Not that it tries to be anything but a role playing game. But I found it in the 2019 9-Card Print and Play Contest. And those contests can be really experimental places but an RPG is still an unusual thing to find there.
And, unusually for me, I’m more interested in the mechanics of Ring Tales than the narrative concept. And I’m much more a fluff guy compared to crunch. I firmly believe people love the stories they tell with games than the tools they use to make those stories.
The concept is that you are natives of Larry Nivea’s Ringworld with the registration number filed off, although it’s a ring around a world, not a star. I’m not actually sure how that works in a ring world sense. Anyway, there are twelve locations and they help you define each scene with twelve scenes making a game.
[The first draft of this blog, I spent five paragraphs trying to explain the mechanics and I knew it was a slog so now It’s one paragraph]
Ring Tales has a rotating game master and each scene will have one conflict. There are four possible methods of resolution which really break down to force, guile, intelligence and persuasion. The game master secretly lists the potential methods in order of how well the game master decides they will do. Than players then vote in the decision. Depending on the vote, you get success, success but, failure but and failure.
Boom. That’s it.
Okay, there is more but that’s the meat and potatoes of it.
[I also have to note that the graphic design, while simple, does the job well. You track character health and how dire the global situation is by rotating cards. The game is designed to be played with just the cards. No dice, no pencils, just the cards. Which is far from unique but still nice for a light, portable RPG.]
Man, every time I look at a super rules light RPG, I always think that they are so group dependent. That you need the right chemistry and trust and creativity to tell the story. And Ring Tales is no exception. You don’t have the ‘game’ of something like Dungeons and Dragons with discrete wins and losses, with room for individual wins and losses. it’s all about working together not for a story goal but creating a story.
However, a lot of tiny RPGs are practically group therapy with an almost painful level of bleed and intimacy. Ring Tales doesn't have that. It supports the style of a casual, freewheeling adventure. And I know from experience that pushing the bleed works.
But Ring Tales isn’t about figuring out how to solve problems, even though that’s what it looks like on paper. It’s about figuring out a way to tell an interesting story with a level of hidden information or maybe even bluffing. Is that going to work or get in the way? Honestly, probably depends on the group.
I like the idea of a super portable RPG. I like collaborating to tell a story. And I like the idea of a tiny, short form game that doesn’t involve bleed but tell a more traditional adventure story. Does Ring Tales deliver? I don’t know but I like that it was tried.