A Simple, Portable RPG System

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament - Gibb's Hundred

As you may, or may not know, in the United States prisoners are restricted in their activities, including anything that might be construed as gambling, or at an attempt to escape. Unfortunately for prisoners who enjoy Dungeons & Dragons, that means that no dice or maps are allowed at all. Yes, even imaginary maps such as those in The Hobbit.

Therefore, because prisoners are usually allowed access to paper and writing utensils, prisoners will play Dungeons & Dragons by marking numbers on pieces of paper and drawing them out of a hat or a cup or whatever is available.

Hardback books are also usually not allowed, so when rulebooks are available, they are usually printouts of the SRD, or a copy of the basic rulebook. I wish I had bought a hundred copies of those little quarter sized AD&D books that got printed in the 2000s. They would be so welcome inside.

So here is a method for playing D&D or other role-playing games without dice or paper chits. This means that it’s also useful for students who want to play on the bus, or people on airplanes who want to play a quick game, or really playing role playing games in any setting where Dice and a tabletop are not convenient or available.

Going to be up front here, I built this idea upon my experience playing World of Darkness Live Action Role-Playing Games back in a beautiful dark forest, long ago and far away. In that magical place, we played using a modified version of the classic game of Rock, Paper, Sciscors (RPS). If two characters of equal power engage in some type of contest of trickery, might, magic, or will, they play rock-paper-scissors to determine who succeeds.

If the loser doesn’t like the outcome, they can spend various limited character resources (blood points, rage points, willpower points, etc) to force a re-match of RPS.

In the version I played, if a character was really powerful in a particular arena of contests (overpowering strength, mainly), they got a new option in the RPS contest: the Bomb. You throw bomb like Rock, but your thumb stays up (the wick on a cartoon bomb). Only Sciscors beats Bomb (by cutting the wick). Bomb beats Rock and Paper.

So, for example, Starfighter pilot character who was really good at fixing things could probably repair their ship and return to the stars, so their player would have the Bomb available when they did a RPS contest against the GM to determine if they succeeded.

Lets call this expanded version of RPS RPSB. My Version – RPSBM The second part of this idea owes credit to discussions with Steve and Sersa V after running and playing Tower of Gygax at GenCon back in the day. We were bullshiting and brainstorming like we love to, high on games and the energy of the convention, and talking about a game where you used bracelets or some other type of token to track your character and also randomize things. I kept thinking about that idea, of a way to play without having to have any dice, or even books.

At that time I had that time had been writing stuff for 3rd edition D&D for a while, and saw the game itself as a sort of game of rock-paper-scissors. in the original iteration, the warrior was the rock, but the rouge was the scissors, and the wizard was paper. Wizard beats fighter. Fighter beats rogue. Rogue beats wizard. WOW did something similar.

But there’s another 3-level iteration to the game. Characters, or monsters, are usually either average, poor, or good at something they’re trying to do. So it seemed to me that you could break characters into a much, much simpler form, where they are either good, neutral, or pore at doing particular things.

So, for example, a warrior would be good at fighting, and good at resisting damage, but poor against mental attacks such as enchantment, or mediocre at detecting people sneaking up at them.

Following these ideas, in order to combine the RPSB mechanic with a simplified, portable version of RPGs, I propose the following idea: Rock Paper Sciscors Bomb Minus. Minus is for characters or monsters who are poor at successfully doing something. When it comes time to do the RPSB contest, if one of the characters involved is bad at something, they are forced to “Minus” in the contest. “Minus” means that the player who is not Minus in the contest gets a free rethrow if they lose the first throw.

For example, when the Wizard casts a charm spell on a gullible Warrior, the warrior’s player might say, “My character is vulnerable to magic charms, so I’m Minus on this contest.”

The Wizard is good at casting charm spells, so that player has the Bomb available for this contest.

On the first contest the Wizard’s Player throws Bomb, and the Warrior’s Player throws Siscors, winning.

Because the Warrior is Minus to resist charms, the Wizard gets a free re-contest. This time the Wizard throws Scissors, while the Warrior throws Paper, losing. The Wizard has charmed the Warrior.

copyright 2020 Unicorn Rampant

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