The AASB two-pager project forced me to distill what magic can and ought to be in a Body-Insight-Thought-Specialty roleplaying game system.
With those efforts combined, it is time to reintroduce the magic in BITS in a general form fit for any BITS game (and your own homebrew too 😉).
A Special Kind of Threat
“Threat” is the common term of what to roll at or above to succeed at some tricky, dangerous, or failure-is-consequential action.
Every creature or being in a game has its own threat – an abstract capacity to enact its own will on others or to prevent others from acting on it. When rolling normally, that threat is what is rolled for.
Magic is different. Spells ignore the threat of the target (a person, place, or thing), instead rolling for the level of threat inherent in the spell itself. The effect is instantaneous on target, ignoring all defenses!
Trivial spell? Trivial roll. Bigger, badder magic? Bigger, badder numbers to roll for 😶
As is with most rolls, magic rolls get to add a BITS to the roll, specifically the Thought quality – the smarter, more forceful-of-will a caster is, the easier the use of their magic!
When using magic, roll for the threat of the magic, not the target. Add Thought to the roll.
Magic is dangerous. Spells are fickle, near as likely to burn the hand that casts than the target.
Early on, BITS settled to handle critical failure when rolling doubles under the threat number. (e.g. a 2 and 2 when the threat is 5+.)
Crit failures – regardless of what is being done – are always bad. When it comes to magic, such failure can be catastrophic 💀
When magic critically fails, the caster becomes the target. Whatever was going to happen happens in its opposite or causes harm, too.
Say a healing spell was meant to help an ally. A crit failure would harm the magician in equal amounts to what was supposed to heal, while the ally gets nothing.
Sometimes allies are not so lucky. Take a mage’s fireball spell, meant to immolate all in a nearby room before their friends rush in. Crit fail in the casting, and the room the mage is in fills with fire, setting ablaze friend and foe alike.
Summoning a creature from the ‘other side’ to fight alongside the party? The summoning happens, but the creature joins the opposition.
Magic is dangerous. Users are advised to proceed with caution!
Critical spell failure targets the caster and must harm or inconvenience them in proportion to the magic used.
What About Armor?
Many game systems require magicians to not wear any armor to be able to use magic. Sometimes this is a soft requirement (e.g. “magic can only be cast wearing lite or no armor”), sometimes this is hard (“mages cannot wear armor, full stop”).
To me, this is silly. BITS aims to be more practical and economic in its approach – by failures targeting the gear and pocketbooks of magicians!
On critical failures, a mage can be utterly wrecked. Only once, this is a painful outcome. Bad dice rolling failures again and again, magic becomes annoying.
So to encourage bigger, wilder magic use, a magician can channel a crit failure into anything that lacks a will that they are wearing or hold in their hands. When channeled, the magic effect doesn’t happen (e.g. a fireball does not explode), but the item that was channeled? Gone – turned to ash, dissolved to vapor, crumbled to dust.
The lesson here? Critical magic failure can be prevented, but at a cost. That cost comes in the form of the hard-won gear and materials a magic user has. Therefore, mage’s are encouraged to use their special powers while softly discouraged from investing too heavily in heavier, more expensive weapons and gadgets.
Magic users may choose to channel crit spell failures into what they wear or hold, the item chosen destroyed in the process to prevent the failure’s effects.
Tools of the Trade
Gear here to help magicians: scrolls, runes, tomes, icons, idols, fetishes, wands, scepters, staves.
These items come in +1, +2, +3, and more varieties like every other kind of item in BITS. Yet, instead of inflicting harm on another (e.g. 2 damage for a tier-2 sword), focusing gear adds to the rolls for magic in addition to Thought already added.
Some magic gear helps focus spells – add this gear’s value to magic rolls in addition to Thought.
Optional: Fields of Magic
This is a great way to segregate the kinds of magic a player might be able to rely on. If magic use is just a bit too powerful, restricting magic to fields of study or inheritance can make all the difference.
While these groupings can take virtually any form, a few examples (which could be further isolated by what foci they are allowed to use, how they improve their magic, and how they might increase their powers):
The 6 distilled from D&D magic (D&D has unbalanced spells that I rebalanced during As Above, So Below‘s development – will make a post on it later).
Divinity – Spells involve blessing and cursing targets.
Energy – Spells involve the heating and cooling targets.
Form – Spells involve making something from nothing and change.
Life – Spells involve decaying and rejuvenating targets and the environment.
Mind – Spells involve knowing what targets know and bestowing ideas into others.
Sensorium – Spells involve the senses and illusions.
Power (pure-magic) and Pyro (fire, natural forces) (inspired by the Souls games).
Pact-making (devotion to angels or demons), Learned (from books or teachers), and Inherited (born with it).
Item-only (spells are written or imbued – can only be used with the host item, perhaps only a few times too).
Buttress magic’s power by guard-railing its use via who uses what kinds of magic magic and how.
Magic by any stretch of the imagination is chaotic, and chaos is everything.
That in mind, no list of spells or rituals could be as encompassing as a player’s imagination, or the situations one encounters while playing.
For BITS, refer to this handy table of the minimal threat appropriate for different spells (the Game Moderator ultimately will need to make a decision here, so treat this as a tool and starting place in that verdict). Using the largest threat for what is wanted to be done:
Threat (D&D slots)
5+ easy (0, 1)
7+ moderate (2, 3)
9+ hard (4, 5)
All in Area
11+ very hard (6)
13+ unlikely (7, 8)
All Areas in Range
15+ impossible? (9+)
+2 to threat if the spell lasts (about 10 real-minutes). Optional: Disadvantage for a spell effect greater than Thought value.
Magic in BITS is quite powerful and quite dangerous – usually to the target, but could be to the caster too.
Adding the user’s Thought quality along with any foci support, a magician has the flexibility to fulfill their role in any situation during play.
Magic spells are unbounded in BITS play while worthy of the utmost respect, just as is a player’s imagination.
BITS is such a thorough system – easy to understand, fast to play, capable of being scaled up or down in complexity, modular enough to plug-and-play virtually any theme or IP…
I am just so proud of where this has come 😍
Tell me your thoughts. Favorite magic system out there BITS could assimilate? Things you would like to do not yet covered in BITS?
I am all ears and all thanks – take care, witches and wizards aplenty! Cheers to your play~
My gosh – 6 goals and extra? As compared to the usual 4??
It has been tough, yet did what it needed to. September’s goals, in review, forced me out of my comfort zone towards some serious progress.
Let’s see if the same can be repeated in October:
September Goal Review
Update Gunslinger in The West Rules
Won! Rules are updated from the 2-pager. An excellent exercise – I highly recommend taking a full system and push it onto 2 sheets of paper 😉 Got neither of the bonuses complete (a future offer list, and updating the first adventure).
Update As Above, So Below Rules
Failed. Kinda. After years on ice, AASB needed a complete overhaul. A review of all the guides really needed them rewritten from scratch, getting rid of ideas like damage types and such. So this won’t count as a win, and the bonuses are… postponed. Brought about in part by the next outcome:
All About Business
Won! I did the research, put together business plans, and… discovered the viability of all the potential offers I have in mind are not financially sound (at least without a 10-item-ish backlog!). Going to write a post on the findings, but it has caused me to re-evaluate October goals twice now. The more you know, right?
Marathon War 1-Pager
Won! After a few revisions after eye-opening playtests, I have the 1P! Because it took a lot of mechanical evaluation to get something “fun,” I failed to achieve the bonus 2-pager 🙃
20 Hours of Leisure Study
Won! Got my studying in. Reviewed the Warhammer 40K: Deathwatch TTRPG system, took notes, have some valuable additions to BITS rulesets and general RPG shenanigans.
20 Hours of Art
Won! I did half the hours, but had reserved this goal to be redacted if certain events came up. They came up, so getting 10 hours in I count as a win 🙂
October Goal Proposal
A Trip and a Wedding
What you see is what you get. Going on voyages that’ll take about 10 days out of October, so marking out the space here. (Not going to mention at least 3 important birthdays, too!)
Mörk Borg Module
Turns out one of my favorite game systems allows for modules to be added to the system 🤘💀🤘 As a break from innovating on my own BITS system, I figure I can create a module More Borg where instead of wandering around the wastes of a dying world, players can hold out in their own castle 🔥
Bonus: Get an artsy splash for this module.
Bonus: Convert this module to BITS rules!
20 Hours Machine Learning
Bought a set of courses that include ML in Unity and Unreal 5; time to increase my value of insightfulness by getting acquainted with both the engines and the principles of their use!
Bonus: 10 extra hours here to make a game-playing, image-making, or advice-giving machine to help me out in *waves hands at whatever*.
20 Hours Unity
To really get into the nitty-gritty of the engine, using the same set of courses, I will dedicate 20 hours specifically to the use of Unity and its systems behind.
Bonus: 10 extra hours here to make a game.
15 Minutes Daily Engagement
While in September I came to understand a business is not right for me at this time, I do understand I need to ‘market’ myself long before a business would land. Thus, October will see me engage for 15 minutes a day across social medias, so about 8-10 hours total spent in the month. Doable!
Bonus: Make it a 20-hour total engagement for the month.
Move or Half-Year Review
Either I am moving around or will start my end-of-year review up to the first half. Keeping it flexible as situations demand~
Bonus: Marathon War 2P
Follow-up from September: Expand the content of Marathon War (and look at making a better name).
83% success rate for September is what I needed. 6 goals along with the bonuses really push me to be my best. While disappointing that ‘business’ is not in the cards (yet; I am looking forward to it!), I can still prepare myself for future success.
Mentioning future success, I am breaking a bit of my own principles by adding in the Unity and ML study – these have a professional influence to them, where I try to not include work-life in my personal goals.
Oh well. The knowledge will be good to have for myself if I ever get back to making video games on my own time, and ML programs are just plain cool 😁
So here’s to a vigorous and growth-oriented October! How are your goals coming along? What remains to be done before the end of the year? Rooting for you – cheers to all your accomplishments!
Short stories (8750-10k words) are much more profitable than full-length books (95k-115k) by a factor of 367% when it come to price-per-page.
The Data Collection
Data from the first and top-rated grimdark books from The Black Library and Amazon gives the average pages for short and full stories. Using the rule-of-thumb that there are 250 words per page, we can extrapolate word count. The “Range” below comes from a +/- ~10% of the average:
Count ( Range )
Words ( Range )
37.5 ( 35-40 )
9375 ( 8750-10k )
420 ( 380-460 )
105k ( 95k-115k )
Average Page and Word Count
Short stories where virtually sold for $4. Full books (not anthological or omnibus collections) were approximately $12.
Therefore, a short story is priced at about $.11 per page ($.106) while full books run $.03 per page ($.029), a difference of ~367%.
Without a doubt, without considering how short stories have a lower barrier of entry for the buyer and make a faster/less-risky production for the producer, writing grimdark short stories (and pricing accordingly) is the better business decision.
The Collection Method
Not as fancy as the RPG pricing post, I did most of this collection on the back of an envelope (no, really).
Already referenced above, I gathered from four groups: the first 10 short stories offered by The Black Library, 7 full stories on Amazon, 11 stories recommended from a first-read list (a source I follow and reference for grimdark content), and 2 books I myself favorite.
All stories were rated above 80%, some particular attention given to >90% titles.
I like my games simple, but not all games are so. Some require more dice than the d6s the BITS System uses – this can be a problem if a player doesn’t want to carry around a dice bag 🎲🎲 Or a new player isn’t sure they are ready to invest. Yet other times a die just cannot be found!
Instead, I want to share with you different dice each with 1292 random rolls that are ready for print to distribute alongside any other piece of gaming material – physical dice not included 😉
Each page has labels for your convenience. All sheets have a normal distribution of probability, so the rolls are as accurate (or more) than physical math rocks.
A person can start from any corner and go in any direction so long as it is consistent (I would suggest the ol’ left-to-right, top-to-bottom approach). As you go along, mark off which numbers have been used.
Some dice are missing – with a little imagination, all the sheets can be more than they seem:
All sheets are also d2s.
d6 becomes a d3, d66 (first number x10, add second), or 2d6 (first + second).
d8 into a d4.
d10 replaces d100.
These are convenient sheets, though beware! Anyone who uses them may feel influenced to “meta game” – giving in to the temptation to look forward at what the next rolls might be and choose to act or not in certain unsporting fashion.
You can also make your own like I did:
In a spreadsheet, resize columns and rows to be square.
Use this formula: =RANDBETWEEN(1,6) (replace ‘6’ with your die size)
In general, games of all and every kind are not known as money makers.
For the niche of roleplaying games, it is paramount you know how to price your RPG if ever to even get the game played, let alone see a cent.
To those ends, I did the research so you don’t have to 😉
Dollar values from here on refer to the price-per-page (ppp) of RPGs. These RPGs include some if not extensive artwork that can serve to boost page counts and perceived value.
TLDR; In general, RPGs undervalue themselves. OSR (old-school revival) games – more concise (i.e. fewer) rules, less pre-generated content – can increase ppp by 25% vs. the broad market (super-sellers like Dungeons & Dragons not included here). The most ‘lucrative’ publications are game extensions – extra rules, adventures, tools, artwork, or features – that can run at or 30% more than OSR games.
If you price your RPG and related content between $.08 and $.10 per page, you are being reasonable. $.30 per page is really stretching it, but no product is sold for less than $.04 per page.
The Data Collection
I ran data for general games, OSR games, extensions / modules / add-on content, and my personal favorites. See The Collection Method section next for what the thoughts behind here:
Popular RPG Average and Median PPP
Dropping the edges, it would seem that a price-per-page range of $.08 and $.10 is the best option for pricing an RPG PDF.
Tangentially, the data for average and median page counts and prices:
Average Page Count
Median Page Count
Popular RPG Average and Median Page Count
Conclusions here say page count for a primary product ranges from 200 to 300 pages. Extensions should be about half the page count (give or take) of the primary product.
Popular RPG Average and Median Price
As for price, expect to price between $15 and $20 for the most well-received products.
To gather the data, I referenced Drive Thru RPG, “the largest RPG download store,” for highly rated (>80% positive reviews) page counts and price (rounded to the nearest 50-cents). All prices reflect the PDF versions of games, as those are required by Drive Thru – physical copies are not.
Numbers came from the “hottest” of: core-rulebooks, OSR games, game extensions / modules, and my own favorite games. Collection was made in chunks of the first ~30 and ~50 of the “hottest” lists to sanity-check the calculations were accurate.
I completely avoided the hottest game of them all: Dungeons & Dragons. I know that its price and page count and rating may be skewed for the sheer popularity of this godfather of RPGs.
Like D&D, some other data was excluded. Any price-per-page that far exceeded other ppp was excluded, though a comment has been left on the excluded page and price.
The ranges of prices are taken as the difference of the average and the median, pivoting around the average. The average was always less than the median, indicating that many games undervalue what they could sell themselves for reasons of market ignorance (this is speculation only).
Now you know how to price your RPG! This has certainly helped me determine what pricing and lengths I should be looking at.
Bonus observation: While going through content, I noticed that ppp was increased for creators who had a dedicated following, their “1000 True Fans.” Examples include Runehammer Games (YouTube, Drive Thru RPG) and Dungeon Craft/University (YouTube, Drive Thru RPG). Might be something to keep in mind for your own popularity ~
And cheers to that! Price your RPGs right and we will catch up next week.
Over this year, I have had about an 85% completion rate on the 4 goals I set out to do each month.
While a humble accomplishment, I feel I could get even higher completion percentages by adding two more goals for a total of 6 each month, plus some more “bonuses” to carry on the momentum of each goal. Madness?
Let’s see. First, to August’s 4 goals:
August Goal Review
Won! An excellent time. So much fun. Took about a week to accomplish before and after, but so glad I danced and dined and discussed topics of immense importance with the bride, groom, extended family, and so many friends ❤
Won! All the Civil War units are drafted (have you been watching my Instagram stories for progress? @jimmychattin). I failed to get them in a stable state before August 9th (no bonus for this), but I also finished the sheets of neutral and status counters for the game. Won’t count this as bonus, but will pat myself on the back 😁
10 Blog Posts
Won! Didn’t do the blogs I expected to, but what is done is done. Good content incoming through September and October. Follow to not miss a beat 😉
20 Hours Games / Selfcare
Won! Didn’t think I would make it… Started reading game manuals to study/collect blog content to make up for things, and watching Disney+‘s Obi-Wan series helped a bunch. (Worthy show!)
September Goal Proposal
6 goals and bonus? LET’S GO!
Update Gunslinger in The West Rules
After the 1- and 2-pagers clarified what was required for a western game based in the BITS system, I am going after the wording and tables in the full rules.
Bonus: Formalize a “future” list of features and 1-page expansions.
Bonus: Update the showdown Belle’s Town in GiTW‘s full rules.
Update As Above, So Below Rules
As above, so below here for goal #2. Take my insights, apply them to the larger documents.
Bonus: Formalize a “future” list of features and expansions.
Bonus: Combine the many different chapters of As Above, So Below into a single document.
Bonus: Add gameplay examples.
All About Business
I’ve tried doing my “own thing” before, with ‘meh’ levels of success. Past results will be no indication of future outcomes here 😉 Putting together a formal business plan and roadmap for positioning myself to sell things. Think I might go with Grey Library as the name – want to be a part of the focus group for that decision?
Bonus: Create the business LLC – this’ll be best done through a lawyer’s help.
Bonus: Create SOPs and templates for products and services – this is an eye to future scaling (if I wish to scale at all!).
Bonus: Put up a ‘tip jar,’ Patreon, or my first product – if making a dollar, this bonus will be doubled!
Note: Might also reach out for consultation (will count this part of the main goal’s process). If you know folks who started a business and are open for compensated consultation, reach out to me!
Marathon War 1-Pager
A WIP title, Marathon War will be my shot at bringing sci-fi super soldiers to BITS. Inspired by Bungie’s/343’s Halo series and the recent kick-behind DOOM games, this prototype I expect will be lots of fun! (And I will time how long this game takes to make – useful metrics!)
Bonus: Create a 2-pager, much like I did with Gunslinger in The West and As Above, So Below, natural next steps of the prototype.
20 Hours of Leisure Study
Same-ish goal, second month. Practice self-care which for me means to read, study, brainstorm, watch cool shows with cooler friends, and maybe game if lucky 🤞
20 Hours of Art
It has been ages since I practiced my art. As a remarked and awarded artist in a past life, I have the means (stationary, a touch-screen computer), the purpose (filler art for my products), and the ambition to get back into such a cathartic, productive, and encouraging activity ~
Note: Just received word that certain houses may be bought and jobs accepted, all mine and others. I reserve the right to put goal #6 last in priority and swappable with another goal should some of these events pan out!
On top of all the above, I will be getting back into a lite-yet-consistent workout regime (it has been a minute for some medical reasons). And perhaps starting a refreshed work schedule to go along with the business goal?
6 goals to complete, 9 bonus tasks. I am ready to mix it up this month – are you? Get after it – cheers through when we are back here again!
Age of Sigmar: Soulbound is a cornucopia of cool game design concepts I have either been working on in BITS or am adding.
Heck, the idea of “Soul” or a spirit to go along with mind and body has provided “Insight” to BITS! (We will talk about this in a minute.)
So needless to say, this Warhammer game is very, very well put together. I am humbled by it while it is my honor to adapt the system to 2d6 (2 6-sided dice) BITS play!
The Core Mechanic
Soulboundrolls a pile of d6 whenever some re-/action is dangerous or otherwise consequential. Each d6 needs a certain face value or above to count as a success, then a certain number of successes are required at or above a difficulty target to count as having been accomplished.
Roll X dice. Y or more of those need to be at or over Z to succeed in the action.
A normal difficulty is two successes, while the face values and number of dice to roll are determined by skills and abilities.
Since Soulbound heralds from the Warhammer wargame, it makes some sense to keep piles of dice around, the same piles of d6 the wargame uses. HOWEVER, this turns out to be one of the weakest parts of the system in my eyes.
Lots of deduction leads to lots of dice leads to lots of math and I and BITS really will have nothing to do with it.
* throws dice pools out the window *
* goes out, picks up dice so as not to litter *
BITS carries on with 2d6 with tiers of difficulty. The only additions come from a handful of stats and few if any other factors. Minimal rolls, minimal math, maximum speed and ease of understanding. To recap:
Rabble, conscripts, small beasts.
Guards, foot soldiers, trained.
Professionals, veterans, brutes, large beasts.
Captains, elites, killers, vicious beasts.
Demi-gods, lords, titular mortals.
Godly, Near Impossible
The gods, god-like beings.
BITS Rolling Guidelines
Advantage, disadvantage, and criticals get a deep dive over on “BITS of D&D” – go check it out after this. For now, a recap ‘vantage in BITS:
Advantage lets you optionally take the highest 2d6 die and use its value twice. Disadvantage takes and doubles the lowest which you must use.
Criticals apply even before ‘vantage when rolling double face values on the 2d6. If the unmodified face values sum is above the target number, it is a crit success, below, a crit failure. Either way, something extra happens, usually an immediate extra action, double the effect, a bypass of protection, or similar based on context.
Body, Mind, and Soul (BMS) is all the stat tracking Soulbound brings and I couldn’t be happier.
Body details the combined strength and nimbleness of a character. Mind is of course the intellect, but also accuracy. Soul is a relationship with the divine and protection against corruption. Each ranges in value from +1 to +4 in modification to rolls.
For all intents and purposes, BITS has no changes here 🤷♂️ Body is Body, Insight is Soul, Thought is Mind. I would only expand the range of stat values (-4 to +4) and add social challenges to each stat (BITS does this with Body intimidation, Insight charm, and Thought reasoning).
Heck, I am envious at how well BMS works so well, yet BITS includes an abstraction of Skills, something Soulbound includes only in support of the pile-o’-dice mechanic it comes with. Let us touch on that:
Character Creation and Archetypes
Character creation is very straightforward – select a Race (aka species), select an Archetype (aka class), then select a gearset.
The races are classic WH: Age of Sigmar folk. Tree people, elf-likes, humans, dwarf-likes, angels, etc. What race is chosen determines what archetypes are available.
There are generic and race-specific archetypes. Whichever is chosen, a set of stats is assigned automatically (e.g. B 1, M 2, S 3). From there, a small bundle of gear is available for selection. A special ability may be applied for the archetype too.
BITS fits this to a tee – flat stat allocation, descriptions of the species and the character’s role in life, gear packs, and Skill abilities… No change. These are intuitive 1:1 conversions.
I am so hyped for how Soulbound keeps characters functioning and alive. The solution?
Sum all stats (B+M+S) together. BRILLIANT. BITS is “borrowing” this (B+I+T+S).
Additionally, a character is not dead at 0 HP. Instead, they take on ever-egregious wounds, the number being half the total HP. (This works out to about 3-4 wounds per character.) Wounds have a part in BITS as scars and the eventual crippling of a character, but I forgo elaboration here.
This would be it, but this design choice struck me so hard, we ought look in on the math. See more at the bottom of this post in the “Bonus: HP Deep Dive” section.
Heads up: The following may include my own design commentary without me realizing it. Notes got mixed together, so consider the following as Soulbound optimized for BITS!
Nothing special for armaments: Weapon effect (e.g. +0 knives, +1 swords, +2 greatswords) in SB is added to the number of successes which translates to damage. BITS sees this as all value above the needed difficulty results in damage. Doable!
Degrees of Success (DoS) is effect. Need a 7+ and roll a 9? That is 2 effect + whatever the scale of tool is, such as +1 for a sword, equaling a total 3 effect.
Armor merely reduces the amount of damage sustained. Light 1 armor allows sneaking. Medium 2 has no banes but disallows or disadvantages sneaking. Heavy 3 is loud enough that anyone nearby will hear the character virtually no matter what. BITS could expect a Super-Heavy 4, that belittles movement and action (reduction, delays, disadvantage).
Shields give +1 to defensive rolls (+X for the shield isn’t bad), but BITS includes additional options:
Make shields ‘ablative’ (destroy 1-point of the shield to negate all of an attack).
Subtract from effect like armor does.
Give advantage to defensive rolls, but include the ‘ablative’ option too.
Regardless, expand the types of shields that can be carried:
Buckler 1, can be strapped to shoulders and forearms and still be effective.
Round or Kite 2, must use a hand or be put on the back to carry.
Tower 3, must use a hand to carry.
Wall 4, cannot move without wheels or another carrier.
Back to weapons: What is cool is the range which centers around “Zones“, i.e. general areas what have the same features in an approximate space (rooms, groves, a bridge, etc.).
Close (within reach)
Short (within the Zone)
Medium (1 Zone away)
Long (2 Zones away)
Extreme (3+ Zones away)
Anything with greater than Close range when used in Close has disadvantage (e.g. a bow would be disadvantaged if shooting someone up in the archer’s face).
A nifty spot in Soulbound is the holy healing water. Special water is the only way to humanely recover life and is the mode of currency in SB.
This is cool design – do you heal or attempt to buy things that will prevent the harm in the first place? Do you protect your wealth in slow-you-down chests, or carry them on your person within reach but also where they might be smashed?
Games like Metro have done this with required-yet-scarce bullets, so I like seeing the mechanic here. BITS isn’t off-the-shelf ready to conflate magic potions with economy abstraction, but a simple count of the number of water bulbs (X bulbs for healing and exchange) or an abstraction to amount of water available (1 for a bulb or two, 2 being gallons, 3 a pool of water, 4 a cistern, etc.) is doable.
SB goes for multiple actions in a turn, pulled from a pool of Soul / 2, regaining 1 at the start of the character’s turn.
BITS is not a fan of point tracking this way, so 1 action per character or group per turn is the way to go. A sample of options:
Anything within range.
Use the character’s Speed to move around different Zones.
Run and Attack, but have -1 on defense until next turn.
Head (-2 to hit, stuns), arm (-1, disarms), leg (-1, makes prone).
Any Attack or movement in or into your Zone has to go through the character first. Advantage given if using a shield!
+1 to any defense, with advantage.
Attempt to escape the conflict.
A Body (or Mind) roll. Hidden from minds lower than the number of successes (e.g. 3 successes hides from 2 Mind seakers).
A Body roll. Success moves the target from Close to Short range. Critical success knocks the target prone.
-1 Speed Actions:
Climb, Crawl, Swim, Squeeze, Sneak
Mentioning Speed, it comes in levels:
Slow – Must use an action to move inside the same Zone.
Normal – Free to move within the same Zone, 1 action to move to adjacent Zones. (Hand-to-hand combat uses this to get within range in the same Zone.)
Fast – Free move into 1 adjacent Zone, 1 action to move elsewhere.
Immediate – Added for BITS, this is a free move to any Zone within the play area.
Nothing moves slower than Slow unless the thing is somehow bound, grappled, or crippled.
Probably the best hireling or mercenary list I have every come across. A list, with a few of my own for balance:
Has a week of hot-meal ingredients and gear.
Can carry and do simple chores or tasks.
d6 meats a day in rural or feral environments. Knows trapping.
Frontline fighter. Random weapon set.
Helps heal. May attempt field surgery on wounds.
Reports on an area at end-of-day.
Knows the area, rumors, and is charming. May be an entertainer.
Provides a bonus against corruption. May be a pilgrim.
Warhammer is full of giant monsters, so size needs to play a part. Soulbound‘s rules are simply:
A character can climb on any character sized above theirs.
If in the same Zone as a higher-sized character, the smaller character(s) get stomped.
As for the kinds of sizes, BITS might scale based on if a size could eaten or swallowed by the next size up in 1 or 2 bites. Application:
Sub-Unit (a tiny thing, much smaller than a human)
Unit (a human, cart, can fit a company of them into a Zone)
Sub-Zone (warhorse, large vehicles, can only fit so many – a squad – in a Zone)
Zone (giants, airships, things that takes up an entire Zone)
Multizone (truly monstrous)
The meta-currencies of DOOM (how bad the world is failing) and Soulfire (i.e. miracles) can provide a nice intervention and reflection of player action on the world, but BITS shies from these kinds of currencies.
We also haven’t touched on personal and group experience, nor mounts or terrain in how they play. Nothing wrong with these – merely need to wrap up here!
All in all, Soulbound is an excellent game full of profound ideas. While its heritage of coming from a wargame can slow it down, BITS is the system to bring the game back to a fast, streamlined pace!
If I missed anything in the last ~1800 words, please say so – BITS, Soulbound, and your own games will be better for it. Cheers ~ 🎲🎲
Bonus: HP Deep Dive
Of all the archetypes, the average sum is 7.6 HP (3-4 wounds). The stat values to get there are distributed approximately:
1 = 16%
2 = 36%
3 = 28%
4 = 20%
Tangent: Soulbound is a game about being a champion, a hero in action and ability, a blessed-by-the-divine entity of power. That is clear in the high-powered stats!
If rolling for stats, with a d6, the above 1-2-3-4 comes out about as 1 = 1, 2 and 3 = 2, 4 and 5 = 3, and 6 = 4. Because of the ‘heroic’ setting, using Soulbound‘s content to replicate other difficulty tiers is just a shift of the results (Gods mode added for flavor):
1, 2, 3
4, 5, 6
d6 Tiered Character Values
Love it when the match comes together! BITS of Soulbound, as with “BITS of <anything>,” works. Cheers to that and cheers to your SB games!
Dungeons & Dragons is equipped to be so complex, it has inspired an entire movement of streamlined tabletop roleplaying: OSR (Old School Revival/Renaissance).
OSR relies on a can-do mindset with looser rules to handle more situations faster while making violence and antagonism a high-risk choice for players (D&D defaults to a combat-first approach). The world is the players’ oyster, if they are clever-, brutal-, or lucky-enough!
Mörk Borg (i.e. “Dark Fortress”, shorthand Mork Borg) is OSR in the best sense: deadly consequences, simple rules, fast play, random world generation, and an award-winning aesthetic to leave no guessing at the game intends to do!
OSR Mörk Borg and BITS are both related intimately to D&D, so time to convert BITS of Mörk Borg to show both promote Mörk Borg and show-off BITS’s (darker) strengths!
The Core Mechanic
Like D&D, Mörk Borg uses a d20 (1 20-sided die) plus stat bonuses at or over a target number. It is not too drastic to suggest D&D can equate to Mörk Borg, from there to BITS.
Checkout the “BITS of D&D” post for more depth on the conversion to 2d6 BITS uses (what I would suggest is a better judge of difficulty). Yet, if we want to stick closer to Mörk Borg math, we need to change up the equation a bit:
Godly, Near Impossible
D&D and MB BITS Target Number Odds
Concepts of who rolls, advantage/disadvantage, and criticals echo D&D – BITS explains at length on this in “BITS of D&D.”
Respectively, only players roll to resolve any fictional conflict, duplicate high or low dice for any (dis)advantages, and double faces count as critical results.
The End of the World
I would be remiss not to touch on what is arguably Mörk Borg‘s most nifty mechanic: at the dawn of each day, roll to see if a catastrophe has entered the world, bringing it all one step closer to extinction, the game to close. Rolls of 1 bring a misery, the seventh misery brings the end of the world.
At the beginning of a campaign (play the same game of Mörk Borg over multiple sessions), the time that remains is determined by picking either higher- or lower-faced dice. Higher dice mean longer life as 1 will be less likely to show.
The miseries themselves are on a 6×6 table, perfect for BITS’s 2d6 to roll like a d66 (one die for column, the other for row or entry). Only the timespan needs a conversion:
Mörk Borg Die
BITS Math Equal
“Years of Pain”
2 on 2d6
2 on 2d6
“A Bleak Half-Year”
2 or 12 on 2d6
2 or 3 on 2d6
“A Fall in Anguish”
2 or 3 on 2d6
2 to 4 on 2d6
“A Cruel Month”
2 to 5 on 2d6
“The End is Nigh!”
2 to 6 on 2d6
BITS’s End of the World
Side note: This ‘dying world’ is a cool game-ending mechanic (TTRPGs tend to have no definite end). Expect to see more of this in future BITS products!
Mörk Borg needs only Strength, Toughness, Agility, and Presence, these stats adding to the rolls they apply to. How they are used becomes BITS’s Body, Insight, and Thought:
Body – Average of Strength and Toughness.
Insight – Agility.
Thought – Presence.
Nearly the same as D&D (min-maxing at a bonus of 3 vs. a possible roll-add of 4)
2 to 3
6 to 8
11 to 12
Roleplaying character traits and functional gear comes from rolling on tables, which is largely able to be done ad hoc. No biggie! (BITS would create a table of 36 items to use, but that goes beyond the scope of this post.)
Unlike D&D but much like BITS, Mörk Borg has little in the way of classes (these are largely optional, being tacked on to the system). Since classes may come with special abilities, BITS removes these specialties and instead expects players to choose or (in OSR-fashion) roll for them on a table.
Hit Points! MB uses a d8 plus the Toughness of the character to determine how long a character can survive harm and ill.
A bit of averaging gives 6 HP as the standard for any BITS of Mörk Borg character based on that math. Alternate options remain for variability:
Roll 2d6 for HP. That’s it. Increased survivability vs. 6 HP as the average 2d6 is 7, but may leave the character much weaker too – a gamble!
Sum the absolute of all BITS together to a minimum of 1. E.g. a B+1 I+3 T+0, 2-Skill character has 1+3+0+2=6 HP. (Summation of stats taken from the game Age of Sigmar: Soulbound, discussed in an upcoming post!)
Magic, Wealth, and No Good Deeds
MB lets anyone do magic, though failure is very and randomly disastrous. BITS can get behind that 🙂 BITS would otherwise have critical magic failures target the user and do harmful or opposite effects.
MB wealth comes in silver coin – BITS abstracts this to tiers of wealth and abstract treasure (another post coming in September 2022).
Accomplishing things (a la ‘good deeds’) in Mörk Borg allows for improvement, but also punishment of the player character. This leveling may give you treasure, magic scrolls, or nothing. It may make things better or worse. When leveling with the BITS system:
HP – Roll 2d6. If higher than the current health, increase HP by 1. If less, or if rolling 1-1 snake eyes, decrease HP by 1. (0 is death from natural though mysterious causes!)
Stats – For each, roll d6. If greater than the stat, increase it; if less, decrease it. Always decrease on a roll of 1. (Max stats for MB swing from -3 to +6 – BITS can accommodate a +/- 6 swing for simplicity!)
I am skipping armor and weapon interaction here since BITS has sets of rules for damage and damage reduction.
Also skipping pregenerated characters, dungeon creation, and a few other tidbits, but not many – Mörk Borg expects player flexibility in the face of context, and rules act more as guidelines than anything (the “rulings, not rules” principle).
With the few tweaks above as they are though, you are set to play Mörk Borg using the BITS 2d6 TTRPG system (if you dare 🔥💀🔥).
Any areas you would like advice or clarity on? Say so – your messages are welcome! Cheers to your end of the world ~ 🎲🎲
You – through game references or celebrities or the show Stranger Things – of course have heard of Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop roleplaying game synonymous now with, well, “RPG.”
Yet, this system is complex. Really complex. I often refer to D&D as a great example of simulation play – track every detail possible to simulate as precise of a result as possible.
Regardless of how accurate the simulation, doing all that is… A bit much for a casual game played for enjoyment, especially given the time-strapped lives people lead.
Thus, I have developed the BITS system. Directly inspired by D&D, BITS is fast, modular, genre-less, and emergently complex. Being a descendant of the classic, I found it fitting to convert a BITS of D&D for that streamlined play 🔥
The Core Mechanic
A rolled 20-sided die (d20) plus a modifier or special reroll is D&D‘s resolution mechanic for all dangerous, failure-has-consequence situations. Each situation has its own difficulty, which D&D helpfully suggests as every 5 on the d20 that a roll needs to meet or beat to succeed.
BITS is 2d6, or, roll 2 6-sided dice added together at or above a target with modifiers. I will save you the math comparison between 2d6 and d20 – just know that any D&D roll has a compliment in BITS:
D&D d20 Roll
BITS 2d6 Roll
Godly, Near Impossible
A quick, casual game needs only Easy, Medium, and Hard results, but discussing that is a tangent –
Further, D&D expects all players and the Game Moderator / Dungeon Master to roll dice. BITS needs only other players to roll on the regular.
Special rules for rolls center around the concept of “Advantage” and “Disadvantage.” Skipping how a roll gets this special rule applied, D&D says to roll 2d20 and take the highest or lowest result, respectively. BITS can do the same, but to reduce rolls, BITS prefers to take the highest or lowest die of the first roll and duplicate it, e.g. a 2-5 becomes a 5-5 when there is Advantage.
Advantage and disadvantage get calculated after critical successes or failures in both D&D and BITS. In D&D a crit success happens when an unmodified / natural roll of 20 happens, a crit fail on a natural 1 roll.
BITS scales criticals with the difficulty – the more difficult the obstacle, the greater chance there is for critical failure, less for success crits, and vice versa. Crits are any natural same-faced roll – 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6. Crit successes are pairs above the number expected to be over, crit failures rolling below the number.
An example of BITS criticals would be to roll a 3-3 failure when a 7+ is needed, or that same 3-3 being a success when the only requirement is 5+.
D&D fails to handle criticals gracefully or apply solutions for every occasion. Critical successes for a BITS player means the player’s character can act again, immediately, regardless if they were the one taking or preventing action.
When acting in BITS, critical failure means a player character cannot do the same thing again without some work – whether that is needing to switch to a new quiver of arrows, freeing a stuck sword, or getting out of the puddle of acid from the vial they dropped. When preventing or defending against action, critical failures mean the consequences happen in the extreme, e.g. armor is bypassed or effect doubled.
1) Roll at or above the target number. 2) Check for automatic, critical success or failure. 3) Use Advantage or Disadvantage if present. 4) Add modifiers.
D&D has Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intellect, and Charisma as the primary “ability scores,” aka stats, with a raw value and a bonus value (the bonus is added to appropriate rolls).
Why use all 6 when not all are equivalently useful? When fewer will do?
To bring D&D stats to BITS, do the following to convert D&D ability bonuses into BITS’s Body, Insight, and Thought:
Body – Average Strength and Constitution bonuses.
Insight – Average Dexterity and Charisma bonuses.
Thought – Average Wisdom and Intellect bonuses.
No fuss, no muss – what you see is the roll modifier you get in BITS.
With a set of rolls, stats get assigned at character creation. D&D has rules for how many dice to roll, extra modifiers, dice that get ignored, point distributions, and a myriad other ways to write numbers on paper. Many times an entire play session (1-4 hours) needs to be dedicated to making a D&D character!
In practice, BITS is 5 minutes and less for bringing creations to the game 👀 But perhaps a made D&D character or other content is going to be moved over to BITS – there are a handful of tables of that!
To roll for stats for BITS, do the following to get the same kinds of bonuses D&D produces:
6 to 8
D&D allows the ability to remove a low roll when it come to stats, so to do the same in BITS is to reroll the lowest d6 and keep the higher result.
Next, D&D allows for a “point-buy” system, where stats are assigned from a pool for each character. While not fully explored in BITS, 10 points seem to balance nicely with D&D expectations, allowing a player to spend points on increasingly expensive stats along with wealth (briefly discussed later in this post):
Stat, Skill Number, or Wealth Class
BITS Point Costs
And if going negative on stats, those buy points back to spend elsewhere!
HP (Hit Points) represent how long a character can prevent seriously bad, sometimes permanent outcomes for itself.
When it comes to HP, D&D is a bit complicated – first a species and class profession needs to be picked, each with a hit die that is rolled, adding the Constitution bonus rolled for previously. This HP grows and grows in a manner that can make higher-level characters able to literally jump off a mountain and survive, making later-game balance an oxymoron.
BITS develops HP in a more straight-forward manner: roll 2d6. That’s it. Average of 7 HP for all players. Roll 2d6 every level-up – higher number than before? Increase HP by 1.
Being modular, BITS HP can also be the absolute (negatives become positives) sum of all Body-Insight-Thought bonuses plus the number of Skills acquired, with a minimum of 1 HP. Example: A B+1 I-3 T+0, 2-Skill character has 1+3+0+2=6 HP.
(Inspiration for B+I+T+S taken from Soulbound, a game with its own post coming later.)
Class is a huge part of D&D. It defines what a character can and cannot do, what they own and can own, and how they get better at things.
Stick with me when I say BITS throws a lot of that out.
Instead, the idea of class in BITS revolves around the Skills “S” in BITS. Each skill, profession, calling, what-have-you is an area of expertise the character has developed through training and understanding.
An example would be a Thief or Rogue class in D&D – you can be this one thing, or with extra rules, this class and one other with detriment. In BITS, a person is not exclusively a thief – being good at thieving is but part of their identity.
A skill describes what a character is good at. Should they do anything that in good-faith could be understood to be a part of that skill, that character has advantage in the action.
Back to the thief: A BITS thief would arguably have advantage in burglary, pickpocketing, slinking about, and general footpadedness.
D&D classes come with special abilities too, so at the discretion of the Game Moderator and a player, the character can get one too. E.g. a thief can slip out of being hit or caught once a day, no roll required; or, a thief can pawn their lowest-value item at one more wealth-class than its worth once a transaction.
D&D class defines what kinds of magic – if any – a character has access to. BITS can roll with that.
However, magic in D&D is typically extremely powerful with little or no consequences. BITS adds in a bit of ‘spice’ to balance magics in the system as a whole.
For BITS, rolls for magic need to roll higher than the magic being cast vs. the difficulty of the target. Magic is expected to be instantaneous at point of origin if successful, so there is no dodging against a blast of fire or wave of cold.
The kicker comes when magic critically fails. On such, the magic does the harmful or opposite intention to the caster. Fireballs target and ignite the mage, healing the sick harms the healer, a monster summoned smites not foes but friends.
The Gear and Wealth
The following about effectiveness really applies to weapons, but armor and other items can follow the same guidelines.
Weapons in D&D have hit dice for how much damage they do, a measure of their effectiveness towards an opponent. Some weapons have special rules or abilities too, adding to their prestige.
To get a D&D weapon into BITS, take the hit die average, divide it by 2, and round, + or – 1, e.g.:
Round 2.5 / 2
Round 3.5 / 2
Round 5.5 / 2
Round 7 / 2
Example Weapons Conversion
Each BITS value for a weapon or object is also its wealth tier (with each special ability adding to the tier), i.e. how much wealth is needed to buy the thing. This is further explored in BITS – The Equipment.
Above has been making a character. D&D offers various beginning sets of stats and equipment that skip the creation process (pregen characters).
BITS can, in brief, make that happen:
Fighter, B+2 I+0 T+0 HP 7, Battle Axe 3 or Hammer 2 and Shield 1
Mage, B+0 I+1 T+2 HP 3, Sword 2 or Longbow 2
Rogue, B+0 I+2 T+0 HP 3, Sword 2 or Dagger 1
Cleric, B+2 I+0 T+1 HP 6, Mace 2 or Spear 1
Example Pregenerated Characters
The above get some wealth and armor too, but lets keep this post lite.
I am making the choice to skip wealth, ranges, the exactness of how armor behaves, non-player character creation, and other topics because they are either already covered in other blog posts or are modular enough both others and I have provided a robust collection of options to choose from for play.
Dungeons & Dragons is a very complex and a very popular game. There is no arguing that it does a lot of things right. While the game fits a niche for many, BITS fills a niche closer to my own expectations of fun and play, and statistically, yours too!
What did I leave out that should be included? Let me answer your questions or shore-up some of my own answers to make BITS of D&D even more robust.
A long-time passion project, As Above, So Below explored what it meant to make a game for me. It grew fast and big and needed some cooling-off time – now is the opportunity to brush the dust away, coming in at a cool 1 printed- and 2 printed-page collection for your enjoyment:
The worlds are old. Very old. Too old. Created in the rift between mysterious heavens above and deadly hells below, you adventure in the ruins and wilds of all that’s left.
Whether ridding the last bastion of corruption by careless caretakers, purging dragons and worse from the dark places, uniting the Beings of the world against supernatural punishment, or making it back alive to the tavern with your plunder, you have the same chances as any angel or devil to leave your mark.
By word and sword and spell you are judged. So rely on your adventuring fellows and roll your two dice in sacrifice to luck – you will need it.
Be a competent, cooperative, and courageous adventurer with your friends. Fulfill your needs, get in trouble, and have fun along the way.
2d6 minimal math (-4 to +4) rolling at-or-over 🎲🎲
Androgynous character creation, progression, and scars 💯
Minimal stat tracking in 4 qualities: Body, Insight, Thought, Specialty 🔥
Game Moderator (GM) guide 🐉
Spell and magic creator (sample spells too!) 🧙♂️
Problem and place creators 🏰
Goods economy, loot, help for hire, and many other tables and guides! ⚔
(Links below go to Google Drive and the latest game documents.)
Update the full, couple-dozen-page As Above, So Below publication with what was discovered in the 1- and 2-page design process.
Format for printing in ink-friendly and art-friendly version.
Supplement and expansion plans.
That’s all that comes to mind 🤷♂️ (“That’s all,” he says, as if a month or more of work is so meager!)
Again, the 1-page, 2-page challenge really honed the vision I had for the game, a work-in-process for two years. While both Gunslinger in The West and As Above, So Below had fuller versions explored before the challenge, they are clearly better for it.
I think any potential game benefits from a ‘bare bones’ to ‘skin-on-bones’ treatment – it clarifies what should be in a ‘meat-on-bones’ publication, hones rules, and streamlines play as a standalone or for testing further additions.
And simple is what BITS and its derivatives are meant to be 😉
Give these prototypes a whirl – after my playtests, I would adore hearing about your experiences!