With the OneDice family of RPGs Cakebread & Walton have pared mechanics back about as far as they can go without ditching dice and character sheets altogether. It’s a generic system where just about any action is resolved with D6+Stat+Skill vs Target Number. So nothing revolutionary. But at Conpulsion a couple weeks back Cakebread & Walton had a stall and I had a good flick through their books. Before long I had bought myself a copy of OneDice Universal for running games for my son and OneDice World War 1 for myself. I was tempted by some of the others too, and at the time of writing there are nine OneDice books and more on the way.
The series is clearly written and well researched, with a system that is simple and solid offering everything you need to run a game but nothing that you don’t. For example, character generation is no more than splitting six points between three stats (Strong, Clever, Quick), then splitting six points between your choice of skills, and then giving your character Hit Points, Stunt Points and a name. This doesn’t allow for a lot of subtlety in defining your characters, Stats initially range from 1 to 3 and skills from 0 to 2, but it is about the resolution you get in Over The Edge or many story games.
You can always tell when you are on to a winner because your head starts to fill with ideas as you read it. I see OneDice being a good match for running an action heavy RPG based on a video game like Zelda or even Doom. The near-instant action resolution and the clear differences in character abilities would nicely mimic the feel of the video games. Other than that I could see myself using it for a short run of Judge Dredd or TMNT or Star Trek, basically any strong familiar setting. All you need to do to set up for your chosen setting is pick an appropriate ‘Skin’ or make your own by trimming down the skill list and choosing appropriate equipment.
It’s worth mentioning that this is a traditional system, so there is little in the way of social mechanics and while players can use Stunt Points to get themselves out of tight spots or to declare an auto success, they only have a few: more like the old WFRP fate points than the Fate fate points, if you know what I mean. The combat system is notable too in that it has most of the standard combat options your players might ask for so it’s more interesting than a lot of minimal rules sets I have seen.
If you are into your probability curves you might be a little concerned that a single d6 doesn’t offer a lot of room for manoeuvre in tests with minor bonuses rapidly removing the need to roll. In practice though, many of the tests in OneDice games will actually be opposed rolls meaning that despite the system’s name we are back in the cosy realms of 2d6 distribution and your goblins still have a chance even if your PC Barbarian has a stat+skill 5 points higher. The only rolls which might suffer for the swingyness of a single d6 are unopposed tests and it would be easy enough to stick a d6 into the TN there if you wanted to.
OneDice isn’t going to surprise you, but it is a functional system which will effortlessly run whatever you need. I can see myself using it for short campaigns which I don’t have much time to prep for and for games for new gamers. In fact, it is probably the perfect game for gamers thinking about running their first game.
If you are interested you can grab the freebie quickstart. It includes 90% of the rules and a couple adventures.
I’ve gotten a bit bogged down talking about the mechanics here, I should add that I’ve been really impressed with OneDice WW1 too. A bullet point breakdown of the war covering everything you need to run a game set there and all the rules too. Recommended.