True World RPG
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Introduction

The True World RPG is a free, open, generic table-top role-playing game designed to be suitable for a wide range of genres and game settings.
The True World RPG, authored by Chris Beckett, and published on TrueWorld.Games, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).
The license is granted for all textual content contained on this site. All images are excluded and remain "All Rights Reserved".
For more information see our License page. For information about the True World Community, see our Community page.

Design Goals

The game was first and foremost designed to be a great story-telling engine with an emphasis on being versatile and adaptable to a wide-range of game genres, settings and play styles.
  • Narrative: The game prioritizes common sense and the "Rule of Cool" over complex mechanics and detailed rules to create a play style that is fast and fluid. The rules are designed to be logical and "make sense" so they are easy to learn and remember.
  • Freeform and Balanced: Players are free to create the characters they really want to play. Characters are defined by multiple skill sets. Each skill set represents the knowledge, skill, and experience related to an area of focus and expertise. Game rules are designed to ensure characters remain balanced between characters and the game world.
  • Extensible: The game is meant to be modular, extensible, and easy to hack. The system includes a toolkit with a set of customization methods for adjusting core rules and mechanics, adding extra rules for specific types of tasks or situations, and guidance on creating additional rulesets to support a wide variety of genres and game settings.
  • Character Progression: Despite a light and simple ruleset, the game provides character progression options that are designed to scale from one-shots to long campaigns.
  • Low-Prep: Challenges from simple obstacles to powerful adversaries are quick and easy to create with little preparation. The game can be played entirely using Theater of the Mind, visual aids, or more detailed battle maps.

Core Mechanics

The game uses a polyhedral step-die system with ratings defined on a scale from 1 to 5 based on the associated size of the dice. Ratings are used whenever dice are required to resolve actions.
Polyhedral Dice
Actions are performed using player-facing opposed rolls that compare a character's ability against the difficulty of a challenge.
A character's ability is determined by selecting the skill set or specialization that provides skills that are most relevant to the action being performed. The difficulty is determined by the director. The dice ratings for ability and difficulty are listed below.
Dice
Ability
Difficulty
d4
Novice
Challenging
d6
Proficient
Very Challenging
d8
Skilled
Hard
d10
Master
Very Hard
d12
Expert
Extremely Hard
Characters can use boosts to enhance their ability. Boosts represent talents, special powers, exceptional skill proficiency, or specialized gear. Boosts have constraints that only allow them to be used under certain conditions or with a cost. Boosts can provide a mechanical or a narrative benefit.
Fictional Positioning is used to adjust a character's chance of success based on situational factors. A character's position is evaluated by the director (with input from the players) to determine if they have a relative advantage or disadvantage in performing an action. If a character has an advantage or disadvantage, the player increases the size of the difficulty dice pool and takes the lowest or highest roll respectively.
Characters can assist each other when performing actions through teamwork. The assisting player performs a quick action roll that ignores fictional positioning and cannot use boosts. The outcome determines if the assistance was helpful. On a success, the assisted player can increase the size of the ability dice pool and take the highest roll when performing their action.
The result of an action roll is determined by subtracting the value of the difficulty die from the ability die. If the result is 0 or greater, the outcome is a success, otherwise it is a failure. The value of the result also determines the level of the effect based on the absolute value of the result within the following ranges.
Level
Effect
Effect
1
0 to 3
Marginal
2
4-6
Complete
3
7+
Critical
The outcome and the level of effect and is used by the director when choosing the positive or negative consequences for the action. Consequences can be narrative or mechanical in nature.

Game System

The Game System was designed to be complete and playable, allowing groups to begin playing without any required customization. The core game system is divided into essential game elements organized as a logical progression of related topics to help players learn the game quickly.
  • Characters: A character's ability to perform tasks during game play is primarily determined by a combination of the breadth and depth of their skills. Players select and combine skills into Skill Sets. Skill sets are identified from a character's backstory and are used to identify the sources and motivations behind a character's training to perform a function or job. As a character gains experience, Specializations allow a character to upgrade specific skills, within a skill set, to identify areas of expertise. Boosts enhance a character's ability using talents, powers, exceptional skill proficiency, or specialized gear, but they can only be used under certain conditions or come with a cost. Gear includes the weapons, tools, and other personal items a character uses to accomplish tasks.
  • Health: Characters use a combination of indicators to represent their health and well-being. Stress is the physical, mental, and emotional state of a character and is measured by stress points (up to a maximum value). Stress is increased when a character suffers negative consequences from actions. When a character is overwhelmed by their stress, they can be taken out of a scene. Grit represents a character's mental, physical, and emotional resilience and is measured by grit points. Character's earn grit points for overcoming challenges during gameplay. Players can spend grit points to deflect harm, assist their teammates, and fuel boosts. Conditions describe the consequences associated with suffering harm. Conditions can impose a disadvantage during actions until they are treated. Extreme conditions impose trauma and can have a lasting impact on a character.
  • Challenges: Challenges define situations characters must overcome to achieve their goals. Obstacles are barriers like a locked safe that needs to be opened or a raging river that needs to be crossed. Obstacles are defined by a single difficulty rating. Adversaries represent something actively opposing characters. They may be non-player characters, factions, supernatural forces, or intelligent machines.
  • Scenes: Scenes present a moment of significance within the story and the opportunity for player characters to interact with the game world. Each scene provides a distinct situation, allowing players to make decisions and perform actions toward overcoming the challenges created by the director. To help provide structure and coordinate interactions during a scene, gameplay is divided into Rounds and Turns.
  • Actions: Actions allow players to make progress towards completing tasks and accomplishing goals during their turn. If an action has a risk of failure, the director will require the player to use dice to determine the result. Ability refers to how well a character can perform the intended action. Ability is determined by a player by selecting the most relevant skill set or specialization and invoking any relevant boosts to support the intended action. Difficulty is determined by the difficulty rating of the challenge relative to a character's ability. Before proceeding with the roll, the director examines the character’s Position (their fictional positioning relative to the situation), to decide if the character has an advantage or disadvantage on the roll. Other players can contribute to the action roll using Teamwork. If the player chooses to proceed, they perform an Action Roll, subtracting the value of the difficulty dice from the value of the ability dice. The result is used to determine the Outcome and Effect, the success or failure of the action, and the level of impact of the result.
  • Consequences: Actions produce consequences. Boons are positive consequences that benefit the character and represent an improvement to a character’s situation. Banes are negative consequences that make the character's life more difficult.
  • Rest and Recovery: Characters can only push themselves for so long before they need to take time to rest and recover. Rest and recovery periods are divided into three types. Momentary rest can be taken anytime and can range from a few seconds to a few minutes; enough time in the narrative to bandage a wound, consume medicine, and reduce a small amount of stress or shake off a mild condition. Extended rest can be a few hours to a few days but requires a safe environment. Depending on the length of the rest, and available resources, characters can recover from stress, and heal conditions. Downtime is an extended rest and recovery period with no specific duration typically enjoyed when a group completes a milestone. Downtime allows characters to pursue personal objectives and seek advanced treatment options for severe conditions or trauma.
  • Character Advancement: Story progression is divided into milestones. When groups complete milestones, players can improve their characters. Minor Milestones are awarded when groups accomplish intermediate goals within a larger story arc and allow for minor character improvements. Major Milestones are awarded when groups complete major quests or resolves significant plot lines and provides an opportunity for greater improvements.

Toolkit

The Toolkit is provided to support the design goal of being a flexible and universal game system that can be easily adapted to play a wide variety of play styles, campaign types, genres and settings. The toolkit is divided into the following sections representing the variety of ways the system can be customized:
  • Options: Options are modular rules that support customizing core rules and mechanics. Options represent choices that allow core game elements to be tailored to fit a particular genre, setting, campaign type, or group preferences.
  • Extras: Extras are simple extensions or combinations of core rules and mechanics to support specific types of tasks or special situations.
  • Guides: Guides provide suggestions and examples of how to create custom rulesets to extend the game to support additional game elements for a genre or game setting.

Resources

The Resources section provides additional tools to support game preparation and help directors and players with running game sessions. A Session Zero checklist is provided to help groups get started quickly. Additional resources will be added in the future based on community feedback.

Character Sheets

Character Sheets are provided to support two modes of gameplay:
  • Offline: Printable Sheets are provided as images and downloadable PDF documents to support in-person gameplay or simple online platforms and virtual tabletops that don't support online character sheets.
  • Online: A number of free-to-play browser-based virtual tabletops are supported for online play including Let's Role VTT and Role VTT. Additional platforms will be considered for future support based on community feedback and available resources.

Getting Started

Here is what you need to start playing:
  • A group of between 2 to 6 players, with one playing the role of the Director.
  • Two sets of polyhedral dice, preferably in two separate colors.
  • A journal and some index cards to take notes.
  • Everyone should read the Game System. It is important for both players and the director to fully understand all of the rules before beginning gameplay. Don't worry, the rules are short and easy to learn.
  • Directors should read the Toolkit and be prepared to discuss options, extras, and other customizations with players to fit the requirements of a specific genre or setting or tailor the gameplay to group preferences.
  • Review the available Character Sheets for in-person or online play.
  • Schedule a Session Zero to bring everyone together related to important game elements such as the story, optional rules, campaign type, pacing, and safety tools.
Last modified 3mo ago