December 24, 2011 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Here is Dungeon Squad! A simple, free role-playing game intended for younger players (but enjoyable by older ones), with lots of dice rolling and action. Here's a couple of adventures for it, here's an expansion, and here's a more complex version. Here's the expansion Adventure Squad, in three PDFs: Core - Abilities - D&D 3E Classes. Here's yet another expansion.

Designed by Jason Morningstar, who wrote a couple of other awesome (but commercial) games: The Shab Al-Hiri Roach and Fiasco!

The Shab Al-Hiri Roach is a game about politics at a small 1920s university that asks, what are you willing to do to succeed? Lie about your collegues? Stab your friends in the back? Swallow a telepathic god-roach that wants to destroy civilization?

Fiasco! is an inventive storytelling game about bold plans that fail hard, in the vein of crime films like Reservoir Dogs and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
posted by JHarris (21 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
This is superb. My little grommets (6 and 4) recently came home talking about wizards and zombies and liches (LICHES!) and I was so proud. Glad that someone took the time to come up with a rule set that kids that young will be able to (mostly) grock.
posted by bpm140 at 9:12 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yay! RPGs for kids! Skewing younger, there's Happy Birthday Robot!, a little older, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. For the crunch loving youth, (and comic book reading adults) the Mouse Guard RPG is pretty awesome. And, for the LOTR fan, a nice light free game: Legends of Middle Earth.
posted by yeloson at 9:41 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Awesome. My guy is a little young for this still but I can hope that one day we'll play.
posted by safetyfork at 9:53 PM on December 24, 2011

This looks neato! We'll have to give it the once over at game night to decide if it's good enough for our kids who are likely doomed to grow up thinking that nothing good has been done in RPGs since Unearthed Arcana. Nor music created since Led Zeppelin and some band you never heard of. I weep for the future! Unless this game is in it.
posted by freebird at 10:12 PM on December 24, 2011

Each character has one each of D4, D8, and D12 to represent aspects of themselves - Wizard, Warrior, and Explorer.

That's...very, very clever. Bravo, Mr Morningstar, bravo. Just when you think you've seen it all when it comes to chargen mechanics...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:15 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've played a bunch of Fiasco with my weekly gaming group the past few weeks. It's been buckets of fun, and it also got me to finally buy Shab al-Hiri Roach after a few years of thinking it sounded cool.
posted by jiawen at 11:16 PM on December 24, 2011

Bonus points for ten-foot pole. I lol'd hard.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:54 PM on December 24, 2011

I'm looking forward to the official release of Dungeon World, a D&D-style retrofitting of the rules system from Apocalypse World. I've been playing a very spread out Apocalypse World game for the last few months, and it's been a blast. Highly recommend!
posted by kaibutsu at 12:26 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've played Fiasco a few times. It's a blast, more of the feel of an improv game than a role-playing game, but still with enough of the role-playing nature that I'd consider it a good way to introduce adults to RPGs.
Each character has one each of D4, D8, and D12 to represent aspects of themselves - Wizard, Warrior, and Explorer.
That's...very, very clever. Bravo, Mr Morningstar, bravo. Just when you think you've seen it all when it comes to chargen mechanics...
Various "die step" systems in which attribute levels are reflected by bigger or smaller dice have been with us since at least Earthdawn in '93 (which had a kind of complicated version), and have been in Savage Worlds since 2003 (in a fashion closer to this one.)

So it's a clever mechanic, and Mr. Morningstar has come up with many clever things, but this clever mechanic had some clear antecedents.
posted by Zed at 1:11 AM on December 25, 2011

Well, sorta. This mechanic lets kids hold their characters in their hands. It starts out as a fistful of different dice, d4 through d12, and each one suddenly stands for something in its own right (that is, there's an immediate and concrete link between this blue plastic cube and you throwing around bolts of lightning, or this red pentagonal trapezohedron and how good you are at waving a sword). These dice are mine. They're my dude. That's my axe. It's easy for kids to compare and contrast with their friends - your dice are lined up differently, and I can see at a glance where you're stronger or weaker. The character becomes tangible in an instant, with those chunks of polyhedral plastic serving much the same purpose as those little Skylanders figurines.

I'd argue this is far more elegant than 'start with a d4 in a bunch of stats, here are five points to raise them - OK, now we can start working out what you are using this enormous list of skills, that are linked to attributes...'. Sure, different dice has been done since HP for OD&D characters, but I haven't seen anything as...well, tidy as this.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:46 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anyone can have a tidy flat if they only own a bed, table and chair and two decorations. This is a really nice stripped down system, but its elegance derives from its minimalism, rather than conceptual superiority. None of this is a criticism of an excellent introductory system. Especially not as it's an ideal stepping stone to Savage Worlds...
posted by howfar at 5:21 AM on December 25, 2011

Huh, talk about timely.

I got my five year old some large dice and a few miniatures for Christmas, he knows I game and wants to play too. I was going to use a hyper simplified D&D mechanic, not my favorite system but I figured it'd be good for starting. This looks better.

So thanks JHarris, and thanks from my kid too!
posted by sotonohito at 5:51 AM on December 25, 2011

We played Fiasco for the first time about a week ago. It reminds me a lot of Primetime Adventures, but with less actual mechanics (which suits me fine; I'm a low-mechanics person).
posted by immlass at 9:19 AM on December 25, 2011

I played Dungeon World at a convention recently, and it was a lot of fun; a stripped down system which gives that old school feeling, but manages to avoid making characters like mages feel useless for extended periods of time. A fun beer and pizza game.

At the same convention I played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, which is about teenage pilgrims that can fly, sent out to help people with a wide variety of problems. Unfortunately, being teenagers they get in trouble a much as they help. Characters have two-part names that describe both how they get in trouble and how they solve problems. So someone named curious kitten might get led by curiosity into problems, but use cute antics to help solve the problem. In either case, you briefly write down what the character did, so you gradually build a story.
posted by happyroach at 9:25 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Great stuff! I love 1KM1KT...some people post some really insane (in both good and bad ways) games there, but then you get some real gems, like this one. These rules are dead perfect for either first-time players who you want to get up to speed fast without dumbing things down too much, or hardcore players looking for something light and experimental. I've never so much as read the rules for Fiasco!, but the idea as stated in blurbs sounds fantastic.
posted by Edgewise at 11:33 AM on December 25, 2011

I can verify that Fiasco is awesome, at least from reading the roles. At the start all the players define their characters by writing them out in index cards, and on other cards they define the relationships between them. Then the players take a big pool of dice, both white and black (precise colors don't matter so long as they're distinguishable between each other), two per player, and put them in the middle of the table.

The game takes place in two acts. The players take turns describing scenes for their characters, each one scene per part. A player can choose either to establish his scene or the outcome, but not both; whatever you decide not to do, the other players get to determine.

As you play, you accumulate a pile of dice in front of you. Between the acts, and at the end, you roll all the dice you have in front of you, light and dark, and add up the totals separately. You want the total to add up to be as far apart between the two types as possible, especially at the end. At the end, if the total of your light and dark dice are equal or off by only one or two, then it's crushing defeat for your character, that probably results in his death. The more apart the totals are, the better the outcome for your character. Of course the other players recognize this, and are likely to award you dice so that the two types are evenly distributed, because friends are good that way.

There are winners, in the sense that some players have good outcomes and some bad, but it doesn't seem like the outcome matters more than the storytelling, which I think may be important for this kind of game to work.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on December 25, 2011

At least from reading the RULES. DAMMIT
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on December 25, 2011

At the same convention I played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, which is about teenage pilgrims that can fly, sent out to help people with a wide variety of problems.

Haven't gotten to play it, but a friend of mine has it, and the rulebook is also simply a very pretty book.
posted by Zed at 12:31 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never tried any of these GM-less RPG's, although another one that I spotted on 1km1kt that looked really interesting to me was Stalin's Story. Looked like it could be a great party game even for non-gamers.
posted by Edgewise at 7:12 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, Fiasco looks incredible! We've been playing some Diaspora, which isn't as closed form and still has a GM, but has a very collaborative and improvised feel that this reminds me of.
posted by freebird at 11:53 PM on December 26, 2011

This is great. This is the first I've heard of Dungeon Squad, so I modified one of the linked scenarios, got my wife (who has played DnD 4e) and two young kids (no RPG experience) to create characters, and ran it in about an hour. It took me awhile to decide how to change things around for my youngest, but I let them pick any race and weapon they wanted to start with and decided on initiative and other things as they came up. It was a good way to play an RPG without rules getting in the way. My youngest was a lion warrior with bow and arrows, my other daughter was an elf with a sword, and my wife was a centaur with a spear. I placed the correct dice on character sheets next to the categories and we were off and running. I made sure to leave room for outside-the-box problem solving, which took some nudging but worked great, and hid magical items around the fortress for them to use next time we play. Thanks, JHarris, for sharing! It's now on our family game list.
posted by monkeymadness at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2011

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