Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The tiniest things can make tiny games interesting

One of my hobbies is reading indie RPGs. I don’t know how strange that is but I do come across some strange things. Sometimes I find gems that I would like to really play. Other times, I find games that I’m pretty sure will be duds. And sometimes, I just find madness like A Flask Full of Gasoline that has actually drinking gasoline in the rules.

I just read two: Operation: Caveman and King of Slimes. I couldn’t find enough to write about either of them to make for an entertaining blog but I thought I might be fun to compare them just because I had very opposite reactions to them.

Operation: Caveman is about being prehistoric folks who are trying to get a leg up on other tribes. It uses a very simple mechanic of a single die roll with modifiers to resolve stuff. Which I do appreciate. A beer and pretzel RPG should be simple and intuitive.

However, my reaction to Operation: Caveman was ‘Why would I like play this rather than the Land of Og?’ Which is not a question I ever thought I’d ever find myself typing. Not because Og is bad. It’s a hoot. But it’s such a niche product that I thought it remain unique. Og is a touch more complex but much more richly developed. 

King of Slimes has you play a JRPG slime that’s trying to become the biggest slime while avoiding getting squished by newb adventurers who want quick xp. The whole game consists of grabbing colorful candy blindly out of a bowl to determine both an adventurer and the reward for beating the encounter. When the bowl is empty, whoever has the most candy wins and becomes King of Slimes.

Honestly, King of Slimes doesn’t cross my notoriously low threshold of being an RPG. It’s a party game (by its own admission) with a push-your-luck mechanic that looks like a combat mechanic if you squint really hard. (Okay. Every combat mechanic is a push-your-luck mechanic if you want to be honest) If you wanted to, you could add a narrative element but there’s nothing in the rules about that.

But I can see playing it, particularly with kids, and I can see easily house ruling some narrative in so it does have some legitimate RPG elements. King of Slimes isn’t going to change my life but I can see trying it at least once, which more than justifies adding it to my files.

Tiny, short form indie RPGs are odd beasts. I don’t look for my next D&D, just an interesting event. And sometimes it is the smallest details that can make the difference between interesting and not.

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