Author – Kazumi Chin (@kazumiochin)
Where to Buy – https://kazumiochin.itch.io/dino-ninja
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize 12-year-old me and 35-year-old me have approximately the same taste in entertainment. I can’t honestly say whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, however I can say beyond a doubt it is what allowed me to find so much joy in Dino Ninja by Kazumi Chin. In Dino Ninja, you play a (and brace for the shock of your life) dinosaur who is also a ninja. It’s a simple premise but hey, I know there’s a strong contingent of my usual readers who have already decided to grab this game based on this brief description alone.
But…maybe don’t stop reading just yet. I mean, at the end of this, I still think you’ll want to grab this game, but let me gush about it a little more first, okay? Indulge me.
Dino Ninja is an extremely lean PBTA-inspired game that manages to pack a lot into a scant five pages. It’s got unique and thematic stats, creatively constructed moves, GMing advice, and even a fantastic pun-filled adventure. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fight Dr. Dino-mite and his evil Triceracops? Oh, and the art is fantastic. Just look at it!
I don’t know why the corgi is dressed like a dinosaur, but I appreciate its inclusion here immensely.
One of the things I like the most about this game is how it handles hit points. Instead of a traditional pool of health, players have a number of truths about their character. For example, all dinosaur ninjas have a sword. They all have a functioning parachute. They can run quickly. When a dinosaur takes damage, the player has to choose one of their truths to cross out and they suffer a penalty doing anything related to that truth in the future.
So, if my ankylosaur ninja tried to bite one of the sewer zombies (spoilers) and I rolled poorly, I might choose to cross out the truth that I do not have a toothache. Mechanically, this would mean every related roll in the future in which I had to bite something would incur a -2 penalty. Healing works much the same. If, in the fiction, I can explain how I worked to relieve my toothache, I can un-cross that out and can go right back to biting things sans penalty.
I appreciate that the author could’ve designed this game to be something more like World of Dungeons or Lasers & Feelings (i.e. much simpler and more streamlined) but chose not to. And I don’t say this to cast shade on those games – they’re great! For me, the extra (and potentially unnecessary?) details and work that went into this game are exactly what make it so special. Every goofy move, every terrible (read: wonderful) pun, and every bit of extra flavor make this game much greater than the sum of its parts.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a very strong need to hack this game into a Street Sharks RPG.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Also, I realized after writing this that both World of Dungeons and Lasers & Feelings are written by the same person – John Harper! How did I not realize this? What an amazing mind.