Monday, March 11, 2024

The worlds Grant Howett builds with one page

I was vaguely aware of Grant Howett as a game designer but it took Bundle of Holding’s 2024 Birthday Bundle for me to view his work as a singular vision.

He’s been pretty active as a designer and one of the things he does is make one-page RPGs. I’d seen some of them before, looking for oddball indie games. The bundle collected sixteen of them, which isn’t even most of them as it turns out.

Isaac Asimov once described the vignette as the dart gun of fiction. You just get one shot and if it doesn’t hit, well, that’s it. One-page RPGs? Same deal.

In my arrogant opinion,a one-page RPG needs two things. Mechanics that actually work and a hook that makes people want to play. Quite frankly, the more ludicrous, the more likely the hook is to work.

One of the best one-page RPGs out there, again in my arrogant opinion, is Lasers and Feelings. It’s got simple but clever and flexible mechanics. And the hook is that it’s really Star Trek so  everyone knows what kind of story you’re telling.

Despite the simplicity that’s baked into just about every one-page RPG, I don’t think they are aimed at non-gamers. There are a lot of unwritten bits to them. How to actually run or play an RPG, that kind of stuff. Things that experienced gamers can fill in without even thinking about it but will confuse non-players.

Since one-page RPGs tend to be one-shots, they really feel like they were designed for convention play. As I read Everyone is Seagulls (which reads like an adult reimaging of Mo Willems’ Pigeon books), it felt like it was designed to annoy the next table over with all the shouting.

I have to admit that I found the bundle to be a mixed if fascinating bag. Some of the games simply have too many of those unwritten elements in them. And yes, that could be overcome, particularly by experienced gamers. However, when you can pick something that doesn’t require that, particularly if it’s for a one-shot, why wouldn’t you?

My favorite game in the collection was Crash Pandas both for the concept and the mechanics. The players are a group of raccoons working together to drive a car in illegal street races. The core mechanic is having everyone decide what they want the car to do and simultaneously revealing it. Look, you know what the game is about and how it can all go crazy.

It might sound like I’ve been harsh to Grant Howett. But damn, now I’m looking for more of his stuff. Because having something that is a good one session experience is really valuable. I can’t imagine being in a never ending campaign again. But occasionally a one shot? Yeah, that would really work. In fact, before I moved away from my old gaming groups, some of us were already moving towards that.

So, yeah, Grant Howett’s game are totally worth looking at.

No comments:

Post a Comment