Escapist > Projects > Young Person's Adventure League > The Adventurer's Atlas Page 3

An Escapist project of introducing young people
to the exciting world of adventure games

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Factually Answered Queries - questions and answers

The Adventurer's Atlas - a list of suggested games for young people

The Dromedary's Dispatch - News and updates on the YPAL and adventure games

The Navigator's Notebook - play reports and reviews of adventure games

The Tinkerer's Toolbox - tips, tricks, and helpful hints

 

You have reached the third page of the Adventurer's Atlas, which includes 
Here There Be Monsters, Sci-Fi Realms, Slightly Spooky Lands, Time Tunnels, Toonopia, and Systems & Resources

HERE THERE BE MONSTERS

Not all monsters are bad. That's just a negative stereotype! Fight for the rights of monsters with one of these RPGs, and show the world what good monsters can do.

DRAGON

Please see the full entry in the FANTASY REALMS section. 

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MONSTERS AND OTHER CHILDISH THINGS
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:
x 7-8

Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
Cover Price: $14.99 PDF
Availability: Buy it here at DriveThruRPG
Summary: Kids and their secret monsters from beyond time and space learn to cope with life, school, family, friends, enemies, and other secret monsters from beyond time and space.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d10s  [?]
Supplements: Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor, Curriculum of Conspiracy.

Review coming soon!

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MY MONSTER
COMPLEXITY:
Easy
DICE:

Publisher: John Wick
Cover Price: $5.00
Availability: Buy it here at Indie Press Revolution
Summary: Players design monsters and send them on adventures.
Complexity: Easy
Dice used: 1d6. You can play with just one, or have one for each player.  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Very simple, story-driven roleplaying. Encourages artistic expression. Provides many opportunites for exploring moral issues.
The Bad:
Nothing, really.
Advisory: Nothing here, either. 

My Monster is a storytelling game for young kids. In it, players are encouraged to create the details of their monster pet - their features, where they live, what they eat, and what they're afraid of - and then send them out on adventures. The game system is very simple - the player announces what they would like their monster to do, then rolls one die. Rolling low (1-3) lets the player decide what happens in the story, while rolling high (4-6) lets the "grown-up" decide. If a monster has a feature that might help them accomplish their task, such as tentacles that are good at grabbing things or chameleon skin that helps them hide, the player can roll two dice instead of one, for two chances to roll low.

Most of My Monster is written for young people - 20 of the 24 pages are devoted to explaining the game to kids, allowing them to choose features of their monster, and encouraging them to draw pictures of their monster. A three-page section for grownups gives some brief tips on how to run the game, and how to handle situations when a monster "wants" to do something bad.

I would recommend My Monster for younger kids (and their grown-ups). It's a great introduction to storytelling games.

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RAWR!
COMPLEXITY:
Easy
DICE:

Publisher: Protagonist Games
Cover Price: $14.99
Availability: Buy it here at RPGNow
Summary: Monsters go on a quest to save King Snarlblat from the nasty Nightmare Minions.
Complexity: Easy
Dice used: 2d6.  [?]
Supplements: None as of this writing.

The Good: Colorful illustrations, simple system, fun mechanics, provides opportunities to go RAAAAAWR!
The Bad:
Can't think of anything.
Advisory: Cartoon violence 

RAWR! is a colorful, energetic RPG that would be an excellent choice as a first RPG for any young people who are fond of monsters. In this game's setting, monsters were once close friends with children, and would play together every day - but over time, children grew afraid of them, and no longer desire their company. The player characters are creatures from the Land of Monsters who are drawn into a quest to save King Snarlblat from an evil plot concocted by Nightmare and his nasty minions.

The game mechanics are rather simple, and cover most of the basic concepts of RPG rules - players assign fixed numbers to a set of four attributes, use points to buy skills (like Run, Jump, Scare, etc.) and abilities (Claws, Fire Belching, Eye Lasers, etc.), and calculate four derived stats from their attributes. Some younger players may need help from more experienced players, if they choose to make their own character. Characters then receive 30 drolblats (monster money) that they can spend on equipment.

The core mechanic is a base 2d6 roll, plus skill modifier, versus a difficulty number assigned by the game master. As with all RPGs of this type, I personally recommend using dice with pips for younger players, and giving them the chance to "count the dots" of their roll. (In this method, I give them a D6 of a different color, and tell them to put it on the table with the face with their skill level facing up. Then I have them roll 2d6 and add all of the dots that they see - this helps them understand how higher skills help their roll.)

This game is filled with fun elements - monsters can regain wound levels by "having a snack," for example, and the entire book is filled with vibrant illustrations that are reminiscent of the Tim Burton animations, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends and other cartoons - all of which make the game more fun overall.

RAWR! is a perfect choice for young people who love monsters, and would enjoy the opportunity to have some monstrous adventures - it's quick and easy to set up and play, and comes with a great starter campaign.

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SCI-FI REALMS

Strange aliens, sentient robots, distant planets, massive starships, and advanced technology - if these sorts of things are up your alley, you should try one of these sci-fi RPGs.






EXOSUIT A-OK
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about cyberpunk adventures.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad: Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Exosuit A-OK is a cyberpunk themed RPG that would be a great match for any young people who enjoy near-future movies and anime like Bubblegum Crisis.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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MEN IN BLACK
Please see the full entry in the FAMILIAR WORLDS section.


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STAR FRONTIERS
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: TSR
Cover Price: FREE!
Availability: Available at starfrontiersman.com
Summary: A classic sci-fi RPG
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d10s  [?]
Supplements: Many adventure modules and supplemental material (much of it fan-created) available at the above website.

Review coming soon!

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STAR LEGION
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about the wild west.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad:
 Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Star Legion is a sci-fi RPG that would be a great rules-lite alternative for any young people who enjoy sci-fi movies and television series like Star Wars and Firefly.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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STAR WARS

Please see the full entry in the FAMILIAR WORLDS section.

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SLIGHTLY SPOOKY LANDS

Ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night - these are the sorts of neighbors you'll have in the Slightly Spooky Lands.






SHADOWS
COMPLEXITY:
Easy
DICE:
Any

Publisher: Harlekin-Maus
Cover Price: Free
Availability: Free on the web - PDF version available here
Summary: A VERY rules-lite RPG where each character has a "shadow" that acts against their wishes as they attempt to do things.
Complexity: Easy
Dice used: Two of any type of dice, each of a different color - preferably a pair for each player.  [?]
Supplements: None

The Good: VERY rules lite - as in, the rules fit on just a couple pages, and can be taught in a matter of minutes. The rules encourage and reward co-operative play.
The Bad: No setting, background, or scenarios to play - you will need to concoct all of these things yourself. But, most gamers feel that's a big part of the fun! No skill system is in place at all - rather, characters are expected to be able to do anything that the players can do. No rules are present for competitive actions - two characters fighting over an object, for example.
Advisory: Possible supernatural themes.

Shadows is an excellent starter RPG for young people. Players take on the roles of characters who are just like they are, except that each has a shadow that acts against them whenever they try an action. A player announces something that they would like their character to do, then announces how their Shadow is trying to thwart their action. The dice determine the results of their efforts - if the Shadow rolls higher, then they fail, if the character's die meets or beats the Shadow's, then they succeed. Tokens are used to help other players - each token donated to another player after a roll allows them a chance to re-roll.

Shadows encourages co-operative play through the token system, and creative thinking and artistic skills. A character is generated by drawing a picture of them, their Shadow, and the dice that they plan to use for each - this gives young people a clear picture of their character and how the game is played. Because the most difficult game mechanic is comparing two numbers to see which is the highest, Shadows could be played with very young children to introduce them to the concept of role-playing games.

Be aware that Shadows contains no skill or ability system - every character can do anything as well as any other, and there are no superpowers or extraordinary abilities. All games begin with the characters waking up for one reason or another - other than this, the game contains no background, setting, or scenarios, so you will have to create all of these things beforehand, or as you go. Since the whole idea here is to run something simple and fast, that shouldn't be too difficult, even for a intermediate gamemaster.

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TIME TUNNELS

Take a step back in time to bygone eras. Experience histories (or alternate histories!) firsthand in - The Time Tunnels!

BLOODE ISLAND
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about pirates.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad:
 Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Bloode Island is an RPG about swashbuckling pirate adventures that would be a great match for any young people who enjoy movies series like Pirates of the Carribean.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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DAISHO
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about samurai.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad:
 Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Daisho is a historical RPG that would be a great match for any young people who enjoy ancient Japanese history and culture.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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GURPS SOURCEBOOKS

GURPS stands for Generic Universal Role-Playing System, a set of rules created by Steve Jackson Games. that are designed to accommodate any sort of genre. Along with the basic rules, Steve Jackson publishes a wide variety of sourcebooks for the game that cover many genres, including several historical ones. There's even a Time Travel sourcebook to help adventurers jump between time periods! 

A small sampling of GURPS sourcebooks published over the years, from all four editions of the game. This is only a small fraction of the variety of GURPS books that are available.

For more information on GURPS sourcebooks, visit the entry in the SYSTEMS & RESOURCES section.

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OG: THE RPG / LAND OF OG / OG: UNEARTHED EDITION

COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:
x ?

Publisher: Wingnut Games (Land of Og's webpage)
Cover Price: $7.95
Availability: In print from Firefly Games
Summary: A prehistoric role-playing game where the players can only use a small set of words to speak in character.
Complexity: Easy
Dice used:
A pair of d10s and a few d6s  [?]
Supplements: The Complete Caveman's Club Book, also available at Wingnut's site.

The Good: Rules-lite. Inexpensive. Funny. Speech limitations make for creative use of language
The Bad: Nothing, really.
Advisory: Cartoon violence. The name of one ability in Land of Og has a rude word in it, but it can easily be renamed to "Save Your Hide" or simply "Luck."

A great "(root)beer and pretzels" game for young people, Og/Land of Og is a roleplaying game set in prehistoric times, where cavemen and cavewomen struggle to get through their daily lives and avoid becoming dinner for some giant reptile.

Og and Land of Og are two editions of the same game. Land of Og is the revised edition, with expanded rules, a set of live-action guidelines, and a bonus reprint of the original Og game (something closer to a wargame than a role-playing game). You do not need the original Og to use the Land of Og book.

Og/Land of Og plays like most any other rules-lite RPG, with one twist - characters can only speak with a limited vocabulary. When a player speaks in character during a game of Og, they may only use words from a 16-word list that includes "go," "you," "smelly," "rock," and "verisimilitude" (a bonus word NOT FOUND in the original Og, by the way...)

So, a player speaking as their character would not say "I'm going to throw a rock at that lemur over there," but would instead say "Me go rock bang small tree thing." Speaking this way is very challenging, and can make for some very creative speeches during the game.

Because of the simple system and subject matter, either of the two editions of Og would make a great impulse game - something to play when the mood strikes, or while waiting for players to show up to your regular game. Land of Og's character creation system is more involved than the original edition of Og, which would make the earlier game a little better for on-the-spot gaming. 

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PAX GLADIUS
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about ancient Greece.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad: Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Pax Gladius is a historical RPG that would be a great match for any young people who have an interest in the history and culture of ancient Greece.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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SIX GUN
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7
Cover Price: $3.95
Availability: Available at Deep7's website, deep7.com
Summary: A mini-RPG about the wild west.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6s  [?]
Supplements: None.

The Good: Inexpensive. Great for one-shot adventures
The Bad: Character death is easy (though this could easily be changed)
Advisory: Cinematic violence.

1PG games are a series of role-playing games with one page of rules, a character sheet, and a handful of scenarios, all at a very affordable price. The games are rules-lite - in fact, the entire rule set fits on a single page.

Six Gun is a wild west RPG that would be a great match for any young people who have an interest in classic western films and books.

Find out more about these mini-RPGs at the 1PG atlas entry. 

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TOONBURG

Welcome to lovely downtown Toonburg, where chaos and mayhem are the order of the day. The weather forecast for today calls for sunshine, followed by the occasional shower of anvils, and the department of natural resources has announced that they're still not certain if it's duck season or rabbit season. The mayor would like to remind you to please exercise extreme caution when visiting Toonburg - it is a very silly place.

BIG EYES, SMALL MOUTH
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Guardians of Order (BESM webpage)
Cover Price: $30.00
Availability: Second edition revised is out of print, and Guardians of Order have recently closed their business. Check your local game store or eBay for a copy. A 'fastplay' trial version of the game is available here.
Summary: Anime-styled adventures in any genre - mecha, sci-fi, fantasy, pocket monsters, you name it!
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d6  [?]
Supplements: Many to be found on the BESM product page, including Cute and Fuzzy Seizure Monsters (a spoof of the Pokemon genre), Big Ears Small Mouse, Space Fantasy, and BESM Dungeon, a treatment of D&Desque high fantasy in the anime style. Free supplemental material, including character sheets and a couple of adventures, are available on the downloads page.

The Good: Can be rules-lite. Flexible rules allow for lots of different settings.
The Bad: No substantial setting information - you'll need to cook one up or purchase a supplement.
Advisory: Depending on the genre being played, can contain swashbuckling or cartoon violence, fantasy magic, and supernatural themes. The name of one character attribute contains a minor expletive ("_ _ _ _ Healthy!"), which can easily be changed to something more appropriate ("Very Healthy," perhaps).

Named for the typical facial features of your average anime character, Big Eyes Small Mouth (or BESM for short) is a multi-genre anime roleplaying game. This means that many different settings can be played with the rule system - sci-fi, high fantasy, cyberpunk, mecha, or any combination of the above.

BESM sports a simple, flexible game system that works well with most genres. The biggest downside to the game is that it doesn't contain a specific setting, which means you will have to purchase a setting book, or design one yourself. There are several short setting ideas near the back of the book that will get you started.

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CARTOON ACTION HOUR
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:
x 5

Publisher: ZMan Games
Cover Price: $18.00 PDF
Availability: Buy it here at DriveThruRPG.
Summary: A multi-genre RPG that works to emulate the action cartoons of the 1980s.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: d12s, as many as five (for high-powered games).  [?]
Supplements: "After These Messages" e-magazine, Darkness Unleashed (a sort of GI Joe with monsters), Metal Wars (similar to Transformers), Star Warriors (a space opera setting).

The Good: Point-based character creation system helps teach simple resource management. Customizable Special Abilities allow for lots of different types of characters. Character death is extremely rare.
The Bad: More sample Special Abilities would be useful, to speed up character creation.
Advisory: Cartoon violence, possible supernatural themes (depending on the genre being played).

Cartoon Action Hour brings the realm of 80s action cartoons to the gaming table - classic animated shows like HeMan, Transformers, Thundercats, GI Joe, and others. The rules are designed to make it easy to run any sort of action cartoon - sci-fi, sword and sorcery, transforming robots, or just about anything else you can imagine.

Characters are made by spending a set amount of points on traits, abilities, and special abilities. To attempt a task, a player rolls a twelve sided die and adds the appropriate score (rated between -2 to +4) to the result, attempting to beat a difficulty number set by the Game Master. A natural 12 (rolled on the die before the modifier is added) gives an added bonus - the character's "Oomph" score is added to the roll, for an even better result. Characters can also have super traits, which allow for additional dice to be rolled and the highest number counted. Characters also have "Stunt Points" which can be used to improve rolls, or perform drastic last-ditch feats.

The layout of the book and the terminology of the game support the "80s cartoon" genre. Game sessions are called "episodes," and a series of 10-15 episodes are a "season." There's even an optional procedure for running the after-show message, where characters from the cartoon instruct the audience in safety, manners, and morals. If you're old enough to remember the great action cartoons of the 80s, the Recommended Viewing section will bring back a lot of memories, and may even remind you of a few cartoons from that time that you might have forgotten about.

"Iconia - Warriors of the Cosmos" is included to start you out with a basic setting to play in, and there are 23 "setting seeds" - simple outlines of different cartoon series and the types of characters and adventures they contain - to give you ideas for building your own 80s action cartoons. ZMan's site features Cartoon Action Hour downloads, forums, a picture gallery, and more - http://www.zmangames.com/products/CAH/

In all, Cartoon Action Hour is a flexible game system that works hard to evoke the feeling of those excellent after-school and Saturday morning cartoons, and is packed with enough background and idea seeds to fuel many adventure sessions. Older folks who remember those classic cartoons would easily have just as much fun running adventures for young adventurers who have never experienced them firsthand.

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MEDDLING KIDS

Please see the entry in the FAMILIAR WORLDS section.


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POKEMON JR. ADVENTURE GAME

Please see the entry on the FAMILIAR WORLDS section.

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SAILOR MOON

Please see the entry on the FAMILIAR WORLDS page.

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TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES AND OTHER STRANGENESS

Please see the entry in the FAMILIAR WORLDS section.

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TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE
COMPLEXITY:
Easy
DICE:

Publisher: R. Talsorian Games
Cover Price: $10.00-$12.00 (used)
Availability: Out of print - check eBay or Amazon for a used copy.
Summary: Teenagers attending an inter-galactic high school find all kinds of wacky adventures.
Complexity: Easy
Dice used: 1d6, preferably one for each player  [?]
Supplements: Rare

The Good: Rules-lite. Younger kids love to play teenagers. Contains photocopyable play money to use for allowance and transactions. 'Episode Guide' at the end of the book is great for story inspirations.
The Bad: Layout makes for difficult reading (the sample characters are parked in the middle of the rules, for example)
Advisory: Cartoon violence. Minute amount of racy material.

Teenagers from Outer Space (or TfOS for short) is an anime-styled RPG set in an integrated high school - one that integrates teenagers from all over the galaxy. Players can create characters from any part of the galaxy they choose, with one or more of 23 different strange powers.

TfOS uses a very rules-lite system, and the focus is on fast and funny play, rather than serious number-crunching. Players roll 1d6 and add an appropriate skill score when they attempt something - the GM then rolls 1d6 and adds the skill score of their opponent, or a difficulty number if it's unopposed. The higher roll wins, and the GM wins any ties.

One unique feature of TfOS is the copyable character sheet, which includes images of play money that you can cut out and hand to players as allowance, income, rewards, et cetera. This could easily be used as a tool for teaching money and resource management.

Games like TfOS are popular with young people, especially kids and tweens, who are always eager to play the roles of teenagers.

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TOON
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Cover Price: $16.95/PDF edition
Availability: Out of print, but available as a PDF on Steve Jackson's e23 site. For a print copy, check local game stores, Amazon, or eBay.
Summary: The cartoon roleplaying game - players can make most any sort of cartoon character they wish, then jump into a game of complete lunacy.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used: 2d6  [?]
Supplements: Three big books of extra material - Tooniversal Tour Guide (new settings and adventures), Toon Tales (more new settings and adventures), and the Toon Ace Catalog (more new settings and items). All are out of print - the Tooniversal Tour Guide is available as a PDF on e23 - for a print copy of it or the others, check your local game store, Amazon, or eBay for used or backstock copies.

The Good: Fast, light-hearted play. No character death. Random plot tables allow for spontaneous playing with little or no preparation.
The Bad: Try as I might, I can't think of a single thing.
Advisory: Cartoon violence, fantasy magic (in some of the supplements)

(This discusses the 1991 edition of Toon, a thick, 212-page book - not the thinner book that was published in the mid-80s. Both are lots of fun, but the deluxe edition has much more information in it. Try to find that one over the older edition, if possible.)

Toon is the cartoon roleplaying game - a fast, light-hearted game where action and chaos beat out plotting and planning most every time. Players can choose ANYTHING for their character type, from a wisecracking cat to a robotic toaster, and the skills and "Shticks" (special abilities) allow them to build the kind of character that they like.

Toon features a couple of unique game mechanics, such as the Fall Down rule - if a character loses all of his hit points, rather than die, the character Falls Down. He becomes burnt and crispy and crumbles into a little pile of ash, or he is squashed flat by the steamroller and has to find a bicycle pump to re-inflate himself, or any other sort of appropriate character demise. When a character Falls Down, the player must sit out the game for two minutes (in real time) while the rest of the players go about their business. When the two minutes are up, the character is back in the game, as good as new (or with telltale signs of the previous misfortune - anything goes, as long as it's funny).

Other cartoony rules include the Walking Off Of A Cliff rule (if this happens, your character must make a Smarts check to see if they realize they're walking on air - if they make it, they start to fall, but if they miss it, they're still too dumb to realize that they should be falling), and the Back Pocket rule (everyone has a back pocket where they keep things, even if they don't wear any clothes).

Players are rewarded with Plot Points whenever they act out their character appropriately, cause another character to Fall Down, or whenever the player does something that makes the GM burst out laughing. They can use these points to improve their character's skills, buy new Shticks, or even buy one-shot Shticks which can be used in the next game, but only once.

(As a house rule, I allow players to re-roll a skill check by spending a Plot Point, mostly because characters aren't re-used often enough to make character improvement very valuable.)

Toon can be played with a prepared adventure, or completely off-the-cuff. Because story and plot take a back seat to madness and fun, a story that makes sense isn't really necessary. In fact, the Toon rulebook contains an "Instant Adventure Generator" that will help you create a wacky scenario to play in just a few die rolls! This makes it a great game for those times when you have a bunch of players, but nothing ready to run for them.

Toon is a great game to play with kids - it's easy to learn, plays quickly, and it's full of laughs.

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SYSTEMS & RESOURCES

One of the great things about roleplaying games is how the GM and players can mold and shape them into something all of them can enjoy. If the rules of a game are too complex or confining, with some work, they can be stripped out and replaced with something new under the hood.

Below are some examples of RPG systems - just the rules, and little or no setting material included - that could work well with young people, and replace any clunky rule sets that you don't care for. Because these are just rules, no setting or story content, there are no Advisories listed.

1PG GAMES
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:

Publisher: Deep7 Games

Review coming soon!


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FUDGE
COMPLEXITY:
Easy-Medium
DICE:


(Special Fudge dice)

Publisher: Grey Ghost
Cover Price: $34.99, though there is a free lite version available
Availability: In print (check your local game store or online at Grey Ghost Press), and also available as a free PDF
Summary: An RPG toolkit that uses adjectives instead of numbers to describe skills, abilities, and success rolls.
Complexity: Easy to Medium
Dice used: dFs - Fudge dice, special six-sided dice with two faces each of pluses, minuses, and blanks. You can get them from Warehouse 23 in basic or bright colors - $15.00 for a set of 20 dice (5 different colors), plus a dice bag.  [?]
Supplements: A few available on the Fudge product page, plus supporting material on the web (Fudge Factor)

The Good: Rules-lite. System uses a series of words in place of numbers to describe abilities and skills.
The Bad: Uses special dice that are mostly unusable with other games (dice are inexpensive, and with some extra effort, the game can be played with regular d6s or d4s - but this can be confusing to kids)

Fudge is a role-playing "kit" as well as a system. Gamemasters can decide what abilities and skills are available to a player, depending on the genre of game that is going to be played. Because the system uses words instead of numbers, it is easy to convert material from other games into Fudge.

The game uses seven levels to describe skills, attributes, and successes - Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good, Great, and Superb, and four specially marked six-sided dice. In place of numbers, each die has two pluses (+), two minuses (-), and two blank faces. When a player attempts an action, they check their appropriate stat, then roll the dice to see how much it should be modified. Pluses and minuses negate each other, so a roll of + + + - would factor out to two postives (the negative cancels one of the three). Blanks count as nothing.

So a player with a Strength of Fair would modify it by two steps up the Fudge Level chart, to a final result of Great. If the difficulty of the action was Great or lower, then the check was a success - if it was Superb, he didn't make it.

A handful of Fudge supplements are available in print, such as Terra Incognita, a great exploration setting. You can find even more material online, especially in the online magazine Fudge Factor.

On the downside, Fudge uses dice that are unique and mostly unusable with other games. The dice aren't very expensive, however, and there are alternatives available that use more common dice (though these can be confusing to kids). A Fudge Factor article on making your own Fudge dice out of regular six-siders with pips can be found here.

Fudge is great for using in place of any system that you feel may be too complex for your players, and the word-based system is excellent for those who think more in terms of words than numbers.

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GURPS SOURCEBOOKS

COMPLEXITY:
Medium-Complex
DICE:

Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Cover Price: Variable
Availability: Variable
Summary: VERY variable!
Complexity: Medium (GURPS Lite) to Complex (standard GURPS), or variable, depending on the system being used
Dice used: d6s, at least three, preferably three for each player.  [?]
Supplements: TONS. Far too many to mention here.

The Good: A massive amount of quality sourcebook material that is usable with any roleplaying system.
The Bad: System can be very complex. Out-of-print books can be hard to locate at times.
Advisory:
Varies by book. Please use discretion when presenting role-playing material to young people.

GURPS stands for Generic Universal Role-Playing System, a set of rules created by Steve Jackson Games and still in print today. The rules are designed to accommodate any sort of genre - fantasy, superheroes, science fiction, historical - or mix and match genres to create something truly unique (Kung-Fu Space Vikings, anyone?)

GURPS is actually a game system, and does not contain any setting material on its own. The system itself is pretty complex for kids, and would probably have to be simplified a lot to keep it from bogging down the game for them. A free, simplified version of the rules is available in the form of GURPS Lite, which can be downloaded here.

But this listing isn't about praising GURPS - it's about praising GURPS sourcebooks, which come in an amazing variety, are packed with information on their subject matter, and - here's the best part - are great for using with any other RPG that you prefer. Each GURPS book is like a gaming textbook of information on the subject at hand, with facts, chronology, history, and even tips on crossing the material with other genres.

A small sampling of GURPS sourcebooks published over the years, from all four editions of the game. This is only a small fraction of the variety of GURPS books that are available.

There are GURPS books devoted to geography and culture (Japan, China, Russia, Egypt), historical periods (Middle Ages, Old West, Ice Age), setting elements and characters (Religion, Villains, Dinosaurs), genres (Cyberpunk, Horror, Space, Steampunk), and even historical characters and "What if?" possibilities (Who's Who 1 & 2, Alternate Earths 1 & 2).

It bears repeating that you don't need to play GURPS to use most of this material, and the material that is system-specific to GURPS is usually very easy to convert. Each GURPS sourcebook is packed with enough information and ideas to be useful to any gamer who is interested in the subject matter.

The list of GURPS sourcebooks is so large that it wouldn't be feasible to post it here - plus, new books are coming out constantly, so such a list would hardly ever be up-to-date. Your best bet for finding a GURPS book to suit your needs is to check out SJ Games site at http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/ to see what is available - and if you can't find it for sale on their site or in your local game store, try an eBay search to see if you can score a used copy.

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RISUS - THE ANYTHING RPG
COMPLEXITY:
Easy
DICE:
x 6

Publisher: Cumberland Games
Cover Price: FREE! Click here for your copy!
Availability: In print, and available in mere moments
Summary: A simple rule system that uses cliches instead of attributes, skills, or character classes
Complexity: Easy
Dice Used: d6s - at least 6 of them, preferably 6 for each player. Some rules allow for other dice to be used for superhero or other powerful characters.  [?]
Supplements:
Many, most are free, all are scattered all over the internet. Visit the main Risus page for links to most of them.

The Good: FREE! Lots of supplemental material to be found on the internet.
The Bad: Intermediate and experienced gamers may find it to be too general.

Risus: The Anything RPG is a rules-lite system that drops abilities and skills and replaces them with cliches. A player gets ten dice to spend on as many of these cliches as they like - each one defines what type of character they are. So, if a player wanted to create a noir-style private investigator, they might create the following cliches for him:

Private investigator(4), Ex-Policeman(3), Jazz Enthusiast(2), Coffee Addict(1)

Those cliches create a basic idea of the type of character he is. When a player tries to perform an action, he uses the cliche that is most appropriate. This P.I. would roll 4 dice to search for a clue or fire a gun, 3 dice to know a specific law or police procedure, 2 dice to recognize a jazz song heard through an open window, and 1 die to talk someone into buying him a cup of joe.

Rules are included for Hooks and Tales, which encourage players to flesh out their character even more in exchange for more starting dice. There are also Pump and Double Pump rules, which give emergency bonus dice to skills in exchange for a penalty price in later rounds. Combat consists of cliche rolls compared to one another - the losing roll loses a die on all future rolls, and when one of a character's cliches reaches 0, they have lost the combat.

Risus has achieved quite a following, with many fan-made rules and supplements available online - check the Risus website to see what's out there.

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SAVAGE WORLDS
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:


Publisher: Great White Games/Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Cover Price: $19.95 PDF / $29.99 print
Availability: In print and available as a PDF
Summary: A fast-paced RPG system
Complexity: Medium
Dice Used: A nearly-full set (without the d20) - d4, d6, d8, and d12 - with one extra d6 for the "Wild Die." A set of standard playing cards with the Jokers included is used for initiative, but this is optional.  [?]
Supplements:
Many available online at PEG's website, including 50 Fathoms (swashbuckling), Evernight (fantasy), Necessary Evil (supers), and more.

The Good: Easy to convert other gaming material to the Savage Worlds system. Has a very active and helpful online community (see below). Game mechanics are very simple and straightforward. The use of playing cards creates a familiar element to the game rules. Rules can also be used to run miniatures wargames and large-scale battles.
The Bad: Core book is somewhat limited in scope, but this is remedied by supplemental material. Some of the text is a little racy, but never vulgar.

Savage Worlds describes itself as "Fast, Furious, and Fun!", and they're not kidding - the game system is quick, easy to learn, and has many elements that make it fun to play. Skills and attributes are rated by die type - d4 through d12 - and actions are resolved by rolling the appropriate die to beat a target number (usually 4). "Wild Cards" - characters that are especially gifted (this includes all of the player characters and some of the villains and monsters) get a "wild die," an extra d6 that they can roll during every check, with the option of taking the better roll of the two.

Bennies are benefits handed out to the players at the beginning of the game, usually represented by tokens, that can be spent to reroll an undesired result. The gamemaster also gets a pool of bennies to use for the villains and monsters in the adventure.

Standard playing cards are used for initiative - determining which characters get to act first in a round. The gamemaster hands a single card to each player and one (or more) to himself for any opponents that are involved. The highest cards, starting with the Ace, act before the others, unless someone draws a Joker - then that character goes before all others, and gets a bonus to her actions. There are even special abilities that can be used whenever a Joker is drawn. Familiar elements like playing cards can be helpful in teaching new players the rules of the game.

Savage Worlds has a very devoted fan base. If you have a rules question, need help with a conversion, or just want to talk to other players, you can join the forum at www.peginc.com/forum. The Savage Worlds Explorer's Society is the official game master's club, and offers nifty playing aids like player's mats and tent cards, as well as member benefits for running the game at conventions and clubs. There's also a wiki - Savagepedia.

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TRI-STAT DX
COMPLEXITY:
Medium
DICE:
Any x 2

Publisher: Guardians of Order
Cover Price: Free, though a print version is available for a price.
Availability: Downloadable at DriveThruRPG,
Summary: A free RPG system packed with a ton of options.
Complexity: Medium
Dice used:
Any - the system is scalable to use any type of die as the main die. Whichever die type you choose, you will need at least two of them, preferably two for each player.  [?]
Supplements: Many RPGs have been built around this system, including Big Eyes Small Mouth (see above) and Silver Age Sentinels.

The Good: Free. Lots of material packed into a free game. Scalable system means that you can control the power level of the game - or play using the dice that are available on hand.
The Bad: Some of the text is a little dense. The scalable system makes character creation a little more complex.

Tri-Stat dX is a free RPG system that gives you the most for your download. The core book is packed with options - skills, defects, superpowers, even rules for creating vehicles. The system is unique in that it is scalable - the setting determines what type of dice are used, which, in the end, determines how difficult actions will be for all characters. Tips are given for scaling the system for 30 different genres.

Skills have variable point costs, depending on the setting, which can complicate character creation a little. But this could always be avoided by sticking to the Multigenre costs and discarding all of the rest.

If you are looking to start a campaign completely from scratch, and you would like to do it on the cheap, Tri-Stat dX may be your best choice.

 

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