August 7th, 2021

hand-eye coordination

RPG-a-Day 7: Small

Today’s prompt for RPG-a-Day is ‘Small’.

Let’s think, as a thought experiment, as to what is the absolute minimum you need to make an RPG. There are full RPGs contained on a single page (like Lasers & Feelings and all of its variants), but could you go even smaller? I think you can.
I think you only need to satisfy three requirements in order for your game to be an RPG:

  1. Players play a character. That might be obvious, but it also means you don’t play a group — the players assume the role of a singular individual.
  2. Characters have abilities or attributes that are expressed in an abstracted way. That could be D&D’s 1 to 20 scale, or Fudge’s rating of ‘bad’,’good’,’excellent’ etcetera.
  3. There is a mechanic to resolve character actions, based on the character’s attributes. There should be a procedure to answer the question of whether an action undertaken by the character succeeds.

That’s not too bad. Let’s see if we can create a little RPG that satisfies these requirements:

  1. You play a Cryptdiver, someone who recovers lost knowledge from the crypts of the precursors.
  2. You have three attributes: Buff, a measure of physical strength; Wits, a measure of your mental capabilities; and Companionship, a measure of how well you do in social situations. You can divide 10 points amongst these three. No attribute may start out below 0, no attribute may start out above 7.
  3. Whenever you attempt something in direct opposition of someone else, the character with the highest score in their applicable attribute gets their way. If there is no direct opposition, the GM will assign a target number for the task, based on its difficulty. If the score of your applicable attribute is higher than the target number, you succeed.

Of course, I’d embellish it more with information on the setting (who were the precursors? why is their knowledge lost?) and the resolution (what target number would typical tasks be? what type of tasks are governed by which attribute?), but all of the basics are there.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.