Dungeons and Dragons has become a behemoth in the last several years. Shows abound all over the Internet, whether discussing the game or using it as a tool to tell stories. Thousands of streamers, YouTubers, and podcasters are producing regular content about their favourite hobby.
This abundance of content has only widened the audience, making more people aware of the once-niche hobby of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG).
I’m now one of the afflicted. It makes sense since I enjoy both games and playing roles (acting). But beyond this, it’s a great way to have some fun with friends: work as a team, problem-solve and maybe tell a story on the way.
A large part of building relationships is shared experience and, in this regard, the brain can’t tell the difference between lived experience and imagined. So maybe you and your friends go bowling together, or maybe you sit around a table and outwit a conniving poltergeist. Both are good and they’ll bring a similar result.
Dungeons and Dragons is by far the most popular TTRPG but there’s a steep learning curve to it, especially for someone new to the hobby. The players’ handbook alone could affectively shield someone from a direct lightning strike, and that’s just one of the many source materials.
So how do you get into role-playing games if you want to avoid reading a really big book?
Here are five very little books to try out! They’re so tiny that they contain two or three pages at most. These examples are very light on rules, mainly containing only a few rolls of the dice here and there. They’ll be easy to pick up by just about anyone. And as a bonus, they’re all very inexpensive or completely free!
To play these games (excluding Executive Decision), you will need:
- One person to be a Game Master (or GM) who will set up the story/scenario, act as characters other than the players’, and be a rules referee if necessary.
- A set of gaming dice easily purchasable in any gaming or hobby store.
Being the GM may sound like a tough job, but these games are meant to be fast and straightforward to pick up, including tips to help set things up. Perfect for a beginner GM!
Isn’t the president a moron sometimes? If you were in charge, you would have handled that situation much better. Here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.
In Executive Decision, one person acts as the president and the others as advisers. The president picks which players fill which roles in the cabinet, choosing from a list that includes a secretary of defence, vice-president, chief of staff and more.
The game plays out very simply: no dice, no random card draws, no luck-based elements at all. The players have to navigate through a crisis, provided in the rules, using only their powers of persuasion to sway the president.
The president’s goal is to ultimately make the best possible decisions based on what they know about the crisis and what they hear from their advisers.
The cabinet members want to sway the president into making decisions that align with their agenda. Each role comes with its own agenda, and players are encouraged to randomly choose additional secret agendas to make things even more interesting.
So you think you could run one of the most powerful nations in the world when the crap hits the fan?
Here’s one way to find out!
Honey-Con 2022 is in town and you’re a group of hungry bears. Of course, you’re disguised as humans. Wearing a hat upon your big, furry bear head, you’re sure to fool everyone.
You and your fuzzy friends must concoct and successfully execute a plan to steal that sweet bee juice within the walls of Honey-Con. The game only requires a couple of regular, six-sided dice to play (a D6, as it would be called in TTRPG parlance).
As the story/game unfolds, certain events cause your bear to lean more toward their criminal desires or beastly instincts. Lean too far one way and your bear is lost. But keep a keen balance and you and your friends just might score yourself a tasty treat. It’s time to steal some honey.
Lasers and Feelings
A Star Trek-esque space jaunt about a daring crew trying to find their way without their mysteriously out-of-commission captain.
Making your character is simple: pick a style and a role from the list provided. For example, maybe you’re a hotshot (style) pilot (role).
Now pick a number between two and five. You’ll only ever be rolling based on one of two things: Lasers or Feelings, depending on if you’re trying to be more dependent on technical know-how or passion. The higher your number between two and five, the better you’ll be at Lasers rolls; the lower, the better you’ll be at Feelings rolls.
Equipped with a communicator, a universal translator and a laser gun (set to stun, of course), Lasers and Feelings is a great game for those of us who grew up on a healthy diet of Star Trek and always wondered what it would be like to be an android Starfleet officer, just trying to feel human emotions like dear, sweet Data. Or sleep with every alien in the galaxy, like Kirk.
Fast and the Furious meets The Raccoons (a classic 1980s Canadian cartoon).
Have you ever watched a Furious movie and thought, “I could do that?”
You can’t, even if you passed your licence test first try and can parallel park like a champ. Luckily, Crash Pandas is here to offer you the chance to experience the glamorous life of a street racer, albeit in the realm of imagination – which is the only realm in which you or anyone should be street racing.
There’s one small catch: you’re a raccoon. Of course, raccoons aren’t big enough to drive cars by themselves, so you and your friends will be driving the car together, making independent choices on each turn and hoping you’re on the same page.
Each raccoon has their own motivations, aims and tools at their disposal. Surely you’ll manage to reconcile your disparate goals and drive the car together like a well-oiled machine. What could go wrong?
Pride and Extreme Prejudice
When it comes to one’s station in life, there are certain things you must accept and prepare for. For example, the young lady from a well-to-do house must one day enter into a marriage arrangement that benefits her family.
The young lady must display refined decorum and tact at all times to best represent herself and her house in the most favourable light. The young lady must also learn to pilot a giant mechanized war machine alongside her sisters, lest the French ever invade and the lady’s house and lands are imperilled.
So it’s a game about family, courtship, war and huge robots powered by ancient eldritch energy. You and your sisters will spend your days battling invading French armies, attending balls and meeting suitors.
Whether in the war machine or out, each of the four sisters available has their own responsibilities, skills and inclinations, allowing them to successfully take different kinds of actions, be they social or deadly.
The sisters also individually control a different part of the robot, meaning they’ll have to co-ordinate their actions if they hope to come out alive.
Will you let yourself be roped into a marriage you don’t desire? Will your insufferable mother force you to attend yet another dreadful ball? Will you be able to contain the ancient nightmare found within your giant war machine?
Play to find out.
And there you have it, five short, easy tabletop role-playing games that any beginner can try. I hope at least one of these piqued your interest. Happy gaming!
Sam Stewart has a diploma in theatre studies, a degree in film studies and has worked professionally in both areas. He also works in the tech industry and loves to indulge his lifelong passion for video games, from the classics to new releases.
Sam is a Troy Media contributor. For interview requests, click here.
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