First Look: The SKETCH System

Imagine the following situation: it’s your weekly roleplaying session, everyone has gathered at the game table but one player. Alas this player’s character will be crucial for the next session, so you decide not to run the game in his absence.

When something like that happens, you can always play cards or a boardgame or watch some videos instead of running a roleplaying game. But sometimes you decide you could run an one-off, single night adventure. Most people would probably recommend the excellent RISUS for this, but if you prefer something a bit more crunchy, you should have a look at SKETCH.

The SKETCH system was developed by Jonathan Hicks from Farsight Games and is available as a free 6-paged PDF document. SKETCH uses one attribute Strength that also doubles for hitpoints and skill groups. SKETCH’s skill groups are somewhat broader than skills in most systems but are not as blurry as RISUS’ clichés. So if you prefer a more classical approach to roleplaying game rules, you are probably more comfortable with SKETCH. Task resolution is pretty easy, you just roll 1D6 and to succeed you have to roll equal or lower than your level in the relevant skill group. The GM can modify the skill groups level according to the difficulty of the task at hand.

The big advantage of SKETCH compared to a lot of other free rules-light games is that it comes not with only one setting but eight so far! Each free SKETCH game is a complete RPG in its own right using the easy-to-learn SKETCH rules.

The currently available SKETCH games are:

  • MACABRE – A game about witches and daemons
  • ECHOES – A SF game where mankind is alone among the stars
  • BLADE RUNNER – A SKETCH game based on the 1982 movie
  • THE 13TH YEAR – A post-apocalyptic game set into an alternate 1952
  • THE SETNIN SECTOR – A Star Wars game
  • STORMLAND – A fantasy game set in a world wracked by foul weather
  • HIGHLANDER – A SKETCH game based on the 1986 movie
  • COSMIC QUEST – A totally unfunny comedy SF game

Each of those PDF documents contains all the rules needed to play, enough setting information to create your own adventures and in some cases even a introductory scenario. If you have a copy of any of those SKETCH games with you, you are never unprepared.

But of course you are not limited to these eight settings. If you want to make SKETCH your own, you can write and distribute your own SKETCH game, as long as you give proper credit and release your work for free.

I haven’t run or played SKETCH at the game table yet, but after reading a few of the SKETCH games Jonathan Hicks created, I am tempted to create my own.