Deernicorn’s Guide to TTRPGs for Libraries and Schools

Heart of the Deernicorn is excited to support the Washington State Library’s “Tabletop Roleplaying Games For All” project, an initiative to integrate tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) into library collections and programming.

Librarians and educators interested in building a tabletop roleplaying games collection or incorporating games into programs for adults and youth will find all the essential information they need here, including:

-What is a story game?
-Hosting game events
-Top picks: tabletop roleplaying games for library programming

What Is A Story Game?

A story game is a type of tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) that uses collaborative storytelling to create a shared narrative experience.

Traditional TTRPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons rely on a Game Master to prepare, facilitate, and lead the game. Story games distribute narrative control among all the players, allowing for a more collaborative storytelling experience. These TTRPGs use simple rules and mechanics to emphasize creativity, improvisation, and the collective construction of a story, rather than competitive gameplay.

Story games vary widely in terms of game mechanics, genre, setting, and theme. In some games, players will craft characters and immerse themselves in roleplaying across diverse settings and genres. In others, they will draw maps, build communities, address ethical dilemmas, and explore themes spanning from epic fantasy to personal growth and coming-of-age narratives. Story games in particular are ideal for libraries, schools, and community spaces looking to host drop-in game nights and all-ages programming that fosters creativity, literacy, and social interaction.

Frequently Asked Questions
(click for details)

Age Considerations

What is the age range?
Tabletop roleplaying games are generally suitable for ages 8+, requiring foundational skills in basic reading, listening, and engaging in small group discussions. Many games feature family-friendly story prompts and setups, leaving it up to the players to decide the direction of their narrative, including the use of violence or mature themes. 

Session Length & Number of Players

Session Length?
TTRPGs are playable in single sessions, typically spanning 1-4 hours. Some games will conclude a full story in this time, while others have the opportunity to extend the narrative over multiple sessions of play called a “campaign”.

Number of Players?
Player count varies by game, with most designed for between 2-6 participants, though options exist for solo play and larger groups. 

Supplies Required

What supplies are required to play these games?
Several games are ready to play directly from the box or book, requiring no extra materials.
Many games use a combination of the following components:

  • Blank paper and notecards
  • Writing implements
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Several six sided dice
  • Coins or small objects to use as tokens
  • (Optional) Pre-printed PDFs for Light Prep and Game Master facilitated games
  • (Optional) Deck of tarot cards
Safety Tools – Violence & Sexuality

Aren’t all tabletop roleplaying games violent?

While some TTRPGs feature combat, violence, or sexuality within their narrative structure, not all games focus on these elements. In fact, the majority of games in this guide steer clear of such themes, with their inclusion and portrayal largely shaped by player preferences. TTRPGs often adopt thoughtful approaches to potentially sensitive content, prompting players to discuss and reflect on the in-game implications of their decisions.

For games that do explore these areas, nearly all are equipped with Safety Tools like the “X-Card” and “Lines and Veils,” designed to handle sensitive topics with care. These tools empower players to set personal boundaries and express any discomfort, fostering a gaming environment that is safe and enjoyable for all participants.

How To Host A Story Game / TTRPG Event

Our tried and tested format for hosting game nights that we’ve used hundreds of times at Story Games Olympia. This format allows for all styles of roleplaying games (ready to play, light prep, solo, game master / facilitated). Perfect for hosting a welcoming gaming event within your library or school.

Duration: 2-4 hours

Set Up:

  • Offer a diverse array of tabletop roleplaying games, focus on the Ready-to-Play category for ease of use.
  • Supply essential materials like paper, index cards, and writing utensils.

Story Game Night Structure

Introductions – 3 Things About Story Games (10 minutes):
Use these three simple principles to introduce the concept of story games. This segment is led by the host or experienced participants and is meant to demystify roleplaying games for newcomers and foster a welcoming atmosphere. 

  • 1) Games Are Like A Conversation: 
    • Emphasize that playing games involves the same skills used in conversations, such as listening, questioning, and collaboratively building on ideas. Remind participants to respect each other’s speaking turns.
  • 2) Think Small:
    • Encourage participants to start with simple concepts and to pay attention to the details. Not every idea needs to be grandiose to be impactful.
  • 3) X Card / Safety Tools:
    • Explain the purpose of safety tools and the X-Card, a simple tool allowing anyone to remove uncomfortable content without explanation, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants. 


  • Participants eager to play a specific game will take turns introducing themselves, present the game by holding it up, provide a short description, and mention the required number of players. 
  • Attendees will then select their preferred game from among the pitches, forming smaller groups to play. 

Note: Pitch presenters should indicate if the game requires a Game Master (GM), specifying whether they can assume this role or if they are seeking someone with the necessary experience.

Game Sessions (Approximately 2 hours):

  • Breakout groups will play their games. 

Closing Circle:

  • Signal a 15-minute warning before regrouping everyone into a closing circle. 
  • Ask participants to reflect and go around the circle one at a time, sharing from these options:

-An experience they had
-An appreciation of another player
-Something that was challenging or difficult

Top Picks: Tabletop Roleplaying Games for Library Programming

These are curated top picks from our catalog, selected especially for library programming.
For the complete long list of recommended titles for libraries, explore this page.


(No Game Master, No Preparation).

Ready to play story games that do not use a game master or require any preparation. Playable upon opening the box / book. These are great for use in library programming and drop-in game nights.

BFF! Best Friends Forever

BFF! is a heartwarming tabletop roleplaying game where players take on the roles of a group of tween girls hanging out, having adventures, and exploring how friendships grow and change. The visually stunning and tactile game components provide vibrant backdrops to the unfolding stories. Character standees feature a diverse cast of characters and the setting has a charming lived-in feel. Each game concludes with a yearbook signing, encapsulating funny moments and memories from the play session. BFF! is an invitation to explore friendship through a lens of empathy, creativity, and collaborative storytelling. A ready to play title that appeals to both adults and children.

Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Friendship. Families. Middle School. Nostalgia. Girls and Women.

Number of Players: 2-6.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation. 
Format: Boxed game with physical components.
Comparable media: Adventure Time (tv series). Lumberjanes (comics) .
Designed in Washington

The Quiet Year

The Quiet Year is a map-drawing story game where players navigate the complexities of rebuilding a community in the aftermath of civilization’s collapse. The game uses a deck of 52 oracle cards, each representing a week of the year, to drive the narrative through events that impact the community’s fate – from dire challenges to unexpected good news. Players’ decisions define the values and future of the community, all while contributing to a collaboratively drawn map. No artistic skills are required. The map blends basic cartography with symbols, creating a rich visual record of land and people. Simple gameplay invites players to explore compelling narratives of community resilience and conflict.

Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Community. Conflict. Post-apocalypse.

Number of Players: 2-4.
Format: Custom cards and simple components.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Comparable media: Station Eleven (tv series & book). Fallout (video games). 

Fall of Magic

In Fall of Magic players embark on a journey to accompany the dying Magus to the birthplace of magic. They will travel through a fantastical world where magic is teetering on the brink of extinction. This GMless, prep-free game unfolds on a stunning 5.5-foot canvas scroll, featuring a handcrafted map that guides the narrative with evocative prompts. The tactile experience is enhanced by beautiful illustrations and physical tokens, inviting players into a deeply immersive storytelling adventure. Perfect for those seeking a blend of fantasy, exploration, and collaborative creation.

Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Fantasy. Friendship. Journeys. Loss.

Number of Players: 2-4.
Format: Boxed game, double sided scroll with accessories.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation. 
Comparable media: Lord of the Rings (books), The Legend of Zelda (video games), Studio Ghibli (movies).

Designed & Manufactured in Washington.


I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic

In I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic players collaboratively build a city: filling it with life and vivid detail, exploring its hidden corners and meeting its strange and wonderful inhabitants. Players will use nested index cards to expand on each other’s ideas, detailing landmarks, neighborhoods, and residents. These cards are then complicated by events: festivals, elections, ceremonies, natural disasters, mysteries, or discoveries that change the flow and focus of play. Adaptable to any genre or setting, I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic encourages players to delve into the essence of community and urban dynamics, offering a reflective look at how spaces and people influence each other.


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: City building. Community.

Number of Players: 2-6.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Format: Book, 54 pages.
Comparable media: SimCity (video game), The City We Became (book), Welcome to Night Vale (podcast).


Follow is a tabletop roleplaying game that brings players together in a cooperative journey to achieve a shared quest, be it starting a rebellion, curing a disease, slaying a dragon, or getting their candidate elected. The instructions are carefully laid out for pick-up-and-play sessions and designed to make the game accessible to everyone -– including those who have never seen a roleplaying game before. It is versatile in genre and theme, adapting to the setting chosen by the players. Follow stands out for its focus accessibility and the dynamics within the group, questioning whether unity or individual choices will prevail. It’s an engaging exploration of teamwork and decision-making, perfect for spontaneous gaming sessions.

 Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Teamwork. Quests.

Number of Players: 3-5.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Format: Book, 92 pages.

Designed & Manufactured in Washington


Fiasco is a tabletop roleplaying game about ordinary people in wild situations where things go disastrously wrong. Inspired by the chaos of Coen Brothers-style movies where ambitious characters with poor impulse control navigate catastrophic scenarios. The game uses narrative prompt cards to foster stories of greed, fear, lust, and impending mishaps. The core boxed edition includes three diverse playsets, from fantasy to suburban settings, with additional and customizable playsets available. Fiasco was designed for accessibility and requires no preparation or game master – offering a quick, humorous, and intense roleplaying experience of creative chaos.


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: Dark comedy. Crime capers. Small town drama.

Number of Players: 3-5.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Format: Boxed game with card playsets.
Comparable media: Coen Brothers movies.


Sign is a unique roleplaying game based on the history of Nicaraguan Sign Language. In 1977 fifty deaf children from across the country were brought together to a school in Managua. Without a shared language to express themselves, the children did something remarkable—they created one. Sign is a game inspired by that journey and played completely in silence. One person is the teacher and all other players are students. The game alternates between classroom and recess sessions, and players develop their own language during play. Sign is a remarkable example of accessible game design that fosters empathy through highlighting the history and importance of Deaf community and sign language. 


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Communication. Historical. Language. Deaf culture. 

Number of Players: 4-7.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Format: Boxed game with large form cards.
Comparable media: Coda (movie), El Deafo (book), Through Deaf Eyes (documentary)


Epitaph is an intimate look at the events that shape a person’s life. Players will explore the timeline of someone who has died (called The Departed), uncovering their world, identity, and history. Ultimately, they’ll come to know and empathize with them in a deep, complex way. This game requires no prior preparation; participants simply gather, open the book, and begin crafting stories. With variable role-playing commitment, players can detail significant moments, enact scenes, or deliver character monologues. The game’s tone, shaped by player choice, ranges from humorous to tragic and can be played across a variety of genres or historical settings. Epitaph provides an experience that will leave players with a deep sense of connection to the characters they create. 


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Loss. Legacy. Memory.

Number of Players: 3-5.
Style: Ready to Play – no gamemaster, no preparation.
Format: Book. 55 pages. 
Designed & Manufactured in Washington


(No Game Master. Light Preparation)

Story Games that do not use a game master, but require some light preparation, such as reading rules and/or pre-printing PDF character sheets. They are well suited for library programming where there is time for light preparation and some may require minor help to get players started.


Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy roleplaying game where players take on the roles of animal-folk traveling from village to village. It features a simple diceless system focused on storytelling and character growth. The game emphasizes the beauty of nature, the changing of seasons, and the lives of its inhabitants, offering a rich canvas for players to explore themes of belonging and change. With stunning art and a focus on the lives of ordinary people from kindly farmers to crafts-folk, Wanderhome will immerse players in an imaginative and collaborative fantasy experience.


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Fantasy. Slice-of-life. Journeys. Nature. Change.

Number of Players: Any.
Style: Light preparation. GM Agnostic (can be played with or without a GM).
Format: Book, 259 pages. 
Comparable media: Redwall (books), Moomins (books / tv), Studio Ghibli (movies)

Dialect: A Game About Language and How It Dies

Dialect is a collaborative storytelling game where players build an isolated community, its unique language, and explore how that language becomes lost over time. As players navigate the community’s changes through a series of Ages, they will witness the end of isolation by the game’s conclusion. Dialect offers a mix of historical, sci-fi, and fantasy scenarios and guides players with evocative prompts from the Language Deck. Players take away both the story they’ve told and the dialect they’ve built together. Featuring exquisite art and insights from linguists, Dialect fosters impactful, memorable experiences and is a fruitful resource for discussions about language revitalization.


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Language. Culture.

Number of Players: 3-5.
Style: Light preparation. No gamemaster.
Format: Book (150 pages) & deck of custom cards.

The Skeletons

In The Skeletons, players are skeletal guardians eternally bound to protect a tomb, awakening only to fend off intruders and gradually recall their past lives. The game uniquely captures the passage of time through literal silent pauses and turning the lights off and on, fostering an introspective atmosphere. As the narrative unfolds, players contribute to a collectively drawn map of the tomb and fill in details of who and what their characters once were. The Skeletons invites players into a haunting and melancholy journey through time.


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Fantasy. Time. Memory.

Number of Players: 1-6.
Style: Light preparation. No gamemaster.
Format: Book, 60 pages. 
Comparable media: Planescape Torment (video game).


(One Player)

Tabletop roleplaying games for just one player.  Solo games use journaling and imaginative play to allow players to craft their own stories guided by the game’s framework. Solo games are rapidly growing in popularity and are ideal for library collections or gamenights, offering patrons a chance to enjoy roleplaying without social pressure. 

Thousand Year Old Vampire

Thousand Year Old Vampire is a solo (one player) roleplaying game where players create a vampire and chronicle the many centuries of their existence, beginning with the loss of mortality and ending with their inevitable destruction. The gameplay progresses semi-randomly through a book of narrative prompts, weaving a tale of dark moments and fleeting victories. With simple mechanics, players face poignant decisions, particularly around the vampire’s finite memory, choosing which memories to preserve and which to forsake. The book itself is a work of art, adorned with scrapbook clippings, photos, and annotations, creating a deeply engaging and unforgettable journey.


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: Fantasy. Horror. Memory. Mortality. 

Number of Players: 1
Style: Solo journaling.
Format: Book, 188 pages.
Comparable media: Dracula (book). Interview With A Vampire (book).

Alone on a Journey

Alone on a Journey is a set of three solo journaling and exploration story games within a single zine. Players can wander through the cosmos, explore the district of an ancient city, or discover objects deep in a strange forest. The gameplay is elegantly simple, requiring only a journal, a six-sided die, and a standard deck of playing cards, with the outcomes guiding the players narrative and discoveries.The zine also includes a guide to creating solo journaling games using the Alone on a Journey framework.


Age Range: 8+
Subjects & Genre: Discovery. Exploration. Solitude. 

Number of Players: 1
Style: Solo journaling.
Format: Zine / Booklet, 29 pages.
Comparable media: Journey (videogame)


(Game Master Required, Moderate Preparation)

Tabletop roleplaying games that require one person to act as a game master / facilitator who has read the rulebook in advance. These games require preparation, printed character sheets, and several 6-sided dice. The titles listed below are popular and may circulate well in a collection, but will require variable preparation and a facilitator for use in library programming and game nights. 

Monsterhearts 2 

Monsterhearts 2 puts players in the roles of teenage monsters, blending the trials of adolescent life with the complexities of the supernatural. The game delves into themes of identity, transformation, and the hidden turmoil beneath the surface of high school life. The narrative-centric approach is propelled by the players’ choices, often leading to dramatic and unforeseen developments. In Monsterhearts 2, players navigate tales of teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles, all while grappling with the monstrous transformations of their changing bodies. 


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: Adolescence. Horror. Highschool. LGBTQ. 

Number of Players: 3-4
Style: Game master & dice. Low preparation.
Format: Book, 175 pages. 
Comparable media: Twilight (books/movies), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (tv), Chilling Adventure of Sabrina (tv) 

CBR+PNK Augmented

CBR+PNK is a tabletop roleplaying game designed for streamlined single sessions in the cyberpunk genre. In a gritty, neon-lit dystopia, players embody a team of runners — mercenaries, criminals, and activists — completing one final job. CBR+PNK is uniquely presented across 12 concise, double-sided pamphlets, that contain the entirety of the rules, character sheets, and pre-made missions. Players use whiteboard markers to write on the reusable pamphlets. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking a compact yet deeply engaging TTRPG experience in the cyberpunk genre. 


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: Cyberpunk. Science fiction. 

Number of Players: 2-5.
Style: Game master & dice. Low preparation.
Format: Pamphlets. 
Comparable media: The Matrix (movie), Bladerunner (movie), Cyberpunk 2077 (video game), Neuromancer (book) 

Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Thirsty Sword Lesbians is a queer action roleplaying game filled with flirting, witty banter, and dramatic confrontations. This is a versalite game, accommodating a wide array of settings from space opera to pirate adventures. With gameplay that can turn a sword duel into a moment of romantic connection, the game encourages narratives where characters’ strengths come from their emotions and relationships. The book includes a wealth of content, from campaign settings, and scenario seeds, to guidance for creating compelling adversaries. Thirsty Sword Lesbians celebrates the love, power, and existence of queer identities, making it a vibrant addition to any TTRPG collection.


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: LGBTQ. Action adventure. Romance.

Number of Players: 3-6
Style: Game master & dice.
Format: Book, 224 pages. 
Comparable media: Gideon the Ninth (book). Xena: Warrior Princess (tv) 

Apocalypse World

Apocalypse World is a gritty narrative focused tabletop roleplaying game about characters surviving in a post-apocalyptic setting. Set 50 years after an undefined apocalypse, this game plunges players into a raw, survivalist narrative where the specifics of the cataclysm and the world itself are co-created by the players. Characters ranging from bike gang leaders, untouchable gun luggers, and heads of strongholds, are endowed with significant agency, navigating a landscape rife with danger, alliances, and the omnipresent psychic maelstrom. Apocalypse World is a ground-breaking roleplaying game that has inspired a whole generation of game design. There are no preplanned adventures or settings. Instead there are clear agendas and principles for players to build their own apocalypse and play to find out what happens.


Age Range: 14+
Subjects & Genre: Post apocalypse. Dystopian. Survival. Romance.

Number of Players: 3-5.
Style: Game master & dice. Low preparation.
Format: Book, 305 pages.
Comparable media: Mad Max (movies), The Road (book), Borderlands (video game) 

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