Year Zero Engine OGL SRD

Tomas Härenstam

Posted: 2020-03-14
Last Modified: 2023-03-28
Word Count: 19013
Tags: rpg srd year-zero-system

Table of Contents

2023-03-28: A newer draft of the Year Zero Engine SRD is available from Free League Publishing, subject to the Year Zero Engine Free Tabletop License.

Foreword by Frank Mitchell

This is the text from the prior official Year Zero Engine SRD, converted to Markdown and hence to “clean” HTML. The differences are mainly formatting, fonts, headers, etc., with some minor errata fixed, links added or refined, and chapter numbers converted to section names. Any other differences between this version and the original are the fault of the transcriber, Frank Mitchell.


In order to publish a product using the Year Zero Engine OGL, follow these simple steps:

  1. Read the Open Game License text found here.
  2. Copy the OGL license text and include the full text somewhere in your product.
  3. Use the text between the dotted lines below as the start of your Section 15 of the OGL.
  4. Replace all of the [square bracketed text] with the specifics of your own product.
  5. Download the Year Zero Engine logo and place it somewhere on your product.
  6. If you like, you are welcome to offer your game for sale using the Free League Workshop, Free League’s Community Content Program at DrivethruRPG.


Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Year Zero Engine © 2019 by Fria Ligan AB. Developed, authored, and edited by Tomas Härenstam.

[Name of this document or material] Copyright [Year], [Copyright Holder’s Name]; Author[s] [Insert the name or names of the author or authors of this document]

In accordance with the Open Game License Section 8 “Identification” the following designate Open Game Content and Product Identity:


[Insert a clear designation of what parts of this document you are releasing as Open Game Content, making it eligible for use by others under the Open Game License. Note that existing Open Game Content must remain OGC. Example: “The contents of this document are declared Open Game Content except for the portions specifically declared as Product Identity.”]


[Insert a clear explanation of what parts of this document are designated as Product Identity and hence excluded from the designation of Open Game Content. Examples: “All content of this document is Open Game Content” or “All artwork, logos, symbols, designs, depictions, illustrations, maps and cartography, likenesses, and other graphics, unless specifically identified as Open Game Content” or “Any elements of the proprietary setting, including but not limited to capitalized names, organization names, characters, historic events, and organizations; any and all stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, documents within the game worlds, quotes from characters or documents, and dialogue”]

Year Zero Engine logo

Year Zero Engine

©2019 Fria Ligan AB.

This is the OGL version of this text. License found at the end of this document.


Welcome to Year Zero. This document contains the core Year Zero Engine for tabletop roleplaying, used in Free League games such as Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis - The Third Horizon, Tales from the Loop, and Forbidden Lands.


This section introduces some key concepts in roleplaying, and how they are used in games using the Year Zero Engine.


Each player except one controls a player character (PC). You decide what your PC thinks and feels, what they say and do – but not what happens to them. It is your job as a player to immerse yourself in your PC. They may be an adventurer in a faraway fantasy world – but they are still, at heart, a person with feelings and dreams, just like you. Try to imagine – how would you react if you were in their shoes? What would you do? The player characters are always the protagonists of the story. The game is about you. Your decisions, your adventures.


The final player is the Gamemaster, the GM. They describe the game world to you, they play the people you meet, and they control the enemies you fight. The game is a conversation between the players and the GM, back and forth, until a critical situation arises where the outcome is uncertain. Then it’s time to break out the dice – read more about this in the Skills chapter.

It is the GM’s job to put obstacles in your path and challenge your PCs, forcing them to show what they’re really made of. But it is not up to the GM to decide everything that happens in the game – and above all, not how your story is supposed to end. That is decided in the game. That is why you are playing the game – to find out how your story ends.


The Year Zero Engine was originally developed for Mutant: Year Zero, but has been further modified and adapted to a wide range of games with different themes and settings. Yet, six core features of the game remain the same in all iterations. These are listed and explained below.


The basics of the Year Zero Engine are very easy to learn – roll a pool of six-sided dice, you need at least one six to succeed, and the more sixes you roll, the better the result. This simple core is very easy to teach to new players, making the barrier to play very low. Complexity and depth are added piece by piece, offering more choices to the player as they gain more insight into the system.


The Year Zero Engine is fast, quickly producing meaningful results by removing all dice rolling, bookkeeping and calculations that don’t push the action forward. Year Zero Engine combat systems are often deadly, pushing conflicts to decisive moments. The risks are high, and PCs are rarely safe from danger no matter how experienced they are.


The demand to roll sixes can make it seem hard to succeed in the Year Zero Engine. You can increase your chances significantly by pushing your roll – i.e. re-rolling the dice – but pushing the roll always comes with a cost. This dynamic constantly pushes you to weigh risks and rewards, and makes the Year Zero Engine particularly suited for harsh, survival-focused games.


In Year Zero Engine games, the players and their characters are at the heart of the story. The PCs are the protagonists of the story, never the NPCs. The rules focus on the PCs and their actions, while NPCs are handled quickly and effectively by the Gamemaster. The system is designed to always present the players with meaningful choices.


Roleplaying is about creating stories, memorable moments at the gaming table that you’ll remember for years to come. The Year Zero Engine is designed to produce dramatic effects that will push your story forward and make it take unexpected turns.


The Year Zero Engine is designed to be very adaptable for different play styles, themes, and game settings. By using skills and talents in a modular fashion, the system creates building blocks that are very easily added, removed, and re-engineered.


Year Zero Engine games typically give you plenty of room for improvisation and creativity. Yet they also provide a number of tools to help you create your own story.


MODIFIED (2020-03-29): reflects changes in original version.

To document your character, you use a character sheet. This document does not include a character sheet, as any Year Zero Engine game will need a sheet adapted to the specific rules version and game setting. How you create your character will be described in the next chapter.


As a character in a Year Zero Engine game, you will have to take risks. Sooner or later, you will end up in situations where the outcome is uncertain, no matter how skilled you are. It’s time to break out the dice. Regular six-sided dice (also called D6) are required to play Year Zero Engine, preferably 10-15 in three different colors. Certain rules variations (see the Skills chapter) can use more types of dice, including D8, D10 and D12.


Another useful accessory for Year Zero Engine games is a custom card deck. The cards can be used as reference sheets for gear or NPCs, but also to randomize initiative in combat – read more about this in Combat & Damage.


If you have made your way here without knowing what a roleplaying game is, congratulations! Welcome to a rewarding and creative hobby. Roleplaying is a unique form of gaming, or cultural expression if you prefer to call it that, that combines tabletop gaming with storytelling. Roleplaying games give you a set of rules and let you create your own story with your friends in a way that books, movies, TV, and even video games cannot.

If you need advice or ideas, a great resource is the forum on our website, Welcome!


Your player character (PC) is your most important asset in any Year Zero Engine game. They are your avatar, your eyes and ears in the world. But they, in return, depend on you making the right decisions for them. Don’t screw it up. Take your PC seriously and play them as if they were a real person. It’s more fun that way. At the same time, don’t try to protect your PC from every conceivable danger. The goal of the game is to create a good story. For that to happen you need to take risks.

During the course of the game, your PC will change and develop. Their skills and talents can be developed through experience, but you can also discover how their personality changes and is formed in a way that cannot be measured by numbers on a page. This is when your player character truly comes alive.


To create your player character, you need a character sheet. This document does not include a character sheet, as any Year Zero Engine game will need a sheet adapted to the specific rules version and game setting.


Most Year Zero Engine games have some type of character archetypes to choose from. The archetypes – which can also be called “roles,” “professions” or “careers” – are based on the game world, and help the players grasp the setting.

The archetype determines what type of person you are, your background and role in the group. Your archetype will influence your attributes, your skills, your starting gear and what starting talents you can learn.

Archetypes can feel stereotypical, and they are meant to be. Picking an archetype is a quick way for yourself and the other players to get an immediate feel for your character. But remember that your character is more than just his archetype. The archetype is just a starting point toward creating a unique player character.


The next step is choosing your age. Age (for humans) is divided into three categories: young (up to 25 years), adult (26-50 years), and old (50+ years). You choose your age freely. Write down your choice on your character sheet. Your chosen age category affects your attributes and your skills. Read more about these below.


Your character has four attributes that indicate your basic physical and mental capabilities, each rated on a scale from 1 to 5. Your attributes are used when you roll dice to perform actions in the game, and also determine how much damage of various kinds you can withstand before you become Broken. Read more about this in Combat & Damage.

Starting Scores: When you create your player character, you can distribute a number of points across your attributes. How many points is determined by your age – see the table below. You can assign no less than 2 and no more than 5 points to any attribute.

Young 15
Adult 14
Old 13
Raw muscle power and brawn.
Body control, speed, and motor skills.
Sensory perception, intelligence, and sanity.
Personal charisma and ability to manipulate others.


Your skills are the knowledge and abilities you have acquired during your life. They are important, as they determine, along with your attributes, how effectively you can perform certain actions in the game. There are twelve basic skills, and they are all described in detail in the Skills chapter. Some Year Zero Engine games have different or additional skills.

Skills are measured by skill level on a scale from 0 to 5. The higher the number, the better.

No Skill Level? You can always roll for a skill even if you have no level in that skill – – in that case you only use the associated attribute for the skill in question, and gear. Read more about how skills work in the next chapter.

Starting Skill Levels: When you create your player character, you distribute a number of points to your skills. How many points is determined by your age – see the table below. You can assign up to a maximum of 3 points to any given skill. You can increase your skill levels during the game.

Young 8
Adult 10
Old 12


Talents are tricks, moves and minor abilities that give you a small edge. They are more specialized than skills and give you a way to fine-tune your character. Talents are further explained in the Talents chapter. You can usually pick one talent when creating your character – but your choices are limited. Your archetype typically determines which talents you can choose from. You can learn more talents during the course of the game.


Your PCs are all in it together as a group, but you are also an individual with personal relationships with the other player characters.

When you create your PC, you should describe your relationship with each of the other player characters, with a short sentence for each on your character sheet. Typically, there will be suggestions to choose from for each archetype. You can also use them as inspiration for your own ideas.

Your choices are also important for the GM, as she can use them to create interesting situations in the game.

Buddy: When you have noted your relationships to the other PCs you must choose which one of them you feel closest to. That PC is your buddy. Mark your choice in the checkbox on the character sheet.


Many (but not all) Year Zero Engine games are focused on survival, and having the right gear will help you do that. You must write down all the items you are carrying. Write down one item per row in the Gear section on your character sheet. If it’s not listed on your sheet, you don’t have it with you.

Starting Gear: Your archetype typically determines what gear you can choose from at the start of the game. Clothes and gear used to carry other gear does not count toward your encumbrance and does not need to be noted down.


You can carry a number of regular items equal to double your Strength. Use your base Strength score, not the temporary rating reduced by taking damage.


An item designated as Heavy counts as two regular items, and will typically take up two rows on your character sheet instead of one. Some heavy items count as three or even four normal items. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are items that are designated as Light – they count as half of a regular item, and so you can list two Light items on one row on your sheet. Some light items count as a quarter of a normal item in terms of encumbrance - the weight of such items are written as ¼ in the gear lists.


Items that are even smaller than Light are called Tiny. They are so small they don’t affect your encumbrance at all. The rule of thumb is: if the item can be hidden in a closed fist, it’s Tiny. Tiny items also need to be listed on your character sheet.


You can temporarily carry more than your normal encumbrance limit (Strength x 2 items). In this case, you need to make a roll for the Endure skill whenever you want to run in a Round of combat or walk a significant distance. If the roll fails, you must either drop what you are carrying, stay where you are, or suffer one point of damage to Agility and keep going.


A special category of items in the game are called consumables. It can be food, water, ammunition, arrows, torches, air supply, electric power or others – depending on the setting of the game. You don’t need to track consumables at all times. The GM lets you know when resources are scarce and it’s time to start tracking them.

Supply Rating: You track each consumable on your character sheet using a Supply rating. A higher rating is better.

Supply Roll: At regular intervals (depending on the consumable in question), you need to make a Supply roll. This means rolling a number of dice equal to the current Supply rating – but never more than six dice. For every 1 rolled, the Supply rating is decreased by one. When the Supply rating reaches zero, you’re out of the consumable. The effects of lacking air, food and water are explained in Combat & Damage.

Group Consumables: Usually, consumables are tracked individually, but they can also be tracked for the group as a whole, depending on the situation. The GM has final say.

Sharing: If you want to give a consumable to another person, you simply increase the recipient’s Supply rating as many steps as you decrease your own.


You can describe your player character’s face, body and clothing on your character sheet. In some Year Zero Engine games, the archetypes will suggest features for you.


Finally, you give your PC a name. The archetypes typically suggest suitable names, but you are free to make up your own name if you prefer.


The things you learn during the game are measured in Experience Points (XP). You receive XP after the end of each game session. Talk it through and let the whole group discuss what has happened. For each of the below questions that you can reply “yes” to, you get one XP:

The GM has the final word when it comes to how much XP each character should get. Write down the XP on your character sheet.


You can use your XP to improve your skills and talents, or to learn new ones. You can only spend XP when your PC gets a chance to rest, or between game sessions.

Skills: To increase a skill level by one step costs a number of XP equal to the skill level you want to attain multiplied by 5. For example, an increase from skill level 2 to 3 costs 15 XP. You can only increase a skill level one step at a time.

Learning a new skill (at skill level 1) costs 5 XP. To do this however, you must either have used the skill and succeeded (without skill level) during the session, or be instructed by a teacher. The teacher must have at least skill level 1.

Talents: Learning a talent always costs 5 XP. It also requires a day of practice and a successful Wits roll (roll for the attribute only, and the roll cannot be pushed). You can make one attempt per day. If instructed by a teacher who has the talent, your roll succeeds automatically.


After the end of a game session, you are free to redefine your relationships to the other PCs and NPCs as you see fit.


Roleplaying is a conversation. The Gamemaster describes the scene, you describe how your PCs behave, the GM describes how any NPCs react, you reply, and it goes back and forth. That is how the story is told and progresses. But sooner or later, a decisive situation will arise, a point of no return, a conflict that conversation alone cannot resolve. Then it’s time to break out the dice and use one of your skills.



There are twelve core skills in total in the Year Zero Engine, and they are all described later in this chapter. Every skill is connected to one of the four attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy.

When you perform an action, you first describe what your player character does or says. Then you grab a number of six-sided dice equal to your skill level plus your current score in the attribute that is connected to that skill. If you have some sort of gear that may be helpful, you will get extra dice from that as well.

Then you roll all the dice at once.


Whether a certain die you have rolled originates from your attribute, your skill, or your gear, may be important. For that reason, you should use dice of three different colors. The dice from attributes are called Base Dice, the dice from skills are called Skill Dice, and the dice from gear are called Gear Dice.


To succeed with your action, you must roll at least one six. A six is called a success. If you roll more than one success you can achieve additional effects in some cases – this is specified by each skill.


Ones on Base Dice and Gear Dice can be bad for you – they can mean that you suffer damage, exhaustion, fear, or that your weapon has been damaged. Ones have no effect on your first roll, only if you choose to push your roll (see below). A one is called a bane. Ones on Skill Dice are never counted as banes.


If you don’t have the skill required for the particular action you want to perform, you can roll anyway – simply roll your Base Dice and any applicable Gear Dice.


If you roll no success (six) in your skill roll, something goes wrong. For some reason, you failed to achieve your goal. Feel free to elaborate on why with the help of the GM. She might even let a failed roll have further consequences to move the story forward in a dramatic way.

Failure must not stop the story completely. Even when you fail, there must be a way forward – perhaps at the cost of time, risk, or silver, but still a way. The GM has the final say on the consequences of failure in that particular situation.

You have one last chance if you really want to succeed – you can push the roll.


When you roll a lot of dice, it can be hard to predict the chance of success. The table below shows the chance of success when rolling with 1-10 dice. The third column shows the chance of success if you push the roll.

1 17% 29%
2 31% 50%
3 42% 64%
4 52% 74%
5 60% 81%
6 67% 87%
7 72% 90%
8 77% 93%
9 81% 95%
10 84% 96%


If you are desperate to succeed with a dice roll, you can choose to push it. This means that you grab all the dice that did not come up as a success (six) or a bane (one on Base Dice and Gear Dice) and roll them again. You get a new chance to roll sixes.

You cannot choose which dice to reroll. When you push, you must roll all dice that did not come up as a success or a bane.

Usually, you would only push a roll if you failed it – although you can push your roll even if you rolled successes at first, to get more successes to increase the effect of an attack for example. Pushing a roll is not without risk – more on that below.

How a pushed roll plays out in story terms depends on what kind of action you are performing. It doesn’t have to be a physical effort, it might be about complete mental focus or an emotional struggle.

Skill Dice: Ones on Skill Dice do not count as banes and can thus be re-rolled when you push the roll.

Gear Dice: If you push your roll, you must also push any Gear Dice.

Only Once: You can only push your roll once. If you don’t succeed on your second try, you just have to deal with the consequences.


When you push yourself hard, there is a risk that you will suffer injury or exhaustion, or that your weapon will be damaged. After you have pushed your roll, look at all the dice on the table. In the first roll, banes (ones on Base Dice and Gear Dice) had no effect, but when you push they become active. It doesn’t matter if the banes came up in the first roll or the second.


As a rule, you only have one chance to succeed with any action. Once you have rolled the dice – and pushed the roll – you may not roll again to achieve the same goal. You need to try something different or wait until the circumstances have changed in a substantial way. Or let another player character try. This rule does not apply to combat, where you can attack the same enemy multiple times.


When you face a challenge together with the other PCs, don’t roll dice separately. Instead, you choose who among you is best suited to take on this challenge. The others may help (see below) if it’s relevant to the situation. If the roll fails, it counts as a failure for all of you – you are not allowed to try one time each. This rule does not apply in combat, where each adventurer is free to attack any enemy they like.


Sometimes, external factors help you to succeed. This gives you extra Skill Dice to roll. Other times, something hampers your action. This gives you fewer Skill Dice to roll than normal. This is called modification.

Modification +1 means you roll one extra Skill Die, +2 means you roll two extra Skill Dice, and so on. Modification -1 means you roll one Skill Die fewer than normal, -2 means two fewer, and so on. Several modifications can apply to the same roll – add them together. A modification of +2 and one of -1 add up to +1.

If don’t have enough Skill Dice to remove after a modification, remove Gear Dice. If you run out of Gear Dice as well, remove Base Dice. If you end up with no dice at all, you have no chance to succeed at this action – time to rethink your strategy!

You can get modifications in several different ways: through talents, through the difficulty of the action itself, and through the help from others.


Normally, the GM doesn’t assess how difficult an action is. You only roll dice in challenging situations – period. But sometimes, the GM might want to underscore that external factors either help or hinder an action. Use the following table for guidance:

Trivial +3
Simple +2
Easy +1
Average 0
Demanding -1
Hard -2
Formidable -3

There are also cases when modifications are imposed by the rules, like when you aim carefully with a ranged weapon, shoot at long distance, or if you’re in a bad bargaining position when you attempt to Manipulate someone. Some talents can also give you a positive modification in certain situations.


Other PCs or NPCs can help you succeed at a skill roll. This must be declared right away, before you roll your dice. It must also make sense in the story – the individual helping you must be physically present and have the capacity to support your action. The GM has the final say.

For each person helping you, you get a +1 modification. No more than three people can help you with a single roll, meaning your maximum modification from assistance is +3.

In combat, helping counts as the same type of action as the one you are supporting (fast or slow).

NPCs can help each other in the same way as player characters. Letting NPCs act in groups instead of individually is often an easy way to manage large numbers of NPCs in combat.


Sometimes rolling a six isn’t enough to succeed with your skill roll. In some cases, you have to beat your foe in an opposed roll. To win an opposed roll, you have to roll successfully and roll more sixes than your adversary. Every six your adversary rolls eliminates one of your sixes. Only you (the attacker) can push your roll.

Sometimes you and your adversary roll for different skills, sometimes the same. Opposed rolls are common when you Manipulate or Sneak, and when someone uses those skills against you. The GM can also use opposed rolls when she deems it appropriate, like rolling Force vs Force to determine the outcome of an arm-wrestle.


To increase your chance of success, you can use gear. Gear can take many different forms depending on the setting of the game, and often includes weapons. Some example weapons are listed in Combat & Damage. (See the Weapon Table.) Useful gear gives you Gear Dice to use in skill rolls. This is called the Gear Bonus. You roll Gear Dice together with Base Dice and Skill Dice, and they are counted the same way: sixes mean success.


When you use gear and push your roll (see above), there is a risk your gear may be damaged. For every bane (one) you roll with your Gear Dice when pushing the roll, the item’s Gear Bonus is decreased by one. It simply doesn’t work as well anymore. If the Gear Bonus reaches zero, the item is broken and cannot be used.


Luckily, damaged gear can be repaired. It takes a Shift of work and a successful Craft skill roll. If the roll is successful, the Gear Bonus is recovered by one point for every success rolled, up to the starting score. If the roll fails, the Gear Bonus is permanently decreased to its current score. If the Gear Bonus has been reduced to zero and the attempt at repair fails, the item is permanently destroyed.

Certain items can require special talents to repair.


This section describes the twelve core skills of the Year Zero Engine.

ENDURE (Strength)

When your physical endurance or stamina is tested, roll to Endure. For example, roll for this skill when you travel in extreme weather or when you are forced to suffer bitter cold.

Failure: You just can’t take it anymore. You give in to the pain and suffer the consequences.

Success: You manage to push on, ignoring the pain just a little longer.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:

FIGHT (Strength)

Sometimes, you have no choice but to fight for your life, eye to eye with the enemy. Roll for this skill when you attack someone in close combat. Read more about close combat and damage in Combat & Damage.

Failure: You stumble and miss. Now it’s your opponent’s turn…

Success: You hit, and inflict damage to Strength equal to the weapon’s Damage rating on your opponent. Read more about damage here.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one of these stunts:

Weapons: In close combat you can use melee weapons.

Blocking: When someone attacks you in close combat, you can try to block the attack.

CRAFT (Strength)

When you need to repair gear or tinker with mechanical items in some other way, roll for the Craft skill. Repairing a broken item generally takes a Shift of work (see Gear above).

Failure: The blasted thing just won’t do what you want. And what if the noise you made attracted unwanted company?

Success: With a groan, the item bends to your will. If you’re repairing a damaged item, its Gear Bonus is increased by one.

Stunts: For each extra success rolled beyond the first, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:

SNEAK (Agility)

Often enough, it’s wiser to avoid conflict and instead Sneak by your enemies. Use this skill when you try to move without being noticed or when you attempt a sneak attack. Roll an opposed roll, using your Sneak score against a Scout roll for your enemy.

Failure: Your enemy sees you or hears you, and the element of surprise is lost.

Success: You move like a shadow in the night, noticed by no one.

Stunts: For each extra success rolled beyond the first, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:

MOVE (Agility)

When the heat is on and you are trying to dodge the jaws of death, you need to keep a cool head and move quickly and silently. Roll for Move when you want to get out of a hazardous situation—be it a risky climb, a dangerous jump, or an enemy coming at you. This skill also has specific uses in combat, see Combat & Damage.

Failure: Despite your best efforts, you fail and must suffer the consequences.

Success: You survive the sticky situation.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:

SHOOT (Agility)

If you have a gun you can take down your enemy from a distance without getting your hands bloody. Use the Shoot skill to fire all types of ranged weapons. Read more about ranged combat in Combat & Damage.

Failure: The shot misses your target. Maybe it hits something else? And the sound of gunfire could attract unwelcome attention…

Success: You hit, and inflict damage to Strength equal to the weapon’s Damage rating on your opponent.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one of these stunts:

Taking Cover: When bullets start flying, it’s often a good idea to seek cover behind something sturdy.

SCOUT (Wits)

In a Year Zero Engine game, you need to be on your guard at all times, or you won’t live long. You use your Scout skill to spot someone sneaking (opposed roll, see Sneak). You can also use the skill when you spot an unknown threat of some kind, to learn more about it.

Failure: You can’t really make out what it is, or you mistake it for something else (the GM feeds you false information).

Success: You are able to make out what it is, and whether or not it looks like a threat. The exact information you get is up to the GM.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, you get to know the answer to one of these questions:


Many Year Zero Engine games are filled with wondrous locations, phenomena, creatures and items of all kinds. Roll for Comprehend when you want to understand something strange and interesting that you encounter.

Failure: The object of your study makes no sense to you at all, or you are mistaken (in this case, the GM can feed you false information about the object).

Success: You understand the nature or function of the object.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:


Year Zero Engine games often take place in harsh and dangerous environments. Roll for Survive when you’re in a hazardous environment of some kind, be it extreme heat and cold, sandstorms, acid rain, or other forms of extreme weather, and need to figure out a way to stay alive.

Failure: You find no safe haven. Unless someone comes to your rescue, you’re on borrowed time.

Success: You find a safe haven to weather the storm.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one stunt applicable to the situation:


Year Zero Engine games have many dangers, but you can often reach your goals without violence, through charm, threats, or sensible reasoning. To make another person see things your way, make an opposed roll for Manipulation against your opponent’s Sense Emotion. Your chances are affected by your negotiating position.

Failure: Your adversary won’t listen and won’t do what you want. They might start to dislike you, or even attack you if provoked.

Success: If you succeed, your adversary must either do what you want or immediately attack you physically. Even if your adversary chooses to do what you want, they can still demand something in return. The GM decides what that entails, but it should be reasonable enough for you to be able to meet those demands. It is up to you to accept the agreement or not.

Stunts: For each success you roll in excess of what you need to win the opposed roll, you can choose one of these stunts:

Being Manipulated: NPCs and other PCs can Manipulate you. If their roll succeeds, you must attack or offer a deal of some kind. Then it is up to the GM (or the other player) whether your adversary accepts or not.


To be able to read another person like an open book can be a mighty weapon. You roll for Sense Emotion when someone tries to Manipulate you (above). You can also use the skill when you want to know an NPC’s mood or intent toward you. You need to be within Short distance.

Failure: You fail to read, or misread, the NPC. The GM can feed you false, or a mix of true and false, information.

Success: The GM must reveal the NPC’s most powerful emotion at this point in time – hate, fear, contempt, love, etc.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, you get the answer to one of these yes/no questions about the NPC:

HEAL (Empathy)

As a character in a Year Zero Engine game, there is a significant risk that you and your friends will be injured, sooner or later. This is when the Heal skill is useful. It can be used in two different ways:

Recovery: A person who has suffered so much damage to Strength or Agility that the attribute has been reduced to zero is Broken, and cannot act any further. If you apply your Heal skill to them and your roll succeeds, they get back on her feet and immediately recover a number of attribute points equal to the number of successes you roll. Read more about damage in Combat & Damage.

Save a Life: The most important application of Heal skill is giving first aid and saving the life of a fallen comrade who has suffered a critical injury. A failed roll at this point could mean the end for your patient, so be careful!


Skills and attributes paint a broad picture of your character. In order to let you fine-tune and specialize your character, most Year Zero Engine games use talents. Talents can affect how you use skills or how you recover from damage, or even let you do things that are quite simply impossible to others.

There are two distinct types of talents – archetype talents and general talents. Archetype talents can only be learned by characters with a specific archetype. General talents can be learned by anyone.



In most Year Zero Engine games, talents are not rated – you either have them or you don’t. Some games, however, have talents tiered in ranks – usually three. Each rank gives you additional bonuses or effects. Tiered talents give the game more complexity and “crunch.” Low-crunch games such as Tales from the Loop don’t even have talents at all.


This chapter contains a limited number of general talents only, as the selection of talents in a specific Year Zero Engine game are closely tailored to the setting and theme of the game. The talents listed here should be considered examples only.


If someone within Short range of you is hit by an attack, you can dive in to take the hit. Roll for Move. It doesn’t count as an action in combat. If you roll one or more successes, you take the hit instead of your friend. You can push the roll.


You can push any skill roll based on Empathy twice, not just once like other characters.


You can draw two initiative cards instead of one during the initiative draw. Choose the one you want to use, and shuffle the other one back into the deck before others draw their cards.


You know the delicate art of stopping a wound from bleeding or treating grave injuries. You get a +2 modification to Heal when treating someone who is about to die from a critical injury.


When you block in close combat, you can use Agility instead of Strength.


You have a knack for sensing when trouble is coming your way. You can roll for Scout using Empathy instead of Wits.


You get a +2 modification to Fight if you sacrifice your fast action in the Round.


You are very resilient and recover quickly from injuries. The healing time of critical injuries is halved for you.


You can push any skill roll based on Wits twice, not just once like other characters.


You know where to strike to make your enemy fall and not get up. Ever. When your enemy sustains a critical injury you may switch the D66 roll so that the ones die becomes the tens die and vice versa. This talent can only be used on humans.


No matter what horrible situations you end up in, you always seem to make it out unscathed. When you roll for a critical injury on yourself, you get to re-roll the dice and choose the result that you prefer.


You have a scary physical presence that makes it easy to intimidate people. You can roll for Manipulate using Strength instead of Empathy when you threaten someone to make them do what you want. If you succeed, your opponent cannot demand anything in return from you. He can still choose to attack you.


You can perform a coup de grace without rolling for Empathy.


You can carry twice as many objects as normal without being encumbered.


You can draw your weapon so quickly it doesn’t cost you an action.


You can push any skill roll based on Agility twice, not just once like other characters.


When you are Broken by having an attribute reduced to zero, you can get back on your feet immediately, without anyone coming to your aid. Roll for Endure, using Skill Dice only. You cannot push the roll. For every success you roll, you get one attribute point back. You can only use this talent once while Broken, and it has no effect against critical injuries.


You can push any skill roll based on Strength twice, not just once like other characters.


The hairs on the back of your neck stand up when enemies lurk nearby. You get a +2 modification to Scout when trying to spot a sneak attack.


You’re an expert at using a certain type of weapon. When you use this type of weapon, you get a +2 modification. You can choose this talent several times, once for each weapon type. You can be a specialist at fighting unarmed.


Combat is deadly in most Year Zero Engine games. Before you enter a fight, you should always ask yourself: Is it worth it?


A violent conflict is typically played out using a map of the location your characters happen to find themselves fighting for their lives in.

The map is divided into zones. A zone is typically a room, a corridor, or an area of ground. How big a zone is varies—from a few steps across up to about 25 meters. A zone is generally smaller in a cramped environment than in open terrain.

In pre-made scenario material, zones are usually indicated on a location map. In random encounters created on the fly, the GM can make a quick sketch of the area or simply describe it.


Although maps can be useful, you can always choose not to use them and let certain conflicts play out only in the “theater of the mind.” This can be a good solution in close quarters conflicts between a small number of combatants.


Zones can have various features, which affect actions performed within them. Here are some examples:

Cluttered: The zone is covered by dense undergrowth or filled with debris of some sort. You must roll for Move when you move into the zone. Failure means you manage to get into the zone, but you fall down.

Dark: The zone is dimly lit. Scout rolls in the zone get a -2 modification. Ranged attacks into the zone also suffer a -2 modification, and can’t pass through the zone.

Cramped: A crawlspace or narrow tunnel. In a cramped zone, you can only crawl, not run. You also cannot move or shoot past individuals next to you against targets behind them.


The border between two adjacent zones can be open or blocked by a wall. A blocked border can have a door or a hatch, as indicated by the map, allowing movement between the two zones.

Open borders don’t block vision or movement. A blocked border generally blocks line of sight even if there is a door or hatch in it – unless you’re actively standing by the doorway and peeking through.


The distance between you and your opponents is divided into five range categories. See the table below.

Engaged Right next to you
Short A few meters away, in the same zone as you
Medium Up to 25 meters away, in an adjacent zone
Long Up to about 100 hundred meters (four zones) away
Extreme Up to about one kilometer


Three separate units of time are typically used in the Year Zero Engine, depending on the situation at hand. See the table below. The exact duration of a Round, Turn and Shift can vary depending on the situation. It’s the GM’s job to track time and determine when another Round, Turn or Shift has passed. There are typically four Shifts in a day: Morning, Day, Evening, and Night.

Round 5-10 seconds Combat
Turn 5-10 minutes Exploration
Shift 5-10 hours Recovery


When a combat begins, the first step is to determine who has the initiative. Do this before anyone rolls dice for an action.


Grab ten cards, numbered 1 through 10. All the players taking part in the conflict, either voluntarily or involuntarily, each draw a card and the GM draws one card for every NPC. This is called drawing the initiative. The number on the card determines the order in which you act in the combat.

Number 1 acts first, number 2 acts second, and so forth until everyone has acted. Place your initiative card by your character sheet, so everyone can see in which order you all act. The GM puts their initiative cards in front of them.

When all the participants in the combat have acted once, the Round is over, and a new Round begins. The round order remains the same throughout the whole conflict – drawing the initiative is only done once, at the start of the first round.


If you perform an attack that the GM deems surprising, you may draw two initiative cards, and choose which one of the two you want. The card you do not choose is put back in the deck which is shuffled again before the others (either players or GM) draw their cards.


Some talents also allow you to affect your initiative. Read more in the Talents chapter.


You never draw a new initiative card during a fight, but you can exchange your initiative card – and thus your initiative for the round – with another player character. This can be done at the start of the fight or at the start of the round, but never during a round. You and the other player character must be able to speak to each other to exchange initiatives.


When it is your time to act in the Round, you can perform one slow action and one fast action, or two fast actions. A slow action usually consists of rolling for a skill. A fast action is quicker and doesn’t always require rolling dice, though it might. See the lists of typical slow and fast actions below. How attacks work is explained in detail in the sections Ranged Combat and Close Combat.

Describe Your Actions. When it’s your time to act, simply state which two actions you wish to perform, describe how you go about it, and roll dice to see if you are successful. Some actions will give your opponent the opportunity to perform a reactive action. Read more about this under Close Combat.


Crawl You are prone
Close combat attack Fight
Shoot ranged weapon Ranged weapon Shoot
Reload Firearm
First aid Broken or dying victim Heal
Persuade Your opponent can hear you Manipulate
Enter/exit vehicle Vehicle
Start engine Vehicle


Run No Engaged enemy Move (if Cluttered zone)
Move through door/hatch
Get up You are prone
Draw weapon
Block attack Attacked in close combat Fight
Grapple attack You’ve grappled an opponent Fight
Retreat Engaged enemy Move
Aim Ranged weapon
Seek cover Cover in same zone
Grab the wheel Vehicle
Drive Vehicle Move
Use item Varies Varies


If you help another player character or NPC perform an action, it costs you one action of the same kind (slow or fast). You have to state that you are helping someone before any dice are rolled. Helping others breaks the initiative order in the Round. You can read more about helping under “Help From Others”.


To move during combat, you can spend a fast action to run from one zone to a neighboring zone or between Short and Engaged range from an enemy or PC in the same zone you are already in. No roll is required to run, unless it’s into a Cluttered zone.

Crawling: If you are prone, you can’t run. Instead, you must crawl. Crawling works just like running, but it’s a slow action. That means you can’t crawl twice in the same round. In a Cramped zone, crawling is the only movement possible.

Close Combat: If you have an active enemy at Engaged range, you can’t just walk away from them. Instead, you must retreat.

Doors & Hatches: You can open an unlocked door or hatch with a fast action. A locked door or hatch can be broken down. A typical wooden door or hatch can take 5 points of damage before it gives in. More sturdy doors require more force, and also have an Armor Rating.


If you’re losing a fight, it might be better to retreat and perhaps return with back-up. If you want to leave the conflict immediately, and you don’t have any enemies at Engaged range, you can roll for Move – a successful roll means you manage to get away somehow, and the conflict is over. If the roll fails, you remain in combat with your opponent and cannot get away – you remain where you are.

You cannot flee in this way if you are trapped or surrounded. The GM has final say. You cannot use your roll to move past an opponent – you must flee in the same direction you came from. The GM can modify your roll depending on the terrain and the distance to the next opponent, see the table below.

Short -1
Medium 0
Long +1


The key to winning a conflict is often attacking when your enemy least expects it. You can achieve this in several different ways.

Sneak Attack: When you stalk someone and your attack catches them unawares, it’s called a sneak attack. First, roll an opposed roll with your Sneak versus your target’s Scout. You get a modification depending on how close you want to go; see the table below. If you want to attack in close combat, you usually have to move to within Engaged range of your enemy. If you fail, your opponent spots you at your starting distance – draw initiative.

If you succeed, you get a free action (slow or fast, but not both) before you draw the initiative. Your target cannot block a sneak attack. Sneak attacks are always done individually, by one attacker against one target.

Ambush: A special kind of sneak attack is an ambush; you lie in wait for your enemy and attack when they come close. When you ambush someone, you roll for Sneak against Scout as described above, but with a modification of +2 for the attacker, since it is the target and not the attacker that is moving.

Ambushes can be carried out by a group and against a group of targets. This follows the usual rules for stealth – the character with the lowest Sneak1 skill level rolls for the attackers, while the target with highest Scout skill level rolls for the targets.


Engaged -2
Short -1
Medium 0
Long +1
Ambush +2


Sometimes, you can make things go your way without resorting to violence. Instead, you trick or convince your opponents without drawing your weapon. This might even be possible in the midst of combat, if the GM judges it plausible. For non-violent conflicts, you use the Manipulate skill.

What you ask of your opponent or what you want them to do must be within reason – no NPC will agree to do anything or act completely against their own interests, no matter how good your roll is.


When you try to convince or bluff someone, make an opposed roll of Manipulate versus your opponent’s Sense Emotion. It only counts as a (slow) action for you. If you successfully persuade your opponent, they must either do what you want or immediately escalate the conflict and attack you using physical violence.

Even if your opponent chooses to do what you want, they can still demand something in return. The GM decides what that entails, but it should be reasonable enough for you to be able to meet those demands. It is up to you to accept the agreement or not.


Your chances of persuading someone successfully are affected by your negotiating position, which is determined by the GM. Each of the following factors modifies your roll by +1:

Each of the following factors modifies your roll by -1.


When you want to manipulate a whole group, you usually address the group’s leader or spokesperson. Remember that your roll is modified by -1 if your opponent has more people on their side. If you reach an agreement with the leader, the rest of the group usually follows. If there is no given leader it’s harder – every single opponent acts individually.


To manipulate someone, you usually need to be in the same zone, but it can sometimes be done at longer distances or via radio. The GM modifies your roll negatively if she deems that the range impairs your negotiating position (see above).


When you attack someone with your bare fists or a melee weapon, you use the Fight skill. Close combat usually happens at Engaged range from your target. You can fight unarmed or use a weapon, which gives you a Gear Bonus. Drawing a melee weapon from its sheath or a belt is a fast action.

To attack an opponent in close combat, you need to be standing on your feet. If you are prone, you must first spend a fast action to get up before you can attack. While you are prone, standing enemies get a +2 modification on all close combat attacks against you.


If your Fight roll is successful, your attack hits and you inflict damage to your target’s Strength equal to the weapon’s Damage rating. Damage may be mitigated by armor.

Stunts: For every extra success you roll, choose one of these stunts:


If you are attacked in close combat, you can choose to block the attack, to avoid being hit. Blocking is a fast action, and you roll for Fight. You must declare that you are going to block before the attacker rolls for their strike. For each success you roll, choose an effect below:

Reactive Action: Blocking is a reaction that breaks the normal initiative order in the Round. However, it does count against your two available actions in the Round (one slow and one fast). Each time you block, you lose one action later in the Round, and if you have already used both your actions, you can’t block. When it’s your time to act, it might therefore be wise to save your fast action if you fear you might be attacked later in the Round.

Blocking Unarmed: If you are unarmed, you can only block unarmed attacks from other humans. To block an armed close combat attack, or an attack by an animal or beast of some type, you need to wield some kind of sturdy weapon or tool.


If you grapple your opponent as a stunt in close combat (see above), both you and your opponent fall to the ground. The opponent drops any weapon they were holding, and cannot move. The only action they can perform is an attempt to break free – which is a slow action that succeeds if the opponent wins an opposed Fight roll against you. While you are grappling, the only action you can perform (apart from releasing your opponent) is a grapple attack. This works as a normal unarmed attack, but is a fast action and cannot be blocked.


If you have an active enemy at Engaged range, you must make a Move roll to move away to Short range from them. If you fail, you still move but your enemy gets a free close combat attack against you. The free attack doesn’t count toward their actions in the Round and you can’t block it.


When you shoot at someone from a distance, roll for Shoot. You need to be able to see your target. You also need a ranged weapon, even if it’s simply something to throw. You’ll find a table with various weapons here. To draw a weapon is a fast action, while firing a weapon is a slow action.


If you take your time to aim carefully before squeezing the trigger, you get a +2 to your attack roll. Aiming is a fast action. If you do anything else except shoot your weapon after you have aimed, or if you are hurt, you lose the effect of the aim and you need to spend another fast action to aim again.


The weapons tables indicate the range of each weapon, i.e. the maximum range category at which the weapon can be used. The farther away your target is, the harder it is to hit. At Medium range you get a -1 modification, and at Long range you get -2. At Engaged range you get -3, because it’s hard to draw a bead on an opponent that close. You don’t get this penalty if you fire at a defenseless or unwitting enemy – instead, you get a +3 modification.

Target Size

Firing at a large target, such as a vehicle, gives a +2 modification to the attack. Firing at a small object, such a hatch or a hand-held item, gives a -2 modification.


Aimed shot +2
Target Engaged -3/+3
Short range
Medium range -1
Long range -2
Extreme range -3
Large target +2
Small target -2
Dim light -1
Darkness -2


If your attack hits, you inflict damage to your target’s Strength equal to the weapon’s Damage rating. For every extra success you roll, choose one of these stunts:


Ammunition for firearms can be handled in different ways, depending on the technological level of the game setting and level of complexity you want in your game. You can count individual bullets if you like, group them together into “shots” comprised of several bullets, or use a more abstract system. Simple single-shot weapons need to be reloaded after each shot. Reloading a firearm is a slow action.


Bows and slingshots cannot be “reloaded” as such – instead, you need to spend a fast action to prepare the weapon by nocking an arrow or placing a stone in your sling. Once you have readied your weapon, you can’t do anything except shoot or aim (above) – if you do anything else, you must prepare the weapon again before you can shoot. Crossbows don’t need to be prepared in this manner. They can be carried loaded as a firearm, and loading it is a slow action.


As a fast action, you can assume an overwatch position in a specified direction, as long as you have a ranged weapon and no enemies within Engaged range. This means that you aim in the specified direction and are ready to shoot. Between the time you assume the overwatch position and your time to act in the next Round, you can fire your weapon against a target in the chosen direction.

You can fire whenever you want in the turn order, and your shot is resolved before all other actions – even if they are already declared. For example, if an enemy in the direction you are aiming declares that they want to fire a weapon, you can shoot first. The enemy is not allowed to change their attack after your overwatch attack.

Firing when in overwatch position counts as a normal attack (a slow action). Therefore, you must save your slow action in the Round for any overwatch attack you want to make.

If both you and an enemy assume overwatch positions against each other, and both choose to fire against each other, then an opposed Shoot roll determines which attack goes first. This roll does not count as an action for either of you.

Losing Overwatch: You keep your overwatch position as long as you do nothing but shoot in the chosen direction. If you perform any other action, the overwatch position is lost. It is also immediately lost if either of the following occurs:


Using a weapon will greatly improve your effectiveness in combat. The table below describe a few typical weapons of various types. Which exact weapons to include in your game depends greatly on the setting of the game. The features used in the weapon tables are explained below.

Grip indicates if you need one or two hands to wield the weapon. A two-handed weapon can’t be combined with a shield, and some critical injuries will prohibit the use of two-handed weapons.

Bonus indicates how many Gear Dice you can roll when using the weapon. Remember that the Gear Bonus can be reduced if you push your roll – the bonus decreases by one for every bane you have rolled. If the Gear Bonus is reduced to zero, the weapon breaks and needs to be fixed using the Craft skill.

Damage indicates your base Damage rating, i.e., how many points of damage to Strength your opponent suffers if your attack is successful. If you roll extra successes, you can deal additional damage.

Range indicates the maximum range category at which the weapon can be used.

Weight indicates how many typical items the weapon counts as in the inventory list.


Unarmed 1 Engaged
Blunt instrument 1H +1 1 Engaged 1
Knife 1H +1 2 Engaged 1/2
Club 1H +2 1 Engaged 1
Sword 1H +2 2 Engaged 1
Battleaxe 2H +2 3 Engaged 2
Spear 1H +1 2 Short 1
Thrown rock 1H 1 Medium 1/4
Sling 1H +1 1 Medium 1/2
Bow 2H +1 1 Long 1
Pistol 1H +2 2 Medium 1/2
Rifle 2H +2 2 Long 1


Year Zero Engine games can be deadly. The rewards for your PC may be great, but the only thing you know for sure is that you will suffer all sorts of damage along the way. Damage can come in many forms, and reduces one of your four attribute scores:

Damage to Strength: Bleeding wounds, broken bones, and pain. This is the default type of damage. If the type of damage is not specified, it’s always damage to Strength.

Damage to Agility: Physical fatigue and exhaustion.

Damage to Wits: Fear, panic, confusion, misjudgment. Read more about fear here.

Damage to Empathy: Cynicism, distrust, callousness.


You can suffer damage in many ways. These are the two most common:

(Other sources include falling, drowning, fire, explosions, and some poisons.)


By wearing armor, you can protect your body from damage to Strength. Armor doesn’t provide protection from other kinds of damage, or from damage you inflict on yourself when you push a roll.

The effect of armor is determined by its Armor Rating. When you suffer damage from a physical attack, you roll a number of Gear Dice equal to the Armor Rating. Every success you roll decreases the damage by one. This roll does not count as an action and cannot be pushed.

If any damage penetrates your armor, its Armor Rating is decreased – every bane you rolled reduces the Armor Rating by one. If the armor absorbed all the damage, any banes rolled has no effect. Armor can be repaired by using the Craft skill.

Helmets: You can only wear one type of armor at a time, but you can combine body armor with a helmet. Add the Armor Rating of any helmet you wear to the rating of your body armor before you roll. If the armor is degraded, you can choose if it is the body armor or the helmet that is damaged.

All helmets also have an extra effect: If despite the armor roll you suffer physical critical injury #16, #64 or #65 (see the table here), roll a number of Gear Dice equal to the Armor Rating of the helmet. If you roll one or more successes, the critical injury is changed to the #12 instead. A solid helmet can save your life!


When enemies are shooting at you, hunkering down behind cover – preferably something solid – can save your life. Taking cover in the zone you’re in counts as a fast action. Cover has an Armor Rating and works exactly like armor – but only against ranged attacks. Cover can be degraded just like armor. Cover can be combined with armor – roll for cover first, then armor.

Furniture 3
Wooden Door 4
Tree Trunk 5
Wooden Wall 6
Stone Wall 8


When an attribute score reaches zero, you are Broken. This means that you are put out of action in one way or another. Exactly what it means to be Broken depends on what attribute has been depleted:

Strength: You’re knocked senseless. Roll for a physical critical injury. If you’re not dead, you can only crawl and mumble through the pain. You can’t perform any other actions and you can’t roll for any skills.

Agility: You collapse from exhaustion. You can only crawl and wheeze. You can’t perform any other actions and you can’t roll for any skills.

Wits: You’re paralyzed by fear or confusion. Roll for a mental critical injury. If you remain conscious, you can run to a safe place, but you can’t perform any other actions and you can’t roll for any skills.

Empathy: You break down in despair or self-pity. You must either explode in a violent outburst, kicking and breaking everything around you, or withdraw from everyone around you. In either case, you’re uncommunicative until you’ve recovered a point of Empathy.


You can’t go below zero in any attribute. If you suffer any further damage to Strength or Wits while Broken, you suffer another critical injury.


An opponent who has lost all Strength or Agility is defenseless. If it’s an intelligent being (with Wits) and you want to give him a coup de grace and kill him outright, you must fail an Empathy roll (roll for the attribute only). Even if the roll fails, you suffer one point of damage to Empathy – killing in cold blood is not as easy as you might think. Some talents can let you kill defenseless enemies without these negative effects.


As long as you’re not Broken, you recover one lost attribute point per Turn (5-10 minutes) of rest, assuming you’re not suffering from any condition that blocks recovery. If you have several damaged attributes, you decide the order in which they are healed. Using the Heal skill on you has no effect if you’re not Broken.


If you are Broken, the fastest way to recover is for someone else in the same zone to treat you by a successful Heal roll. You immediately recover a number of points in the Broken attribute equal to the number of successes rolled. Further Heal rolls have no effect, and the same person can only try once. If no one helps you within one Turn, you recover anyway and get one point back in the relevant attribute score. After you’re no longer Broken, you recover the remaining lost attribute points normally (above). Critical injuries can still affect you after all your attributes are restored, however.

Critical Injuries: If your Strength is Broken and you have suffered a critical injury, there might be a risk that you will die unless you are treated in time. Read more below.


Being Broken is always bad, but having your Strength or Wits Broken is especially dangerous – it can trigger long term effects and even cost you your life. The critical damage tables are found below. Roll D66 on the table for the type of damage you have suffered – physical (if your Strength is Broken), or mental (if your Wits is Broken).


If you suffer a critical injury listed as fatal, you must make a Death Roll when the listed time runs out. A Death Roll is a roll for Endure, using your full Strength score, modified by the number in the Fatal column. You are not allowed to push the roll. If the Death Roll fails, you die. If you succeed, you linger on but you must make another Death Roll when the same amount of time has passed.

Broken: If you are both Broken and have sustained a fatal critical injury (or several), two separate Heal rolls are needed: one to get you back on your feet, and another one to save your life. These two rolls can be made in whichever order you prefer.

Instant Death: Note that there are a small number of critical injuries that kill you outright. If you roll any of these, that’s it. Time to create a new character.


Each critical injury has a specific effect that you suffer during the healing time indicated – measured in days.

Care: If someone manages to Heal you during the process of healing a critical injury, the remaining healing time is reduced by half. Any earlier roll to save your life does not count towards this – a new roll is required to reduce the healing time.

Attribute Points: Note that you can recover all your lost attribute points, but still suffer the effects of a critical injury.


For some special types of physical damage – for example from fire, cold, starvation, etc. – the critical damage table is not used. Instead, the effects of being Broken by these forms of damage are described in the relevant rules section below.


There is one case where you don’t risk any critical injury when Broken: when you push a roll so hard that you break yourself. This is very rare, but it can happen. This means you can never kill yourself by pushing a roll.


11 Winded No None.
12 Stunned No None.
13 Crippling pain No None.
14 Sprained ankle No Move -2 and can’t run until Heal roll is made.
15 Blood in eyes No Scout and Shoot -2 until Heal roll is made.
16 Concussion No Move -2. D6
21 Severed ear No Scout -2. D6
22 Broken toes No To run becomes a slow action. D6
23 Broken hand No Can’t use hand. D6
24 Knocked out teeth No Manipulate -2. D6
25 Impaled thigh No To run becomes a slow action. 2D6
26 Slashed shoulder No Can’t use arm. D6
31 Broken nose No Manipulate and Scout -1. D6
32 Crotch hit No One point of damage at every roll for Move and Fight. D6
33 Broken ribs No Move and Scout -2. 2D6
34 Gouged eye No Shoot and Scout -2. 2D6
35 Busted kneecap No Can’t run, only crawl. 2D6
36 Broken arm No Can’t use arm. 2D6
41 Broken leg No Can’t run, only crawl. 2D6
42 Crushed foot No Can’t run, only crawl. 3D6
43 Crushed elbow No Can’t use arm. 3D6
44 Punctured lung Yes Day Endure and Move -2. D6
45 Bleeding gut Yes Shift One point of damage at every roll for Move and Fight. D6
46 Ruptured intestines Yes Shift Disease with Virulence 6. 2D6
51 Busted kidney Yes Day Can’t run, only crawl, Move -2. 2D6
52 Severed arm artery Yes -1 Turn Can’t use arm. D6
53 Severed leg artery Yes -1 Turn To run becomes a slow action. D6
54 Severed arm Yes -1 Shift Can’t use arm. Permanent
55 Severed leg Yes -1 Shift Can’t run, only crawl. Permanent
56 Cracked spine No Paralyzed from the neck down. If not given Healed in time, the effect is permanent. 3D6
61 Ruptured jugular Yes -1 Round Endure -1. 2D6
62 Ruptured aorta Yes -2 Round Endure -2. 3D6
63 Disemboweled Yes Instant death.
64 Crushed skull Yes Your story ends here.
65 Pierced head Yes You die immediately.
66 Impaled heart Yes Your heart beats for the last time.


11-16 Trembling Modification -1 to all rolls for Agility. D6
21 White hair None. Permanent
22-24 Anxious Modification -1 to all rolls for Wits. D6
25-31 Sullen Modification -1 to all rolls for Empathy. D6
32-35 Nightmares Make a Sense Emotion roll every Shift spent sleeping. Failure means that the sleep doesn’t count. D6
36-41 Nocturnal You can only sleep during the light part of the day. 2D6
42-43 Phobic You are terrified by something related to what Broke you. The GM decides what it is. You suffer one point of damage to Wits each round within Short range of the object of your phobia. 2D6
44-45 Alcoholic You must drink alcohol every day, or suffer one point of damage to Agility. 3D6
46-51 Claustrophobic Every Turn in a confined environment, you suffer one point of damage to Wits. 2D6
52 Mythomaniac You cannot stop yourself from lying. About everything. The effect should be roleplayed. 2D6
53-54 Paranoia You are certain that someone is out to get you. The effect should be roleplayed. 2D6
55 Delusion You are totally convinced of something that is totally untrue, for example that a certain color or item doesn’t exist. 3D6
56 Hallucinations Make an Sense Emotion roll every Shift. If you fail, you suffer a powerful hallucination. The GM determines the details. 3D6
61-62 Altered personality Your personality is altered in a fundamental way. Determine how together with the GM. The effect should be roleplayed. Permanent
63 Amnesia You lose all memory, and cannot recollect who you or the other PCs are. The effect should be roleplayed. D6
64-65 Catatonic You stare blankly into oblivion, and do not respond to any stimuli. D6
66 Heart attack Your heart stops, and you die of pure fright.


In the Year Zero Engine, there are four conditions your PC can suffer: Starving, Dehydrated, Exhausted, and Freezing. These can cause damage and block recovery. Mark conditions in the relevant check boxes on your character sheet.


You must eat a ration of food at least once every day, triggering a Supply roll for food. After a day without food, you become Starving. This has several effects:


You must drink a ration of water at least once per day, triggering a Supply roll for water. After a day without water, you become Dehydrated. This has several effects:


You need to sleep for at least one Shift each day. After one day without sleep, you become Exhausted. This has several effects:


In an environment without enough clothes or shelter, you become Freezing. Being Freezing has several effects:


A fire is measured in Intensity. A typical fire has Intensity 8. When exposed to fire, roll a number of Base Dice equal to the Intensity. For every success rolled, you suffer one point of damage. Armor can protect you.

If you take damage, you catch fire and continue to burn and suffer another attack at the start of each new Round. The Intensity increases by one each Round. As soon as a fire attack inflicts no damage, the fire goes out by itself. You, or a friend at Engaged range, can put out the fire with a successful Move roll (slow action).

If you are Broken by fire damage, or suffer fire damage when already Broken, you must make a Death Roll every Round until you die or you are saved by a Heal roll.


The force of an explosion is measured in Blast Power. For each person within Short range of the blast when the detonation occurs, roll a number of Base Dice equal to the Blast Power. For every success rolled, the victim suffers one point of damage. The roll cannot be pushed. Victims at Engaged range from the detonation suffer one extra point of damage.

Effect Radius: Powerful charges, with a Blast Power of 7 or more, can harm people even at Medium range. The Blast Power is then reduced by 6. If there are many people within Medium range of the blast, the GM can simplify the process by rolling once and applying the result to all victims.


Falling on a hard surface automatically inflicts an amount of damage to you equal to the height of the fall (in meters) divided by 2, rounding all fractions down. In a controlled jump, roll Move – each success rolled reduces the damage done by one. Armor can also protect you from falling damage, but not if it is made of metal.


All PCs are assumed to know how to swim. If you end up in water, you need to make an Endure roll every Turn to stay afloat. If you wear metal armor, you need to roll every Round.

If you sink, you need to make and Endure roll every Round to hold your breath. If you fail, you start to drown and suffer one point of damage to Strength every round until someone saves you. If you are Broken when drowning, you die after one Turn.


Poisons are measured by Potency. A weak poison has Potency 3, a strong poison has Potency 6, and an extremely potent poison can have Potency 9 or even more. If you ingest poison in some manner, roll an opposed roll against the GM – she rolls a number of Base Dice equal to the Potency and you roll for Endure. If the poison wins, you suffer its full effect. If you win the roll, you only suffer the limited effect of the poison.


Full Effect: You take one point of damage to Strength each Round until you are Broken. Your critical injury counts as non-typical. If you drink an antidote in time, the effect of the poison is halted.

Limited Effect: You take one point of damage to Strength.


Full Effect: You take one point of damage to Agility each round until you are Broken. If you drink an antidote in time, the effect of the poison is halted.

Limited Effect: You take one point of damage to Agility.


Full Effect: You take one point of damage to Wits each round until you are Broken, at which time you fall unconscious for one Shift. You don’t suffer a critical injury. If you drink an antidote in time, the effect of the poison is halted.

Limited Effect: You take one point of damage to Wits.


Full Effect: You take one point of damage to Empathy each round until you are Broken. If you drink an antidote in time, the effect of the poison is halted.

Limited Effect: You take 1 point of damage to Empathy.


When exposed to a dangerous contagion or infection, you need to roll an opposed roll for Endure against the Virulence rating of the disease. This is called a sickness roll. A typical disease has a Virulence of 3, but there are diseases with much higher ratings. If you fail the roll, you fall Sick, which has several effects:


If you are cared for by someone during your sickness, this person can roll your sickness rolls instead of you. The healer rolls for their Heal skill against the Virulence of the disease.


Terrifying experiences, be it from fantastical creatures or mundane horrors, cause what is called fear attacks. A fear attack is rolled with a number of Base Dice. Each success rolled causes one point of damage to Wits. All fear attacks have Short range, unless stated otherwise. Some fear attacks target a single victim, while other affect everyone within range.


When you are in complete darkness and lack night vision, you have no choice but to feel your way forward/around. To run in complete darkness requires a successful Move roll, and you generally take one point of damage if you fail that roll.

You can attack Engaged opponents normally in darkness, but you must first Scout successfully to be able to target them. This action takes no time in combat – you can Scout and then attack directly in the same round.

You cannot Shoot at targets at Medium range or more in total darkness. You can shoot opponents at Engaged or Short range, but only if you make a Scout roll first. All attacks in darkness are modified by -2.


A horse or other riding animal can be a useful asset. The animal can carry gear for you, and you can take advantage of being in the saddle during combat.

Movement: Riding animals allow you to move faster across the battlefield than if you are on foot. Every animal has a Movement Rate. This determines how many zones the animal can move with a fast action. Humanoids have Movement Rate 1 and most riding animals have Movement Rate 2.

Mounts generally can’t move into Cramped zones at all. In Cluttered zones, their Movement Rate counts as 1.

Move: When you are on horseback and make a Move roll, use the animal’s Agility instead of your own.

Close Combat: You can fight from horseback, but only with one-handed weapons. Opponents attacking you must decide if they attack you or the horse. Attacks against a mounted rider suffer a -1 penalty.

Ranged Combat: All ranged attacks from horseback suffer a -2 modification. Opponents shooting at you must decide if they attack you or the horse.

Damage: Your animal can suffer damage, just like you can, through attacks or by pushing rolls when you are using the animal’s attribute score. Animals recover damage just like adventurers. An animal that has its Strength reduced to zero does not suffer a critical injury, instead it is considered perished. Animals generally don’t have Wits or Empathy.



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  1. ERRATA (2023-01-02): Changed from the “Move” skill, for consistency with the description in Sneak↩︎