22 November 2022

How to Create a Swashbuckler in Zorro: The Roleplaying Game

Cover art of Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, published by Gallant Knight Games.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, published by Gallant Knight Games in 2020, "gives you all the tools and information you need to experience the swashbuckling, dramatic, and cinematic action of the legends and stories of Zorro!"

The burb on the back cover continues;

Players will be able to work alongside Zorro as part of Zorro's Legion, or even take on the role of the legendary hero! The book is rife with details about Zorro's adventures in Alta California, as well as providing rules to emulate the legendary actions of this masked hero of the people.
Featuring two full adventures, a solo adventure, numerous adventure seeds, 15 templates for characters, character creation, and a full bestiary of foes and animals, this high-paced game is powered by the newest edition of the D6 System from legendary publisher West End Games!

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game offers two ways to create a player character: templates and full customization. In the first method, the player selects a template complete with attributes, equipment, background, and personality. The player provides the character's name and description and distributes 7D (seven six-sided dice) amongst the character's skills. Templates include:

  • Faithful Friar/Sister
  • Enterprising Local
  • Brave Doña/Don
  • Brash Soldado
  • Sniveling Don/Doña
  • Sneaky Sister/Friar
  • Thieving Scum
  • Rabble-Rousing Rebel
  • Clever Horse-Trainer
  • Nervous Bandit
  • Scheming Scholar
  • Stalwart Doctor
  • Military Maestro
  • Experienced Cavalier
  • Charming Musician

Creating a customized character involves more steps, but is a simple process. Distribute 12D amongst the five attributes. No attribute may be lower than 1D nor higher than 4D. Distribute 7D amongst the character's skills. No skill may be higher than 2D. Defense numbers are then calculated: Dodge equals Perception x 5; Parry equals Agility x 5. Name the character, describe the character, compose a brief background, and select equipment.

Both methods are equally valid, but for the purpose of this article I shall choose full customization.

Compadres, please meet my first character for Zorro: The Roleplaying Game:

Name: Gustavo Lobo

Idealistic Poet

Agility 3D
      Melee 1D
Brawn 2D
Knowledge 3D
      Languages 1D
      Scholar 1D
Perception 2D
      Driving/Riding/Piloting 1D
      Investigation 1D
Charm 2D
      Persuasion 1D
      Willpower 1D

Dodge 10
Parry 15

Languages: Spanish, Nahuatl

Equipment: Fancy clothes, journal, sword, 100 dinero

Background: Gustavo Lobo is the son of a don and doña. He was educated in Spain where he acquired a love of literature, philosophy, and duelling. Upon his return to the New World, he embarked on a journey across Mexico where he learned the language and some of the surviving literature of the Aztecs. Equally motivated by art and justice, he has devoted himself to fighting oppression, preserving culture, and inspiring others.

Appearance: He is a man in his twenties with lively eyes and dark hair (already tinged with gray) that tends to flare out at the sides like a flame. He is of medium build and average height with broad shoulders.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game has an intuitive, streamlined approach to character creation and an action resolution system to match. The skill system is focused on the likely activities of swashbuckling heroes and their enemies, which prevents the rules from being ungainly. I think it's a well-executed refinement of the D6 System, and I hope they use it to good advantage in adapting other swashbuckling genres. I can't wait to run this game.

[For more articles in this series, visit How to Create a Swashbuckler.]

[This article is cross-posted in Theoretical Swashbuckling.]

10 October 2022

Dice Pools of Reasonable Size

Simple dice pools are amongst my favorite innovations in RPG rules engineering, especially when the dice have six sides, but there is a downside: adding the results of Big Gobs of Dice. Here I am referring to the standard dice pool made famous with Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and The D6 System, i.e. abilities are represented by a number of six-sided dice that you roll in an effort to equal or exceed a target number or beat the roll of an opponent. Sheer elegance in its simplicity!* The problem, my friends, is that the number of dice one must roll and count becomes unwieldy and — after a while — a tad wearisome. What to do?

One could substitute binary dice or coins in the manner of Prince Valiant or Faery's Tale, which doesn't reduce the number of randomizers, but does increase the speed with which the average player can add them; or one could read the dice normally, but reduce the number of dice rolled. The latter method I call

Dice Pools of Reasonable Size

This method requires a complete rethinking of character abilities and target numbers, but the key is Extreme Simplification. (Enjoying the uppercase shenanigans? Excellent.) Extreme Simplification enables Easy Memorization resulting in Maximum Fluidity of Play. (O.K., enough shenigans.) In other words, we will reduce the number of dice in the pool to the minimum possible that is required. Abilities (characteristics, attributes, etc.) will vary from 1 to 3, with 2 being average. Specialties (skills, talents, etc.) will vary from 1 to 2, with one representing competance and 2 representing mastery. At most, a character with the highest possible attribute and mastery in a skill will be rolling 5 dice.

Such a change in the size of dice pools will naturally require a change in target numbers. I propose the following difficulty chart:

  • 4 = Low Difficulty
  • 8 = Moderate Difficulty
  • 12 = High Difficulty
  • 16 = Extreme Difficulty

I think this could probably be applied to any D6 role-playing game, but I have not yet playtested any of this. Use at your own risk. And please comment if you do (or if you have any thoughts whatsoever on the topic).

* The Middleman forever!

11 August 2022

RPGaDay 2022: Day 11

If you could live in a game setting, where would it be?

Still from the movie Ghostbusters (1984).

My first instinct is to say the setting of Ghostbusters, because I'd really like to be a Ghostbuster as my day job (or night job).

[I just noticed that the first six words of this answer are identical to this one, which was also about Ghostbusters, so I think it's fair to say I have the instincts of a Ghostbuster. Sign me up!]

[For more information on #RPGaDay (or #RPGaDay2022 specifically), read this.]

02 July 2022

We Interrupt This Blog

In May, I posed the question, "What should I write about next?" In early June, I revealed the results of the poll. It is now early July, and although I am not ready to post the Teenagers from Outer Space and ACE! RPG articles yet, I am cross-posting (or is it re-posting?) this article from Applied Phantasticality (1 August 2017). Just to whet the appetite. And buy some time.

RPGaDay 2017: Day 01

1. What published RPG [game, world, or adventure] do you wish you were playing right now?

Cover of two editions of Teenagers from Outer Space, a role-playing game by R. Talsorian Games.

I am in the mood to play multiple role-playing games and settings at any moment, but at this exact moment I feel the urge to play Teenagers from Outer Space by Mike Pondsmith. Published by R. Talsorian Games in the late 1980s, it is "set on an Earth where fun-loving space aliens go to our high schools and party with the Earth kids. In the game you play the part of a teenager — alien or human — and have adventures fighting mutant monstrosities, saving the world from ravening rabbits from the X dimension, and getting your homework in on time." In other words, you engage in sci fi teenage high jinks.

The game system is simple and transparent (features I find very attractive and all too rare), and the writing is whimsical without being forced. The character attributes (or Statistics) offer a clear picture of the flavor of the game: Smarts, Bod, Relationship with Parents, Luck, Driving, Looks, Cool, and Bonk. (Bonk is how much punishment you can take.)

The cover art for the two editions offer somewhat different visions of the game. The first, by Mike Ebert, is suggestive of manga, whereas the second, by Wayne Barlowe, reflects the 1980s America in which the game was written. My own instincts draw me inexorably toward a sci fi 1950s interpretation inspired by the movie that inspired the game's title (plus every other sci fi and/or monster movie of the 1950s). Or a blend of all three.

Teenagers from Outer Space is light, easy, comedic fun, which is exactly what I'm in the mood for right now.

[For more information on #RPGaDAY (or #RPGaDAY2017 specifically), read this.]

04 June 2022

Poll vs. Random Table Decided

The votes are in, which means the Poll or Random Table? question has been decided in favor of Poll. However, the (two) votes have been counted, and the result is a tie between Teenagers from Outer Space and ACE! RPG. I hereby resolve that I shall honor both in the order in which the votes were cast:

  1. Teenagers from Outer Space
  2. ACE! RPG

Stay tuned!

21 May 2022

Poll or Random Table?

Is it a poll or is it a random table? You decide.

What should I write about next?

Cast your vote in the comments or I'll roll 1d6.

1. Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition
2. Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls
3. Teenagers from Outer Space
4. Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game
5. Awfully Cheerful Engine! RPG
6. Other

26 April 2022

My Brief Experience with TOON

Cover of TOON: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game (published by Steve Jackson Games).

I've never played TOON: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game as a player, but I did run one session of it in late 1980-something when I was in 11th or 12th grade. The game was well written and organized, but I had two qualms about it. First, there was too much of it. Now, the rule book wasn't a massive tome (at least, its first edition wasn't), but I felt nonetheless that there was too much reading expected of a person running a light game inspired by the zaniness of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Such a game ought to be as light as helium, and I think Awfully Cheerful Engine! RPG comes closer to the mark. Second, TOON, in the Steve Jackson Games tradition, uses the low-rolling six-sider method of action resolution, specifically: roll equal to or lower than an attribute or skill on 2d6 to succeed. It's functional, but lacks excitement. I think a system in which you're shooting for high numbers, perhaps with exploding dice, is a better fit for the genre (and, again, ACE! RPG has it right).

I found TOON to be O.K., but my players and I were not motivated enough to pursue it beyond a single session. I did, however, a make a few player characters of my own, and although I never had the opportunity to play them, I still have the character sheets as well as a bit of character art, which you may view below. (The Little Green Man character in the third image was to be named Zilch or Nix according to my notes.)

TOON character sheet for Big Bad Jack.
Drawings I made of my TOON character, Big Bad Jack.
TOON character sheet for Zilch, a green alien.

19 March 2022

Tunnels & Trolls: The First Six-Sider Role-Playing Game

Cover of Tunnels & Trolls 1st edition reprint.

The world's second role-playing game, Tunnels & Trolls, also happens to be the first role-playing game to use six-sided dice exclusively. Not only was it played with more easily obtained dice, it also had easier rules.

Character Creation

Player character attributes are generated by rolling three dice for each of the following: Strength, Intelligence, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma. Starting gold is generated by rolling three dice and multiplying by 10. Height and weight are determined by rolling three dice and consulting a chart.


Each weapon has dice and "adds" (a number added to the dice roll). Characters might add or subtract further adds based on certain above average or below average attributes. Monsters have dice and adds based on their Monster Rating. In combat, the members of each party roll their dice and adds, combining them all. The lower number is subtracted from the higher number and the remainder is the damage inflicted on the losing party (minus any armor that might be worn), with the damage divided amongst its members.

Saving Rolls

Whenever a character attempts to do something risky or avoid something, the player makes a "saving roll" by rolling two dice. Doubles "add and roll over." The target number varies depending on the level of difficulty.

120 minus attribute
225 minus attribute
330 minus attribute
435 minus attribute

This progresses according to the formula: (Level x 5) + 15 = # to shoot for

Normally, saving rolls are made versus a character's Luck, but sometimes other attributes will be used instead.


Tunnels & Trolls may not have used "D6" (or "d6") dice notation, but it was clearly a system centered on the six-sider, and its influence on the role-playing hobby can be felt to this day. In fact, not only can you buy the latest edition, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, but you can even buy the First Edition Reprint from Flying Buffalo Inc. PDFs are also available via DriveThruRPG.com including a free short version of the rule book, a Beginner's Bundle for T&T, the 1st edition rules, Deluxe T&T, and even the 4th edition rules. (The edition I've always played — 5th — no longer seems to be available through official channels, but might still be found elsewhere.)

06 March 2022

Judge Dredd D6

EN Publishing's custodianship of Judge Dredd role-playing, Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 A.D., has come to an end, and once again I am left with something that will become more of a source book than a rule book because I have decided that instead of clinging to rules that are "unofficial" anyways, I shall merely convert it to something I like better: The D6 System 2nd edition, ACE! RPG, Sherpa, Savage Worlds, or perhaps my own system (still in progress). As much as I approve of Judge Dredd going D6 dice pool, I think the W.O.I.N. adaptation is too cumbersome. Judge Dredd role-playing ought to be fast, intuitive, and exciting. I think it can be made better with minimal effort, and I can still use the Games Workshop and EN Publishing books as the excellent source books they are.

27 February 2022

News at 6-Sided: Judge Dredd Clearance Sale

I just learned that EN Publishing's rights to publish Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 A.D. expire tomorrow, the last day of February. Until the end of the 28th (GMT, I assume), most of the related material will be discounted at the EN Publishing Judge Dredd RPG clearance sale and at the DriveThruRPG Judge Dredd RPG sale, after which none of it will be available again.

It's very short notice, and I know it's unlikely anyone will learn of it via Decidedly Six-Sided, but I think it's my duty to spread the word for the sake of fellow Judge Dredd fans who are also D6 gamers.