It sucks that Texas has declared war on trans people but the Trans Rights for Texas bundle has been a blast. Recently I’ve been looking at a bunch of one-page RPGs I never would have known about otherwise. I like these short games because creators can flex their muscles and try weird ideas that might not make it into a bigger book. It’s also a great way for DMs and players to take a break from their long-running games and try something fresh. So, what I’m going to do is just list out 5 cool games I want to talk about and assign them all a score. The internet loves rankings, right?
Fairy Corgi Steeple Chase: 4.3/5
A lighthearted one-page RPG filled with bright colors and cute art. At its core, Fairy Corgi Steeplechase is a solid racing game. Though the author includes a huge does of whimsy as fairies dodge obstacles and corgis avoid distractions in their bid for glory.
- 1+ Freinds
- Pencil and paper
- Not required, but helpful to have some sort of track to measure players positioning
Play this Game if:
- You want a cute and fun racing game with a surprisingly robust chase mechanic
- You want to ride a corgi as they leap over streams, get lost because of misleading signage, become distracted by tennis balls, or even meet The Queen!
I’m a sucker for cute games. Fairies racing corgis through silly obstacles is precisely the kind of game I want to play on a lazy afternoon.
The rules for this game are solid. Everything is easy to remember and effective for resolving chase sequences. Fairies and corgis each have distinct roles that relate to different obstacles. This adds plenty of variety to the game as players peg points to win the race.
Layout and Design: 3/5
The art and color scheme work well together to make a cute and energetic page. I especially love the corgi wearing glasses! Although the art is well placed, I think the four tables break up the text in a way that makes it slightly confusing. I had to read the two middle sections over again before I understood how the game is meant to work.
Play as a skeleton who must pretend to be human and attempt to accomplish mundane tasks for their necromancer. Wacky hijinks ensue as you inevitably attract the attention of random passers-by. Overall, the art, layout, and core mechanic are quality. Plus, it has a solid GM section if you are trying to put together a game on the fly and you need some good ideas.
- 1-4 friends
- pencil and paper
- character sheet
Play this Game if:
- You want to be a spooky skeleton
- you enjoy the irony of magical creatures doing mundane tasks
- you want a game with playful humor and cartoon logic
The concept of this game is fine. I personally have a low tolerance for ironic humor. So, the sub-genre of “quirky creature has modern, everyday problems” quickly becomes tedious to me. Your mileage may vary.
This game is built around a mechanic where you can roll over or under your target number. Roll too low you get clocked as a skeleton and spook the normies. Roll too high and overperform your human-ness. which attracts unwanted attention as people come over to hang out with a cool, normal guy. I haven’t seen too many games where you can roll over your target number. I’d like more designers to play around with this idea.
Layout and Design: 4/5
The layout for this game is clean and easy to read. In addition, there is a ton of art that gives everything a lighthearted tone. There is even space for you to decorate skeletons and tombstones on your character sheet. Even though the layout is beautiful, I”m only giving it a 4/5. Numbskulls use the front and back of the page for rules and have a separate page for character sheets. I’m not here to contest what constitutes a one-page RPG. That said, doing layout is easier if you aren’t condensing everything into a single side of A4.
Kissing Comrades: 4.5/5
Kissing Comrades is a one-page RPG that reads more like an anti-fascist version of Seven Minutes in Heaven than a traditional TTRPG. This is a rare One-page RPG that is sincere in its approach to the subject matter. Adira Slattery wants to express solidarity with queers who have been targeted by authoritarian behavior and to make out. These are both noble goals for an RPG to reach for.
- An intimate space
- A potentially intimate friend
play this Game if:
- you are queer
- you want to yell “F*** THOSE GUYS!” to people who would diminish queer love
- you want to make out
A game for two queer people who want to talk about how their identities have been discounted or criminalized, then make out. Even if this game isn’t for you, it is for someone. Right now, there are two lost queer people in a crowded party who just want to find an intimate space and feel validated. I hope this game finds them.
Players start out on opposite sides of an intimate space. Then, take turns sharing vulnerabilities about themselves while moving closer to each other. When they finally meet, they kiss (or celebrate in another consensual way).
Of course, this type of game cannot exist on its own terms. People on the internet are fighting as to whether the text of Kissing Comrades meets the requirements to be a role-playing game. I personally find that argument to be exhausting. It’s clearly a game. The rules are clearly written out on one page. Why exclude it from our space? There are other one-page RPGs where players act as themselves and don’t require the use of a tabletop. Frankly, a lot of them do less interesting things with the idea than Kissing Comrades.
layout and Design: 3.5/5
Kissing comrades isn’t well laid out in a classical sense. There are four different and clashing fonts. Additionally, the art feels disjointed and sourced from various places. However, the layout and language are casual and easy to understand. Everything comes together into a very punky aesthetic that 18-year-old me can deeply appreciate. Given the context and attitude of the game, everything feels appropriate.
Jonathan Frakes Wants Your Attention and You Must Give it to Him: 2.5/5
Like kissing comrades, Johnathan Frakes is more about physical acting than playing a traditional tabletop game. Players take on one of two roles. One person plays as themselves doing chores. The other, an evil demon pretending to be Jonathan Frakes (the guy from Star Trek). The game plays out like an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? One player acting silly, and the other trying not to laugh.
- A friend
- “an everyday chore”
Play this Game if:
- You want to include physical acting in your game
- You like asymmetrical games
- You have an absurdist sense of humor
I’m not personally in love with the concept of this game. The idea of doing chores as part of an RPG doesn’t feel engaging to me. On top of that, the game takes a lot of inspiration from improv sketch comedy. It’s fine if you like that in your games, it’s just not my style of play. Although I can see how this game could be fun in a Marry Poppins “spoon full of sugar” way. If you have the right mindset, the improvisational tone and –try not to laugh– style of play might turn a boring task into a fun group activity.
Alright, so I was a little hard on the concept of the game. However, the mechanics are well executed. There are actually two one-page RPGs in this game. Each player has their own sheet, with their own specific instructions and win conditions. Separate rulebooks are a cool way to implement asymmetrical gaming in a TTRPG. Although, I would have liked to see the author push the idea further. The distinctions between the two books are mostly character motivation and lore. It would have been nice to see more secret rules for the different sides.
Layout and Design: 2/5
The layout and design of this game are acceptable but uninspired. Functional black text on a white background with no art or creative design.
Dreaming the cave: 3.3/5
Out of all the one-page RPGs I’ve looked at; this one is the most abstract. Players act as a pair of historical Czech artists after one of them has died. The dead artist can communicate with the living artist by describing various paintings in dream sequences.
- A friend
- A color printer
Play this Game if:
- You appreciate Czech surrealist painters
- You want to collaboratively describe a dream sequence
- You can parse art school lingo
I’m not a painter but I appreciate the beauty and history of paintings. This game sent me down a rabbit hole researching Jindřich Štyrský and Toyen as well as the Czech art movement Artificialism. Dreaming the Cave serves as an impetus to research historical art. However, it also stands on its own as a game. Players use words and images to develop an ongoing conversation in the game state. The game is conceptually challenging but it expands the boundaries of what is possible in the one-page RPG space.
The core of the game involves placing cards with paintings printed on them onto a game board and then describing a surreal dream based on imagery on the board. The game is obtuse, the rules are challenging and there is no objective. But that’s clearly the intended purpose so the game succeeds on its own standards.
Layout and design: 2/5
For a game that is for and about art nerds, the is surprisingly bad. Lack of visual hierarchy and bad font choice conspire to make the text difficult to read. Text and images feel cramped and the overall aesthetic ends up looking like a disorienting collage. Unlike the Mechanics section, I don’t think this was the intended outcome. So, I don’t feel bad giving a low score here.
Um. I guess that’s it. If you have the bundle, you can download everything for free and check these games out for yourself. There are way more one-page RPGs that I haven’t gotten a chance to look at. These were just a few I’ve seen and thought were interesting. If you are in the mood for a long-form book, check out my review of the action/adventure game Deathless here. It’s by far the most fun me and my friends have had running a game out of this bundle.