Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is "Microlite/Pocketmod" the answer to everything? Synnibar sure isn't.

I am at a loss for time lately.  I have to say that the idea of making a whole game system and world with the vivid details I desire is very overwhelming.  So I want to take a break, and then I tell myself that such breaks can last years so I should not and force myself onward.  In the struggle to force myself onward I am in effect taking a break.

In this break I have been reading and looking at things I have missed in the last year, or two.  I have become obsessed with the idea of Greywulf's ( http://home.greywulf.net/ ) Microlite20 ( http://www.microlite20.net/ ).  I think this approach is almost exactly what is needed to entice the current generation of 13 year old nerds to come to the gaming table.  

The idea of a game that fits in your pocket is very interesting to me.  Back in the day the smallest sized RPG system I had come across was "Justifiers RPG".  While the biggest single book was the "Synnibarr RPG" (**Greywulf, you should make a Micro version of Synnibarr.. lol**).  I really liked Justifiers (from what I remember), it felt like the Palladium games but a bit more "indy".  It was a munchkin game, but fun none the less ( in looking up the spelling of "Synnibarr" I came across this classic fan page - http://www.ilmatar.net/~np/rpg/Synnibarr/ ).  I think the best part of Justifiers was it was a small sized book with everything you needed to play in one place, or at least more so than the other major games of the time.

But as small as Justifiers was, it is an encyclopedia set compared to these Microlite and pocketmod editions.  They are the cliff notes of my favorite games.

So, can a game be condensed into 8 pages?  In looking at these Microlite and Pocketmod games, they are basically just the rules and some important charts.

Well, I can't say that 8 pages is enough.  I think a minimum of 12 pages of text, and around 20 with charts and pictures might be a minimum for a real game.  But the thought is intriguing.  A small system to capture a more casual gamer who has less time to devote to playing a role playing game (because often the RPG sessions I have had are a lot more like the opposite of "dream time" from Inception).

So with this new obsession, I have set to create a very light system for the casual gamer.  I am calling it "Simplify RPG" right now.  The plan is to have 3 levels of play.  Level 1 is for someone who has never played a RPG before, and that is the system I am writing right now.  Level 2 will be heavier than Level 1 and introduce basic RPG features.  Level 3 is the full-on version of the game will all the rules.

This Level 1 I am writing now is basically what you would use just for combat.  The world at this point is a good and crunchy dungeon crawl, but I have plans for a "meet interesting aliens and kill them" game as well.  The idea is to have the absolute basics to play a game which would appeal to the typical 13 year old boy.  I play tested it this weekend with my 13 year old and 7 year old.  They liked it.  The only reservation is what you might expect, the appeal of a totally combat RPG is short lived (but once people are bored of hack-n-slash they can graduate to level 2 where you actually role-play).

I hope to put the rules out in a text form by the end of the month.  I also hope to draw a bit (put my graphic arts degree to work) and have a complete version for download by the end of next month.

Please leave a comment on your thoughts about these Microlite/Pocketmod rule books and the idea of light game system (not rules-light, but light rules)... or about Synnibar RPG or the threat of Synnibar D20!!


  1. I am a fan of MicroModding. There are a lot of great ideas to be found out there and adopted/adapted for use at one's own table.

    I've taken the Microlite rules and adapted them for a skill-based system that my players and I have been enjoying.

    I can boil down the game-play basics to a couple of pages for players (not including spell lists), and cover character construction and advancement in 4 or less, including feats (which replace classes and class abilities in my mod).

    I had the good fortune to beta test it with a mixed table that included 2 RPG virgins and not only could they play, they played the most complicated characters, the equivalent of party cleric and wizard.

    Another benefit of Microlite and its ilk... it's free! No more book after book at $40 a pop.

  2. I am really enjoying the idea of this movement. It is no replacement for knowledge of the system in question, I can't say I don't need the book at all thanks to these tiny versions of the game. I think it is very valuable for players who might be new to a game to take home the rules or have their own reference to the rules while the group plays.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hey, I know this post is old, but my answer to your question is "Yes, definitely!" I've madly been PocketModding all sorts of things, from Stars Without Number to Classic Traveller to Holmes Basic D&D. (The Holmes PocketMod is two whole pages - one for ALL the rules, and one for the bestiary.)


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