Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard is an alternate history western role playing game centered around deeply religious frontier communities. Players are "God's Watchdogs" who move from settlement to settlement, well, settling disputes, as well as keeping the faith. Absolutely powerful within their communities, they are faced with difficult choices and drastic consequences.
Shock: Social Science Fiction is a role playing game about the "shocks" of future and culture. In a distant space opera, how to we interact? What issues matter (or don't)? Is it a world of sex, or a world of space battles? Distributed GMing. Multiple characters for every player. World building. Shock asks difficult questions. Designed by Joshua A.C. Newman.
Mouse Guard is a simple, elegant role playing system that easily tells the kinds of stories in the fantastic Mouse Guard comic. If you enjoy that comic, you will enjoy this rpg. If you haven't read that comic, you should probably start.
Mouse Guard involves turn taking, novel character creation, a mechanical cycle of seasons, and interesting character development. Challenges use a generic system that encourages clever storytelling and survival drama. It's a great game to play with children, but easily scratches an adult role playing itch.
Indie RPG Spotlight - Dread
Dread is a special role playing game. It doesn't use dice or cards for conflict resolution. It uses a Jenga tower. The mechanics of this lead players into the careful buildup of tension, the punctuated climax (where someone typically dies), the backing off, and the resumed slow build. In a sense, this role playing game elegantly uses its rules to emulate the structure of that particular tension-driven style of horror story. It is an excellent example of mechanism design, in the sense that the rules are designed to lead players toward a particular outcome regardless of their individual intents or abilities.
Well, aside from their abilities at Jenga itself.
Rym and Scott of GeekNights presented "Beyond Dungeons & Dragons" at PAX Australia 2013. (They've previously presented this at ConnectiCon 2008, PAX Prime 2008, PAX Prime 2009, PAX East 2010, MAGFest X, and dozens of other conventions). This is a short excerpt from that full lecture, spotlighting one of the specific game examples they used.
Inspectres is an indie RPG by Jared Sorensen. Its mechanics focus on who controls the narrative at different points (depending on player success or failure), in order to essentially make Ghostbusters (the movie) happen in tabletop RPG form.
Primetime Adventures is an indie RPG that elegantly structures your role playing in the format of a serial television drama. Simple mechanics cause the same interleaving of characters and plots that professional writers use in actual television. Focus on what your character's story is REALLY about and abstract the rest.
A Thousand and One Nights is an amazing indie role playing game that centers around a sultan's court. But, rather than merely playing the characters in this court, you play these characters who are THEMSELVES playing characters in stories they tell to pass the time.
This is a game where characters don't have strength stats: they have senses and aspects of envy. They have goals and desires. When you can't express your frustration with the court poet directly without angering the Sultan, you find yourself doing so indirectly in your story.
This is a game where you are expected to lounge and eat dates while you play. Atmosphere and storytelling are paramount. To be sure, this isn't Dungeons & Dragons.