It looks like the d6 system is enjoying a renaissance. Last year Womp Rat Press released an (unofficial) update to the d6 Star Wars 2nd edition game: Star Wars REUP for Revised Expanded and Updated (you can find it in the Google+ community folder of the Star Wars d6 group). And we also saw the release of Breachworld by Jason Richards Publishing in 2014 and now Project by Postmortem Studios this year.
I’ve never played the popular original d6 systems, it was simply before my time as a roleplayer. The pdfs are now freely available and the game has an Open Gaming License which makes it interesting for creators. When searching for an SRD I found this statement:
In 1996, West End Games released a core book titled “The D6 System”, the back cover of which touted it as “The Customizable Roleplaying Game”. […] The D6 System was ahead of its time in many ways, using such things as a simplified difficulty system (Savage Worlds), an abstracted attribute set (Cortex), and Fate Points (uh… Fate). […] 1
Some time ago I stumbled over the free Mini Six game rules (aff) by Antipaladingames. I appreciate this Open d6 variant for being a lightweight, streamlined and flexible role-playing game which only uses six siders. It is easy to learn, doesn’t cost a dime, can handle cinematic play but also allows for some fine-tuning by using scale modifiers. I can also attest to the above-quoted strengths: while it is still a traditional game it uses some interesting abstractions which I like in more modern games, for example, wound levels instead of hit points.
In 2014, I discovered the crowdfunding effort for Breachworld for Mini Six by chance and jumped in. The Kickstarter was a success and I own a hardcover copy and PDF of the game.
What do you need to know?
The author, Jason Richards, describes the game as follows:
A post-apocalyptic, open-world, kitchen-sink, sandbox RPG, powered by Mini Six. 2
Breachworld is a complete game including the Mini Six rules and a rich setting. The PDF is available for USD $15.00, softcover + pdf cost $29.99, hardcover + pdf cost $34.99 (aff).
Likewise, you can buy the Player’s Guide (aff). It doesn’t contain the world information though.
The setting idea is that in the Golden Age, centuries ago, humanity invented transportation gates. These Gates allowed teleportation everywhere around the globe and heralded great technological advances. However, the technology failed and Earth was swarmed with so-called Breaches. These rifts in reality open up to alien environments. The apocalypse brought in strange vegetation, plagues, and aliens. Now, centuries later, humans and aliens have slowly rebuilt their society. The technology level varies vastly between pre-industrial and sci-fi. The Breaches are still open and a large part of the population is non-human. The world is a dangerous place and survival is not granted.
There is a short introduction which explains the setting in broad strokes and also common game terms. The author advises you to use Rule #1: Have fun. He explains why he choose Mini Six as a ruleset: it’s streamlined and adaptable with a core rule mechanic. Notwithstanding, sometimes situations won’t fit the rules and thus you are encouraged to make a ruling. Good advice.
Character Creation is an easy step-by-step process.
The most important choice will be your race. It is a template which gives you a framework within customization is possible. Mini Six uses four attributes called Might, Agility, Wit and Charm. Every attribute has a number of dice which you will roll and add together if you make a test. Your race defines how many attribute dice you have available and your maximum and minimum ranks.
Additionally, there are Advanced Classes which are an optional feat. At the moment, the core book only contains the Epic but more classes are planned. The Epic is a sorcerer/psionic who can do things like Air Manipulation, Laser Blast or Teleport.
Next to attributes you also have skills. The game includes a list of standard available skills but as a GM you can add more if you like. Examples include combat skills like Axe (Might) or Gunnery (Agility) or general skills like Craft (Wit) or Diplomacy (Charm).
You can also use skill specializations. For instance, if you have Drive, you can specialize into Car and Motorcycle.
Next up is Perks and Complications. Perks are beneficial gimmicks your character has, i.e. Eagle Eye or Nightvision. You can obtain Perks by withholding dice from skills. Thus, a character with many skill dice won’t have many Perks.
Complications are the opposite of Perks, they grant you Character Points (experience points) in-game. The book offers some suggestions like Fearsome Visage, Unlucky in Love or Debt.
Finally, you can choose your gear. A starter character begins with one weapon or piece of equipment and personal items. More gear needs to be negotiated with the GM.
The game offers a wide selection of playable races. In fact, some of them might not really be suitable for players so I find it curious that they were included.
Altogether there are 13 playable races. Of course, there are humans which are the most versatile. Then you have Climbers, good-natured humanoids with long arms and legs who hail from a sky-dwelling planet. Dru are felines with an affinity for nature who can speak with animals. The Elder are an ancient, long-lived race which reminds of elves (without the pointed ears). Then there are Grim, a race of tough reptilians who have a traditional razor-sharp short sword, the Grim Blade.
One of the more weird races is the Holy. These beings are religious zealots. Their head consists of only one large eye. Machine Men are droids/robots and Pathos are near-humans with uncanny empathic abilities.
You can also choose to be someone from the River Folk, an amphibibious race, or a Tusk, a big muscled alien.
Furthermore, you have some playable races which won’t easily fit into your campaign as player options. There are the Demonkin, a race of hostile and ferocious beings with red skins and hooves. They are described as a plague on Earth and thus I find it difficult to imagine them as player characters.
Morlocks are subterranean mutants from a brutal and primitive society where survival of the fittest is the credo. Reptillian Raiders have a Bronze Age society and assault travelers and villages. Again, those don’t look appropriate for players.
The races themselves are described briefly and in broad strokes. I can get a good feel about them but for detailed background information you’ll need to wait for the supplements.
I appreciate the wide range of player race templates. Some seem like an odd choice but will at least give the GM inspiration for opponents. Character creation is easy to understand and pretty balanced. For instance, if you elect the Advanced Class of Epic you’ll need to spend dice on the Epic skill and Epic Perks, thus limiting your ability to choose other skills, specializations and Perks. It’s possible to create one-hit-ponies as well as rounded characters. The races are not totally on the same power level but I don’t think that it will be a problem and you can easily adjust them for your needs.
The book explains the different skills, specializations, Perks and Complications in detail, too. You are not left alone puzzling out what could be suitable like in some other rules-lite games. While Mini Six is a stripped-down ruleset Breachworld manages to round out the skeleton with useful meat.
The mixed technology level allows for different flavors: from axe-wielding Tusks to Machine Men with ion rifles and humans wearing combat exoskeletons.
I would have liked to see more Advanced Classes in the core rulebook just to see what’s also possible. That being said, the rulebook as-is offers you a whole lot of options to choose from and players should be able to create typical archetypes and customize them to their liking.
12 of the playable races are completely original. Still, they draw from common tropes so everything feels recognizable but fresh.
Moreover, the author already released supplements as part of the kickstarter stretchgoals which offer two more races: the Minotaur and the Hollow Mage (aff).
To put it in a nutshell: Breachworld offers the player a wealth of options to create your character.
At the core this is a re-hash of the Mini Six rules in a nicer looking package. I have some minor nitpicks about the way rules are explained, at some points the explanations could have been clearer. (That’s the case with the original Mini Six rules, too).
The essential mechanism is taking your dice pool which comes from your stats or skills, make a die roll, add together the result and overcome a target number.
Mini Six takes the Open d6 rules and simplifies them. Combat uses static defenses instead of the opponent rolling dice (active defense). Static Defenses are derived stats, for instance, Block is: (Brawl skill dice x 3) + pips (each die is equal to three pips).
Combat is handled traditionally in rounds with initiative and individual actions in order. Characters don’t have hit points. If you succeed in attacking another, you roll damage (depends on your weapon) and substract the target’s Soak value (depends on attributes and armor). The margin of success determines the Wound Level. Wound Levels have effects. Lesser wound levels might give you a penalty on your actions etc.. Additionally, healing takes longer and is more difficult the more you are wounded.
One thing I really like about the d6 system is that it allows for scaling. That means, that bigger targets are easier to hit but they are also more sturdy and the other way round.
The game also has Fate Points which are rewards for clever play and more. The player may spend the points for boosting his roll or other benefits.
If you are interested in more details, you can look up the rules in the Mini Six PDF (pay-what-you-want-product).
There are some new rules like Stun damage which is a nice and fitting addition to this kind of setting.
As above mentioned, Epics take the role of psionic powers or magic in Breachworld. They harness a substance called Aether which allows them to perform wondrous feats.
Rules-wise every feat has a target number which you need to exceed, this is like the core mechanic. You need to roll your Epic skill, if you fail the roll, you temporarily suffer a penalty of -1D to your skill. This is cumulative. Some feats require multiple actions or concentration.
At character creation you select two Aether feats.
Feats are categorized into different types of manipulation: Air, Biochemical, Electricity, Heat, Kinetic, Light, Matter and Space-Time.
There is a lot to choose from if you’re an Epic, so no two characters should need to look alike. There is no need to specialize in any category, it doesn’t give any bonuses or penalties for using different types of Aether manipulation. Some Perks or Complications might play a role but generally the system is wide open.
The precusory Mini Six system already comes with rules for vehicles. Breachworld uses the same but adds a nice table for multiple weapons so it is easier to reference.
The book comes with stats for different technology levels, for instance, you have horses and wagons as well as fighter jets (they are very rare), motorcycles and ski boats.
This section provides alternative rules like encumbrance, dice caps, alternate weapon skills, massive damage option and more.
In the early 21st century humanity developed a teleportation technology called “Gates”. These matched pairs of doorways allowed instantaneous travel and powered a new renaissance. Unfortunately, around 50 years later, the Gates crashed and created the so-called “Breaches”: interdimensional rifts through which alien beings and environments came to Earth. Every Breach has a Hot Zone, a mile around the Breach. Within this area pollution by otherworldly environments and outsiders is especially likely.
Society collapsed and is slowly rebuild. Breachworld takes place some centuries after the Fall. Humans and aliens live together in small rural communities.
Some advanced technology has survived, for instance, fusion reactors and fabrication plants. They use Gate technology which curiously hasn’t failed like the other Gates. Fabrication plants create matter by 3D printing. Generally though, the world has reverted to a pre-industrial state. The setting allows for a mix between archaic technology and sci-fi.
Now, the world is at the verge of a new age. A new device, the Breach Closure Device (BSD), can change the world significantly.
Breachworld has several major players, the two most interesting are The Collective and The Resistance. The Collective uses advanced technology to study the Breaches and they developed the BSD. The Resistance is a group of humans who aim rid Earth from alien influences.
Obviously, the setting of Breachworld takes inspiration from Rifts. The author, Jason Richards, even thanks Rifts-creator Kevin Siembieda. However, I don’t know Rifts, so I can’t tell you the differences and similarities. As the author states, Breachworld is clearly a kitchen-sink fantasy and sci-fi setting. It is also influenced by sandbox-style play as the game includes three places of note. There is The Hood, a Fort full of Resistance members, and Arena, a typical multi-race community. Last you have Trade Post, a small outpost.
The world is only sketched roughly and the more detailed informations are given for the US state Texas. I would have liked to see a broader approach which also tells me about other parts of the world. The three Points of Interest are a good starting point but a bit on the small scale.
Likewise, the author’s approach to the setting leaves a GM with little guidance. There are no pregenerated characters or an introductory adventure. If you want to play Breachworld you’ll need to do the legwork at first. For me that means that after reading the book and setting information, I’m a bit at loss for what to do. There are many choices to make. The most important question will be where the player characters fit in, one obvious choice is that they are agents for the Collective.
The game comes with monster stats for 12 different Breach monsters like Griffins and Plasma Wyrms but doesn’t have rules for standard opponents. Reptillian Raiders or other humanoids are common adversaries but the GM needs to work them out herself. Mini Six can help you with that as it has a list of enemy stats. Still, I would have liked to see them here as Breachworld aims to be a complete game.
The PDF has 214 pages total including the cover and the OGL. The book is a digest size (similar to A5) full-color edition in softcover or hardcover. My hardcover looks very sweet with creamy paper and a colored background. The chapters are color-coded and easy to reference. There are a lot of very good illustrations. On the one hand, some of the artwork is amazing and on the other hand, there are some pieces where I don’t like the style.
The PDF is bookmarked and has layers.
Kudos to the author for including measurements in different units (metric and imperial). As a German I appreciate meters and kilograms instead of miles and pounds.
Alltogether, Breachworld is a very good looking product.
A short comparison to Project
I will review Project in the future on my blog as the author provided me with a review PDF. Project uses a modified Open d6 version instead of Mini Six but the setting premise is very similar: A global catastrophe, the so-called Mindquake, has left the world in ruins. This event has weakened the borders between reality and otherworldly entities break through and wreak havoc on earth. An organization called PROJECT employs modified agents to battle these entities.
You see, the basic idea of a post-apocalyptic setting on Earth with interdimensial rifts is the same. Project is more focussed than Breachworld. Player characters are agents of PROJECT and will receive missions from their supervisor. That makes the game less open-ended than Breachworld. The playable templates are also more in the realm of sci-fi/cyberpunk than fantasy and it has more of a superheroes feel. The world is generally more high-tech.
Personally I favor Mini Six because I like rules-lite games but that doesn’t make Open d6 unfeasible.
Both games are useful additions to the Open d6 family and while they share some similarities they still go for different spectrums in a multiverse setting.
What do I like?
The author succeeded at his goal of creating a “a post-apocalyptic, open-world, kitchen-sink, sandbox RPG”. The Mini Six rules are very flexible, easy to learn and fit Breachworld like a glove. The book is well organized and good-looking with professional artwork and good layout design.
The setting is interesting and offers a wide range of options. I especially like the inspiring races and the Epic mechanic.
Jason Richards is dedicated to support this game extensively and further supplements are already in planning.
What would I have liked to see?
The sandbox approach makes this book difficult for me. There is some information but no direct advice on where to get started. I would have liked to see an introductory adventure and pregens so I can play right away.
The world could be more detailed. As it is based on Earth it would have been interesting to see more diverse places. Material for other continents would have been nice.
I am missing advice for the GM: some guidance on the system as well as sample characters and opponents. The aforementioned Breach creatures are unique but won’t be the standard staple of adversaries.
Breachworld has a rich setting and offers lots of options for players. It helps if the GM is familiar with role-playing games as there is not much guidance on how to game master and how to make a game out of the book. Still, it is a very good product, especially if you like d6 games.