Just what the title says; when you reach for “a game”, what’s your first thought to grab, and why?
For me it’s always World of Dungeons; it’s light, extensible, classes are exactly as much up-front building as I want, and the central flow from conversation, to stating risks up front and then dicing to see “what it’ll cost you”, to narrating outcomes, is just perfect for me and my table.
Bonus: share a story about a great moment you’ve had with that system!
Go to game is Let’s Play! My only group consists of a four and six year old. The primary rule is if you bring something into the world you explain what it does and everyone agrees. I almost forgot, rule number two is always build a fort.
Me: Let’s Play!
Six: Okay! Welcome to my work shop. – Enters couch cushion fort and gives dramatic tour.
Four: Oh no! A giant chicken is attacking. I have super speed. – Runs around in circles making whooshing noises.
Me: Watch out it breathes fire! Six can you make something fantastic to help Four? This force shield will protect us for now, but Four really needs our help. – Presses button to engage force shield pillow.
Six: I know just what to do! – Bangs on work bench and makes something fantastic. – Here take this!
Four: Ahhhh! The fire is hot! – Screams in terror and continues running.
Me: What does this do? It is blue and cold. – Looks to Six for explanation.
Six: It’s an ice bomb. That chicken will freeze if we hit it. Quick give it to Four! – Picks up the shield barrier and jumps toward the chicken valiantly to defend Four.
Me: Four catch! – Tosses ice bomb to Four.
Four: Eat this chicken! – Speeds towards the chicken and smashes the bomb in it’s mouth.
Six: Four! You are too close. – Makes explosion sounds and tries to help Four get away, but they both fall down.
Me: Four, Six! I am coming to help. Good thing we still have some moon rose petals left over from our last adventure. – Retrieves moon rose petals from back pack and performs the healing ritual. The adventurers rise back up.
Four: I’m hungry. Can we make chicken nuggets?
Six: Hey check this out. I built a magic tunnel that let’s us get to the work shop from anywhere. So we can play in the car. – Flashes a triumphant smile.
Me: Well let’s go try it out. – Holding hands the adventurers walk off toward their next quest.
Who ate all the chicken nuggets?
This transcription is based on real world events. Only the names have been changed.
I run Amazing Tales for a four-year old and an 11-year old. It’s exactly like this, except my four year old doesn’t listen to anything I say and just does what he wants.
Amazing Tales looks neat. I love the art previews on the website. We get most of our setting material from the six year old. That kid makes up some wild stuff. The moon rose petals indeed came from the Moon. We had to sneak past a pack of sleeping baboons and steal a spaceship. After flying to the moon we navigated an underground lava flow to find the magical rose bush at the center of the Moon.
I just help guide. No dice yet, but the four year old is essentially our random generator. Although I have plans for adding more complexity soon since the six year old is reading and writing. Messerspiel is looking to be the base dice mechanics. Thanks for sharing!
I hate the art actually.
But the advice is stellar, and the story seeds wonderful.
Oooh, interestingly as of late I’ve kinda not had a go to game, generally I’ll just throw some dice mechanics together and write a bunch of backgrounds and whatnot. I think I’ve been messing around with d6’s a lot.
But if I had to choose a Published game that I’d fall back on, I’d probably say 24xx (whose dice mechanics I adore and makes for readily hackable games) or ItO/EB (which is just a solid package if what your wanting is a speedy lightweight dungeon delving system).
As you can tell I like my games on the lean side.
Hmm, their might also be some more niche titles that could become a default, but which I haven’t tried out enough yet to tell.
Oh and Messerspeil and Primeval d6 are two more I fall back on.
I’ve been absolutely in love with The Black Hack 2e. The book is beautiful, I love the player facing rolls, and I really love the armor and usage dice mechanics. It’s always really fun at the table. I think the art gets players in the mood for zany fantasy antics, which is often where I like to hang out.
Knights of the Road (I feel really comfortable breaking the rules in this one lol)
I’m also not sure I have a proper published go-to game these days. But my go-to approach is resolving as much as possible with shared common sense and ref adjudication. When there seems to be a good reason to roll dice, I generally default to 2D6, with 7+ success with complications and 9+ complete success.
I also use a fair amount of collaborative worldbuilding procedures, asking players to fill in details and open up parts of the world that I haven’t sketched out.
For a great recent moment:
I recently had a combat/conflict that involved a floating ship piloted by a spider person with extendable arms, modeled after Kamaji from Spirited Away, trying to escape after stealing important things from the PCs with the aforementioned extendable arms. The PCs tried to prevent this by recruiting the help of stevedores with grappling hooks, a living cannon used by the local militia that actually just sucked things into another plane, illusion magic and crossbows.
It was quite bonkers, and being able to handle all that madness organically via common sense, if you can call it that(!), was a joy.
Other games I really like that I’ve played in recently or am playing now:
Any Planet Is Earth
Outlaw Merchant (WH40K Bastionland hack)
Oooh what’s knights of the road? I haven’t heard of that one before!
It’s my EB/Cairn hack set in an alternative 1920s US!
My “go to” game has always been Sorcerer along with its supplement Sorcerer & Sword. The core die mechanic can’t be beat for uncertain volatility. It’s very character centric and the underlying metaphysical assumptions about the otherworldly is precisely what I want.
Although Tunnel Goons is a closer and closer runner up these days.
Mausritter is my game of choice followed by: Cairn, Wander, Heartseeker, Into the Odd, among other fun ItO hacks!
I feel all of this. I’ve been tweeting moments from my classes online (all names changed) - they’re amazing. Granted, my groups tend to be older (8~12), but dang.
Without a doubt Original Dungeon & Dragons. Nothing has quite captures my imagination like those three little pamphlets providing a toolbox to come up with your own imagined fantasy game.
I’m currently running a very Book of New Sun/Tekumel/Glorantha-inspired game using a personal hack of the rule-set, and I recently ran a session where the players engaged in the setting’s rough equivalent of a heroquest - actually entering into a mythic event and playing as the participants to receive a magical boon (in this case it was a potion of oath-breaking to cancel a ritualistically-enforced wedding), but they got some of the details wrong and completely upended some aspects of the setting, so last session and this weeks involve them kind of discovering the effects they’ve had.
Nowadays I just mostly FKR it. Grab 2d6, decide a target number based on characters abilities and let’s see what happens. If there is no clear dis/advantage I just use the WoDu/PbtA -1 (because we have no +1 stat to help us) spread for my targets. I also make up a bunch of “rules” on the fly to keep stuff interesting. It’s pretty loosey-goosey, but it works for pretty much all kinds of adventure games I run.
Last time I properly used a system was with Silver Dragon’s Tear somewhere before pandemic I think… also Endure, but this is more for emulating particular type of story. If I had to grab a system now (because whoever I play doesn’t want my loosey-goosey approach or something), I would probably go for something WoDu related (Streets of Marienburg?) or OK RPG!
I have a non-answer where the tl;dr is “it depends”, but if I think back to the occasions where I’ve actually just grabbed a game off the shelf and said “ok, let’s play this”, it has been - for the last 20 years at least - InSpectres (which is the game that got me back into RPGs after I burned out on them in 1999).
But I would feel bad if I didn’t also mention the Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons set (my go to for dungeon crawling/adventure gaming) and Sorcerer (my go to if we’re planning on something mid-to-long term).
I play a lot of sci fi stuff so it’s usually mothership. Recently tho I’ve been grabbing a lot of ironsworn bc it’s very flexible and easy to get start a game without prep!