Lite RPGs to Run a D&D-like Game Session

I’m looking for a game I can read and learn quickly for GMing a game tomorrow. The RPG should create a D&D-like game session. I’ve heard of games like Tiny Dungeons, the Indie Hack, the Black Hack, the White hack, etc. what game that is quick to read and learn would you suggest? Thanks :-)


  • If you want something that's low-prep and familiar, Dungeon World is pretty close to what you want. Whether you can learn it in 24 hours is another question entirely.

    You could look at something more closed-in, like Lady Blackbird. The Indie Hack is also awesome, and wouldn't take very long to teach to players. It does use an unfamiliar (but still very cool) contest resolution mechanic though.

    There's also Brian Holland's One-Sheet RPG.
  • If you want something more indie, World of Dungeons is good. For a little more OSR, I like Adventurers Revised, possibly combined with Maze Rats.
  • For very simple there is RISUS. It even has a few introductory free adventures on Risusverse.
  • Deeds and Doers has you covered. I think that's more of the sort of thing you need here - a day's not a lot of time to learn and prep a game, so you'll want something considerably lighter-weight than some of the mentioned titles. It's got ready-made adventures (also quick to digest for the GM) as well, so no need to figure out what to run with it.
  • edited November 2017
    +1 to the previously mentioned Maze Rats for simple to learn. One page of rules, one page of character creation.
  • The Black Hack is perfect for this. You can read it and understand it in a couple of hours. It can be used to Run extant D&D modules at every level. It’s got everything you need to run a game. It has one basic easy to grok mechanic. I tour non-Gaming conventions in the U.K. introducing newbies to RPGs and TBH is my weapon of choice to introduce people to the experience of D&D. Everyone from small kids to middle aged mums grasp the rules immediately.

    It’s what you want and the pdf is just a couple of dollars on RPGNOW so it’s worth a look, at least.
  • The Black Hack is perfect for this. You can read it and understand it in a couple of hours. It can be used to Run extant D&D modules at every level...
    Simon, are there premade dungeons for the Black Hack?

  • Jeff, yes in the sense you can use any D&D compatible dungeon with TBH.
  • I love TBH but it assumes the GM already knows how to run a RPG. If you want to hand a game text to a total RPG newbie, have them read it and be able to run it, it's not a teaching text.

    I think there are some canned modules on DriveThru for TBH, but as Dreamofpeace says, it's designed to readily adapt any existing OSR module (but I don't recall that it has any conversion notes). Conversion should be really simple for anyone who's run D&D before.
  • edited November 2017
    Thanks Adam, I purchased The Black Hack and found some cool resources if anyone wants to check them out:
  • It seems to me any of the "lite" D&D clones, like "Maze Rats" or "Into the Odd" (I haven't seen or played The Black Hack) along with a decent module is all you need to play.

    Any early D&D (or retroclone - I'd recommend Labyrinth Lord or The Lamentations of the Flame Princess) should do more or less equally well so long as the GM knows what s/he's doing.
  • But that's the gist of it, isn't it? I mean, if one knew what one were doing, would one need to be on the look-out for a rules chassis? The question itself presumes that something simpler and more immediately rewarding is required than simply taking the D&D Basic Red Box and starting to study and practice it.

    The one-day time limit (which has surely long passed by now, so we're talking theory at this point) is key, as you don't become a proficient old school D&D GM in a single day. If you already have the game under your belt it's not difficult to set up a one-shot, but if you've been out of it for e.g. 20 years, or never got into it in the first place, then I suspect that just grabbing LotFP 24 hours before the session starts isn't the way to go. Better to choose something that builds upon skills you already have.
  • Magic And Steel.
    Print the gameboard, print the sheets, dice+tokens and go...
  • @Paul_T, The Black Hack is an ultralight D&D clone. Same six attributes, hit dice, hit points, classes (no races). Players roll all the dice, and it's a "roll under stat" system with almost no modifiers except monster hit dice. There's an advantage/disadvantage system. Spells are one-liners. Monsters, too. There's a usage die mechanic for expendables.

    It still feels like D&D.
  • Yes, very true! Excellent points.
  • Question: Would it be possible to create a one-page OSR clone with dungeon on the back? That's a cool challenge, IMO.
  • Sure it would. Old school D&D is so procedurally heavy and mechanically light that if you're only writing down the rules, it could be pretty much "roll dice and high is good" and still work just fine. Heck, a whole sheet would be in excess - you could put it on a coaster.
  • edited November 2017
    @Eero_Tuovinen , you should also add: "The DM narrates everything. When he/she stops say what your character tries to do." :)
  • edited November 2017
    Yeah, are we creating a rules reference, or a complete game text? Very different challenges.

    It would be pretty interesting to distill some common procedures of old-school dungeoneering-style roleplaying into a few pithy phrases, principles, or examples. A clever person could do it, I suspect!

    For instance, Eero's 50/50 technique would be a very handy multi-use tool which could be condensed into a few lines of advice.
  • For what it's worth, I spit-balled the notion of a minimal old school D&D game text myself a few years back. The format ended up resembling a Chick tract. To add a little flair I split the material up into separate booklets, each roughly 16 small pages, each conceptually somewhat modular (that is, you could sort of do stuff with each one alone). Something like this:
    * The Fighter class and combat rules
    * The Magic-User class and magic rules
    * A few other classes in a booklet, maybe with races and certain general character options
    * A GM booklet with the actual procedures and agenda of play
    * An adventuring book with useful simulation rules for travel, dungeon exploration, logistics, etc.
    * Any number of reasonably stand-alone booklets on other topics that would come up while writing up the above.

    So still a considerable amount of text, highly structured. And although I like lightweight D&D treatments myself, and would find something like that cute (I was considering it as a promotional/educational giveaway item), it would ultimately not be any easier to learn to GM it than it is to learn to GM the Mentzer Red Box. The bottleneck simply isn't in the amount of text to slog through, but rather in learning to provide fair refereeing and to chairman play effectively so it moves forwards. That's pretty difficult to put into a book so you could just read a few pages and suddenly become a solid GM.
  • Searchers of the unknown is a 1-page D&D game. In this document there are lots of extra material as well.
  • This is a fun 1-page dungeon to use with The Black Hack. That said, it works with any D&D game.
  • I have used also Fate Accelerated for this. You play the default rules and instead of the 6 Approaches, you can take the traditional D&D stats (STR DEX CHA INT CON WIS). Personally, I prefer these approaches:
    Combat, Concentration, Intuition, Stealth, Wilderness, Society
  • I like the clarity of that list!
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