Tiny Dungeon – An RPG for Beginners (Review)

As I described before, tabletop RPGs are a natural fit for public library programming.  Staff without previous experience either playing or GMing, however, may find the mix of dice rolls, statistics, overlapping modifiers and other rules intimidating, and a barrier to entry.  Likewise, younger players, new players or those uninterested in the minutia of rules-heavy systems may feel at sea as they begin.  While Dungeons and Dragons has made greater steps towards accessibility in its most recent edition, there are other rulesets that pare away and simplify the mechanics of the game to make them as approachable as possible.  For those players, Tiny Dungeon (currently in its second edition) is an option.

Virtually everything in Tiny Dungeon is decided by rolling two six-sided dice (2D6).  Players that are particularly good at something might get one more, players that are unskilled or operating under difficult circumstances might get one less.  If one of the dice rolled turns up a 5 or a 6, the test is successful.  While there are a few additional rules, most labeled as “optional,” the core of the game is explained in only fifteen pages of the over two hundred in the rulebook.  Most of the rest of the book contains fascinating and well-written “microsettings” by a collection of different authors that provide very interesting adventure ideas and hooks for plotlines (although since these are little more than overviews, creating actual adventures for players within those worlds is still the responsibility of the GM).

As described, then, Tiny Dungeon’s main virtue is its approachability.  Not only are the rules extremely easy for players to pick up and GMs to work with, existing adventures in other settings can be converted to the Tiny Dungeon rules easily.  This sort of simplicity does have a downside, however.  With the same roll done for virtually everything, some players might feel like their character makes no progress, as powerful magical weapons and armor mean little mechanically.  Most enemies have only a handful of hit points, and all weapons deal 1 damage with a succesful hit “unless your Game Master says otherwise.”  Indeed the very notion of “experience” and “progression” is considered an optional rule, with limited rewards.

Despite this, Tiny Dungeon is a clever, approachable entry point for many new players (and for busy librarian GMs!).


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