Tiny Universal – an Idea for a Simple Roleplaying Game

This is an idea for a rules-lite roleplaying game. Originally, I wanted it to have the same task resolution like Tiny Solitary Soldiers’ solo engine/Free Universal RPG. It has evolved from that into a 2d6 mechanic similar to Apocalypse World. It is inspired by Norbert Matausch’s Eight Buddha Palms and Tobias Radesäter’s The Supercrew. The dice results are furthermore influenced by a post by Paul_T over at the Storygames forums.

The design goal is to make a fairly simple and open game with using six-sided dice but still giving you some options for character creation. There’s is lots of leeway for the GM. 🙂
As of now, it’s not playtested, it’s just an idea.

Character Creation

Describe your character in 3 sentences or more. Make a list of his strengths & weaknesses. You have 3 tokens. It is recommended to use actual tokens for the purpose of visualisation. They represent both your mental as well as your physical health. When you are down to zero tokens in conflict you lose. What that means depends on the type of conflict and your setting description. It might be getting knocked out, having a mental break-down, getting captured, dying, etc.

Example of a player character:
Godfred is a sly magician with an affinity for fire magic. He is a haggard man in his forties with a haunted look. He feels superior to other people and is quite arrogant in his behaviour.

The List:
+ he is good at wielding fire magic; + he can read and decipher magic books and scrolls; – he is not good with social interactions; – he is weak at feats of might

Alternate Character Creation

Choose a ruleset you like and make a character according to those rules. Have fun with it!

Game rules

Narration goes back and forth. The GM presents a situation, the players explain what they want to do. The GM decides if what they want to do is possible. This will depend on your setting.
If the action is not suitable for the task the players need to try something different.
If the action fits the situation there are three possibilities:
a. there is no failure possible or failure is very unlikely: the action succeeds
b. the action can fail but there is no risk/cost involved: the action succeeds

Example: The players try to pick a lock and have all the time in the world. They just can try again as long as they like.

c. failure is possible and the outcome changes the PCs’ situation: the GM asks for a roll.

If you need to determine the outcome with a die roll, roll 2d6.
If the GM feels you have an advantage (either because of your character background or because of other circumstances) , you can make a positive triple roll: roll 3d6, take the two best results. If you are at a disadvantage, roll a negative triple roll: roll 3d6, take the two worst results.

Dice results

Generally, the dice results work like an oracle, telling you if you succeeded or failed in your action.

2-3: No, and… (you don’t get what you want and something bad happens, too)
4-5: No, but… (you don’t get what you want, but there is something positive)
6: Not yet, not until… (the GM will tell you what you need to do in order to achieve your intention)
7-9: Yes, but… (you get what you want but at a cost)
10: Yes (you get what you want)
11-12: Yes, and… (you get what you want and there’s an extra benefit)

Conflict

The GM creates NPCs similar to PCs. They get short descriptions and the GM decides what they can do well and where they are weak. He gives them an appropriate amount of tokens. NPCs can have more or fewer tokens than Player Characters.

Example for Mooks:
Five Goons: good at fighting, bad at everything else, Tk (Tokens): 5

In a conflict, the GM compares your character’s strengths, weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages against those of the opponents. If you are more or less on par, roll normally. If you have the advantage, roll a positive triple roll. If the opponents are at advantage, roll a negative triple roll. The GM doesn’t roll for NPCs.

Example: Godfrey is in a scuffle with five goons. The goons have advantage because they outnumber him. Now, Godfrey tries to fry them with his fire magic and rolls a negative triple roll.
On a result of 5 or less, the goons won’t lose a token and other stuff might happen. For example, an a 2-3 (No, and…) means that his fire magic short-circuits and hurts him, so he might lose a token himself. A result of 6 will depend on the situation. A result of 7-12 means that the goons loose at least one token (you can rule that a 11-12 means that the additional benefit might be the loss of an additional token).

Defeat of either party can only be narrated after of all of their tokens are lost.

Experience

During game play, your character will get better at certain things. If the GM agrees, add this to your list on your character sheet.

Optional Rule: Gimmicks

Gimmicks are perks like stunts, special magic powers, superpowers, powerful gear etc. You can only use their effect once per session. That means that your character has Super Strength all the time, but he can only use the mechanical benefit of rerolling dice once per session.
At character creation, you are allowed to have 1 gimmick. With experience, you can gain more gimmicks.
Describe what your gimmick does. Choose one of the following options. If you have more than 1 gimmick, bear in mind that you can choose every option only once.

  • reroll any dice
  • change a die result to 10
  • step up the result of your task roll by 1 step
  • a successful attack reduces target’s tokens by 2

Continued example from the Player Character above
Godfred, the magician (see above)…
Gimmicks:
[] (Magic) Fire Darts: when you cast your Fire Darts, reroll any dice

Godfred can use magic per normal rules, but his Fire Darts Gimmick gives him some more oomph.

NPCs

Tough opponents may have more than one gimmick.

Example for a villain:
Big Bad: BB a mighty villain with superb tactical abilities and fighting prowess. He is surrounded with a group of goons at all times. He is good at handling two weapons but is vulnerable to chocolate.
Gimmicks: [][] Tactical Leader (re-roll), [] Two Weapon Fighting (change a die to 5), [][] Fighting Monster (a successful attack reduces 2 Chi)


I don’t plan to refine this game idea in the future. Still, I hope it might be interesting for some of you.
Edit: Thanks to suggestions I made some changes but overall this is as complete as it gets now.


Links:
Solo engine of Tiny Solitary Soldiers
Eight Buddha Palms
Free Universal RPG
The Supercrew
Apocalypse World

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