Sometimes you want to sit down and play an RPG, but you don’t want to have to find a Game Master (GM) or spend the time creating characters and have five minutes to play after after hours of preparation. So, you need to come up with something that you can get up and going fast that will give you some of the same feel.
My first suggestion would be a game by Fantasy Flight, Legacy of Dragonholt. This game has you create your own characters, but then with your character, which you could probably create five character in under an hour, you take them through various scenarios and adventures. by reading passages in a book and taking turns making decisions. What I like about this game is that it is inclusive, both in the NPC relationships, but also in the fact that it isn’t a dark and gritty game, so you could play it with younger children and have them make decisions for their own character easily as well. You’re not getting the gory or graphic descriptions of death, and in fact, it can be fairly hard at times to actually kill a goblin instead of just knocking them out. But it’s a fun game, and while parts are fairly linear, if you go into it expecting to have goofy fun, you can definitely succeed.
Next, Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. Now, you could just get the book, but the game is actually a ton of fun. Especially if you take turns reading the text, and making decisions as a group, but whomever is going to read next has the final say on the decision being made. This game is much faster to get up and running then Legacy of Dragonholt, but that’s because you are a generic investigator. So it loses the individuality of your characters as you are all playing the same person. That makes this game easy to solo play, and you can solo play Legacy of Dragonholt as well, but because you have characters with skills, you can miss out on some skills and paths just with playing my yourself.
Finally, there is a series of books, these are again more solo play focused books, though you can pass them around and let people take turns making decisions. The books, put out by Van Ryder Games, are graphic novels where you are creating your own character and have skills, it changes depending on the book, but you can play through a lot of different scenarios, with one scenario per book. You could take on a case with Sherlock Holmes, travel to Japan, or take on a Werewolf. With these being graphic novels, you might think that they would, like the other two, be solid options for kids or maybe even focused more so that way. I would say that these are the least kid friendly of any of the games, and while I’d strongly consider the other two with kids, from what I know about the graphic novels, I wouldn’t recommend these until they are older teenagers, but that will depend upon the kid.
There are certainly more options out there as well in the Choose Your Own adventure style of game. A game like Near and Far gives you that opportunity in a heavier board game. Most dungeon crawl style games put you in the roll of a certain class of character and you can get into the role playing aspect of that. However, with both Near and Far, and a dungeon crawl, it is going to have that longer set-up time than any of the games mentioned here, with the exception of Legacy of Dragonholt, but that, even, is only before the first game.
What I like about these games is that they are more accessible to get people into role playing than jumping straight into something like Dungeons and Dragons. Especially with Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, people remember those books and how goofy those are, and because of the nostalgia they are going to be more apt to jump into playing that game.
One final thing to add in, there are games like Fiasco and Dreamchaser. These games are much more of the classic RPG. Fiasco doesn’t have a game master, so that is nice, while Dreamchaser does. Both of them, however, the character creation is really important and part of the game creation as well, so you feel like you’re playing more so immediately as compared to just something like Dungeons and Dragons where your character might not directly tie into the main plot of the game. These games can end up having a longer total time commitment though as compared to some of the other games, though Fiasco does focus itself down pretty well. These games also require a much heavier involvement in role playing.
When you get that RPG itch, what games will you be looking to fill that need? Have you had any experience with any of these games and preferences with them?
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