Though I do stand by the old metaphor “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”, I have to admit the cover art is what first drew me to Corny Groń; I regret nothing!
Corny Groń is a fun, small, solo TTRPG made for those with overactive imaginations and a love for folklore; particularly Polish folklore. The art matches the style of the game perfectly. When you look at the cover, the black and white swirls feel tribal in its depiction of an ancient Slavic mountain god. The design feels mythical. As if it were drawn by a mystic living in the hills. Corny Groń feels that way too.
(The mystic behind this art is Ala Wiśniewska, BTW)
As I read through the manual, I felt like I was reading stories that my old Polish grandfather would’ve told me about his homeland.
The thing is, I don’t have a Polish grandfather. There’s not a drop of Polish blood in my family! That’s how easy it is to immerse yourself in this fairytale. Just a few pages in, and you get a sense of what rural, Polish magic feels like.
I enjoyed the read-through as well as the solo gameplay format. If you’ve never played a solo (one player) TTRPG, this is a good place to start. One-player tabletop role-playing games are exactly what they sound like, you are the only person playing this game. It’s not a DM/GM playing with a single player. It’s just you, the rulebook, and some dice.
If you are used to games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, this might sound a little weird to you. I implore you to suspend your judgments until you give solo-TTRPG’s a try. These games can be a lot of fun. They feel a little bit more like those old Make Your Own Adventure novels from the 80s and 90s.
There are a lot of situations in which large typical TTRPG games aren’t accessible to you. You might be traveling and are unable to log onto Discord or Roll 20. Life might just be overtaking your gameplay time, and investing hours into a long cinematic campaign every week just isn’t an option. You might just be bored and need a fun way to spend an afternoon. A lightweight solo RPG like Corny Groń punches a lot of tickets. Also, it is a thoroughly enjoyable game that I highly recommend.
How does it work?
The Corny Groń manual is pretty short, twenty-one pages in all. The mechanics are direct, to the point, and easy to understand. You’re not going to get lost in a thousand different rules, sub-rules, variant rules, etc. Now, don’t think that just because the game is easy to learn that means it’s an easy game. Death is a real option for your character. You really have to be tactical and strategic when deciding how to proceed.
To get started, you’re going to need the manual, the character sheet, and a large piece of paper or drawing pad. The game centers around you exploring mythical mountains filled with danger, adventure, and treasure. The map unfolds randomly as you progress. You roll various dice to determine how many paths lay before you and what awaits you at the end of each path. You could stumble into an abandoned bandit hideout and find a little long-forgotten loot, or you might bump into a hungry bear. Only fate and the role of the dice will determine what you find.
Now, that’s not to say that you don’t have any strategic decisions. As you roll the dice, you draw out the map on a separate piece of paper. A drawing pad would work best. With the extra paper, you don’t have to worry about accidentally drawing your path off the map and onto your kitchen table.
As you blaze a trail through these mysterious mountains, you will need to decide if backtracking to areas you’ve already explored is a better idea than plowing forward. Though, there is a small chance that someone (or something) else wandered onto your path behind you.
The reason you might decide to backtrack is the obstacles and encounters you find along the way. These encounters occur by chance, but how you handle them is strategic. You’ll find various tools and weapons that can help you survive your journey. You will also be leveling up your character as you travel. If you run into an encounter that you don’t think you’re ready for, backtrack a little and explore another path. You might need to power up your character before attempting to take on a hearty enemy, mountain bear, or worse…
You’ll run into villains and merchants, slippery slopes, treacherous cliffs, and even malevolent spirits. The random evolution of the map gives the gameplay a whimsical feel. Your traveling across legendary mountains filled with magic. Each time you play, you make a new map by rolling your dice. You can’t ever get “used” to or bored with the setting because it’s always new. Corny Groń’s ever-shifting landscape instills a sense of folk magic.
A mountain pass that’s different every time you travel its winding roads? That something out of a fairy tale.
Who would enjoy this game?
Anyone that enjoys TTRPG style games in general. If you love Dungeons & Dragons, but only Dungeons & Dragons, then this might not be for you. If you like trying out new games with different systems and unique designs, you’ll enjoy Corny Groń. And, again, I have to stress how well the art matches the content of this book. You can look at the cover and get a real sense of Corny Groń’s soul.
If folklore, legend, and myth aren’t what you’re looking for in your game, this is probably not for you. Also, what’s the matter with you? Folklore, legend, and myth are the backbone of fantasy!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the handbook, looking at the art, and playing the game. I highly recommend Corny Groń. The game can be found at https://nerd-sirens.itch.io/corny-gron.
Since the art was so inspiring to me, I also want to provide a link to Ala Wiśniewska Instagram page. (https://www.instagram.com/by_abw/)
Until next time, happy trails.
PS: Always get more rope! You can never have enough rope in this game. Come to think of it, that might be true in real life too.