Open Source Rules-light TRPG


What follows is a rules-light roleplaying game I dreamed up a couple of weeks ago. It has seen no playtesting, and in fact only about a half-dozen people have even seen it before now. I plan to eventually open-source this game as my gift to the roleplaying world, but would like help in testing and refining it first to make sure that everyone can start with a really solid core and build on that.

So, to kick things off, here’s a very early alpha release that I hope is fully playable. Please let me know what you think.

And I really mean that. Since I don’t actually like light games (OVA is about as light as I can handle and even then only for one-shots and mini-campaigns), I am not actually my target audience in this case (although I probably will use it for one-shots in future). That means that I need your feedback even more than I usually do.

So read it though, give it a test drive, and drop me a comment so I can get to revising it and writing the optional rules modules. Thank you.


d6Lite

v .1 © 2012 Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox)
<I’m not at all in love with this title so suggestions are more than welcome. Then only I do kind of like is that it looks like “delite”. I also considered Xd6 Lite, and even just Xd6 System, but those are both so boring.>

What is a Roleplaying Game?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, or you don’t know what “PC”, “GM”, or “d6″ mean, go check out the “What is a Roleplaying Game?” page on my website before proceeding.

Core Mechanic

To make a roll, decide which skill is appropriate, then roll a number of d6 equal to its rank while your opponent or the GM does the same (even inanimate objects have ranks which are rolled by the GM). Compare your highest die to your opponent’s; highest wins. If they are the same, then compare the next lowest; and so on. If one player has no more dice to match, but the other does, then the player with dice remaining wins.

Sometimes you will be asked to make a Default Roll. In that case you simply roll 1d6 and hope for the best.

Conditions: Sometimes a character may have a particular advantage or disadvantage due to the environment or other external factors. For instance, if you’re trying to sneak past a guard, waiting until night fall, sticking to particularly deep shadows, and hiding behind trees can all greatly aid you. In such a case the GM may award you an extra die.

On the other hand, if you are trying to fix a flat tire before the villain crosses the state line but your tire iron is missing, the GM will take away a die (or maybe more depending on what you have on hand to replace the missing tool). Note that your first penalty die makes the total -2d6, not 0d6.

Naturally, bonus dice and penalty dice cancel each other out. If the final total is negative, Other times, you must roll the specified number of dice and keep the lowest result among them.

Skills

Players create whatever skills are appropriate for their characters using Character Points according to the following table:

Rank CP Total CP
 2   1     1
 3   1     2
 4   2     4
 5   3     7
And so on.

For instance, if your character had “Apprentice Ranger 3″, it would cost 2 CP (1 for rank 2, and 1 more for rank 3). Later raising it to rank 4 would cost 2 more CP, for a total of 4 points invested in the skill.

If you don’t buy specifically buy a skill, but your character would logically have at least basic knowledge of that skill, you can attempt a Default Roll.

Your GM will tell you how many CP you can spend according to the game’s power level. For normal humans, you get 6 CP. Starting skills can not exceed rank 3.

You should choose skills that suit your character. They can be as focused as “Master of the Longbow” or broad as “Fight!”. Your GM will determine how focused your skills need to be. Here are a few ideas to get you started: “Ladies Man”, “Swordmage”, “Wild West Show Trick Shooter”, “Master Chef”, “Grizzled Retired Army Sergeant”, “Knight of the Round Table”. <Feel free to suggest some more options. I’d like to get 20 or so.>

Combat

Rounds: In its simplest form, combat takes place in rounds, with all of the heroes acting on their turn, and all of the bad guys acting on theirs. Exactly who acts when during each of those turns is up to the players, but everything that round happens at the same time. It also possible for each character to take a separate turn; details are covered later.

How Long is a Round?: It is traditional for rounds to last six seconds but the GM should choose a duration that fits the feel of the campaign. Sometimes you may not want a hard duration at all; you might prefer to have rounds as long as they need to. It is entirely up to the GM – just be consistent and make sure the players know what the duration is.

Who Goes First? (Initiative): If using the Traits or Equipment rules modules <which are still being written>, each character may have attributes that add to or subtract from initiative. The total of all of those modifiers (whether positive or negative) is that character’s Initiative Roll and should be noted on the character sheet. Otherwise, each character’s Initiative Roll is simply a Default Roll.

Sometimes it’s obvious who goes first. For instance, if the party walks into an ambush they are obviously not going first. If it’s not obvious, then a representative of each side makes a Default Roll or the party’s average Initiative Roll (which should be recorded somewhere). Highest result goes first.

If you want individuals to take separate turns, simply have each player make a separate Initiative Roll. Players then take turns in order, starting with the highest (don’t forget that the GM is a player too).

Did I Hit Him?: To attack someone, simply roll the appropriate skill vs the target’s skill. If you win the roll then your attack succeeded, and the poor sucker gets one Setback token (you could use poker chips, rocks, or whatever else you might have lying around).

What Is a Setback Token?: When you receive your third Setback token, your character is out of action until recovered in some way; exact details of that are determined by the GM according to the situation. In combat that might meant you are lying unconscious, retreating to tend your wounds, captured, or even dead. Out of combat, defeat could mean almost anything.

Enemies you fight may have more or less capacity for dealing with Setbacks than PCs do. Mooks, thugs, and other disposable henchmen may only take one Setback to defeat. The mob boss, on the other hand, might need six – or more!

GM Eyes Only Beyond This Point

Once we get the basic rules nailed down, I will provide a separate document for GMs that will include:

  • Example CP totals based on genre
  • Further scaling the game by using bigger dice (perhaps d12s for superheroes?)
  • Advice on assigning appropriate skill ranks levels of Setback to enemies and objects (mostly traps, locks, doors, and other such obstacles and hazards)
  • Scaling combat from two variable-length turns per round in the theater of the mind, all the way up to players taking individual turns and possibly even using minis (though I doubt it as this is intended to be rules-light)
  • Advice on adding Conditions
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6 thoughts on “Open Source Rules-light TRPG

  1. Frank Wilcox

    Thanks to feedback here and on RPGnet, I’m ready to update the rules and write the GM chapter, but I would prefer to get some reports from playtesters first. Has anyone had a chance to try it out yet? I’ve never had enough players gathered at one time – not even on Roll20 (which just started its open beta, so go check it out). 8o(

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  2. Frank Wilcox

    I just realized that I left something out: I had every intention of adding some sort of fate point system but forgot to.

    The problem is that I’ve never played a fate point-using game, so I don’t really know how they work even though the concept intrigues me. The closest I’ve gotten is experimenting with what I tentatively call “Awesome Points” in GURPS and HackMaster 5e. At the beginning of each session, the players each have one AP. It can be cashed in at any time to do something rule-breaking, or even just redo a bad roll; the only limit is the players’ imaginations. They can earn more by doing things I deem particularly awesome (other than when spending an AP, obviously).

    The first time a player cashed one in we were playing HackMaster. He hit a fairly weak enemy hard enough to kill it several times over, so he spent his AP to send it flying into another enemy and deal the overflow damage onto it. It was, as it should have been, quite awesome.

    That is my standard fate point system and what I will likely plug in unless I think of something better, but I’m more than open to ideas.

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  3. Jeff Stormer (@DexDynamo)

    I like it! It seems like a perfect fit for the rules-lite Lasfodder game I want to run. One thing I might recommend is taking a cue from Over The Edge/WaRP, and add an optional rule saying perhaps “specific/peculiar skills get a +1 rank bonus,” or even a second progression chart for specific and peculiar skills, to reward players for moving outside the box. Just my thoughts though.

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    1. fewilcox Post author

      Glad you like it. And thanks for responding. As with all of my games, I’ve considered coming up with some sort of specialization system, but I don’t know how appropriate that would be for such a light game.

      Currently In my crunchier games I’m allowing optional specialties for free. The skill is then considered one higher when using the specialty, but one lower otherwise. Naturally, allowed specialties are up to the GM. Do you think something like that might work here? Or should there be an actual point cost associated with specialties?

      And I’m not sure what you mean by “peculiar skills”. Now that I think about it, are specialties what you meant by “specific”? It suddenly occurred to me that you might not.

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      1. Jeff Stormer (@DexDynamo)

        Yeah, I specifically meant differentiating between, say, “Shooting” and “Crossbows” to reflect the idea that a player might want to be a master crossbowman, but a terrible gunslinger. Over The Edge defines these skills as “Standard” and “Technical or Unusual,” and awards them a higher value to reflect the fact that you simply won’t be using them as much.

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        1. fewilcox Post author

          I don’t want to get too complicated for this game since it’s an ultra-light game, but that’s definitely something for me to keep in mind with my other games. So I think my default system of letting the GM determine how focused the skills should be and then letting players opt for specialties is a good fit for this game, but now I wonder if it might not be good enough for my crunchier games. Thanks for the food for thought.

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