We’re counting down the days International Tabletop Day 2018, happening this year on April 28th! As we get closer to the big day, we’ll be looking at the gamut of tabletop gaming, from the stories of the games we play to remarkable people who love them. Today we’re looking at one of the tools to help gamers track their games. Be sure to join in on the fun on April 28th on our official ITTD Twitch Stream, hosted by Ivan van Norman and donate to charity:water, the worthy cause we’re supporting this year.
If you’re looking for something special to do for Tabletop Day, one-shot RPG sessions are a great way to roleplay without starting a whole new campaign. Of course, that usually means that the GM has to spend a good amount of time prepping a session, and everyone playing needs to know the system you’re using, otherwise a good amount of time will be spent teaching the game. If that all works for you, great. If not, Micro-RPGs are the way to go.
Micro-RPGs are compact games that fit the entirety of their rules onto one or two pages. That means that you can learn the game in a few minutes and get started right away. Some of them don’t even have GMs, so there’s no preparation whatsoever. Those that do often encourage improvisation, so you won’t have to worry too much about writing a deep, compelling story beforehand. No matter what kind of RPGs you like to play, at least one of these should pique your interest.
All Outta Bubblegum
Geek and Sundry fans should be well acquainted with All Outta Bubblegum, the system used by our resident crime fighters/good ol’ boys Dick and Johnson, and inspired by the most memorable line from cult classic They Live. If you haven’t seen the show, the rules are dead simple. You have one stat: bubblegum. It starts at eight (and you really should use actual gum if you can). You can do two things: kick ass (self-explanatory) or chew bubblegum (anything that isn’t kicking ass). If you want to kick ass you roll a d10 and have to get higher than your current bubblegum. If you want to chew bubblegum, roll lower. If you fail a roll your bubblegum goes down (chew a piece of gum to show this). As your stat goes down and your mouths fill with gum, fighting becomes easier but talking becomes much harder.
This game is objectively ridiculous and perfect if you have a couple of friends who don’t need complex rules to enjoy an RPG. If you’re GMing a session, just come up with some kind of problem, from the mundane to the apocalyptic, and let your players run wild trying to solve it.
After Critical Role’s Vox Machina campaign ended, the cast played a number of one-shots. One of which was Trinket’s Honey Heist. When playing Honey Heist, “you are trying to pull off the greatest heist the world has ever seen. Two things – One: You have a complex plan that requires precise timing. Two: You are a GODDAMN BEAR.”
The system uses two stats: Bear and Criminal, allowing you to do bear and not-bear related activities, respectively. When the plan goes well you get a little greedy, increasing your Criminal stat but lowering your Bear stat. When the plan goes south you get frustrated and the reverse happens. Having high stats make certain things easier, but if either stat gets to six, you’ll succumb to either your criminal or ursine nature and that means bad news for everyone.
If you want to prep a complex session of Honey Heist ahead of time, you totally can, but if you don’t, the rules have you covered. For the players there are random tables to tell you things like your bear type, role in the heist, and what kind of awesome hat(s) you wear. For the GM, there are even more resources to establish the HoneyCon setting, security features, and other surprises. And if you like Honey Heist, check out the other Micro-RPGs by designer Grant Howitt. I recommend Dr. Magnethands, an RPG/party game/drinking game that’s only ostensibly about Super Heroes, and Trashkin, a more traditional fantasy RPG system about literal garbage folk like Half-Possums and Pigeonkin who decide to go on a real life adventure.
200 Word RPG Challenge
If your gaming group wants to try something a little more avant-garde, take a look at the 200 Word RPG Challenge website. This is a yearly contest where people submit RPGs with a strict word limit. Because of this, these games are usually very rules-light (more so than the ones we’ve already described) and involve a lot more interactive storytelling. Instead of winning or losing, these games are often more about the experience had while playing.
To give a couple examples: Time Travel Thaw is about superheroes fighting a villain who’s gone back in time to erase them from existence. Everyone writes their superpowers in sharpie on a paper towel. Then you place an ice cube on the towel and whenever the water reaches something you’ve written, you lose that ability as it is erased from time. If you lose all your powers, you are lost for all eternity.
Route Clearance is much more contemplative. Your group is a platoon of US Army soldiers clearing IEDs out of the road from Kabul to Kandahar. Each player describes their soldier, giving a short backstory of their training and motivations. The road is represented by twelve playing cards played face down in a line. Each turn a player flips a card and, using a table describing what each suit and number represents (danger, comradery, reflection, etc.), narrates the scene that takes place. At the end, each player describes how (and if) their soldier comes out of the experience.
One Page Dungeons
We’ve talked about One Page Dungeons on the site before, and they’re still a great resource for one-shots. Like the 200 Word RPG Challenge, this is a yearly contest where people submit a dungeon, often with illustrations or layouts. These are usually system-neutral, so you can play them with whatever system you use or, if you want, play without a system and go pure roleplaying.
Some good examples of these designs (all of which can be found here) are Crimson Tide Tower: a haunted lighthouse with rumors of lost treasure; Griswald’s Shifting Dungeon: an enchanted dungeon whose rooms and walls are constantly moving; and Prisoners of the Gelatinous Dome: whose rooms are constantly being eroded and destroyed by gelatinous ooze, so any adventurers who want to abscond with the treasure within will have to do so before they become trapped themselves. The One Page Dungeon Contest has been going on since 2009 so there are many more to choose from. They’re a perfect resource for one-shots but they can just as easily be fit into your ongoing campaigns.
Are you planning a one-shot for Tabletop Day? Let us know about it in the comments! And be sure to join us on April 28th on Twitch for our International Tabletop Day stream hosted by Ivan van Norman, and help us support charity:water to raise money for a project to get water to a community of people who currently lack access to clean water.
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Image credits: Geek and Sundry, Armand Kossayan, Jeff Call