Friday, June 16, 2023

Making my own Game: The Messy, incomplete First Steps

Rather recently, I had rediscovered an interest I had years ago, but never really devoted much time or brainspace to pursue; game design. The venerable tradition of hacking a game (or games) to pieces, stitching the parts back together, and bolting on modifications in an act of creation not unlike dr. Frankenstein. It's a fascinating process, and my interest in it has been re-lit by rediscovering the GLOG.

Now, I know I'm not terribly active, with months often between any two posts on this blog; but I want to make an active effort to devote more of my creative attention to this, and the OSR/RPG Blogosphere community as a whole. What better way to do that than to hack together a monster of my own and releasing it to the wild, and seeing how the community vivisects and disembowels it? We shall have to see how that goes

This is meant to be an incomplete framework. An idea that is as yet still untested, incomplete, missing it's liver and spleen; but that's okay. We only need a skeleton to make dance (or trip over it's feet horribly.) None of this has been playtested as of yet. I've not gotten the chance. You might; let me know how it goes.

I don't know what to call this. Maybe Gnollbones? Not sure.

For now, the system is incomplete: the only class included is the Fighter, most sub-systems are stolen straight from B/X, and it currently lacks rules for advancement. This I intend to flesh out later.

The Core System

The game is a d6 dicepool system; assemble a pool of d6's from Attributes + Skills (+ certain other traits). Rolls of 4+ count as successes, 1-3 as misses. When making a check, count the number of successes in the roll vs a set Target Number; meet or beat the TN to Succeed the roll.

I'm not an expert on probability or anything, but a TN of 1 sounds Easy, and a TN of 7 sounds extremely difficult, as a baseline scale to work off of.

Creating a Character

To create a character, begin by rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest die, and adding the total, for each attribute score. This can be done in order, or if your GM allows, these numbers can be assigned to whatever Attribute you deem appropriate.

Next, pick an type of Kin; you gain that Kin's ability, as well as any other features of the Kin type.

Once this is done, characters picks a class; this class is their Prime Class; they gain the Core Ability of that class, one sub-ability of the class, the class's Hit Die, and the Class's specific Class Skill Dice.

Once a class is selected, skill points are assigned. No more than 4 dice can be put into a skill at character creation. Your starting skill dice are equal to one per every three points of intelligence, and can be assigned to any skill in any domain.

After this, roll 3d6 x 10 gp, this is your starting gold, and can be spent on initial equipment or saved for later.

Next, note down the character's HP, Movement, and AC and you're done. 

Starting HP is equal to a character's constitution score. When hitting 0 HP, a character falls unconscious.

Starting movement is 30 feet (or, if preferred, assuming 5 feet equals 1 inch, 6 inches)

Your starting Unarmed AC is equal to one per every three points of Dexterity. Without a class ability, your dexterity is not calculated into your AC when wearing armor.

Example of a Created Character:

Wark the Bull lvl 1 Human Fighter
STR 15 (5d), DEX 11 (3d), CON 14 (4d), INT 7 (2d), WIS 9 (3d), CHA 13 (4d)
HP 14, AC 6, Move 30' (6")
Class Abilities: Might Dice 1, Skirmisher, Brutality
Kin Traits: +2 free Skill Dice (Human), +1 Sub-Class Ability
Skills: Swords 4, Blacksmithing 2, Cooking 1, Engineering 1
Equipment: Plate Armor (AC 5), Shield, Longsword (1d8)


Characters are made up of the six standard Attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma). At character creation, roll 4d6 per attribute, and drop the lowest die (or use classic 3d6 if you prefer); for every 3 points in an Attribute, characters add +1 die to rolls relating to that attribute.

For example, a character with a Strength of 9 gets +3 dice for Strength checks; a character of 7 Strength gets 2, and a character with 15 Strength gets 5. 

(As an alternate rule, rather than doing the mental math of converting an attribute to a number of dice, just measure the dice directly. Roll 4d6 per attribute as normal, but then convert that roll to it's figured dice total; that's now your Attribute score. For example, a roll of 14 translates to 4 dice; so your attribute is now 4)

Strength is rolled for acts relating to brawn and muscle; forcing open doors, breaking sturdy items, or moving heavy objects. A character's number of inventory slots are equal to their Strength score. 

Dexterity is rolled for acts relating to gracefulness, precision, or quickness; walking on tightropes, opening locks, or snatching something out of the air. Characters make a Dexterity check at the beginning of combat, to determine if they act before or after the opposing side.

Constitution is rolled for acts relating to endurance and vitality; resisting exhaustion, shrugging off intoxication, or ignoring pain. Characters starting Hit Points are equal to their Constitution score.

Intelligence is the measure of a character's reason and knowledge; solving mental problems, piecing together clues, and recalling knowledge. Characters starting free skill dice are equal to one per every three points they have in Intelligence 

Wisdom is awareness and intuition; noticing hidden or obscured things, or intuiting hidden emotions or motivations. Wisdom can be rolled to find a hidden detail, or to intuit where to look for such clues. A character's perception score is equal to one point per every three points of wisdom.

Charisma is presentation, and 'force of personality'; swaying opinions, inspiring courage, and invoking terror are all under the effects of Charisma. Characters can have a number of henchmen or followers equal to one per every three points of charisma.


A character is not merely built from the raw talent of their attributes, but are also made up of specific skills. A skill represents knowledge and experience within a particular focus; a skill of 0 is completely untrained. A skill of 1 represents a novice, and a skill of 5 represents a master. 

Skills are not tied to any particular attribute, and different checks may require different combinations of attributes and skills. For example, Strength + Swords may be used to make an attack with swords, but Intelligence + Swords may be rolled to call upon a character's knowledge of swords.

Characters start with a number of free skill dice as determined by their Intelligence, at one dice per every three points of Intelligence.

Skills are collected into a number of domains; if preferred, GMs may forego having a robust skill system, and instead can have characters simply be skilled in particular simple domains, rolling that particular domain in lieu of the individual skill. 

The domains & Skills:


Swords, Polearms, Axes, Knives, Maces, Clubs, Hammers, Bows, Crossbows, Whips, Darts, Unarmed


Blacksmithing, Cooking, Tailoring, Engineering, Carpentry, Painting, Pottery, Masonry.


Navigation, Swimming, Riding, Climbing, Fishing, Herbalism, Animal Handling, Hunting,


Appraising, Linguistics, Religion, Occultism, Heraldry, History, Healing, Astrology, Spellcraft, 


Persuasion, Deception, Intimidation, Singing, Instruments, Etiquette.


Acrobatics, Disguise, Pickpocketing, Lockpicking, Stealth, Ventriloquism, Forgery

Kin (Races)

  • Human: +2 free Skill Dice, Talented: May choose 2 Sub Abilities of their Prime Class at character Creation rather than 1.
  • Elf: +2 Lore Skill Dice, Elven Immunity: Immunity to Sleep or Charm effects.
  • Dwarf: +2 Craft Skill Dice, Stonecunning: Can sense hidden rooms and compartments through stone walls.
  • Halfling: +2 Social Skill Dice, Lucky: Once per session may re-roll a roll that contains no successes.
  • Half-Orc: +2 Wilds Skill Dice, Resilience: Once per session when reaching 0 HP, once you gain HP or receive first aid, you do not receive a wound.
  • Half-Elf: +2 Social Skill Dice, Versatile: Once every day after a full night's rest, you may gain +2 extra Skill Dice that can be applied to any skill. These skill dice expire once you rest. 
  • Gnome: +2 Thievery Skill Dice, Trickery: Once per session, if failing a check involving the Thievery or Social Skill domains, they may instead treat their result as a success.


At first level, a character gains the Core Ability of their chosen class, one Sub Ability, the Skills associated with a class, and any weapon and armor restrictions from the class. At first level, the character does not receive extra HP from their class's Hit Dice; Hit Dice are rolled purely upon advancement of levels beyond the 1st.


A character is not locked to only one class for the entirety of their career, for they are capable of Multi-Classing; whilst a character can only have the Core Ability of their Prime Class (the class chosen upon character creation), any levels thereafter may be used on another class, allowing the Multi-Classer to gain the Hit Dice of that class that level, as well as choose a sub-ability of that class.

(Proper rules for Multi-Classing will come with a later post, as will rules for Advancement, Experience Points, and the like)


Hit Dice d10, Any Armor, Any Weapons, XP Medium

Skills: 3 in Weapons, 3 in either Crafts, Wilds, or Social.

Core Ability:
  • Mighty Deeds: The Fighter gets a Might Die, with an additional Might Die for every three levels of the Fighter. Might Dice can be added to strength rolls, attack rolls, or damage rolls, and allow the Fighter to enact deeds of superhuman strength when they are in use. Might Die are expended only when they roll a success, or when they are used to roll damage. Might Die recover after the Fighter takes an hour to prepare and eat a substantial meal.

  1. Weapon-Master: For every three levels of the Fighter, he may add one die to attack rolls involving a weapon with which he has less skill dice than his highest Weapon Skill. The extra dice cannot exceed an amount equal to the Fighter's highest Weapon Skill. (If using Domains instead of complete Skills, have the Fighter pick a weapon in which they are specialized; let them have +2 dice when wielding that weapon)
  2. Skirmisher: Once per combat round, the Fighter may deal an amount of damage equal to one per every three points of strength to an opponent locked in melee combat with them. The Fighter may expend a Might Die to trigger this effect to all combatants locked in melee with them for the round. 
  3. Brutality: When scoring a Critical Hit, not only is your damage doubled, your damage roll is assumed to be it's maximum total.
  4. Second-Wind:  The Fighter may voluntarily accept a Minor Wound; in doing so, they may roll one of their Hit Dice, and  regain the total as HP. They may do this a number of times per day equal to one per every three Fighter levels. These wounds automatically heal after a night's rest, and a suitable breakfast.
Classes are supposed to have one Core Ability, six sub-abilities, so you could easily roll them randomly on a d6 if desired. Further, each class's starting skills should come in three categories; the Specialist (4 dice in one domain, 2 in another), the Standard (3 dice in one domain, 3 in another), and the All-Rounder (2 dice in three different domains).

The rest of the classes will be written later; I'm choosing to post this now with only the Fighter present so as to capitalize on my inspiration now, and make good on my promise of a post a week.


For now, just use normal B/X equipment, at normal gold prices and weights; I want to see if it's functional with zero conversion. For +1 weapons, consider the +1 as a free success on an attack roll, as an example of conversion when necessary.

Most objects roughly the size of a longsword or smaller take up one inventory slot; objects smaller than a fist take up one slot per every 10; objects small as a coin take an inventory slot per 100.

Coins take up one inventory slot per every 100 carried, regardless of denomination. 

Armor Class (& Conversion Notes)

Essentially, AC is simply the number of successes needed to score an attack against another creature. Roll a number of successes equal to or greater than the AC of the target to hit; less than the target's AC is a miss.

Converting AC from other systems:
Take the descending AC of a creature, and minus it from 21; convert the result to dice, 1 die for every 3 points. Thats the creature's AC.

For example, a creature of AC 10 will give a result of 11, so 3 AC. Meanwhile, a creature of AC 0 will have a result of 21, so 7 AC

Attacks, Combat, & Initiative

When it is time to resolve conflict via violence, combat begins. The procedure for combat is as follows:
  1. Roll Initiative at the start of combat; each player rolls their Initiative individually, whilst the GM rolls for the entire opposing force at once. The GM rolls 1d6, the total rolled becoming the TN the players must roll to act before their opponent.
  2. Players who succeeded in Initiative may take their turns; during a turn they may make their movement at the normal rate, as well as make one action (usually an attack). These are resolved immediately.
  3. The GM takes their turn, moving any monsters and making their actions.
  4. The players who lost Initiative now take their turns, taking movement and actions as above.
  5. The round ends; the GM checks morale, and all players resolve any effects that resolve at the end of the round.
Combat repeats from step 2 until resolved (or from round 1, if rolling initiative for every round is preferred). 

When an attack is made, the attacker rolls the dice for their Attacking Stat (usually Strength or Dexterity), plus any one weapon Skill, plus any other modifiers to the roll such as from equipment or the situation. Compare the number of successes vs the target's AC; roll a number of successes equal to or greater than the target's AC to hit.

On a hit, the attacker rolls the damage dice for their weapon, and subtracts the result from the target's HP, taking into account any weaknesses and resistances.

When a player character reaches 0 HP, they are considered unconscious. If they do not receive first aid within a turn (10 minutes), they are dead. Should they regain HP or receive first aid within that time, the character is revived, and gains a Wound. If an NPC reaches 0 HP, they are considered dead.

(A wound is a penalty to strength that takes up inventory slots, and incurs a penalty on Strength checks until healed)

When making an attack, if three or more dice come up as sixes, then they have scored a Critical Hit; they may double the damage of their attack roll, as well as score a Wound upon their opponent.

When two opponents are adjacent to eachother with weapons drawn, they are assumed to be in melee combat. If either opponent tries to move out of melee combat without taking an action to safely withdraw, their opponent may take an attack of opportunity upon them. Only one Attack of Opportunity may be taken per character per round.


Run as per normal B/X; morale rated from 2 to 12, checked upon first casualty, and upon half a force's incapacitation. 


Wounds are a representation of the lasting toll of combat, being the lasting damage from certain attacks. Primarily, Wounds are acquired in two ways; when reaching 0 HP, and when hit with a Critical Hit.

When a player character reaches 0 HP, they are considered unconscious. If they do not receive first aid within a turn (10 minutes), they are dead. Should they regain HP or receive first aid within that time, the character is revived, and gains a Wound. If an NPC reaches 0 HP, they are considered dead.

When a character is hit by a Critical Hit (An attack roll containing 3 or more dice that came ups as 6's) they are inflicted with a Wound.

A wound, in effect, is a penalty to a character's Strength; each type of wound takes up an amount of Inventory Slots dependent upon it's severity, as well as giving a penalty to rolls involving Strength. 

If a character's total value of wounds equals to or exceeds a character's Constitution they are considered comatose until healed; if a character's total value of wounds equals to or exceeds a character's Strength, they are considered dead.

Minor wounds heal with a night's rest; Major after a week of rest. Dire Wounds do not heal normally; they require the care of a healer, doctor, or other practitioner of medicine to heal, and require the character rest completely until healed. Assuming both of these requirements are met, Dire Wounds heal at the same rate as Major Wounds.

Every time a Wound is scored via critical hit, the type of wound is decided based upon how many successes are in excess of the number needed to score the attack. For example, if a character's AC is only 3, but the attack generates 6 successes to hit them, the character is inflicted with a major wound.
(This may need tweaking, I'm not entirely sold on this idea for how to decide the wound secerity)

When a character gains a wound via falling unconscious, they calculate the size of the wound by rolling their constitution score vs the number of successes of the attack that felled them; for every success on the roll, a 'point' of wounds is eliminated, with the remainder of the successes on the attack being the total level of wounds received, to a minimum of 1 (Not sold on this either, but I'm experimenting here.)

The types of wounds are as follows:
Minor: 1 Inventory Slot, -1d6 check penalty.
Major: 3 Inventory Slots, -2d6 check penalty.
Dire: 5 Inventory Slots, -3d6 check penalty.

Plans for later

Take in feedback, and adjust systems as needed. Then, expand upon what is currently missing; the classes, a unique morale system, unique equipment, rules for multiclassing and advancement, how to design a class, and any other unique rules I can think of. Let me know what you think of this, discuss it with me, tell me what you like and what you don't. Maybe in time, with help, I'll manage to make something worth playing.