Cool Stuff Wednesday: Games You Might Not Know About

For this Cool Stuff Wednesday, I want to bring up some games that you might not have heard about, haven’t come across your radar, or that you remember from a long time ago.


S. John Ross came up with Risus back in 1993, and you can see it’s DNA in many games sense. It’s a 4-page free, rules-light game. It took the “make up your own skills” thing from Over the Edge and boiled the rules down to essentials. It’s certainly formative to games like Fate, PDQ (which I should write about in the future, as it’s the game that brought me to playing indie games), and others.

Rob Donoghue and Brent Newhall share some words on G+ about Risus, notably Rob’s “I treat Risus as a baseline. Every RPG needs to successfully argue for why I should use those rules and not just use Risus.

Think of it as essential reading for being an RPG designer.


John Harper’s Wildlings is probably my favorite unfinished game.  The only thing that’s available is the “Player’s Kit,” which just has essentials, each on their own pages.

  • Splash page
  • Premise/map
  • Making your character
  • Playing the game
  • Character sheet

And that’s it. There’s more to the game, but you have to fill it in yourselves. (I talked about making the GM’s Kit with John a few years back, but as with many plans, that was just wishful conversation.)

If you’ve been following me for some time, you’ll know that I consider language in RPGs to be far, far more important than math. Wildlings was one of the games that really hammered this home for me, because it turned language into direct stakes. I’ve had a lot of fun running Wildlings, and lately I’ve been thinking about reskinning Wildlings to be about young archeologists lost in the Hollow Earth rather than young warriors off on an adventurous rescue.

(By the way, did you know that John Harper has a Patreon for making tabletop games? Now you do.)

Sea Dracula

Sea Dracula is… the weirdest game about being dancing animal lawyers. Hell, I’ll just give you the pitch from the game itself:

Animal City is a magical town full of hardworking talking animals with crazy names and silly opinions. The city is famous for it’s nonsensical legal system, where the lawyers are responsible not just for prosecuting cases but also for fighting monsters and throwing parties. This was the legendary legal system pioneered by that great giraffe lawyer, Sea Dracula. The proud traditions of the Animal City legal system have been handed down from generation to generation, slowly losing their meaning and becoming strange and obscure. Don’t mistake the ways of this legal system for those of your own! The lawyers of Animal City strive only to win! All other considerations, even the welfare of their clients and the sanctity of the law, are secondary. They dance the dance of the animal lawyers, and mere mortals such as us can only stand back and watch in awe and terror!

If that doesn’t intrigue you, move on. If it does, though, Sea Dracula is a free game. It’s… man, it’s hard to describe. I suppose that’s part of why it was a runner-up for the 2008 Indie RPG Award for Most Innovative Game. It’s part point-scoring improv game, part mock trial, part dance-off.

And I think I have the dubious honor of winning the very first Sea Dracula game, back at the first Go Play Northwest. I did so partly by disrupting an Everway game as I was told to “do the Running Man,” and not knowing that dance I just started running until I slammed into a wall.

Really, it was weird. But it also made me think about what it means to be rules in a game, and what objectives we can truly have as players and designers.

There’s a quote from me in the PDF: “Sea Dracula brought the hardcore out in us.” Indeed it did, which is why I decided to make one of its many covers the image for this post.

Refuge in Audacity

I have extolled Logan Bonner’s virtues before, and yet again I must sing the praises of Refuge in Audacity. I shall do so using my favorite trick.

[I stare Lyndsay Peters dead in the face as I flip open my copy of Refuge in Audacity.]

Me: “I need a number from 1 to 100.”

She rolls. “57.”

Me: “Good. And another.”

She rolls again. “28.”

I consult the oracle that is the Refuge in Audacity races and classes chart. “You are a Moon Baby Dickensian Ragamuffin.”

It’s actually a weird party game I’ll occasionally play, where I’ll bust the book out on my phone and have people roll up their race and class. People generally bust up.

But the game doesn’t end there. In running and playing RiA, I’ve learned two things:

  • People love random tables
  • You don’t actually need a lot of rules to go around random tables

It’s got some really neat design going on in its space, and doesn’t get enough love. As I occasionally work on my own Gun ‘n Fuck[1], I keep coming back to how RiA shows mastery of using random tables in design.

Also, it’s e-free, but I highly recommend buying a physical from Logan if you can. It’s even more hilarious in paper form, for some reason.

Indie Mixtape

The last thing I’ll mention isn’t like the others, because it’s new, it’s not free, and it’s not a game. Jonathan Walton put together a project called Indie Mixtape: Volume 1, a collection on microgames by various authors, each inspired by a song. The proceeds go to members of the indie games community facing medical problems or other challenges that have put a strain on their resources.

Check out the page. You’ll see some familiar faces among the list of contributors, and you’ll see some names that you might not know yet by will be impressed by and will want to follow in the future.

I think mentioning five games is good for one post. There are so many games out that that aren’t well known that deserve to be, so there will be more posts! :D

– Ryan

[1] One day, GnF. One day…


2 Responses to Cool Stuff Wednesday: Games You Might Not Know About

  1. John Powell says:

    “lately I’ve been thinking about reskinning Wildlings to be about young archeologists lost in the Hollow Earth rather than young warriors off on an adventurous rescue.”

    I’ll play that game with you!