RPG Review: Tiny Frontiers

WILL RAMBLES

I’m not really in the business of reviewing role-playing games. Granted, I’ve been playing them off and on for 28 or so years. My generation lived in the time when this sort of make believe was frowned on. A time when the most parentally appropriate handling of RPGs was to sell them, throw them out, or burn them.

At any rate, now I play RPGs with my kids. Take that, irony! It’s a nice way to bond, have a good time, and do something intellectually stimulating. I also find it helps exercise the creative muscle in my brain that I use for writing. Playing sci-fi RPGs helps me think through scenarios in The Galaxy and All Her Charms.

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers on a fairly regular basis. I might not me the most unbiased person to write a review of Tiny Frontiers, but I’m going to do my best.

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers by Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.

tinyFrontiers

It’s a minimalist sci-fi RPG system, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 136 pages in with black-and-white illustrations and layout. The sidebars contain call-outs. It’s well organized and easy to read. My only complaint is the binding on the standard Kickstarter edition. It’s not the best and I think eventually it will fail. However, if you can get your hands on a Deluxe hardbound edition (good luck) it’s binding is perfection and has a handy bookmark ribbon to boot.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $5 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain.

8/10


2.) Art

The art is quite decent for a first Kickstarter. It evokes the sci-fi setting effectively and there is quite a bit of it spread throughout the book. It feels very thematic to the game and true to the original fantasy setting, Tiny Dungeon.

6/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

For me, there are two areas where Tiny Frontiers really shines. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The statistical curves are good and the simplicity lends itself to easy understanding for new players and kids. Take those original rules and add brilliant adaptations for alien species, cybernetics, space ships, and mecha. Now you have yourself a sci-fi bonanza!

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

For a minimalist RPG, the GM section is pretty short and sweet. Some decent guidance and nifty tables for random generation of everything from planets to enemies.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There isn’t exactly a pre-made adventure in Tiny Frontiers. Instead, Gallant Knight Games gives us something I really love: MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, rpg luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Ryan Schoon, Marie Brennan, and Dan Wells to name a few.

Micro settings are an amazing way to wrap your head around a quick idea for a universe of gameplay and include several adventure hooks to get the story jumpstarted.

I love them.

10/10


Total Score: 40/50

So, I’ve never done this, but I think 40 is a pretty dang good score.

I’d purchase this game again. In fact, I’m backing a follow-up Kickstarter right now: Tiny Frontiers – Mecha & Monsters! The new game stands alone, but can be used in conjunction with the original. It also has full-color art! This is a great chance to get one of those deluxe copies, and Alan has told me he’s going with a better binding on the standard version as well.

You can read my review of the completed Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters here.

I’ll tease you with the cover art:

tf_mecha

Tiny Role-Playing Games

Do you wish I’d quit blogging so much? Want to read more of my fiction? This is the post for you. I promise you a means to make me post more fiction. Read on.

—————–

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a personal renaissance of tabletop role-playing games. It’s been nearly 18 years since I role-played regularly. I’ll have another post soon explaining why I feel this is a valuable activity as a writer.

Today I’ll focus on a couple of specific games I think are great and, somewhat selfishly, I will pimp one of them to you without any shame or self-consciousness.

One of the fantastic things about RPGs is the time I spend playing them with my kids. I love the intellectual stimulation (for all of us) doing something other than watching movies or playing video games. Best, role-playing gets us interacting on a level I haven’t always been the best at as a father.

I have kids ranging from under 10 to nearly-legal adult so finding an RPG I could teach them the younger kids and manage to run successfully for the group was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was looking at Pathfinder and later D&D 5e, but these were way too detailed and crunchy.

Lucky for me, I know a guy.

Alan Bahr is a friend. If you know or have heard of Alan, then you know that he has probably read and played more RPGs than most people in the world. Being the insightful, enlightened guy I am, I scoured the internet for a game to play with my kids before I mentioned my dilemma to Alan. To his credit, he didn’t mock me (much) before pointing me to several great choices I could try with my kids.

One of the options was Tiny Dungeon, and it is the game that stuck with the family. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “WHEN ARE WE PLAYING TINY DUNGEON AGAIN, DAD?????” over the past several months. The number would be too large for display by 64-processors. When I can compose my blog from a quantum computer, I’ll give you an actual number. Don’t hold your breath.

Tiny Dungeon has a lot of things going for it, but its minimalistic rules are a clear winner in my book. You only need 3d6 (three standard six-sided dice) and an index card for each player, and you’re off to the races! Don’t get me wrong, the setting is lovely and lends itself to easy adaptation from other fantasy RPG adventures. The illustrations are fun, whimsical even, and the book also has a sample adventure that was a perfect intro for my younglings. Now, I’m writing my own fantasy campaign for the kids along with a short story that runs in parallel. Gotta keep those writing muscles lean!

My only complaint, if it can be called such, is Tiny Dungeons doesn’t work for a sci-fi setting. There aren’t rules for ships or mechs or alien races. If you know me, you might have a sense of why that would give me a giant sadface.

Enter Tiny Frontiers.

tinyFrontiers

As I earlier name-dropped, I know a guy. A guy named Alan Bahr. A guy who just happens to be an accomplished game designer with a high esteem for Tiny Dungeon. Alan has already made a big splash in the RPG world by designing the rules for the Planet Mercenary RPG. PM: RPG funded at nearly $350,000 just about this time last year. It’s been lauded by people like Steve Jackson. Yes, THAT Steve Jackson.

Alan and Gallant Knight Games have done an amazing thing. They licensed the Tiny Dungeon ruleset and created Tiny Frontiers. Not only will Tiny Frontiers scratch my sci-fi roleplaying itch, but it also features micro settings penned by amazing authors like Steve Diamond and Dan Wells.

Well- there’s a bit of a problem. Many of those fantastic micro settings don’t get made unless the Tiny Frontiers Kickstarter meets some stretch goals.

AND I WANT THEM.

So. Tiny Frontiers is already funded at nearly $6000. Here is the deal, folks. I’m offering two stretch goals of my own:

#1
In the spirit of sci-fi awesomeness, when the $12,000 stretch goal for TF is met, I will publish a beta version of Chapter 1 of The Galaxy and All Her Charms RIGHT HERE ON MY BLOG. I’ve been holding off sharing this with you. I’d like to wait a while longer, and I probably should. Tiny Frontiers means a lot to me, so I’ll take the risk!

#2
Also, if Tiny Frontiers should fund at or above $18,000, I promise to finish Rue From Ruin within one month. Cross my heart and hope to die.

I’ll put all extracurricular activities on hold. I’ll take time off work. I’ll do whatever it takes.

Am I manipulating you (and myself) a bit here? You betcha. Am I ashamed? Not even remotely.

So spread the word. Tell your mama. Tell your papa. Tell your friends. Tell anyone you know who roleplays or used to or thinks it might be fun or wants to get their kids into it.

Believe me; you won’t regret it. Tiny Frontiers is going to be amazing! Get on over to Kickstarter and back it now! Meantime, I’ll do what I can to make it worth your while from my end.

Friday Link Pack 1/29/2016

Just when I thought I’d done something as haphazardly and last-minute as humanly possible — I’m writing a Friday Link Pack post at 10 PM EST on Friday via airplane wifi in extremely turbulent air bound for snowy Salt Lake City after a long week of strenuous vacationing. Oh well, here goes nothing!

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As a reminder, because I know you all read two weeks ago and remember, I’m collaborating on #FLP posts with Drew Gerken, who wrote a great one last week. Check it out over on his blog.

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

So you want to be a writer…
This is a lovely post by Hugh Howey about writing and what it takes. For example, don’t give up before you’ve started. Credit where credit is due on finding this one: thanks, K.M. Alexander!

How To Write Super Sharable Content For Your Author Blog
Yes, I’m coming back to Lauren Sapala again. I saw this one come up on my list yesterday, and it’s pure gold. I’m going to start following this advice once I start writing again in earnest next month! Did I mention that aside from offering great advice on Twitter and her blog, Lauren is a writing coach for hire?

CREATIVITY/INSPIRATION

Bluescreen Launch Series
One of my favorite Young Adult authors, Dan Wells, has been writing a series of pre-launch posts on his blog for the first book in a new series, Bluescreen. Check this one out and if you haven’t read any of his stuff, give it a go.

SCIENCEY

Sweat Puns Galore!
I could write several. More than several. What I can’t do is make this stuff up. Soon we will have wrist-attached sweat analyzers that can detect things like hydration levels, glucose, sodium, and body temperature. Imagine the applications just for diabetics.

GIF OF THE WEEK

Hoping for a landing less interesting than this:

Friday Link Pack 8/28/2015

Screenshot 2015-08-26 21.22.41

Welcome, visitors from the blog of K. M. Alexander. I’m humbled and honored to post today following K. M.’s tradition of the Friday Link Pack.

To the three regular readers of my blog, you need only know two things:

  1. K. M.’s blog and the novels in his Bell Forging Cycle are fantastic.
  2. I probably won’t be writing regular Link Pack posts because K. M. already does such a great job of it. Enjoy it today!

So without further hullabaloo, I give you first I Write Sci-Fi Friday Link Pack!

Writing Links

Things You Might Not Know About Orwell’s Animal Farm
I was still in elementary school the first time I read Animal Farm. Here are a few things you might not know about it. For example #2 – T.S. Eliot rejected it.

The 2015 Hugo Awards
In case you missed all the drama at WorldCon, this is a full replay of the ceremony. It was a strange, sad year as there were many excellent nominations who probably deserved to win but ended up without a rocket because of the way they were nominated. Check out Dan Wells‘ view on the fallout. It mirrors my own.

The Answers You’re Looking For Are Not On The Internet
Lauren Sapala has a great article I read where she talks about why the writer culture on the Internet is broken. Just a little. She suggests we unplug and read more books. I’ve been doing more of this lately myself, and there is merit in the idea!

Soundtracks For Books Using Booktrack
As I write, I often think about the music that would put me in the mood to write the kind of stories I want to tell. Then I’ll make playlists on Spotify or SoundCloud to get me going when I am struggling for inspiration. A. C. Starrling takes the idea of soundtracks for books one step further in her detailed article over at The Creative Penn.

Random Links

Get And Stay Healthy
As a writer and a programmer, health is a constant concern. I spend way too many hours sitting at a desk every week. Reading through Darya Rose’s bio gave me some new ideas and the community on Summer Tomato is incredible.

A Female Doctor? Yes Please!
Hayley Atwell of Captain America and, of course, the EXCELLENT Marvel’s Agent Carter fame wants to be the next Doctor Who. This needs to happen, world. Make it happen.

If You’ve Ever Wondered Why Wikipedia Is Not Recognized As A Primary Resource
I’m sure this is news to precisely no one, but contentious topics (particularly in the realm of science) tend to change a lot on Wikipedia. Check your sources folks!

Beautiful Bookcases
If you’ve ever seen my office or living room, you would know that I’m a fan of books. My home is covered in them. Walls are filling up with shelves, and shelves are filling up with books. These are some interesting and unique ideas for storing those beautiful dead trees.

GIFs of the Week

I’m a fan of GIFs, so you get TWO this week. The first is my impression of myself posting a Link Pack that K. M.’s readers will read. He does the hard work of creating great content and cultivating followers, and then you all come here and read my post. So thank you all and thanks to K. M.!

iFinishFirst

The second is Tom Cruise (yes it is, look it up if you don’t believe me). This guy is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and yet he isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself. I admire that.

cruisinWithCruise