For a delightful, kid-friendly, rules-light role-playing experience, consider “Adventures in Oz” by F. Douglas Wall. Wall obviously knows his way around Oz, and he’s crafted a charming RPG to draw players into L. Frank Baum’s fantasy world.
The rules are very simple, giving each character ratings of 1–5 in six basic skills (Athletics, Awareness, Brains, Sneaking, Presence, and Wits); a small variety of skill traits, special traits, and specialties serve to differentiate and individualize characters mechanically. Resolving actions boils down to skill tests using 2d6. If either die comes up equal to or lower than the target number, the action succeeds; if both dice come up equal to or lower than the target number, the character scores a “special” success. Otherwise, the character has failed. Fights, if necessary, are resolved using skill tests (or opposed tests, called “contests”), relying chiefly on the Athletics skill for physical blows and the Presence skill for intimidating dialogue. Damage is applied to the Wits skill, and a combatant who is reduced to 0 Wits has “lost the will to fight” and “may run away or surrender pitifully.” Much is left to the Narrator’s discretion, giving the game a feel that “old school” fans will appreciate.
Part I of the rulebook lays out the rules as discussed above, and also includes a chapter on Oz magic and a chapter of advice for the Narrator. Part II provides a tour of the land of Oz, highlighting interesting locations, notable personalities, and adventure possibilities. Part III presents “The Jaded City of Oz,” a marvelous introduction to the game and the setting as the characters encounter various unexpected obstacles on a parade through the land of Oz.
As the preceding comments make clear, I find this game to be a lot of fun. I rated four starts instead of five for two reasons. First, the “gray” layout and the discomfiting rate of grammatical errors (use of “it’s” where sentences call for “its” is particularly noticeable) detract from the overall experience. Second, given that the game is based on the published fiction of L. Frank Baum—now in the public domain due to its age—the publisher would have done well to apply a more generous copyright policy than “all rights reserved” to the text. A Creative Commons license that allows other authors to publish materials for the game would have been more appropriate.
[4 of 5 Stars!]