Welcome to the Simple RP System, or SRPS. I hope that you will find this system clean, simple, and able to be used to craft the world of your and your players’ dreams. This system is designed to be extensible, meaning, it is just a baseline. Rules are intentionally vague and only cover the most generic of situations so that you, the story teller, are more able to tailor to individual situations.
Attributes are the basic building blocks of a character. That is, attributes are what determine everything about how capable – mechanically – a character is. Everything from health and magic, to their ability to play the flute and charm a crowd, or swing a giant axe in battle are determined by their three following attributes:
- Body (BDY): The body attribute is an overall representation of your physical strength and dexterity. When a player puts points in (or takes them from) the BDY attribute, it represents the character gaining or losing overall physical health, stamina, speed, agility, and strength.
- Mind (MND): The mind attribute illustrates a character’s intelligence and wisdom, as well as their cunning and insight.
- Sprit (SPR): The spirit attribute is an indicator of how well grounded a character is in both the emotional and spiritual worlds. The character’s confidence, poise, charm, faith, and magical capability are derived from the spirit.
Attributes start at one and can climb as high as a player is willing to spend the XP to reach. An average adult in good health typically has a five in every attribute. No attribute can have a value of zero, or the character or NPC is considered dead. Scores below three indicate serious damage to that aspect of the character, while scores above seven indicate an extremely matured and well developed aspect.
Starting characters are given points – based on how powerful the ST wishes them to be – and allowed to distribute the points among the attributes. Common values are 15 points for low power campaigns, 18 for moderate power, and 21 for high power campaigns. Generally starting values above 21 are discouraged – characters need room to grow and learn from their lessons. Given the low rate of experience gain in most campaigns, too high of a starting value will lead to stagnant characters and a discouraging feeling of not making any progress for the players.
Skills are what determine a character’s ability to do a certain task. Not all tasks have skills (for example, kicking in a door), but most do. Skills are also used to flesh out a character and make her stand out from the crowd. A characters’ set of skills are generic, but those skills can be increased in certain areas by specializing.
These are the mandatory generic skills that every character has, listed below:
- Attack (BDY): How well a character performs offensively, unarmed or armed.
- Defense (BDY): How well a character performs defensively against an attacker.
- Movement (BDY): How many small actions such as taking a step, jumping on/off a table, or other simple actions outside of attacking that a character can perform in a round.
- Creativity (MND): How well a character can create a solution to a given problem. Making a disguise, playing an instrument, or engineering are examples of this skill.
- Knowledge (MND): How much a character knows about their world and the things that inhabit it. Geography, cultures, science, biology, and book knowledge of magic are some examples.
- Communication (SPR): How well a character can communicate with another being. This includes bartering, diplomacy, begging, and associated skills.
- Magic (SPR): How well a character can manipulate the arcane and divine magical forces.
Creating a new specialty requires first picking which of the skills in your game that the specialty might go under. For example, Shield Use would be considered a Defense specialty. After that, figure out which situations the specialty should apply to. The example, Shield Use, would apply in any case where a shield is used in a defensive situation. Finally, to create a new specialty, the cost is a flat 5 XP from the associated pool of the parent skill.
Note that specialties are considered a flat bonus, and as such, can not improve through allocation of XP. They are considered to be a flat +2 bonus to any check that the specialty would apply to. Also note that if more than one specialty applies to a situation, the +2 bonus from each specialty would be added, up to a limit of 3 specialties.
Skill checks are used whenever a character needs to perform an action that he has a chance of failing. For example, something like pouring water into a glass needs no skill check, but doing so while balancing on a tightrope does. Skill checks are measured against a fixed number that the ST determines ahead of time in the module, which players can check to see if they succeed against.
To determine if a player successfully passed a skill check, the ST will take the player’s applicable skill, and add the associated stat to it. If the sum of those two values is greater than or equal to the difficulty number, the player succeeds at the check. If not, the player fails and cannot check again without the situation changing in some way, changing the difficulty of the action.
For example: Gwyneth wants to climb up a castle wall. She has a Climb skill of 7, and a BDY stat of 5. The ST previously decided that scaling the castle wall was a difficult action, and assigned it a difficulty of 15. When Gwyneth attempts to climb the wall, she adds her Climb skill to her BDY stat and equals 12 – not enough to succeed at the check.
Failure is rarely perminent, though it can have consequences (such as noise when attempted, or other environmental impacts). In the example above, after Gwyneth fails, the player remembers that she has a grappling hook and rope available. Because those are tools to assist in the climb, the ST rules that a +3 modifier to her check is in order, which gives her a 15 – just barely enough to scale the wall.
Characters are the central part to any game. Without characters, there is nothing for the player to use to explore the world that the ST has created for him, and there is no game. However, characters don’t just pop out of thin air, so there needs to be some emphasis on how to create them to suit any world they may have to face! This process is covered below.
Creating a character is ultimately a five stage process. In order, it is Concept, Attributes, Skills, Specialties, and then Equipment/Items. Each stage will be explored in order below, and if followed, will provide a streamlined method for creating a character.
First stage – Concept
The concept of a character is the most important aspect of character generation, and as such, should take the most time. The Concept stage is where the player creates the image of the character in her mind; everything from the history and story to the looks and abilities is sketched out here. During the Concept stage, the player and the ST take a first look over the character to find out what works, what doesn’t, and work together to solidify the general idea. Note taking is recommended here, as the concept for the character will drive every other character generation stage as well as how the character works in the game!
Remember, the idea of this game is that the story and the narrative comes first. When creating a character, let your imagination run wild with what you want to have happen, then then work with the ST at making the rules fit the concept as best as possible. Narrative should drive mechanics, not the other way around.
Second stage – Attributes
Now that the player and ST have a rough idea of the character’s concept, they can move on to giving him some definition through defining attributes. As stated in the attributes section, a typical starting character has between 15 and 21 points to distribute between Body (BDY), Mind (MND), and Spirit (SPR). When distributing the points, keep the character concept in mind – is he fast and lean, steeled against mind games, but on unstable footing with his self-esteem and emotional stability (High BDY and MND, but low SPR)? Or is he a recluse, shut away against the world at large to stay in his ivory tower and immerse himself in his education (Low BDY, high MND, average SPR)? These are questions to always ask yourself as a player and as the ST when assigning the attributes.
Third stage – Skills
Once a character has had her attributes hammered out, she needs to be fleshed out with what she knows. In addition to the seven mandatory skills, players can propose any additional skills they think their character would have to the ST for approval, modification and approval, or disapproval. Create new skills sparingly – the emphasis should be on creating specialties to fit under existing skills, not to create new ones. However, should a new skill category be required (for example, Firearms for a game where guns are a major mechanic and are treated substantially differently than a general Attack check would cover), feel free to create one.
STs should allocate their players skill points roughly equal, across the board for each player, at a level suitable for the difficulty of the module or campaign they are about to play – typically 28 for beginners, 34 for an intermediate level group, and 41 for experts. However, if a player’s character has a concept that justifies a couple additional bonus points, don’t hesitate to allow them the bonus points. The rule of fun applies here as much as anywhere else in the game!
Fourth stage – Specialties
Once a character has had a concept defined, attributes assigned, and skills learned, it is time to figure out specialties. Specialties are last because they are the tiny details that really set a character apart. By now, the player and the ST should have a very good idea about the character and her capabilities, and should assign specialties to tweak her to be exactly what the player wants and the ST will allow. Specialties are where the player and the ST can be creative – all specialties are created on the spot to complement and enhance a skill.
ST should encourage their players to put a lot of thought and time into creating specialities for their characters. A single specialty, properly applied at the right time, can make the difference between life and death for the character – or even the entire party. Specialties are limited at character creation in order to allow the players to solidify their play style and allow for character development and flexibility once players are more familiar with the tone and challenges of the adventure.
Please remember that specialties make a character unique and provide a signifigant advantage towards the action the specialty covers. Making specialties too general or broad can give the player too great of an advantage for very low cost and severely unbalance the game. However, judicious use of specialties can provide variety and give the players a feeling of accomplishment when they overcome an otherwise impossible task.
Fifth stage – Equipment and Items
Finally, a character is really stuck in the mud without some equipment and items to help them along their adventure. The player and ST should look at the character as a whole and determine an initial set of starting equipment and items that makes sense for the player, character, and setting that the character is in. A low technology, low wealth world wouldn’t have characters running around with portable black hole generators, for example. Likewise, a high technology and high wealth world wouldn’t have a character being dressed in rags with a spear and hunk of bread to their name (unless the concept had a good justification for it!).
Typical starting characters will have one or two weapons, a basic set of armor or protection (body armor, a weak shield generator, etc.), and a few traveling items like clothing, rations, water, rope, etc. The ST should ensure that wealth is distributed equally among the players and that they are all capable of standing alone as well as complementing each other in a group.
Important to note – equipment and items have no inherent mechanical purpose outside of enabling a character to use a skill or specialty. While in reality, equipment has many different characteristics that makes it more or less effective in given scenarios, for the purpose of this game all equipment is treated equally. If a character has a high enough skill or specialty (per ST discretion) to use a given piece of equipment or item, then it is treated the same as any other piece of equipment or item that functionally does the same task – leather armor being the same as chain mail, or a short sword being equal to a bastard sword, for example.
Optional Rule: Even though equipment is treated equally, a ST may decide to recognize differences in equipment in given situations. A ST may decide to give circumstance bonuses on Attack or Defense checks given appropriate equipment for the situation – plate mail getting a +1 bonus to a check to deflect a dagger where leather wouldn’t get any, for example.
Combat is an important part of any adventurer’s life, and any player can expect to face many encounters in his character’s life. With that being said, the rules for combat in the SRPS are geared to be as minimalistic as possible in order to make encounters quick, easy, and fun for everyone involved. With that said, the ST should always feel free to expand on or modify these rules to fit their particular group and needs.
The basic rule for combat is a simple comparison. The player(s) announce their actions, and the ST decides the actions of the NPCs for the combat round. This determines the situational modifiers – if any – being used in the calculation. Modifiers should range from a 0 to +3 bonus, depending on the ST’s best judgment on the action.
Once the modifiers have been figured out, the calculations are as follows:
Attacker: BDY + (Attack – Damage Penalty) + Modifier + 1d4
Defender: BDY + Defense + Modifier + 1d4
Attacker: SPR + (Magic – Damage Penalty) + Modifier + 1d4
Defender: SPR + Magic + Modifier + 1d4
To determine the resolution of the combat round, the defender’s total is subtracted from the attacker’s total. Whatever remains is the damage that is dealt to the defending character, or zero if the result is zero or negative. As damage is dealt, it is subtracted from the character’s BDY attribute. This damage is most commonly temporary damage, however if it is severe enough, part or all of the damage can be permanent. The ST is the final call on if any damage dealt is permanent. A character is considered knocked out when his BDY attribute is at zero or below. A character is considered dead when his BDY attribute reaches zero or below through just permanent damage alone.
Temporary damage is restored at three points per day, or one point per every eight hours. Deliberate rest beyond eight hours of sleep doubles restoration for that period, giving a character a maximum of six BDY points restored per day.
Experience (XP) is a numerical measurement of how a character grows throughout her adventures. It is an abstract that illustrates the lessons learned from adventuring. As such, experience is not something that should be earned lightly, and should only be given to a player as a reward for clever thinking in a non-trivial situation. A typical afternoon’s adventure may only give 1-10 XP to a player, so growth is slow, but rewarding in the long run. While there is no upper limit to experience gained, resist the temptation to give more XP to experienced characters – the increasing costs are there to represent the difficulty in incremental improvement past a certain point.
Experience rewards are given out in values from one to three XP, depending on how clever the player was and what the impact was on the situation. A player who talks their way around a situation may get the full three XP, while a player who throws a rock at someone stalking them as a distraction may only receive one.
Experience rewards are placed into a pool for the attribute most closely matched with the action of the character. In the example of the player talking their way around a situation, the points would go into the Communication attribute – MND. In the other example of rock throwing, the point would go into the Creativity attribute – also MND.
When using XP for character improvement, the player can either improve an attribute or a skill, but not a specialty.
- To improve an attribute, the XP is pulled from the pool at a rate of 10x the new value, or 40 XP to improve the BDY skill from three to four.
- To improve a skill, the cost is equal to 3x the new value of the skill, or 21 XP to improve Magic from six to seven.
- To improve an attribute or skill, the character must have a minimum of eight hours of rest in order for them to absorb and properly apply the lessons learned, and to give themselves time to heal and strengthen.
Players can also burn XP at a two-to-one ratio to improve a check they are attempting. The player can burn up to their attribute value for that check (six XP for a six point BDY attribute, giving a +3 to the check, for example). Regardless of success or failure, the XP is lost and – should the check fail – it cannot be attempted again. The character is too incapable at that time to succeed at the task.
Provided below are some sample characters at various power levels and experience. These characters are ready to play, but may not be balanced for the adventure or campaign that the ST has prepared. Before allowing any character in the game, the ST should carefully review all aspects of how the character functions to insure that they fit within the theme and difficulty of the world being played within.
Sample adventures for the system can be browsed here, or directly reached by the links below. These adventures are sorted by approximate difficulty – STs who wish to use them are encouraged to read through and make any adjustments needed to tailor each adventure for their group.