TTRPG: Simple and Cheap

TTRPG: Simple and Cheap – TTRPG’s turn many people off with their lengthy rule books and convoluted procedures. Sometimes I like a crunchy game with lots of things to keep track of and tons of bonuses to add up. However, there are also times when I just want something elegant that lends to easy interpretation without a lot of complexity. Solo gaming often requires something light so that you can use that extra mental energy on your generation tools. Many people do not have the time to devote a regular schedule to their gaming so they need something that they can pick up when there’s opportunity without having to relearn a complex system. Further, with many games running $60 or more in order to get all of the core books, rules light systems often have the advantage of coming in under $20 or way less. So here’s a list of my favorite TTRPG’s that get you on that adventure without overloading your brain or emptying your wallet. I will update as I find or think of new entries.

What Are We Looking For?

Games range from simulations to abstract story prompts. Players and GM’s usually seek something in between. They don’t usually want to feel like they’re in a creative writing class but they also don’t want a ton a of rules to memorize and spreadsheets to track everything. This holds true whether you’re a solo player that has an additional rule set to deal with and a million tables or if you’re on a perpetual time crunch, squeezing a game in whenever possible. The games that I’ve picked for this list have light rules and often other resources to help get the imagination flowing. Players won’t just use prompts, but rather rules that logically fit with most anything they want to do. Additionally, I’ve sought games with good tables that make things easier for whoever is generating the world. Finally, I looked at price. I aimed for high value under the $20 mark, although many of these are free or Pay What You Want.



Forge brings an incredibly complete package for GM’s and solo players. For free. It features an incredible selection of tables, a fantastic oracle, and useful worksheets to keep track of the world you build. Forge draws heavily on classic RPG concepts but uses modern upgrades to streamline everything. Maintaining compatibility with older editions of D&D as well as other OSR games, Forge will also allow you to use adventures written for other systems with little to no adjustments. I highly recommend this one. You can find the softcover on Amazon here. You can get the PDF for free or the hardcover or travel size on here.

Maze Rats

Maze Rats fits into the OSR style of gaming that values rulings over rules. I place immense value on Maze Rats just for the tables. If you’re a GM or solo player, Maze Rats can quickly and easily help you build a town, NPC, or dungeon. Including a random magic system, Maze Rats packs a ton of variable content into its twelve pages. Players will learn the system in a couple of minutes and you can be up and running. While made for the medieval fantasy genre, most of the tables could be used anywhere.

Four Against Darkness

Four Against Darkness exhibits how the power of procedure simplifies and rolls your game forward. Not technically an RPG, 4AD is a dungeon delving adventure game with an astonishing number of supplements that expand the game into the realm of worldbuilder and pretty full on RPG. However, the base game gives you the tools you need to run your dungeon crawl without having to make everything up. Flowcharts exemplify the gameloop while random tables provide room shapes and contents. Expansions allow for modular game growth as you need it.

Find it and expansions on DTRPG

Physical copies on Amazon

Or at the Ganesha Games site

Mörk Borg

Mörk Borg smashes through the scene with its outrageous design and style. However, hidden under the artistic flare, is a crazy simple game whose rules fit on just one page. Using modified D20 rules, Mörk Borg gets a game started quickly. Once again rulings overtake rules. Included tables to help the GM or solo player get the story rolling. The full PDF hits our max price of $20. But if you are looking to play without the loud aesthetic, and for free, you can find a bare bones edition of the main rule book and many of the official supplements on the Mörk Borg website.


Cairn draws its inspiration from the venerable games Into the Odd and Knave. Loaded with GM and player advice, Cairn seeks to be fast, simple, and accessible. GM’s will likely still need some additional help. Players receive all of the tables in this one so GM’s will need to find some inspiration elsewhere. Players roll up characters randomly including appearance and temperament. Many other games have been based off of this one, and for the price of free, it’s worth checking out. It even has a list of 100 levelless spells.

The Black Hack 2e

The Black Hack reaches back to the original dungeon crawlers of the 1970’s and seeks to refresh them for modern gaming. This is not a retro clone. The black Hack actively abstracts many concepts to speed the game up and make things easier. Players roll under their attribute scores to succeed on checks, don’t track consumables like food and torches but rather utilize a usage die, and GM’s can use the plethora of tables to speed prep along or even generate at the table. Speed and simplicity rule in the Black Hack. Lots of fans and indie companies have made expansions for it as well so there’s more to add on if you like what you’re playing.

Sci Fi

Space Aces

Space Aces takes us back to the era of Saturday morning cartoons with space adventures brimming with style and nostalgia. The included tables give plenty of inspiration for adventures and situations to put your intrepid space explorers into. The procedural generation provides ample support for solo, co-op, or traditionally led games. Space Aces tends to run along the grit levels of Star Trek so it may take a little effort to tweak things if you’re looking for a little more terror in space.

Screams Amongst the Stars

Speaking of terror in space, Screams Amongst the Stars brings Diogo Nogueira’s OSR sensibilities and fantastic random tables to the space horror genre. The rule sets fits on a single page but still allows for plenty of variety. The tables help create the harrowing situations that your spacers will have to endure. Mr. Nogueira always brings tons of creativity to the tables that supplement his easily digestible rules.

Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number from Kevin Crawford runs a touch on the high end for simplicity and economy, at least for the deluxe edition. There is also a free edition that contains something like 95% of the material that you should pick up (here) even if you don’t intend to use the game system. Created to be compatible with other OSR games, SWN (and the other Without Number games) presents numerous useful tables for creating worlds, NPC’s, factions, adventures, and even monsters/aliens. The rule set is streamlined and easy to pick up if you have previously used any D20 system.


Entity has sat on DriveThruRPG’s Bestselling Titles and Most Popular Under $5 Lists since it came out in early July. This nominally solo RPG features a simple attribute and skill system that is easily learned and lends itself well to co-op or group play as well. The procedures for exploring lay out the path for players while the tables generate interesting locations and obstacles. Adding the Advanced Storytelling expansion provides some additional rules that allow the player to unshackle from the procedure and play in a more freeform manner using oracles. Advanced Storytelling also contains numerous tables to flesh out the environment and adventure. The game system works well, but this is another one of those titles that worth picking up just for the tables.

The Starrunner Kit- The Black Hole Edition: A Sci-Fi Space Toolkit

Using the Blackhack rules, the Starrunner Kit brings roll under mechanics and tons of useful tables to the spacefaring genre. The Starrunner Kit doesn’t require the Blackhack to play as it already contains a rundown of the rules. It also includes new classes, alien species templates, and modular rules for using starships, mechs, and cyberware. A set of detailed tables outline procedures for exploring space and numerous encounters that can occur. The Starrunner Kit brings enormous value, even if you are planning to run with another system. The Blackhack rules also play well with other OSR games so you can bring other resources to bear.

Tiny Frontiers: Revised

Tiny Frontiers: Revised brings some of the most stripped down rules to the table while also supplying a ton of options. The basic check requires a roll of 2d6, a 5 or a 6 denotes success. Traits, weapon masteries, and other benefits bestow Advantage on checks (3d6) while lack of proficiency bestows Disadvantage (1d6). There are some other rules involved, but that’s really the basics. Tiny Frontiers also contains generators for planets, creatures, and settlements although these are not super extensive. Altogether this is a great system for one-shots and pick up games.


Other Dust

Another Kevin Crawford production, Other Dust packs huge amounts of content and useful resources into its $20 PDF. Yes, it stretches our limits for this list but this book definitely brings the value. Using the same system as the Without Number books, Other Dust sits on the complex side of simple. The game does make things easier for the solo player or GM, however, as it packs in the tables for mutations, NPC’s, enclaves, and encounters.

Tiny Wastelands

Tiny Wastelands brings the minimalist ruleset of the other Tiny titles to the post-apocalypse. TW includes rules for new enclaves, psionics, mutations, vehicles, and item tables for scavenging. The simple system keeps players from having to spend much time looking up rules but will involve a fair amount of judgement calls for resolving situations. Tiny Wastelands also provides a dozen microsettings. These microsettings flavor the world with descriptions, new rules and options, and tables to roll on. The solo player will need a fairly robust oracle system as Tiny Wastelands was designed for a traditional group game. However, the simple rules make it a good foundation for a solo wastelands game.


Cities Without Number

Cities Without Number continues Kevin Crawford’s excellent tradition of creating amazing games with an OSR feel and tons of useful tools. Even if you don’t play this system, CWN contains tables and advice to flesh out your cyberpunk world and create adventures. Built for group play, CWN still needs a little oracular help for solo and GM-less players. However, the system operates smoothly and the included tools will help you generate NPCS, gangs, corporations, and districts for your city. All of this is in the free version. The paid version overshoots our $20 goal coming in at $25. The extra content in the deluxe version brings cyberware variations, gengineered humans, and magical classes. However, the free book brings a lot of content on its own but it’s always good to support a fantastic creator when you can.

Altered State

Altered State brings the fast and hacked system of Index Card RPG to the cyberpunk genre. The creators of these systems strive to streamline everything so that the GM and players can focus on having fun and doing awesome things. With that said, there’s a very DIY spirit that is involved and calls will need to be made. However, as a foundational system, it’s very solid and with a couple of additions such as the free Cities Without Number or Augmented Reality, you and your players will likely find yourselves having a blast.

The Veil

The Veil brings the Powered by the Apocalypse collaborative storytelling ruleset to the cyberpunk genre. Seeking to maintain immersion and connection between player and character, the Veil uses the emotional states of characters to help determine bonuses to the standard 2d6 roll of Apocalypse games. World-building tools are included so that you and your group can create your setting together. The Veil provides a framework for telling emotional stories without the “crunch” that other systems with a more tactical focus might have.

The Black Hack: Cyber-Hacked!

This cyberpunk version of the Black Hack takes the time saving mechanics of the original and gives them a new chrome finish. The roll under mechanic and usage die as well as a streamlined die drop hacking minigame keep things zooming along. While this short supplement does not bring the inspirational tables that would complete the package if you don’t already have something in mind, for the price, it’s a solid foundation to build your big city adventures on.

Looking for more cyberpunk material? Check out our Booting Up Cyberpunk Solo series here!

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