoric creatures – and how interesting it would be for humans to be able to fight, run away from, pet, and ride on them.
Planegea, a fantastic setting filled with dinosaurs for D&D 5th, takes place in a primordial and freshly formed land of verdant jungles, wild creatures and wandering hunter-gatherer tribes. It’s a twist on the classic Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, where priests worship scattered pantheons of unfinished little gods, wizards tattoo spells on their skin, and dwarves are partially made of stone. It’s also a world filled with dinosaurs, with tyrannosaurs, pterodactyls, raptors, and other creatures from different eras of prehistoric times coexisting in glorious anachronism.
A prehistoric adventure setting built around the Cypher RPG system from Monte Cook Games, Predation uses time travel tropes instead of fancy ones to bring humans and dinosaurs together. In the backstory of Predation, a time-traveling mega-corporation called SATI established a colony of humans on Earth during the Cretaceous Era, then time travel ceased to function and time settlers were cut off from support and resupply. The players in a game of Predation depict both the human descendants of the original settlers and their fellow dinosaurs as they venture out, scavenge the remnants of technology, and find out how they will survive the massive asteroid destined to strike the planet in the not-so-distant future .
Hollow earth expedition is an RPG steeped in tropes of pulp adventure fiction from the 20th century – including problematic and colonialist tropes, as evidenced by the covers that evidently exoticize stereotypical depictions of Indigenous women. The game draws heavily on Pellucid the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which take place in a huge space in the center of the Earth filled with ancient civilizations, animals from the depths of prehistory and mutated creatures without a paleontological basis. Player characters in Hollow earth expedition are likely to encounter giant mushroom forests, massive killer worms, cultures descended from ancient Roman legions and 17th century pirates, mad scientists, evil fascists practically begging a punch to the face, and piles of dinosaurs Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Named after Muldoon’s famous last words in the first jurassic park movie, the Clever girl journaling dinosaur RPG is a pure tribute to the series. Each Clever girl playthrough starts in a jurassic parkdinosaur theme park, where a group of genetically modified predators have escaped from their enclosures. Players take either the perspective of the fleeing humans, forced to choose between risking their lives to help others or playing it safe by letting them die, or the perspective of the newly released raptors, stalking humans for food or get revenge.