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Sam Roberts

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A member registered Feb 12, 2019 · View creator page →

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I called it "Retconned" because it's inspired by "demakes" like World of Dungeons, imagining a simpler, slightly retro version of the  game. I basically cut out everything but labels and the End of Session move and then added a bunch of my own material.


Check it out, though! It's free and short!

I've been in a Masks game for about two years now — I love the game and encourage everyone to check it out, but over time felt like a lot of the tools that provide valuable support when you're starting were more constraining than helpful. Inspired by the Game Explore Jam and other game demakes like World of Dungeons, I stripped the game down to basically just the Labels and built up the bare minimum needed, with an eye toward campaign play and high-trust tables.

Basically, it's 50% thought experiment and 50% the version of Masks I want to use at my table.

done! No embarrassment necessary! We made this game to be played :-) Throw us a few bucks when you can — or don’t worry about it and just have fun!

Sure! Shoot us an email at escape from dino island at gmail. And apologies in advance if we’re a little slow to respond!

Hi! Hard to say what the best option is in the abstract — depends on your particular situation and needs. Most PDF readers (preview on Mac and Adobe on PC) allow you to add text annotations, so that’s what I usually do when I play games online. 

I do know a member of the Gauntlet gaming community graciously created and shared a google sheet version of the playsheets that might also be helpful. Here’s a link: ESCAPE FROM DINO ISLAND ONLINE PLAY AID. You’ll need to make your own copy before you can edit it, but it’s pretty great!

done!

Sure! Email us at Escapefromdinoisland [a] gmail dot com.

To be honest, with a few years' hindsight, I think it might have been a bit excessive. And obviously, as you say, nobody's going to show up to your door and arrest you if you do something that isn't listed there. (In fact, I've been a player in games where the DM went off-book and it went great!)

That said, the thinking is this: As a DM, you're making up a lot on the fly. And I know from experience, it's pretty easy to come up with an idea that seems good, only to realize you've backed yourself into a corner or stalled the game's momentum. It's especially true in a no-prep one-shot like Escape from Dino Island. So the goal is to give DMs really robust guard rails and encourage them to think hard before ignoring them. "How can I twist this reveal to make it 'mysterious'?" or "Wait, does this NPC I'm introducing have something useful to offer and a personal goal?"  will almost always result in more compelling situations. When it doesn't, whatever, I'm not your boss! Ignore me!

Also, speaking purely from personal preference, I've always found the way Powered by the Apocalypse games structure the DM section as "rules" rather than "guidelines" (Ours isn't the first game to do this!) to be freeing in a counterintuitive way — it lets me feel like I'm playing the game too, rather than "creating a story" or whatever and it makes it easier to feel comfortable hitting the PCs hard.

If we were to make a revised or expanded edition, we'd probably rework them to be more clearly strong recommendations, mostly because I don't really think a game needs to adopt a bossy tone, even when it's understood that players have complete freedom to do as they please.

Hope this clarifies things! And thanks for playing — glad you had fun with the game!

We do! Email coming your way with more info!

we still have some! Email us at escape from dino island at Gmail dot com

Thanks for asking — we love hearing about people using Escape from Dino Island for the first game they run!

Out of the “box,” Escape from Dino Island is calibrated for a one-shot or maybe a couple of sessions. Sam and I are working on some material for longer-form play, but I would definitely not wait on us — this is a side project for us so it's a slow process.

That said, I think it wouldn't be hard to do some DIY tweaks to run a short campaign and I have some thoughts!

For starters, without changing anything, there’s a lot of built-in flexibility to make the game longer as DM (by making travel more perilous, adding more encounters and challenges, etc.). The places where you may need to make some changes are:

  •  managing obstacles (adding new ones, reupping them)
  • advances (when to dole them out, what to do when they run out)
  • stories (you'll probably run out)
  • The endgame (the mechanics assume a one-shot's worth of stories)
  • MAYBE dino damage/recovery

You might also find yourself wanting to make some additional moves as situations come up.

I don't want this to sound daunting, though! Most of those rules are there to help keep the adventure-movie pace/structure, so it shouldn't break anything to mess with them. It's actually really hard to break this game, so don't stress it. Also you know the source material well, so if your instincts probably won't lead you astray —  trust your gut and do what feels fun!

Another option is to reimagine your campaigns as a film series, and run several one-shots set in the same world/featuring the same characters. Basically, run the first game as normal and then write a new questionnaire (or just come up with answers) for each sequel as you go. You could have people come back to the same island a la Jurassic World or explore a new island with the same characters a la Lost World.

Basically — go for it! And then let us know how it goes. :-)

Definitely! It would be weird with a single player because a lot of the mechanics key off interacting with a buddy but 2 is great. You’ll probably want to be ready to introduce some NPCs if they end up with skill gaps, though. Like if neither one plays a doctor, they may well need to find one on the island.

Haha if this was a subtle suggestion to add some more community copies, mission accomplished. I'm going to add some now — feel free to grab one!

Either way, good luck with running your first game! You're gonna crush it. 

I'm biased, so maybe somebody who didn't make the game can weigh in, but I'd say yes, definitely! I played a game of Escape from Dino Island with someone who'd only ever played D&D 5e and never DMed anything before and it was a blast. I think it makes a great first game because you and your friends probably know a lot about how these stories are supposed to look/feel (and that's half the battle) and also because it's a short game, so the stakes are pretty low. A couple best practices that might be helpful:

  • Don't sweat the small stuff. The game has a lot of rules about mysteries, locations, the Extinction Event, etc. These are there to help you as DM, not overwhelm you. I've run games of EfDI where I almost completely forgot about the Extinction Event because there were plenty of other things going on and the game went great.
  • Don't feel the need to call for a roll all the time. This is a big one coming from D&D. If someone's a doctor, they can probably look at an injury and assess it. If someone's a kid, they can probably sneak through a small hole (unless they're being chased by a hungry dinosaur).  If the Heroes see a helipad in the distance and want to hike to it, you, as DM, can decide whether they're going to have encounters along the way or whether it's just "You hike for 2 hours through jungle and arrive sweaty and exhausted at the helipad." Trust your sense of pacing and what feels exciting!

If you do end up running the game, let us know how it goes!


Hey Ginger, Sam here! Honestly, please don't feel obligated. Community copies are there for a reason, and the idea of you using Escape from Dino Island at camp with kids makes us smile. (We'd also love to hear how it went with younger players — one of our goals was making the game something we would've loved when we were Jurassic Park-obsessed 12-year-olds.)

If you truly insist, though, shoot us an email at our gmail (EscapeFromDinoIsland) and we can sort it out.

But mostly, thanks for playing and sharing our game!

Thanks for the kind words!

And also: Wow! I haven't had a chance to read the whole recap yet, but I'm 20 pages in and it is great so far. Highly recommend it to others, both from a "This is how Escape from Dino Island can play" POV and from a more general "This is what good play looks like" POV. 

Love the way you used the prompts as inspirations rather than IRONCLAD REQUIREMENTS — it always makes us happy to see players making the game their own.

Selfishly, I'd be curious to know what ideas you're pinching for other games and how they work out!

Hey there! Sorry I missed this.

Neither Sam nor I really use Roll20, so we don't know much about what it means to add a community sheet to the Roll20 collection, but if it helps people play online, then we are absolutely in favor of it.

If you wanna chat more about it, also feel free to email us at escapefromdinoisland [a] gmail.com.

Actually, there are! If you're interested, email us at escapefromdinoisland [a] gmail dot com!

Thanks, Will! This was me trying to write a love letter to my commute, so I'm glad it resonated with you!

Thanks for the kind words! Definitely let us know how your holiday games go, and if you end up hacking the story mechanics.

Great details in this one! I love how well you use items and spells to craft a rich, specific, and original setting. I’d love to play in this world!

This rocks. I love the way the GM doubles as a player role and a character in the game, and the explicit antagonism of the role. Also the detail of potentially hiding an inventory item is a perfect way to set the tone at the start of the game.

Overall, I'm really impressed by how this captures so much about my experiences in restaurants and retail, both the good and awful. I can't want to give this a shot.

This is low-key one of my favorite games in the Jam. So many brilliant little subsystems that contribute to a great game of romantic adventures: The terrible and cool scars, the downtime actions, and one of the most evocative sets of classes in the game.

Basically this is the ideal game for someone who's played too many Bards over the years. (I am one of those people.)

Do it! (Please.)

I will also accept hacking them into a Warriors RPG.

Oh man, this brings me right back to high school.

This was a blast to read and has a ton of fun details, both in the mechanics and the theme. The clock die is a really clever mechanic, and I love the codified rules about cross-cutting right before a roll. Nice work!

I didn't know I needed an Epic Mickey meets Dark Souls TTRPG, but I did.

Super cool and super evocative. You get a ton of mileage out of small tweaks like Fidelity and the three perfectly named stats.

This took me right back to my Warhammer/40K days of hooligan greenskins causing all sorts of mayhem! Tonally, this is perfect and every single aspect of the game points right toward the riotous themes at the heart of the game.

You've introduced some really clever rules techniques. Others have mentioned the shifting GM, but seriously, it's great tech and I'd love to see more games that shift between GMed and GMless like this does.

I'd love to see a version of this with a layout that brought the text to life!

Wow, I did not expect to like a game about amateur hockey this much! (This is not faint praise, but high praise.)

Hoser is probably my favorite design/layout in the entire Jam: Fun, usable, evocative, and dripping with charm.

The rules are nice and tight while giving you everything you need to tell the story of a scrappy underdog trying to make it in a rough-and-tumble sports world.

Like some of the others who've already reviewed this, I'm not sure this is the game for me, but I still think it's one of the highlights of the Jam, full stop.

Thrash Dogs is, well, rad!

The XP system is perfect — builds on the existing Tunnel Goons rules to make something new, lightweight, and thematically on-point. This isn't a game about fighting, it's a game about fighting the Man, and the XP system captures that perfectly. Plus, it's easy to steal and use in other hacks with more diffuse "enemies". 

The voice and design are also flawless. The only thing missing for me is a little more — I wish this had some mission prompts to get players started and build out the world.

Great lightweight cyberpunk hack. You do a great job with using a few carefully chosen words to imply a lot about the world. Probably my favorite equipment list of all the games in the Jam. So evocative!

Great, clean design + use of public domain art.

The tone is great — you manage to capture the feel of Troika! while making something decidedly your own. And I love how it's both an interplanar Tunnel Goons hack and a supplement for Troika! at the same time. It's like the game itself is a pathway between planets! :-)

This is a blast. Great tone, pitch-perfect retro video game look, and lots of fun references to classic characters and games.

The rules changes are so clever and effective in capturing the spirit of fighting games — in particular, I love the way healing doubles as a quiet character-building scene and the way weapons can easily change hands.

The one thing that doesn't quite work for me is the specific choice of battles in the tournament. For a game that emulates fighting games and tournaments, it's weird to have the players fighting together against groups of enemies. I would have liked to see more one-on-one fights, ideally with something for the other player to do while they're waiting for their turn.

That's a small complaint, though. Overall, this is super fun and a perfect game for a casual one-off session.

This is a blast. The premise is inventive, and everything is dripping with flavor and a perfect tone. I want to play this and watch the (slightly inappropriate but not really) kids' cartoon it would spawn if there was any justice in the world.

This is rad. You've packed a lot into a single page with a nice, engaging layout. Love your choice of stats and the way advancement is tied to securing a month's worth of food. Also interesting to see that you did away with the bell curve for a more swingy feel that mirrors the unpredictability of caveman life.

One small, silly complaint: The anachronistic reference to a football. Surely there's something appropriately stone age you could have chosen?

This is so fun — I can totally see myself using it for some Scott Pilgrim gaming. It's just the right amount of heightened.

You've packed a lot of structure and support into a small package and the tone is great. I'd love to see it with a layout and art that amplified what you're already doing in the text.

My one rules concern: It seems like the Band Battles rules strongly encourage characters to specialize in one of the roles and just keep spamming that one move. Is that the idea? (To be fair, it's pretty accurate to my real-life band experiences!) If not, maybe there's a way to encourage characters to branch out? Maybe they can't use the same move twice in a row? Or maybe they have to use each one at least once in a battle (and the fourth is their choice)?

Anyway, this is minor stuff. Very cool!

This is a solid microgame for fighting Zombies that I think would work great in play. I think it would benefit from a little polish for clarity, though. A few thoughts, take 'em or leave 'em:

  • A tiny bit of context at the beginning would really help, even just "A game about fighting zombies." Something about the "You" in the title and the artwork made me start off thinking it was a game about playing as Zombies.
  • Layout-wise, the high right column draws my attention and feels like where I'm supposed to start. I'd consider lowering it to start at the same height as the left column.
  • I might consider renaming classes to stats. I know Tunnel Goons calls them classes, but it's more confusing than helpful here. Also, Leverage is an interesting name for that stat. I love the idea that influencing people requires you to have leverage over them -- is that the idea?
  • For the Zombie Fever, the "you" seems to switch from the players to the GM in a way that is jarring. Also, do they lose 1 Toughness every day for 2d6 days or 1 Toughness total until 2d6 days have passed? 
  • There's a typo in the example of play -- it says "ads" instead of "adds".

Overall, cool game! Perfect for a pick-up-and-play zombie outbreak.

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Thanks for the kind words, Paolo!

My thinking with the inventory system is that it’s less about weight and more about complication — like, sunglasses are small, but they can easily flip open, fall off your head at inopportune times, etc. But yeah, it’s definitely an abstraction.

Looking forward to digging into your entry. The design and art is pitch perfect!

Cool — thanks for submitting them! We'll definitely give 'em a nice polish with some art.

Hope you enjoy the game when you give it a shot. Thanks for purchasing!

Wow, thanks! Let us know how your game goes!