RPG But Not An RPG
RPG’s are a lot of fun. However, a lot of RPG’s mean that you need to sit down for an extended period of time, probably multiple times, to get a whole story. Someone needs to run a game, but what can you get that’ll give you some RPG feel without that commitment. Without needing one person to be in charge, like you get with Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Fate, whatever big system you are playing.
Fortunately there are board games that can give that feel or smaller pen and paper experiences that might offer more of a one off game play. And you can do a one off game play with Dungeons and Dragons as well a one shot, but that might not be what you are looking for.
Fiasco is a pen and paper RPG, but it is one that is meant to be played in a single sitting. It is also one that you are meant to play with everyone as a player. So you lose the need for someone to be leading the story and basically having a different experience than everyone else.
Fiasco leans into the roll playing side of an RPG with impro focused prompts and collaborative story telling. It is also a game where things aren’t supposed to go that great. As the same, Fiasco, would suggest, the situations you are in and the story that is generated generally aren’t the best for the characters.
Spire’s End is going to offer you more of a mechanical combat in a game though very luck heavy. In this, you and another person, or just playing solo, delve into a spire that has appeared in your town. Of course it isn’t full of nice things. In fact, it is where almost everyone in the town is being held. So can you explore, fight monsters, and find an end where you save the day?
Thus far, that is beyond what I’ve been able to do, But if you want to see how it plays, you can watch my game play below.
Legacy of Dragonholt
One that I had in my collection for a while, Legacy of Dragonholt is a choose your own adventure story combined with some character building. And I think out of all of these, it might be the most RPG like well, after Fiasco, but Legacy of Dragon holt has more of a standard feel to it.
Now, my one knock on it is that the writing is just okay. It toes a line where it seems like it should be more serious in it’s story. And sometimes it is serious, but it is meant for families to be able to play. Mom, Dad, a kid, and you can pass around the book and let people read passages. You spend tokens and players take turns making decisions. But one that I think is pretty solid. I’d love to see a new version or a new setting just with better quality writing.
Now for something with very good writing, we have Destinies or soon coming out The Dark Quarter. You can still late pledge that one. But Destinies is a competitive game where each player is trying to fulfill their destiny. You explore the world, unlocking more of the map, rolling dice to complete challenges, and interacting with story.
Destinies uses an app to tell the story. Now you might not like apps at the table, but it does a great job. Mainly, it can keep answers to the story hidden while you play. And it can be played solo, that you can play without spoiling yourself. The app also allows for simpler interactions with items. You don’t need a massive book to cover every combination, just the data in the app.
Next up is the most board game out of all of them. Clank Legacy is going to be a game built upon the Acquisitions Incorporated crew from Penny Arcade and elsewhere. But this is a legacy style game which means to get the full story you and a group need to play it several times. However, it isn’t as long as playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons or something like that.
At the heart of it, Clank Legacy is a game where you build out a deck of cards as you play. Using those cards you are going on quests, maybe, I don’t know all the details for Legacy. But in the regular version you delve into a dungeon trying not to make too much noise. But the legacy version adds on to that.
Finally, if you want something silly, and a number of these are silly, Dungeon Party is a great option. It is a dungeon crawling game where you just get to go in and beat up monsters. But you do that by playing quarters. You bounce your token, though recommend you use actual quarters, to get to land on monsters and defeat them.
As you defeat them you get treasures that give you new abilities that you can use. This is not a drinking game, but it could easily be made into one. And that is kind of the point of it. A chance to just be goofy and have a good time around the table with that fantasy theme.
RPG’s are hard to emulate the whole experience outside of a big game. And I kept games like Gloomhaven, Folklore The Affliction, Tainted Grail, and Sword & Sorcery off the list because they are all games that require more commitment.
But I think that they are good options. And even the longer ones here, Legacy or Dragonholt, Destinies, and Clank Legacy are all shorter than your standard campaign. Plus, there is some level with them that they are easy to get to the table. For someone who wants that feel but doesn’t want to remember a plethora of stats and abilities, these attempt to make it easier.
What are some experiences that feel like an RPG without that big time commitment. Let me know your favorites in the comments below.