Amazing Tales was always meant to be a kids game. It’s got very few rules, it’s intended to work with very few players, it makes no pretence at game balance. And yet not long after it came out I heard about it being used by grown ups. And so, I too gave it a go. Here’s what I learned.
It’s a ton of fun! both games I’ve tried with adults ended up being a blast, in a silly, high paced, crazy kind of way. Both featured pirate animals, both featured a lot of action. One featured a psychic bar-tender who poisoned a cthuloid monster with a giant cocktail and one included a chimpanzee pirate riding a T-rex through the gates of the bad guy’s fortress. They were those kind of games.
Drawing is great. Players in Amazing Tales are encouraged to draw their characters, and when I GM I make sketches as I go. They’re not works of art, they’re things I draw in marker pen as I talk. And people like it, and players around the table draw their own sketches as we go.
In my experience Adults don’t do this much in their normal games unless the game explicitly asks for it, or they’re someone who draws well and does so naturally. And then you get detailed sketches that take a while. It’s a different dynamic to just scribbling visual stuff as you go.
And generating a bright, colourful, badly drawn visual record of your adventure turns out to be pretty cool.
Fast is good. With no modifiers and conflict rather than task based resolution Amazing Tales deals with things very quickly. Because you never have to open a rule book, never have to calculate a modifier or work out which rules apply things run very quickly indeed.
The trade off of course is less grit and less realism, but not every genre needs that. And I’d argue that most of the time in most games speed of resolution which moves you further into the story is more interesting than anything a more complicated mechanic could produce.
Amazing Tales doesn’t support player versus player conflict. Unlike kids grown ups like to mess with each other’s characters (seriously, kids almost never do this). Amazing Tales makes that hard because the game doesn’t really include such a thing as damage. Stealing people’s stuff is about as mean as you can be.
So obviously some of the players tried that, and then gave up because in most games physical player versus player stuff is dull most of the time, and Amazing Tales is no different.s
Adults take a while to warm up. Tell kids to start making up stories and that anything goes and they get it right away. Ask adults to do the same and it takes a little while before things really kick off. I think that’s an interesting insight into what being a grown up does to your creative capabilities, and suggests that the games we play could do more to get us back in touch with them.
So if you’re looking for a fun fast gaming session Amazing Tales might fit the bill. With four or five players you should be able to invent characters, invent a world, and have an Amazing adventure in an hour and half.
It’s a fun beer and pretzels game. It could also be a very easy introduction to role-playing games for people who are curious to try something out but are put off by complicated rulebooks. It might be an excellent game for the late night slot at a convention.
I’ll definitely play more Amazing Tales with grown ups, and I’m mulling over if there are simple rule tweaks that would keep the good stuff while expanding the range of genres it would work for. If you’ve played Amazing Tales with adults, let me know!
Maybe in the Amazing Tales discussion group on Facebook.
Want to try Amazing Tales?
One thought on “Playing Amazing Tales with Adults”
I might be a weirdo, but I’ve found GMing Amazing Tales works really well when I want to test adventures that I want to throw at my ‘main’ RPG group, without having to crunch numbers or the like. Outside of combat, I can figure out which parts of my ‘adventure’ are engaging, which parts require that I’m more precise with my language, etc. without worrying so much about balance and combat variety (which I playtest separately). By its nature, roleplaying this way does mean that players have less influence over the plot, which is slightly less fun that default, but it’s still very fun.
I’ve also found that letting players use a D4 when they can’t think of an appropriate skill works well as a timesaving strategy. Obviously I’d prefer it if the players were creative every time and thought about how to use their skills in creative ways, but I found that adding the d4 made things move a bit quicker than before. In addition, I’ve found that increasing DCs for exceptionally difficult things can also work well – so if players want to do something particularly difficult, I might have them roll against a 3 or even a 4. I use these sparingly, though, and leave 2 as the default – that way if I bring out the 4, the players know to start praying.
I’ve tried opposed rolls too, but I’ve found they really don’t work, and don’t recommend them.
One thing that I’ve found can be engaging is asking players how they fail, if they do fail. That way, they can be creative even in failure, coming up with their own obstacles to get out of – and also splitting the workload of coming up with ideas. An alternative to this is making a 1 ‘GM describes’, while making a 2 ‘Player describes’.