Friday, May 21, 2021

Tiny Dungeon 2e with Kids: When Kid Games Aren't Enough

Tiny Dungeon 2e cover art 
by Michael Leavenworth,
©2018, Gallant Knight Games

 When I started playing role-playing games with my oldest son, I started with No Thank You, Evil! by Monte Cook games. NYTE has hey wonderful and whimsical setting, and very simple mechanics.

While it is certainly possible to tell more sophisticated stories in No Thank You Evil! , the fact of the matter is that the game is a pretty limited scope. It's system of fun points, for example make it very difficult to tell a story that doesn't involve the characters being able to stop and have a snack whenever they want to. It lacks tension. More importantly, it lacks any serious sense of a moral frame: while it is called No Thank You Evil!, there is no struggle of good versus evil built into the game. I would argue that it's so long as you're using the setting for which the game is designed, there cannot be. It just isn't supported by the game's structure. All villains are misunderstood but basically good at worst. 

In my household, I believe in teaching my children about the ideas of Good and Evil and how they look both in Myth, and in real life. Accordingly, I have raised them on Norse mythology, The Chronicles of Narnia the actually good Star Wars movies, old superhero cartoons, and even older children's books from an earlier era where there were always clear good guys and bad guys.

My son noticed pretty early on as we played through the pre-designed No Thank You Evil! scenarios was that the thrilling heroics, and struggles of Good versus Evil simply weren't there. And that disappointed him. He wanted more from his role-playing game than NYTE could offer. 

He had, in effect matured beyond what NYTE is structurally capable of offering

Obviously, the easy solution to this would be to move to a role-playing game more in line with the Mythic. And that is why I quickly turned to Tiny Dungeon 2e.

I have already reviewed Alan Bahr's  Tiny Dungeon . It's a game, I've liked enough to buy twice, and I don't feel like I need to repeat any but the most basic points about that review here. I do, however, want to say why I chose it as his next step... 

Tiny dungeon 2e is light. It is lighter than No Thank You, Evil! by a fair site. Aside from hit points, the only thing that really matters about your character is a list of four things, one weapon, and one job that they are good at. Characters do not really have stats beyond their hit point total.

It is a game where combat is nasty and brutish, and incautious characters can be hurt or die very quickly. And I believe that is important in role playing games, because I'm not interested in a monster slaying simulator. If your character was at no risk of being hurt, you weren't really a hero to begin with, just a thug. 

"Peter and Miraz Duel" from Prince Caspian, 
Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
©1951, S. S. Lews Pte. Ltd. 
One of the best things about the Chronicles of Narnia is that the characters are afraid of battle, and do not go into it lightly. They talk about the fear involved. The character who has to fight the most, Peter, is often a young boy facing off against grown men, dire wolves, and monsters. It is frightening, and at the end of the battle he is stunned or shaking. He is not usually proud of his victory, but relieved.

I want that to be part of the game, so that whether I'm telling a heroic story or running a simple dungeon crawl, my son doesn't get the impression that he can simply bash his way through every problem, and that a peaceful approach, mercy, and using your wits is an important part of how a good game is played. 

This puts it in a golden spot for the kind of game I want: It is simple, easy enough for a 4-year-old to master, and fast-paced, so you can work around the shorter attention span simply by using a five room dungeon structure or the adventure generator included.

And for that matter, as my son became more interested in the Superhero genre of media, it is very easy to create a character trait that represents a superpower and make it blend seamlessly in with the tiny d6 engine 

Tiny Dungeon served me for almost a year of gameplay with my son. With character generation boiling down to "Who is he?", "What is he?", and "What do you want him to do?" I could put together a scenario i and be playing within five minutes of him asking for a game. 

Through  TD2e were able to play stories that satisfied him about saving Farmers from giants, rescuing villages from starvation, helping prisoners escape a monster infested dungeon, or exploring a wasteland to help exiles find a new home. 

The abilities he most wanted to have, like talking to animals, calming enemies down with hypnosis, or superhuman jumping could easily be dropped into the system.

Tiny Dungeon Hatchling Edition cover art 
by Olivia Stephens,
©2018, Gallant Knight Games
It is worth noting that Tiny Dungeon 2E does in fact have a kid-friendly edition. Tiny Dungeon Hatchling Edition.

I cannot say, however, what it is that sets it apart from Tiny Dungeon 2e , as I did not pick up that version of the game. Mostly, it would appear that it replaces some of the more grim dark Fantasy settings in the "Micro-Settings chapter that takes up the latter third of the book with more kid-friendly scenarios.

All in all, I would say that Tiny Dungeon whether you get the kid friendly version or the grown up version of the game is one of the best possible choices for creating a role-playing experience for kids that covers the themes of high and fantasy, myth, and heroic storytelling.


  1. "Obviously, the easy solution to this would be to move to a role-playing game more in line with the Mythic. And that is why I quickly turned to Tiny Dungeon 2e."

    The link directs to your NTYE review, not to Tiny Dungeon.

  2. Yup. I really like this one. I almost went with it when playing with the kids here.