Today we’re going to be looking at the 6d6 Core setting produced by the folks over at 6d6 Fireball. The designers set out to create a game that was quick and easy to learn, as well as having a light, versatile ruleset that could be applied to a wide variety of genres. After perusing a few of their PDFs, think they’ve accomplished those goals quite well. Head on past the jump for a closer look at the basic mechanics and some of the pros and cons of the system.
One of the essential, and often overlooked, parts of making a successful RPG is having a ruleset that fits the tone and atmosphere of the game. In a Horror setting, the combat should be lethal, the skill tests unforgiving and the consequences of failure brutal. Conversely, a Pulp-flavored gam should have the heroes succeed at most of their challenges with panache and ease, mow through swarms of extras and deliver high, riotous adventure with fairly minimal odds of your character being killed by a stray bullet or botched athletics roll.
The problem, therefore, with Generic systems is that it is exceptionally difficult to be able to successfully deliver the best of both worlds without substantial modification to the rules on a fundamental level. This is where the 6d6 system works exceptionally well. The game lets you custom-tailor the narrative feel of your skills, abilities and assets to the genre at hand without having to break everything down and then slap it back together like some sort of hideous modern art installation.
The game itself seems to play like a heavily streamlined mixture of D&D and Magic: The Gathering. Largely doing away with sheets, counters and pencils, the system has you build a character from a deck of pre-packaged or custom-made cards. These cards represent almost everything your character has to offer, with individual skills, physical attributes and pieces of equipment each getting their own card.
The conflict resolution system is fairly straightforward and well designed. Each card has a die value, ranging from 1d6+0 to 1d6+6, and you construct a dice pool by playing an appropriate combination of character cards for the situation.
Most of the cards are divided into two groups, the Static pool and the Dynamic pool. The Static hand has no limit to how many cards it can hold, but cards affixed with the Static keyword aren’t nearly as commonplace as Dynamic cards. Cards like Armor and “Hit the Dirt” are examples of Static cards. The Dynamic hand, conversely, has a limit to how many cards can be in it at any one time, and the cards placed within it represent what the character has ready and “on their mind.” Speed, Alert, Weapon Expertise and weapons themselves are example of Dynamic cards.
These cards are cycled in and out of the character’s hand based on a numerical value called “Flow,” which represents how many of these actions may be performed in a given round. This is one of the better points of the system, as adjusting the starting Flow can easily shift characters from fumbling, terrified survivors to foe-mulching badasses with ease.
The system handles adjudicating the difficulty of tasks very well. Certain trials will have what is essentially a soak value that subtracts from the total of every roll that is made against them. This is called Resistance, and it works fairly well in short-term actions and exceptionally well for dealing with extended actions that require multiple rolls.
Character construction is quick and easy. The party agrees on starting value of the Flow score and the size of the Dynamic hand, and then build a deck using a simple point-buy system that allows players to improve existing cards as well as purchasing new ones.
In tone with eschewing character sheets and other such trappings, your characters “hit points” are determined by the sum of the green-edged Life Cards that represent their physical attributes. Examples of Life Cards could include Brawn, Good Looks and Flexible. I like this method of tallying hitpoints because it comes with simple, built-in wound penalties. For example, if you had a character with Classically Beautiful as a Life Card worth four points, and then took four points of damage by getting hit by a piece of sharpened rebar in combat, you could temporarily discard Classically Beautiful from your deck until your face managed to knit itself back together.
So with some of the basics of the game covered, let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons of the system.
- The setting is easily modified for just about any genre with minimal modification to the core rules. It’s the only system I’ve looked at and thought “I bet I could finally run that Magicka game I’ve been thinking about without it being a total pain in the ass.”
- The Core Mechanics seem pretty well built and not terribly prone to abuse. There are a few ways you could probably break the game, but it does a good job of making sure everyone starts on equal footing.
- The system rewards being detailed and inventive. In spite of being a card-based game it doesn’t seem to detract from the frantic improvisation that is the heart of most RPGs.
- Content is free to peruse prior to purchase, and it also makes for a handy reference if you’ve got people with tablets or laptops at game.
- Character Generation and leveling are straightforward and easy, but can still be done in a couple of different ways to keep things interesting.
- The Resistance method of adjudicating difficulty is very functional, and translates itself exceptionally well into social combat.
- You are rewarded for being detailed and creative in character generation. You can have cards like “Spite” and “Improvisational Thinking” and get just as much, or more, use out of them as “Brawn” or “Speed.”
- The back end of the book has a combination glossary/quick reference in a neat alphabetical order that makes it easier to look things up on the fly.
- The materials I’ve gotten a chance to look at have all been automatically generated from the company’s custom Wiki site. While this is a cool way to go about it, but the end result is a little on the bland side. The PDF is mostly a solid wall of text, broken up in places with example cards and the occasional table. The company is doing well given the limitations of their current PDF generation setup, but the book could still use some general layout revision, and a few pieces of artwork in the pages might be nice.
- While the core book does an excellent job explaining how the cards work and giving you plenty examples of them in action, the dice mechanics themselves could use a little love. I have a fairly clear idea of they work after reading all the way through the core, but I’m still missing out on things like tables of sample difficulties and other small touches that help paint them in a more detailed light.
- Pretty much every value your character has (like a damage soak value) is a Dynamic one. While most of the stats in Tabletop Games are dynamic values, attack rolls, damage, skill tests and the like, the 6d6 core takes that a few steps further. The protective value of Armor and the number of squares a character can move in a turn are both subject to the fate of the dice. While I think this is an interesting departure from the norm, it also creates the possibility of a character getting royally hosed by the dice on a semi-regular basis.
- Some of the rules are a little counter-intuitive. Providing a Resistance value against a ranged attack by firing or throwing your ranged weapon without any possibility of hitting your opponent seems a little strange, and what constitutes a Static card versus a Dynamic card is fairly vaguely defined. For instance, the example character Little Red Hawk has the static cards of Backstab and Thrower’s step (which allows his to move forward a square to add dice to his throwing roll,) two innate abilities that he can play from his Static pool without having to have prepared them in his Dynamic pool. However, some of his Dynamic cards include things like Brawn and Blade Expertise, things that are just as, if not more, innate than his static abilities.
- While the system can be easily customized, doing the setup for your game is likely going to take a little work. Decks of pre-formatted cards, some of which are free and some of which are not, will either have to be printed from a PDF or ordered from their website. Regardless of whether or not you wind up using the premade cards, you will almost certainly want to create some custom ones for the campaign. If you’re comfortable with printing custom business cards or similar tasks, then you should be able to mass-produce them with ease. Otherwise, you’re probably looking at doing them by hand on index cards or something similar. While I like the idea of my character being represented by a set of carefully hand-crafted cards, I can also see sitting around and manually scrawling out most of the things your character can do as being on a little on the tedious side.
- On that note, the setting itself is very, very generic. This a good thing, because it lets you do pretty much anything without bogging you down with the rules for everything else that you don’t happen to be playing at the moment. However, you’re probably going to have to make a lot of your own rules, regardless of what you wind up running. The current setup seems to be focused on an adventuring party format, without any written rules for mounts, vehicles, mass combat or any other such odds and ends. Considering how the system is structured and what it’s meant for, that’s just fine. But, you should still be aware that you’ll have some legwork to do before you start gaming.
The 6d6 core is a fun, lightweight system geared towards versatility and ease of use. It has a lot of potential for growth, especially as it branches into more genre-specific territories. I’m excited to see what they do with the 6d6 Magic supplement, and I think the rules would actually translate very well into a cyberpunk setting. It’s a good system if you want to run something quick and easy, desire a reprieve from more complicated systems, or are looking run that game you’ve been putting off because you just don’t have a good system for it. You can check out everything that 6d6 Fireball has to offer, including detailed looks at their upcoming releases, over at 6d6rpg.com