Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five Pocket-Size or Smaller RPGs For The Convention Season

With Origins this weekend and Gen Con Indy just a bit over a month away, it’s definitely the busy time of convention season. And whether you’re headed to a mid-size regional convention, or taking the gamer’s trip of a lifetime to Gen Con Indy, you’ll want to bring some gaming books. If you’re anything like me, though, you like packing light. With that in mind, here are some smaller RPG books that will fit conveniently in your carry-on or a cargo pocket. Links are provided, but of course you can also search out the gaming company itself or local gaming store, if that's more your style:

Savage Worlds Explorer Edition ($9.99): Pinnacle really set the bar high for smaller RPG books with their full-color Explorer Edition. SavWo has a pretty good gamer following, so if you bring this puppy, you can bust it out without people staring at it like it’s the Voynich Manuscript.
Pro: Full-color pages, decent player following.

Con: It’s a generic ruleset—if you need more than that on the go, get ready to do some brainstorming. Some copies may not be the most robust.

Traveller Pocket Edition ($19.95): Few games have the legacy and history that Traveller can boast. There’s lots of folks who just want to say they’ve played it, so that alone makes it a pretty good icebreaker to bring along. The Pocket Edition is pretty complete, but the tiny font may make for some rough reading and reference.

Pro: Classic-looking product; nice conversation piece. Uses d6s, so handy if no other dice are around. It’s Traveller!

Con: Probably the priciest of the options here (though still not bad). Tiny print.

Microlite20 (Gloriously Free): Microlite is a lot of things to a lot of people, but being compact and free are among it’s most notable points. If you’ve ever messed with any sort d20-based system, you know the basic precepts here, but it’s delivered in a tiny package. Comes in several different forms, and plenty of free support is available.

Pro: Free, should feel familiar to d20 adherents; fits in your pocket.

Con: If you’re looking strictly outside the d20 vein of things or want to try something new, this may seem like a cut-down version of old hat.

Pocket Risus (Gloriously Free): Is there anything Jeff Rients can’t do? He take the already teeny Risus ruleset and condenses it down to something that would fit inside most wallets. The clich├ęs that drive Risus may be a little loosey-goosey for those wanting a more robust gaming experience, but if you aren’t taking it too seriously, I can’t think of a better game to get you up and going quickly.

Pro: Free, great for beer n’ pretzel one-shot sessions; fits in your pocket.

Con: May be a little too simple or bare-bones for some gamers’ liking.

Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! Pocket Softcover ($14.95): The full title of Ancient Odysseys is nearly as long as the full text of some of the games on this list, but don’t let that throw you off. Ancient Odysseys hits a nice nostalgic feel of fantasy gaming, while being extremely easy for new gamers to pick up. If you’re looking for something in fantasy a bit more structured but still accessible, this one might be what you’re looking for.

Pro: Smooth system, nostalgic feel.

Con: If you want something with “crunchier” combat, you’ll have to keep looking. It’s fairly abstracted.

Of course, there are other pocket or digest-sized RPGs out there, from the most recent edition of Robotech to Mongoose’s Pocket Conan, but the five entries above should be a good start to packing light this convention season.


Anthony Emmel said...

Mutants and Masterminds pocket edition. One can always use a supers game.


Swordgleam said...

What about SHERPA? It was made to play while hiking.

Wushu requires 30 seconds to explain the rules and therefore no book, and your stats are easy enough to keep in your head.

I've played Toon in cars and on trains before, though I suspect we ignored many of the rules given that only one of us had ever even seen a Toon rulebook.

Grendelwulf said...

If only those little Italian-made TSR AD&D mini-books were still around... ;(


Zachary The First said...

@Anthony: Very true. M&M also has a nice fan base.

@Swordgleam: SHERPA is an interesting concept--I'll have to find out more. I've never been a fan of Wushu (or it's hyper-aggressive fans in some corners), but I'm sure that'd work fine for some.

@Grendelwolf: I think either Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord (or OSRIC) should do a pocket-sized edition.

DM4Hire said...

GR also did a pocket book for True20. Also there was Necessary Evil which is a pocket setting and rules for SW which you already mentioned it.

Jason Marker said...

I really like that Savage Worlds book. I picked it up along with the full-size Deadlands Reloaded to do a writing sample for PEG and I was incredibly impressed with the system and the fit and finish of the book. At Origins I grabbed their Superpowers Companion, another small book, to port my cold-war super-spies game to. I also grabbed the Traveller pocket guide, which is very nice and, I'm ashamed to admit, really my first exposure to the game.