My favorite take on fantasy? More complex than World of Dungeons, not as crunchy as DW. A lot of thought and care went into this one.


Light Dungeon World, under 15 pages. So good!

Deep Light Games

Hard-Knock World is a streamlined tabletop roleplaying game where players adventure to learn new skills at the metaphorical ‘school of hard knocks’: advancement is open-ended, using broad fictional descriptions. Each PC can master a new ability related to their class each session, but this happens diegetically (in the story) rather than being chosen between sessions from a list of advanced moves—

  • The cleric discovers a sacred text among the treasure of a tower.
  • The druid seeks out and studies the essence of an animal whose form they can now shape-shift into.
  • The fighter trains with a legendary warrior to master a new feat.
  • The rogue finds rare ingredients, recorded recipes in a tower, or someone who teaches them how to make a new poison.
  • The warlock defeats a monstrous opponent and studies its corpse.
  • The wizard studies the arcane arts or discovers scrolls or magical artifacts.

Players only need four standard dice, a pencil, and their character sheet to play. Rather than require custom playbooks per class, everyone uses the same two-page character sheet to start. These list the common moves, which are adapted from Homebrew World, a Powered-by-the-Apocalypse fantasy game by Jeremy Strandberg. In addition to the common moves, each class and background (draconic, dwarf, elf, half-elf, human) provides a move, with the ability for players and GMs to collaborate on custom backgrounds and classes. Inventory tracking uses a simple encumbrance system (a character can carry up to 10 checked items) with consumables (e.g., ammo, armor, books, herbs, scrolls, gear) each providing three uses, marked only on poor rolls.

The 14-page rules include:

  • A complete campaign setting, with a hex map with a dozen keyed locations and four adventure fronts
  • Statistics and moves for 35 monsters
  • Suggestions for advancement paths and opportunities for each class
  • Rules for character creation, safety tools, and guidance for hook questions
  • GM advice on principles, flow of play, advice for combat, shared worldbuilding, fronts and long-term threats, and wrapping up a session

Game-design acknowledgements:

Illustration acknowledgements: