All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Character Creation, Poker Style

So I have been thinking about this wild west RPG based around a pack of playing cards.


I like the idea of five basic stats. Strength, Speed, Endurance, Empathy and Logic. I am not a big fan of Charisma or Appearance type stats or characteristics. Charisma and leadership qualities we can roleplay, we don’t really need a stat for that in a light weight game. Appearance I think should be player choice. Why force someone to play a character that is butt ugly or drop dead gorgeous if that is not the character they had in mind?

So how about this? The GM deals you a hand of 5 cards. You take up your cards and you either keep them or discard any or all of them. The GM then deals replacement cards. You can then assign the face value of the card to the five stats. All picture cards count as a 10.

I think Jokers need to be something a bit special. If you are dealt a Joker then you should keep a note of it and then it goes to the bottom of the pack and you get a replacement.

Jokers can then be used as a sort of currency within the game. I am thinking that you can spend a joker to avoid death or get a second chance?

Getting back to the stats that is a pretty quick method of getting the character stats. It is also reminiscent of Cowboys playing poker.


Next up we need some skills.

A few game systems these days allow you to spontaneously generate skills. We could use that here. So a skill is any clearly defined task or role that the character may have experience of. What I mean by this is ‘Prospector’ implies a bundle of skills relating to being able to pan for gold, dig shafts and brace them, work with pulleys and ropes and so on. Tracker is another role and implies a certain self sufficiency along with being able to identify and follow tracks.

Most characters will want some kind of combat skills and these will fall into a few broad families ranged combat such as guns and bows, melee combat that will also include thrown weapons and unarmed combat including martial arts and brawling. The sort of roles a character can use to describe these may be gunslinger, street fighter, cavalry officer.

Some GMs and players like a really granular game with hundreds of skills while others like broad ‘meta skills’ that encompass many individual specific skills under a single heading. I personally prefer this few broad skills approach.

One of the core skills in just about every game is that of Observation or Perception. The ability to spot clues, identify hidden doors, switches and so on and spot a hidden enemy or ambush. I cannot see any point in forcing players to spend a ‘skill slot’ or option to buy a skill that everyone is going to take anyway. So Observation will be a default skill that everyone gets.

So right now we have five stats and a Joker tally, one default skill and I think 3 meta skills that describe the characters back story.


If we then give the character a one paragraph backstory, that is in sync with the skills chosen, gives the motivation for adventuring and brings the character to the starting point of the game; I think we are ready to play. (I do like a character sheet that fits on a large post-it note!)

Next time I think we will look at skill resolution unless I have any more thoughts on character creation.

Dice or Cards?

I have had a bit of a fascination with card deck vs dice based rpgs for the last year. There is a rather strange game called ABS12 (A Basic System 12) which is all based around d12 rolls. D12s give a relatively large number of possible outcomes without having to have a bell curve of probabilities. Another consequence of this is that you can play the game by drawing cards from a standard deck of playing cards. The ace, 2-10, hack, queen, king give 13 outcomes. Discard the Kings and you have a pack of d12 rolls.

ABS12 is a very strange minimalist system. I helped with the play testing and I cannot say I particularly like it. Characters have just a single stat and everything is derived from that. You need a lot of imagination to play the game. If you are familiar with solo role playing then it is a perfectly viable writing aid. Ken Wickham, the author, shared several of his solo adventures. Check out his World of the Fifth Sun blog for more.

While I am not really keen on ABS12 the idea of using a pack of playing cards as part of the game engine does appeal.

So I was thinking about putting together a superlight RPG here in a short series of posts. Continue reading Dice or Cards?


I have been thinking about Patreon recently. One of the questions in this years #RPGaDAY was about the kickstarters that you have supported and I have never supported any of them. I tend not to buy games I will never run and my face to face gaming group are die hard Rolemaster players. Given the choice they would still be playing the original 1980s rules but I didn’t give them that choice. We only play 3 times a year but when we do get together we rent a house and have three days of solid gaming. As we are all around 50 years old it takes us three or four months to get over three days of thinking we are teenagers again! If you only get to play 3 times a year you are unlikely to want to lose time to learning a new system that you may well not like.

I also play and run games via PBP and I frequently enjoy these more than the face to face games. You lose the camaraderie but you also lose the petty squabbles and personality clashes. Some you win, some you lose.

When I get a new game it tends to be for research purposes and I like to borrow really good ideas and try and make the games I run even better. The general quality of free games is in my opinion getting better despite the opinion of some that free and pay what you want is lowering the quality of games. My first releases were pretty ropey I will admit but every generation has had higher production standards and goals than the previous version.

Not every GM needs new games but most GMs appreciate new resources. There are a lot of home brew settings out there and you can parachute in a ‘bought’ module or NPC quite easily. Sandbox games appear to be the fashion and in those it is easy to bolt together countless 3rd party materials.

So this brings me to Patreon. I have never been enthused by kickstarter but I can see the appeal of Patreon. If I find a creator that I like and use their materials then why not subscribe for a small fee and get regular new content and frequently content that is not available anywhere else?

I can can envisage whole game systems being sponsored this way. At the moment games publishers have to keep putting out new books to drive more sales. If they don’t then the players can keep on playing with what they already have for ever or worse still if you do not have a gothic horror genre book for your game then the players may buy a gothic horror game to play and put your game back on the shelf.

If the games were Patreon funded then you have a two way channel of communication. If the people who are funding your game say they want x, y, and z then you know right from the start that there is an appetite for x, y and z.

This is a step down the ‘pay to play’ route and I am not sure that if this was explicitly sold as pay to play if people would like the idea but it does also lower the cost of entry into a game. You could play the quick start rules or lite version of a game and then if you like it you subscribe to Patreon and get add on books as they become available and as a subscriber you could get a discount on all the books that have gone before.

I have very little artistic talent and two of the patreon communites I am most interested in are Heroic Maps and Dyson Logos. The first produces beautiful battle maps and floor plans and the other outstanding dungeon maps. These two have talents I lack and cannot fake.

I was interested in how Michael’s patreon community was developing. You can find it here and I am sure he would appreciate the support. This is of interest to me as I run a fanzine. Right now you can buy it on Amazon and the OBS sites but it does seem like a natural fit. I publish the magazine monthly and Patreon is about regular deliveries of content. In effect becoming a patreon would be the same as subscribing to the magazine.

So how do you feel about the idea of subscribing to a game system? Would you entertain the idea of pay to play?

I am guessing the answer is a resounding No! from the vast majority or am I wrong?