There are plenty of fantastic systems available to gamers that come in a variety of complexities. While many of the “crunchier” games offer a lot to gamers, I personally find that rules-lite gaming offers just as much, but in a different way. These games often let myself and my players tell a good story without worrying too much about how far they can move in a turn or how many times they can cast a certain spell. An upside to rules-lite games is that they are easy for everyone at the table to grasp so you can jump right in. To sweeten the pot, many rules-lite games can be had for free. Below are five of my personal favorites. All of them are also “generic” meaning they can handle just about any genre you throw at them!
1) FATE Accelerated
One of the most popular narrative systems available, FATE Core is derived from the FUDGE RPG and uses a nifty system of player defined abilities called aspects. FATE itself is rules medium, though it relies heavily on the imaginations of the players and Game Master. Evil Hat Productions then released a lighter version that was much easier to take on the go and accelerated gameplay. This version uses the aforementioned aspects and 6 approaches that define how your character will attempt to perform a task. Will they be forceful? Flashy? These kind of approaches determine the narrative direction for the action taken. The game itself is released under the Open Gaming License.
2) Mini Six
This fantastic little gem was created using the Open D6 system, which originated as the Star Wars RPG by West End games. While Open D6 itself is available as a system reference document, I personally find Mini Six to be a better and more streamlined version of the game. The system itself uses a dice pool, allowing players to roll a number of d6’s equal to their stat+skill and add the results together. It’s a simple and straightforward game with several example settings and various optional rules included.
This wonderfully goofy game has been around for 25 years and is still going strong. It is a whopping four pages long, with all the rules you’ll need to tell a great story. This game also relies on a dice pool mechanic where players roll a number of d6’s equal to their most relevant stat (referred to as cliches) and adds them together. The main pull of the game for many players are the cliches, which are player defined stats that can range from something like “Lady’s Man” to “Lovable Cyborg Bear.” Risus has a thriving community and is worth checking out if you like very simple and narrative games.
Prose Descriptive Qualities (PDQ) is another RPG that uses player defined stats (called Qualities) that range from Poor to Master level. Each level grants a penalty or bonus on a 2d6 roll. When a character fails at a task, they decrease the level of the the Quality rolled, which works well narratively to showcase how they are worn down by their failures. Several fantastic games have been made using this engine including the fantasy game Zorcerer of Zo and the superhero powerhouse, Truth & Justice.
This game boasts itself as an RPG in just two pages. While this is mostly true, it’s worth noting that the player’s guide and the Game Master’s guide are each two pages. The core mechanic is simple: roll 2d6+stat; a seven or higher is a success. The system offers skills that grant special abilities to make your character stand out more. While the game is rather small, it is most definitely complete and offers a variety of simple and compact rules to handle various scenarios. While the basic aesthetic is fantasy, the game can handle any genre. There are a plethora of mini settings for the system that can be had on the cheap as well.
It is my firm belief that an amazing campaign can be had with nothing more than a few friends, dice, and some scrap paper. There isn’t really a need for stacks of books, miniatures, and an in-depth understanding of the game in question. So what are you waiting for? Go tell a story.
Nathan Carmen is the founder and head writer of the Indie RPG company, Tricky Troll Games. Nathan loves building worlds and improving his craft when he’s not busy parenting. Reach Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the TTG website at https://nathanccarmen.wixsite.com/trickytrollgames
Picture Reference: https://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-kickstarter-highlights-3-fate-accelerated-edition/
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.