Request for recommendations


I used to be immersed in paper and dice role playing games, but lately not so much. The social groups I used to play with broke up, then I moved across the country. I expect it would be trivially easy to find a gaming group here in Seattle, but I barely have time to be a writer, husband, and father anymore.

But I’m not looking for help in finding a gaming group. I am looking for help in finding a game. I have the chance to turn some portion of family time to game night. Here are my requirements:

1- Relatively simple game mechanics, esp character creation. If each character has 12 stats and every attack needs six calculations to determine a hit, my 8 yo son (and adult wife) will be bored.

2- Family-friendly. No ultra-violence. No cyborg hookers. No nihilistic grime-topias.

3- It shouldn’t have too much moral ambiguity in the setting. My son, he’s not a fan of that. When he role-plays, he’s the good guy only. His mom will be the same.

4- Nothing too elaborate for the GM, either. I don’t have a lot of time as it is, but it will be difficult for me to work up elaborate scenarios for them.

5- Not too expensive. A $45 sourcebook is like a BMW–it may be gorgeous, functional, sexy, and fun, but I can’t afford it. It’s not a question of value, but one of cost.

Here are my preferences (as in would be nice but not required):

1- Something with monster-hunting or superheroes.

2- Uses lots of different kinds of dice.

3- A setting that is familiar to extremely casual fans of the genre (such as my wife). Modern day, medieval fantasy, old-time space opera will not have a steep learning curve. Fluffy Cthulhu will require a lot of explanation before we start the game.

4- Specifically designed to be played by young kids/newbies.

I wish I could find my old source books for Metagaming’s The Fantasy Trip; that’s what my friends and I played while everyone else was playing AD&D (yes, I’m old). I’m not even sure I still have them. Most of the old game books I have are Champions (too complex), Call of Cthulhu (not newbie-friendly) and the Pacesetter/Mayfair Games versions of Chill. I’ll be using the Pacesetter ed. if I can’t find something else. A previous short runthrough of the Chill 1st ed. went over pretty well.

Any ideas?

18 thoughts on “Request for recommendations

  1. I’d recommend anything with the Fudge system. I’m currently working on a game based off of the Oz books, as well as a superhero setting, using it. It’s a very simple system, and you can find support for it all over the internet.

    Do you think your son would be interested in the setting of Oz? I’m working on an adventure for Halloween that includes all the rules you need to start, and I’d be happy to send it to you. It’s a little more story-based than traditional RPG’s, but you can adapt it to however you want, and I’d be happy to send it to you when I’m done.

    You can find more info on Fudge at

    For a good Fudge supers build, check out Marvelous Superheroes at (I’m actually using it for Heroes of Oz as well as superhero).

    Hope this helps. Contact me if you want more info.

  2. Rob Smith

    I’ve noticed several role playing gameooks at Half-Price or used bookstores. I don’t know how hard they are or if they have all the necessary guides to play. Do libraries have anything to check out? I play a couple of games that are figure based (Monsterpocalypse and Heroclix) but they become a wee bit expensive. Heroclix is pretty simple and you can get some used pieces for very cheap at some gaming stores.

  3. You might look at ICONS for a light and easy supers RPG:

    It doesn’t have lots of different dice but does well in the other categories.

    Unfortunately, other than D&D red box, most of the stuff that does have lots of different dice is either pretty complex (like Earthdawn), or pretty grim/non-standard (like the new Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay from Fantasy Flight Games or the Savage Worlds game).

  4. Aaron Jones

    I’ll plug Dogs in the Vineyard for a system. The mechanics fit just what you say, it uses a bunch of different dice, and the GM’s prep is really straightforward. Since you’re playing with your son, I’d suggest tweaking the default setting (old West with the PCs as mailmen/circuit judge/marshall/preacher) and the religion. Oh, and amp up the supernatural.

  5. Hey! My library does have the D&D rules books! It hadn’t even occurred to me to check.

    Thank you for the idea. If they like the Red Box version, I’ll try them on the real deal.

  6. Thank you, that’s very nice. I don’t know how interested he would be in the Oz setting, since it was damn difficult to get him to sit down with THE WIZARD OF OZ, let alone the books.

    Still, it’s a good idea. Let me check out the FUDGE system and see what comes of it.

  7. “Dogs in the Vineyard” is a great game, but not for 8-year olds. If you can find a copy, “The Princes’ Kingdom” is similar to Dogs with a kid-friendlier setting and simpler rules.

    I’ve heard from other parents that they’ve had good luck with “Mouse Guard”, based on the comic of the same name. It only uses one kind of dice, but it has a good rep.

    Daniel Solis’ “Happy Birthday Robot” may be of interest.

    John Harper (from Seattle) is working on Wildlings, about children having adventures and exploring in a fantasy wilderness. It’s not released yet but looks very good.

    Vincent Baker (who wrote the brilliant Dogs in the Vineyard, and Apocalypse World) also wrote a game to play with his son as they walked along, called “The Nighttime Animals Save the World”.

  8. Grr. It’s my own website and it’s dropping my comments.

    “Nighttime Animals Save the World” is brilliant and I love it. I don’t know if my son will go for it since he’s never been fond of anthropomorphized animals, but I’m going to give it a try. I’m also reading about “The Princes’ Kingdom” right now. Thank you.

  9. Good suggestions so far, but there are so many good options that I feel obliged to mention a few more.

    Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies(link) is, as the name suggests, swashbuckly. It’s musketeers and airships in a fantasy setting with a very light, friendly system (the PDQ system). (The same Author also did a wonderful Oz-and-Fairy-Tales-with-the-serial-numbers-lightly-scratched-off called Zorcerer of Zo which I would be HEARTILY recommending were it not for the potential disinterest in Oz)

    Because I’m shameless, I would totally plug the Dresden Files RPG but it probably does skew a bit adult for what you’re asking for. :) Spirit of the Century fits all the criteria listed save genre – it’s pulp, and that’s not to everyone’s tastes.

    If your kid likes the Percy Jackson novels then I would actually suggest that White Wolf’s “Scion” may be worth a look, since it’s basically the same idea – kids of gods in the modern world, fighting monsters and stuff. It’s also been out long enough that you can probably find a used copy easily.

    If you want a nice general purpose system, the Savage Worlds explorers edition is about $10, and you can combine it with one of their setting books (of which there are many, some of which are also $10) to make a game pretty quickly. It’s a robust but lightweight game designed to capture the crunchiness of old school games with the time constraints that come with getting older (Spirit of the Century had similar design goals). It’s almost certainly the most generic option, and that’s good and bad, but it might be worth a look.

    -Rob D.

  10. Rob, thank you. I was tempted by The Dresden Files game, but I want my son to read the books first (he’s nearly ready for them).

    I’ll look for Scion at Half-Price Books next time we go and research the other games later today.

    Thanks again.

  11. I’d say the old MARVEL SUPER-HEROES RPG from TSR fits the bill you’re asking for. The system’s easy to pick up, flexible beyond belief, and certainly has a wide range of characters and genres to cover within its purview.

    It’s long out of print (1983-1992 was its publishing history), but a lot of materials are findable online or in game shops with older collectibles.

  12. That’s not a bad idea. I remember the game when if first came out. We were playing CHAMPIONS at the time (with its having 3 hour combat sessions) and the system looked way too simple.

    Now I think I might have preferred it.

    I’ll keep a look out for a copy.

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