Monthly Archives: May 2012

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 (af) 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 through, 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
Creative Commons License

d6Lite by Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

<I’m not at all in love with this title so suggestions are more than welcome. The only part 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, like a really stout door with “steel and oak 3”). Compare your highest die to your opponent’s; highest wins. If they are the same, then compare the next highest; 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 nightfall, sticking to particularly deep shadows, and hiding behind trees can all greatly aid you. In such cases 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, you must roll the specified number of dice and keep the lowest result among them.


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
 6   4     11
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 specifically buy a skill, but your character would logically have at least basic knowledge of that skill, your GM may let you 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”.


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’s 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, like in Wushu. 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, 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, coins, 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 and 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

D&D Next Playtest

I, like everyone else who signed up, received my playtest info today so now I’m doubly excited. Hopefully we can get a playtest game going at Hillside soon. Maybe Saturday before Pokémon League, or Wednesday before Encounters…

I’d love to do some playtesting on Roll20, but playing digitally is expressly forbidden by the terms of the playtest. 8o(

Roleplaying Accessories

Over the years I have made several character sheets and other aids for roleplaying games. Here are just a few:

Character Sheets for GURPS 4e and D&D 4e

Every character sheet I’ve ever seen had one major flaw: it was never suitable for every character the game could make. Mages need spell space (or have lots of powers). Fighters have lots of weapons, gadgeteers have lots of gadgets, and so on. One enterprising HackMaster Basic player made customized character sheets for each of the four classes in that book simply to get around that problem.

That was the last straw for me, so I designed some character sheets for the games we play most with three major goals in mind:

  • Earth- and wallet-friendliness. In other words: cheap to print.
  • Only force the positioning of things that will be present on every character or are tedious to hand-write every time: stat blocks; name, race, age, etc.; skills; and so forth.
  • User-customizable depending on player taste and character class, if applicable. This includes having the lowest item on the front page of the D&D sheet be the column headings of the weapons table. That way it as long as needed, no more or less, yet still details out the math for new players and for ease of making changes as needed (leveling, new magic items, increases in skills, etc.).

If that sounds interesting, then go check out my GURPS 4e and D&D 4e sheets.

I’ll add my HackMaster 5e sheet as soon as I finish it. My HackMaster Basic  sheet was nearly done when we got out Player’s Handbook, which added a bunch more stuff that needed to go on each sheet, but I can finish it off and post if there’s enough interest. At the moment I’m in the process of adapting it to full HM 5e.

Update 2012.09.10: I’ve nearly finished the HM5 sheet. I’ve got one more element to design (encumbrance and fatigue). After that all I have to do is arrange the various items the way I want them and then tweak them a bit for the best fit.

Update 2012.10.26: The HM5 sheet is finished and available on the Downloads tab.

HackMaster 5e Count Up Tracker

HackMaster 5e has an absolutely amazing combat system that dispenses with the artificial rounds favored by most trpgs. Instead, each character can act on each second, limited only by weapon speed.

But keeping up with everything can be overwhelming, so I developed a couple of tools to help me out that others might find useful.

The first is a Count Up tracker that was originally invented by Zorbal on Kenzer & Co’s forums. I made my version using CadStd,, and gimp.

Instead of players having to add their modified weapon speeds to the current count and then remembering to go again on that second, everyone simply acts when the arrow says to, then put their tokens on their weapon speeds; no math required.

We’ve been using this for months and it has streamlined combat tremendously. HM5e already has the best combat system I’ve ever seen in a trpg, this just makes it even better – especially for more math-phobic players.

HackMaster 5e Encounter Builder

The other item is an Encounter Builder to make it easier to improvise encounters. I very, very rarely plan out encounters ahead of time, so I needed a way to keep all of the pertinent info of frequently used monsters close at hand so I didn’t waste game time flipping through HackMaster Basic (or the Hacklopedia of Beasts once we finally get a copy). Over time, what started as a simple spreadsheet developed into a full-blown encounter builder.

To use it you must first fill out each tab with the monsters that can be found in that area; areas like forest, mountain, cave, sewer, or whatever else is appropriate for your setting. (If I filled it out for you then I’d get sued by K&C and that wouldn’t do any of us any good. Besides, this way you’ll have to give  my favorite game designers some money in order to make use of my creation. The more money they get, the sooner we get the class books, and I can’t wait for the 5e version of the Spellslinger’s Guide to Wurld Domination.)

Then, making an encounter is as easy as copypastaing the monsters you want lower down on the sheet. will then roll each monster’s hitdice and initiative (defaulting to d12, but easily changed) for you. Easy as pie.

I’ve been using it for more than a year now and love it (which is no surprise considering that I made it), so try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

For convenience sake, here are the links to the items I discussed above:

An Attempt to Play the Pokémon CCG More Like the Videogames

I’ve been pondering this for a while but haven’t had a chance to try it yet out so I’ll welcome any input, especially from playtesters, that anyone may have to offer.

You Will Need:

Any six Pokémon, regardless of evolution (for instance, you can play with Butterfree or Caterpie as one of your six Pokémon)

  • EXes count as two Pokémon
  • Legends count as two Pokémon
  • Lvl Xes count as two Pokémon and must be paired with an appropriate non-Lvl X

Each Pokémon can start the game equipped with a tool (except Expert Belt since there are no prize cards)

A stack of 20 Energy.

A stack of 10 videogame-appropriate items like Full Heals, Moo-Moo Milks, and Potions.

Rules That Are the Same:

You may only play one energy a turn.

Abilities and Attacks function normally.

Rules That Are Different:

The only win-condition is KOing all of your opponent’s Pokémon.

Pokémon don’t evolve or Level Up.

You don’t have a hand, deck, or discard pile (discarded energy simply goes back into the stack, discarded Trainers are removed from the game) so Pokémon that affect those will be useless.

You can freely look through your two stacks at any time.

Abilities can’t let you lay extra energies since you don’t have the race to evolve or level up as a balancing mechanism for the Pokémon that have those abilities.

You may only use one Trainer each turn – just like in the videogames. But unlike in the VGs, using an item doesn’t end your turn.

Retreating no longer costs energy but retreating also no longer removes status conditions. Retreating also doesn’t end your turn like in the VGs.

Status conditions persist on retreated Pokémon but are only active while the Pokémon is active. For example, a poisoned Pokémon will retain the poisoned status while on the bench but it will not take damage between turns.

A Note on Stadiums:

If both players agree, a stadium may be put into play before the game starts and will remain there for the duration. This simulates two trainers in the VG who are actually battling in that stadium.

Cribbage Dice

Cribbage Dice

Creative Commons License
Cribbage Dice by Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Uploaded 2012-05-22
Last updated 2017-11-08

Also available as a pocket edition and the abridged large print version included in the box set I will be selling on The Game Crafter (that link will be posted as soon as I okay the sample).

How to Play

All you need to play are five d12s, one of which must be a different color or otherwise easily distinguished from the rest. That die functions like the Starter card in traditional Cribbage. You will also need a way to keep score; a cribbage board would be perfect.

First, decide who goes first by having each player roll one die; high roll wins.

Each turn roll the dice up to three times in an attempt to score the best Cribbage hand you can. After the first roll the Starter die must be set aside because it cannot be rerolled. You may keep or reroll as many of the other dice as you want to each time.

After three rolls or when you decide to stop rolling, whichever comes first, score the dice according to standard Cribbage rules. The 11 and 12 function like the Jack and Queen. That means they are valued at 10 when being added to other dice (11 (J) + 5 = 15), but are their printed values otherwise (9, 10, 11, 12 is a run of four).

The winner is the first player to reach 90 points (three “streets” on a Cribbage board).


Fifteen (2 pts) – Each combination of dice that totals 15 scores 2 points. A roll of 2, 6, 6, 8, 9 contains two fifteens: 6+9 and the other 6+9. A roll of 2, 3, 5, 11 (J), 12 (Q) has four 15s.

Pair/X of a Kind (2/6/12/20 pts) – Each pair scores 2 points. Thus a roll that included 4, 4, 4 (a three of a kind) would score 6 points because it contains three distinct pairs of 4s. A four of a kind is 12 points; five of a kind is 20.

Run (3-5 pts) – If a roll has three or more dice in number order, you score 1 point per die in the run. A roll of 3, 4, 5, 9, 11 would score 3 points for the run.

It is common in Cribbage to combine certain combinations together to speed up scoring:

Double run of X (8 or 10 pts) – A run that contains a pair, like 3, 4, 4, 5, scores 8 points, 3 each for the two runs, and 2 for the pair. A double run of four would score 10 points.

Triple run of three (15 pts) – 9, 9, 9, 10, 11 scores 15 points, 3 each for the three runs of three, and 6 for the three of a kind.

Double double run of three (16 pts) – A run with two separate pairs, like 9, 9, 10, 10, 11, scores 12 for the four runs of three, and 4 for the two pairs, for a total of 16 points.

Optional Rules

You can customize the game in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions, but feel to create and share your own.

Roll Two Extra Dice – In Cribbage you are dealt six cards and choose two to put into the Crib, which is an extra hand scored by the dealer. In Cribbage Dice those two extra cards can be represented by rolling seven dice instead of five, and discarding two of them after your final roll.

Finish the Round – In Cribbage scores are usually kept by moving pegs along a scoring track, and the first player to cross the finish line wins immediately, so Cribbage Dice works the same way. To give everyone an equal chance, players may instead agree beforehand to finish out the round when one player reaches 90; high score at the end wins.

Alternate Point Goals – Cribbage boards commonly go to 121 points, but Cribbage Dice offers fewer scoring possibilities (no card suits) so it uses a lower goal. With that in mind, you can of course set the win target to any number you like to adjust the length of the game.

Round Limit – If time is limited, you may prefer to play a set number of rounds instead of playing until someone reaches 90 points.

The following are in addition to the ones that fit in the booklet:

Once kept, always kept – Instead of allowing the re-rolling of any non-Starter dice, any dice that are kept after a roll are unable to be rerolled in the same turn. For instance, if you roll 6 (starter), 3, 6, 11, 12, and you keep the second 6, you cannot reroll it if something better comes up in your second roll.

Play Example

Let’s say that my first roll is 4, 5, 10, 10, 11 (Jack). I see right away that I have 3 fifteens, so I keep everything but the 4.

First Roll = 5 for the fixed die + 4, 10, 10, 11

My second roll yields a 7 in place of the 4. That doesn’t help at all, so I’ll re-roll it again.

Second Roll = 5 for the fixed die + 7, 10, 10, 11

On my final roll I got really lucky and rolled another 10. My final roll is now 5, 10, 10, 10, 11 (Jack). That makes four 15s for 8, and a three of a kind for a total score of 14.

Third Roll = 5 for the fixed die + 10, 10, 10, 11

Welcome to the Gaming Part of My Mind

Unlike my personal blog, which covers a wide variety of topics, this one will focus on games of my own devising, or ideas I’ve come up with for existing games.

I gladly welcome your input on any of my posts, but especially on the ones about my forthcoming games. After all, how often do you get a chance to interact with game designers directly and influence the games they release? This is your chance.

fewilcox - Find me on