BITS – Here Be Magic

Awhile ago I explored with you spells and magic systems.

Looking back, between modern D&D, the old-school revival (OSR), and a more free-form approach, that post was a bit… scattered 🙃

So I went back to the drawing board. I touched on a few changes in BITS in the two-year review, but I did even better: there now exists the sci-fantasy-trope As Above, So Below prototype.

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.

DANGER!

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.

Making Magic

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)RangeTargetsEffect
5+ easy (0, 1)Melee (~5m)11, Trivial
7+ moderate (2, 3)Throwing (~10m)2, Minor
9+ hard (4, 5)Shooting (~100m)All in Area3, Major
11+ very hard (6)Siege (~500m)4, Awesome
13+ unlikely (7, 8)Horizon (~1km)All Areas in Range6, Epic
15+ impossible? (9+)EverywhereEveryone10, Godly
+2 to threat if the spell lasts (about 10 real-minutes).
Optional: Disadvantage for a spell effect greater than Thought value.

Wrap Up

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~

How to Price Your RPG

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 😉

The Abstract

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:

GroupAverage PPPMedian PPP
General$.07$.08
OSR$.08$.10
Add-on$.10$.13
Faves$.08$.09
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:

GroupAverage Page CountMedian Page Count
General299288
OSR217203
Add-on134112
Faves258288
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.

GroupAverage PriceMedian Price
General$20$21
OSR$18$15
Add-on$14$15
Faves$20$20
Popular RPG Average and Median Price

As for price, expect to price between $15 and $20 for the most well-received products.

Check the data for yourself in Google Sheets.

The Collection Method

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.

BITS of Soulbound

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

Soulbound rolls 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:

DifficultyTierRollExample
Very Easy15+Rabble, conscripts, small beasts.
Easy27+Guards, foot soldiers, trained.
Moderate39+Professionals, veterans, brutes, large beasts.
Hard411+Captains, elites, killers, vicious beasts.
Very Hard613+Demi-gods, lords, titular mortals.
Godly, Near Impossible1015+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.

The Stats

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.

HP

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.

Gear

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).

Wealth

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.

Acting

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:

ActionNotes
AttackAnything within range.
RunUse the character’s Speed to move around different Zones.
ChargeRun and Attack, but have -1 on defense until next turn.
Call ShotHead (-2 to hit, stuns), arm (-1, disarms), leg (-1, makes prone).
DefendAny Attack or movement in or into your Zone has to go through the character first. Advantage given if using a shield!
Dodge+1 to any defense, with advantage.
FleeAttempt to escape the conflict.
HideA Body (or Mind) roll. Hidden from minds lower than the number of successes (e.g. 3 successes hides from 2 Mind seakers).
ShoveA 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
Actions

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.

Hiring

Probably the best hireling or mercenary list I have every come across. A list, with a few of my own for balance:

CraftBMSNotes
Cook111Has a week of hot-meal ingredients and gear.
Servant111Can carry and do simple chores or tasks.
Hunter211d6 meats a day in rural or feral environments. Knows trapping.
Veteran211Frontline fighter. Random weapon set.
Medic121Helps heal. May attempt field surgery on wounds.
Scout121Reports on an area at end-of-day.
Local112Knows the area, rumors, and is charming. May be an entertainer.
Scholar112Provides a bonus against corruption. May be a pilgrim.
Hirelings

Size

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)

Closing (Un)Notables

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):

Stat ValueWretchedMundaneHeroic (SB)Demi-GodGods
11, 2, 31, 211
24, 53, 42, 321
3654, 53, 42, 3
4665, 64, 5, 6
Avg. HP56.57.58.510
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!

BITS of Mörk Borg

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:

DifficultyD&D d20BITS 2d6MB d20BITS 2d6
Very Easy5586
Easy107107
Moderate159128
Hard2011149
Very Hard25131610
Godly, Near Impossible30151811
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:

LengthMörk Borg DieBITS Math EqualBITS Only-2d6
“Years of Pain”d1002 on 2d62 on 2d6
“A Bleak Half-Year”d202 or 12 on 2d62 or 3 on 2d6
“A Fall in Anguish”d102 or 3 on 2d62 to 4 on 2d6
“A Cruel Month”d6d62 to 5 on 2d6
“The End is Nigh!”d2d22 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!

The Stats

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.

Character Creation

Nearly the same as D&D (min-maxing at a bonus of 3 vs. a possible roll-add of 4)

2d6 RollStat Bonus
2 to 3-3
4-2
5-1
6 to 8+0
9+1
10+2
11 to 12+3
Character Stats

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.

HP

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!)

Everything Else

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 ~ 🎲🎲

BITS of D&D

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:

DifficultyD&D d20 RollBITS 2d6 Roll
Very Easy55
Easy107
Moderate159
Hard2011
Very Hard2513
Godly, Near Impossible3015
Roll Conversions

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.

The Stats

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.

Character Creation

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:

2d6 RollStat Bonus
2-4
3-3
4-2
5-1
6 to 8+0
9+1
10+2
11+3
12+4
Stat Rolling

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):

Point CostStat, Skill Number, or Wealth Class
11
32
63
104
BITS Point Costs

And if going negative on stats, those buy points back to spend elsewhere!

HP

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.)

The Classes

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.

Magic

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.:

Weapon StatMathBITS Value
Sling d4Round 2.5 / 21
Sword d6Round 3.5 / 22
Glaive d10Round 5.5 / 23
Greatsword 2d6Round 7 / 24
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.

Pregen Examples

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.

Everything Outstanding

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.

Cheers to your games! 🎲🎲

Play “As Above, So Below,” Out Now

In June, I blitzed the development of Gunslinger in The West (play the demo, an easy-to-read 2 printed pages!). Now is July’s turn to have its own game made.

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:

Prelude

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.

Features

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! ⚔

Play Now

(Links below go to Google Drive and the latest game documents.)

Best option: 2 pages, front-and-back. Magic, tables, guides, even a field of battle showing ranges. Too much? Then check out:

1 page, printed both sides. Gives the highlights of the system and some tables. Foldable.

The Future

  1. Update the full, couple-dozen-page As Above, So Below publication with what was discovered in the 1- and 2-page design process.
  2. Hire-out art.
  3. Format for printing in ink-friendly and art-friendly version.
  4. 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.

Simple.

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!

Cheers to all the fun times you have coming up~

BITS: A Look Back on Two Years

Two years ago I introduced BITS, a tabletop RPG system that is fast, emergently complex from base concepts, modular, and simple to pick up.

Liter rules than Dungeons & Dragons-like simulators, crunchier than story-foremost Powered By the Apocalypse types, yet not a traditional Old School Revival, the system has been polished by thousands of hours of study and play.

After a lot of poking and prodding, I think it is time we took a look back on two years of development.

Before Getting to the New Stuff

Let’s take a look at what BITS used to be to get a full appreciation of how far the system has come.

Body-Interaction-Thought System was the first draft. The core mechanic comes from two six-sided dice (2d6) plus a modifier to get at or above a tiered step list of threat ratings, while all scores or values aimed to be 0 to 4 🎲🎲

Originally BITS was based off of a simplification of D&D (this is before I learned of the streamlined Old School Revival movement). Body was meant to be the average strength and conditioning of a D&D character, Interaction dexterousness and interpersonal prowess, and Thought as wisdom and intelligence. Any special skills were merely implied by the class a character had, such that rogues would expect to be sneaky, paladins could call in holy favors, and wizards knew magic.

The system tries to tie together any and all subsystems into the 2d6 mechanic, or more specifically, having two dice and a rough guess of the quality of the actors and actions in a situation. Thereby, a subsystem from one BITS game or conversion can be near-seamlessly dropped into another or tweaked with the assurance that 2d6 exist somewhere in play.

Reflection

Going after D&D was an appropriate start. Not knowing about OSR helped create a design language all my own instead of dropping my work to adopt something ‘close enough.’

Yes, D&D was (and still is) a monster of a system. It is the godfather of all RPGs, “D&D” now being synonymous with “tabletop RPG.” To tackle a full conversion of all the subsystems of D&D (which are by no means consistent, complete, or without a lot of internal complexity) was naïve hubris 😅

As a personal project, BITS introduced me to innumerable games, systems, principles, methodologies, and techniques for putting together not only games, but books and writing, too.

Using the masterclass of game making that is the internet with a search bar, lots of playtests, sample game writing using the system, and the excellent help of many friends, BITS evolved.

A New Kind of RPG

Let me introduce BITS:

  • Body – Physical swiftness and brawn. Great for getting about to hit things, so the ‘fighter’ and ‘rogue’ stat.
  • Insight – General perception, whether of the environment, another person, or a far-off target, and dealing with it appropriately. The ‘bard’ and ‘archer’ stat.
  • Thought – Mind, intelligence, mental strength. The ‘magic’ stat.
  • Skills – Also can be called “Specialty.” This is what sets a character apart with special rules or traits that enable a greater depth of customization.

Each of the above get added to a roll of 2d6 to get over a threat level, that level describing how difficult it will be to act against and a large chunk of the stats for the threat:

Tier / Health / Harm / Quality / Value / Durability
Roll + BIT

Description
0Too easy. Nothing. Junk. Absolutely helpless. Might be dangerous in groups, but only with a disadvantage. Lower 50% of a population if counted at all.
15+Easy. Commonplace. Padded armor. Domestic animals, the unskilled, conscripts, thugs, minions. Best served in hordes. 20%
27+Moderate. Specialized or with skill. Well prepared. Guards, hired muscle, footmen, boot camp troops. 15%
39+Hard. Veterans. Been there, done that. Leaders, mercenaries, elites, heavily armed. 10%
411+Very hard. Best of the best. Natural killers and masters. Grizzly bears, walking tanks, spec ops, knights. 5%
613+Demi-gods. Kings, lords, grand masters, and titular characters. The people that lead wars or have ended them personally. 1% or less.
1015+Godly. May never appear!

Not all actions have to be about physical battle. Instead, there are three kinds of trial a character may face threats in:

  • Combative – physical violence between creatures.
  • Environmental – surviving dangerous conditions.
  • Social – convincing others to act.

Each of the above can exist within each other. I digress –

Many of the other questions that I wracked my brain on originally are saved by the modular nature of BITS. Truly a la carte, all options can be put or replaced until the desired game feel is achieved:

  • Weapons – Flat damage as the weapon’s threat tier? Or the degree of success? Need kinds of weapons, like piercing and pummeling types?
  • Armor – Ablative? Adds to defensive rolls? Reduces damage only? Cares about the kind of damage applied?
  • Gear – How much? Need to pick it specifically before an adventure or can call it out at the time it is needed (“quantum”/Schrodinger gear)?
  • Health – A flat value? The sum of all BITS? Rolled for? What about mental health or social composure?
  • Experience – Milestones? Personal goals? Player party goals? Gained by gold and treasure?
  • Economy – Wealth is counted piece by piece? By wealth tiers? Is selling and buying at the tier of the gear, or is it a tier less and more, respectively?
  • Turns – Rolled for? How often does it change? Does a BIT apply? Sequenced or simultaneous?
  • Partial Successes – Are double-twos automatic fails no matter what? Double-sixes successes? Especially bad or good outcomes? What about rolling exactly the threat number?
  • Magic – Do failures come randomly, target the caster, or fizzle out? Anyone can use it or is a specific skill / origin needed? Is there a limit on how many times to use?
  • et. al

BITS is a joy to work on. So flexible, I have details and drafts on multiple genres (e.g. sci fi, fantasy, modern day, giant robot, etc.), applications to different popular media (e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar the Last Airbender, etc.), and one-page conversions for other game systems (e.g. Mork Borg, D&D, PBtA, Soulbound, Wrath and Glory, etc.).

I am darn well giddy to share with you these things this year!

A Take From the 4Ms

I noticed how in the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe, everyone was relying on their augmented bulk, their psionic mind, or their control of machines to get what they want.

Thus bore Muscle-Mind-Machine, a draft of the draft of what became BITS!

I could not get 3M to work the way I wanted to as a universal system, so BITS became the next evolution.

But what about the Ms? While working on BITS and reading other game systems, the Ms evolved too into 4M:

  • Muscle – strength, toughness, dexterity.
  • Mind – intellect, insight, mental or magical power.
  • Mettle – force of will, morale, charisma, daresay “soul.”
  • Mastery – trainings, skills, abilities, special considerations.

This latest came inspired by Warhammer’s Soulbound, a recent WH RPG that leverages soul-power to bring out divine and demonic judgement. I take that to be a more generic “soul” so that it becomes flexible for different situations where personality matters.

We can add more Ms too: Mortality (health, HP, ability to keep resisting), Memory (background and connection network), Move (how quickly to maneuver), Means (the gear or a ‘growth’ or ‘augment’ that takes up a gear slot), etc.

But that is neither here nor there 🙂 BITS is my go-to, but it is nice to know 4M (or 8M!) is there in my game-making toolbox.

The Future

There are always questions in science. Art is only put down, never complete. Game design is both an art and science, thus there always is more work to do.

As mentioned, I am tackling one-page conversions and game’s set in familiar-though-adapted settings. Put them here on the blog, gather courage to upload them on storefronts, buy some cover art – you know, business things 🙂

Let me know if you would care to try out BITS yourself! Especially if I haven’t put the one-pager out from the blog backlog 😁 Until then, enjoy your games and cheers to what you make!

The Layout of Your Game Rules

Picking up a rule book is the first formal introduction a player has to a game.

Sure, there is the cover art and gossip from friends, video plays on YouTube, but if the rules can’t be read or understood, it will not take long for the game to be put down if ever picked up at all!

Taking from Reddit, D&D, Tiny Dungeon, Black Hack, and Stars Without Number, I have distilled the layout your game rules need to follow to have the best success in readability and understandability.

TLDR; In General

You want to keep game rules as simple as possible.

Who is the player? What are they doing? How? Why, or, what are the goals with reward?

That is the back-cover pitch. With a few keywords (e.g. from roleplaying games: d20, OSR, Grimdark, etc.), that pitch defines a lot of the game’s ‘feel’ and filters for the intended audience.

A Freebie

Many games now come out with a free version for folks to pick-up-and-play quickly. Though this can skimp on things like internal page art or optional rules, the core rules and an introduction to the system must exist.

Introduction to the Setting – The first section. Answers most of the ‘TLDR’ above.

Mechanics – What (and when) is conflict and how is it resolved. This is where numbers on dice or comparing card faces needs to be explained at length. The ‘when’ outlines player turns and the order of gameplay.

Game Moderator – If the game has a referee, this should be a 1-page outline of what they can do to make decisions and introduce compelling conflict. Also recommended to include a rules 1-pager for quick player reference!

Pre-generated Content – Characters, factions, anything a single player would control.

At max, a10-page free manual to the game.

The Full Final Cut

This is it, the game rules as intended. Page art, examples of play, optional rules, reference tables, and tips-n-tricks for every game participant.

Here is a rundown as it would apply to roleplaying games, but can easily be altered for board games (where RPGs originated from!):

Forward – The cover, a table-of-contents, any dedications, and finally, an introduction to the game: What it is, who you are, how you do the things you do, and why.

Mechanic Systems – Details on how things get resolved in the game. When do players act, what can those actions be, and how to resolve outcomes. Randomizers of dice/cards/et al. for violence/socializing/magic need to be explained concisely along with how the player can – if at all – influence those outcomes.

Players – The characters or factions at play. What attributes do they have to affect randomizers? Any special actions or rules for the player? What are their resources, such as minerals, points, and health? Adding rules to create a character or faction from scratch should be here in the full rules.

Game Moderator – The referee needs everything they can get in the case of rules. However, when there is a referee, every rule is a guideline, not law – otherwise, what is the point of having a human not be a player? Principles, advice, and where to reference other resources exist here.

Bestiary, Tools, Rewards, Tables – The fiddly bits of play. Examples of what players and situations can include go a long way to setting the tone of the game while inspiring players for the stories they are enabled to tell. This is also the place the GM can save making a few decisions by randomly choosing from a preset.

Example Scenario – If not included separately, a starting dungeon, mission, or game needs to be included. This helps get players into play ASAP and answer a lot of common questions.

The full rulebook layout

Again, make sure to flesh out a full rulebook with art, optional/alternate rules, example situations, charts, lore, factions, maps, creation processes, equipment, rewards, and extra GM resources.

As a fiddly bit here, a full rulebook can be alternately distilled into Introduction > Terms > Objective > Turns > End-game > Mechanic Details > Victory > FAQs.

It comes down to taste and the needs of the game in question (e.g. perhaps there is no victory condition or terms are defined when introduced).

An Example

Lasers & Feelings is 1-page, yet complete with the who-what-where-when-why-how required of quality game rules.

  • Who
    • “The crew of the interstellar scout ship Raptor.” After the introduction, a section on creating characters that details what they have and a definition of the attributes that have a mechanical impact in conflict resolution.
  • Why
    • Players are given options to choose their character’s goals: Advance in rank, explore, blast stuff, solve mysteries, prove something, or have nothing to prove! A random table of adventures details a conflict to resolve too, making the “why” of this game multidimensional.
  • Where
    • Raptor, including a section on creating this ship! Further, a random table to determine where an adventure is taking place.
  • How
    • Use 1-3 6-sided dice (d6) to compare to the character attributes. Situational modifiers and success levels get short yet complete snippets.
  • When
    • “When you do something risky.” Vague-though-flexible definition on implementing the “how.”
  • What
    • Implied above, the adventure table details what is going on.
  • GM
    • A final two paragraphs outline for the ref how to navigate various situations they or the game may encounter. Quality GM advice!

A bad example would be The Orc and the Pie (despite how much I enjoy the premise, having used it not once, but twice). The rules have a who, what, why, and where, but no how – there is a present conflict, but resolution to that conflict relies on players having prior experience with game randomization mechanics.

Laying It Out

Follow this guide and reference any other highly-rated game’s rulebook to perfect the layout of your game rules.

Putting a game’s rules into a format others can enjoy is not difficult so long as a bit of prep comes with it 🙂 Cheers to your game making!

Add These 10 GM / DM Rules

Are you a game moderator or dungeon master? Already in a tabletop roleplaying game as a player?

Regardless, add these 10 GM / DM rules to your play immediately for a way better time at table!

My One-Pager of 10

The bread-and-butter of my own GM work. Worth a read before every game.

  1. Rule of Ask – You ask players what they do in the game. You let players take action and make decisions for Beings players control. If you need clarification, ask. Encourage players to ask you to clarify. “What are you doing?”
  2. Rule of Boundaries – You keep and respect boundaries set by you and other players. You ensure other players respect boundaries. New content or fictional decisions may make players uncomfortable and the game not fun. Abstain from content that makes the game not fun.
  3. Rule of Consistency – You are consistent with rule arbitration and player moderation. You use the rules the same way between all players and aim to keep conflict and negativity between only the fictional Beings in the fictional game story. You are fair.
  4. Rule of Cool – You summarize less cool game content to proceed to cooler game content. This may include travel or the passage of time spent on the same action. Awe is a greater experience than living through drivel, no matter how probable.
  5. Rule of Fun – You have fun and encourage the players to have fun. No fun comes at the expense of another player’s fun, which includes your fun. These rules help you and the players have fun.
  6. Rule of Know – You know the game rules, the players, and what may come next. If you do not know, either ask or prepare to improvise.
  7. Rule of Now – You respect a player Being’s current action if the action is possible and keeps the game fun. You do not suggest actions without solicitation or force the players to take action, known as “railroading.” Past actions may guide a player’s Being, but they are not a restriction to actions here and now.
  8. Rule of Reveal – You reveal information completely but slowly. Keep secrets about the future of the game content and story. When you reveal information, it is given clearly, completely, and with vivid description. Abstain from vagueness.
  9. Rule of Trust – You keep the players’ trust. You keep trust when you play the game with these rules and to the best of your imaginative ability.
  10. Rule of Yes – You say “yes” to surprises in the game from player actions, tests (i.e. rolling dice), and player ideas for fun action. These actions do not use tests. Otherwise, you give a test when the outcome of an action is uncertain, has consequences for failure, is possible, and keeps the game fun.

Other Tips and Advice

From around the internet and from my own KISS process, you cannot go wrong adding these tips to your games.

  • Guidelines – There are no formal rules, only approximate guidelines and tools to have fast fun with friends. Guides are trusted counselors, not dictators. Be consistent, be fair, and be a fan of the players. Make it work, have fun (you are playing a g-dang game!).
  • Easy Medium Hard – You can improvise any roll so long as you approximate what difficulty a roll of the dice would be – that means you only need to remember three numbers to roll for.
  • Add EXPLOSIONS! – When the game needs more excitement or the players need incentive to act, add trials and escalate with fire and debris. Escalate!
  • Imply loss – Hint to but do not tell players that a conflict may be unwinnable, especially if they are likely to die.
  • Keep notes – Player actions, names, quirks of characters, and places visited are all useful content to remember.
  • Keep threats – If you make them, fulfill them.
  • Roll for involvement – If a player loses attention away from the game, have them roll dice. Any reason to roll works. The roll does not need to matter to the fiction.
  • Scarcity – Keep both benefits and hindrances in the game scarce. This includes equipment for purchase, more challenging opponents, traps, and rewards. The rarer a thing is, the more memorable and valuable it is.
  • Senses – Include as many of the five senses when you describe actions, characters, and environments.
  • Session 0 – This is a big suggestion. Plan ahead for the game with a meeting of players to get to know each other, set boundaries, facility escape clauses (like an “X” card for inappropriate situations), create game expectations, and create the characters to play as. Declare any rule changes you will use as a GM and discuss ideas for game content. Prompt players for what they are excited to try and what they have found boring in games.

    Use this time to ask the players what their characters are proud of, ashamed of, how each player’s character knows at least one other players, and why all players are adventuring together.
  • Steal – Cool content from your favorite media, real world history, and player creativity can be reused. No need to reinvent the wheel!
  • Talk it out – Regularly discuss player perception, reception, and feelings of the game while adventuring.
  • Think what is next – And only what is next. Rarely think farther ahead.
  • Vulgarity – You ought to know it when you see it as will the other players. Get consent beforehand for the inclusion of sensitive topics, but regardless PAY ATTENTION to the responses of the players. Unexclusive list of consent topics that may otherwise become vulgar: children, drug use, enslavement, genocide, gore, sex, and torture.

Add these GM / DM rules to your games and you will have all my secrets of having a fun, enjoyable time for everyone at table 🙂 Cheers to your gaming!

Play “Gunslinger in The West” Now

June 28th 2022: Huzzah! A preview of the full game is available too! See here:

For June’s goal, I am counting Gunslinger in The West as out now! Have a one-pager and a two-pager condensing a larger 15-page document I’m keeping on the backburner for some more formal testing (graphic design would be nice to have too).

Without further ado, Gunslinger in The West:

Prelude

The West is a land of the lawless and everyone else. You gave up all to come here as a Gunslinger on your horse with your gun to protect – or to take – what little is left.

Perhaps you found some fortune on the way, perhaps you made some friends, all fleetin’.

Regardless of how the sun set, you are here now. There is no Law or government man to tell you what, so how will it be? Save the innocent from the rough? Rough ’em yourself? Explore the wild, undiscovered places? Seek your own justice or justify your own acts?

Your skills got you here, but they will only help keep what is yours yours, steel and soul. So roll your two dice, rely on what makes you particular, pray to luck. You will need it.

Features

Be a deadly Gunslinger in The West with your posse of partners. Fulfill why you are there or get into your own kind of trouble.

  • 2d6 minimal math (-2 to +2) rolling at-or-over 🎲🎲
  • Character creation, progression, and scars
  • Minimal stat tracking via “Particular” skills
  • Game Marshal (GM) guide
  • Riding, hands for hire, and service costs sections
  • Problem and place creators
  • Period-appropriate tables of items and androgynous names

Play Now

(Links below go to Google Drive and the latest game document.)

A single page (both sides) giving the highlights of the game.

(Check this one out!) Two-pages that fill out the system with generating tables, guides, Gunslinger creation and progression, and more!

TBD – Full game system written with extra characterization, examples, and Belle’s Town, and introductory showdown. (Art also TBD.)

The Future and Past

The TODO list is pretty clear cut:

  1. Get the full game updated with the changes from one- and two-pager templates!
    1. See the above preview!
  2. Explore art opportunities.

But what got the game here?

In all truth, Gunslinger in The West is a test project to see what a BITS game with only specialties (the S and no BIT of BITS), called “particulars” in this game. To genuine surprise, this take on the system works quite well!

Further, exploring what it is like to play a ‘hero’ character was eye-opening for development. I will be applying this later to a Halo / DOOM inspired RPG – keep eyes out for it! 👀

Ride on, Gunslinger! Cheers to your time in The West ~