Needed Material

  • pencils, erasers, at least one sharpener and a lot of paper  

  • nine ten sided dice ranging from zero to nice in at least four different colors (black, white, yellow and green preferably)

  • someone weird enough to play with you

Skills

Skills are one of the more rigid parts of the system. Every character has nine skills. They are an abstract representation of that characters - ehm, well - skill. Every one of the skills has a value assigned to it - the higher the better. Let's look at all of them and some examples of what they are used:

  • Melee Combat, used for using close range weapons or flat out punching someone

  • Ranged Combat, used for using firearms, bows, crossbows, etc.

  • Perception, used for using any of your five senses really

  • Agility, used for jumping, climbing or sneaking

  • Dexterity, used for fiddling with locks, playing guitar or cheating at card games

  • Strength, used for kicking in doors, lifting or carrying heavy stuff and crushing things

  • Mental Strength, used for coping with traumatic events, ignoring distractions or using magic

  • Intelligence, used for quickly understanding stuff, diagnose illness or debugging code

  • Charisma, used for getting better deals and convince or intimidate people​

All skills get written down on the upper section of the character sheet. You also can use the alternative character sheet if you like acronyms and bad jokes.

Skill Checks

A skill check gets initiated every time a character attempts to take a nontrivial action. Keep in mind that for different characters different things will be trivial. An engineer for example could operate machinery without a skill check while a farmer would need to check their Intelligence skill. For a skill check the skill, that fits the action, gets pointed out and the player throws four dice (a green, a yellow, a white and a black one). ​Each of them has a different purpose:

  • If the green one shows a zero, increase the checked skill by one.

  • If the yellow one shows a zero you got a critical success, if it shows a nine you got a critical fail.

  • If the equation "white * 10 + black < checked Skill" is true you got a success, if it's false you got a fail.

You may check more than one skill at the same time, if an action doesn't fit a single skill. If so, point out all checked skills and throw four dices like you normally would:

  • If the green one shows a zero, increase only the one skill most fitting the action.

  • The yellow die gets handled like it normally would.

  • For the white and black one the equation changes to "white * 10 + black < (checked skill 1 + ... + checked skill n) / n"

Use this rarely as it needs a lot of time for calculation!​

Success & Failure

After a skill check you got to act out consequences. Use this broad guideline:

  • Success: You accomplish your task and/or improve outcomes.

  • Fail: You fail your task and/or worsen outcomes.

  • Critical success: Not only do you accomplish your task flawlessly, but also achieve even more!

  • Critical fail: Not only do you fail massively at your task, but also worsen it even more!

Examples:

Maria: "I take a shot at that punk with my crossbow!" *Maria checks her Ranged Combat skill.*

  • Success: "You hit him in his left leg. As he tries to run along anyway, he stumbles and falls to the ground.​"

  • Fail: "You miss your target and hit a tree instead."

  • Critical success: "Your bolt hits him directly beneath his nose. He shouts out a last scream as he falls to the ground. As you slowly advance towards him, you see that he's already dead. Also you notice a big pouch of gold coins that are fallen out of his pocket."

  • Critical fail: "You widely miss you target and hit your comrade instead!"

Game Master [to Klaus]: "The bolt deeply penetrates your shoulder. After a brief moment of shock intense pain sets in. Check your Strength skill to get your reaction." *Klaus sighs and checks his Strength skill.*

  • Success: "You scream loudly one time and then try not to waste your thoughts on that bolt in you shoulder. Your Melee skill will be reduced by ten because of the wound however."

  • Fail: "The pain is unbearable. While you scream in agony the fight continues. You skip one round and your Melee skill will be reduced by 15 because of the wound and pain."

  • Critical success: "After a extremely loud roar you give in to a rage. You are able to channel it on the still standing enemy however: You run towards him and brake his right arm with your bare hands. After his immediate surrender you take a few deep breaths and only then slowly begin to feel the pain."

  • Critical fail: "As the pain intensifies your stomach begins to turn and your sight fades as you pass out."

You can see that the outcomes change massively. Note that a success doesn't make a situation good necessarily, but softens a bad outcome. A critical success however always should feel awesome and a bit over the top. Also it's great to give the player more than they expected, when a critical hit occurs. Be it extra loot on a critical success or a new trait on a critical fail for example.

Traits

Because skills are quite rigid way to represent a character, they get supplemented by traits. They can be created without any constrains. Traits can be given a short name for easy reference and/or get written down as a short sentence at the lower third of the character sheet. While they can have an impact on a characters skill, they often just enable a character to perform special actions or remind the player to role play their character in a certain way. Let's look at two examples for each of those categories:

  • Experienced Bowman: +10 to Ranged when using a bow

  • Kissass: +15 to Charisma when charming someone

  • Firestarter: You can start a fire almost anywhere using almost anything.

  • Experienced Chef: Your cooking skills are phenomenal! You can create a tasty food even from weird ingredients.

  • Choleric: You don't have much patience and start yelling before you even think of a more tame response.

  • Money-hungry: You mostly care for valuables in your pockets.

This aren't hard categories, one trait can have a skill impact, as well as being a role play reminder and giving a special action. E.g.: "Shot in the head: Your brain got blown out partially. You can't use your Charisma skill anymore and you don't show any signs of empathy." As you see, wounds can become traits, too!

Traits can be applied any time. The best situations for giving a character a new trait are

  • at character creation. Give them a few traits to round of the character and boost or tame their power, if their skill-level is way different from the other characters.

  • while skipping a long time period. Sometimes you skip entire weeks to keep the story paced. Players may choose what they do during this period and be given a new trait according to it. E.g.: The party travels to a town for three weeks. Klaus' character keeps his guard up and tries to spot any dangers on the way. He may be given the trait "Eagle Eye: +10 to Perception when scouting for enemies."" You of course also could give them loot or a skill increase while skipping much time.

  • after characters perform outstanding stunts. E.g.: Maria tries to cut down a wooden watchtower with an axe and strikes a critical success. You now could give her the trait: "Woodcutter: You can cut down trees and other wooden objects without a skill check, as long as you are using an axe." Of course you also can give traits at critical fails or without a skill check.

  • when observing repeated behaviors. Sometimes characters will do a specific thing over and over. You could give them a trait fitting that behavior. E.g.: Klaus always explains how his character tries to attack his enemies in a very violent fashion. After observing that for a couple of times you could give him the trait "Unnecessarily Brutal: You cut down your enemies in most horrific ways." Often players will be surprised about the game master spotting this behaviors and embrace those play styles even more.

While each character should have some traits, it's important that the player can remember all of them. If there are too many, the player could loose track of them, leading to traits not being acted out. And only a played trait is a good trait.​

Inventory

Adventurers usually carry around a lot of stuff: weapons and armor, ammunition, money and sweet loot, food supplies and helpful items of all sorts. To keep track of their equipment, players have to note everything down on their inventory sheet. The sheet consists of a large blank area, where the whole character gets drawn, including all items which don't fit in a pouch or backpack. Items that do fit, get written down in  the table further down.

As there a no hard limitations to the amount of carried items, you got to do that job yourself. Watch out for players trying to grab their third sword or carrying around 20 hand grenades just in case.

Character Creation

Before you can act out a character you obviously have to create one. There are the five steps you need to do for each one:

  1. Create Backstory: If possible, give every player a quick explanation of the scenario two or three weeks before your game session, so they are able to create their character's backstory before all of you actually meet. It often helps to give them a set of questions that they have to answer. Also they should send you their draft at least one week before the session, so you know each character. Call out all things that don't fit the scenario as early as possible, so the players have enough time to change it. If you want to give the characters secrets that none of the other players must know, you should do this beforehand, too. You could do all this right before your session but this usually takes a lot of time. The next steps don't need to be done beforehand, as they are difficult to do without talking to each other and don't take too much time. 

  2. Roll Skills: Every player rolls nine dice and sorts them by their thrown number. Each of them gets assigned to one skill, so that every skill has exactly one number. Keep in mind that the skills should reflect the characters strengths and weaknesses, so assign the numbers according to it! After each skill has a number, multiply them all by ten. 

  3. Finish Backstory: Sometimes the rolled dice don't match the backstory. If that issue arises the players should change their backstory according to it. E.g.: A player creates a well experienced bounty hunter. After rolling only low numbers he changes the bounty hunter from being in his best years to an a bit too old veteran, who is well beyond his stronger days. But because the bounty hunter can't face that, he doesn't retire but still runs with the other adventurers.

  4. Give Traits: After that every character gets a bunch of traits, which of course also should fit the backstory. You also can use this stage to balance the characters. Some may are way less powerful than others and are in need of a good trait.

  5. Give Items: At last every character gets his starting equipment. This should be fitting to each character and versatile enough to enable creative and interesting actions. A rope or some sort of lighter for example are simple items almost every character could have, and can be used for a wide range of actions.

It's important you help your players create their characters. You most likely are the best informed one and you have to make sure there aren't giant power gaps between the characters. Also you should help players having difficulties to come up with ideas, so they can have an enjoyable character as well.

Combat

In a lot of adventures you're going to face combat sooner or later. If there are too many combatants to keep track of, you should initiate a more rigid combat state. For that you have to sketch the current scene, including all combatants, cover, buildings and important terrain on a sheet of paper. While you do that each player rolls a die. The lowest number draws first! If two or more players roll the same number they may roll again or play rock, paper, scissors real quick to determine who draws before the other. This is called the initiative roll. Note that you have to roll for non player characters as well, but you can use one roll for all of them for the sake of time. Also they may be traits influencing that roll (e.G.: Quick Fighter: Get -1 on your initiative roll.)! Don't forget to write down all rolls, as it is easy to forget them in the heat of combat!

Now every character gets acted out in that order. For the sake of simplicity there is no action point system present, so you have to get a  feel for how much every character can do on his turn. A two action system usually works well. Every character can perform two actions (like running, attacking, reloading) per turn. Note that this is a very simple abstraction and you must improvise on the fly for a good experience. You could use a more complex system, but this leads to turns taking way longer time and often creates edge-cases.

As you might noted there are no health points either. If someone gets wounded, which they will of course, you simply tell what happened and let them deal with it. This quickens up combat, as you don't have to any math, and makes it really easy to balance everything on the go. I'll admit that it takes a while to get comfortable with this, but if done right it creates tense battles without unnecessary slowdowns.

Because all of this sounds a bit arcane, let's look at an example of how it works in action. The party in this example consists of Maria playing as Magda, armed with sword and shield and Klaus playing as Peter, armed with a crossbow and a revolver with four remaining bullets. They are on their way finding a hideout of a local bandit gang.

Game Master: "As you walk down the narrow path you spot three goons hanging around. They seem to be on guard duty but their focus clearly lies on a bottle containing a dreggy substance, which they are passing from each to the other."

Maria: "How well are they armed?"

Game Master: "Two of 'em are not wearing any substantial armor while the third wears a thick gambeson. You spot some spears and clubs leaning against nearby trees, as well as a quiver of arrows hanging from the belt of the armored one."

Klaus: "I'll try to move in their flank slowly, so they won't detect me."

Game Master: "Check Agility for that, please."

*Klaus rolls a fail*

Game Master: "As you slowly advance, you stumble over some sticks and fall to the ground. While the fall wasn't hurtful, one of the guards noticed you and starts alerting the others. They quickly grab their arms and run towards you. They haven't spotted Magda however. Roll your initiative now, please."

*As Klaus and Maria roll their initiative the Game Master quickly sketches out the scene.*