As Dungeon Master Appreciation Month 2017 comes to a close, we turn our attention to roleplaying games that do not require a Dungeon Master (DM) to play.
Dungeon Masters spend so much time prepping our games to spin stories and introduce us to memorable places and characters each week that we forget that they are players at the table too.
DMs love to create so much that they take on a lot of work and often forget to take a break. Every now and again, even the DM deserves the relatively carefree life of a player! Give your DM an opportunity to refresh their creative juices by returning some of those enjoyable offerings at the table.
Don't worry! I am not asking you to take on Dungeon Master responsibilities in order to give this gift to your DM. There are so many great RPGs out there that don't require a DM. Such games benefit from collaboration and improvisation from each player equally because they don't require an all knowing Dungeon Master to lead the game.
My TOP 5 List!
In reverse order, the top five DM-less RPGs recommended to give your favorite Dungeon Master a day off!
5 - Misspent Youth
Set in a dystopian future, in Misspent Youth you play as teenagers who rebel against the Authority. There are so many ways a group can go with this setup! Generate the dystopian future you would most like to play in by collaborating with your fellow players on who the Authority consists of, how they oppress society, and what their goals are. Create kick-ass heroes who struggle against the Authority and then play out scenes as the rebellious youngsters try to take down the system. A very cathartic proposition!
4 - Atomic Robo
Based on the popular, quirky, and hilarious graphic novels, Atomic Robo is all about ACTION SCIENCE! Play as an immortal robot or an action scientist from any era or dimension you can think. Engage in pulp action adventure as you battle aliens, cyborgs, intelligent noble gasses, travel through time, ride dinosaurs, and any other wild idea your group can think up. Create your heroes, decide who the antagonists are and in which era, then play out gonzo scenes of science fiction fantasy!
3 - Monsterhearts
Think Monster High. Yup, you in Monsterhearts play as a teenage monster confronted with their burgeoning sexuality, desire for their peers, and the (in)compatibilities of monstrous anatomies. Players put their characters' hearts & souls through the ringer as they explore what it truly means to be monstrous. Yes, this game would be best for more mature audiences who want to explore the whirlwind of feelings, discovery, and heartbreak that adolescents experience in high school. But with fangs.
2 - Kingdom
The Kingdom can be anywhere, any time, and made up of any society you can imagine. Want to play as a group of settlers in the mythic American West? How about astroid miners in a far off solar system? Undead creatures who've haunted a theme park? Kingdom concerns itself with the challenges a society faces as it exists, how those challenges are overcome, and what repercussions those decisions have on the kingdom itself. Players take on different abstract societal roles such as Perspective & Power that are expressed through their character's actions and reactions. A night of gaming could span centuries in a kingdom as time goes by or just one day as the kingdom falls into ruin or anarchy.
1 - Fiasco
If you haven't heard of Fiasco, think of a Cohen Brothers film: odd characters in quirky settings, farcical, mysteries and betrayals, as well as a good dose of murder and mayhem. In terms of flexibility, simplicity, and approachability you really can't find a better DM-less game out there.
Whereas the rest of the list asks players to come up with their own playgrounds, Fiasco provides Playsets in whatever genre you're interested in. Whereas the rest of the list often leaves the onus for scene resolution on the narrative timing of the players, Fiasco forces resolutions through it's rules so the players don't have to do all "narrative heavy lifting". Fiasco even has an elegant conclusion mechanic where every player rolls on a chart to figure out how the story ends for their character.
Until Next Year!
As DM Appreciation Month comes to a close, make sure to thank your DM for all they do to make your games great. They would no doubt love a bit of thoughtfulness in return. Thank you, Dungeon Masters!
To honor and highlight that very important player at the table, who week after week organizes your games and leads you on epic adventures, February has been pronounced Dungeon Master Appreciation Month by Wizards of the Coast since 2009, 8 years now!
Shelly Mazzanoble first celebrated the yearly appreciation of Dungeon Masters in an article published in Wired Magazine.
Since the mid-nineteen nineties, I have enjoyed being a Dungeon Master (DM). Running games like Dungeons & Dragons has become a big part of my life.
My first DM-ing experience was a far cry from the best - I didn't know all the rules, I had problem players - but I didn't give up! After many years playing, I picked up tips and gained experience until DM-ing became the highlight of my day.
If you're looking to appreciate your DM this month, check out these five mystical items that helped me along the way... and let's celebrate all those new DMs out there!
1. Published Adventures
I wrote my first adventure, and while I'm glad I was creative, a published adventure module written by an experienced world builder would have really been more helpful. Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars RPG, and 13th Age have published adventures by some amazing writers.
2. Dungeon Master's Screen
Keep it secret, Keep it safe! A Dungeon Master's screen can hide a DMs tricks and surprises, as well as keep information, reminders, and rules handy. Almost every game system has a published DM screen, or you can customize your own with the World's Greatest DM Screen.
3. Dice Rollers
Being able to roll one's dice in a leather cup with a secure top and then dump them out on the table has a fun feel to it. Bounce the dice off the wall of a tray, or drop down a dice tower - combining dice rollers with the fate of the player's character makes using dice that much more enjoyable.
4. Battlemat & Minis
Being able to draw abstract maps or build a landscape with Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles adds so much dimension to the gaming table. Adding minis to represent the Player's Characters and the Monsters helps to gain perspective in a situation that might have a lot of obstacles. I definitely wish I started my Dungeon Master career with at least a battlemat and set of pens.
5. Food & Snacks
Bringing your Dungeon Master their favorite snacks will keep them happy and energized throughout your game. Food could be the difference between succeeding in that negotiation with the Goblin King or a TPK (Total Party Kill). Your DM probably spent all day prepping for your game and forgot to eat - Help them out!
This week I'm taking a look at five of my favorite games new and old, available at the store and absolutely worth checking out.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is one of the most massive games you'll find set in the Star Wars universe. This game, like many RPG's and the board game Descent, has one to four players take on the role of rebel adventurers playing against another player who controls all of the "baddies"—monsters and imperial troopers, even Darth Vader himself. Everything from the adventures, to the expansions available, to the level of detail in the sculpted miniatures really sets this game apart from others like it.
Smash Up describes itself as a "shufflebuilding" card game, where each player chooses two small decks of cards belonging to separate factions and shuffles them together. The question is: who will you smash together to fight against your opponents? Will you team up Zombies and Ninjas? Aliens and Dinosaurs? And the expansions aren't just fluff, with new factions based on sci-fi, mythical heroes, and just plain awesome-ness. This game is fast, easy to understand, and great for goofy crowds of friends.
Star Wars: Age of Rebellion [Roleplaying Game]
Whoa, Giaco... Another Star Wars entry on this list? You're mad with power! True, but Star Wars: Age of Rebellion is one of the best roleplaying games I've played in years. Featuring easy-to-grasp rules (that are also used in the Star Wars RPG's Edge of the Empire and Force and Destiny), this game sets players and Game Masters in the center of the battle raging during the original trilogy. While Han, Luke, Leia, and co. are off freezing on Hoth or blowing up Jabba's barge, you'll play as lower-ranking rebel soldiers trying to steal secret plans and investigate rumors of Imperial hide-outs. The other RPG's in this series mentioned above are great, too, but nothing feels better than donning that bright orange jumpsuit and blasting away at a bunch of fool stormtroopers.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
The leaves are changing here in Brooklyn, pumpkins are beginning to appear on the stoops of brownstones, so naturally I'm getting truly into the spooky mood. And when Halloween season roles around, I really only want to play Betrayal at House on the Hill, the amazing semi-cooperative board game from Avalon Hill. In this game, players work together to search a creepy haunted house (generated randomly from hidden tiles revealed as you explore) for secrets and treasures, but when a random event called the HAUNT is triggered, one or some of the players will be revealed to secretly be a traitor. From there, the game turns on its head and is a frenzied race to survive at the House on the Hill.
Sushi Go / Sushi Draft
Why do we need two sushi-themed card-drafting games? Because sushi is delicious, and card-drafting games are the best... duh! These two sushi games will appeal to different tastes. Sushi Go is all about building the best plates of sushi, and it involves split-second decision making and planning ahead. Sushi Draft is much lighter, and better for kids, featuring large, round cards that can either be "Eaten," "Stored for later," or "Passed." So, do you want build the perfect sushi plate with Sushi Go? Or do you want to stuff your face with Sushi Draft?
Every year the Twenty Sided Staff attends Toy Fair, a gaming trade show. There are several floors with isles of booths featuring games from all of our favorite designers and manufacturers. I'd like to share with you my top 5 favorite new games that will be available at Twenty Sided Store this spring.
When we find ourselves in a post apocalyptic future due to global warming and the zombie uprising, we will be so glad we played hours of Xtronaut and learned everything we needed to know about sending rockets into space.
Our very survival as a human race might just depend on it!
I first fell in love with this game as a game. It wasn't until a moment later that I realized all the resources, units of measurement, actions and oppositions were all actual real-world challenges for NASA mission scientists.
There is something very satisfying about pouring components from one vial to another. Imagine being a mad scientist and you are in a potion making contest. In order to win, you need to be the first chemist to get the proper components in the right order in each vial. This game is super addicting, fast paced fun!
Star Wars Rebellion
I didn't actually get to play Star Wars Rebellion (because it was in a display case), but I did get to see the amazing game board, fantastic art work, and beautifully sculpted miniatures.
This game has everything I want in a Star Wars Board Game!
I can play as either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance - commanding starships, directing troop movements, while trying to convince other systems to have my back. I get to play as some of my favorite leaders, like Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin. All I have to do to win is travel all over the galaxy and eliminate Imperial forces, or destroy the Rebel base.
Quadropolis has a really great strategic tile picking and placing game mechanic for city planning. As you attempt global notoriety, your architects must be working on building the perfect city for it's inhabitants. To do this, each architect working for you must select a building tile from the grid and then place it on your construction site. However, there are restrictions and as Mayor you must always be thinking several steps ahead.
T.I.M.E. Stories | A Prophecy of Dragons
A Prophecy of Dragons is the third story expansion for T.I.M.E. Stories. No Spoilers - If you love solving mysteries in a fantasy setting where magic exists, you will definitely want to pick up this latest scenario.