Lately I’ve found myself fascinated by minimalist D&D rules like “Searchers of the Unknown” and its worthy successor “1974 Style”. I also like the d20-only philosophy of True20 and Numenera’s Only Players Roll principle. All three have collided in my brain to create the following incomplete rules:
Every character, player or NPC, has a Level, which denotes attack, defense, and miscellaneous physical prowess. PCs start at 1, as usual.
Every character has the following health conditions: Wounded (-2), Wounded Twice (-3), Disabled (-5), Dying (), Dead.
All weapons have Damage Bonuses, from +1 (knife or brass knuckles) to +8 (warhammer or greatsword). +0 denotes bare hands. Anything less is probably only good for delivering poison.
Armor has a Damage Penalty, from -1 (soft leather) to -8 (full plate).
When a player character attacks, the player rolls a d20 and adds the character’s level to the result. If the result is greater than the opponents Level + 10, the attacker hits. Note the amount by which the roll succeeds.
When a non-player character attacks, the player defends by adding his character’s level to the result of a d20 roll. If the roll is equal to or greater than the attacker’s Level + 10, the player character defends successfully. Otherwise, record the amount by which the roll failed.
In PvP, each player rolls d20 + level once a round; the player with the higher result does damage to the other. As in combat with NPCs, ties always go to the defender.
When an attack succeeds, add the amount by which it succeeded to the weapon’s Damage Bonus, and subtract the defender’s Damage Penalty.
- If the result is between 1 and 5, the defender is merely Bruised, and takes a cumulative -1 penalty for his next round only.
- If the result is between 6-10, the defender is Wounded, and suffers a permanent -2 penalty until healed.
- 11-15 means the defender is Disabled; a Disabled character must roll at least 15 or more (level + d10) to remain conscious, and is at a -5 (cumulative with other penalties) to do anything but lie there and bleed.
- If the result is 16-20 or more, the defender is Dying, and will be Dead without immediate medical attention after the fight.
- If the cumulative result is more than 20, the character is Dead and probably chunky salsa.
Health conditions (except Bruised) cascade: if a Wounded character is Wounded again, he is Wounded Twice with a total -5 penalty to all actions. If he is Wounded a third time, he is Disabled; a fourth time, Dying; a fifth time Dead. A character who is Disabled without being Wounded, on the other hand, can sustain two more Wounded results or one more Disabled result before Dying. Hitting a Dying character with anything above Bruised will kill them.
The numbers may need tweaking, since I’m just typing it off the top of my head (but see the d20 Injury system). Note that I’ve (1) eliminated a separate damage/“toughness” roll and (2) adopted the RuneQuest/GURPS/etc. attitude that armor reduces damage rather than prevents the character from getting hit.
Rolling a 20 probably should have a special effect, in addition to an automatic success. Either you roll again and add any additional points over the target to your success margin, or you simply add 1d6. Likewise, a 1 should be an automatic failure, although I probably wouldn’t add even more misery for the guy who failed his roll.
“Saving throws” and physical actions likewise use a d20 + Level roll against a fixed difficulty factor: 5 for easy, 10 for average, 15 for difficult, and 20 for extremely difficult. Unlike attacks and defense, ties always go to the player.
If this system sounds familiar, I’ve been fiddling with it or adapting ideas from it for the past several years. None of it is particularly original, but as I said at the beginning I’d rather have something simple that I can add on, rather than complex pre-built game engines that I have to tear apart and put back together again if I want it to do soething else.