Small players, big stories

One of the great things about role-playing is the chance to do the impossible, to be a hero. To have your character matter to a world in a way that few people, perhaps no people, will ever matter in the real world. You could be the one to throw the ring into Mount Doom, blow up the Death Star or pull the sword from the stone. That’s what we think of when we think about fictional heroes.

When children think about heroes they think about it the same way. Lately my kids have been watching two cartoons, Troll Hunters and the Deep. In Troll Hunters if Jim and his friends lose, it’s the end of the world as we know it. In the Deep, if the Nekton family fail then it’s the end of the world as we know it. Dangermouse, another family favourite, saves the world, galaxy or universe pretty much every episode.

Kids get this kind of drama every time they sit down to watch a cartoon or see a movie. And they like it. Even classic children’s stories do this. Most of the Narnia books feature an evil that could destroy the entire kingdom. Harry Potter has Voldemort to deal with.

Most kids don’t do subtle, nuanced and understated. So don’t be shy of giving children a high stakes game to play.

How do you make the stakes high? There are a couple of ways to do this.

1. Introduce a problem that threatens everything

If you’re playing an adventure in space with your kids, go for the alien invasion. Or the sun going supernova. And make clear that it’s down to them to stop it. Them, their space ship, their ingenuity. Make sure their characters are up to the job. No six year old dreams of being a raw recruit in the space rangers with a lot to learn, they want to be the best space ranger in the galaxy, with the best ship and the best robot sidekick. Say yes.

It helps to create a tangible object to represent everything. The shield generator that holds back the aliens and must be defended, the observatory where they will be first to see that the sun has exploded. This is the thing in the story that will represent everything in the world. Film directors do this all the time. Learn from them.

Does saving the galaxy every week get old? Well not if you’re five years old it doesn’t.

2. Introduce a problem that threatens everything in the story

This sounds similar, but it’s slightly different. A lot of Doctor Who or Star Trek episodes work like this. Our heroes discover an interesting, exciting place. In Doctor Who it’s often a planet or a space station. In Star Trek an alien life form. In magical kingdom stories it might be a hidden kingdom or a mystical temple. For pirates a hidden island, or an amazing ship.

And then a threat comes along that threatens to obliterate the interesting, exciting place. Not damage it a bit, or make it slightly less amazing, but obliterate it, totally.

Why do this? Well saving a village is cool. But if you know there’s a whole kingdom out there it can feel like your adventure was small. A small adventure. A child sized adventure.

And children don’t play role-playing games to be children. They play games to be awesome. To do grown up sized things that even a grown up would think of as heroic. Unless they ask to play a child, don’t assume that they want to, or that that’s what they’re doing. They’re playing a full grown adult, doing what your child considers to be heroic, grown up things.

But what about development?

If you’re used to role-playing games you’ll be familiar with the idea of leveling up. The idea that over time your character gets tougher and the challenges get tougher. And so you progress from farm hand to fighter to knight to slayer of dragons and defeater of dark lords.

This takes a while. It requires an ability to think about long term time horizons and retain details of a plot over a period of time. To plot out the development of a character in a way that makes sense.

Kids aren’t great at that stuff. This is why they’ll happily watch cartoons where every week the stakes are a variation on save the world. It’s why they never wonder why characters in cartoons don’t learn from their mistakes, but rather retain their character flaws week after week.

If you’re dead set on that kind of progression try and do it quickly. While the timeline isn’t completely clear Luke Skywalker goes from farm hand to blowing up the Death Star in about a week. At least in Episode IV he doesn’t have to train, he is the best star pilot in the galaxy, even if he’s never been in a spaceship before he meets up with Han Solo.

And what about next week?

Grown ups might get a bit jaded if they’re asked to save the world every week. They start looking for games where the stakes are emotional or personal, rather than physical. They start wanting games where they can build a character’s history and skills. Where they can take pleasure in having followed every step on the path from farm hand to defeater of dark lords, or the slow unravelling of a global conspiracy.

Most kids don’t crave those things. They want to be heroes and save the world. Let them.

Review : D&D for Kids

So yesterday I did something I think I’ve never done before, I ran a game of Dungeons and Dragons*. The players were my kids (aged nearly 7 and nearly 9) a friend of mine, and his kids (aged 14 and 10). So, how did we do?

Setup and character generation

To start with my plan was to buy the D&D Starter Set and use that. But I was a bit disappointed with the starter set. It contains some basic rules, and a series of adventures. The basic rules are clear enough, but there are no rules for character generation, so you’re stuck with the five pre-generated characters supplied. Not necessarily a problem, but my kids were raised on Amazing Tales and wanted to make their own characters.

So, it was time to borrow a copy of the players handbook. I had a quick skim, printed out some blank character sheets and off we went.

Now, D&D is comprehensive. There are rules for all kinds of stuff and the books are organised around subjects rather than processes. So first you get all the information about races, then about classes, then about backgrounds and so on. This means character generation requires you to work your way around the entire 300 page book. This isn’t kid friendly, it isn’t grown up friendly. It’s veteran player friendly. I’ve played enough DnD and more than enough RPGs that I found it pretty straightforward, although I’m not going to swear I didn’t make any mistakes. But if you were provided with this book cold, and told to make a character, well, it’d take a while and it probably wouldn’t be fun.

What the book needs is some thought about utility and layout. Some diagrams might help. A checklist. A decision to put all the first level stuff together and leave the advanced rules for later. As it is the players handbook is a book for people who know what they’re doing. Which is a a problem, because the starter set won’t get you to the point where you can use it.

Still, we made some characters. My son chose for a human fighter, my daughter an elven druid. From the pregens our guests selected an elven mage, a human fighter and a halfling rogue. This left the party pretty well balanced, and if we’re honest, rather cliched.

The Adventure

OK. We’re going to start with the adventure in the starter set. Except, no, we’re not. It kicks off with a simple encounter and then launches into a dungeon that is too big to work through in a single session. If I had one objective for the day’s play it was to start and finish a story. So, the Mine of Phandelver (awful title) has been put aside for another day. Instead I chose to go with my take on Matthew Colville’s first dungeon.

At this point, a brief aside about Matthew’s videos. They’re awesome. They fix all the problems about the game not being friendly for first time players. As he puts it, most people learned to play DnD from their big brother and he wants to be everyone’s big brother – or something like that. (Note, to cover what I did you need to watch the intro and first three videos).

I made some tweaks of my own to the adventure. I wrote some rumours to help explain why the goblins were there. The rumours were

  • The goblin war in the far north is over, the dwarf king has smashed the goblin horde
  • The goblin war in the far north is anything but over, the goblins have looted a great temple
  • The local ravens talk
  • The hills to the north are haunted by dead heroes
  • Strange lights have been seen burning in the hills

And most of these are true. The goblins the players will meet were present for the looting of the temple and the subsequent defeat by the dwarf king. They’ve fled south with some of their loot (a dragon egg) and are now planning a ritual to corrupt the dragon egg, dreams of dragon fueled goblin glory filling their tiny brains.

They’ve also set a bonfire atop the hill to try and call any other remnants of the goblin army to them. This helps explain any wandering monsters the players meet.  I suspect I was the only person at the table who cared about this, but I like my worlds to make sense and it adds a vague sense of peril and threat. So there we go.

Apart from that – I ran the game exactly as written.

How’d it go?

It went very well. The initial soft start with the players arriving at an inn and ordering dinner took maybe 20 minutes and got everyone into character. I almost always start campaigns with adults in this way, put the characters together and give them nothing to do but talk to each other. Works wonders. And between Barrel the halfling and Becca the surly teenage waitress much fun was had. Until the plot walked in.

News of a damsel in distress saw Barrel and the two fighters – Krim and Doug, dash outside in search of adventure. And here something interesting happened. It was dark outside, they didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t even know who or what had been kidnapped. So we spent five minutes role-playing as they blundered about in the dark in no danger whatsoever – and everyone had fun. It also meant it was fair later on to penalise players who found themselves in the dark without a light source.

Meanwhile back at the inn Galadriel the mage and Tora the druid spoke to the witness, found out what was going on, got some directions and then went outside. There they collected their companions – who couldn’t even see in the dark, the poor things, and went off to the smithy.

Not long afterwards our heroes were heading into the woods hot on the trail of the goblin kidnappers. Tora the druid led the way, a mix of good rolls and the right skills showing off her natural woodcraft. Late at night, they elected to make camp.

With some prompting from Barrel they set a watch. And because I was concerned the fighters were a bit bored I decided to throw in some monsters. In this case a wolf pack, who, I decided would investigate the party but run at the first sign of resistance.

So, what did Doug, who was on watch, do when he realised there was a single wolf staring at him? He tried to befriend it. Not the brightest move perhaps, but this is what role-playing games are about, you can try stuff like this. Had he rolled well, the wolves might have decided to move on peaceably. He didn’t roll well. He reached out to pet the wolf, and the wolf nearly bit his hand off.

Woken by his cries Krim ran the wolf through and the rest of the pack fled. Now the party had the idea. The woods were dark, scary and no place to hang around in.

In the morning the party approached the tomb where the goblins had made their lair. Tora was told to climb a tree to spy out the approach, and rolled a natural 20 on her perception check. So she spotted the tomb, the guards and the patrol. They ambushed the patrol (but alerted the guards) and then approached the tomb.

From here things unfolded pretty much as you’d expect. The party stormed the first room successfully, then tried to storm the second room and learned all about traps. When they made it to the second room they fought the bugbear. Doug learned about critical hits, dishing out 21 points of damage with a single blow, and then they learned about how mean bugbears are when it a) didn’t die b) cracked him back for 13 points. At which point we learned about death saves and medicine rolls.

A note on character death – DnD is a lot less lethal at 1st level than it used to be, but it’s still deadly. My kids are used to Amazing Tales where character death is impossible, but they’d realised DnD was different and asked about it up front. This led me to checking up on some optional rules for hero points that are buried in the DMs guide (p 264). If you’re playing with kids use these rules. I dished out poker chips so everyone had a physical reminder of them. In the end no-one spent them, but I didn’t feel like I had to fudge anything when the bugbear hit Doug because the worst possible result was that he’d end up paying out three hero points and not dying. Those rules are three paragraphs that absolutely should have been in the starter set.

The last bit of the scenario revolves around a riddle. I dropped enough hints that this was a riddle and should be solved and Barrel and Galadriel got on it. At this point the players of Doug, Krim and Tora wandered off to mess about elsewhere in the house. Which is another thing about gaming with kids, at this point we’d been going for 2 and a half hours, so a bit of running around and jumping about was definitely in order.

Still, with the riddle solved everyone came back for the final encounter in the tomb and the party learned that it’s a bad idea to loot graves. Or at least, it’s a bad idea to listen to the halfling when he says it’s totally fine to loot graves.

And that was it. The little girl was rescued, the goblins defeated and the knights tomb opened (and then closed again). As an added bonus the party have a dragon egg, I haven’t decided what to do with this yet, but I was determined to have both a dungeon and an (embryonic) dragon in their first game. It’ll probably hatch at an inconvenient moment.

Oh, and everyone leveled up. Which I think is a pretty essential way to end a first session. Well, leveling up and lasagna. And cake. And ice-cream. Fortunately we had all those things.

How did it go?

Well everyone had a good time and we’re going to do it again. So that Phandelver set of scenarios is going to get a workout after all, they look good for a first campaign. But if I was given a chance to rethink the starter set I would…

  • Add some rules on character generation. The promise of role-playing is that you can be anyone you want to be – not pick from five pre-generated characters.
  • Add the rules on hero points
  • Change the name – seriously, Phandelver?
  • Improve the artwork –  given WoTC’s resources and catalogue of great art there’s just not enough and not enough variety in the starter set. They use the same image on the box cover, and the cover of both booklets. Even my six year old felt this was weak sauce. More artwork would also have let them include some of the (rightly praised) ethnically diverse artwork from the players handbook.
  • Added a second set of dice –  there are enough times you need to roll two or more of the same type that they should have been more than one set.
  • Explained things like combat with some diagrams, checklists, flowcharts or the like. Just because rule-books were solid text in the 1970’s doesn’t mean they should be today.
  • Write a scenario that can be closed in a single session of 2-4 hours and include designers notes . It’s not just that Matthew’s scenario is good, it’s that he explains how all the bits fit together to make it tick. Invaluable advice for people new to GMing, or in my case new to running DnD.

So DnD for kids? With an experienced adult player and a mix of age ranges at the table it was doable. If your 12 year old decides they want to run DnD themselves, and they don’t know anyone else who’s playing point them to Matthew’s videos, or better yet, point them to a simpler system (maybe Savage Worlds?).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a game for kids in the 4 to 7 age range, and you can wait a little bit longer. Amazing Tales will be out by Christmas. Promise.




* To be clear. I’ve run a lot of roleplaying games. I’ve nearly published one. And I’ve run a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is pretty close to DnD. Still, DnD is it’s own thing.








Update : End in sight

So, a quick update. The PDF version of Amazing Tales is done, and ready to go.

But I am determined that we’re going to launch the book and the PDF together. After a bit of back and forth trying to get the formats right it looks like DriveThruRPG are going to be printing me a hard copy test version some time soon.

As in, in the next couple of days.

Then it has to get here. And I have to be happy with it. But you know, we’re very very close.

RPG A day – here we go

So, here’s the plan. I’m going to answer all the RPG A Day questions for August. For those who don’t know RPG A Day exists to promote the roleplaying hobby. Every August 31 questions are posted with the idea of stimulating discussion around RPGs, and, at least judging by my social media feeds, it works.

This year, watching the answers of my friends scroll by I realised that my answer to many of the questions was, rather predictably, ‘Amazing Tales’. But that’s OK. I’ve decided to take a crack at the questions with a view to providing some insights into how I approach my gaming, and why Amazing Tales is the way it is. A kind of designers notes thing. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. But it’ll be fun finding out.

#RPGaDay 2017

RPG A Day 1-5

1. What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

Well Amazing Tales isn’t out yet, so I can’t choose that. For me gaming has always been more about the people than the system. I like systems that fade into the background and don’t get in the way of the story. I like worlds that are good to discover, but for me that’s always been more about the quality of the GM than the depth of the source material.

The game I’ve felt most intrigued by lately is Night’s Black Agents. I use it as the system for my own Delta Green game. But I’d love to play in a game where the GM had fleshed out some of the ideas in the book, and really got to grips with the system. I don’t use mechanics much when I GM, but I’d love to experience Night’s Black Agents being run by someone who really knew what they were doing.

2. What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Amazing Tales of course! And we’re getting so close. All the art is done and the layout is underway. I’d hoped to have a copy off to Drivethru to get a sample print copy back this week, but for various reasons things are going to take a little longer. Still, the end is in sight.

And I really, really want to know what people make of it. It’ll be the first thing I’ve published. The feedback from playtests has been good, but partly because the system is so simple most of the book is advice, background and illustrations. I want to know what people make of it. And most importantly, I want to know what their children make of it.

And if you like, there’s still a playtest version of Amazing Tales available for download on this site.

3. How do you find out about new RPGs?

Google + is brilliant for talking about RPGs. I assume it has other valuable purposes too, but for me it’s a great place to talk about games. I hang out on the RPG Chat group, and that gives me the feeling that if anything really interesting and new comes along I’ll hear about it.

For kids games the Google + groups Dungeon Dads and RPGs for Kids cover the ground. As does the Facebook  group RPGs for Kids

And of course my gaming group have their own sources and so word of mouth is important.

Oh, and Bundle of Holding. I’ve ended up acquiring lots of games I had no idea existed because they were part of a bundle along with *1* thing I wanted.

4. Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016

Amazing Tales, by a mile. I’ve got two kids, and a big part of the impetus for developing Amazing Tales was to have something I could play with them. They’re getting older now (six and eight), and at some point in the next year or two we might need to graduate to something else, but for now, it’s doing just fine.

In vacations we run campaigns, with a session a day themed around wherever we happen to be. Otherwise the games are ad-hoc ways to fill an hour in the weekend or the evening. Sometimes they’re ways to entertain visiting friends.

The fact that Amazing Tales requires somewhere between zero and three minutes preparation for a session is what makes this possible. With young kids you’ve gotta be able to run a game when they’re ready. If they’re in the mood for a game they’re not going to wait, and if they’re not in the mood it’s not going to work anyway, no matter how much prep you’ve done.

5. Which RPG Cover best Captures the Spirit of the Game?

This one. I *love* this cover. From the enthusiastic font for the title, to the mix of spaceships, castles, dragons and pirates. It might just be me, but I hope, I really hope that parents will show this cover to their kids and those kids will be desperate to know what’s going on. That’s the plan. If it communicates thrilling adventures where anything can happen then it’s done its job.

Amazing Tales Cover




RPG a Day, 6-10

6. You can game every day for a week, describe what you’d do

Every now and then I get to do this. In the summer holidays we go away, typically for a week or two, and fitted around our holiday activities we make up a story. That means the kids and I play Amazing Tales and Mum takes a break. Usually characters in Amazing Tales don’t last very long before the kids get bored with them, two or three sessions at most, but on our summer holidays we can stick with characters and a plot for a week or more at a stretch.

These are the only Amazing Tales games I do any real preparation for, and it’s not much. I’ve found it’s helpful to draw a map for the game. Once I’ve sketched out some landmarks I invite the kids to name them, and to suggest more. Over the course of the week we’ll make sure their characters visit them all.

And between sessions I think about what’s going to happen next. It’s easy to structure these games around a simple ‘collect the items’ approach. Four magical beasts, five magical feathers, six magical swords, that kind of thing. Each session sees the heroes recover another beast (or feather, or sword) and the finale features a huge showdown with the leading bad guy.


7. What was your most impactful RPG session?

In late 2003 I moved to Amsterdam and pretty much stopped roleplaying. For whatever reason I couldn’t find any gaming groups, and no pointers to any online. Then, many years later I thought I’d try again. Thirty seconds of googling while waiting for my train to work unearthed both a regular RPG Meetup in Amsterdam and the ConDamned weekend convention which was happening that very weekend.

At short notice I freed up an afternoon and went along. And I ended up playing a game of Duty and Honour, which had been ported to a setting in the 41st millenium. As games go it wasn’t amazing, but it was a lot of fun. I realised just how much I’d missed gaming, and resolved not to stop again; and, I got a quick glimpse of how far the roleplaying world had come in the years that had passed.

We played a game with no dice, players who got to influence what the plot was, and combat was handled by conflict resolution rather than task resolution. All pretty standard these days but mind expanding for me at the time.

I subsequently went on to run a few short campaigns using the Duty and Honour system, and I’m delighted to hear there’s a new edition in the works. 

Other sessions that make the shortlist here are my introductions to Fiasco, Lady Blackbird and Montsegur. And of course I should mention the first ever session of Amazing Tales, played with my daughter when she was four and a half.

8. What is a good RPG to play for sessions of two hours or less?

Amazing Tales. Make up your own adventure in about the time it takes to watch a Saturday morning cartoon. That was one of the design goals, and it can be done, although my experience is that as players age the game takes a bit longer.

For my kids a session takes about an hour now.

9. What is a good RPG to play for about ten sessions?

I think I’m going to suggest Dungeon Crawl Classics here. Old school games are built around the notion of repeated sessions and character advancement, and ten sessions is enough time to get through two or three of Goodman Games’ excellent modules, and perhaps make it to the heady heights of, oh I don’t know, level 3?

Normally I’m a fan of people writing their own games, but the Goodman Games stuff is excellent, has a distinctive tone and really shows off the system. I also think that there’s something nostalgic about pitching your old school characters against the unforgiving nature of a pre-written module rather than the flexible narrative sentiments of a modern GM.

If old school isn’t quite your cup of tea something I haven’t done but would be interested in trying would be playing through Night Witches for a full campaign. Grey Ranks is something I’m intellectually interested in, but I suspect I’d be emotionally exhausted after the first few sessions.

10. Where do you go for RPG Reviews? , and not just because once, briefly, a long time ago, I used to write a column for them. Otherwise I don’t have a fixed source of reviews. If there’s a game I’m interested in I’ll find people who are talking about it on social media and follow the conversation from there.


RPG a Day 11-15

11. Which ‘dead’ RPG would you like to see reborn?

To my mind RPGs don’t die. If you can find a copy of a game you can play it. That’s one of the joys of the hobby. But I think what this is really about is community. Games do best when there are players around the world having new ideas and sharing them.

Stormbringer. That might be a good one to have more people thinking about. I’d quite like to see the revival of Top Secret work out well too. I don’t think I’ve ever played a straight forward espionage game.

12. Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

I hope it’s Amazing Tales. I really do. Our primary goal with the artwork has been to stimulate ideas. We’ve tried to include lots of little details that might spark ideas and discussions, and we’ve deliberately not thought too hard about exactly what’s going on in any given picture. Particularly with the full page illustrations we’ve focused on providing all the elements you need to tell a story without telling you what that story is.

Magical Fight

When I was thinking about the art for the game my biggest point of reference wasn’t another RPG, but Dixit, the artwork for which gets your mind going like nothing else.

13. Describe a game experience that changed how you play

I’m going to use this question to give a shoutout to Ralph, author of the Department V blog. During and just after my time at university I got to play in a number of games run by Ralph, which I’m pretty sure were universally excellent.

What I got from them, or at least, one of the things I got from them, was the notion of stripping back a game to the interesting ideas at its core, throwing away the rest and pushing the ideas to their limits.

As far as I can tell his blog and the excellent fictoplasm podcast are continuing to plough this particular furrow with great success.

14. Which RPG do you prefer for open ended campaign play?

At the moment I’m running a campaign based around the Nights Black Agents ruleset, and the Delta Green background. I’m pretty happy with how that’s going. Nights Black Agents gives you a lot of tools for managing a world and characters place in it, and it gives the players plenty of meaningful things to do with experience points beyond simply ‘getting even tougher’.

I like Feng Shui too, and I haven’t mentioned that in answer to any of the questions yet, so I’ll name it here. Feng Shui, because nothing makes a campaign open ended the way time travel and alternative realities do.

15. Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

Oh, this will be Feng Shui again. You see I love Feng Shui. I love that it’s so committed to the notion of action movies that it explains that the plot is supposed to advance through fights. I love that your characters start out incredibly tough and get tougher.

But I don’t love the thing that’s so common to RPGs. A fight starts, and just at the moment when in a film everything would happen *really fast*, the gameplay gets really slow. Feng Shui’s combat system is fast, as these things go, but it could be a lot faster.

So I fixed it. I don’t claim that this system is balanced,  or that it treats all characters equally, but I ran a short campaign with it, and it rattled along at a good pace.



RPG a Day 16-20

16. What RPG do you enjoy using as is?

I think small simple games get the most use ‘as is’, simply because there’s so little to change. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a thing when playing Fiasco for example. And in that spirit of small games, I’m going to name The Quiet Year. It takes a couple of hours, it gives a great story every time, and it’s very simple.

17. Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

Whatever it is, it’s probably a PDF sat somewhere on Google drive. But the book that’s been on my shelves longest without being played is Torchbearer. The basic idea of the game, a gritty and tough world, where a lack of resources is at least as much of a challenge as lurking monsters appealed.

But on reading it, it’s just too darn procedural. It feels like a boardless boardgame, and it’s got something which I detest in gaming. The players are asked to explicitly discuss decisions their characters make in terms of mechanics and processes. For me that kind of thing wrecks the experience of roleplaying.

I still like a lot of the ideas, I’m glad I read it, but unless I run across it at a convention or something I don’t think I’ll be playing it.


18. Which RPG have you played most in your life?

Vampire. In my defence, it was the late 90’s and I was a student. We all did it.

19. Which RPG features the best writing?

So many RPGs feature short bits of fiction and flavour text that when I see the phrase ‘best writing’ that’s what springs to mind. But in all honesty I can’t remember any of those bits, so they can’t have been that good, and that’s not where the bulk of the words are anyway.

I think the real challenge to writing a roleplaying game is describing, in words, a process that is going to be acted out by people you’ve never met, to tell a story you’ve never thought of. Writing clear rules, in otherwords. And that’s hard. Especially if you want the text to remain engaging and interesting. Amazing Tales for instance has very few rules, the entire game fits onto a single page, and that was surprisingly hard to write.

So as an answer to this question, Fiasco. I don’t know if it’s the best. But it certainly meets the criteria.

20. What is the best source for out of print RPGs?

I have no idea. If I wanted one, and I suppose I might be interested in a copy of the original Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, I’d start by looking on Ebay.

Well, it’s there.




RPG a Day 21-25

21. Which RPG does the most with the least words?

One fan of the playtest version of Amazing Tales suggested entering it for the 200 word RPG challenge, I imagine the answer to this question is somewhere in there.  Sadly the 2017 deadline had gone. Still, here is the Amazing Tales system reduced to 200 words, I might enter it in 2018.

Amazing Tales

Choose a genre.

Think of a hero.

Describe them with four skills, a name and a physical description.

Assign one skill a D6, one a D8, one a D10 and one a D12

The GM starts telling a story and at appropriate moments asks the player ‘what do you do’

If the answer suggests a risk of failure, select the most appropriate skill and roll the assigned dice. A 3+ always succeeds. There are no modifiers.

On a 1 or a 2 the roll failed. The GM should make the situation worse and ask the player ‘what do you do’.

Repeat until the story concludes.

That’s it. 107 words. Which might lead you to ask how did this game become a book of nearly 100 pages? To which the answer is, inspiration. I want this game to inspire people to play games with their kids. Hopefully people who’ve never roleplayed before. And I want kids to be inspired to create amazing worlds and have adventures in them. So Amazing Tales includes loads of advice on running the game, gaming with kids, handling tricky issues and the like. It also includes four complete backgrounds to inspire kids and provide examples for grownups.


22. Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Take a look at the answer to question 21. Amazing Tales is, without a doubt, the easiest game I’ve ever GMd. That’s also because, while they come with a whole load of different challenges, children are way easier to GM for than adults.

23. Which RPG has the most jaw dropping layout?

Given some of the amazing things that go on in the world of print design it’s a shame that there aren’t more interestingly laid out roleplaying games. And while I like the look of Amazing Tales, and we’ve put a lot of thought into it, it’s not going to be radically disrupting people’s notions of what a rulebook should look like.

Sorry gaming industry, you’re leaving me cold on this one. If you’re looking for inspiration, start here.

24. Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more

Pretty much all of them. RPGs are amazing value for money. In general I enjoy a game about as much as I enjoy, say, going to the cinema, and it takes a similar length of time. So if I play a game ten times that’s what, 80 euros worth of entertainment?

If you just want to get a game out there, then by all means, give it away. If you want your game to be big, you probably have to charge, because that’s what covers the cost of art, layout, promotion and the like.

My experience is that most gamers are happy to pay for things they value. Value your work, charge accordingly.

25. What is the best way to thank your GM?

If it’s me, Kroepoek.

More seriously, be enthusiastic about the game. Put time into your character. Engage with the ideas in the game and push things forward.

And do some GMing yourself. Every regular GM I know wishes their players would step up and run something a little more often.