Today’s episode is about Micro RPGs, typically defined as compact games that fit the entirety of their rules onto one or two pages. These are usually best for one-off or short campaign games, and are, in many cases, intended to be a complete story in a single session.
One of the beautiful things about Micro RPGs is how far out there they can be. Without the commitment of playing an entire campaign. While there are a few truly bizarre (and very original) RPGs out there with full rulesets (CthulhuTech, for example), but, for the most part, the RPG market is dominated by certain genres. Fantasy games, urban horror and space opera represent the vast majority of the landscape. Micro RPGs, however, frequently represent much greater diversity and are frequently setting agnostic.
The Apocalypse Engine is one of our favorites, not merely because it is representative of the sort of diversity that is growing within the gaming community, but also because of how well it adapts to many different settings. As a strongly narrative system, it can be adapted to a great many different play styles and scenarios and balances player and GM responsibility for the action quite well by granting the player some narrative control over the outcome based on their rolls. I have friends who prefer Dungeon World exclusively to D&D / Pathfinder. I tend to like crunchier systems, so its appeal to me is more limited, but it’s definitely a neat game (and a bit more rules heavy than the others, where the books are typically only about 3 – 4 pages of actual rules and mostly just examples and setting options).
Honey Heist, by Grant Howitt, is readily available online. It is, perhaps, one of the most obviously amusing Micro RPG on the list, and an absolute delight to read (with cute sketchy illustrations to boot!).
The 200 Word RPG Challenge is an absolute treasure trove of games! While it might be tempting to jump straight to the Winners category when looking for a game night diversion, there are some incredibly gems among the games that didn’t quite make it. Boyz II Men in Black is not only amusing, but has a well defined time limit (57:31 to save the world). Stop Hiding Your Crush could be a really intense roleplaying experience (consider including an X-Card* if you play this sort of game). Drink Tea. Forget, meanwhile, is probably the best “mindfulness exercise as a game” that I’ve ever seen. Rule 1-2-3 RPG mechanic system is the very essence of a microrpg distilled down to its simplest parts – no setting, no presumed story, just an incredibly simple resolution mechanic. Tabula Rasa, meanwhile, really isn’t an RPG in and of itself, but could be an incredible hook for a setting.
Meanwhile, the Winners, such as the truly original game Time Travel Thaw, the crafty game #WinterIntoSpring, and the introspective game Stardust, are all tiny treasures awaiting a group with an interest in novel experiences.
And, if you have a few minutes, you might as well play Stop Reading This To Lose.
Everyone Is John (alternate link here), by Michael Sullivan, hasn’t actually been published officially to my knowledge, but it’s still a neat game. Even if you don’t play it, I encourage you to read logs and/or watch vlogs of other people’s experiences with it.
kill puppies for satan is amusing. Well, to me it is. I remember the author, Vince Baker, used to have a website where he printed hate email that he got from people, categorized into four categories: “Angry about ‘kill puppies'”, “Angry about ‘for satan'”, “Angry about both ‘kill puppies’ and ‘for satan'”, and the amusing category of “Somehow angry about something else” (which included, as I recall, a tirade from someone who was angry the game had virtually no art, as well as someone enraged by the grammatical, punctuation, spelling and capitalization errors in the book). The game deserves to be more infamous than it is.
Micro RPGs are an intriguing part of the RPG landscape, many of which are inexpensive or completely free! Give them a try, either as part of a special game night or as a break from you usual games.
* we hope to talk about accessibility in a future episode; I’ve heard people worry that their horror or intensely emotional game will be “ruined” by the inclusion of an option to stop the action, but for now I’ll just mention that I’ve run some intense scenes involving some very dark and distressing themes and I’ve never had a game “ruined” by being receptive to the emotional well being of others. Meanwhile, I do know people whose experience with roleplaying games WAS ruined by a GM who crossed a line and refused to hear someone asking them to stop.