Looking for a new game system to introduce people to RPGs? Here you go, free of charge. Happy Thanksgiving.


Success on 5-6 on a 1d6. Roll 1d6 for any attempt, +1d6 if you have relevant training, +1d6 if you have the right tools.

One success means there’s a complication. Two successes is straightforward, you get what you want. Three successes or more, and you get something extra.

If luck makes the difference in a situation, the GM can roll 1d6; the higher the result, the better for the player. Ideally the GM figures what’s normal and that happens from 2-5, with 1 being very bad and 6 being very good. Nuance is possible. The GM can tell the player the stakes ahead of time to build suspense, or improvise based on how good the roll is.

If circumstances in the game’s context call for an unusual roll or suggest odd potential consequences, ideally talk about it ahead of the roll and agree on the range of outcomes. If a set of circumstances makes a difference, note that for future reference to be consistent.

OPTIONAL RULES. Consider adding some of these in as situations come up, adding complexity as it is welcomed, customizing the game to your taste.

  • INJURY. If you are hurt you are -1d on future roles per significant injury. Or, for more combat-oriented adventures or tougher characters, start with 3 hit points and only apply negatives when you run out of hit points, dying at 3 damage past 0. For violent games, regain hit points 1 per hour of rest or all in a rest, regaining 1 wound past 0 per day of rest. Adjust healing rate to match your game style.


  • BOTCH. If you get no successes and at least one “1” result, that’s a botch; something terrible happens!


  • VARIABLE DIFFICULTY. If the task is really difficult, you only succeed on a “6” result. If the task is relatively easy but still difficult enough to require a roll, succeed on a “4-6” result. In combat, facing multiple foes or fighting on slippery ground or other problems can make combat difficult, and striking at prone targets or using a reach weapon against daggers (or at close range, daggers against a reach weapon) might make a fight easier. Shooting while running might be difficult, firing off a burst might make hitting the target easier. Be consistent and use this customizing tool to encourage player creativity.


  • DAMAGE. Basic weapons do 2 damage, unarmed 1 damage. A complication may reduce the damage by 1, getting 3 or more successes may increase damage by 1 or be an automatic win. Other customization is possible; light weapons may add +1 to attack rolls as they are more likely to hit, basic weapons add +1 die because they are custom tools to hurt targets, heavy weapons may do an automatic point to the target (which may be avoided with successes or armor.) Paired weapons may grant both light and basic advantages, or make an attack easier.


  • ARMOR. Customize to taste. Armor can add extra hit points. Or, light armor can add +1 to all defensive rolls, making success more possible, and heavy armor ignores the first point of damage from any attack. A shield may add +1 die to defensive rolls because it is custom useful equipment for avoiding damage.


  • PLAYER-ONLY DICE. If you don’t want to roll dice for bad guys or circumstances: in combat, every success lets you avoid an attack OR inflict damage. (Default to all attacks hitting.)


  • EXPERIENCE.Every game session you play you get 1 experience in a pool. You can spend these points during a game, each one gives +1 to a roll. Or, you can spend a permanent experience point to gain a success, regardless of how many dice you roll (and this can cancel a botch.)


  • TRAITS. These can be assigned to characters, monsters, objects, or anything else in the game. They identify ways that character or object bends the rules. For example, you could give a dragon “Danger Breath: Affects up to 3 targets per success and inflicts a base 4 damage, targets can dodge for free and reduce damage by 2 per success.” Without that trait, the GM could just rule the area fills with fire, and everyone can dodge to take less damage (no damage on a critical). GMs may allow players to assign something their character is really good at, like “Strong: tests requiring muscle are easy, and if they are easy they succeed automatically.” Severe injuries may assign bad traits, special implants or favor of the gods may assign good traits. The GM may allow traits to be gained at a cost of 3 (or more, or less) permanent experience points.


  • MAGIC. There are many ways to design magic to satisfy a variety of genres, from automatic spells that take up slots and refresh with rest to learned magic that drains vitality to use and triggers complications when you roll doubles to a generally useful and improvisational power with success based on how well you roll to achieve your supernatural aim. Feel free to craft something that works for the style you’re aiming for.


  • COOPERATION. If one character gives up their actions for the round, they can contribute 1d to another character. Up to 2 characters can support a third. If their help may not be useful (they lack expertise, there’s limited room, only one attempt is possible, etc.) those trying to help may have to get a success to grant +1d to another. Reversed, if one character tries to hinder another, they can remove 1d from another’s roll attempt, or roll to succeed to be able to remove 1d from another’s attempt.
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2 Responses to SHIELDS UP BASIC

  1. Bryan in KY says:

    I’m going to write this in my GM / Design book. I do like simple systems because you can dice them and “experience” how they work much easier. Doing and talking things out with itheres is a lot of the process of learning for me, and I think that is a large part of the appeal that small games hold for me. I remember when, after having memorized AD&D 2e, I said: I’m Mercer doing this again. I was 12 or so. My brain has no room for huge games, maybe it never did.

    One of the nice things about the G+ “old game” convergence, for me was the HUGE amount of context and history that got attached to all these things I had brute force memorized. It was eye opening and cool to feel like it all had some meaning. The biggest lesson in that for me was that context, and personalization are at the forefront of playing games. Everyone becomes a designer, by necessity, as no game is “complete” … only designed to taste and made to try and establish a handful of specifics or point towards a small set of outcomes at best. Everything thing else is up to the players for good or ill.

    • fictivite says:

      Yes, I agree with all of this. My designs started out really complex and have simplified through the years as I realized there’s a budget for complexity, and you can’t add rules forever and keep a fun game.The idea that “fiction first” lets you only mechanize certain decision points instead of mechanizing the whole world.

      Aiming rules specifically at inspiring a kind of behavior in players and GMs and giving a shape to the fiction by focusing advancement and measurements on some things and not others is a really interesting idea on how to adjust context to affect imagination.

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