Alright, so technically this isn’t new. I designed this core system for an RPG when I was in college the first time, and now I’m sharing it with you. It’s a unique system that I’m very fond of, and I hope you will be too. In this article I’m just talking about the system of resolution, rather than building a full RPG out of it, but if it is well-received enough I may end up creating an RPG for you.
Attributes, Skills, and Target Number
Like in most RPG systems, your characters have stats to represent their different capabilities. They have attributes to represent their innate talents (Strength, Intellect, etc.) and skills to represent their learned abilities (shooting, brawling, etc.) that determine how good they are at specific things.
Here’s the twist though: These stats don’t give modifiers, or provide dice pools. They’re static numbers that combine to make the target number of a dice roll. So, for example, if someone is climbing a mountain and they have a 5 strength and a 3 athletics, then their target number is 8 and they have to roll under it. But what do they roll you might ask? Well…
Dice and Difficulty
Any task presented has a difficulty assigned to it. Difficulty 1 is the easiest, with no real limit to how high the number can go. When a character performs a task, they roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the task difficulty, in the hopes of rolling under the target number defined by their attribute plus their skill.
Number Crunch Rundown
So Frank has made another insufferably perfect character. His hero has an Agility of 10 and an acrobatics of 8 and he’s trying to cartwheel across an ice patch. It’s been suggested that he just run, but Frank is a tool and he wants to cartwheel, apparently. So…
This should be a VERY difficult task, so I decide the difficulty is six. So Frank is rolling six dice. I’d probably write that as…
We would then determine, as you may have guessed, that the relevant stat plus skill combination is Agility and Acrobatics. So…
Agility 10 + Acrobatics 8 = Target Number 18
So Frank has to roll six six-sided dice, or in more familiar terms, 6d6, and the total die roll needs to be 18 or less. This means that even someone as annoyingly wonderful as Frank is more likely to fail than they are to succeed, as the average roll for 6d6 is 21. I’ll forego walking through the dice roll itself, because at this point I think you get the idea and I don’t want to see Frank overcome the odds again.
Philosophy of Design
When I first created this system I wanted a few things:
First, I wanted a system where players would not have to use the modifiers behind numbers, as they do with games like Dungeons and Dragons. I accomplished this by making attributes and skills into static values that directly determine your likelihood to succeed.
Second, I wanted a character’s abilities to be reliable. Making difficulty based on multiple dice makes it more likely that a character will perform within their skill range, rather than being as likely to roll an extreme number as an average number.
Last, I wanted the system to be available to people who didn’t have access to gaming dice. This is ultimately why I chose a d6 system; six-sided dice are available at Wal-Mart, and that was a store much closer to my home than any game store was when I designed this system.
As I built the system though, I came to really enjoy making something unique. Adding or subtracting dice as a means of controlling difficulty isn’t something that I’ve seen in a lot of other systems, and it also has the added benefit of giving tangibility to difficult tasks. A difficulty 10 task is big, and it FEELS big. You have a huge handful of dice to go with the imposing task you are about to undertake, compared to rolling a single d20 or the same dice pool for every similar task.
I am sharing this core system because I want people to see it. If you like it and decide to design a game with it, I ask for the following courtesies: credit me somewhere in your work, preferably somewhere noticeable, and let me know about it so that I can get excited about it! Thank you!