Knights of Underbed vs. Threadbare: Comparing Toy RPGs
Journey into the realm of stuffed animals and action figures with the Knights of Underbed and Threadbare Stitchpunk RPGs.
Although I sometimes struggle to keep up with my new board game acquisitions, I get around to playing them! On the other hand, I tend to amass tabletop RPG books and PDFs that I never have the chance to play solo. One day! Recently, I finished reading the Knights of Underbed RPG and Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG. Time for a fun compare and contrast!
Toys as Characters
During my relatively short stint with tabletop RPGs, I’ve played a variety of characters. I love to go outside the box, often shying away from typical humans when possible.
The prospect of playing as a toy, though? Judging by my Calico Critters collection, no one should be surprised. Ha!
I’m also a huge fan of the Toy Story movies. There’s usually an annual marathon in my house that makes me happy. And sad, because you know those scenes!
Yet both of these RPGs take the idea of playing as a toy in different directions. How so? Let’s get to the… Stuffing?
These toys survive in a post-apocalyptic world, devoid of humans. The major threat comes from broken down or worn out parts, though the world itself can be dangerous. Parts can be scavenged, and entirely new devices or vehicles might take shape! With a customizable approach to the setting, gameplay can head in many different directions. Yet every toy in this world is very unique!
Almost anything is possible! Archetypes take the general form of the following trio of options:
- Mekka: Action figures, trucks, or other hard toys
- Socks: Gym socks, stockings, or other old footwear
- Softies: Teddy bears, ragdolls, or other soft toys
Beneath these main groups are subgroups that mostly determine the number of parts and types of available moves. Creativity can make almost any toy possible!
It’s also important to remember that these toys will change. When a part breaks, something new is added.
A World of Wonders
One of my favorite parts of this book is the setting. Not only is the main world given story seeds, but all of the mini-settings further advance the possibilities.
Take the Electric Avenue adventure. This is a place of nonstop dancing, complete with rules for learning new dance moves. It’s a toy dance-off, and it’s awesome!
An overarching theme is how the toys utilize what humans left behind. They scavenge but also invent from the rubble.
It’s a world where conflict can be anything. A bad supply of batteries or a burst water pipe could spell disaster.
Creativity at the Cost of Creepiness
Be aware that the book contains more than just rules and mini-settings. There is a section devoted to real-life crafts to enhance gameplay at the table. I appreciate these, although the photos of toys being dismembered threw me for a loop at first! And the doll’s head dice bag… Awesomely creative, of course, yet I was not prepared for those images. Ha ha!
Much of the book encourages creating jury-rigged toys in the real world. I’ve seen several examples, and I admire the time and effort that goes into completing the creations. It’s the same with the examples in the book: They’re really neat! It’s just that seeing photos of partially destroyed toys and hacksaws surprised me. I can’t be Sid…
Game Name: Knights of Underbed
Publication Year: 2020
Designers: Ben Woerner and 14 Contributors
Artist: Cynthia Williams
On the other hand, these toys belong to children and work tirelessly to protect them. Fighting off nightmares and other denizens of Underbed or the Dreamlands, these noble knights make the dark less frightening. Though they may experience wear and tear, their main challenges come in the form of monsters and enemies. What a job! Yet these toys work tirelessly to make every night safe.
For a book that states it contains content for kids and younger audiences, I was a little unprepared for some of the images and descriptions. These are… Not nice!
Granted, I saw the parallels with Coraline in these evil doubles. But without that context, these are chilling characters. Or is it just me? Kids must be braver. Ha ha!
The general rules overview only included glimmers of the cute and cuddly. There was the glorious city of Underbed…
Yet exploring it seemed to leave a child unprotected from the scary things in the night. How was a toy to have fun?!
Alright, I’ll admit again that I tend to scare pretty easily. But is this truly kid-appropriate? There were several others listed as enemies who seemed rather terrifying.
Maybe I was just getting frustrated at this point. As much as I wanted to look beyond them, text errors appeared on almost every page. Very glaringly. And evilly? Ha ha!
I almost put the book down, certain that there was nothing here for me. Killing these monsters was… A lot.
Although it was in the name of protection, I really didn’t enjoy the main setting. Onward I flipped, though.
Thank goodness for the second half of the book with its many mini-settings! Suddenly, I could see the fun of this setting and what it would be like to play as a brave toy.
Almost all of the mini-settings made me excited to play. It’s only a shame the core rules didn’t hit the mark.
There were stuffed animals working together, former monsters changing their ways, small pets living in rooms, and futuristic toys challenging each other.
Now I see the benefit of having these small adventure hooks! Everyone has different preferences, after all.
Beyond the Fires
Also included is an alternate setting that takes the toys back to prehistory, where they were more than playthings.
This mini-setting included plenty of content! Despite its rather frightening setting where nightmares were possibly even more dangerous, I enjoyed the presentation.
All except for the enemies, of course. There were way too many references to eating children or luring them away…
I might sound overly critical, yet the back cover clearly states that this contains “carefully crafted content, just for kids and young audiences!” I’m not so sure…
Despite Knights of Underbed promising a simpler system, the presentation makes everything seem rather complex. An overview of the main rules is missing. Threadbare includes many more rules, yet those familiar with PBTA games will likely pick up on the format very quickly. It comes down to personal choice, although Threadbare is my choice here.
Knights of Underbed RPG: Modern Households with Children
Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG: Post-apocalyptic World Devoid of Humans
Knights of Underbed also explores the Dreamlands and Underbed, which are more fantastical and magical places. Even journeys to the attic or basement are different for the toys as they protect their children. In Threadbare, the world contains everything humans left behind, but no people. Both settings have unique opportunities, and I like them both!
Knights of Underbed RPG: 8 Toy Types
Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG: 19 Toy Types
Despite the vast difference, remember that Knights of Underbed is designed to be a simpler system. Many different toys can fit under any of these types: They simply provide basic statistics and moves. Pets can be allies in Knights of Underbed, while Threadbare includes devices, tools, and vehicles. The options are excellent across the board!
Knights of Underbed RPG: 204 Pages
Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG: 130 Pages
This includes every page in the printed books, from title pages to character sheets. Knights of Underbed includes more pages, but they’re smaller with a larger font. Over 100 pages are devoted to mini-settings. Threadbare includes smaller text with more artwork and 27 pages of mini-settings. Due to the layout and minimal typos, Threadbare is my pick.
Knights of Underbed RPG: Protect a Child
Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG: Survive Together
Even with the frightening and nightmarish enemies, Knights of Underbed makes sense because it’s those toys who vanquish the monsters. Their sole purpose is to provide safety and comfort to a child. Threadbare is more about survival in a toy community where resources are scarce and dangers are practical. Once again, I like both of these!
Knights of Underbed RPG: Magical Creatures, Monsters, and Nightmares
Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG: Environmental Threats, the Unknown, and Wear and Tear
With a focus on toys coming to life at night, magic is very prevalent in Knights of Underbed. At the same time, this means that many enemies can be downright terrifying as they emerge from the shadows and hidden places. Threadbare takes a more realistic approach where solving problems and surviving are paramount. I prefer the latter. Less scary!
In general, I prefer Threadbare and its system. There are more complicated rules, and maybe that will change when I get a chance to play! But I love the idea of toy survival.
That’s not to say that Knights of Underbed isn’t going to be explored, though. I think that with a few modifications and some specific mini-settings, I’ll be very happy.
For me, toys have always been a big part of my memories. I still have some childhood toys happily tucked away.
Maybe my teddy bear went to Underbed at some point! And maybe they’re all hoarding the batteries. Ha ha!
Continue the Conversation
What do you think of the Knights of Underbed RPG and Threadbare Stitchpunk RPG? Despite the common “thread” of toys, they’re both vastly different. Are there other toy-based RPGs out there? Not everyone will enjoy this realm of RPGs, yet I know it works for me! I have a bunch of other things on my plate, though I plan to play both someday!