Survival RPG Devlog 2: Basic Mechanics

After the brief introduction, it's time to look into some of the mechanics of the game. Bear in mind that this is still a work in progress and is a subject to (possibly dramatic) changes. With that in mind, let's look at the basic task resolution mechanic and how it reinforces the game's theme. Before we proceed, let's look at one word that is quite important to the game:


  • the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.
         "she was close to the limit of her endurance"
  • the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.
Endurance is an important aspect both game-world and system wise. It is each character's main attribute and also their will to live, their grit, willpower and stamina combined. It will deplete over the course of the session and the players will find ways to replenish it. With that in mind, this is how the task resolution mechanic works:

  • Player Characters have two types of attributes: Traits and Skills. 
    • Traits are your character’s descriptors, you only have few of them tied to your character, like [Slender] [Surgeon]. Traits give you dice.
    • Skills (name to be changed) are a pool of points. You start with 20 points in only one skill - Endurance, but can spend them to purchase other skills on 1-to-2 ratio during character creation. So you take down your Endurance to 15 (spending 5 points) and getting 10 points in, let’s say, running away. You can spend your points to add to rolls.
  • The GM narrates the story, if you disagree with the narration (for example, when the GM tells you that your character will get stabbed by this random guy you just met), you can roll for it.
  • You want to roll above Target Number (TR). You roll a hand of dice and (depending on circumstances) use the highest or lowest die. 
  • Before you roll, you can add any amount of points from your skills. You can always spend points from your Endurance, but you can only spend points from other skills, when they apply.
  •  If you roll above the TR, you can narrate the outcome of the action, if you didn’t the GM narrates. You will probably narrate a positive outcome, and the GM will narrate a negative outcome most of the time.

I will go more into skills and traits in the next post. The basic rule is - you are starting with one six sided die, and add one die per applicable trait. Traits can add positive dice (like your character traits or equipment you are using) and negative dice (wounds, both physical and mental and obstacles - traits of NPCs, locations or objects). Positive and Negative dice cancel each other so you only roll one type of dice for each roll. You choose the highest die if you rolled any positive dice, or the lowest if you rolled negative dice. This mechanic is basically stolen from Freeform Universal, and as it under Creative Commons license I don't think that will be a problem ;).

Players can (and should) spend points from their skills to add to their roll. So if you rolled a 4 from your dice and spent 3 points, your result is 7. You are trying to beat the Target Number. The Target Number values are not set in stone. I am thinking that an easy task would be 4, medium 6, difficult around 8 or 9.  I am toying with the idea that Target Number is kept secret from the players (like in the Gumshoe systems). Maybe TR should be static, and the difficulty coming only from the Negative Dice? This is something I would like to hear from you.

I am also toying with incorporating the Yes, and/but and No, and/but as described previously here. This would depend on what you rolled on your dice. So if you rolled 1 or 2, you add a complication (BUT) to the narration, and if you rolled 5 or 6 you add something beneficial (AND) to the PC into the narration. I am torn on adding this, because I don't want to alienate non-story-gamers.

Ok, back to the points. Once you spend your points, they are gone for time being. This ways players know that their characters have limits and are only human. Those points can be refreshed by fulfilling human needs. So everytime the PCs have a meal, sleep and just have some relaxing time in-game, they can replenish some of their spent points. This way, players are encouraged for doing all those "boring" survivalistic things like eating, staying hydrated or just drinking found whiskey to forget.

To sum up the basic system: You roll a set of six sided dice, and depending if you had more positive or negative traits, you get either the highest or the lowest die rolled. You add that to the points you spent from your Endurance/skills to get your result. If the result is higher than the TN you can narrate what happens, if it is below - it is up to the GM.

So, what do you think about this system?