When I started writing Space Princess, I decided I wanted to do a really simple game – thus four ability scores, four classes with three “levels” each, etc. When I came up with 1800 – American Empires, I decided to use the same rules concept, and then again with Mutant Truckers of the Polyester Road, especially because MTotPR was going to be a mini-game for NOD. As I played with the concept, I came up with an easy system I’m calling Target 10 – all tests (skill tests, saving throws) and combat involve rolling 1d20, adding a modifier and trying to roll a ’10’ or higher to succeed. The following excerpt shows where the rules stand at the moment. They were written specifically for American Empires.
A test is a roll made to determine whether an action succeeds when the outcome of the action is in question. Every action made in a game does not need to be tested. Getting dressed in the morning, for example, does not require a test. Of course, getting ready in the morning and out the door in 10 minutes or getting dressed with two broken arms might require a test of dexterity.
A test is made by roll 1d20, applying modifiers (see below) and trying to roll “10” or higher.
Man vs. Man
When a test pits one person against another (or one creature against another), the test is modified by comparing the relative skill and raw ability of the two opponents. Each opponent calculates their Test Value (TV). A character’s TV is equal to their modifier in whatever ability score governs the test. If the character possesses the skill being tested (see Classes above), they also add their skill value to the TV. Situational modifiers, as determined by the Referee, might also apply, but should never be higher than +3.
Compare the acting character’s TV to the opposing character’s TV. The difference is the bonus or penalty applied to the acting character’s test roll.
When two characters are both trying to “act”, the character with the higher TV always rolls their test first. If the TV’s are equal, defer to the character with the greater skill. If the skill values are equal, defer to the character with the higher ability score. If the ability scores are equal, flip a coin.
In many cases, the outcome can be determined with a single test roll. In some cases, a Referee can require multiple successes to finally succeed, usually no more than 3. He might even a bad consequence if either or both parties rack of too many failures.
Example: Two venturers, Juan and Susan, are trying to sway an Apache chief to cement an alliance with their country. This requires a test of the Negotiate Treaty skill.
Juan has Skill 9 and Charisma 12 (+1), while Susan has Skill 6 and Charisma 18 (+4). This means Juan has a TV of 9 + 1 = 10 and Susan a TV of 6 + 4 = 10. Since the TV’s are equal, there is no modifier to either character’s test roll. Since Juan has the higher skill, he tests first.
The Referee decides it will be more exciting to require three successes to sway the Apache chief. Moreover, he rules that if the two together rack up four failure before either has succeeded, the Apache chief will call off the negotiation and have both venturers killed.
Juan’s first test roll is a “4”, indicating one failure. Susan now rolls an “11”, a success! Three more failures and the Apache chief loses his cool. Juan now rolls a “7”, followed by a “9” for Susan – two more failures. Juan rounds it out with a “13” and Susan with an “8”. That does it – their arguing has angered the Apache chief, who finds neither of them worthy of an alliance and summons his braves to take them into the desert and bury them to their necks in the sand.
Man vs. Nature
Whenever a test pits a character or creature against the natural world – for example, shifting a heavy boulder or predicting the weather, the actor’s Test Value is compared against a Test Value of 1 to 10 chosen by the Referee. In most cases, the test value is “5”. Nature, in these cases, does not “act”, and therefore does not make a test roll. A Referee can still require multiple successes to succeed and can still impose consequences for multiple failures.
Luck Points are a simple mechanic that allows groups of characters of differing skill levels to adventure together without the more skilled completely dominating play. A Luck Point can be spent to automatically succeed at any test, or, in the case of combat, to ignore an opponent’s success.
Luck Points can be earned while exploring (see Occurrences below), but a character can never have more points of luck than they started with. In other words, low skill characters can never have more than 3 luck points at one time, mid-skill level characters can never have more than 1 luck point at a time and high-skill characters cannot have any luck points at all – they have to rely on their skill alone to survive.
Combat occurs whenever two or more creatures or characters seek to do violence upon one another, whether their aim is to kill, disable or knock unconscious. Combat is conducted in “rounds”. A round is roughly one minute long. During a round, a character may declare how his character is moving and how (or if) they are acting.
The first step in running a combat round is for all players to declare their actions for the round. Possible actions are as follows:
Movements: Advance, Charge, Flee, Hold Ground, Maneuver, Stand and Withdraw.
Actions: Defend, Disarm, Grapple, Kill, Negotiate, Subdue and Trip.
Other actions are certainly possible – a player need only be limited by their imagination.
The next step is to determine the order of play. Each person involved in the combat rolls 1d6 and adds their dexterity bonus. The highest score goes first and play proceeds through the remainder of the scores. In the case of a tie, movement and actions are considered to happen simultaneously. This makes it possible for two combatants to kill one another during the same round of combat.
The acting character then rolls a combat test (see below).
Advance: And advancing combatant keeps their guard up and moves forward 3 paces.
Charge: A charging combatant goes full speed ahead (and damn the torpedoes!). They move at triple their normal speed (i.e. 30 paces for humans). A charging character does not add their dexterity bonus to their defense score during the round, but adds double their strength bonus to their attack score.
Flee: A fleeing character runs at full speed (i.e. 30 paces for humans), turning their back on their enemy. If they go after their attacking opponent in combat, their opponent’s attack is automatically successful.
Hold: A character that holds does not move at all, unless forced to move by an opponent’s attack.
Maneuver: A maneuvering character attempts to maneuver their opponent into a certain position by the way that they attack – maybe driving them back towards an open pit or maneuvering so that the character gains the high ground or places their back against a wall. When a maneuvering character attacks, they score no damage, but do move their opponent 3 paces in whatever direction they like.
Stand: Whether the character was sitting or lying down at the beginning of combat or they were knocked down, this movement puts them back on their feet. A character cannot stand if they are being attacked.
Withdraw: A withdrawing combatant keeps their guard up and moves backward 3 paces. They may still attack if their opponent is advancing.
Defend: A defending character increases their DV by dexterity bonus (i.e. they double their bonus) or +1, whichever is higher.
Disarm: A character trying to disarm an opponent does not roll damage against them on a successful test; rather, they knock whatever they are holding (weapon or otherwise) from their hand. The item flies 1d6 paces in a random direction. A disarm attack is made using the attacker’s RAV instead of MAV.
Grapple: A character trying to grapple an opponent does not roll damage against them on a successful test; rather, they lock their opponent in a hold. A creature or character locked in a pin suffers a -1 penalty to attack and defend, and must make a grapple attack of their own to break the hold.
Kill: A character trying to kill scores normal damage against an opponent, and that damage can reduce the opponent’s hit points below 0, killing them.
Negotiate: A negotiating character attempts to engage their opponent in conversation, usually to buy time or simply stop an unnecessary combat from occurring. Only venturers have the ability to negotiate in combat. With a successful skill roll, they keep their opponents from attacking for one round, provided they are not themselves attacked.
Subdue: A character trying to subdue scores normal damage against an opponent, but that damage cannot reduce the opponent’s hit points below 0, leaving them unconscious for 1d6 turns.
Trip: A character trying to trip an opponent does not roll damage against them on a successful test; rather, they knock the opponent to the ground. A creature or character on the ground suffers a -2 penalty to attack and defend.
Combat tests work like other tests – one compares two values to determine if there is a bonus or penalty on the roll and then rolls 1d20, applying the modifier. If the roll is a “12” or higher, they succeed.
Where most tests use a characters skill + ability modifier, combat tests use three values:
Melee Attack Value (FIGHT) = Hit Dice + Strength Modifier + Weapon Bonus
Ranged Attack Value (SHOOT) = Hit Dice + Dexterity Modifier + Weapon Bonus
Defense Value (DEFENSE) = Hit Dice + Dexterity Modifier + Armor Bonus
When attacking with fist, feet, claws, bites or hand held weapons, the attacker compares their FIGHT to the defender’s DEFENSE to determine the bonus or penalty to their test.
When attacking with thrown items, spittle, pistols, muskets and bows, the attacker compares their SHOOT to the defender’s DEFENSE to determine the bonus or penalty to their test.
As with regular tests, a bonus cannot be higher than +10 and a penalty cannot be lower than -10.
Situational modifiers can also be added to a test roll, as determined by the Referee. Situational modifiers can include a bonus for higher ground, sun in the eyes, etc. They should not amount to more than a total modifier of +3 or -3.
Example: Captain Cole, a soldier, is locked in combat with a leatherstocking named Francois. Captain Cole has Hit Dice 6, Strength 15 (+3), Dexterity 12 (+1) and he is fighting using a Saber (+2). Francois has Hit Dice 7, Strength 14 (+2), Dexterity 15 (+3) and he is fighting using a Knife (+1). Neither gentleman is wearing armor.
Captain Cole has a FIGHT of 6 + 3 + 2 = 11 and a DEFENSE of 6 + 1 = 7.
Francois has a FIGHT of 7 + 2 + 1 = 10 and a DEFENSE of 7 + 3 = 10.
When Cole attacks Francois, he compares his FIGHT of 11 to Francois’ DEFENSE of 10, indicating a +1 bonus to attack.
When Francois attacks Cole, he compares his FIGHT of 10 to Cole’s DEFENSE of 7, indicating a +3 bonus to attack.
Damage is rolled with 1d6, adding the attacker’s Strength modifier if using a melee weapon or Dexterity modifier if using a ranged weapon. In either case, an ability penalty cannot reduce damage below 1.
Combat continues, round after round, until all combatants on one side are either dead, unconscious or have fled.