Best/Favorite Thin RPG Core Book

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Like the versions of Fate people keep mentioning? None of those are complete RPGs in the same sense Esoterrorists for example is. They're simply tools to manufacture an RPG with. Black Hack and White Hack are similar. They're not complete RPGs, they're just chopped down versions of D&D, that assume you have a D&D setting and adventures to run with them, and make massive assumptions about familiarity with various D&D tropes, monsters, etc.

So, in the sense you seem to be using it, setting does not create a "complete game" either. Only scenarios will allow one to pick up a game and play without doing extra creative work.

Oh, and pregen characters. And dice. Frankly, in the implied sense, only things like the D&D starter sets are "a complete game".
 

log in or register to remove this ad

So, in the sense you seem to be using it, setting does not create a "complete game" either. Only scenarios will allow one to pick up a game and play without doing extra creative work.

Oh, and pregen characters. And dice. Frankly, in the implied sense, only things like the D&D starter sets are "a complete game".
No, I don't agree that I mean that or implied that.

I think you're looking for a specific definition in what I'm saying, whereas I'm asking, what is the definition, given the arbitrary length limit? What is apples with apples? I think if you start including RPGs with no setting at all, particularly ones that hard-require significant familiarity with an IP like Star Trek or Star Wars, next to RPGs attempting original settings, you're not comparing apples with apples, unless your sole qualification for an "apple" is "is it green and round and of a certain size", in which case you're going to be munching on an unusually-coloured tennis ball sooner or later!

I mean, I think we have three different things being listed by people here:

1) Tools to build RPGs, that aren't really RPGs. Fate Condensed/Accelerated is one of these. You can absolutely have an RPG that uses Fate, but it's an engine not an RPG in itself.

2) RPGs with no setting, that are essentially relying on providing that setting, whether it's from knowledge of a TV show, knowledge of RPG tropes, or just expecting you to come up with a homebrew setting or use an existing one.

3) RPGs that do have a setting - maybe a fairly light/implied one, but do have one, and could function even if you weren't pre-familiar with it.

I'm not saying any of these are "wrong" or "inappropriate" or whatever, I'm saying that they're apples, oranges and pears. That coming in at under 100 pages with one is not the same as doing it with another (assuming equal layout/typesetting etc.) - and that very much includes in terms of real-world utility to the GM! It's not just a theoretical or pedantic measure for once! The A5/A4 issue and layout/typesetting also have an impact of course.

I will say 2 & 3 can be close to equal in real-world utility to the GM if the GM has the knowledge for 2. But it does limit the possibilities somewhat.

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.
Actually 368! Even worse!

But because it's A5, it's pretty misleading. I agree with your view that it's too long and too self-indulgent, but I would say it's not by as much as implied. It's A5, and word-count per page is like 300-ish from what I can tell (higher than Dungeon World but not high). If it was A4, and was at 3.5E levels of text density, it'd be 105 pages, so pretty much matches your brief despite us both agreeing it's a bit self-indulgent!

I do think there is a real issue with a lot of fast-running RPGs going beyond their brief and often adding in an entire major section or three that just doesn't need to be there in the core book, which bulks them out a lot.

I guess if nothing else I'm saying we should probably be going more on word count than page count if genuinely looking for "short RPGs" (although this harder info to find), unless portability is the sole goal but then A4/A5 should presumably factor in. Also personally I'd note anything using exception-based design is going to be larger than things that don't (but simultaneously less of it will need to be known by any given player/DM).
 
Last edited:



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I think if you start including RPGs with no setting at all, particularly ones that hard-require significant familiarity with an IP like Star Trek or Star Wars

How do you classify Star Trek or Star Wars as "no setting at all"? It seems to me those have particularly well-explored settings.
 


How do you classify Star Trek or Star Wars as "no setting at all"? It seems to me those have particularly well-explored settings.
Hah, touche!

Yeah, sorry I'm being unnecessarily vague. What I mean is, do they express the setting "on the page", or simply ask you to know it "in your head", or is it some mixture thereof? Like, there are Star Trek RPGs that are lovingly detailed setting-wise, to the point where even someone unfamiliar with Star Trek the TV show could probably get what was going on. Some have a lot of detail you might not get from just knowing the TV show, like rank structures, how Starfleet actually works, and so on. There's also at least one Star Trek RPG with an actually-different setting because of the licensing, but that's a whole other Kzinti-involving discussion I guess!

I'm always tempted to dismiss this as unnecessary, but like, lot of people seem to want to run RPGs for settings they're not that familiar with, and with Star Trek I even know people whose first real exposure to Star Trek was via an RPG - albeit that was a few years back when Trek wasn't on TV except as repeats.

And I have a player in my group, who despite being a big sci-fi nerd, has literally never watched most Star Wars movies (including the OT!), has no familiarity with the general setting/tropes, and only a vague idea what Jedi are ("psychics with glowing swords"). Could he run a Star Wars RPG that didn't include some discussion of the setting, themes, intended style, common tropes and so on? Not really. I mean, it'd probably be wild, but it wouldn't be Star Wars.
 


Sir Brennen

Legend
The current edition of Savage Worlds clocks in at around 200 pages, but it's also a digest-sized book, and might be closer to 100 pages if it were a similar size and layout to a D&D book. So, does it qualify?

My two current favorites that definitely would qualify are Mork Borg and Death in Space. Both are also digest, A5 size books. Mork Borg is only 100 pages, and even that is sparsely populated with actual rules and setting info. Many pages are just art, or art with minimal text.

Death in Space has a similar approach, though a different aesthetic, and is a little more rules heavy, mainly because of the needs of a sci-fi game.

Both books contain rules, both core rules engine and specialized rules (using magic or gaining mutant powers, for example), light setting info, lots of random tables for flavor and a starting adventure.
 
Last edited:

Reynard

Legend
However i have a question about your original question: what are you looking for in a 100-page game?
I realized I didn't really answer this question.

I am looking for a complete game in 100 pages or less (let's call it 50K words). By complete I mean all the rules necessary to fulfill the promise and intent of the genre, milieu and setting presented by the game. This doesn't preclude expansions or supplements but they should not be necessary. I am not necessarily talking about RPG-newb friendly games, though. That's okay but a game as I am defining it here doesn't need to teach players how to play RPGs. Also it doesn't have to include an adventure, but may.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top