Dinosaur RPG Games With Jurassic Park-Style Settings
Information about Dinosaur RPG Games With Jurassic Park-Style Settings
Many popular tabletop RPG systems see dinosaurs show up occasionally as enemies, but a few true dinosaur RPGs are entirely centered around dinos and other marvelous megafauna. These dinosaur RPG systems and settings tell of worlds of prehistoric fantasy, scientific expeditions to forgotten lands, and Jurassic Park-style theme parks where dangerous creatures have just broken free from their cages.
Ever since paleontologists started excavating, studying, and displaying the fossilized remains of creatures from the clade Dinosauria (meaning “terrible lizards“), people have been creating works of fiction where humans get the chance to encounter living dinosaurs. Jules Verne described creatures from the Mesozoic era in the underground setting of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Arthur Conan Doyle placed living dinosaurs and primordial hominids atop an isolated plateau in The Lost World. More recently, Michael Crichton’s book series Jurassic Park and its film adaptations envisioned theme parks filled with prehistoric creatures resurrected by genetic engineering, while James Gurney’s beautifully illustrated Dinotopia books described an isolated island continent where humans and sentient dinosaurs lived together in a harmonious, decentralized utopia.
The following sci-fi and fantasy tabletop RPGs draw inspiration from these seminal works of dinosaur-focused adventure fiction, while also incorporating more contemporary breakthroughs in paleontology (dinosaurs having feathers, for instance). Fundamentally, each of these dinosaur RPGs leans heavily into the fundamental “coolness” of the prehistoric creatures – and how interesting it would be for humans to be able to fight, flee from, pet, and ride them.
Planegea, a dinosaur-filled fantasy setting for D&D 5e, takes place on a primordial, 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 clerics worship scattered pantheons of small, unfinished gods, wizards tattoo spells onto their skin, and dwarves are partially made of stone. It’s also a world chock full of dinosaurs, with tyrannosaurs, pterodactyls, raptors, and other creatures from different epochs of prehistory coexisting in glorious anachronism.
A prehistory adventure setting built around the Cypher RPG system of Monte Cook Games, Predation uses time travel tropes instead of fantasy ones to bring humans and dinosaurs together. In the backstory of Predation, a time-traveling megacorporation called SATI established a colony of humans on Earth during the Cretaceous era, then time travel stopped working, and the temporal colonists were cut off from support and resupply. Players in a game of Predation portray both human descendants of the original colonists and their dinosaur companions as they adventure, scavenge leftover technology, and figure out how they’ll survive the huge asteroid destined to hit the planet in the not-too-distant future.
Hollow Earth Expedition is an RPG steeped in 20th-century pulp adventure fiction tropes – including the problematic, colonialist ones, as evidenced by cover art that prominently exotifies stereotypical depictions of Indigenous women. The game draws heavy inspiration from the Pellucidar novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which take place in a massive space at the center of the Earth filled with ancient civilizations, animals from the depths of prehistory, and mutated creatures with no paleontological basis. Player characters in Hollow Earth Expedition are liable to encounter giant mushroom forests, massive killer worms, cultures descended from ancient Roman legions and 17th-century pirates, mad scientists, Fascist villains practically begging for a fist to the face, and oodles of dinosaurs from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods.
Named after the famous last words of Muldoon in the first Jurassic Park movie, the Clever Girl journaling dinosaur RPG is a pure homage to the series. Each Clever Girl playthrough starts off in a Jurassic Park-style dinosaur theme park, where a group of genetically engineered predators have escaped from their pens. Players adopt either the perspective of humans on the run, forced to choose between risking their lives to help others or playing it safe by leaving them to die, or the perspective of newly freed raptors, hunting down humans for food or revenge.
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