Best/Favorite Thin RPG Core Book


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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I guess the big issue here is, if you ask for 100 pages or less, you're essentially excluding most games with an actual setting and/or which include any example adventures,
Valid. Although, I'd wager it can be done.
and this creating a slightly odd situation where you're going to be getting some games which are kind of complicated or fiddly or just not very well-designed,
If this weren't qualified with "some"... no, it still doesn't make sense. Over 100-page games can be fiddly and poorly designed too.
but are only giving you the rules, and nothing else, requiring you to have or make up a setting and giving you no guidance on adventure design or the like. Whilst excluding games that are elegantly designed and run quickly and well, but actually have a setting/scenarios.
I've seen short games with excellent setting ( Mork Borg). One could write a Star Trek RPG in 5 pages, and then mention, "if you want setting, try watching the show." So I don't see why setting is an issue for short games.
 

aia_2

Custom title
What is your favorite "thin" RPG core rules? That is, core rules in fewer pages than a big fat hardcover (or three!)?

I think RPG core rulebooks are entirely too long. I think you could do even modern D&D in 100 pages, tops, if you wanted to (just as an example). I want to try something new but every time I look at how big even "light" games have gotten I just throw up my hands and shake my head. Never mind trying to get into Warhammer or Symbaroum.

But I am guessing "thin" games still exist even if I don't know about them -- so recommend me one! Any genre or rules system.

NOTE: It does not count if you propose a 300 page book but with the caveat "the rules are in the first 30 pages." No. That's not what I want.

I posted my thought about your request on a different thread so that i won't bring OT this one... However i have a question about your original question: what are you looking for in a 100-page game?

Hereby a summary of what you could/couldn't find in it (not exhaustive):
Rules only (pure character building and game mechanics)
Full magic system (i.e. list of spells)
Monters
Setting
Rules for DMing (i.e. the golden guidelines)
Full equipment
 


If this weren't qualified with "some"... no, it still doesn't make sense. Over 100-page games can be fiddly and poorly designed too.
I'm sorry but what? Obviously. There's no legitimate way to read the words I say to suggest otherwise.

My point is that if you arbitrarily limit yourself to 100 pages, you can easily get a very chunky and clunky game which just doesn't have any setting/scenarios, and maybe doesn't use exception-based design (I hope you understand the reasons why it makes a game take up more page real estate without actually being more complex, I can explain if not). Most of the most horrifically overcomplicated wargames out there have rules well under 100 pages for example.
I've seen short games with excellent setting ( Mork Borg). One could write a Star Trek RPG in 5 pages, and then mention, "if you want setting, try watching the show." So I don't see why setting is an issue for short games.
So you profoundly and honestly don't understand what I'm saying? That's kind of astonishing to me, as I thought it was very evident, too obvious to belabour. Your example literally proves my point though, almost perfectly. It's like you're trying to support my argument!

If you have an original setting, it is always a hell of an achievement if you can convey that setting, and put in a good RPG, in under 100 pages. I can think of any obvious examples (apart from 1-pagers, oddly enough). Re: Mork Borg I wouldn't call it excellent, and it's more of a sort of implication than a setting, but it is stylish and it gets the job done, so is good enough.

Whereas if you're reliant on a separate, pre-existing IP, you can write a much, much shorter RPG, and just rely on people knowing that stuff. But that's obviously not really a shorter RPG at all. It's fake. It's just that it's assuming a whole chunk of extrinsic knowledge, which not everyone will possess and not to the same degree. If the challenge is to "write a short RPG" and you write a Star Trek RPG that completely relies on you being very familiar with the show, right down to stuff that's not even quite text on the show (though perhaps more text on stuff like Lower Decks), then in my view, you're not really meeting the brief. You're writing a part of an RPG.

It's not wrong to do that, but what I'm flagging up here is that there's a lot of complexity as to what "100 pages" (which has also been phrased as a "short RPG") really entails UNLESS the sole goal @Reynard has is portability. Then things become pretty clear again.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Does "Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn" count?

Another favorite would be the 5e Essentials Kit, which covers up to level 6 (BX or BECMI's Basic could be good, BUT, they only go up to level 3 which I don't consider enough game for a more complete RPG feeling these days).

The initial Dragon Age Set (I'd say Fantasy Age, but that may be thicker than what you'd consider) was pretty sweet as well.
 

Have to push back on the premise here a bit, since the parameters are pretty unclear. As @Ruin Explorer noted, typesetting varies wildly, and page numbers can be a really bad measure of book length.

Scum and Villainy, for example, a Forged in the Dark game that's by no means rules-heavy, clocks in at about 354 pages. But it's an A5 digest-size book, so it's not that it uses large fonts, just fonts that appear bigger in a PDF than games with more words per page (because they have larger pages). When you hold it in print, it's much more obvious that despite its 350+ page count, its not some hefty tome.

Vaesen, on the other hand, seems pretty slim, coming it at about 212 pages. But it's an 8.5x11 book, with much bigger pages than SaV.

The word counts on them are more telling. About 112,000 for Scum and Villainy, and 94,000 for Vaesen. So SaV is longer, but not massively longer, which isn't reflected in its 140 or so more pages.

All of which is to say, remember that indie games are often in digest form these days, so what might seem in a PDF like big fonts or a surprising amount of white space is sometimes just the digital equivalent of you holding the page real close to your face. But also for various reasons page counts are kinda meaningless.

I'll say that my favorite short game right now is Trophy Gold. The rules are about 41 pages, then the next 190 or so pages are adventures.

Also, it's a digest size book, iirc (print edition only just now about to release).
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I posted my thought about your request on a different thread so that i won't bring OT this one... However i have a question about your original question: what are you looking for in a 100-page game?

Hereby a summary of what you could/couldn't find in it (not exhaustive):
Rules only (pure character building and game mechanics)
Full magic system (i.e. list of spells)
Monters
Setting
Rules for DMing (i.e. the golden guidelines)
Full equipment
A thin RPG book doesn't preclude any of the things you listed.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Have to push back on the premise here a bit, since the parameters are pretty unclear. As @Ruin Explorer noted, typesetting varies wildly, and page numbers can be a really bad measure of book length.

Scum and Villainy, for example, a Forged in the Dark game that's by no means rules-heavy, clocks in at about 354 pages. But it's an A5 digest-size book, so it's not that it uses large fonts, just fonts that appear bigger in a PDF than games with more words per page (because they have larger pages). When you hold it in print, it's much more obvious that despite its 350+ page count, its not some hefty tome.

Vaesen, on the other hand, seems pretty slim, coming it at about 212 pages. But it's an 8.5x11 book, with much bigger pages than SaV.

The word counts on them are more telling. About 112,000 for Scum and Villainy, and 94,000 for Vaesen. So SaV is longer, but not massively longer, which isn't reflected in its 140 or so more pages.

All of which is to say, remember that indie games are often in digest form these days, so what might seem in a PDF like big fonts or a surprising amount of white space is sometimes just the digital equivalent of you holding the page real close to your face. But also for various reasons page counts are kinda meaningless.

I'll say that my favorite short game right now is Trophy Gold. The rules are about 41 pages, then the next 190 or so pages are adventures.

Also, it's a digest size book, iirc (print edition only just now about to release).
Scum and Villainy is actually a perfect example of what I'm talking about: that game should be about 50 pages (and could probably fit on two pages plus playbooks, but that's a different thing). Instead it is a couple hundred pages of self indulgence.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Scum and Villainy is actually a perfect example of what I'm talking about: that game should be about 50 pages (and could probably fit on two pages plus playbooks, but that's a different thing). Instead it is a couple hundred pages of self indulgence.
Yep. Most gamers want big, hefty books so they feel like they’re getting a well-developed and fleshed out game at a good price. But, more often than not, it’s a lot of wasted space. Overly designed mechanics, self-indulgent writing, terrible layout and design choices, over use of art, on and on.

The flip side is there are some that should be bigger than they are. Over the Edge 3rd Edition and X-Treme Dungeon Mastery come to mind. The mechanics of Over the Edge are 20-some pages (that can honestly fit on a 3x5 card) and the rest of the 278-page book is setting. And it feels like it’s not enough setting. XDM is a 192-page GM guide for any RPG with 17-pages of mechanics for Hickman’s own RPG. And it feels like there should be more advice.
 

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