RPPR Episode 140: Games Within Games

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Synopsis: With most of the RPPR crew out of town, Bill and I got together to discuss ways to add mini games inside a RPG. We’ve done it before in various RPPR games, but we haven’t fully explored the concept. Turning lock picking from a single skill roll to a puzzle can make the game more engaging for every player. However, figuring out what kind of mini game to add and how to integrate it can be tricky. We discuss some examples and how they work with the 8 types of fun, ranging from puzzles to board games or even other RPGs. We also have shout outs and anecdotes.

Shout Outs

  • I Am A Hero: Zombie apocalyptic character study manga. First 2 volumes are great.
  • You: A novel by Greg Stolze. Very Unknown Armies.
  • Young Justice: Teenage superheroes go on secret missions because Batman said so.
  • GM Word of the Week: A short weekly podcast by the Angry GM.
  • Fragged Empire: A post post-apocalyptic sci-fi RPG with great art and interesting rules.
  • Nuclear Throne: Fight to sit on the nuclear throne!
  • The Grizzled: A co-op WW1 themed card game. Try to survive until the war’s end.

Song: Here Comes the 8-bit Empire by Ozzed

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  14 comments for “RPPR Episode 140: Games Within Games

  1. Bill
    March 12, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Ross turned the post-production on this episode around too quickly for me to remember to send this link for inclusion. Here’s the lock-picking article that got me going on this whole thing:


  2. Adam
    March 13, 2017 at 5:29 am

    My GM did this thing with small mirrors and a laser pointer to replicate the Zelda/ Tomb Raider reflect light on to a specific point on a cardboard door to unlock it.

    I like the skill challenge house rules they do for the Critical Hit 4e game. Also the different gambling games they come up with.

    Lots of stuff you can do pressure plates, split level stuff (The part of Advance Wars: Dual Strike where you fight on 2 fronts). Also traps as puzzles the classic rising water/ sand stuff.

    Also I just remembered I have some little plastic blocks so block puzzles for tactile fun.

    I guess a lot of these involve using a map.

  3. Adam
    March 13, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Just remembered Space Alert.

    Possibly also stuff with coloured string for bioshock etc style bomb disposal/ hacking etc.

  4. March 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    There is an interesting suggestion for mass combat on Pelgrane’s website http://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/13th-sage-pc-focused-mass-combat-rules/ at least it sounds workable. Space Team for ashen stars sounds promising. Sonar – a submarine board game might also be a good fit https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/171131/captain-sonar

    Note: I have not tried the 13th age mass combat rules nor sonar.

  5. telivan
    March 13, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Great episode. This episode has helped me to solve a problem I’ve had for a bit. I’ve wanted to run a space opera campaign using savage worlds and the science fiction companion they put out but was not sure where to set it and how to deal with assigning reading and gauging investment in whatever source material I used. With Microscope I might be able to do something with the campaign idea and generate a setting the players have some investment in.

  6. james burns
    March 13, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Here is an idea that I saw work . Play the set up of Fiasco as in chose the relationships, objects,locations, etc, then after you are done tell the players that is the background for the PC’s they will be playing in the actual RPG you will play.

  7. March 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Hey, I got paged to the podcast! So I prick up my ears — just in time to hear lies!!! I didn’t get the random wounds idea from Glancy, Glancy got it from me! I demand a correction! #fakenews #pistolsatdawn #nevermindnotpistolsatdawnGlancywoulddefinitelywin

    Okay, now that my honor has been defended, excellent episode. One category of minigames that I think you overlooked: diegetic games. That is, games that the characters in the RPG play within the story. An example would be the poker game in Know Evil. You could actually run that like a real poker game. Or maybe you could run it semi-straight, but with stuff like skill rolls to successfully cheat. I think that could be really fun, getting people to play a social game like that in-character. Maybe I’ll try it sometime. And then maybe I’ll tell Glancy about it and he can get all the credit. #thatemasculationoptionwasdefinitelyGlancy’sidea

  8. trekie140
    March 13, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    There’s actually a supplement for Microscope called Explorer that, in addition to offering alternate playstyles for worldbuilding, has advice on how to create a setting for an RPG. The game has been used so commonly for that the designers came up with ways to tweak the system to do it better.


  9. james burns
    March 14, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Following Ethan’s comment on playing poker. Wizards of the Coast did just that, they came out with a game called Three Dragon Ante. It could be played as part of a RP session or just by itself. There was also an article in an old Dragon Magazine that showed you how to use the cards of Three Dragon as a Tarot/character builder, that works surprising well.

  10. Adam Makey
    March 15, 2017 at 6:44 am

    See also my comment about the gambling in Critical Hit.

  11. March 15, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for reminding me to pick up Concept Ross! In addition to wanting to play it for it’s own sake, I think Concept would work really well for communication with anything non-human, pre-translation protocols… Well, dang it, now I want to run a game about first contact and the challenges of translation.

    I may have really liked Arrival.

  12. March 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Saw a wargame ‘minigame’ at GenCon years ago, which took great advantage of the gaming venue: It was a big D-Day wargame, recreating part of Utah Beach in 25mm scale. At one point, the players got to call in naval support & one of them was given the task of playing the “spotter” on the ship. The player was led to a spot on the wall facing the game table (which was in the middle of an enormous exhibition hall), handed a laser pointer and told to designate his target. “Lots of smoke over the target zone” was the comment from the gamemaster when the player complained about people walking through his line of sight. After getting three attempts at designating the target, the player was led back to the table and the naval gunfire was resolved. The shells made it to the beach, but missed the bunker on top of the hill which the players wanted to destroy, and instead fell on a small bunker on the edge of the beach which the Americans had already cleared and were using as an improvised aid station!

    Ross also mentioned a toy-based wargame he bought, what’s the name of it? And how does it play? GoO published a simple toy-based wargame called “Toying with Destruction” 20-odd years ago (shit, that long ago?) which I ran once at at local convention with some success.

  13. March 15, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Cool story! BTW I will try out Toy War – I haven’t run it yet though https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/17613/Toy-War

  14. Max
    March 30, 2017 at 8:59 am

    During the episode Bill says that Arkham Horror (vs Pandemic) does not have any kind of a sense of the impending doom and Ross agrees. “It’s just window dressing” were the exact words. What are you talking about, have you guys actually played AH? The game has doom track that literally counts up to the player defeat. Sure, some ancient ones are weaker than others and are defeatable in combat but others are a major pain and you can’t do shit about them with Azathoth on top with his awakening words being “The end is here! Azathoth destroys the world.” It also has a town terror track which gives very significant effects on some turns increasing the sense of doom. And don’t forget the core mechanic of the game – gates open every turn is the epitome of an epidemic you can’t stop. Remember that if you have X gates open at the end of turn, the ancient one awakens immediately. If that’s not enough for you to count, I don’t know what is.

    Sure, if every player picks the best character (there are some with very powerful abilities) and you select one of the weaker ancient ones the game will seem easy but we’ve lost plenty of games with random setups.

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