Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rule 1-2-3: A Super-Simple RPG Mechanic

While preparing my Stuper Powers adventure for the upcoming convention season, I remembered that this particular RPG is kind of lacking in the mechanics department. There are no PC stats, no combat or action rolls, no resolution rules of any kind. The game is solidly tongue-in-cheek, and most actions are resolved in a narrative manner. (AKA “Tell me what you do and I’ll tell you what happens.”) When a random result is needed, Stuper Powers suggests either 1. flipping a coin, so all actions have a 50/50 chance of success/failure, or 2. Beating the GM in a game of rock-paper-scissors, so all actions have a 33% chance of success/failure/tying.

Needless to say, I’m not a fan of either system.

I suggested a system using 1d4 in my earlier post about the game, but the mechanics never really "gelled" for me. So I’ve been noodling around with a super-simple random gaming mechanic that I can shoehorn into games I want to run simply – or games that don’t have a “true” mechanic, such as this one. So here is my concept for my “Rule 1-2-3” RPG mechanic system:

Before I begin explaining, keep this all-encompassing rule in mind:

1s, 2s, and 3s are ALWAYS successes.

Each player and the GM will need to have one 4-sided die, one 6-sided die, and one 12-sided die.

For any action that has a chance of failure, the GM should determine the difficulty of the task, whether it's Easy, Average, of Difficult.

Easy tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told 5 minutes ago, punching someone while they're asleep, or parking a car at the mall.

Average tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told last month, punching someone you're fighting with, or parallel parking a car during downtown rush hour.

Difficult tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told 5 years ago, punching someone who's currently shooting at you, or parking a car while blindfolded.

For an Easy Task, the player should roll the d4. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 75% chance of success.)
For an Average Task, the player rolls the d6. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 50% chance of success.)
For a Difficult task, the player rolls the d12. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 25% chance of success.)

The system is somewhat reminiscent of "target number" mechanics, but with Rule 1-2-3, the target numbers never change -- you always need to roll a 1, 2, or 3. However, it's the die used that represents the challenge level.

That's really all I've sussed out so far. I want to keep this super-simple, so I've steered clear of bonus/penalties or contested rolls. I'd like opinions on whether you think this would work well as a basic resolution mechanic. Thoughts?


  1. Cool. I like the consistency and simplicity.

  2. Absolutely brilliant! I play a lot of rpgs with my kids and will use this system when gaming with them. I think even my 5 year old daughter will grasp the idea. A great way to grasp basic maths too!