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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

System Spotlight: Tiny Dungeon

My comrade and I may have a tiny problem when it comes to Kickstarter. He can’t resist the urge to buy fantasy coins, new card games, and dungeon master gear. I can’t resist a good looking system or a pack of cheap minis. Just last month, I gave into my obsession.'

Friends, let me introduce you to Tiny Dungeon.

The Basics

Tiny Dungeon is a super simplified game system whose basic rule book is all of 21 pages long. Players need 3 six-sided dice and a character sheet that uses a half-sheet of paper. The DM doesn’t need much more than that.

Character creation takes under 10 minutes. Players choose a race and a set of traits (rather than a class) and can immediately jump into the game. The game’s creator has asked that until the official release of the game in December, reviewers not go too in depth about character creation so I’ll stop there. But I can assure you, it’s simple but has great potential for diversity.

On that note, the creator is heavily involved with players. I was excited to gain special access to the Smoking Salamander (the company that created Tiny Dungeon) forums, where players are posting campaign ideas, house rules, and new creatures. In many cases, these ideas are being reviewed and discussed with creator, Brandon McFadden. There is even a How To Train Your Dragon game setting being created. Seriously. I need to play this game.

The Not-So-Basics

The simplicity of the game lends itself well to brand-new, baby roleplayers or to kids. That being said, this system is definitely more roleplay heavy. D&D 4 this is not.

For one, Tiny Dungeon chooses to spit in the face of formal magic systems. Instead of a long complicated spell list and a set number of uses per day, Tiny Dungeon divides magic into a few categories and lets players and DMs decide what goes and what doesn’t.

Players that want to use magic can take the magic based traits, which pretty much just say that you have access to magic. What you choose to do with it is up to you and of course, your friendly neighborhood DM. Create a small fire? Sure. Send out a little magic missile? Cool. Raise an army of skeletons from nothing? No way.

As someone who plays mostly magic classes and likes to come up with creative ways to use small spells and cantrips, this system is a godsend. There are ways to gain stronger magics, but it mostly requires scrolls or magical items. This may not sit as well with the type of magic user that loves their 10d10 fireball spell. Sorrynotsorry. Magic is almost exclusively roleplayed and I love it!

Also, there is no armor system and weapons all do the same amount of damage. For serious. So wield a mace if you want, but you could just as easily choose a dagger. It all depends on what the character that you are creating would choose to use. Roleplaying!

What We Liked

Just this past Sunday, I ran a game of Tiny Dungeon. (On an amusing side note, someone questioned our Sunday morning game time. My comrade replied that it was like our church. The tag line we came up with: Praise be to dragons, hallowed be their dungeons. We’re blasphemous sons of bitches up in here.)

It was a silly concept with a fairly open world map, dwarves that spoke with Minnesota/Canadian accents, and a witch that sounded like uber-Scottish Mrs. Doubtfire. The players fought hoards of red squirrels, played match-maker for a pair of gay trolls, convinced the witch that her house was possessed by a demon so that she burned it down, and addressed the problem of illegal immigration of kobolds into a city by creating a mutually beneficial taxation and trade policy. Apparently, my players aren’t afraid to deal with the hot topics of today. Shit got deep. None of this was planned or part of the adventure goal in any way.

We all loved the inclusion of Goblins and a salamander race called the Salimar into the basic races of the game. They’re just rad. The party consisted of two goblins and one Sarven Salimaris. Smoking Salamander has even produced miniatures for the new races.

I actually underplanned, even with an open world map that had 4 possible routes, because of how quick combat runs. It was so easy! Fights were still intense, there was still plenty of chances to die, but there were no numbers to add. Setting up monsters to fight was just as easy, if not easier, than character creation. I improvised all of the fights in the adventure and they worked out perfectly. Gotta love that.

Final Thoughts

It is well worth it to get this game when it comes out in December. The rules make it easy to customize races, settings, and items to fit any theme or campaign idea. The game lends itself especially well to adventures that don’t take themselves too seriously and groups that like to run rampant through your carefully laid plans.

You may want to avoid this game if you need those elaborate rules for peace of mind. Here, there is no leveling, no classes, no definitive magic system. It’s like the wild west of games, and if you aren’t ready to be your own law then it’s best to stay out of the saloon (Or something like that. I don’t really do metaphors).

For anyone looking to get in on the ground floor, it’s too late to join the original Kickstarter. However, Smoking Salamander is running a second Kickstarter to produce a set of meeples and has included add-on options from the original Kickstarter. There is talk of producing a full set of Salimar and Goblin minis as well, so keep an eye out.

Baby DM out.

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