In April 2017 I participated in the 200 Word RPG Challenge to design a role-playing game using 200 words or fewer.
You are a sea/sky/starship captain at a dockside tavern. Starting RESOURCES: three SKILLS, three SCARS, no SUPPLIES. Each captain shares their story. Who (or what) are you? How did you become captain? In turn, swap tales. Roll 2D6 against the captain to your left. Winner names a tale of your adventures: strange folk, dangerous creatures, hidden places. Loser chooses: FOLK: dynamic discoveries or fearsome foes CREATURES: fearsome foes or terrible treasures PLACES: terrible treasures or dynamic discoveries Tell the tale together. Others prompt: "Is it true that...?" For your tale of: DISCOVERIES: +1 SKILL FOES: +1 SCAR TREASURES: +1 SUPPLY Continue until a captain says, "...and that's how I wound up here," gaining +1 RESOURCE. Other captains each tell another tale. Recite your SKILLS, SCARS, and SUPPLIES. Someone calls you a liar. A brawl looms. Secretly select one ally, then reveal. Allies pool resources and act as one. If chosen captain doesn't reciprocate, take +2 SCARS and you are WOUNDED. In turn, pick another captain to attack, rolling 2D6 ≤ SKILL. Hit captains roll 2D6 ≤ SCARS or are WOUNDED; if WOUNDED again, they DIE. Consuming a SUPPLY allows rerolling. Those killed describe their fates. Winner tells tale of triumph.
My initial plan was to design a game in which each player was in command of starship on an exploratory mission in a strange galaxy, encountering alien creatures, gaining new insights, and discovering weird technology. Given the word limit and resource constraints (I couldn't give the players a deck of "Encounter Cards"), I realised that some amount of collaborative storytelling would be key, which led to to idea of captains swapping tales in a tavern.
Given that science fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea, and the few mechanics I could fit into the word limit could be more broadly applied, I decided to generalize the setting a little (though I wonder if a narrower scope would be helpful to new players). If you happen to play it, be sure to let me know what you think!
This work is licenced under Creative Commons BY 4.0.