Tiny Dungeon (Review)
What do you need to know?
Tiny Dungeon is a minimalist heroic fantasy role-playing game which you can buy for USD $5.99 at Onebookshelf (aff). The author promises that it is “[…] a tabletop role-playing game system that is short on rules, but big on roleplaying!” Let’s dive in!
Tiny Dungeons (TD) is a quick read and the rules are easy to understand.
Basically, you roll 2d6 for any task. A roll of 5 or 6 is a success and
that means you’ve made it.
The game is complemented with an Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic which you might know from Barbarians of Lemuria or the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. With Advantage you roll 3d6 so the chances to roll a success are greater. If you have Disadvantage (i.e. you’re not proficient with a weapon) you only roll 1d6.
Character creation is pretty fast. You choose a race which also gives
you some racial Traits and the amount of Hitpoints you have. You
decide on 3 traits. If one of your traits is suitable for a task, you
have Advantage on a roll and roll 3d6.
There is no class system, TD covers this via Traits so choosing these will customize your character.
Furthermore, this game assumes a setting expectation similar to D&D so fighting skills are a must. There are 3 weapon categories (Light Melee, Heavy Melee and Ranged) and you can opt for one category to be proficient in and one weapon type you have mastered. This will give you bonuses in combat.
Finally, you choose a Family Trade (mechanically the same as a Trait) and a Belief. Beliefs don’t have any mechanical advantage, they are just a game element. There are 5 races to choose from: the standard Humans, Dwarves and Elves and additionally Goblins (instead of halflings!) and finally the Salimar, an original race of salamanders. Race gives you your max. Hitpoints and racial traits, i.e. Darkvision for Dwarves.
TD uses a unified task resolution, so everything is covered by the core
2d6 mechanic. That’s pretty neat, I like it. In classic FRPG style you
have round-based combat and will first roll Initiative via Initiative
Test and then attacking and defending can happen.
You have two Actions every round and can spend them on moving, attacking, evading or focussing.
Every hit will make 1 HP of damage so combat is very straightforward and not swingy. When you drop to 0 HP you will need to be stabilized by a friend or make a Save Test. The rules are a bit similar to D&D 5e.
Different weapon categories determine the range in which you can attack but have no influence on the damage you do as that is a fixed value.
As there are no classes in TD this is covered by traits like
Spell-Reader and Spell-Touched. Again, this uses the 2d6 mechanic so
there are no surprises here.
Magic can be mighty but is very limited. For example the Spell-Reader can only cast spells from spell rolls and they are destroyed after a successful cast.
The game also covers a list of Traits, Equipment, examples for Weapon
Categories and advice for the Gamemaster. This is all pretty solid and
the list of traits will get you started right away.
The game doesn’t have rules for advancement. The starting characters are already quite competent so the author assumes that there is no need to level up.
The advice for the GM covers a short section about Enemies but the game also has a separate monster manual with some standard monsters.
The book ends with a short starter adventure.
You’ll get a zip file with 5 pdfs. The main book is 24 pages and covers
the above explained content. Additionally, there is a character sheet,
the Creature Codex (monster manual) and two adventures.
The Game Handbook has a simple one-column layout and is completely black and white. It features some nice pictures (mostly characters) in a comic art style. It’s all very minimalist but good-looking.
Tiny Dungeon is a no-nonsense rules-lite game. The system easily models
the standard fantasy archetypes by choosing mostly familiar races and a
good trait list. It can easily be reskinned or modified to other genres
as the rules are pretty basic.
It is not as versatile as some genre-neutral games as the conflict rules only cover combat (like in D&D). There are no rules for social conflict, these are handled with simple tests.
Is it big on role-playing as the authors suggest? Well, that depends on you. The rules fade into the background as it is the case with many lightweight games but that doesn’t necessarily make for great role-playing.
All in all, it is a complete and solid game. I like how consistent it is with its basic mechanism and how up-front combat is.
For me however, it doesn’t offer anything which I don’t already have with other rules-lite games (most of them cheaper or even free). To name a few: Adventurers!, Folklore, Open Adventure, 1974 Style or Pulp! Core. Perhaps I’m burned out on those extremely lightweight games as there’s only so many ways you can spin the rules.
I guess it boils down to personal taste: there are many similar games out there but this is still a good one.