What do you need to know?
6d6 RPG is a universal role-playing game from the UK. It is now in its second version, crowdfunded via Kickstarter. The text of the game is under a Creative Commons license and thus it can be read for free on the website (and used for publishing your own version/settings, too).
Furthermore, the author gives you a Living Document promise: if you buy the game you will always get the most recent pdf version of the game. Print versions are sold at-cost.
I stumbled over the game when a friend of mine recommended the 1st edition of the game. It was entirely based on cards and used a d6 base mechanism. Visually, the game looked pretty ugly. Still, the mechanics were solid and flexible. I can’t really remember much about it because I never got the chance to play it, but it had some good ideas.
Now, the second edition smoothed out some hiccups and is presented in a more modern and appealing package. I’m a bit sad that the game is not card based anymore but it proved too costly to produce the cards.
First, the game is explained well. It’s a good example on how to teach people a new game. The 1st chapter is a Quickstart which explains the basic mechanisms and character creation.
If you have new players you could ask them to read this chapter (again, it’s available for free on the website) and they’ll have a fairly good overview.
Let’s quickly recap those basics: Every character has two game resources: Advantages and Potential. Advantages are abilities, equipment and special actions a character can do. Every Advantage has one or more keywords which define it. Additionally, they are color-coded, so it’s easy to spot at a glance what type of Advantage this is.
Some have descriptive details or rules (i.e. Range or Blast) and some explain the type of Advantage (i.e. Ability, Character Path or Life).
The interesting thing is that everything is rolled into those Advantages. That means your Equipment is an Advantage but also your health: Life Advantages are discarded when you take damage. This has an interesting side effect as it measures both your ability to stay in conflict (health/hit points) as well as limits your actions (if you lose Life Advantages, you can’t use them anymore to generate your dice pool).
Every Advantage has a dice value which varies between 1d6+0 and 1d6+6.
Potential is a pacing mechanism which powers your Advantages. You have Static Potential which represents your subconscious abilities, reflexes etc., and Dynamic Potential which is your conscious thought. A well-rounded starter character begins with 2 Static and 4 Dynamic Potential.
In order to take an action, you check which Advantages are applicable. To use them, you pay Potential. For instance, to make a ranged combat attack, you could use your Hunter 1d6+0 (Path, Static) and your Weapon Expertise (Bow) 1d6+2 (Ability, Dynamic) plus your Long Bow 1d6+1 (Equipment, Dynamic). So you can now roll 3d6+3 and spend 1 Static and 2 Dynamic Potential. You need to overcome the Resistance (Difficulty Number).
It’s a pretty easy mechanic and everything centers around the d6.
The 6d6 RPG website also has an overview about these base mechanics and a free 55-pages “Taster PDF”.
Character creation uses a point-buy and Lifepath-system. A starter character has 70 Character Points (CP). With these, you buy Archetype Paths which grant you further Advantages. The Quickstart method is a bit restricted but allows you to build well-rounded characters. The book also has a more free-form variant which is explained later.
Meta-character points are also to be considered. A normal character has 9 MCP which are divided into 2 Static Potential, 2 Dynamic Potential, 2 Recoup (a way to regain spend Potential) and 1 Free Resist (a way to defend against attacks without spending Potential). Experienced players can shift the balance and thus create more customized characters. In our playtest (with 6d6 RPG’s creator Chris Tregenza!), one of the players (Jaye Foster) made a monk character with 2 Free Resists but fewer Static Potential.
Unfortunately, the Advantages are not part of the main core rulebook. There is a separate book for modern character creation (aff) or you can reverse-engineer them from the adventures to make characters for other genres.
The rest of the book goes into more detail concerning the mechanics.
The second chapter takes a look at Advantages and Potential. For example, we now get more information about Advantage Keywords, Equipment, Effects and contradictory Advantages.
Moreover, we gain more insight into the way Potential works. As spending Potential and recouping it is very central to the game, it’s important to know how to handle this mechanic.
In narrative play (not combat), you have all your Potential at your disposal. But in combat it is more complicated to recover your spent Potential.
Recoup allows you to get back Dynamic Potential. A starter character has a Recoup of 2. If you want to recover more than that, you need to do nothing in your turn. This will give you back an additional Potential and you can also reclaim Static Potential at the cost of not taking another action (i.e. attacking).
Luckily, in combat, you can do a Recoup action and other actions. In fact, as long as you have Potential, you can act as often as you like on your turn. I really like that. However, in practice, your actions are limited because your Potential is limited.
It’s important to note that you need to spend Potential to resist attacks. You have 1 Free Resist but if it doesn’t fit or if you want to boost your Resistance Action, you’ll need Potential. Thus, you always have to balance your own actions and your resistance actions.
There are some bells and whistles to Potential because you might want to concentrate (in narrative play) to get an additional 1d6+0 for 1 Dynamic Potential or you can anticipate in combat: you gamble that one of your Advantages will see use before the start of your next turn and keep that Potential. That’s the case if you’re pretty sure that you will be attacked and that you’ll use one of your Advantages to resist the attack.
The book also illustrates how taking action works. What is the Resistance (Difficulty Number), what are Situation Bonuses, which Advantages can you use to take an action?
Clever players are rewarded for justifying how an Advantages comes into play. Still, there are some limits and if an Advantage just doesn’t sound suitable, you can’t use it. The other players and the Game Leader will be the judge of that.
There are also some special actions like Opportunity Actions and so forth that make the game even more dynamic.
Damage and Healing will be of further interest. There’re two ways you can take damage. First, you might have lost Life Advantages (in combat or by confronting Hazards like fire). Second, you might have taken Potential Damage. That’s when you’re stunned, confused or winded (mostly mental attacks instead of physical attacks). If you’re out of Life Advantages you’re dying (and out of combat). If all your Potential is damaged you are unconscious.
I won’t go into detail how Recovery works, but I find it interesting that the author included a Healing Throttle: the first time you benefit from a Recovery Action, there is no penalty but further healing attempts suffer a setback of 2d6+0 to their Resistance. As a Game Leader, you can determine the time scale (session, day, week) and, therefore, adjust healing to your liking. Natural Healing is also available but very slow.
The game also has rules for Status Effects (i.e. Hazards) like “Arcane Silence” or “Drowning” and Control Effects (i.e. Mind Control).
The next chapter is all about combat and details movement, attacking and defending. Basically, the rules are still the same. Combat doesn’t really have an own subset of rules, it’s just that recovering Potential is more difficult and movement and range will be more important.
The rules are generally very flexible. For instance, a normal attack will most likely only affect one creature. But you still can try to hit adjacent foes if you want, their Resistance just increases. That gives you some flexibility.
Combat is still mostly traditional. You have combat rounds, you may have a grid map etc. The game lends itself well to using maps and miniatures in play. It’s still possible to play “theater of mind” but you may lose some of the nuances (range etc.). There are no hard and fast rules on how to adjust range bands to combat without maps, it’s the Game Leader’s job to decide how that works.
Initiative is similar to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. The active character decides who’s next. If you’re keen on acting immediately, you can try to Seize Initiative but it will cost you Dynamic Potential. As you may have noted, Potential is a valuable resource, so it doesn’t happen often.
Monsters are divided into normal monsters and Mooks. Normal opponents are built similarly to characters. Mooks are canon fodder. They are easier to beat and they don’t have that many options available.
After a detailed chapter about character creation, we’ll get to know more about those situations that are out of combat: social encounters, discovery actions, deceit, awareness, other challenges, traps, hazards etc.
Again, the rules are pretty intuitive.
This chapter is mainly of interest for the Game Leader and does a good job of explaining how to deal with these situations.
Because I like games which don’t have special rules for combat in contrast to other conflicts (i.e. social conflicts), I find it a bit disappointing that those challenges are mostly delegated to “task rolls”. However, you can make at least Challenges more interesting by using Extended Actions where you need to spend some time (and dice rolling) on overcoming them instead just doing a simple action.
On the positive side, the way Discovery is handled is pretty neat and gives good guidelines on how to make sure that players will find out the necessary information to proceed in an adventure. Every Discovery has a range of difficulties: automatic, easy, moderate and hard. Automatic is the stuff that’s obvious and that the players will experience immediately. In using their Advantages, they are able to get more information in the other categories. The Game Leader is encouraged to adjust the difficulty of the Resistance action according to how appropriate the Advantages are and how well the player has described his actions.
The rest of the book teaches you a bit more about the game philosophy and the role of the Game Leader. As the rules are very well thought-out, it’s not a difficult game to Game Master. Depending on your preference, there will be some conversion work necessary to adjust this to the genre you want to play.
The product concludes with an excellent appendix which explains all the termini and is great for quickly looking up something during a game. Also included is an index which is always nice to have.
You can still see the card-based roots of the 1st edition of the game and if you’d really want you could create cards from the Advantages.
Some thoughts about D&D 5
Someone on G+ asked about how the game compares to the latest edition of D&D. Let me say that I’ve only played a few sessions of the game and have never been the Dungeon Master. I have a Cleric (Light Domain) on level 3, so I haven’t reached mid-level play yet.
6d6 RPG is a universal toolkit and thus covers a broader scope than D&D. Furthermore, the mechanics are much more streamlined. There are no sub-systems for combat or for casting spells. That means, that the game runs more smoothly because you don’t need to track your spell slots, spell attack bonus etc..
My cleric has such a whole range of spells available and the way the Player’s Handbook is organized it’s difficult to play without some cheat sheets. In the PHB, spells are just listed alphabetically and not grouped per caster type, so you really need to leaf a lot through the book or write all of it down.
In 6d6 RPG, spells are Advantages and thus part of your character sheet. Because of the limit on CP (Character Points), you will have a more specialized character that won’t have 15+ spells available.
Furthermore, in my opinion, resource management is much more interesting in 6d6 RPG than in D&D 5e. Because Potential is that integral and very limited, you really need to think about how you want to spend it: do you want to “power up” for a strong attack or do you want to hold some Potential back for your Resistance and Movement actions? What if you get hurt with a mental attack and your Potential is damaged? That seriously impairs your ability to act. Also, if you need to discard Life Advantages because you got hit with a physical attack, you can’t use those anymore.
In D&D 5e, if your spellcaster is out of spell slots, the game quickly degrades to a grind because you are delegated to your normal melee or ranged attacks where you’ll most likely suck and don’t have interesting options available. (“Well, I..duh… make a ranged attack with my bow.”) In 6d6 RPG, you might lose a lot of Potential during combat so you can’t use all of your Advantages. Still, you can always use your spellcasting or other useful abilities. They may not be as powerful as before, but you don’t need to fall back on boring stuff.
In my eyes, combat is much more tactical because of the two game mechanics (Advantage, Potential) and the way spending and recouping Potential works. There is a certain “gamey” element to combat and you can also gamble by trying to anticipate attacks. Perhaps it tends more towards D&D 4 than 5 in this regard.
And you need to take into consideration that Resisting also costs potential. In D&D 5e you always have your AC and your Saving Throw, in 6d6 RPG your defense varies on how much focus you put on it. That makes combat possibly harder.
Both games have their merit. I very much like D&D 5e, it’s an excellent fantasy game. It also comes with the advantage of having published material (although the campaign books are said to be poorly organized so that the DM will need to put a lot of work into them to make them playable). 6d6 RPG is able to handle other genres, but the published material is limited. At the moment, you have 2 fantasy adventures (The Dungeon of Demon Strata and Savage Islands), and books for sci-fi, horror and more. If you’re only interested in Fantasy, you’ll need to do a bit of conversion work yourself.
The 6d6 RPG core book is better organized than the Player’s Handbook. The index of the PHB is a joke and rules and spells are scattered. But the book comes with more artwork and is prettier to look at.
All in all, 6d6 RPG is a flexible universal game which I like a lot, probably even better than D&D 5e. Still, I wouldn’t like to miss out on D&D.
The book contains around 117 pages. The look is pretty sleek and modern. Game terms are color coded which makes it easier to read and to filter out important bits.
The artwork completely consists of photos and artwork under a CC license. That means it looks adequate, but it’s not a nicely illustrated book.
The PDF version is digitally bookmarked and extensively hyperlinked (!).
Unfortunately, the print edition suffers from being a print-on-demand product produced by Lightning Source/Onebookshelf: the paper quality is a bit thin and that leads to paper fluting especially with the colored parts of the book. Yet it’s considerably cheaper to buy the normal standard paper than the premium paper option.
6d6 RPG is an excellent universal role-playing game. It offers a flexible mechanic with tactical depth but is still easy to learn. The rules are streamlined and don’t get bogged down with endless sub-systems. It delivers on its promise on being fast and fun and having new mechanics.
(The supplements (i.e. The Dungeon of Demon Strata) are also a very good example on how to organize a book so it’s easy for the Game Leader/Game Master to run it.)
The book is laid out very well and has a modern, fresh look. The artwork is acceptable but as it’s mostly photography it’s not very evocative.
I really like the open approach: the content is under a Creative-Commons-license and you can edit on the website. You are legally allowed to share the PDF with friends and you’ll get a Living Document promise. It’s great to see that you can read everything for free on the publisher’s website.
On the downside, the core book doesn’t contain the character Advantage Paths, so you can’t build a character with this book. Also, there are no monsters, you’ll need the 100 Monster Bestiary for that.
Again, you can get this stuff on the website but it would have been nice to see it included in the core book. If you want to play other genres, there might be some work you need to do. The character creation book with the list of Advantages is only available for a modern setting, so you need to adjust these and take some from the genre-related adventure books to build characters for other types of games.
you can read everything for free on the 6d6 RPG website (like an SRD)
easy to learn unified core mechanics which center around a d6 pool
“gamey” elements which add a great deal of tactical depth to the game
narration is emphasized by explaining which Advantages you use (similar to Cortex+ games)
nicely laid out book which teaches you the game
versatile, streamlined mechanics, clean game design
no levels and no classes but still the chance to build distinctive characters
no setting books for different genres (sci-fi, fantasy etc.), only adventure books
the game book doesn’t include a bestiary and doesn’t include the Advantages needed to build a character (again, you can look it up for free but still…)
the product is a bit pricey: one the one hand it comes with a lifetime guarantee of updates and you can freely share it (CC licence) but, on the other hand, it’s not even “complete”
I really want this to give 5/5 stars because there are many things to like about this game. Given the drawbacks I mentioned earlier I feel that I need to knock off 1 star to be fair. Final rating: 4/5