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Ursa Minor

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Ursa Minor is a concise guidebook for using characters to drive the plots of role-playing games. Crafted to be easily added onto existing rpgs, Ursa Minor is a prognosticator allowing character emotions to carve plot points from the uncaring environment, their own struggles, or even the proud vagaries of fate.

Ursa Minor is not an rpg system in itself. To play at least one additional rulebook (not included!) is needed. My personal favorite rulebook is Tom Moldvay's 1981 "Magenta" edition of Gygax and Arneson's Dungeons and Dragons. Nonetheless Ursa Minor should work with the core of most rpgs in any genre. An example is my own fantasy rpg, To Blave!, which is a separate product. Players need only characters, common dice, and an eagerness to make the most out of metaphor.

The features which Ursa Minor offers for almost any existing rpg include the following...

Motivations and Idioms: These 36 common-sense traits can be chosen or randomly rolled for each character. They combine to imply goals which shape the plans the character employs to navigate the seas of fate. (pg. 1-3)

Solo Notes: Most of these rules work very well for allowing the DM to be a player too. Notes included point out when to invoke the rules, how to interpret them fairly, and recording their results (pgs. 3, 4, 5, 8, and 11).

Turmoil: The specter of things done and left undone can drive the plot, variously slamming the player characters onto the rocks of their own ambitions, or leading them through darkness to their own salvations (pg. 4).

The Limner and The Fray: two systems which quickly and efficiently solve any contention. The Limner simply combines a 3d6 roll with the DM's intuition for a quick answer. The Fray uses straightforward conversions and a 4d6 roll to allow opposing attributes or challenges to contest one another across an equitable field, even if from different contexts or entirely different rpgs. The Fray also incorporates the concept of gray areas  and extremes, creates Incidents which can alter the plot, and allows Turmoil to exert pressure on outcomes (pg. 5-8)

Rolls, Goals, and Plans: "Bihex" and "Trihex" rolling are defined for large randomizations (36 and 216 possibilities respectively). The characters' choices of goals affect their plans. Knowing these sets the stage for cooperation, compromise, and conflict as the plans proceed or Incidents complicate them (pg. 9-10).

Incidents and Augury: characters' goals and plans are antagonized by fate. The Incident Engine describes these challenges and the Augury system provides hundreds of descriptors to flesh them out (pg. 11-18)

Creative Commons Licensing: Like my fantasy rpg To Blave! (a separate product) Ursa Minor is released with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to share and adapt this material for any purpose, including commercially, as long as you give attribution. (pg. 18)

Appendices: bathe in statistics and likelihoods -- from the odds of 4d6 rolls to the conversion of Trihex rolls into percentages (ascending, descending, and randomized). Impressive how powerful a few cubes can be. (pg. 19-21)

Six sided basis: Good old d6 cubes are the only dice you need. One is fine, three are better, and differing sizes, colors, or styles are better still. But one is all you need.

Source text: When you purchase this guidebook, you also get a copy of the Libre Office document used to make it. Edit it to create your own Ursa Minor variants. (The document uses the Liberation Serif (included with Libre Office) and Blackwood Castle (free online) fonts.)

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File Last Updated:
December 08, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on November 13, 2018.
Thomas Davis
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