Suggested Game Tiers
We rate games by a multivariate method with a lot of contextual considerations. These ratings are just very rough approximate relative high-level guidelines. Ultimately decisions are made on a case-by-case cross-reference matrix basis using assessment information about the participants, the desired goals, and then our data about which games are most effective for that population in general, plus specific strengths and weaknesses of the game/setting relevant to the particpant's functional assessment and goals.
Please contact us for more details about whether higher number tiers are appropriate for your intentions and population goals.
Generally these broad tier ratings assume considerations for at-risk & high-risk populations. The "safety" issues are generally not a problem for the general populace, but are a concern for the at-risk/high-risk populations, and so are looking at the games from that perspective.
Generally the lowest number tiers (for example tier 1) are the most accessible and/or "safest" for the widest audience possible.
Higher number tiers (for example tier 4+) are more specialized and only appropriate for a smaller range of populations and goals, and have more significant considerations to be taken into account, especially for "at risk" populations to determine if they are appropriate for the desired population to use the game.
The larger the tier number, the greater the risk of something "going wrong" for at-risk populations, and/or the greater level of preparation and/or years of training needed by the GM, and/or player training before being able to run the game effectively and "safely" in a group setting.
Game Tiers do NOT directly correlate with Game Master Training Levels. A level 3 GM may be running a Tier 5 game for example.
ATTENTION GAME DEVELOPERS & PUBLISHERS: A very significant impact on Tier ranking, besides whether the content is age/developmental-level appropriate, is how complex is it to pick up introductory version of the game as a first-time never-before played any RPG before, first as player by yourself and then as GM for your very first time assuming nobody to help you, and learn first by yourself through solo adventure learning (without relying on "The Mentor Model" that bottlenecks and plagues 99% of RPGs), and how easily you can GM your first group.
If you would like to learn more about the variables we considered in establishing this tier rating, see the notes at the end of this page for a partial summary with descriptions of each heading.
Tier 1 games are safe and appropriate for the widest population possible.
Save The Royal Family larp by Hawkes-Robinson. Appropriate for ages 2.5+ years, including non-verbal ASD/PDD and neurotypical piers.
No Thank You Evil (NTYE) - Appropriate for ages 5+. Simple system. Child friendly. Low violence. Open creativity. Easy to learn to play quickly. Easy to learn to GM quickly. Sessions duration very short (30-45 minutes).
Basic Dungeons & Dragons (BECMI), 1983 by Frank Mentzer. Ages 8+. Lightweight system. Fast feedback on actions. Includes basic behavior guidance rules through the simplistic alignment system. Emphasis on heroic play.
The One Ring Role-Playing Game (TOR RPG) - Appropriate for ages 9+. Family friendly. Strong behavior guidance built into the rules. Focused on heroic cooperative play. Strong empathy building rules built into the system. Emphasis on story over rules. Supports "Theater of the Mind" well since it is not based on a miniatures combat system.
Basic Fantasy Role-Playing game (BFRPG)- Appropriate for ages 9+. Straightfoward system. Quick feedback on consequences to actions (character termination). Easily accessible rules freely available to the public. Printed version very affordable & accessible. Accessibility options available. Open setting very flexible use. Specific adventures appropriate to this tier include upcoming solo adventures 1 & 2 by W.A. Hawkes-Robinson (RPG Research), Bear Dungeons, and Gold in the Hills.
Doctor Who Adventures in Time & Space (DWAITS) - Appropriate for ages 10+. Lightweight system. System emphasizes non-violent solutions & encourages talking. Only needs six sided dice (no funky dice). Good behavior guidance.
Adventures in Middle-earth (AiMe) - Appropriate for ages 11+. Based on D&D 5e but fixes it by removing the moral relativism and including some of the TOR RPG behavior guidance rules and empathy building mechanics.
Top Secret: New World Order (TS:NWO) - White Queen
BFRPG: Castle by the Sea, Slavers Fortress, ...
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition: Prelude. Appropriate for ages 11+. Video game (electronic RPG) available on about every platform (WIndows, Mac, Linux, Android, Game Consoles). Very affordable. Self-hosting. Access control. Create own adventures. Good behavior guidance rules.
Call of Cthluhu 7th Edition Introductory Solo Adventure Module (SAM): Alone Against the Flames, Ages 13+. Dark content raises tier significantly higher than it would be. Exceptional RPG solo learning method (comparable to the BECMI Basic D&D 1983 Frank Mentzer approach, but unfortunately does not follow through on the GM side, but excellent for learning to play as just a player).
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition - Higher tier due to: Lacks effective self-learning starter set (all of the starter sets rely on mass learning and/or mentor model and not distributed learning through game play and self-learning solo adventures to learn through play, and railroaded guided adventures for first time GM (see BECMI). Most of the main published adventures content level and emphasis on usually violence as only solutions. Rules complexity. Lacking behavior guidance rules. Unlike earlier editions this edition is more about moral relativism rather than more clearly defined parameters of "right" and "wrong" which makes it problematic for some populations and put more burden on the GM to manage behaviors.
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition: Dark content appropriate only for ages 13+, sometimes 18+. Mid-level system complexity. Unfortunately the GM training doesn't fit the BECMI distributed learning model so that also raises it another tier notch.
Vampire the Masquerade
D&D 3.x third-party book "Book of Erotic Fantasy".
Summary of Multivariate RPG Assessment for Tier Ranking
The following is just a small portion of the variables we take into account when establishing the game system/setting rating.
System complexity. If different versions of the system available (basic versus advanced), then separate ratings for each version, could even be completely different tiers.
Unnecessarily dumbed down, so doesn't raise up participants?
Accessibility considerations (long list): readability of font (dyslexia) (sans with large font and wide kerning will generally be "Best"), artwork/watermark behind text,
Organization of book for first-time play, and later look-up referencing: does it have a robust ToC? Does it have an alphabetical index? Does it have a charts index? Does the order of chapters make logical sense in the flow of learning the game and later looking up content. Is content logical in where it is found, and easily found again through logical assumptions of where it should be?
Writing/editing. Is it well written and edited? Is it filled with typos? Does it require errata or community contributions or house rules to make it playable, versus playable as-is without modification? (some examples of some of the worst ones include Twilight 2013 (Twilight 2000 3rd edition) and Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG).
Differential, distributed, in-game learning, Ramping up learning/vs. mass learning. Can learn on own to play. How well beginner set/intro helps first-time GM with running first session with other players.
Moral / ethical Ambiguity/clarity.
"Heroic-only" versus any "Alignment" play. The more it lends toward "evil" PCs, the higher the number on the risk rating for the tier evaluation.
Clearly defined parameters for adaptive vs. maladaptive behaviors & consequences built into the rules. (behavior guidance rules), versus having to rely on the story or GM fiat to enforce.
Openness of creativity.
Level of violence detail.
Deadliness of system (this can actually often be a good thing to encourage non-violent solutions, whereas the more abstract less deadly systems encourage more violent solutions)
How much encourages vs. discourages violent solutions versus non-violent solutions.
Can start playing immediately versus long read through before actual play.
1-shots friendly versus campaign friendly, versus flexible.
Empathy development rules built in.
Camaraderie rules built-in
Game System | Setting | Player Ages | GM Ages | Chargen Duration | Overall System Complexity | Efficacy Distributed Learning | Dumbed Down? | Accessibility | Organization For 1st-time learning | Oragnization for reference lookup | Writing/editing | Moral/Ethical Ambiguity | Good-only? | Behavior guidance | Creativity openness | Violence detail | Dissuades violence | 1st-time intro solo play start time | 1st time intro GM prep time | 1st time intro GM/players start play time | Session duration | 1-shots | Mid-range | Long campaigns | Empathy dev | camaraderie dev | ...