"Casual" RPGs


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Aldarc

Legend
Going back to your original prompt...

I know that you bounced off of Dungeon World pretty hard, but I would say that Jeremy Strandberg's Homebrew World qualifies. It's a modified version of Dungeon World designed for one-shots, short campaigns, and convention play. It only exists in pdfs, as it is more of a fan project, which means that one can't just pick it up at a brick-and-mortar and run it.

Index Card RPG. It's super easy to read through and run. For anyone who thinks that D&D is great for "casual" play, then ICRPG takes the cake and beats it at its own game. Lay down illustrated index cards for your terrain like a board game or print out its art for monsters. It's designed for quick, easy play. With simple distances like close, near (or banana), and far. Character creation is a snap. As loot provides bonuses and HP is measured in hearts, it's super intuitive for people coming from video games too. It also has one of the better game mastery sections I have read.
 

Reynard

Legend
Index Card RPG. It's super easy to read through and run. For anyone who thinks that D&D is great for "casual" play, then ICRPG takes the cake and beats it at its own game.
I looked at this once and was taken aback by the "index card RPG" being a really long book (i think it is over 100 pages) so I did not investigate further.
 

innerdude

Legend
Tiny D6 (Tiny Dungeons or Tiny Frontiers) is absolutely perfect for this kind of thing.

You can literally teach an eight year old how to play in five minutes. Players essentially don't even need to know the rules if you're willing to coach them on when to roll dice, and how many.

Core mechanic is thus --- roll 1, 2, or 3 D6. If you get a 5 or a 6 on any of the dice, it's a success. Roll sixes on any two dice, it's a critical success.

The books are around 100 softcover pages, but 60+ pages of each book are sample scenario / mini campaign setups specifically designed to just get the game off and running. There's 10 or 12 available in each book.

You can easily do 8-10 session mini campaigns. There's enough character options that you might be able to stretch it to 16 or 20, but I could imagine it would get stale for the players much longer than that.

Edit: obviously this kind of a game requires players willing to accept a large level of GM illusionism / fiat, but I was downright shocked how much fun our Tiny Frontiers mini campaign ended up being (I was a player not the GM).
 

Aldarc

Legend
I looked at this once and was taken aback by the "index card RPG" being a really long book (i think it is over 100 pages) so I did not investigate further.
Index Card RPG 2e contains a 20 page "How to Play," about 25 pages of character creation material (covering both fantasy and sci-fi) including loot and magic, two mini-settings (fantasy: Alfheim; sci-fi: Warpshell), a game mastery section, monsters, adventures, and a section of roll tables. But it does all of this with layout like this:
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...which makes it easier to consume.

There is a 400-page Master Edition that came out recently that compiles a lot of the materials, including settings and adventures. But the core game play of the game is super quick and easy to jump into for one-shots and the like.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
We've spent almost every Sunday of the pandemic playing casual and indie RPGs requiring little to no prep. A huge source of these has been Grant Howitt's one-page RPGs, such as Sexy Battle Wizards. While I'm not normally a huge PbtA fan, we've also had fantastic fun with games like Brindlewood Bay and Pasion de las Pasiones. I've run lots of GUMSHOE (including Swords of the Serpentine), I've playtested a new low-prep game I'm working on called LOOT THE KINGDOM, and we haven't even come close to running out of games we want to play.
 

Arilyn

Hero
We've spent almost every Sunday of the pandemic playing casual and indie RPGs requiring little to no prep. A huge source of these has been Grant Howitt's one-page RPGs, such as Sexy Battle Wizards. While I'm not normally a huge PbtA fan, we've also had fantastic fun with games like Brindlewood Bay and Pasion de las Pasiones. I've run lots of GUMSHOE (including Swords of the Serpentine), I've playtested a new low-prep game I'm working on called LOOT THE KINGDOM, and we haven't even come close to running out of games we want to play.
Gumshoe is a great system.
Brindlewood Bay! Yes, this is an excellent casual game that I think might fit the bill.
Depending on the interest and age level of the group, the Kids on Bikes/Brooms? Super easy.
 


5atbu

Explorer
FAE is awesome but I think you actually have to have a prettty solid understanding of both FATE and rpgs in general to run it effectively on the fly.
But once you grok FAE then you can improv a session including setting, adventure and resolution with zero prep.

Grokking it needs not any experience of other RPGs IMHO.
 


We've spent almost every Sunday of the pandemic playing casual and indie RPGs requiring little to no prep. A huge source of these has been Grant Howitt's one-page RPGs, such as Sexy Battle Wizards. While I'm not normally a huge PbtA fan, we've also had fantastic fun with games like Brindlewood Bay and Pasion de las Pasiones. I've run lots of GUMSHOE (including Swords of the Serpentine), I've playtested a new low-prep game I'm working on called LOOT THE KINGDOM, and we haven't even come close to running out of games we want to play.

I just wanted to cosign the above. Grant Howitt has made a few dozen one-page RPGs that are all freely available. There may be a couple that seem more of a novelty than something you would actually play, but the majority would make for fun one offs that are simple to learn and run and play.

I also think that the games he's written with Chris Taylor, Spire and Heart, are both relatively simple to play and to run, although the learning process of some elements is more involved. Compared to most they're relatively simple, and have a core mechanic that is easily grasped, but they do have a lot of player options and the like which can seem overwhelming to some folks new to RPGs.
 



Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
I ran Ashen Stars for years. The system is not at its best low-prep, and character generation isn't quick.
I agree! I'll argue pretty convincingly that Ashen Stars is the least low-prep GUMSHOE game, at least in chargen. It's why I wrote the Warp Play rules that hack AS into a TimeWatch ability structure. I wanted a simpler system with more intuitive categories.

I can run a solid Ashen Stars game with little or no prep once the characters are made, though. We have all those seasons of Star Trek, Firefly, and B5 that's trained us on plot design. :D

Bubblegumshoe, Fear Itself, and Swords of the Serpentine all have fairly fast chargen.
 


schneeland

Adventurer
I have found that for pulpy action stories, Broken Compass works incredibly well - neither does it require a lot of prep nor is it very complicated for players. It might work for fantasy stories, too, but I think here you might find that you are missing at least a bit of crunch and procedure.
For that I would recommend Forbidden Lands (leaving out the whole base building part), but that's noticeably heavier than Broken Compass (though simpler or at least on the same level as D&D5). The abovementioned Barbarians of Lemuria is a solid choice for that, too.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
I am hard pressed to think of a "casual" RPG where you can experience say, a heist adventure or a spy thriller, that is easy and fast and doesn't require prep.

Thoughts?

With apologies for self-promotion: this was exactly the hole we were seeking to fill when we wrote Hollowpoint. It's a one-session heist/spy/mob game that requires almost no prep. Meant as a palate-cleanser between longer campaigns.
 

Outside of D&D type play, though, I am hard pressed to think of a "casual" RPG where you can experience say, a heist adventure or a spy thriller, that is easy and fast and doesn't require prep.

*I would say any of the rules lite OSR games are both easy to learn and require minimal prep: Knave, Maze Rats, Black Hack, Mork Borg, Cairn, Into the Odd, and innumerable other variations on those. All of those involve between 1-10 pages of rules with a number of random tables (and online generators). There's any number of one page dungeons out there that work great with those systems and are easy to convert stats on the fly.

Lasers & Feelings is free and one page long.

Then there is the vast ocean of games on itch.io.

*Edit: the osr games qualify as dnd type games
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
With apologies for self-promotion: this was exactly the hole we were seeking to fill when we wrote Hollowpoint. It's a one-session heist/spy/mob game that requires almost no prep. Meant as a palate-cleanser between longer campaigns.
An enthusiastic cheer for Hollowpoint. We played a slightly variant game where we were adult aurors tracking down deatheaters in the wizarding world, all while trying to stay below muggle notice. It was freakin' amazing. If you want a game that mirrors violent action movies and requires zilch for prep, this is a great one. I bought it in dead tree form, and I'm delighted to own it.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Some Cortex games are simpler than others - Leverage is on the simple end.
It also helps that Leverage comes pre-assembled, as one of the biggest issues with Cortex Prime is that it feels like being handed a random assortment of Legos and told to build something with it. Constructing what you want from that toolkit is sometimes easier said than done due to all the different possible configurations, which requires knowing what you want out of the game and how to do it. But if you have something pre-assembled like Leverage or Tales of Xadia, then it becomes almost trivial to play from there.
 

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