- The Elements of Story
- Setting: The Game World
- Plot: Open Ended Story Telling
- Characters: the Story’s Protagonists
- Conflict: Challenges and Adversaries
- Secondary Story Elements, Boundaries, and Fun
- Forging Characters
- The Importance of Skills
- An Absence of Attributes
- Broad Skills / Sub-Skills
- Skill Ranks (SR)
- Difficulty Levels (DLs)
- The Dice / Tallying Successes
- Modifying the Minimum Roll (MR)
- Second Nature (SN)
- Exertion / Exertion Ratios
- Calculating Exertion / Exertion and Damage
- Effects of Damage and Over-Exertion
- Devotion / Recovering Spent Exertion and Devotion
- Putting it all Together
- Snags / Rolling Boons
- Pushing the Check / Mixed Successes
- Hero Points / Using Hero Points
- Starting Hero Points / Extraordinary Heroic Actions
- Villain Points / Putting it all Together
Untold is a tabletop roleplaying game of collaborative storytelling. In the game, all but one of the players take on the role of protagonists, the central characters of a collective story. The final player acts as the facilitator of the story. This player, more commonly known as the Game Master (or GM), is part narrator and part conductor, orchestrating the actions and reactions of all the other forces, allies, and adversaries the heroes might encounter throughout the course of the story.
The Elements of Story
Every compelling story has four essential ingredients: setting, plot, characters, and conflict. And because Untold is, above all else, a game about story, each of these four elements also plays an integral role in the way the game is played.
Setting: The Game World
In Untold, Setting entails the place where the story of the game takes place. This could be as small as a single village to as large as an entire galaxy. It could be set in our world, or in one completely different from our own. It could take place sometime in the past, the present, or in the near or distant future. Whatever its precise parameters, the setting provides the backdrop and framework for all the elements that follow. In Untold, any setting is possible, though each story will typically only have one distinct setting. Setting is primarily the domain of the Game Master, and is further explored in the Game Master’s Guide.
Plot: Open-Ended Storytelling
As in other story forms, Plot entails the series of events, the dominoes of cause and effect, that unfold as the story progresses. However, the stories of Untold differ from other forms of storytelling in two significant ways. First, the outcome is not set: neither triumph nor defeat is certain. Second, in Untold the storytelling is a collaboration. Don’t come expecting the Game Master to just read you a bedtime story. True, the GM may outline many important challenges and plot points along the way. But you and other players will be active participants, making decisions that influence the direction the story takes. When something with an uncertain outcome arises, your choices—along with the results of die rolls—will determine what happens. How those die rolls are interpreted and translated into the ongoing story of the game is an essential part of the collaboration.
Characters: the Story’s Protagonists
Where Setting is largely the domain of the GM, with Characters, players take on the central role. Although GMs will be giving voice and action to the various secondary characters and adversaries of the story, the characters players create are meant to be the protagonists of the story. Such player or protagonist characters (PCs) should be at the heart of the collaborative story of the game.
Conflict: Challenges and Adversaries
The final element, Conflict, includes a combination of 1) facing the challenges and obstacles protagonist characters will be confronted with during the course of the story, and 2) defeating the adversaries and antagonists who may oppose them. Overcoming obstacles and adversaries (or failing to do so) can be among the most exciting parts of the game.
Secondary Story Elements, Boundaries, and Fun
There are, of course, numerous secondary story elements: mystery, romance, horror, intrigue, humor, and many, many others. Because Untold allows you to tell virtually any kind of story you choose, it’s important to know your playgroup’s (as well as each individual’s) boundaries in regards to these secondary elements. For example, some violence may be okay in your collaborative story, whereas gory descriptions and gratuitous violence may be pushing your boundaries too far. Some romantic interplay might enhance the game, while explicit nudity and sex may cross the line. If any aspect of the game ever makes you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say so. Above all, Untold is meant to be fun. If any aspect of the game or story diminishes that fun, don’t use it.
Working within the confines of the setting established by the GM, you and other players each create your own unique characters from scratch. You will choose their strengths and weaknesses, motivations and goals, and the parameters of the moral code which guides their actions. You will establish what makes them a protagonist character in the collaborative story yet to unfold. Every element of your character can assist in bringing them to life.
The Importance of Skills
One of the most important elements in defining your character will be which skills you choose for them to specialize in. Every action your character undertakes in the Untold game is linked to a skill. That bears repeating. Every action your character undertakes in the game is linked to a skill.
An Absence of Attributes
Almost all other roleplaying game systems have some kind of numerical measurement for each character’s inherent physical and mental traits. Untold does not. The absence of such measurements—often called stats or attribute scores—may seem counterintuitive. It is natural to think of people’s strength or agility or charisma as inherent characteristics. But the truth is, all attributes—stamina, intellect, willpower, and so on—are developed. We are not inherently muscular or intelligent or studious. True, a measure of will and wits can be classified as inborn, but even these are encouraged, trained, and increased through nurturing and intentional focus. Virtually anyone can learn to think more clearly and process more rapidly, just as anyone can build muscle strength and endurance. In fact building muscle is the only way to get stronger; developing one’s mind is the only way to get smarter. Building, developing, learning, training: these are words directly associated with skills. Natural talent certainly exists, and it plays an important role in Untold in the form of strengths. But it is the development and increase of skills that awaken the talents within people—real life or fictional. This is why Untold doesn’t use attributes or attribute checks. All attributes are developed and trained. All attributes are the domain of skills.
Untold has 16 overarching or broad skills: 8 mind-based broad skills, and 8 body-based broad skills. In addition, there are several special case broad skill categories, such as Magic, Psionics, and Faith, which are optional and may or may not be present in every game setting.
Beneath each broad skill are varying numbers of specialized sub-skills. These are more focused aspects of the overarching broad skill. For example, RUNNING, JUMPING, and FEATS OF STRENGTH are separate sub-skills beneath the broad skill of ATHLETICS, while DEDUCTION, RECALL, and DEBATE are separate sub-skills beneath the broad skill of COGNITION. Choosing to specialize in sub-skills is not necessary, though it is often recommended.
Skill Ranks (SR)
Your character’s skill rank (SR) in a given skill—broad or sub—determines the base number of dice (or dice pool) you roll for checks associated with that skill. For every SR, you receive 1 additional die. Thus, with a skill rank of 3 you would roll 3 dice; with an SR of 8 you would roll 8 dice. The more dice you roll, the greater your chances of successfully accomplishing an action.
The maximum skill rank which can be attained in a broad skill on its own is 6. Sub-skills can be raised all the way to SR 12. Also note that the default rank for all broad skills is half (½) the rank of the highest sub-skill beneath it. Thus if you had a rank of 6 in DISGUISE you would have a default skill rank of 3 in the broad skill of INFILTRATION. Any sub-skill without focused training would, by default, use the broad skill above it.
Difficulty Levels (DLs)
Whenever you wish to perform a skill-related action or task, the GM assigns a Difficulty Level (DL) to the task. This is basically a number ranging from 1-10. 1 is fairly easy; 10 is so outrageously difficult it would be absurd to even attempt it. The Difficulty (DL) is assigned by the GM based on the nature of the situation and circumstances. This number, in addition to helping gauge the relative difficulty of an action, also indicates the total number of separate successful die rolls needed to accomplish that action. Thus, an Easy (1) DL action only requires one successful die roll; an Absurd (10) DL action would require ten.
In addition to the 1-10 scale of standard DLs there are two others outside this range: Negligible, a 0 on the 1-10 scale—so routine and effortless it doesn’t even register—and Impossible—so ridiculously difficult as to be deemed impossible, a 12 (or higher) on the 1-10 scale.
For ease of play, you can just use numbers to identify each DL in this sliding scale (i.e., DL 2, DL 5, etc.). But each number also has a descriptor and three letter abbreviation to aid in gauging difficulty. For example, 1 is Easy, or ESY DL, 5 is Challenging, or CHA DL, and 9 is Extreme, or EXT DL. This 1-10 (or rather 0-12) scale of difficulty is shown below:
0: Negligible (NGL)—effortless tasks. No check required.
1: Easy (ESY)—Simple rudimentary tasks.
2: Average (AVG)—Standard or typical difficulty. Usually the default DL for checks.
3: Heightened (HTN)—more difficult than the norm.
4: Demanding (DEM)—usually requires greater focus or effort to accomplish.
5: Challenging (CHA)—will test the ability of most.
6: Daunting (DAU)—even the most highly trained would be tested.
7: Formidable (FOR)—very difficult, even for the most highly trained or gifted.
8: Arduous (ARD)—will almost invariably require the limits of one’s focus and stamina to achieve.
9: Extreme (EXT)—at the most extreme edge of difficulty, extremely difficult.
10: Absurd (ABS)—ludicrous to even attempt it.
12+: Impossible (IMP)—beyond the reach (allegedly) of normal human beings.
Each of these DLs and their corresponding numbers are shown in the table below.
Untold only requires one type of die—a d12. However, you’ll want a lot of them. We recommend you have no fewer than twelve d12s on hand for skills checks made throughout the course of the game (and you’ll sometimes roll even more).
Rolling a skill check is comparable to tallying votes to determine if a given resolution—or in this case, action—passes. Each die roll results in either a “yes” or Success, or a “no” or Fail. In order to achieve a single “success” result on any given die, you must roll equal to or above the Minimum Roll (MR) required—typically a 9 facing or higher on a 12-sided die (d12). Thus, any roll with a 9, 10, 11, or 12 facing will result in a success. If the total number of successes is sufficient (if the number of success rolls equals or exceeds the DL) your character is able to accomplish the task. If the number of successes is insufficient (if the number of successful rolls falls short of the DL) the attempt fails.
Modifying the Minimum Roll (MR)
It is possible to lower the minimum die roll (MR) by gaining an enhancement, typically either through strengths—which represent an innate talent or ability—or techniques—which represent increased training and focus in a specific sub-skill. In some circumstances, performance enhancement drugs and augmented or magical items may also boost a character’s natural ability and lower the MR. A single enhancement lowers the Minimum Roll (MR) by one, making it so that only an 8 or higher is needed to achieve a success. A total of three enhancements would lower the MR by 3, meaning you’d only need to roll a 6 or higher to achieve a success. No single strength, technique, or effect can ever grant more than a single enhancement.
It is also possible to increase the MR through a debilitation. Debilitations are imposed by certain weaknesses, drugs, wounds, fatigue, or other restricting effects. With two debilitations (+2 MR), a character would only achieve a success on a roll of 11, or 12. Debilitations and enhancements can exist side by side, canceling each other out.
Second Nature (SN)
When your character’s proficiency in a skill becomes high enough, certain tasks become so routine as to be considered second nature, allowing you to actually forgo rolling certain checks. This is reflected by a skill’s Second Nature rating, or SN. A skill’s SN is typically equal to ⅓ that skill’s rank (rounded down). Thus, a skill with a skill rank (SR) of 3, 4, or 5 would typically have an SN of 1 while a skill with a rank of 9, 10, or 11 would usually have an SN of 3. Any task with a DL less than or equal to a skill’s Second Nature (SN) rating does not require a check. It is considered Negligible (NGL), or 0 DL.
SN ratings have an effect on several other aspects of the game, including Defense Ratings, resistance to snags, and calculating exertion ratings.
You can increase the base number of dice you roll (equal to your skill rank) by spending exertion. Exertion represents your character’s limited supply of mental and physical energy. To roll a check and gain extra dice for a Mind-based skill, you would spend mental exertion. To roll a check and gain extra dice for a Body-based skill, you would spend physical exertion.
There are four different aspects of exertion, divided into two levels.
Endurance is the first level of physical exertion; Tenacity is the first level of mental exertion. Vitality is the second level of physical exertion; Sanity is the second level of mental exertion.
The number of dice gained from each point of exertion spent depends on whether the check employs a broad skill or a sub-skill. For broad skills the ratio of exertion expenditure is 1:1, or one additional die for every one point of exertion spent. For specialized sub-skills, the ratio is increased to 2:1, or 2 extra dice for every point of exertion spent.
Each aspect of exertion is tied in some way to a character’s Second Nature (SN) ratings. These calculations are shown in the table below.
|Endurance||3 highest body-based SRs|
|Tenacity||3 highest mind-based SRs|
|Vitality||3 + 3 highest body SNs|
|Sanity||3 + 3 three highest mind SNs|
Thus, a character whose 6 highest Body-based SNs were 4, 2, 1, 1, and 0 would start with 14 points of Endurance; a character whose 6 highest Mind-based SNs were 4, 3, 2, 2, and 1 would start with 18 points of Tenacity. Note that these values can come from both broad and sub-skills.
Exertion and Damage
As their names suggest, the different aspects of Exertion serve a second role in Untold. They not only embody one’s internal stores of energy, they also represent a character’s life force and health. Exertion can be voluntarily depleted through expenditure on checks, or involuntarily damaged from outside attack and harm, both mental and physical.
Each separate aspect of exertion has five distinct quadrants on the character sheet. For the first level aspects—Endurance and Tenacity—these are Aspect, Base Value, Initial, Fatigued, and Depleted. For the second level aspects—Vitality and Sanity—these are Aspect, Base Value, Minor, Serious, and Critical. (See example below.)
Aspect is simply the name of the aspect—Endurance, Tenacity, Vitality, or Sanity. The Base Value (located immediately to the right of the aspect’s name) is the total value or maximum threshold of each aspect. Initial or Minor—the first column—represents your character’s initial store of energy, fortitude, or damage capacity in that aspect. This first column always has a value equal to half the aspect’s base value (rounded up). Thus if the base value was 15, the Initial column would have a value of 8. The second column—Fatigued or Serious—represents your character’s secondary reserves of energy (in the case of Endurance or Tenacity), or more serious levels of damage or wounds (in the case of Vitality or Sanity). This column always has a value equal to half the remaining base value left (rounded up). Thus if the base value was 14, and the initial column had 7 points, the second column would have 4 points (half the remaining 7—3.5—rounded up).
The third column—Depleted or Critical—represents your character’s final vestiges of energy, health, or damage. This column’s value is whatever remains after filling in the values of the first two columns. The total value of these three columns should equal the base value.
Damage from external sources comes in two forms: Strain or Wounds. Strain damage always affects the first level aspects—Endurance or Tenacity—first. Wound damage always deals damage directly to the applicable second level aspect—Vitality or Sanity.
Effects of Damage and Over-Exertion
As characters’ exertion or damage levels move further to the right—as characters expend ever greater amounts of energy or sustain more serious wounds—their ability to perform at optimum levels will decrease. For example, dipping into the Fatigued column imposes slight penalties to both Initiative and skill checks. Receiving any Serious wound will have an even greater impact on checks and response times. These effects are shown in the table below:
|Fatigued||+1 DL to all checks, +1 Initiative|
|Depleted||+1 DL to all checks, +2 Initiative|
|Minor||+1 DL to all checks, +2 Initiative|
|Serious||+2 DL to all checks, +4 Initiative|
|Critical||+2 DL to all checks, +6 Initiative|
* Note that these modifiers are imposed as soon as a character takes damage or depletes any points in one of these columns, not when they are maxed out.
** These effects are cumulative. Thus a character who has maxed out Fatigued and dipped into Depleted will be at +2 DL to all checks and +3 to Initiative; a character who has dipped into Fatigued, maxed out Minor Wounds, and suffered a couple of Serious Wounds will be at +4 DL to ll checks and suffer a whopping +7 penalty to Initiative.
It is possible, though highly inadvisable, to completely deplete one’s stores of energy in one of the first two aspects and continue on to exert oneself and draw energy from one of the secondary aspects. However, such extreme exertion should only be resorted to in the most dire of circumstances.
There is one other source of extra dice available to characters which is separate from the Mind and Body aspects listed above. That extra source is Devotion. Each character’s Devotion is equal to the level of his or her highest Moral Code aspect.
Devotion can be spent on virtually any general check with some limited impact (1:1 ratio of dice to devotion). Any check that can be linked to an aspect of the character’s Moral Code has a significantly higher impact (2:1 ratio of dice to devotion). For further rules on Moral Code, see page ___.
Recovering Spent Exertion and Devotion
Characters can only push themselves so far before they must rest. Time is also required to facilitate healing of injuries and wounds. These recovery/healing times are shown in the table below.
|Exertion Aspect(s)||Rate of Recovery|
|Endurance/Tenacity||1 point/15 minutes of rest|
|Vitality/Sanity||1 point/24 hours of rest|
|Devotion||1 point/30 minutes of rest/ritual|
Note that these times are not concurrent. Characters cannot spend 15 minutes to restore one point of both Tenacity and Endurance. Only one type of exertion can be replenished/healed at a time, typically starting with the most serious—right to left, bottom to top.
Exertion and Devotion Points are a remarkable resource for characters and can often prove to be the difference between success or failure. For further rules on both, see page ___ or refer to the Exertion Cheat Sheet.
Putting it all Together
To make a check, players first determine which skill is applicable to the task/obstacle at hand and the GM assigns a DL (Difficulty Level) to the check. If the character’s SN (Second Nature) in that skill is greater than or equal to the DL, no check is needed; the character may automatically succeed. If the DL is higher than the SN, a check is required. The base dice pool for a check is equal to a character’s skill rank (SR) in the applicable skill. Players have two ways of increasing this base dice pool. First, players may choose to spend exertion. The number of extra dice gained from exertion depends on whether the skill is a broad skill (1:1 ratio of dice to exertion) or a sub-skill (2:1 ratio of dice to exertion). Mental exertion is used for Mind-based skill checks; physical exertion is used for Body-based skill checks. The second means of gaining extra dice is by spending devotion. If devotion is spent on a check directly tied to any aspect of a character’s Moral Code, the ratio is 2:1—2 extra dice for every point of devotion. For any other check—anything not related to a character’s Moral Code—the ratio is 1:1 (one extra die for every point of devotion). Once the total number of dice (dice pool) has been determined, players roll all dice and tally the results. Without any enhancements—which lower the MR (Minimum Roll)—or debilitations—which raise the MR, any roll of a 9 or higher will result in a “success” (a successful roll). If the total number of successes is equal to or greater than the DL, the overall action succeeds. If the total number of successes is less than the DL, the action fails.
Example 1: Gregor needs to jump across a crevice. The GM assigns a DL of 3 or Heightened (HTN) to the check. Gregor has not specialized in the JUMPING sub-skill so he must default to his ATHLETICS broad skill. He has 4 ranks in ATHLETICS, so he starts with 4 dice. He may choose to add additional dice by spending exertion. However, because he is using a broad skill, Gregor only receives 1 die for every 1 point of exertion he spends. He opts to spend 3 exertion, giving him a total of 7 dice. Gregor doesn’t have any enhancements which lower the MR, so he rolls seven dice and tallies each roll with a result of 9 or higher.
Example 2: Marie needs to remember a piece of pertinent information. The GM says that it is an Average (AVG) or 2 DL check. Marie has specialized in the RECALL sub-skill and has an SN (Second Nature) of 2. Because her SN is equal to the DL, she doesn’t need to make a check. She automatically succeeds and recalls the information.
Example 3: Vivian is bartering with a shopkeeper in order to reduce the price of some goods. The GM says the shopkeeper is adamantly opposed to reducing the price and assigns a DL of 4 (Demanding) to the check. Fortunately, Vivian has specialized in HAGGLING; unfortunately, she only has 4 ranks in the skill, which means she starts with only 4 dice in her dice pool. However, because she has specialized in HAGGLING, she will receive 2 extra dice for every point of exertion spent. She chooses to spend 3 points of Tenacity to gain 6 extra dice, meaning she can roll a total of 10 dice. She also has an enhancement which lowers the MR down to 8. So she rolls 10 dice and tallies each result of 8 or higher.
Whenever a character rolls the dice to make a check, there is a chance of rolling one or more snags. A snag is any unfortunate development, complication, or setback. Every 1 rolled above a skill’s SN (Second Nature) will result in a snag. Thus if a skill’s SN is 1, a snag would only be counted starting with the second 1 rolled. If the SN is 3, the first three 1s would simply be failed rolls; only the 4th and subsequent 1s would result in snags. If the SN is 0, every 1 rolled results in a snag.
A single snag has two consequences. First, each snag subtracts one success from the overall total. Second, each snag should have some kind of narrative consequence. This narrative consequence could be virtually anything: from losing a side mirror in a car chase, to a gun jamming in a firefight, to a stupor of thought in a debate. Whenever possible, you are encouraged to try and connect such snags to your character’s weaknesses. For example, how might being Anxious, Craven, Clumsy, or Delusional have contributed to the snag that occurred? The exact nature of snags can have collaborative input from all players, with the GM having the final say. Any additional snags rolled can either compound the severity of an existing snag, or add a new and separate detrimental effect. For a random table of possible snags, refer to the Failure Consequences Easy Reference Sheet, or see page ___.
Any roll of a 12 facing counts as a Boon—an automatic success with some advantageous development attached. In addition to the narrative benefit which arises from a boon, players may immediately add an additional die to their current dice pool and roll it. In the event that this roll also results in a 12, another boon occurs, and yet another die is added and rolled, and so on until one stops rolling 12s. If any of these additional die rolls stemming from a boon result in another boon (another roll of 12), the player who rolled it is immediately granted a Hero Point (see below).
NOTE: In place of rolling an additional die, you may opt to pass on or pay forward any extra dice gained from rolling 12s to one of your fellow players. This can be thought of as aiding or opening up an opportunity for an ally in their next action.
The exact nature of the benefit provided by rolling a boon may be jointly decided by the group, with the GM having the final say. As a starting place for such effects, consider your character’s strengths. For example, how might being Agile, Adaptable, or Resilient have contributed to the resulting boon? If you ever struggle to come up with a suitable narrative effect for a boon, a list of potential boons can be found on page ___ or the Potential Boons Easy Reference Sheet.
NOTE: rolling a 1 as a result of an extra die roll stemming from a boon only counts as a fail result, and will never contribute to additional snags.
Pushing the Check
If the initial roll fails to achieve the required number of successes needed, players have the option of pushing their characters and making one last ditch effort on the check. Pushing gives characters one final chance to expend exertion (and exertion only) to gain additional dice. However, this secondary roll usually has a much greater chance of resulting in Snags. This is because, regardless of SN and how many 1s have previously been rolled, each 1 rolled with a pushed check will result in a snag.
Note that a Pushed check does not impact the benefit of any 12s rolled; each 12 rolled on a pushed check will still result in a boon and add an additional die the same as with the initial roll. The only downside of a pushed check is that each 1 facing will result in an additional snag.
Whenever the result of a check is only one successful roll shy of an overall success, players may opt for a partial or Mixed Success. This can also be thought of as a “yes, but” result—Yes, you manage to succeed, but with a snag—a complication or setback—automatically attached to the result. As with all other snags, you are encouraged to collaborate to define how the mixed success snag affects the situation and the story moving forward.
You and other player characters are the protagonists—the heroes—of the collective story of the game. This enables you to draw upon a certain amount of prowess and luck to perform, well, heroically. This amazing capability is represented by Hero Points. These are simply points that can be spent to introduce fortuitous developments in favor of the protagonist characters.
Using Hero Points
Hero Points are actually able to introduce a new development or fact into the game. The Game Master and players should collectively work out the exact nature of these facts in each situation and encounter, but some examples might include:
- Introducing an object, item, or environmental feature into the scenario.
- Introducing a boost to a character’s adrenaline, fortitude, will, or inspiration.
- Introducing any other agreed upon effect.
Whatever the nature of the fact, it will typically have one of the following impacts on the game:
- Modify the difficulty (DL) by +/-2 OR grant/subtract 2 automatic “success” results— either yours or an adversary’s.
- Allow (or force) re-rolling any number of dice for one specific check. (Cannot affect 12 or 1 facing rolls)
- Modify the facing of each die roll by + or -1 (Cannot affect 12 or 1 facing rolls)
- Change the result of a single die roll to 12 (a boon), no matter its original facing.
- Slightly modify the outcome of actions or events (Instead of falling off the cliff, you manage to barely catch hold of the edge).
- Provide something—such as a weapon, or a means of escape—that was not previously available.
- Do anything else the GM and players agree upon (temporarily raise or lower a character’s Defense Rating by 1, give a one time reduction of -10 to Initiative, restore 5 points of spent exertion, bring a character back from the brink of death, etc.)
Players are encouraged to come up with a plausible explanation of how this new fact or development could have arisen. This could be as simple as saying it was overlooked the first time around, or inserting it as a kind of narrative “flashback” (“Oh, I arranged for a getaway car ahead of time to be parked right here.”)
Starting Hero Points
Players begin the game with one (1) Hero Point. They also have the chance of acquiring additional Hero Points during the course of the game. There are only two ways to receive additional Hero Points: 1) by exploding a 12 into another 12 (rolling a 12 with any added die gained from rolling a 12); and 2) by successfully performing Extraordinary Heroic Actions.
Extraordinary Heroic Actions
An extraordinary heroic action is any action undertaken by a character that is deemed to be especially daring, risky, or difficult—especially when that action is on behalf of another character or the mission of the group. The exact classification of extraordinary heroic actions will usually be fairly obvious, but GMs will always have the final say as to what actions would be considered sufficiently heroic. In order to receive a Hero Point for an extraordinary heroic action, a character must successfully accomplish the action or task.
The Game Master also begins the game with one Villain Point. Villain Points are almost exactly the same as Hero Points except instead of benefiting the PCs, they can be used in favor of adversaries and to the detriment of the player characters. There are a few restrictions (and additional options) for Game Masters, but for the most part, they are used in exactly the same way.
Once players collectively spend 3 Hero Points, the GM receives an additional Villain Point. GMs may also add Villain Points if the characters collectively make a choice that furthers the goals and schemes of the antagonist. For example, if an orphanage is set on fire while the prince is captured and carried away, if the characters let the orphanage burn while they pursue the kidnappers, this may be a reason to award the GM a Villain Point. Villain Points can also be cashed in for more severe crises or displays of an adversary’s power.
For further rules on Hero and Villain Points, see page ___ or refer to the Hero Points Easy Reference Sheet.
Putting it all Together
When rolling a skill check, each 1 facing beyond the skill’s SN results in a snag—a minor complication or setback. In addition to their narrative effects, each snag also subtracts or negates one success. If players choose to push the check, they may spend additional exertion to add even more dice to the check. However, pushed die rolls only take a single 1 facing to result in a snag, regardless of SN. A snag may also be voluntarily applied by opting for a mixed success. This option may be chosen anytime a check is only one success roll shy of overall success. A mixed success means that the character manages to succeed or accomplish the action, but with a downside or complication (snag) tacked on. Any roll that lands on a 12 facing results in a boon—a minor fortuitous development or additional benefit. In addition to their narrative effects, each boon also adds one additional die to be rolled for the check. In the event any of these added dice also roll a 12, yet another die is added and rolled. Also, any time a boon (12) is rolled on any added dice resulting from another boon, the character receives one Hero Point. Hero Points are one time use effects that can be used by players to modify the outcome of checks or to insert facts into the narrative. Players start the game with one Hero Point. Additional Hero Points can be gained by either rolling two boons (12s) in a row, or by performing an extraordinary heroic action. Once players collectively spend 3 Hero Points, the GM receives 1 Villain Point. Villain Points can be used in much the same way as Hero Points. Neither can be used to cancel the effects of their opposites.
Example 1: Marcus is attempting to climb a wall into an enemy keep. The GM has assigned a DL of 3. Since his SN for CLIMBING is only 1, Marcus rolls and manages to achieve 3 successes. However, he rolled two 1s. Because his SN is 1, the first 1 only counts as a failed roll. The second 1—one higher than his SN—results in a snag. Since each snag subtracts one success from the total, Marcus only ends up with 2 successes, and the check fails. Now he and the GM need to figure out the narrative result of the snag.
Example 2: Lance is weaving a bullet bike through heavy freeway traffic, trying to escape his pursuers—also on bullet bikes. He makes a risky jump into the traffic moving the opposite direction on the freeway. The GM says it is a very difficult and dangerous maneuver and assigns a DL of 5. Lance rolls and only achieves 4 successes. However, one of his rolls was a 12–a boon. This enables him to add an additional die and roll it as well. He rolls—and achieves another success! He manages to barely make the jump.
Example 3: Borthanis is dueling an expert swordsman atop a narrow ledge. He has just suffered a huge setback (likely caused by rolling a snag or two) by being disarmed, and his opponent kicks his sword off the edge. Borthanis opts to spend a Hero Point. He can’t undo the disarming or the fact that his opponent kicked his sword off the edge. But he can spend a Hero Point to either lunge and grasp the sword before it falls out of reach, or introduce a fact into the narrative, perhaps having the sword guard snag onto a protruding root.
Example 4: The group of PCs has just rolled extremely well and delivered a fatal blow to the Lich king, Dankara. But the GM doesn’t want this particular adversary to die just yet. The GM spends a Villain Point to facilitate the Lich King’s escape (Mwah-Ha-Ha!). He’s severely wounded, but that just gives him time to nurse his wounds and plot his revenge.
Now that you have a handle of the basics of game play, the next step is to dive into creating your own protagonist character in Chapter 2: Character Creation.