Mini-Games: Part 2

The adventure has been altered. Pray I don’t alter it any further.
— Darth Vader

Continuing our helpful collection of fake quotes and mini-games, this week we’re talking about tower defense games. If you want to catch up on Mini-Games: Part 1 (puzzles and riddles), go check it out here.

As a reminder: adding mini-games to your RPG adventures helps add a nice variety of gameplay that (hopefully) requires minimal research and setup. Anything you can rip out of another game and plug-and-play is a big thumbs-up.

What is a tower defense game? Traditionally, these are video games where you set up a whole bunch of soldiers, archers, laser dudes, grenadier monkeys, or whatever thematic damage slinger the game uses to defeat waves of enemies who travel along a predetermined path. You have a castle or some such that when it takes so much damage, you lose.

Tower defense is basically low-strategy resource management and protecting a control point from attacking goons.

We use tower defense mini-games constantly. The nice thing is that once you figure out a custom system that you like and your players enjoyed it that one time you tested the waters, you can duplicate and tweak your tower defense system to throw it into nearly any RPG session. And best of all: tower defense mini-games can be used for large-scale battles, escort quests, and king-of-the-hill/area control encounters.

Or, ignore everything written thus far, and just go buy a copy of Castle Panic. (Seriously, you’d think we’d be better at taking our own advice.) We started this blog post by saying that ripping out another game and dropping it into your adventure is the best option. Instead of making a custom tower defense mini-game, you could just plop down Castle Panic at the table, and have the players play it. It’s a tower defense game. It has all the nice pieces and playtested rules. Why make things complicated?

And really, this idea of straight up dropping another board game into your adventure is the main point we wanted to make (though sometimes, custom mini-games are great). Use Castle Panic to defend a keep/tower/farm. Use Quelf to infiltrate a frilly, socialite party. Use Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity to negotiate a political discourse. Grab any one of those board games neatly organized on your shelf that can be played in 20-40 minutes, and that is now the mini-game for doing the special encounter that you weren’t sure how to write. Now you look like a creative genius, and you put in less work—I’m so proud of you.

Don’t just use your grownup board games either. Go grab one of those goofy games your kids play. Those are great for mini-games! The rules can be taught in 5 minutes, and the whole game plays in 20 minutes. Perfect!